Tag Archives: editing tips

Setting 2018 Writing Goals

6 Jan

Now that we’re a week into 2018, you’ve probably set new goals and you’re already striving after them. And that’s awesome! But I made a huge mistake while setting goals last year, and I thought I’d discuss it, so you don’t make the same mistake I did when you tackle your writing life this year.

So what happened? Last year, I set three goals (and failed them all), which you can read about here, but I thought I would focus on the goal of connecting with a literary agent. While I definitely spoke to a number of talented folks, I never quite found “the one.” I felt like a failure. But did I fail? I mean, I connected with amazing people! I finished manuscripts. I learned. I revised. I resubmitted. I never gave up. And doors are still open for me, even today. So, I shouldn’t have felt like a failure. I should’ve felt proud, because, even though I didn’t walk away with the shiny new contract, I walked away with more knowledge, connections, and opportunities.

Extra tip: Keep a planner to stay on track, but don’t plan too far ahead. That way, you can adjust if need be.

Where I went wrong: Setting the goal of “I will get a literary agent” was unrealistic. Why? Because it depended on another person, and that person is largely out of my control. Yes, I can always write more and better—and yes, I could always spend more time making connections—but just because you have a great book or idea or following or etc. does not mean you’ll find the right person to represent you and your work. Do I have room to grow? Always. But so do many repped authors. Signing that contract is a largely personal decision from both sides. This goal depends on two people, not just me, so while having the goal to connect with an agent is fine, my goal shouldn’t have been “get a literary agent by the end of the year.” It should’ve been “I will submit my work to # of agents who enjoy my genre” or “I will spend X hours a week researching the industry, so that I am more prepared to query next time around.”

Basically, I learned to set realistic and fair goals. What do I mean by that? Goals should revolve around work you can accomplish, not how others react to your work.

Common, unrealistic publishing goals: How large your advance is, how many copies of your books are distributed, how well something sells (because, seriously, even experts can’t predict why books resonate), and publishing contracts in general.

Solution? Set goals to learn, write more, and submit, submit, submit. Examples: I will read fifty books this year, I will write 10,000 words every week, I will try to connect with new beta readers by this spring, I will submit my manuscript by July, etc. But remember, publishing isn’t a race. While goals should keep you moving, they aren’t meant to be hard deadlines. If you find out you can’t write 10,000 words a week, that’s fine. Do what you can. Never let your goals hurt you. For example, “I will get a publishing contract by December” might negatively impact you, because you’re going to submit when you’re not ready just to meet a deadline you alone set. If you make a goal to meet something by January, don’t beat yourself up if you end up needing to extend it to February. Just make sure you’re ready. You can always edit your goals…and set completely new ones.

In fact, when I really think about it, I set goals all year around.

Whether its spring or fall, rain or shine, I’m constantly considering what I want to do next and/or how to accomplish it.

Actually, I’ve met two goals this year already.

  1. The Timely Death trilogy will be an audiobook with duel narration!
  2. I resubmitted a revised manuscript.

All goals take a lot of time and energy, and I’m really proud I’ve accomplished these two goals. Where those paths will take me, I have no clue, but I am ready to set more goals and move forward in a realistic and positive way.

What are some of your goals for 2018?

~SAT

When Your Writing Issue Is…

24 Jul

Writing a book—or anything—comes along with a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming. So here’s a quick tip guide to help you navigate your writing journey.

I have an idea, but now what?

Well, now you write. (And write and write and write again.) Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t focus on getting published. In fact, don’t spend months studying how to write on blogs like this one. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from reading about writing. You’re going to have to write yourself to learn about yourself and your craft. So, sure, research, but make sure you’re writing…and reading (a lot). Related article: No, Reading is Not an Option

I don’t have time to write.

Listen, no one has time to write. Some of us definitely have more time (or less), but comparing yourself to anyone is not going to get you anywhere. Write when you can and write what you can. Don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best. Related article: Making More Time to Write & Confessions of a Slow Writer

I can’t begin.

So don’t worry about beginning. Start in the middle. Start at the end. Start anywhere that you want to start. When I’m struggling with a story idea, I just hop around in all types of scenes, jot down some ideas, and hop around again. Eventually, it comes together. Embrace the mess. You can fix it later. Related articles: World BuildingNaming Your Characters.

I can’t finish!

Finish. I know that is the worst thing I can say. (Trust me, I do.) But sometimes you have to write the “wrong” ending to learn what the “right” ending is. Another place to look at is your middle. If you’re feeling awkward about the ending, you might have gone “wrong” earlier. Track back and see where you start feeling unsure. Try something new, then finish that. The last chapter is a lot like the first chapter. You’re probably going to change it a lot. That’s okay! Related articles: Writing Quicksand & The Ideal Writing Pace

Extra tip: Remember an issue is just that – an issue. It will be solved. You will overcome it, and you will move forward. Try to keep that in mind.

I’m overwhelmed/depressed/numb to my writing.

Whoa there. Take a step back. Your mental health and well being is more important than getting another 1,000 words down. Granted, I can admit I’m horrible at taking my own advice here. But it’s true. Taking a step back is okay—and necessary sometimes. Related articles: The Lonely Writer & How to Avoid Writer Burnout

OMG. I’m editing?!

An editing process is a lot like a writing process. It is unique to every writer and often every project. I recently wrote an editing series about my process if you’re interested—My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process, Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft, and Editing the “Final” Draft—but try not to feel overwhelmed or down. Editing is another part of the writing process. You’ll learn to love it. (Or love to hate it.) Either way, try to concentrate on the “love” part.

Someone had the same book idea as me. 😦

Ideas are everywhere. So is inspiration. And then there’s that classic “Everything’s been done before” line. Trust me, you’re going to come in contact with someone who has a similar idea/book/character as you. Sometimes you might even see that book get published (eek) before yours. Don’t. Panic. Your book and you are perfectly okay, because YOU are the unique part of your book. Only you can tell a book like you can. Emphasize what is unique about your story and keep writing. Related article: Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves

It’s complete! Now what?

Slow down and consider what you want out of your career for this book. Do you want to go traditional? Do you want an agent? Do you want to self-publish? Take your time and research what is best for you and your novel. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow writers for help, guidance, or opinions. We’re all here to help you! General rule: Money always flows toward the author, not away. Never pay an agent or a publisher to publish you or your book. (Oh, and write another book.) Related article: The Emotions of Finishing a Novel & How To Get A Literary Agent

Offer of Rep/Publication

Like I said above, research, research, research. Never sign a contract without fully understanding what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to turn an offer down, if it isn’t right for you or your book. There will be another one. One piece of advice I love? A bad agent/publisher is worse than no agent/publisher. Oh! And congratulations! You are awesome.

An agent/publisher offers a R&R (Revise and Resubmit)?

First, congrats! Those are pretty rare, and someone likes your work enough to give you a second shot. But don’t jump the gun. If someone gave you an R&R, chances are they gave you some significant feedback to help you revise. Figure out how you feel about that feedback first. Does it match your vision? Are you okay with it? If so, go for it! If not, it’s okay to thank that person and move on.

I’m published! Yay! (But I secretly feel like an imposter)

Feeling like you got “lucky” or don’t deserve to be where you are at is called Imposter Syndrome…and everyone feels it eventually. It sucks, I know, but it normally fades. Hanging out or talking with fellow writers will probably help you feel better here. If not, try any kind of self-care. Read your favorite book. Watch a TV show. Step away. You deserve it!

If you have any issues, feel free to share them below.

I’ll try to give a quick tip to help.

~SAT

Editing the “Final” Draft

10 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process. If you haven’t read the first two steps—My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process and Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft—then check those out now. Today is the last post about editing, but, as always, feel free to ask questions! We are discussing the “final” draft.

The “Final” Draft

So you have a solid manuscript. This means you have written, rewritten, and revised everything a couple of times. You’ve checked your weak spots and tightened your prose and wrote the best damn thing you could write. Awesome! But the editing process is not over. This part of my editing process focuses more on grammar than anything else, but as usual, I almost always continue to edit my prose. I might find weak sentences or (gasp) a contradiction in my story. That’s okay. It’s important to not get deterred, but there’s a few things you can do to help yourself out in this stage.

Here’s some photos from my editing process! (Cats are necessary.)

Print it Out

There’s only so much you can accomplish on the computer. You might think you can see all of your errors on your laptop, but trust me, reading your work through a different medium will show you new mistakes. On a side note, you can also try to read your book in a different font or color before you print it out. I tend to print it out when I know I still have a lot of editing to do, including rewrites. Why? Because I love to physically cut up my manuscript and shift things around. (This might be a result of passive-aggressive behavior, also known as rage writing, but it helps.) I’m also obsessed with different colored pens. I’ll use one for grammar, another for story issues, and another one that has authority over my other pens. (Like if I change my mind about a particular edit.) Other office supplies that come in handy include binder clips, paperclips, and Sticky Notes. But—basically—get physical with your “final” copy. Feeling it in your hands might help you feel better, too. The weight of all those pages can be a little overwhelming, but think of all you’ve accomplished! You. Are. Awesome.

Read Out Loud

I cannot stress how important this is…Though, I also want to admit that I used to NEVER do this. I thought it was one of those writing tips that could be skipped over. I mean, reading it out loud seems like it would take a long time. And it does. I won’t lie to you. Reading my manuscript out loud is probably the most time-consuming task in my editing process, but I also learn more than ever when I read out loud. I stumble over awkward sentences. I hear unrealistic dialogue. And I reread the same sentences over and over again, just to check the flow of the overall section or piece. Reading out loud, or listening to your book out loud, will help you discover more than you realize.

Check Back In With Those Notes

Remember all those notes that you took in the first two steps? Read through them again. Get to know every inch of your manuscript and make sure each thread is carried out consistently and accurately. In regards to grammar, keep a list of issues you know you struggle with. If you’re constantly switching then and than around, check every single one of them, and then check again. I am super bad about soldier, for instance, though I think my computer is the one autocorrecting my typing to solider. Knowing yourself—and your technology—will help you find mistakes faster…which means you get to that final draft quicker, too. Though, don’t forget, editing is NOT a race. Do not rush it. Take your time. Breathe. Ask for help. And keep going until you have that final draft you love.

Finally, Why Final is “Final”

No matter how many times you edit your own work, you will have to edit it again. Take publishing as an example. When you complete a manuscript and submit it to an agent, they might request a Revise & Resubmit. Even if they offer representation, chances are they are going to go through some edits with you before they submit to editors…and when you’re chosen by an editor, chances are they will have additional editing notes for you to work with…and then, it’ll be out in the world and there will still (inevitably) be mistakes. So new editions will have corrections. And editions after that will have even more corrections. (They were finding mistakes in the fifth edition of Harry Potter, for instance.)

Your work will never be perfect, and while you should always strive to create the best product possible, you should strive to embrace the editing process more…because you’re going to be editing often. 

I try to think of editing as another writing process. That way, it feels more fun and less overwhelming. Taking breaks between edits has helped me immensely and so has falling in love with new office supplies.

Create rituals, take care of yourself, and keep writing.

Editing is just another part of your publishing journey.

Embrace it.

~SAT

Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft

3 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process, so if you haven’t checked out the first part— My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process—check it out. Today, I’m continuing the writing journey by explaining what happens after I finish writing a first draft.

1. Review Your Notes & Plans

Hopefully, you took a break between finishing your first draft and this step. Why? Because you’ve been really close to this manuscript for a while now, and you need to clear your mind in order to see issues you couldn’t see before. Think of writing a book like creating a painting. You were painting one bit, inch by inch, but now you need to step back to take a look at the whole picture. Once you step back—and reevaluate—make sure your notes are in order, so you can create a clear plan for moving forward. (Caveat: It’s okay if you don’t have a clear plan yet; you can rewrite your draft as much as you need to.)

2. Start with Sweeping Changes

I always start with my biggest changes. Is Chapter Three now Chapter Fourteen? I move it and make sure everything else is in chronological order. That way, as I move through the manuscript, I can take new notes on what is revealed and in what way. After that, I move through each chapter, along with those chapter notes, and tighten everything, including my prose. I’ll keep grammar in mind, but the focus here isn’t to nitpick every little thing but rather solidify my story. This is also where I’ll make big decisions—decisions that, I hope, will be final. Maybe I’ve been on the fence about that one side character being five or eight. This is where I’ll choose. That doesn’t mean it won’t change again, but I’ll try to stick with a decision throughout the final manuscript to see how it flows. If it doesn’t, I’ll try again. If I cut out whole scenes, I put them in an “Unused” folder, in case I decide to add them back later.

Much like you’d create a writing plan, create an editing plan and a deadline goal.

3. Address Weaknesses—Big & Small

Maybe you’re cringing at your kissing scenes. (Like I do, every time.) Or maybe you use the same word way too often. (We all have a crutch list, whether we know it or not.) Personally, I keep a small list of elements I know that I will have to look out for, no matter what. Example? I have a note to take my time on romantic scenes, because I often brush over them during first drafts. I go back and make sure to give each scene added attention to detail. I also keep a vocabulary sheet. This helps me track words I overuse and also reminds me of words I typically forget but are perfect words for certain situations. In some cases, I keep whole vocabulary sheets for sections of books, because the demanded vocabulary might not come as naturally at first. (I even keep notes on gestures, descriptions, etc., because it’s easy to fall back on the same notion over and over again.) Examples?

Crutch words to avoid: though, worse, curious, all the while, eyed

Gestures/Description Example:

  • Brow Action: pinched brow, lifted brow, raise one brow, a frown etched between her eyes, regarded her with a crease between his eyebrows, her brow narrowed, wiped his brow
  • Brow description: sparse, plucked, trim, thick, bushy, caterpillar.

Words about Light/Bright:

  • Prismatic: of, relating to, or having the form of a prism or prisms
  • Effulgent: shining brightly; radiant.
  • Phosphorescent: light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat
  • Scintillation: a flash or sparkle of light.
  • Refraction: the fact or phenomenon of light, radio waves, etc., being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another or through a medium of varying density.
  • Luster: a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface:
  • Lambent: (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance: lambent torchlight

Words relating to the ocean: Aquatic, briny, breeze, barrier reef, bays, beach, birds, body of water, breaking, breakwater, buoy, climate, coastline, crustacean, coral, current, depth, dock, diving, froth, tides, waves, sand.

This method isn’t for everyone, but I love having lists of words that I can reference for fun—and helpful—reminders. It both challenges me and aids me when I have that word on the tip of my tongue but can’t remember it.

Once I finish polishing up my drafts into something I absolutely love, I know I’m ready for a “final” edit. However, there’s one more step. When I get that polished draft in my hands, I send it to a few trusted beta readers. Why? Because what’s the point in perfecting the grammar if my beta readers point out half of it needs to be rewritten? Granted, this is going to differ for everyone. Some beta readers, for instance, are going to want grammar to be as perfect as possible before they read, because they are also looking for grammatical errors, but I tend to have different types of beta readers: ones who help me with the basic story and ones who will read later and help me polish the technical stuff (and ones who do both). The key is to communicate with your beta readers about what you’re looking for and when they want to participate in your writing process.

So send off the manuscript to your beta readers, get some feedback, write/edit some more, and soon, you’ll be on your way to the next and final step: the final draft.

Next week, I’ll cover editing your “final” draft.

Stay tuned,

~SAT

My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process

26 Jun

The other day I asked you all what topic you would most like me to cover, and editing rose to the top, so…I decided to post a month-long series on this topic—mainly because my editing process is as complicated as my writing process, and I want to get as in-depth as possible. So you can expect two more posts after this one.

I want to start off by saying that my editing process varies per project, just like my writing does, but I will try to cover various types to hopefully give you all some ideas. But editing is a lot like writing. We all have different paths, and you have to find what works for you.

Today, I’m concentrating on how my editing process starts during my writing process.

That’s right.

I’m already editing—or at least prepping my editing—while writing the first draft.

Why? Because writing and editing go hand in hand, and if you keep them in mind as you go, it will save you time and energy and pain in the long run.

1. Try to Finish First, Edit Later

You might have an outline, you might not. That’s okay! Either way, try to finish as much of your first draft as possible before you begin editing. Why? Because you will learn unexpected aspects about your story as you write, and those little surprises—as awesome as they are—can change a lot about your novel as a whole. It’s better to know as much as possible before you start changing things. That way, you won’t get lost in various drafts or ideas or shifts in plans. Just jot down a note and move on. That being said, I used to be one of those writers who would immediately go back and edit previous chapters if a huge twist surprised me (and changed the first few chapters). Honestly, I still do this to some extent, but I’ve tried to hold myself back from doing it too much. Why? Because that issue might change again and again and again. Why waste time rewriting sections when you might have to rewrite them again after that? Recently, for instance, one of my characters began as a five-year-old but then morphed to an eight-year-old later on in the story. Instead of going back and rewriting everything now, I jotted down a note, because, let’s be real, his age could change again. This brings me to my notes…

If you really want to get fancy, create checklists. Checklists might include scenes, world building, character facts, etc. Check them off when they’re mentioned. Take a note of where, too.

2. Take Notes – and I mean a lot of notes

Before you ever start your novel, even if you’re a panster, take notes on what you know, and continue to take notes as you learn more. This is one of the reasons I love Scrivener. I can update individual chapter notes, settings, and character profiles while I write. Here is a basic list of editing notes I keep while writing the first draft:

  • Overall Editing Notes: This can be large-scale edits or simple facts, like my character’s age changing. This is also where I include notes that I feel like I will forget. In my latest manuscript, for instance, my top editing note is “Make sure Meri doesn’t call herself a princess.” Why? Because her language doesn’t have a word for it, but English obviously does, so I keep slipping on that description. These are notes that tend to affect the story as a whole.
  • World Building Notes: Right now, I’m working on my first historical novel, but I find historical novels need just as much note taking as my science fiction and fantasy. Your world building doesn’t necessarily need to make sense in your first draft, but jot down what you figure out as you go. That way, you can adjust these rules and details after you finish your first draft, and you have a clear list to work off of. This will help you make sure that it makes sense.
  • Chapter Notes: As I write, I might realize that Chapter Two needs to be Chapter Ten, so I will go to that chapter and write down notes regarding that decision. This will help me restructure my outline later on. Chapter Notes might also includes notes for that particular chapter. For example, on Chapter Three in my WIP I put a note at the top to mention the goddess of war and disease, because I realized later on that Chapter Three was the perfect opportunity to explain this aspect of the world building, but I didn’t know that at the time of writing Chapter Three and I currently don’t have time to find the exact placement right now. I will find it later on or decide to move it again as I continue to write. Having that note, either way, will remind me that it is both missing from the story and could be placed there.
  • Character Notes: As I learn about my characters, I write down facts, especially ones that surprise me. This can be anything, including what clothes they’re wearing or how they’ve grown emotionally over their lifespan. I write down almost everything, including obvious notes (like hair and eye color) and specific notes (like they broke their arm when they were three).

I know this might seem like a lot of notes, but you never know how long it will take you to write a book…and you might be close to it now, but you will forget things. Having a reference guide to your story will help you transition into editing faster and more efficiently. You can also use it for sequels! You will love having that reference guide, and it will save you a lot of searching time later.

3. Once You Complete Your First Draft

Organize all of your notes. This means writing down the current outline you have and what outline you’re planning for your second draft. I tend to start with my Overall Editing Notes and then go through my Chapter Notes, then my Character Notes, and make a plan. At this point, I probably have a solid idea of where I want to go and what I need to change, but put some distance between your first draft and the editing stage. You’d be amazed at how much clearer your issues will become when you let the project go for a week or two (or a month or two). Go draft up a different project while you wait, but don’t jump into editing immediately. Breathe. Celebrate that first draft. You deserve it.

Now you’re ready to continue!

Next Monday, I’ll cover what editing my first draft is like, along with some tips to help you during your writing journey.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs Weaknesses in Writing

26 Dec

Writers always have room for improvement. Even if you’re a New York Times Best Seller, you are growing every single day, and knowing what aspects to work on can definitely help your career.

How do you know what to concentrate on?

Be honest with yourself.

Most writers know what their weaknesses are. Maybe it’s those pesky fighting scenes (or kissing scenes). Maybe creating villains is really difficult for you, or world-building takes wayyyyyy too long (like five years too long).

We probably know where we need extra help, because it takes us more time than usual to overcome that particular obstacle…and that’s okay!

Understanding your weaknesses as a writer will help you overcome them and learn from them. So, here are some tips to figure them out, work with them, and beat them.

1. Make Lists!

While you’re writing, you’ll come across those tricky areas and struggle. Take note of where and how and why you struggle during particular times. Also take note of how you figured out the issues eventually. By forcing yourself to step away and reevaluate it, you’ll see more patterns, and you’ll be able to research or study that particular area until you no longer struggle as much. Want an example? I LOVE my side characters, sometimes a little too much, and while I can explore side characters, I often let them overshadow my main characters during the first draft. In the current book I’m working on, I have a note to tone down those subplots. That way, I don’t get out of control again. (And if I do, I have notes on how to fix it when I’m editing.)

Another list I love to keep outlines my crutch words. This includes words I use WAY too often and words I often misspell or just need to look out for in general. Crutch is actually one of my misspellings. I always use clutch instead. Why? I have no idea, but I know that I need to search for clutch and crutch every time I’m editing. I also search for all those pesky, repetitive expressions like smile, nod, frown, smirk, laugh, etc. There’s nothing better than finding out you used the word smile six times on one page and deleting them ALL before anyone else reads your Crest commercial…er, I mean, book.

writerweaknesses2. Read, Research, Practice!

If you’re anything like me, you might struggle with romantic scenes. (Seriously, I feel like a Peeping Tom every time I write a romantic scene. It really ruins everything for me, which is probably why most of my novels have very little romance in them. But moving on…) I know this about myself. I know to take my time on these scenes, and I realize I’ll edit them a hundred times over. But one thing that I find that fixes my issues more than anything else is reading. By reading, I will see how authors evoke emotions I struggle to explain. Whenever I come across a romantic scene in a book I’m reading, I definitely pay more attention than usual. I might even take notes on how and why it was a successful scene, so that I can consider how to utilize those tools in the future. This is where research and practice comes into play. Once you start realizing what works for you and others, you can try out your new skills on short stories or individual scenes. By writing and rewriting those areas you struggle in, you will start to feel more confident and comfortable over time. (Plus, we could always use another excuse to read.)

3. Remember One Thing!

Weaknesses do not make you a bad writer. Everyone has them. Yes, even J.K. Rowling. Maybe you have a bad habit of dream sequences or too many flashbacks or your villain falls flat every time. That’s okay! As long as you understand that these are issues, you can fix them. Look at it this way, isn’t it better to know about them, and be honest about them, than be oblivious or ignore the issue at hand? Writing is a journey. Some scenes will work perfectly; others might need more work. Take your time. Embrace the challenges, and prove to yourself that you can overcome them.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over

28 Nov

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.

That is worth celebrating.

But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?

The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)

1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying

NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.

So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month.

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month. 

2. EDIT

Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.

3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch

Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.

Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

16 May

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WW How I Became A Full-Time Editor

10 Feb

I love blogging (obvs.), but I love it even more when my readers suggest a topic for me to cover. Today is one of those days. The Uncommon Cliche asked me to write about how I became a full-time editor, and well, here I am to tell you.

Long story short: I fell into it.

I know. I know. That’s probably not the answer you were wanting, but don’t fret. I still have tips for everyone set on doing what I do. It’s a lot of fun, after all! (But also a lot of hard work.)

First and foremost, you should love to read, because you’re going to be reading a lot. (And that’s not including your free reading time.) In fact, I spend most of my life reading. I read at work and I read when I get off. It’s a passion of mine. So much so that I found myself reading articles about reading. You could say it’s an obsession. This little obsession of mine eventually pushed me into writing, and writing taught me some harsh lessons about grammar. Harsh, public lessons. This is when I became obsessed with not only reading and writing, but also grammar and punctuation. I wanted to get as much as I could get right, and I wanted to learn even more after that. I wanted to be a professional, and then, I realized I could help others be professional, too.

My initial experiences with editing happened in college. I was an English major, and for some reason, everyone seems to think English majors understand grammar…even though they don’t teach you grammar in college. You’re expected to already know it. All of it. So, in a way, being an English major forced me to hustle, and I learned in order to pass. This put me in a place to help fellow students with their papers, and eventually, reading others’ works became a regular, everyday thing. On the side, I started a blog for fun, but this is important. Remember this. I mainly shared writing tips and book reviews, and four months into it, I decided I wanted to pursue publication.

My cats help me edit, too.

My cats help me edit, too.

Move ahead to my senior year of college, and I sign with a small publisher. This upped the stakes. Now it wasn’t grades on papers. It was readers and their reviews for products people purchased. On top of that, it was a totally different type of editing with a new demand. As an author, I tried, made mistakes, tried again, and learned. I adjusted. I did what I had to do, and I worked with other editors to learn the more complicated aspects. If an editor wants to take you under his or her pen (er…wing), do it. Offer to be a proofreader or even a beta reader. Practice. Then practice some more. Learn as much as you can. Buy a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. Study it. Study it again. Follow Grammar Girl and other grammar-related blogs. Talk to as many editors and authors and publishers as you can about what it takes and what they know. Most people are willing to help you, and there’s always something new to learn.

When I first started, it was by accident. I was helping authors at my publishing company, and the publisher happened to expand. They needed a proofreader, and I took the gig. I did that for over a year before we went our separate ways and I started my own editing services. (I did this after many hours of research on appropriate pricing for my personal goals and such.) I launched my services via my website, a website I started three years prior. (Told you to remember that.) If you’re doing this independently, have a platform, and if you’re working toward doing this independently, start a platform now. Set your goals, research your audience, and move forward.

In my case, I’m still half of the industry standard. Why? Because I went into this knowing I wanted to give Indie authors a bigger chance. I mainly wanted to create a place for people to go if a previous editor didn’t turn out to be all they were cracked up to be. The other aspect I decided to focus on was having “no limits.” While many editors do, I don’t deny work because of controversial topics or scenes. I’m not here to judge; I’m here to edit. I understood the market and the average buyer’s budget, and I set out to help them.

I make just enough for me, and I’m happy. I love reading the works of my fellow writers, and I love it even more when I see the readers fall in love with their work too.

Being an editor isn’t easy. My eyes hurt, my wrists ache, and my migraines stay well into the night. But it’s worth it in the end…especially when you love to read.

~SAT

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My weekly Twitter series #AuthorinaCoffeeShop will take place this THURSDAY at 7 PM CDT, since I’ll be out of town on Friday. I hope to see you then!

Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM during the Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. Come meet Tamara GranthamCandice Gilmer,, Jan Schliesman, and Angi Morgan! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!

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Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

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Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

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Death Before Daylightbook 3:

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#WW Top 5 Tips I Gave Out This Year as an Editor And Marketer

16 Dec

As 2015 is coming to an end, I’m reviewing all of the authors and writers and publishers I’ve been able to work with over these past 12 months, and I’m blown away by the many talented artists I’ve met. I’m proud to say we saw over a dozen novels to publication, and even more are on their way. It’s been a great year! So, to celebrate, I thought I would share some of the top tips that came out during this time. A lot of these tips you can find online. In fact, a lot of these tips I’ve written articles about before on this very website. But it can be said again. After all, there are always new writers, new authors, and new ideas to implement when adjusting your business plan. In 2015, I learned some myself, and I helped numerous clients learn some too. Here were the top five from this past year.

1. Writing: Take Notes! This particularly helps when editing rolls around and you need to fact check, but I strongly believe every writer should take notes before, during, and after writing a first draft. It will help you organize your work, and it will help you keep track of changes you’ve made or new turns you’ve taken. These notes can cover larger concepts—like subplots—and they can define the simplest details—like eye color. Sure, a content editor is here to help you, but it’s always best to try to keep everything as factual as you can beforehand. Having the strongest draft possible will ensure you’ll have the strongest product possible at the end of your editing stages.

2. Marketing: Branding: Be you. Branding is vital and highly competitive, but it doesn’t have to be! Remember: You are not competing with others. They are them; you are you. And you are the only “you” out there. Be proud of that! I hear the phrase “but they did this” way too often. Just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean you should or that it will even work for you.

A. It’s already being done.

B. It might not correlate with your books.

C. If you force it, people can tell. (It’s especially awkward when readers start to figure out who exactly you’re copying.)

Ex. Romance Author A loves reading lifestyle books, healthy eating, and yoga, so she uploads these three things to her pages with appropriate hashtags and related links, sometimes drawing a correlation that being healthy is part of her protagonists’ struggles and/or dreams. Now, Romance Author B. She sees this successful social media outreach and decides to do it too, even though she might not be into those things, nor does it have anything to do with the types of books she writes. (Not that everything has to do with your books, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Think about what you love, think about what your customers and you could love together, and share those lovable things. People with similar interests will find you and your books.

3. Marketing: Branding: Now that you’re you, be PARTS of you. What do I mean by that? I often see authors and publishers trying to be TOO much. Have some consistency. Choose three to four things you’re really into and mainly post about those things. Of course you can post about whatever you want, but it helps to pick a brand and stick with it. Ex. I post about my cats, coffee, and books I’m reading. I recently added desserts, but I started only sharing desserts that went with coffee. (I slowly worked it in.) On occasion, if I travel, I post some photos, but I’m also really into movies and photography and conspiracy theories and aliens and etc. Sure, I’ll talk about those things every now and then, but if I did it all the time, no one would know what to expect or why they were even following me. I picked a theme, and I stick with it. I even have followers who just follow me because of my cats or followers who just love getting recipes from me. Stop worrying about selling. It’s not about selling. (Ouch, I know.) But it’s true. It’s about genuine connections. Have fun. A great topic I see authors work with is similar books, movies, and fandoms. But there is a thing as “posting too much.” You can overwhelm followers. Plus, you don’t need to be online all the time. You need writing time too.

BONUS TIP

Take a Little Extra Time to Make Things Just *That* Much Better

The photo on the left is the one I posted to Instagram, Twitter, and FB. The photo on the right is the real deal. 30 seconds can make a HUGE difference. Take that extra step. In this instance, I just cropped and added a filter through Instagram.

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4. Editing: Track Stylistic Choices: Editing is often a matter of preference. While some rules are definitely not debatable, many aspects of the English language are. There is more than one correct way to write something, even when using the same rulebook, and it’s important to understand your options and to communicate those options with your editor. Keep track of your stylistic choices. Do you prefer t-shirt to T-shirt? Do you want to use “goodbye” instead of “good-bye”? Do you want to use the new “internet” or the proper “Internet”? Write these down or have your editor keep a stylistic sheet for you. I know I do this for every single one of my clients, especially if the book is part of a series. You want to remain consistent and pick what it best for that particular novel. As a reader, I HATE it when I see “t-shirt” and “T-shirt” on the same page. Granted, I’m an editor, so I’m probably more sensitive than others, but many avid readers know the basics of editing. Consistency is always the key.

5. Marketing: Positivity: Writing is hard. Marketing is hard. Editing is hard. I get it. Trust me. I do. I’ve been doing this for eight years and it’s still hard. I still learn every day, and sometimes, right after I learn something, the algorithms change, and I have to learn everything all over again. It’s tiring, time-consuming, and a never-ending battle. But try to enjoy it. Try to find the fun in it all. Try to love the little amazing moments more than you dwell on the big bad moments. But, most importantly, remain as positive as you can on your professional pages. Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to be human. I’ve posted about depression before when I lost my publisher at the time. But I was still hopeful and ready to move forward. No one thinks you’re perfect, and you don’t have to pretend to be perfect, but posting curse-filled rants of drama isn’t going to do anyone any favors. A rule I stand by is to think twice before you post something while feeling emotional. Then, step away and think again. Once posted, it can never be deleted forever. Overall, the more you practice positivity—whether inwardly or outwardly—the less you’ll feel drained and/or overwhelmed. The more you’ll enjoy it. You want your pages to be a safe and happy environment for you and your connections. Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullies and trolls, and stay focused on having a great time with your readers.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed these five tips! If you have some, feel free to share! Let’s end 2015 on a great note, so we can start 2016 on an even better one.

~SAT

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