Saturday, March 30, 2013

Five “Easy” fixes for your manuscript

Most people don’t have a bundle to spend on proofreaders, copyeditors or editors to help them get their manuscript into shape. They/We depend on friends, family and critique partners and groups to help us with the bulk of that type of work before possibly moving on to hiring someone else to take their manuscript a step further.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you when going through your own work. I called them “Easy”, but revising is rarely “easy”. It’s hard work. In theory, these are simple tasks that will help you see your manuscript from an objective point of view (part of what you’re paying for when getting an editor or proofreader). In practice, however, once you get into your manuscript, like anything else, it will be a lot of work.

1) WAIT: Be willing to let your baby sit for a good long time before going back to it. Wait as long as you can – a couple of weeks, a month, more if possible. If you’re a typical writer, you are bound to have more than one thing going at a time, so start a new novel or work on that anthology of short stories you’ve been meaning to put together. But leave your manuscript alone for a good bit of time. Do not reread it obsessively. Put it away. Then, after you have almost completely forgotten about it, you can pull it out to reread, revise and rework
2) RED PEN METHOD: Print out your manuscript and sit down with a red pen and go through it page by page backwards. Our eye catches things on the printed page that it misses on the computer screen. Also, your brain fills in for you when words are missing or incorrect, especially when you’ve been working with a manuscript for a long time. When you read things out of order, it can’t do that. It takes work, but you will find many little errors this way.

3) FIND FUNCTION or F5: If working at the computer screen, spend an hour or two (or an evening) with the Find function. Many writers tend to over use words or write passively when first getting their stories out on the page. Make a list of words you know are either a) overused by you or b) passive or filler words such as “just” or “would” or “was” or “that” or “had been” or “have had”, etc. Then, use the F5 button or Control F and look for all those words. Read the sentence or paragraph where they appear and decide if you really need that specific word there. Most of the time you don’t. Of course it depends on if the words are in the narrative or the dialogue. We tend to be conditional when speaking to other people, especially if we’re tentative in character. For example, in a narrative it might be better if you changed say “Peter was feeling” to “Peter felt” but if Peter is opening his heart to a good friend or lover in dialogue, he might be more tentative and say “I was feeling” rather than “I felt.” For the most part, however, you will find that you don’t need many of those words. The pace of the narrative will pick up after taking out all the extra words and probably you’ll have done a good bit to make your characters more specific because you’ve taken a second look at how they might say something.

4) MORE F5: Another way to use the F5 or Control F function is when you know you have a nomenclature (name) issue (such as changing character or place names, etc.), or if you realize you’ve been consistently misspelling something or referring to it incorrectly. Sometimes we lose track of where we referred to all these different characters, places and things when we change them around. The Find function is also very important then. Don’t just hit Find and Replace, though. Like above, take the evening and go through each instance one by one to make sure you want to change what you think you want to change.

5) CHANGE PERSPECTIVE: If you are having a hard time getting a handle on a character or storyline, try rewriting a bit of it from a different point of view. Open a completely blank document and if your manuscript is in first person, rewrite a scene in third person. If it is in third person, try reversing that into first person. Or, try telling the story from another character’s point of view. You may decide after that exercise to rewrite your entire manuscript from another point of view, which is a pain, but I can attest that it is well worth the effort. (And again, you will end up using the Find function a bunch to change many of the pronouns.) Or, you may decide to keep your manuscript as is, but it will give you an insight into another way to write the scene or give you a better grasp of the character.

I hope some of these tips help others out there who are working on their own manuscripts. These are tips I use myself that have helped me when trying to take a second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) look at my own manuscripts.

For a much more indepth look at how to do a layered edit, then I suggest reading through this article by Devon Ellington on WOW! Women on Writing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Announcing the bright shiny and new RVO website!

Crossposted from Blogetary:

It has been the best of the last couple of days and the worst of the last couple of days. I had Monday off and decided to call Yahoo! to see about getting a new website. They’re splitting from AT&T and you can’t just click through on the website necessarily unless you know how to get around the little AT&T things still stuck with the Yahoo! things. The split should be complete by August.

Anyway, so I got to real people finally who walked me through on how things are working now. And I got a new website! Then I spent the rest of the day and evening setting it up. I was so happy! I’ve been wanting to have a website for a while. A separate website for my writing, separate from my proofreading and copy editing. I was ecstatic! I announced it on Facebook! On Twitter! Through my email! It was late Monday night, but I was making sure everyone saw it was UP!

And by Tuesday at 9 a.m. it had been deleted and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was due at work at 9:30 and I had a gig going after work. So, it wasn’t until after 4 p.m. that I was able to be on the phone once again, on hold for a long time, again, and get walked through all the steps to get a website set up – AGAIN.

Fortunately, I had someone who was patient with my disbelief and anger when she told me that my website had been deleted and that there had been no reason given AT ALL for this. Also, fortunately, she was able to bring up the deleted website so I didn’t have to go through and redo all the uploads of pictures and text. The bookkeeping was figured out and voila. I now once again, have a bright new shiny RVO website. Sigh.

Now, let’s if it’s still there tomorrow.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Knowing when you need a proofreader/copyeditor, an editor, or simply want a ghostwriter…

Crossposted from Blogetary:

Many times I am contacted by people who are working on their novel and looking more for an editor than they are a proofread or copyeditor. They have finished their baby and are tired and want to give it to someone who will make it “publishable” and “better.” Like going to a super star’s salon, they want the manuscript to go in and come out with a whole new look.

But that isn’t how it works.

Writing is a commitment. Writing a novel – or even a short story or poem – means that a writer will come back to the same piece over and over again trying to make it better. It’s a lot of work and it’s up to the writer to be responsible for that work. However, sometimes writers employ helpers – people outside the usual friends, family and critique partners/groups who offer to help a writer with their work.

I have worked with and learned from editors when it comes to research papers and articles, but I haven’t worked with and learned from editors who edit fiction on a regular basis, so I try to steer those seeking editors elsewhere to people more experienced with editing fiction. Or, I tell them what exactly I can do and about how much it will cost. A proofreader and copyeditor will do their best to find most of the spelling, grammar, syntax, etc. mistakes in a manuscript. And he or she will point out awkward sentences and maybe come back with notes of things they noticed while going through the work. Think of us (proofreaders and copyeditors) as those people who make the small adjustments to your clothes at the dry cleaners. We take up or let out the hems, take in or let out the waists, fix buttons and buttonholes, brush it, press it, and all those other little things to make your existing clothes a little bit better.

An editor – a trained and experienced editor – looks at continuity, pacing, logic and readability based on their experience with a known audience (academics, newspaper/magazine readers, YA readers, etc.), as well as the grammar, syntax and all that. They’ll take their red pen and advise you to cut paragraphs or pages, move chapters or ditch one of the characters or subplots and possibly rewrite a few things (subject to the author’s approval, of course). They are, like the proofreader and copyeditor (and unlike your friends and family), an objective reader. Unlike the proofreader/copyeditor, however, it is the editor’s job to be more like a very talented tailor/seamstress who can take your clothes and totally make them over for you into something even better. The knowledgeable editor can take your manuscript, take it apart and put it back together, all while maintaining the integrity of the story and your writing style. Yet, a good editor is not to be mistaken for a ghostwriter, because the editor will come back to the writer to make the changes, to rework, revise and rewrite things. The editor does not do that work. Oh no, the writer does the work that the editor has suggested (sometimes very strongly) with all those red pen marks. Being a fiction editor is a specific skill set and costs a whole bunch more than $25-30 an hour.

And none of the above is to be mistaken for a ghostwriter. The ghostwriter takes the subject (say a celebrity’s autobiography) and does a bulk of the work, such as research, interviews, writing, revising, etc., signing all sorts of non-disclosure agreements, as well as contracts with advances attached (they get paid up front and no you can’t just promise them a “cut”). This is another specific skill set. And again, costs way above and beyond the proofreader/copyeditor’s typical fee.

If you have a manuscript you are working on and would like an objective eye, then sit down and consider what you want that objective eye to do first. Do you want it to find errors you missed? Do you want critical feedback? Or do you want to just take the facts and give it to someone else to do? Each consideration comes with a different price tag and a different system. And each one also requires you to be prepared. For the two former needs, you need to make sure your manuscript is not only finished, but also is in at least it’s third or fourth draft. For the latter, the ghostwriting, you need to make sure you have a specific topic proposal in hand. With all three of them, you need to be willing and able to pay for the services upfront.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zen, imagination, top hats and wonder – Frank Beddor and the travels of Hatter Madigan

Crossposted from Blogetary:

Frank Beddor's Zen of Wonder comes out this month.

In 2010, I had the unique opportunity of being a moderator on a YA Scifi/Fantasy panel at the West Hollywood Bookfair that included Francesca Lia Block, PJ Haarsma and Frank Beddor. I had a great time interviewing them and didn't think I'd ever get that opportunity again. Then recently, I had the fantastic chance of once again getting to interview Frank Beddor.

Frank Beddor is the author of the Looking Glass Wars trilogy, which tells the true story of Wonderland and Princess Alyss. He also transcribes and documents Hatter Madigan’s journey across the world (in our reality) as M Hatter searched for Princess Alyss.

Click on the pic above to learn more about the Zen of Wonder Kickstarter program.

RVOlivier: So, congratulations on your Kickstarter program being so successful! As of Friday, March 1, your program had attained 112% of its budget and still had 20 days to go. I saw your “Thank You” video to M Hatter fans. Had you any idea your Kickstarter project for the Zen of Wonder would be so successful? And what made you decide to try the Kickstarter program?

FBeddor: I knew the fans were out there waiting for the next volume of Hatter and I felt pretty sure I could run a successful Kickstarter campaign because I had so much great material to offer as rewards — not only books you can still buy online or in stores, but rare editions of books and original art. And that's a big part of it. What are you offering to your backers? It has to be creative and original.

RVO: It is obvious from your “Thank You” video how excited you are about the success of the Zen of Wonder project. Will you be using Kickstarter to also publish and promote the Love of Wonder, the fifth and final book in the M Hatter series?

FB: I think Kickstarter is more than just a place to go for start-up money or when you run low. It feels to me like a method of giving the power to the readers and fans as to what they want to see published. They become like the board of directors and the investors of a company. Their opinion is heard and their money is utilized to create product. So, to answer your question, yes! I intend to return to the fans for support in publishing and promoting the 5th volume, Love of Wonder.

Far from Wonder, formerly Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars, is volume one of the series.

RVO: Last time I interviewed you, in 2010, ArchEnemy, the last book of the Looking Glass Wars trilogy, had just come out. You’d also just published the first M Hatter graphic novel, The Looking Glass Wars, now retitled Far from Wonder. At that time, had you already worked out that the graphic novel series would be five volumes?

FB: Yes. We have known since we began working the 'volume' format and not the single issue comics — which we did with Ben Templesmith for our first Hatter series — that there would be 5 volumes to take Hatter around the world and back to Wonderland.  Hopefully with Princess Alyss!

“Sometimes… all you can do is LAUGH!”

RVO: Both the YA novel series and the graphic novel series are clever, however I perceive more humor, especially of the “tongue firmly in cheek” variety in the Hatter M graphic novels. Was this on purpose? Or did it come about organically?

FB: Humor is part of life and we like to laugh. Hatter is in a dark place on a lonely mission but as we all know, the absurdities of life have no respect for darkness. In the midst of a crisis the dog will walk by with your bedroom slipper stuck on one paw and everyone will start laughing. That's how it is with Hatter. The characters he meets and mingles with are a lot of oddballs and eccentrics and he is a strange fish out of water himself. So — expect the absurd in the midst of the drama. And that's how the humor could not help but rise. 

Hatter Madigan and an unexpected ally fight off deadly origami.

RVO: You worked with Ben Templesmith on the first two Hatter M novels and then when he needed to move on to other projects you found Sami Makkonen, both excellent artists, but with definitely different styles. Did the differences in their drawing styles influence the telling of Hatter Madigan’s story at all?

FB: Ben Templesmith was the original artist on our first series which became volume 1 now re-issued as Far From Wonder. We started working with Sami beginning with Volume 2 Mad with Wonder. There was enough similarity in their styles — just enough — to make me feel the jump from one artist to the other would not be too jarring for readers. The difference in their styles did not influence the storytelling. As storytellers we probably became more assured by the second volume and having a young artist who was willing to try anything and go anywhere with our imagery gave us a lot more visual ambition. So if anything, having Sami join us made the storytelling bigger.

RVO: Back in 2010 at the YA Scifi/Fantasy panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair, you and PJ Haarsma spoke of starting an online games series connected with your novels (the Looking Glass Wars and the Orbis novels) as a way of getting young boys (and girls) interested in reading more. Get them playing the games, but they would need to read the books to gather key information to advance in the games. I think that’s how I remember it. It’s been three years, so how has that worked so far? Would you call it successful? Have you gotten feedback from your gamers and fans?

FB: Absolutely. We decided to focus our efforts on one game, Rings of Orbis, and really create something special. It's worked. After listening to our fans, both of the game and the books, we revamped the entire Rings of Orbis game and relaunched just before Christmas. We've seen steady growth in revenue every month and the fan base is growing by leaps and bounds. The game has created a unique way for the fans to interact with the world creators and we just love being able to do this. Currently we are developing several new sections on the Rings of Orbis that we'll release over the next few months, so there is lots more coming. 

Hatter Madigan and Nekko race to catch a pirate ship.

RVO: I can see how the Hatter M series could also be used in a similar manner. I noticed reading the series that there’s more of a steampunk/alternate history feel to the graphic novel series that I don’t remember being in the YA novel series. And you take care to note dates, places and what was happening in history during those dates and in those places. Was the series supposed to be another way of raising literacy amongst gamers and graphic novel readers, get them more interested in history? Or was that unintentional? Was that just part of your love of history coming out?

FB: All 3 of your choices have truth in them. Anytime you write for younger readers you have to feel hope that this will encourage kids to read. It's just rooted in writing.  So it is not the 'reason' you do something but you have a sense of responsibility that it might be important to some kids and help them to enjoy reading more.  But also — the history and dates and interface with historical events in the Hatter series is all included to set the 'reality zone' that this man really visited our world and traveled it non-stop for 13 years to locate Wonderland's lost Princess. So we work to ground the reader in reality by adding maps and newspaper articles and connecting the dots to unexplained phenomena of the time that points to Hatter being here in our world.

Hatter Madigan and Nekko take a leap of imagination.

RVO: In mid-February, you and PJ Haarsma also were at a Kids Need to Read presentation. And you were presenting how important not only literacy, but imagination is. While the strength of Alyss’s imagination was important in the YA novel series, it intrigued me how you, or Hatter Madigan, uses imagination – whether Light or Dark – as a guiding influence, much more than I remember Alyss using it. Is that Hatter Madigan? Or is that also a bit of Frank Beddor’s search for truth and imagination coming out?

FB: Imagination is important to everyone.  Artists and writers know this from literally working with their imaginations on a daily basis to 'manifest' reality for others to share — paintings, books, films, drawings….it all starts with the imagination.  But this is true for everyone.  You imagine a cake and what it will taste like — first.  Then you bake it.   Or on the flip side — you hear about the flu and the symptoms — imagine how terrible it must feel — and then you have it.  Or you imagine feeling better — and you start to feel better.  Imagination is so much more powerful than people acknowledge.  Alyss had such a powerful imagination she could manifest 3D objects — that's powerful.  But so can you.  You need a few more steps to get there and cannot do it by virtue of your genetic traits as a Queen of White Imagination — but you can "imagine your life — and then it happens" to quote one of the Witches of Eastwick in John Updike's novel.

RVO: There was a bit of a hiatus between the third novel, Nature of Wonder, and the newly published Zen of Wonder. On your blog you explained that you needed to spend time in a Buddhist monastery to finish the fourth graphic novel. And I see the pictures of Zen Kitty as it visited different places (I almost want a Zen Kitty of my own!). Did it truly take a mountaintop experience to shake loose your imagination and get this most recent graphic novel out there? And, did Zen Kitty help?

FB: It didn't take a mountaintop Zen temple to shake loose my imagination — but rather to focus it.  In the course of researching Hatter's Japan journey we did discover a monastery we believed could be the Happy Cat Monastery Hatter referred to in his journal — or close enough to give us the experience.  Zen Kitty was a gift from the monks at the monastery as a good luck friend to take with us and keep our minds focused on the lightness of life… to remind us not to get too heavy with what we call 'reality'.  Just as Hatter must be reminded by his Zen traveling companion, Nekko throughout volume 4…."It's not a problem!  It's an adventure.!!"

RVO: I hate to ask this because you JUST announced it on your Thank You video, but can you tell us about this new novel, yet? I assume it is a new novel other than the fifth Love of Wonder graphic novel that you have the introduction to at the end of Zen of Wonder?  Is there any inkling as to what it will be about? Will it be more of the world of Alyss and M Hatter? Or will it be a complete departure from that?

FB: It might be too soon to talk about, but this is the general thrust of it— this book will take the story of Alyss and Hatter full circle, linking the Looking Glass Wars novels and the Hatter M graphic novels in an integrated manner. It’s the story told in the graphic novels, but with a wholly different take on the material. There will be new events, characters, and settings, all told within a unique structure. And it will uncover a raft of never before revealed secrets.

RVO: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share some of your answers. And congratulations again on such a successful Kickstarter project!

FB: Thank you for all the great questions— I appreciate it.

You can find out more about Frank Beddor's world of wonder here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

Crossposted from my Blogetary blog:

The Next BIG Thing….
Recently, Leigh Purtill asked me if I’d like to be involved in a new round of blog tagging called the Next Big Thing Blog Hop where we don’t talk about what we have published, but instead try to pique people’s interest in what we are working on now. After reading about what Leigh is working on, I’m so excited for her to be finished and get it published! You can read her Next Big Thing Blog Hop post here.

Sharing what you’re working on can be a scary thing. Many writers (me included) have a slight superstition around talking about what we’re writing, especially with people outside our readers or critique partners. We’re afraid of the great “Unfinished Epic” jinx, where we’ll end up never carrying through with what we talked about because we talked about it too much. And then there’s the fear that someone will see your idea, take it as their own and then publish it before you have a chance to finish it and get it out there. And then everyone will see your story as one of the “Also Ran” members of the publishing race.

But, something I keep coming back to, and that this most recent project has reminded me of, is that, as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. Many of the same tales have been told and retold for generations. What’s unique with each tale is the author’s filter and how they tell that tale. So, my job as a writer is to trust my filter and not worry about the other guy. Just do the work.

And one of the fun things about doing the work is that you get excited about it and want to share it! So, now that Leigh has got me started on this blog hop, I get to answer some questions about my next BIG thing I am working on and I hope you enjoy it.

1. What is the title of your work-in-progress?
“Once Upon a Convention,” though the file’s slug tends to just be labeled “Cynthia,” after the main character.

2. Where did the idea come from?
I love fairy tales, myths and legends and delving into cultural stories. My favorite as a kid, of course, was Disney’s version of Cinderella. Also, when I was a kid, I thought it would be cool to rewrite some of the biblical tales from the point of view of a regular person or child going through it. Then I forgot all about that and went through my angst-filled teenage poetry writing years…
Anyway, didn’t think anything about that for a long time and then as I got older I found those anthologies where writers rewrote fairy tales, some of them very dark. I also reread many of my favorites, as well as the rewrites, and discovered new versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as well as books on Chinese mythology, Egyptian mythology, Lummi teaching stories, Mother Goose, Italian Folktales, Russian folk tales, Irish legends, and then there were the Greek, Navajo and Coast Salish animal tales. There is so much out there. And the last five to 10 years has seen many redos of fairy tales in the realm of film. And then as you read more myth and legend and go back to old favorite books you realize that they also are redos of myths and legends that various writers loved over the years (from Tolkien and C.S. Lewis to Sherman Alexie and Tony Hillerman to Neil Gaiman, Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, and on). And then there are those writers who write new tales, but based on the old fairy tales and with prose so beautiful you feel you really are reading an old fairy tale rediscovered, such as Patricia McKillip.

So, to make a long story not quite so long, a couple of years ago I decided to accept the challenge of rewriting a fairy tale. I had other friends who had done it and I decided to try it. And, I decided to try it with probably the single most overused fairy tale in the world – Cinderella. And then when I was talking it over with a friend of mine, she gave me an idea for the setting, and then bam! The idea was just sitting there waiting to be written.

3. What genre does your book come under?
Contemporary paranormal romance, with a little mystery and urban fantasy thrown in.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
For Cynthia, the protagonist, I would like Emma Watson or Amber Tamblyn or someone like that. For the love interest someone like William Moseley (Peter from the Narnia Chronicles), Rupert Grint or Marc Warren, maybe Russell Tovey. But, in my opinion, all the characters are unique and important so it would be fun to find actors for all the parts.

5. One sentence synopsis for your book?
Cinderella retold in modern day Los Angeles with the help of the bridal industrial complex, a mystery, and lots of style and fashion porn.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
It depends. I don’t have an agent. If it feels like this book could get me an agent, I’ll send it around, but I’ll also submit it to publishing places that don’t require agents. And if I can’t get it published that way, then I’ll go for self-published. So, we shall see. But that’s a long way off. I have at least two more hard-core revisions to go before it even gets close to that stage.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Well, back a couple of years ago, it was only going to be a short story and then I wrote the first chapter (took me a month) and realized it needed to be a book. So, I put it down until I could get my head around that. Then about a year ago I decided to make an effort to push my way through to the end, no matter how rough it was. I usually get stuck on little things, so I ended up putting notes in all sorts of places to come back and fix later. That was last year. It was a very rough draft and it took a couple of months. I put it aside to age. Then this year, the last 4-5 months I’ve been going through it the second time, smoothing it out and fixing those places where I left notes. I’ve had critique partners go over bits of it and I have a couple of readers going through it to check for accuracy for some things. And when they’re through, I need to go through it at least twice more, just for plotting and fixing inconsistencies, find a couple of other people to read it for consistency and story, etc., and then the fussing and fiddling will really begin.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I would say it’s a mix of “Enchanted, Inc.” by Shanna Swendson and “The Devil Wears Prada” by Lauren Weisberger, sort of, and in Los Angeles. At least, that’s sort of the feel of it.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
See above about myths and legends and fairy tales. I think they still have something to teach us and every new writer finds something else we can glean from them. Also, while I want to be one of those writers who’s able to use her filter to describe an old tale in a new way, I can’t seem to write that beautiful prose that Patricia McKillip or Ellen Datlow or Terri Windling do so well (you know, the kind you find in magazines like Shimmer). But I’m pretty good, I think, at writing relationships between people, which is more contemporary. So, instead of trying to be the fish that is asked to climb a tree and mimic the beautiful prose, I decided to stick to my strengths and do a contemporary romance.

10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Style and fashion – heavy on the shoes (duh!). Lots of intersecting relationships – friendship, family and romantic. Also, adventure, mystery, a touch of magic, a goldfish named Huey and a bartender named Gus.
And that, dear readers, is the next big thing for me. Now, I would like to tag another writer who can tell you about HER next big thing, Rosaliene Bacchus.

I met Rosaliene when we both belonged to the Miracle Mile Writers Club, which now is no more. But each month we used to see each other and I’d hear about the stories she was working on. Rosaliene is originally from Guyana, by way of Brazil. When I have read her short stories I have been impressed by the colorful settings and personalities in them. At New Year’s we got together at another writerly poet-y friend’s house and I heard more about the novel she is working on and it sounds like a tale that needs be out there. It sounds epic and I can barely wait to hear about her next big thing!