04 April 2014

Is It Possible to Self-Edit Your Book?

Welcome back to the Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! We Quills get together once a month to chat up aspects of reading and writing—and this time we discuss the exciting prospect of self-editing. Grab yourself some cookies and a notepad for jotting notes!

Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark

Is it possible to self-edit your book?

YES! In fact, even if you hire an editor, you MUST be able to self-edit your book or you will be wasting money. As Kristen Lamb says, there are many editors who charge by the hour. Don't waste money on edits you can do yourself! If you hire an editor, you want him or her to be looking at the guts and glory, the meat and potatoes of your story not the dinnerware--in other words, don't have an editor clearing out overused adverbs and fixing repetitive, common errors that YOU can fix.

Site after site on the internet can help you self-edit well. USE them!

Just because you may hire an editor does not mean you won't be self-editing. Every writer must do some self-editing and if you, like me, can't afford an editor in the beginning for that first novel, don't be terrified. It isn't the end of the world. If you can write a good hook, you can edit that hook.

Here are just three of some of the many rules for the success of your first self-edit:

1--Put space between yourself and your work. Finish a story and give yourself a month to step away from it before you begin editing. Don't think about it, work on it or play with it.

2--Edit hard copy. Make changes right on the paper, look for continuity, frequently repeated words or common usage errors. It's all easier to see on paper without the danger of deleting something you might want to keep.

3--Read it out loud. Dialogue that looks good on the screen or on paper can sound campy, stilted or downright ridiculous when read out loud. This tip also helps with long, detailed sections of descriptions. If you get tired of reading it aloud, your readers will get tired of it, too.

It isn't easy, but it can be done. Stick to it! Check out these websites for more helpful tips on self-editing your novel. You'll find some great stuff in these pages:

Advice for Self-Editing Your Novel, by Steven J. Carroll
How I Self-Edit My Novels: 15 Steps From First Draft to Publication, by K.M. Weiland
Six Easy Tips for Self-Editing Your Fiction, by Kristen Lamb
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Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
My website (You can use this link or you could use the menu at the top. Whatever lights your candle!)

Is it possible to self-edit your book? Yes, but…

It’s really hard to do it on your own! Kristie gives some excellent advice in her part of the panel—worth repeating, so read it again but with my voice in your head.

I recently read a best-selling novel written by an indie author who claimed to have run the manuscript several times through a couple of editors. The experience left me slack-jawed. I do not know if the editors (two of them!) were really that bad, or if the author simply didn’t implement their suggestions. Unfortunately, the former is all too possible. One can find many “editors” online, but that doesn’t mean they can actually do the work. The aforementioned one came with a website and all sorts of credentials, which leaves me wondering. A large portion of the errors could have been fixed “in house” if the author had followed Kristie’s advice, but…

This requires an author actually knowing what adverbs/adjectives are and how to use them, how to properly punctuate and spell, understanding point of view, recognizing the difference between active and passive voice, and so on. There are an astonishing number of authors who don’t, or who believe it doesn’t really matter. It does. Take the time to learn. A writer should always be learning. In addition to trade books, we get to read fiction! Lots of fiction! One of the coolest things about reading is how we start assimilating what we read: we learn how to spell and to punctuate, we pick up the rhythm of words in a tale, we learn how to weave a story.

There are several fantastic online editing aids available to you. Use those, too. Here are a few to get you started:

Grammarly ($)
Writing Dynamo ($)
AutoCrit Editing Wizard

Next, you need to form a good beta reader group (not less than three) to test your manuscript. Your readers should be in your target audience, forthright but tactful, not related to you, and regular readers (in your genre) that understand how a book is structured.

And finally, there are some very decent books to help you with self-editing:

Revision & Editing, by James Scott Bell
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, 2n Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King
The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers: 12 Ways to Take Your Book from Good to Great, by Bridget McKenna
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Author of Oathtaker

Is it possible to edit your own work? I think so, though it is difficult. I direct your attention to some terrific resources my fellow Quills shared with you today. They address many potential pitfalls, all of which it is wise to address and consider. The one thing those resources do not address, however, is the possibility of losing your story for the sake of pleasing someone else.

I have conversed over the past few days with an author whose work I’ve read and very much enjoyed. I explained how I am going through another round of edits and have reached the point where I am changing things one way, then changing them back. (At this rate, I will never make it to the end.) I mentioned to him that I had others reading as beta readers. While they had only gone through the first few chapters, they had addressed critical issues. I cannot say enough how much I appreciate their time and effort on my behalf. Some of their ideas I adopted readily. Others, if I were to follow, would cause the entire story to fall apart. The author I mentioned explained to me how precisely that had happened to one of his earlier works. He changed things until the story was no longer his own—and no longer one he enjoyed or would share. It sits on a shelf where it collects dust. “We cannot write by committee,” he told me.

The author of a work is the only one with the big picture—the only one who sees how each meeting, each conversation fits into the whole. While there are all sorts of grammar rules, point of view issues and so forth that need to be addressed, there is also the author’s own voice and unique story to consider.

During my editing process, I picked up a best selling work by one of my favorite authors, one I’ve read several times and will probably read again. I discovered that of its 962 pages, I could easily cut 350 without changing the story one whit. How? I would remove repeated material and unnecessary adjectives and change passive voice to active—and that’s about it. According to the “rules,” the author had done a lot “wrong.” Still, I’ve read that book over and over and have enjoyed the story every single time—as have many others. In part, I enjoyed it because of the author’s own perspective and voice, its strengths and its “weaknesses.” This process reinforced something for me: some people will like my work, some will not.

So, can you edit your own work? Yes. Use the materials available and make it the best you can—but stay true to yourself. Tell your story, not someone else’s story. Use your voice, not someone else’s. Follow your instincts—and then be prepared: some will like it, some will not.
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What is your experience with editing? Do you do your own, hire an editor, or both? Have you got any editing/editor advice you can offer independent authors?

21 March 2014

A Week of Self-Published Authors

This week I'm joining a stellar group of self-published authors over at Unicorn Bell to discuss why we chose self-publishing over traditional, marketing techniques, and to offer a little writing advice garnered from our own experiences. The article is entitled "A Week of Self-Published Authors: Robin Lythgoe." Here's an excerpt:
I write fantasy because I love it, and I think staying with a particular genre builds trust with the readers. Those big-name authors found something that worked for them and stuck with it on purpose. It worked. Authors who have several books published and a large following can more easily afford wading in other pools, and there are some that do so successfully, though they often choose to publish under a different name. Why? Because their fans expect them to stay in the already established lines. And, thanks to a surge in the popularity of fantasy stories—evident in book sales as well as movie and television production—why wouldn’t I stay with fantasy? Bottom line? Yes, staying within the fantasy genre has definitely had a hand in the progression of things.

14 March 2014

Book Review: Dark Currents

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Emperor’s Edge, and the fun continues in Dark Currents. Buroker has developed a good, solid framework of society that isn’t thrown off kilter with the inclusion of magic—a magic that is referred to in Amaranthe’s world as “science.” Her writing style is smooth and engaging, neatly balancing narrative and dialogue. The characters continue to capture the reader’s interest. What’s more, they develop even further—no cardboard cutouts here! They are each wonderfully detailed and clearly different from one another, and the fact that they are not all always comfortable and heroic makes them even more believable. When one of them goes out of his comfort zone in order to get something important accomplished, it *means* something.

The quality of writing style, grammar, punctuation, formatting, characterization, setting—all are top notch. The story is a quick read, not too long and it’s fast-paced. There are some wonderfully quirky twists and surprises, though the antagonists remained slightly distant and nebulous. If I have one complaint it’s about the gratuitous crass innuendoes. They felt like a forced afterthought and could honestly (and beneficially) have been left out altogether. Their inclusion puts this book on the borderline for recommendation on my list of Flinch Free Fantasy. Otherwise, the humor and the exchange of barbs had me laughing out loud in places. Buroker has a knack for telling a good tale.

07 March 2014

Books We Love

Welcome back to the Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! We Quills get together once a month to chat up aspects of reading and writing—and this time we're talking about books we love best. Grab your chocolate, sit back, and get comfy.

Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark

When faced with the topic for this first Friday, Books We Love, I immediately considered the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but a commentary or review of any of those would take far more than my allotted space. Besides, by now, everyone knows the tale because of the movies.

Instead, let me share with you my love for author Stephen Lawhead and his revisionary telling of the story of Robin Hood in his King Raven Trilogy consisting of Hood, Tuck and Scarlet.

In Hood, we are introduced to a young man--heir to his father's lands--who takes only his own pleasure seriously. When Norman invaders arrive and wreck havoc, he tries to buy back the land, but finds himself pursued, his life in danger. He abandons his father's kingdom and people and runs to hide in the greenwood. There, Bran ap Brychan discovers the old growth forest in Wales is more than meets his wayward eye. He must come to grips with the mystery of this living, breathing entity. More than that, he must claim it in order to survive and become what he is truly meant to be: no common thief as the Nomans think, but a man with a mission ordained by forces far beyond his ken.

Lawhead writes with enviable knowledge. His research is deep and reveals fresh, relatable insights to times gone by. He draws the reader into the intricacies of politics, intrigue and life of ancient times that are not so very different from our own. His writing reflects in subtle and clever ways on our modern ideals and behaviors. I enjoy reading his books more than once--the mark of a great author. When I do, I am drawn again into a kinship with my own Welsh ancestors and Lawhead makes me yearn for that rich past.

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Author of Oathtaker

Recently I read a couple works I found worthy of including in my list of favorites: the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson and the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. In the Sanderson stories, characters “spin” magic via their use of different metals. In the Weeks stories, colors fuel the magic. I found only one real fault with Mistborn. While Sanderson drew a believable young female protagonist, she was not “whole” for me, perhaps because I found the relationships somewhat lacking. Having said that, the magic system is highly creative and great fun. As to the Lightbringer series, I found the characters fun and believable and the personal relationships, which are central to the story, satisfying and genuine. As a bonus I laughed out loud—fairly frequently.

As I consider these tales, I see a common denominator: each delivers a “new” world and unique magic. For Sanderson, it is the characters’ use of metals to “read” others’ emotions, bring about certain events, travel and communicate. For Weeks, it was the magic of colors to create things and the way those who wield the magic of different colors are prone to certain personality characteristics. These authors delivered something outside the standard fantasy tale (complete with a wizard and a troll and a fairy and an elf … and so on and so on). Each delivered a new kind of magic and a new category of fantasy character. Best of all, each opened a new world to me—a world in which I lost myself—if only for a time …

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Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
My website (You can use this link or you could use the menu at the top. Whatever browns your bird!)

The collection of books I like is pretty large, but the Books I Love are actually few. I considered Lawhead’s Hood, but Kristie nabbed that right up. No surprise, there! (And with good reason, too.) I talk about Tad Williams’s series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn rather a lot, so it’s clearly time for something else. If you haven’t read the Damiano Books (I’ve also seen them in a one-volume set called Trio for a Lute) you are missing a real treat.

Damiano is set against the backdrop of the Italian Renaissance where faith-based magic is real. A wizard’s son, an innocent, a musician, Damiano is befriended and instructed by the archangel Raphael. To save his city from war, he sets out on a quest to find a powerful sorceress. Along the way he is beset by betrayal, disillusionment, and death—and still he must confront the power and darkness within himself in order to protect those he loves. Damiano wants to use his powers for good, yet he’s certain that since he’s a witch he’s automatically damned.

MacAvoy’s prose is beautifully lyrical, and her settings come alive with allusions to historical events, people, and society. The characters are real, they’re believable, and they face truly difficult issues. She has a talent for revealing how lovely, wonderful and terrible the world can be, and how difficult the struggle to know what’s right and wrong.
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Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them? What are one or two of your favorite books?

28 February 2014

Read an E-Book Week

Do you know what next week is?

It's Read an E-Book Week!! All across the globe! Isn't that awesome? For the week of March 2-8 only, thousands of authors and publishers will provide readers discounts on ebooks, with coupon code values for 25% to 75% off and FREE. This annual event was created by Rita Toews in 2004, and it has since grown to become an international event devoted to reading and digital literacy.

"Read an Ebook Week brings together ebook retailers, publishers, authors, device-makers and untold thousands of readers who join in this international literary event of ebook discovery, and yes, gluttony." (Mark Coker, "The Story Behind 'Read an eBook Week'")

It's a win/win situation!

You can find As the Crow Flies on Amazon and Smashwords.

And then... it's time to go exploring!

Be sure to check back and share your MOST AWESOME FINDS!

21 February 2014

Guest Interview: Charles David Carpenter & D.W. Jones

I am so pleased to welcome my guests today, Charles David Carpenter & D.W. Jones—and not only have they agreed to let me ask them some questions, but they're also giving us a peek into their novel, Necromancers' Pride: Quest for Elderstone, which was released just last month. I have been following along on their website since I met them on Twitter, and I can say that you, gentle readers, are in for a treat!

About Charles: Besides being a writer, I am a martial artist who was born and reared in sunny Southern California. Yes, I am the rare native who was actually born here. See, we do exist. As a martial artist, I have learned how to fight people. As an Angeleno, I have learned how to fight traffic. Traffic is tougher, by far. I attended California State University Northridge, but my love of writing was instilled in me by my father. My family has always said, "Before he could talk, he could write." Thank you, family.

As an avid lifelong reader, I have always dreamed of creating a world into which I could immerse myself and feel safe. Writing has given me an outlet that allows for expression behind the shield of different characters and places. Growing up, some of my closest friends could be found in the pages and verses of fantasy stories. I am so excited to now be able to add to that collection of friends with some of my own creation.

About D.W.: I spent my formative years in Washington, D.C. I know about cold. I was accepted into the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts in high school and several years after graduating from Northwood High, I made my way to Los Angeles, where I have lived for the past ??? years. So now, I know about sunny and warm. Um, sunny and warm is better.

Stories of daring adventures in faraway places with action and romance helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the streets, inspiring me to dream bigger and reach farther. Those stories still inspire me today.

In 2003, we joined creative forces and began collaborating on the very successful original comedy series for the internet called CAN WE DO THAT?

Like night and day, we are two uniquely different authors who came together to form what we feel is a dynamic writing team. After several screenplays, tv pilots and commercial copy we embarked on writing our first novel series.

Necromancers' Pride - Quest for Elderstone is an epic fantasy novel for teens, young adults and people of all ages. This mystical tale of adventure, magic, valor and survival awaits you. Don't forget to tell the enchanting soothsayers, warriors and wizards that we said hello.

We welcome you to visit necromancerspride.com and join us on our journey as we continue to expand the world we've created. It is a world in which we can all enter and indulge our desires to become the heroes we have always dreamed ourselves to be.

All righty, then! Tell us a little about your novel.

Charles David Carpenter: Well, first, we want to thank you for allowing us to chat with you and your readers.
D.W. Jones: Absolutely, good looking out! We really appreciate it.
CDC: At its core, Necromancers’ Pride – Quest for Elderstone is magic, swordplay, exotic locations, amazing creatures and unforgettable characters. It’s a coming of age story wherein the characters are thrust into a situation were they have to grow up quickly.
DWJ: They are young, trying to deal with the demands thrust on them to save mankind.
CDC: Their abilities give them unique coping skills and their histories give them perspective, but the problems they encounter are very real.
DWJ: Exactly. It's useless window dressing if the themes and motivations that drive the characters aren’t honest.
CDC: Well put, sir. I think I’m rubbing off on you.
DWJ: Thanks. Though, I tend not to use ‘you’ and ‘rub’ in the same sentence ... pretty much ever.
CDC: Touché. Having said that, below is a brief synopsis of the book:

14 February 2014

Chocolate Fix: Chocolate Molten Cakes

Happy Valentine's Day! Today ranks right after National Chocolate Day on the scale of chocolate yumminess—even if my husband is jonesing for some soft sugar cookies. Being the dear that he is, he even suggested topping them with our favorite glossy, soft, messy chocolate frosting. Aside from the concoction not being straight up chocolate, what's not to like?

And I have a simple, quick cure for that!

Whether you’re a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife—or even a good friend—you have plenty of time to whip up this decadent little somethin' somethin' for Valentine’s Day. Oozing chocolate with the first bite, this little number is set to impress—and so easy to make from scratch! You don't have to save it for Valentine's Day; eet mor choklit!


Chocolate Molten Cakes

ingredients 2 servings 4 servings 6 servings
margarine, melted 4 Tbsp. 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp.
cocoa 2 Tbsp. 1/4 cup 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp.
powdered sugar 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. 1 1/2 cups + 3 Tbsp.
whole eggs 1 2 3
egg yolks 1 2 3
flour 3 Tbsp. 6 Tbsp. 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease 6-ounce custard cups or soufflé dishes. Place on baking sheet.

Whisk cocoa and sugar into melted butter. Add whole eggs and egg yolks. Beat until well blended. Stir in flour. Divide evenly amongst custard cups. Bake 12-14 minutes. Centers should be soft. If removing from custard cup to turn out on plate, run a knife around the sides to loosen. If desired, top with whipped cream.


The whole thing is done in 20 minutes, and it is sooooooo yummy!

Is chocolate a big part of your Valentine’s Day? What is your favorite, from-scratch decadent chocolate deliciousness?