Thursday, January 30, 2014

Help! It's Time to Revise? Story Sprouts Creators Share Their Tips

Help! It's Time to Revise?

There comes a time in every determined writer's life that the final punctuation mark is set on the final page of the very first draft.

For quick, efficient writers, that moment may come quite quickly - perhaps days, even hours, for a picture book writer - or several weeks for a novelist. Worldwide, NaNoWriMo participants can look forward to a complete first draft in only 30 days every November.

For languid, meticulous, or easily distracted writers, the first draft may take years. I recently met an aspiring author who was decades into the story that ignited his passion for writing. While he had finished other manuscripts, the first remained elusive. Every syllable was lyrical, every word resounding, and yet, after more than 40 years with the manuscript, it was still incomplete, waiting to find its perfect first draft ending. I myself have notebooks brimming with incomplete first drafts, sometimes with beginnings so strong I'm paralyzed with fear to make a mistake and ruin the magic should I continue.

However, incomplete first drafts do not a published author make, so I push myself to move forward bravely. As every writer must.

But when the moment comes that the last i has been dotted, the last t crossed, the last period furiously embedded onto the final page of the first draft, what comes next?

The hopeful, yet naive, optimist living in all of us teases us with daydreams of getting "discovered," followed by instant publication and accolades.

Perhaps we imagine sitting in a coffee shop looking over that final page, when a literary agent looking for the next J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins peers over our shoulder and gasps, "By God, it's brilliant! The best I've seen. Tell me you're looking for representation!" and begs us to sign on with the promise of six, even seven figures dangling within our grasp. And we sign, and a publisher is so anxious to go to print that publishing calendars are bumped around and our book becomes an instant hit - called "life changing" - "one of a kind" - "the best thing since Gone With the Wind." And so we earn millions, and the fans love us, and we sign a movie deal, and we have first right of refusal over every line in the screenplay, and ... and ... and ...

Then we awake from our pipe dream and realize all we have done is put the last dot on a first draft of a story. And that is big - huge even - and we should celebrate and pat ourselves on the back for our accomplishment, but we find there are no mystery agents looking over our shoulder, and, in fact, the story is not even perfect. Actually, there are some holes. And funny transitions. And, oh, minor supporting characters that should play a bigger role, or who accidentally disappeared from one chapter to the next. And the voice is all mixed up. And ... and ... and ... we want to, nay we need to, fix it.

So, we shake ourselves off, and recognize that the author's toughest work is not actually in the first draft we wanted to celebrate so largely. It's in the revision, and that is when the real work truly begins.

How do we do it? How do we revise?

• First, go ahead and celebrate that first draft. Be proud of your accomplishment and give yourself a few days to smile a little bit brighter, step a little bit lighter, knowing that you've finished something!
• During your celebration, set the first draft to the side. Hide it for a few days to allow yourself some distance.
• Now, go back to your story and read through it a few times. You may want to read through it once without any judgement or mark-ups, just to get back into the rhythm and story.
• Then, pull out the red marker and be ready to write. In the beginning, ignore grammatical errors. This is not the time to copy edit your work - this is the time to revise. This is big picture stuff.
• Read through the draft again, and this time mark areas that don't quite work. Don't think about how to fix it yet, just mark it up with that red pen. Give it a question mark, or circle it. It might show a break in tone, or confuse the reader, or elicit questions. It might hide or reveal too much. It might inadvertently change tense or point of view and need some work to match the rest of the manuscript.
• At the same time, give yourself a star in places that work really well.
• Now, get in there and address your problem areas one at a time. Play around with deleting paragraphs or pages, or rewrite them, or move them around. You may find that your 10th chapter is really your first chapter, or that you accidentally changed point of view in one area of the manuscript, and you like it better for your piece. Make sure you've saved previous versions, so you are not afraid to play. Chances are, you'll make it better and you'll wonder one day what you were ever thinking with those first versions, but just in case ... it's good to have a back-up plan.
• You've heard it before - don't be afraid to kill your darlings. That doesn't just apply to favorite characters. The eloquent scene that doesn't fit the plot? Cut it. Put it in your inspiration drawer for a future story. Shake things up a bit. If there are parts of the story that lag, add some action or controversy to spice things up and keep your reader intrigued.
• Once you've been through a couple of revisions, take your story to a critique group and/or share it with beta readers - readers you trust to tell you the truth, but in a supportive way. One author I spoke with said that if three critique partners found a problem in the same place, there was a problem, and she needed to address it. Less than three, she'd take feedback into consideration but not necessarily feel compelled to act. More than three, there was a big issue.
• Take the feedback, sit on it, and revise again.
• Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you feel ready to search for that dream agent or get ready for indie publishing. Your story won't be perfect. But it *will* be ready, and you'll know exactly when "good enough" really is … good enough. And five years down the line, when you look back through more experienced eyes and see your amateur self staring back at you, you will not cringe. You will remember all the work, and you will pat that amateur on the back for having the guts to write, revise and get published.

What do I know about revision?

I am a freelance journalist, who has been producing articles for a local newspaper for more than three years now. First draft to revision often transpires in hours due to the quick turnaround. It can be stressful under a tight deadline, but I do not turn in an article assuming revision is my editor's job. It's mine. I have to make sure it's ready to go. Then my editor makes sure that there aren't any holes, the story fits in the space available, and grammar is up to par on style guides. This fall, I co-edited a writing resource book and anthology with the fabulous Writing Nut, Nutschell Ann Windsor, founder of the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles. In the process, I was responsible for translating a one-day writing workshop that Nutschell planned and facilitated into a narrative form. I wrote and revised the narrative until I recognized it would just have to be ready. Imperfect, and duly beautiful, as it was - it was time to let it go.

As for the authors?

By the time the authors' (who created two stories based on the 10 writing exercises during the one day workshop) pieces reached me for editing, they had completed three revisions during the writing workshop. Changing up the point of view, as well as playing with the genre, were two of the exercises our authors used to uncover story holes during the revision process. The authors' revisions helped me understand their voices, and edit appropriately.

The book is not perfect - the entries are raw. Our writers composed in the moment. Our publishing schedule was fast, and the narrative is not flawless. But it is good, really good I think, and I am proud of our writers and what we accomplished together. I am proud to have my name on the cover of a quality endeavor.

For at a certain point, I realized, our writers who attended the workshop needed to see their work in print, and I would never reach perfection. But the resource would be strong, the voice unique, the exercises and tips interesting, and the contributions inspiring.

And that was "good enough."



Learn more about Story Sprouts
Join the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles

Find Nutschell at:

Find Alana at:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Is Net Galley Worth the Cost? Is There a Good Return on Audiobooks? And Trying to Find a Blog Through Google+

I had an interview on Kimberly Afe’s site this weekend, and there are prizes for commenting, including books and an Amazon card.

Today is a random questions and observations post. Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions.


I really noticed this after being Blitzed a couple weeks ago, but a lot of people have linked their blog profile with their Google+ profile. (I tried it a year and a half ago but switched back.) Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find someone’s blog that way. You land on the Google+ page and it’s their posts. (You can take a chance and click one of the links, but half the time it’s someone else’s blog.) So you have to go to the About page and find the blog link. Maybe there are several. Sometimes there are none!

So is it just me, or do you have a heck of a time finding a blog through Google+?

Net Galley

This is a service that offers members the opportunity to download and review books. I’d checked them out before, but Net Galley doesn’t come cheap for authors and publishers. (Around $400 to list one title for 6 months with no ads. $349 through IPBA.) There are also co-ops of authors (don’t know if there are publisher ones) who register as one entity with Net Galley and all members pay a fee for unlimited books and ads for one year. (Less than the two options above.)

My questions -

Is Net Galley worth it? Does it garner enough early reviews? Membership to download is free - are there a lot of people on there just to get free books? Are there really influential bloggers, reviewer, and media people?

Would you be interested in joining a co-op if it is a good value?


I know several of you have books available on audio. Every week, Publishers Weekly shows the greatest decline in book sales to be in audio books.

Are they worth the expense? Does it depend on the book and author? Does it depend on the service?

Final thought!

Did you know that it’s a scientific fact that women’s hands and feet are 3 degrees colder than men’s?

My husband said there should be a zero after that 3...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview & Giveaway, Selling More Books, and Friday Funnies

Saturday, I have an interview and giveaway with Kimberly Afe, author of The Headhunters Race. My interview is at Meeting With My Muse and includes the giveaway of two books and an Amazon gift card.

Brian Jud had an interesting article this week - Keep Prices High and Sell More Books (Profitably) - at Book Business Magazine

He said instead of lowering prices, re-position your books - basically, find a new market. He gave an example of what Hyundai did a few years ago by offering a guarantee with their cars - you lose your job within the first year of purchase and you can return it with no ding to your credit record. While car sales fell 37% overall, Hyundai’s sales doubled during that time. It’s food for thought - instead of slashing your book’s price hoping to move more, find new readers.

And now I will return to the Friday Funnies, starting with my own dorky cat!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Online Marketing Symposium and Love is in the Air

What Works - Online Marketing Symposium

Hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

On event day you tell us about a marketing idea that you've used and what worked or didn't work.

Early reviews of any product always helps. You want to start the buzz early and maybe even get a grassroots movement going.

Since I am an author, my tips relate to getting early book reviews as well as stirring interest in an upcoming release. Where do you send review copies and how soon before the release date do you send them? (As always, target ones that cater to your book’s readership.)

Magazines - 4-6 months
Most magazines plan their issues months in advance. If you are hoping for a review or are supplying an excerpt, you need to contact magazines far in advance. Be familiar with the magazine and know who to contact.

Book clubs - 4-6 months
Having your book featured in any of the Book-of-the-Month type of clubs can mean lots of sales. If they select your book, they will order many of them. (And not return them!)

Pre-publication reviewers - 3-6 months
These review books for the industry rather than for readers. Examples - Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal, etc. Most will only accept print copies and few accept self-published books.

Influential people - 3-6 months
Anyone who is an expert on your subject matter, an author in your genre, or a “celebrity.”

Wholesalers and distributors - 3-6 months
With print books, distribution is key, and if you want to hit the market offline, you will need a wholesaler or distributor. They will want a copy (or several) of your book, a detailed marketing plan, promotional items, bio, early reviews, etc.

Book bloggers - 2-5 months
Aim for the sites with large followings and let them know when you need the review. (Do you need it before the book is released or after?)

Specialty reviewers - 2-5 months
There are a lot of small magazines and periodicals, on and offline, that review books. Some genre websites review books.

Bookstores - 2-5 months
If you want a chain bookstore to stock your book, you will need to send a package similar to what you send to wholesalers. Independent stores are just as good, because they will recommend books to their patrons and to Indie Bound.

Giveaways - 2-5 months
You can do them on your own site, through guest appearances, and through Goodreads. (Print books only for the latter.)

Love is in the Air Blogfest

Hosted by The Unicorn Bell
It's a celebration of that little thing called love. Be it steamy or sweet, puppy, kitty, teen, aggravating, first kiss or final goodbye, let your scene tug at our heartstrings.

“Our Movie”

Some people might not find this romantic, but romance comes in many forms.

My husband and I were friends for a year before we ever dated and we’ve joked that we’re a real life When Harry Met Sally. Since that film came out about the time we started dating, we often call it our movie.

But our REAL movie is Midnight Run. Why? Because when we were first dating, I’d visit his apartment and we’d usually watch a movie. Midnight Run was playing on HBO that first month, so we watched it a lot. Since then, it has always been “our movie,” romantic or not!

And I carried over the idea of a romantic non-romantic movie into Book II of my series - Matt and Sarah’s movie is Return of the Living Dead, as they saw it on their first date.

Be sure to visit other participants and check out this upcoming blogfest - 2014 National Wormhole Week! Hosted by Stephen Tremp, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and myself. Sign up herre.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Coffee Hop

Hosted by Michael Di Gesu

All you have to do is post what you love most about coffee. Let's have a good time and LAUGH over a steaming cup! The most hysterical entry will win a pound of authentic Colombian coffee.

Coffee!!! Coffee, coffee, coffee, cappuccino!

My morning isn’t complete without it.

I have both a regular coffee pot and Keurig. Because some mornings, one cup is just not enough.

My father-in-law loves my coffee because I make it strong enough to hold the spoon straight up.

And for me, it must be flavored! I am all about the flavors. I have flavored coffee, flavored creamers, and flavored syrups. I have come up with some interesting flavors mixing those all together.

And what is Spunky like when she’s hopped up on coffee?

Hammy the Squirrel!

Michael, I hope this has amused you because I really want that Columbian coffee! 

And thank you everyone who visited for the Blog Blitz! I am still trying to visit everyone who left a comment. (How on earth does Alex do it?)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Announcing Chasing Anya and National Wormhole Week

Available today from J. L. Campbell - Chasing Anya!

Been there. Done that.

Feisty and independent, Anya Davies lives by her own rules. The one thing she’s hell-bent on avoiding is a conventional relationship. Nor is she interested in romance, thanks to her abusive ex who refuses to stay in the past. The second complication in her life is a secret that condemns her to constant guilt and a solitary life. A series of near misses and escalating threats are a third and worrying factor. Only a special man would understand or live with Anya’s challenges and demands.

Casual not having that.

Enter Christophe Mondesir. Two years ago, Anya dumped him without explanation. An accidental meeting shoots Anya back on Christophe’s radar. He refuses to be denied and plans to breach the fortress Anya has built around her heart—if she’ll commit to more than a casual liaison. He’s also determined to find out what she’s hiding. That’s if the stalker who’s after Anya doesn’t end her life first.

J.L. Campbell is a proud Jamaican, who is always on the hunt for story-making material.

She writes romantic suspense, women's fiction and young adult novels. She is the author of Anya's Wish, Chasing Anya, Contraband, Christine's Odyssey, Dissolution, Distraction, Don't Get Mad...Get Even, Retribution, Saving Sam, and Hardware (written under the pen name Jayda McTyson).
Author site

2014 National Wormhole Week! 

Hosted by Stephen Tremp, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and myself.

This blogfest, also known as “Wormfest,” runs March 10-16, 2014, and is a celebration of Stephen’s upcoming release, Escalation.

Rules are simple:

Name one thing where science advances mankind, and one where technology will go too far and set us back. They can be the same thing or different.

Example: De-extinction or bringing back extinction species through backbreeding, genetic engineering, and cloning. (Article here.) With all the breakthrough discoveries mankind is on the cusp of, are we playing God?

Sign up here:

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Don't forget to follow the Facebook IWSG. We are beginning a new feature this Saturday.

I haven’t been writing in the past few weeks, but I have been doing other writerly things to get myself organized. Sometimes you have to step back and clean things up first. So far:

I have outlines for all four stories for Four in Darkness. No idea which one to tackle first. One story will be a rewrite of a much older one, so that will likely be first. Another one has multiple reasons why something happens, I just need to pick the best one.

I redesigned the front page of my website, and adjusted the description of my book formatting services. Also did some price adjustments, as I have a new program that rocks the epub.

I cleaned up my blogroll. The first listing with authors and more are now those with whom I interact the most. I added bloggers who visit often and removed those who don’t. Really, when was the last time you looked at your blogroll? How many of those bloggers don’t visit very often anymore?

I’m compiling a mailing address that involves time on the Internet looking for zip codes. That I would love to outsource to a virtual assistant! (Any takers?)

I set several guest spots for the coming months, which was one of my goals for January. Done!

What have you been doing besides writing that just “needs to be done?”

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Journey to Publication with Author Kimberly Afe

Kimberly Afe joins us today. The Headhunters Race was released last week and she wanted to share her publication journey with us.

Journey to Publication

The Headhunters Race has a bit of a long journey. The idea was born on June 26, 2011 after a Zelda game commercial inspired me. The commercial was brilliant and I thought why can't they make a movie that cool? And then I thought, why don't I write a cool adventure myself!

So I brainstormed this story with my son over a dinner of spicy spaghetti a couple of nights after the idea came to me. We worked out the entire novel: the characters and their motivations, the world, and the details of the race as I frantically wrote it all down. My husband and daughter also helped me brainstorm items that I needed worked out. I then spent a little while playing around with Avene's voice and then wrote like crazy. I finished in December of 2011. I actually started having critique partners read it in November of 2011 and began querying agents in January of 2012 after more revising. I also entered it into a few popular contests around the blogosphere in early 2012. Then I took a very long break due to life circumstances with hubby’s heart and moving. Early this year I got back into writing. I’d been thinking about self publishing for quite awhile so when querying a few more agents and a handful of publishers didn’t work out, I decided to go for it, and now, 2 1/2 years later, the book is out there! Wahoo!

About the Book:
Sixteen-year-old Avene was sentenced to prison at thirteen for a crime she didn't commit. Now she has a chance to win her freedom back – if she enters the Headhunters Race. Second prize isn't so bad either, an upgrade to the Leisure Prison if you make it to the finish line. To win either prize, Avene and the other prisoners must navigate one hundred and fifty miles of dense forest, desert, and worst of all, cannibal territory.
With a mechanical collar timed to strangle the prisoners if they're not back in nine days, Avene allies herself with seventeen-year-old McCoy, another prisoner that insists on helping her at every turn and a boy she's trying hard not to fall for. Together they battle nature, other prisoners, and the timed death collars to win the coveted prize. But when Avene is tested with one deadly conflict after another, she realizes there is more at stake than winning her freedom – first she has to survive.

Kimberly is the mother of two awesome kids, wife of the nicest man in the world, and her dog's best friend. She works by day and writes middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy novels in her spare time. She lives with her family in the beautiful Sonoran Desert.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Reflecting on the Loss of Friends

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year’s. Last year, my husband and I were both sick, so it was nice to enjoy the holidays this time. We enjoyed Christmas with just the two of us. Technically four when you count the two black cats that were playing in the shredded wrapping paper. I had fun stirring them up even more with my new Despicable Me Talking Minion. He talks, giggles, and sings!

One thing happened that made me reflect on friends past and present. Before my husband and I were even dating, we worked for a contracting company in Arkansas and were good friends with another employee, Debbie. She was one of those happy, free spirits that is a joy to be around. We lost track of her for a couple years, and then got to visit Debbie and her husband in Orlando on several book signing treks south.

We didn’t get a Christmas card in 2012, and I don’t think I sent one. But I sent one for 2013 just to let Debbie and her husband know we were thinking about them and missed them.

We get a letter from her husband, apologizing that he didn’t have our address and the phone number he’d tried was disconnected.

Two years ago, Debbie committed suicide.

My husband and I are still in shock. It was due to a situation with her family, but we just can’t fathom Debbie killing herself over it. Our heart goes out to her husband.

I went through my photo albums and gathered every photo I could find of Debbie and sent it on a CD Rom to her husband. As I looked through the pictures, I thought of other friends I’d not seen or spoken to in a while. I was an only kid, so solitude is often my thing, and I wonder if that works against me sometimes. How many friends have slipped away because I haven’t maintained contact? Even the Internet, it’s easy to let time pass without interaction. That’s something I need to work on.

How many friends have you lost contact with due to neglect? Can you do something about it now?