Time for true confessions: When I first got into the business of writing novels, I was as naïve as they come. I’d practiced law for a number of years, worked hard to reach the upper echelons of corporate management, and then, feeling tired and burned out, took some blessed time off to be at home with my two kids. At one point, when my youngest was in middle school, I got it into my head that I could write the next Harry Potter or Twilight series. So, with no training whatsoever, I set out to do just that. It took me four years to complete my YA sci-fi series, the Transcender Trilogy—a year longer than it took me to complete law school, and every bit as much of an education. So far, I’m sorry to say, it hasn’t broken any sales records! 🙂 But I never had so much fun!
Recently, I received a Certificate in Editing from Poynter University and ACES (American Copy Editors Society). This article is my first on the editing process. I hope that by sharing some of my own initial faux pas, I can spare others from making similar mistakes.
Five Costly Mistakes I Made:
- Having my manuscript edited too early in the process. From the moment I put the last period on the last sentence of my first complete manuscript, I began searching for an editor. The writing process had been long and arduous, and I was so thrilled to be finished at long last, that I didn’t realize my draft still needed A LOT of work. Big Mistake. The document I received back from my first editor was crammed with so many comments, corrections, and suggestions for revision that I was forced to hire a second editor just to edit my rewrites, and a third to proofread and copyedit the final draft (because, as I learned the hard way—rewrites introduce brand new errors).
My Advice: Save yourself a ton of time, money, and heartache—once your manuscript is complete, celebrate by taking some time off to savor your tremendous accomplishment. Put the manuscript away for at least a week (longer if possible) and then go back to it with fresh eyes and a red pen. I assure you, you’ll find a ton of things that need correcting or revising prior to sending it off to an editor.
- Not having a clear agreement with my editor as to what and how her services were to be provided. I still shake my head in amazement when I think of how careless I was about pinning down details with the editors I hired. With my background, I should’ve known better, but at the time, I didn’t understand about the many levels of editing—which range from ghostwriting to simple proofreading and grammar fixes—and the different sets of duties that go along with each level. Even more eye-opening for me was the fact that not every editor provides comments and corrections in the same fashion. I swear this anecdote is true: one supposedly experienced editor I hired actually retyped my entire manuscript making her changes as she went along, and providing me with no way to determine what those changes were. I was devastated by her arrogance and forced to trash all of her work, since she had essentially made my book her own. I also had to eat the not inconsiderable sum I’d already paid for her services and find another editor.
My Advice: Reputable editors will clearly spell out their services before undertaking a project. You may ask for different or additional services, but expect to pay more if you add services. You probably don’t need a seven-page, signed contract with your editor, but you should get the final agreed-upon list of services in writing. Also, ALL reputable editors will clearly mark their changes on your original document. Some still do this by hand on a hard copy of the manuscript, but most now use the “track changes” function in a word processing program, which allows you to “accept” or “reject” the change with a simple keystroke. If it’s not expressly stated, ask your editor how comments and corrections will be handled.
- Hiring an editor because she was cheap and discovering she knew less about editing than I did. These days, whether you’re attempting to find and agent or going the self-publishing route, your book needs to be polished and up to professional standards. I’ve had the good fortune of working with a couple of amazing editors over the years, but my experience has been that good editors don’t come cheap. This is an area where you cannot afford to scrimp, though. Publishers and literary agents have little tolerance for sample pages with misspellings and format errors, and readers will absolutely crucify you on Amazon if you self-publish a book that is poorly edited.
My Advice: Interview a few editors—in person or via Skype or email—before you hire someone. No specific degree or certificate is required for someone to say they are an editor, so make certain the one you hire has the credentials and experience you’re looking for. It helps if that person has previously edited or written in your genre, or at least has a good working knowledge of the area. Also, find someone whose personality and work ethic mesh with yours. The editor-writer relationship requires clear communication, evenhanded negotiation, and mutual respect.
- Taking editorial comments personally and not as suggestions to improve my manuscript. Many editing courses strongly emphasize the delicate task editors undertake in proposing improvements to a writer’s work without offending him or her. Nobody needed to explain that to me—I already learned it first hand. Over the course of having my three books and several short stories edited, I’d experienced anger, frustration, and even tears over certain editorial comments regarding my precious work. Didn’t my editor understand these were my babies she wanted to do away with? Every writer hopes his or her editor will say, “Wow! This manuscript is perfect just the way it is!” But believe me, no matter how well you write, that’s never going to happen. You’re going to have to sacrifice some of your “little darlings” along the way.
My Advice: Remember, editorial comments are only suggestions—one person’s opinion–which you are entitled to ignore if you wish. BUT, editors are also readers, and if one reader has a problem with your novel’s pacing, or a certain passage, plot-point, or character, it’s in your best interest to seriously consider whether other readers might have the same reaction. Regarding revisions, Mary Barnhill said, “…every cut hurts, but something new always grows.” So grow some thicker skin—you’re going to need it when those Amazon reviews start pouring in!
- Being in a rush to query agents/publish my book. I know, I know, you’ve spent months, maybe even years writing your manuscript, now you want to share it with the world and begin reaping the benefits for all your hard labor. After all, your mother said it’s the best book she’s ever read, right? Stop for a minute, and remember Hemingway’s observation: “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Edits always require some amount of rewriting. At times, large portions of your manuscript will need to be reworked. In the past, I was impatient and sometimes rushed my rewrites—particularly with my last book, when I was receiving almost daily pressure from readers anxious for the final installment of the trilogy. In hindsight, I probably should have relaxed and allowed myself more time for rewrites.
My Advice: Don’t short-change yourself and your project—take all the time you need to thoroughly address any editorial comments. Discuss them with your editor, and think them through rather than just slapping a Band-Aid on the problem. My trilogy has been well received, and the experience as a whole was invaluable, but I sometimes wish I could go back and rewrite those books, using what I’ve since learned about writing and editing. Some will tell you, “Done is better than perfect.” But your writing will forever stand as a reflection on you. If you take the time to polish your work to the point where you can say, “This is as tight and perfect as I can make it,” you can always be proud of the final product.
Good Luck to you in all your writing endeavors!
I know it seems odd to be writing about death during the holiday season when joy and good cheer are the order of the day, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately for a couple of reasons. First, I began writing a new novel in the fall with a wisecracking, smartass narrator who just happens to be—you guessed it—dead! After a night of hard partying, my protagonist died from an accidental overdose, and while heaven is everything it’s always been touted to be, it’s really not his cup of tea, so he’s trying to earn his way to another life on earth.
The second reason death has been on my mind is that a longtime friend of mine just passed away only weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. Her death has deeply shaken me not only because it came so quickly and unexpectedly, but also because she was so full of life and had so much to live for. She is survived by a loving family—including two daughters who are left asking why?
I was forced to confront my ideas regarding death back when I was in my twenties. My husband of seven years died tragically in a freak accident only months after our daughter was born. Within days of his death, my boss and mentor suffered a major heart attack and also passed away—leaving me widowed and unemployed within the span of a week. I had an infant to care for, a large mortgage to pay, and an IRS audit to get through, but my greatest concern was Where are my husband and my mentor? Are they safe and happy?
I read everything I could get my hands on about death and dying, near death experiences, and people who have stumbled upon life between lives while undergoing past life regression. I gained a lot of comfort from the fact that the accounts are remarkably similar and remarkably positive. Collectively, it seemed to be an affirmation that the spirit does go on. There isn’t room to go into it all here, but the most poignant and inspirational account I’ve read is in Anita Moorjani’s amazing book Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer to Near Death to True Healing. I recommend this book to everyone, even if you’re not searching for answers about life after death. It’s a stunning account of Ms. Moorjani’s experience on “the other side,” and it also serves as a guide to living an authentic life. The bottom line is this: we’re all spiritual beings whose essence is pure love, and the only thing we’re here to do is be our true selves. If we can accomplish that we’ve lived a worthwhile life.
“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.” ~ Mitch Albom
My friend Nancy was a remarkably authentic individual—smart and sassy, but always concerned about making others feel loved and accepted. She will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by the many who loved her.
Hope I haven’t been too much of a Debbie Downer today. I’ll close with my favorite funny quote about death:
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” ~ Woody Allen
Happy Holidays, everyone! Watch for the upcoming kindle sale of the Transcender Trilogy Complete Box Set during Christmas week. Details will be announced here and elsewhere.
Greetings readers, authors, and aspiring writers. I wanted to share with you some more fabulous art from the amazing Kat Gavin, and to list a few of the many reasons I love writing (and reading) young adult fiction. Also, scroll down for an awesome Transcender Trilogy countdown sale!
- YA IS NOT JUST FOR TEENS! Okay, we didn’t need studies to tell us that adults, young and old alike, read YA, but I was surprised to find that over half of YA readers are over the age of 18. It makes sense, though—some of the most courageous, edgy, and freshest stories today are being written under the YA mantle. I just read an article entitled Against YA that made me want to scream. It suggests adults should eschew the “satisfying endings” delivered by most YA novels in favor of the “complexity of great adult literature.” http://goo.gl/dl8fIW. Seriously? I write (and read) YA precisely to escape the complexities of life. I want to be entertained—to laugh and cry and fall in love with fictional characters, and to have a break from the stresses of everyday life. Bring on the satisfying ending—it’s why I persevere to the last page!
- YA CAN BE WHATEVER YOU WANT IT TO BE. Do you love sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, adventure, and romance? So do I. That’s why I toss them all into my books. In YA, it’s no-holds-barred—from light comedy to dark techno-punk and more. There’s no set formula. Typically, the protagonist is a young adult. That’s it. No steadfast rules. I spent a lot of years practicing law and always thought I’d eventually write a legal thriller. In fact I have several half-written, cheesy legal thrillers tucked inside my desk, but I lost interest because they were boring. Good YA is rarely boring. It takes its own course, and if you give it free rein, you may be surprised where it will lead you.
- YA DOESN’T PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING IT’S NOT. Have you ever read a book and felt the author was more worried about impressing the audience (or the critics) with how erudite (read: pretentious and snobby) she is rather than telling a good story? Ugh! A big DNF. YA doesn’t pretend to be high literature. It’s designed to engage the emotions, introduce relatable characters, and speak in a distinctive, youthful voice. We’re all familiar with what it’s like to be young and struggling with first love, difficult friends, parental love/hate relationships, and all the other messy challenges of entering adulthood. These incredibly powerful, unadulterated emotions are what inspire me most. YA gives us a vehicle for understanding how others deal with these universal issues, and after all, isn’t that what story is all about? Seeing how other people clean up the everyday messes of life.
- THE YA STYLE IS FUN TO READ AND WRITE. Despite the fact that there are no hard and fast rules for writing YA, I admit that most YA novels seem to have a style of writing that is unique to the category. In general, YA is character driven and plot-heavy (as opposed to stream-of-consciousness or descriptive narration), and it’s faster-paced with large chunks of dialog. The crotchety old curmudgeons out there will say that’s the problem with literature today—it caters to the fast food, instant gratification junkies in our society. Actually, I believe it’s a more modern, engaging way of writing. If the author constructs scenes and shapes characters in an easy-to-visualize manner, snappy dialog can propel the story along like a well-made movie, sweeping up the reader as it goes.
- YA CREATES READERS OUT OF OTHERWISE DISINTERESTED YOUNG ADULTS. Have you seen high school summer reading lists lately? Okay, they’re still overloaded with dry, fossilized, dreary tomes from another era, but they seem to be getting a little better. The more enlightened librarians and teachers of today are sprinkling some YA selections in with the timeworn classics of yesteryear, and the results are not surprising—students are discovering the joy of reading! Kudos to those farsighted souls who realize that present day teens do not relate to Lord of the Flies (believe me, I had to listen to my son’s daily complaints).
What do you like most about YA literature?
TRANSCENDER TRILOGY BOX SET: BOOKS 1 AND 2 ONLY $0.99 for a limited time!
It’s been an exciting few weeks! First, the Transcender Blog Tour and Giveaway was Awesome (with a capital A). Coordinated by my phenomenal friend, Christina Hickey at Ensconced in Lit, I had tons of fun and met some amazing bloggers. If you’re looking for great blogs like I always am, check out the blogs below for insightful reviews, thought-provoking posts, and lots of other fun and noteworthy content. I’m serious people—some of these sites are like works of art. What I’d give for the technical skills! And the Trilogy received some incredible reviews. Also, if you missed any of the tour—like the Dream Cast for the Transcender Movie or the interview with Ryder Blackthorn, you can find it all below! Congratulations to the winners of the Giveaway: Christine, Courtney, Kelly, and Lindsay, and a big Thanks to all who entered.
Ensconced in Lit – Review of entire Trilogy plus Character interview with Jaden and some awesome fan art
Crystal in Bookland– Transcender Character Quiz (which character are you most like?)
Pandora’s Books– Transcender Movie Dream Cast w/ photos
YA Book Nerd Reviews – Review of Transcender: First-Timer
Wonderland of Reading – Review of Transcender: First-Timer
The Whimsical Mama – Guest Post
Fly to Fiction – Review of Transcender: First-Timer
Tea and Fangirling – Review
A Reading Nurse – Guest Post
I Heart YA Fiction – Review of entire Trilogy
Mary Had a Little Book Blog – Review of Transcender and Interview with Ryder Blackthorn
Second, the ILLUMINOSITY book cover, designed by another extraordinary friend, Carrie Drazek, was chosen as a finalist in Sci-Fi for the Bookgoodies cover contest. I hope you will all take a few seconds to stop by the site and vote for the cover by leaving a comment, tweeting, and otherwise sharing the site. Each comment and share counts as a vote for the cover! Carrie did an outstanding job designing all three of the Transcender Trilogy covers and she deserves this honor! Vote for ILLUMINOSITY!
Finally, we have a number of fun things coming up in the near future, including a special $.99 promotion of the Transcender Trilogy Two Book Box Set featuring books one and two. The sale will run for no more than a week, after which this box set will be retired. I’m thrilled to announce that a Box Set featuring all three books will be released on Amazon sometime in the fall! More info on that to come.
Enjoy your last few weeks of summer, and check back often for more news and updates!
Thanks to everyone who entered the Goodreads giveaway of ten signed copies of ILLUMINOSITY, and congratulations to all those who won! You’ll be receiving your books soon.
If you missed out this time, never fear, on Monday, July 21, I am beginning a week-long, whirlwind Blog Tour and Giveaway—two posts a day with some amazing bloggers! The grand prize is a $50 Amazon gift card and a set of signed Transcender Trilogy books. Second and third place prizes will be awarded also, with a chance to win a Transcender T-shirt.
I hope you’ll follow along and join in the fun! Take the Transcender Character Quiz to see which character you are most like, and don’t miss my Dream Cast for the Transcender Movie. Should be a great time with plenty of opportunities to win!
Transcender Blog Tour Schedule:
Also, please sign up for my Newsletter, if you haven’t already. I only send them out occasionally when there is something special to announce!
Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the Giveaway!
Hi Everyone and Happy Father’s Day! Thought you would enjoy another amazing sketch from talented artist Kat Gavin. This melted my heart. So gorgeous!
I’m excited to announce a Giveaway on Goodreads of ten signed copies of ILLUMINOSITY, Transcender Trilogy Book 3. The giveaway runs from today, June 15 to July 15. Please enter to win here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/96384-illuminosity-transcender-trilogy-book-3.
I’m adding a link to an Excerpt of the first three chapters of ILLLUMINOSITY just to whet your appetite. Hope you enjoy! https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/94935558/ILLUMINOSITY%20EXCERPT.docx.
Also, if you’ve read Books 1 and 2 of Trilogy, I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop by the Amazon page for my two-book Box Set and leave a short review. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K8CTRTK . By the way, the Box Set makes a great Father’s Day Gift!
Choosing your book cover is not simple, but it can make all the difference in whether your book gets more than just a passing glance. It’s not as complicated as some would have you believe. Articles abound claiming to have the “Five Critical Elements” or the “Ten Keys” for making your book fly off the shelf. But after synthesizing a number of articles on the subject, it appears to boil down to three closely interrelated and overlaping qualities: (1) The Pop Factor; (2) Genre Identity; and (2) Instant Connection.
The Pop Factor: It’s not rocket science. Visualize a crowded book shelf. Does your cover stand out? Is it distinctive and eye-catching? If not, it’s likely to get overlooked. Period. This doesn’t mean you make your cover as provocative as possible. Rather, the goal is for it to be captivating and clear. There is also a more subtle piece to this distinctiveness factor–your cover must speak to your target audience. Which brings us to …
Genre Identity: Does your cover follow the current trends in your genre or category? It’s great if you want to step out a little and forge some new ground while still appealing to your target audience. But genre confusion in a cover is a killer. If your category is YA and your cover looks like space opera sci-fi, forget it. It needs to appeal to teens (or adults who like to read YA). If it’s a mystery and it looks like a romance, people browsing the mystery shelves are not likely to pick it up. Do your research. What do the current best sellers in your genre look like? Which brings us to …
Instant Connection: Call this the Three Second Rule. Experts say the average person browsing in a book store gives your book approximately three seconds before deciding whether to pick it up or move on to the next. Does your cover engage the emotions, or at least intrigue the reader enough to want to read the back cover blurb? Your cover may be distinctive and eye-catching, but if it doesn’t instantly pique the emotions of your target reader, you’ve probably missed the boat, and a potential sale!
Covers that Score a Home Run: Two of my favorite YA covers (which also happen to be two of my favorite books this year) have nailed all three of these key factors: Splintered, by A.G. Howard and Cinder by Marissa Meyer:
Exception to the Rules: Of course there are always exceptions to the rules. If it hadn’t been for all the pre-release hype for the wonderful The Fault in our Stars by John Green, I never would have picked up this bestselling book. The cover doesn’t speak to me at all:
What do you think is the most important element of a good book cover? What’s your favorite book cover?
I’m the author of the Transcender Trilogy, TRANSCENDER: First-Timer, STREAMING STARS, and the upcoming ILLLUMINOSITY, which blends science-fiction, fantasy, and romance in an exciting cross-dimensional adventure.