Monday, September 28, 2015

What Is My Manuscript Missing?

My work in progress is a sequel, a scripture-based novel that spans about fifteen years of time for one main character and her son as he gets old enough to serve in the army. Karlinah has goals and fears as she struggles with righteous living, love, and adventures that  follow Book of Mormon events. The characters are rich and the events are worth telling, but there has been something lacking to connect all the threads together. Such is the difficulty when writing from one historical or scriptural event to the next.

If you've spent a lot of time on your story and still believe in it but know it has problems, find out what it's missing. You need some kind of roadmap: the dedication to study plotting (or whatever the issue), a professional editor, or experienced feedback (not from a family member).

Critters Janice, Renae, Becky. Missing Melissa
Thank goodness for my critique group to spot problems and generate ideas. They are the ones who know my story almost as well as I do. We meet in a face-to-face online setting, so along with feedback on last week's submission, we ask questions or brainstorm about previous problems and what should come next. In mulling over their suggestions, I added a new first chapter from the villain's point of view. Now I am inserting small and infrequent scenes like this throughout the story to tighten those threads that lead to a bigger event near the end. It's always fun to write scenes with villains.

After my group critiques these scenes, I'll go over the whole thing once more before they get it all at once. They'll see if I've got it all together--pacing and flow, motivations and high stakes, no plot holes, etc. Once I tweak any last fixes they catch, it's on to beta readers. My goal is to be at/near that stage by the end of the year. It will be nice to have this one off to readers by the time its prequel, Secrets of the King's Daughter, comes out in January.

Have a great week reading or writing!

Monday, September 21, 2015

An Author's Delay of Game Nets Ideas

I'm playing the delay game. It's one notch higher than procrastination. This whole year has been one big delay in waiting for my book release. Secrets of the King's Daughter was originally scheduled to release in February 2015 and moved up briefly to November 2014. It's always a hard pill to swallow when you get rescheduled for a year or so later, but it hasn't been without its perks. 

My publisher believes timing the release of my fictional Book of Mormon-based romance with other B of M-related materials that come out in January 2016 (Gospel Doctrine scripture course of study) will 1) improve sales. I have no way of comparing that, but it sounds good. I've come to see that catalog advertising of my novel in conjunction with study guides and other authoritative-sounding works is 2) a compliment. It has given me time to 3) work on the sequel without stressful deadlines. It has given me time to 4) prepare for marketing. That's my perks list.

The problem with delaying is that we get used to it. Number 4 on the perks list is also on my list of downsides. It's hard to prepare for marketing when it's all new to me and I don't know my exact role. Some things, like sending out ARCs (advanced reader copies) will be taken care by the publisher. I have yet to see their form and information, so I'm not certain what else to prepare. I've put off getting a website together and ordering cards/bookmarks because I want my cover image to be part of that. We are currently finalizing the cover so you may be seeing it soon.

Meanwhile, other people's great ideas are on my radar--ones to use down the road. I haven't been to a conference of romance writers, so I only recently learned about these genre trading cards. Sweet romance writer Danyelle Ferguson graciously allowed me to share hers with you. She held a contest to see which quote from her book she would use, and she incorporated a scan code to download sample chapters. Smart and creative.
My writing journey for this past week included having my editor fix the mistakes I caught during my final read-through, seeing my cover!, writing a new scene for my critique group, and reading through the revisions for my sequel. Staying busy. I'm also finding some great websites for inspiration. If you have any ideas or sites you want to send me to, please leave a comment. Have a great week!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Choosing Book Excerpts to Share Publicly

Last week I proofread my edited copy for any last errors or changes. I found surprisingly more than I expected--like twenty things. Point one being that an author should give it one last thorough perusal before deeming it print-worthy. Point two is what I'd like to talk about in this post: choosing an excerpt.

As I read along, I came to a scene that made me smile. Readers are especially going to like this scene, I told myself. That's when it hit me that I should be looking for excerpts from the book that could be shared to get potential readers excited about my book. Some authors find ways to get their excerpt published in venues like magazines, while others use them on social media to entice, or at speaking engagements to give the audience a taste of one's work. However it plays out, it's always a good idea to have some excerpts in your back pocket. Check with your publisher before sharing these, in case it violates your contract.

I selected four short sections of my manuscript that I thought would be enjoyable to hear. What was it that made me think a particular section of paragraphs would make a good excerpt? Mostly I picked what I liked--a good starting point. The analysis came later. Two of the four sections were based on scripture passages that most of my readers would find familiar. Three of the four had tension, action, or strong conflict; the other was a tender moment. Additionally, two explored relationships between characters. Avoid paragraphs of backstory, setting/world building, and long explanations. I also avoided sections that would give away too much or spoil the climax. In summary, I used familiarity, conflict in plot or character relationships, and emotion. 

Each excerpt should leave the reader with at least a hint of a resolution. Leaving an audience hanging at the edge of a cliff might elicit a desire to read more, but can produce feelings of frustration. Listeners without the book in their hands want the reader to leave them with a satisfied feeling. That, too, promotes pondering a purchase. For example, Secrets of the King's Daughter is set in the Mesoamerican jungle. One of the characters is attacked by a boa constrictor. Rather than end the excerpt with the audience wondering if the character will die, the selection goes far enough that we know help arrives, but he is not fully released from the snake's hold.

Try your excerpts out on a few friends and get their reactions before finalizing your selections. Keep these in their own file for easy access. The author should practice reading these aloud beforehand, so she can be ready at any moment to "perform". Most of all, have fun with it! You are sharing parts of your wonderful book and giving your audience a chance to find out what they want to know--if this book is for them. Do them this service with enthusiasm and the right excerpt(s) for a chance to make both of you happy.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Proofreading, Speak Command, and the Final Product

Proofreading - How many Eyes are on your Copy?
With under four months to go before my book release, the time has come to proofread my final edited copy of Secrets of the King's Daughter. The one my publisher will send to press. Whoot! Getting closer.

Because my release date got put off for so long, I'm not sick of my story. Many authors have to proofread their entire book right after having done multiple edits/revisions, and they would rather shove it in a drawer somewhere and move on. At whatever point a thorough check occurs, it need one's full attention--eyes on the copy and either audio or your mind's ear listening. I've been given a week or two to do this.

Below you can see how to add the Microsoft Office Speak text-to-speech feature (TTS) to your Quick Access Toolbar. Mine uses the male voice to read text that I highlight back to me, and is quite handy for catching misspellings, omitted or unintended words, etc. The voice reads fairly well, not as flat as I expected. It may give you a different emphasis than how you would have read it, which can also be a clue for adding italicization. I've gotten used to it's short vowels instead of long ones for my odd Book of Mormon names.

A final proofread shouldn't have many tweaks. It is more a check for accuracy. I had a couple of accuracy issues. One was where I used dandelion leaves, but have since learned that dandelions are not native to the Americas. I took that out. Paying close attention allowed me to catch a formatting discrepancy where the first words of the chapter were not set in caps like the rest of the book. You never know what you will find. Ultimately, the final product is the responsibility of the author to make it as professional as possible. This is why self-publishers are encouraged to get more than their own set of eyes on their copy. Before you do, you might find it helpful to let the speak command be a second set of ears.

Office instructions:
Add Speak to the Quick Access Toolbar
You can add the Speak command to your Quick Access Toolbar by doing the following:
  1. Next to the Quick Access Toolbar, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar.
    Quick Access Toolbar Speak command
  2. Click More Commands.
  3. In the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.
  4. Scroll down to the Speak command, select it, and then click Add.
  5. Click OK.
  6. When you want to use the text-to-speech command, click the icon on the Quick Access Toolbar.