Friday, June 30, 2017

Writing on the Go

Word counts while traveling depend entirely upon your ability to arrange for vast wastelands of time and boredom. Sort of like being a kid in the backseat of a car driving from one end of the continent to the other before cars had anything fancier than wheels, engines, and seatbelts. The external scenery, historical markers, triumphs, and tragedies rolling past the car window lull you into boredom. And that boredom encourages you to explore your internal landscape. Yes. I grew up on road trips. Expeditions, maybe. All those hours and all of that country passing - it wrote itself into stories. I doubt I'd be a writer were it not for my family trekking from one Air Force base to the next via a rust bucket of a car pulling a travel trailer. To this day, when I block, I get in the car and start driving. Story problems unravel to the tune of tires on pavement.

Airplanes are also prime word count time for me, because what could be more worthy of psychic escape than being held captive in a tin can at 30,000 feet? If writing means butt in chair, airplanes have your number. Might as well do something to take your mind off being smushed between the fuselage and whoever has the middle seat, right? The only issue with planes is that getting to use a laptop isn't guaranteed. If someone in front of you want to recline, you risk your screen. I make sure I have old school tools. What pen and paper lack in flash, they make up with flexibility. I also find them easier on my head. Flying inevitably gives me a migraine and looking at a backlit computer screen is excruciating. Pen and paper are less likely to make me wish I'd died.

If you want word count while traveling, pick your traveling companions well. Most writers have a list of 'safe' people, as well as a list of people they love, but who will never allow them to write. It helps to be really clear and honest with yourself. If your beloved, chatty mother is traveling with you, your choices are to get up an hour before she does to write, or you acknowledge it's not happening this trip. Conferences are the same - because those involve some intense commitments, you either take a break on writing or you commit to a time to write that won't end up subsumed by conference crazy. 

The whole point of travel is to remove you from the ordinary. It's the reason I advocate so strongly for solo writing retreats. It's invaluable for a writer to walk away from responsibility for a few days - delegate the care and feeding of the family so the writer can be responsible for and to nothing but herself and the page for a few days. Modern life is full of noise to the point that most of us start having trouble hearing the voices of our stories. Solo travel clears that racket away. Besides. When you're by yourself there's no one to tell you to stop writing that nonsense and get some sleep. There's no one to tell you not to have another glass of wine while you sit scribbling or typing madly away.

Traveling in any capacity flips a switch on my imagination. I get kicked into Beginner Mind, I think. In that space, I see everything as new. Including my stories. Stories and characters I've never seen before rise up in the middle of the night to wake me and demand I write them down when I'm traveling, especially if I'm traveling alone and don't have to worry about waking anyone else when I flip on the bedside lamp at 2am. So yes. Traveling means writing.

BTW. The results after last week's maudlin post. A feeding tube and a cat who's feeling much better.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Perils of the Writer: Writing on the Road


Let me put this out there: I kind of love writing while on trips or on vacation.  Mostly because "vacation", for me, means I don't have to do household-y things, so I can relax, and relaxing for me is actually being able to get my work done.

Now, I've been blessed that my "regular" job ("day job" would be inaccurate) has given me the ability to go to Mexico several times in the past few years, and those vacations were also incredibly productive, writingwise.

Also, for road trips, now my son is driving (and he loves driving), so I don't have to drive.  A few weeks ago we went out to Big Bend, and I could sit in the back with a laptop and write as the long miles of Texas passed by.

BLISS.

For me, a "vacation" is a writing retreat, plan and simple.  It's a way to recharge and activate that creative energy.

Now, writing while at cons?  Nope.  Almost never happens.  Sometimes I get a bit done (especially if I end up staying at a different hotel from the con proper), but most of the time: that weekend is a wash.  Well, maybe not on the flights (if there are flights involved).   I can write on planes pretty well, also.  I'm pretty sure I finished the rough draft of The Holver Alley Crew (way back when) on a plane.

On that note: next weekend is kind of writing-retreat-staycation.  I'm hoping to get a lot done.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the Road Writing

I won't pretend for a moment that I'm getting any work done while traveling. Whether the trip is for pleasure or for business, there is zero word count happening. There may be a bit of note taking, if inspiration strikes, but I do not take a trip with the intention of accomplishing writing goals.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Being away from home is an opportunity.

http://quotesblog.net/latest-travel-quote-and-travel-quotes-on-images/

I used to be the woman who'd hide in the hotel room at conventions, terrified at the thought of being surrounded by strangers. Some minimal word count was accomplished in those days. My laptop, however, is not travelling with me anymore. It proved to be a waste of space. A paper notebook goes with me instead because I decided: 

a.) I will stop lying to myself about 'how much I'm going to write'

b.) I will remove the 'run away to the room to write a while' excuse 

c.) I will be open to meeting new people and exploring this new place

d.) I will allow myself the freedom to learn/see/do something new

Granted, I might return to the room for a while if anxiety is getting the best of me, but mostly my efforts are put into meeting new people, developing those friendships already sprouting with my peers, and catching up with old friends.

Writing is a solitary activity. 
Travelling is an opportunity to explore and absorb, 
to experience new settings, dialogue, characters, 
new moods, tone, and sounds, 
essentially to delve into new ideas 
so that when I am once again 
in front of that blank page, 
I have more to offer than ever before.



https://www.pinterest.com/explore/quotes-about-travel/?lp=true





Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Beware the Seat Snorer (or How Travel Sabotages Word Count Goals)

How do I maintain word-count when traveling?

I...don't.

Anything less than two weeks away from the writing cave is a grand excuse to Febreeze the creative closet. That TBR pile isn't going to shrink itself.

Any trip longer than two weeks and I try to write during the afternoons/heat of the day since I'm a bit vampiric. I tend to focus on the many aspects of being an author that don't involve crafting the actual story. Those aspects tend to be more forgiving of interruptions. Also, I don't try to write during any actual movement parts of travel. Why?

I am the seat snorer.

This Pavlovian puppy was trained to sleep during all modes of transportation. Plane? Sleep. Car? Sleep. Train? Sound asleep. Ship? No sleep. Find your sea legs first, then the buffet. ~oink~

Travel, definitely not a time when I get work done.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Getting that Word Count While Traveling - How Do You Do It?

I'm delighted to announce that THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is up for preorder!! A few others will be coming soon, but - as with many things - Amazon is fast and efficient, making us both love and loathe them. Smashwords wants me to promise to upload the final doc ten days before release and I ... just can't. Ten days is forever in my world, regrettable as that may be. But, hey! The book is coming along really well, and I'm tentatively thrilled with it.

~knocks on wood~

~tosses salt over shoulder~

~pets black cat and gives it extra treats~

Want to see a little snippet? Okay! (It's a teensy bit spoilery of THE EDGE OF THE BLADE, if you haven't read that yet. Fair Warning. Just skip down to the next *** to avoid.)


***

We reached the ship, a rope ladder thrown down for us. Marskal treaded water with apparent ease, helping me grab ahold and steadying it as I climbed. Hands reached down from above, helping me over the rail. Then Jepp had me in a fierce hug, her compact, vital body hard against me. She was laughing and cursing, rocking me from side to side, then pulled back and kissed me hard on the mouth.
A man’s big hand tugged her back. “None of that now.” Kral, fully outfitted in his shining black Dasnarian armor, though with the faceplate up, winked at me. “I have to watch her every second.”
Jepp made a face at him. “You liked the idea well enough when we invited—”
“Shut up, Jepp,” Kral cut her off pleasantly and she grinned at him, then snapped to attention, giving Marskal the Hawks’ salute.
Lieutenant!”
A dripping Marskal shook his head at her with a wry smile. “You don’t report to me any longer, remember?”
Jepp dropped her fist with an abashed grin. “Old habits, don’t you know.” She looked between us. “So that’s how you knew the signal. I recognized your sparkly blue magic globe thingy, but couldn’t figure out the rest.” She eyed Marskal. “You’re going to have to kill her now, you know.”
He returned her sally with a very serious nod. “So I’ve already informed her.”
“Just make me a Hawk already then,” I told them.
Jepp got a speculative expression and Marskal looked me up and down as if guessing my weight. “We don’t have any Tala. A shapeshifter and sorceress could come in handy.”
“She’s a terrible soldier, though,” Jepp pointed out. “Never follows orders. Might as well conscript a cat.”
“True.” Marskal rubbed his chin. “Plus she’d never make it through the initiation.”
“Guess it’s death then,” Jepp agreed cheerfully, making to draw her big bladed knife. She’d tied a scarf to the end of it, crimson ends fluttering in the breeze that matched the rest of her silk and leather outfit. With her short hair, dark skin and the exotic clothing, she looked even more a pirate now than when we found her fleeing the Dasnarians on the stolen Hákyrling.
“Not on the deck,” Kral cautioned. “You’ll stain the wood.”

***

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Writing On The Road: How to stay on task while traveling.

And, boy howdy, is this a hard one.

I have to tell you all: when I was traveling for the day job all the time (by "all the time," I mean 1-2 weeks out of every month), it was super hard for me to maintain any kind of writing schedule or productivity. I would have solid goals and determination, planning to get up early and write before we left the hotel, to write in the evenings when we were done for the day, to write on the airplane. Most of those things never happened. Jet lag and time zone differences would nix the getting up early. Having that much-desired cocktail with clients would sabotage the evening writing plans. Plain old being tired and having my brain eaten by the day job took care of the rest.

After a while, I pretty much didn't even try. I figured day job travel meant no word count and I took it out of the equation, figuring I'd write when I was actually at home. Which pretty much worked.

But, my productivity and quality of work absolutely increased tenfold when I stopped having to travel for that project.

Those of you who travel regularly for the day job and still manage to write? I have mad respect for you.

These days, my main challenge is being at conferences. Most of the time, I figure on writing on the plane on the way to the conference. I'm in the groove still, and - if the flights - are long enough, I can often get a regular day's worth of writing in.

(Yes, your seat mate will totally read over your shoulder. I figure they get what they get.)

Once at the conference, on the first day, maybe the second, I can get in *some* words. I get up, exercise, find a latte and something to eat, then bring it back to my room. At that point, any words are good words, just to keep my fingers on the reins.

After that - and, depending on the con, sometimes for the whole time - I get nothing written and I try to be okay with that. I look on it as well refilling. Same with vacations.

We talked about that last week, taking some breaks and time between works. If I can manage it - and I'm getting better at this - I try to figure in conferences and vacations as breaks between projects. Rather than feeling frustrated or anxious about not getting my word count in, I figure those days into my schedule as non-work days. Anything I do get is gravy.

But, I realize this is a luxury on my part, something I can do because I no longer have the day job. Before I wrote full time, I absolutely could not have afforded that time.

So those of you who do write on the road - how do you do it???


Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Time Between Novels

Is there an ideal time to take between writing novels?

 Look, as an author, all I can do is be me and follow the process that works for me. You have to be you.

When I finish the first draft of a novel, I immediately turn around and go through the manuscript again, editing. (No, I don’t type “The End.” To my knowledge I’ve never bothered to type that and I’m always a bit bemused by people doing the full blown Joan Wilder thing…I have my Joan Wilder moments but typing 'The End' isn't one of them...but enough snark on that!) After that I do my pass for finding and eliminating my particular set of “lazy words”. I had a list of twenty five originally, topped by the word ‘that’, which is my own nemesis. I’ve added a few more words in the last five years, including ‘half’, when my beta reader pointed out I liked to have characters do things in a ‘half’ way – half turning, half smiling, etc. Some of the lazy or bad words I used to sprinkle on the WIP like confetti, I’ve managed to train myself to NOT use, so it doesn’t take as long to clean them out as it used to. But still probably two full days…

Then I send the book off to my developmental editor. Her process invariably takes a month. No matter what she does or I do, it takes her a month.

During that month, I turn to my next book and dive in. Now I have found that I seem to need about three days in between sending the WIP off to the editor and starting words on the new story. Even if I’m eager to write it and have the plot pretty much in my head, my Muse seems to need 72 hours to really clear the decks and want to write. Then I work on this new book for the time until the editor returns the previous one, at which time I put aside the newer story to make the fixes and changes, and get the book to the copy editor.

Ideal? Shrug. Eighteen or so published books into this career, I’d say the process is working. One lovely aspect of being an independently published author is that there’s no one way to do things that works for everyone. Do your own thing!


A small plug here, as June is Audiobook Month, I do have five audiobooks out there! Plus two of my Egyptian paranormal romances that Carina Press did as audiobooks. Here’s the link to the page on my blog with sound samples and buy links: https://veronicascott.wordpress.com/audiobooks/


Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Interval

Two weeks and an eternity ago, Autolycus died. Tonight, Hatshepsut is in the hospital. I'm binge eating ice cream bars, listening to the Gayatri Mantra - all 108 recitations of it. There may be eye leakage while we wait for word on the youngest girl.

This is how long it takes between books. This is how long it takes books in general. Because life and death and illness and joy and pain don't stop just because a book is due. The stories never stop. They don't die until you do. So it doesn't matter how much time one takes between books. What matters is that you keep going. Keep trying. Keep taking refuge in the stories in your blood and bones. How fast versus how slowly you do that is meaningless. Your heart beats in its own time. So do your stories.

Just don't let anyone or anything suppress them. Not even you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Perils of the Writer: The Novel Refractory Period

How long should you take between novels?

Or, if you have contracts and deadlines, how long can you afford to take?  That's the real question.

Now, at this point, with six novels written, two more waiting for editorial turnaround, one out shopping and one in draft... I've got my methodology down.  That isn't to say that I've got nothing left to learn, because... I've always got more to learn.  But I don't really sit down and ask myself, "How do I write a novel again?"  Nor do I really dither about What To Write Next.  Given contracts and release schedules, that's kind of a given right now.

But how much time do you take in between?

For the purpose of this discussion, I'm talking about going from a polished draft of one novel to starting the rough draft of the next.  The polished draft is "finished" when I send it in an email to either agent or editor.  More work will have to be done, but it's as finished as it's going to be without their input.  And the rough draft starts when I write actual words that will appear in the manuscript.  Outlining, re-outlining, and other "pre-production" work don't count.

Now that I've defined my terms, I can say that, for me,  a two-week gap is about right.  I took two weeks between turning in Imposters and starting Lady Henterman's, and also between Lady Henterman's and Parliament of Bodies.  Those two-weeks are usually spent either on the pre-production stuff for the upcoming project, or doing side-project work to reboot myself. But I definitely don't like to take any longer than that.  Two weeks is plenty.  By then, I'm itching to get going again.

And along those lines, time to hit the word mines.  See you down there.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How long between novels?

Hi thee. I'm a day late, for which I apologize. I found myself in a situation without real access to a computer and there was no way in heck I was gonna do any length article on my phone.

How long is the right length between novels? I don't know. My usual waiting time is about a week. During that week I'm likely to write a few short stories. Why? because, as I have said before, I am fond of having a roof over my head. I work steadily at my career as a writer, I don't really have many days off and if I do somehow manage days off, I tend to feel guilty about it.

I was raised by a woman who worked 60 hour weeks to keep her kids fed (Deadbeat dads, folks, you gotta love 'em.), and she instilled within me and MOST of my siblings a very strong work ethic. There are a couple of exceptions. No names, no finger pointing, it just is what it is.

To that end, I work a full time job, I write full time and I do some teaching on the side. If I didn't, I honestly wouldn't know what to do with myself.

There's another reason this happens, by the way. I still have trouble saying "no," when a publisher asks for something. Seriously, best way in the world to get work when you're starting out is to say yes to anything that isn't insane. I never said yes to a free novel. I insisted on getting paid, but still, I said yes to a lot of offers early on and I still have trouble resisting the affirmative when I'm asked for any length tale.

It's the nature of the beast. I'm a storyteller, not a literary writer. I write fast and to entertain. I also write a LOT on the average. I'm not as fast as I used to be, but who among us is?

it's a book birthday for me, Christopher Golden, Charlaine harris, Kelley Armstrong, Mark Morris, Tim Lebbon, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Cherie Priest, Jonathan Maberry and Kelley Armstrong.  Our book INDIGO came out today.



Keep smiling,.

James A. Moore

Mental Resets: Taking Time to Recharge Between Books

Source: BrainlessTales.com
I wrote a book! My brain is now oozing all over the floor. How many days does it take to stuff the gray matter back inside?

Fourteen.

One week to do nothing remotely related to writing. To clean out the creative closet. I usually repaint a room or tackle some mid-scale home project; something with a visible end result that'll buoy my spirits when I'm in the throes of frustration with the next book.

One more week to repack the creative closet. Read. Binge TV.  Draw. Visit a museum. Amass the imagination tools that I'll need for the next book.

Then the outlining begins.  
Dundunduuuuuuuun!

What? I'm all for Jeffe's vision of the Italian villa and wine-soaked nights for a month or two...or four. But that reality thing, man, crimpin' styles and cutting vacations short all over the world. Fie on it, I say! FIE!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What's the Ideal Amount of Time to Take Between Writing Novels?

These signs always amuse me so much. Although, in New Mexico, the lakes are often somewhat hidden from view, and one can come upon them precipitously, from flat mesa to deep canyon filled with water. Still... the warning signs make me smile.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is the Novelist's Refractory Period: How you handle that time between "just finished the novel" and when you “have” to start the next.

I’ll be interested to hear what everyone else has to say. I suspect that, for some of us, this is driven by the “have” to of deadlines. It sure it for me – both of the self-imposed and external variety.

But I do have this little fantasy I nurse. It’s on the same shelf with the one about the villa overlooking the Mediterranean, a lovely house of vine-draped balconies and sweet cabana boys who bring me balanced meals and vodka cocktails. In this fantasy, I take a month or two off between novels. I see myself as this glamorous writer who plans exotic vacations during her “down time.”

I would use this down time to take a Mediterranean cruise, or hike along Hadrian’s Wall. I might stay in a little house in Bali and spend the mornings meditating and the afternoons snorkeling. (And the nights in wine-drinking.) No matter what I did or where I went, people would (of course) recognize me and say how they loved my last novel and what will the next be about?

This is when I toss my long, fringed silk scarf over my shoulder and say, “I’m mulling it. No doubt this [hike along Hadrian’s Wall/cruise of the Mediterranean/month in Bali] will provide inspiration.”
I love this fantasy.

But who am I kidding? If it ever happens, that’s pretty far down the road. That time between finishing one novel and starting the next? It’s usually a weekend. Sometimes three days. I’m actually trying to plan my writing schedule better so that I finish drafts right before planned weekend or week-long vacations, to give myself a little rebound time.

At this point, the most of a break I feel I can give myself is to switch to editing instead of drafting, or to draft in a different genre than I just finished writing.


One day, when I can afford to take that time off in between, though, I totally will. 

*Note to self: must buy long, fringed silk scarf. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My Mini Movie Book Trailer Phase

Our topic this week is basically book trailers and how effective they are as a sales tool. My colleague K. A. Krantz said earlier: “Usually, book trailers are done because the author simply likes having them.”

Yup, that's exactly why I happen to have any. They were fun to do, not that I have the skills to make them for myself! But I enjoyed the collaborative process of picking out images and music, and working with creative people who did the video making. I LOVED having what I viewed as mini movies of my books. Who knows if I’ll ever get actual movies made of any of my stories? (Came close once but hey…Hollywood, you know?)

So I have…  I don’t know five or six book trailers maybe? And I worked with four or five different people, and the experience varied each time but overall was cool and fun. Do I think any of the trailers sold any books? No.

                Besides making me personally happy, the videos are useful to add to blog posts, tweets and Facebook. I had several featured on USA Today Happy Ever After blog when they reviewed book trailers. Not sure they even do that anymore. (Yes, I am a contributor there but I had no influence over the tastes and choices of the person who was the video critic.)

A couple of the older videos are wayyyyyy too long. One is now cringeworthy as tech has moved beyond where it was at the time. I saw a lot of the stock photos I’d chosen used by other authors since, on covers etc., as we’re all using the same sites and models. I always envied the authors who could afford the actual made-for-them videos with actors and vignettes from the book, but I was never going to have that big a budget and even if I did, I couldn’t afford TV ad time.

Will I ever do any more? Not unless my book take off into the stratosphere or I win the big Powerball lottery and thus I have money to burn, so to speak. I make wiser choices with my marketing pennies nowadays. I got over my “gee whiz I have a mini movie of my book!” phase.

I’ll share my biggest budget trailer, for Star Cruise: Marooned, and my most recent, for Hostage to the Stars, which was the last one I had made, and was about four books ago. The trailer for Hostage was on the low end of my cost curve but I loved it. Cheri Lasota was a joy to work with.

SFR Galaxy Award Winner Hostage to the Stars is still on sale as an ebook for $.99 by the way! Buy Links:     Apple iBooks     Amazon    Kobo     Barnes & Noble


Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Trailer Challenge

I know nothing about book trailers. Except that I've seen a few, and those few haven't left a good impression. There might be a way to create a killer book trailer, but I sure haven't seen it yet. Maybe if I did Claymation excerpts? But, you know, I already have a job or three. So that's not likely to happen in this lifetime.

I like video/film as a mode of expression. Not crazy about it as a means of selling. That's a me thing. I suspect I've got some prejudice about using the visual storytelling mode (video) to tell a story about a story told in a nonvisual mode. It shorts my simple brain. Right now, YouTube seems geared for the unbearably cute, the sadistically amusing, or the insanely clever.

I'm sure someone out there can create book trailers that fit all of those criteria. That someone is not currently me.

So while I think video has some serious strengths if you understand the pros and cons of the medium. It's an excellent teaching tool. Most people in our culture are visual learners. So there's that. Silly cat videos (KittenLady and TinyKittens, anyone?), DIY projects, instructional videos, experiences travel and adventure vids, and actual performance (assuming you can handle the trolls) - those are the things that really seem to pop on YouTube. If I still had an orange cat (sniff) I'd consider doing a trailer for Damned If He Does - it would be all from the cat's point of view. But. Ship sailed.

All of that said, I do have a YouTube channel. It's pretty invisible because my video quality is crap. It's all cat videos, boat videos, and this. The Night of The Frogs.


So. Book trailers? Nope. Not unless I can come up with a way to make marketing the written word via a visual medium I can't justify the cost or time. Now. Someone come tell me why I'm wrong. I'm always interested in learning that I'm thinking about something incorrectly.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Value of Video Promotion

So, I've mentioned before that I don't think Book Trailers, as they are typically done, are effective marketing for a book.  Frankly, they're rarely going to get the attention of anyone who wasn't already interested, and at best they probably won't detract from audience interest.

And that's because translating "movie trailer" style to promoting books doesn't quite work.
But I've been putting some thought into how video can be used, if not for book promotion strictly, then as part of author branding (there's that thing again).  And, I mean, I do have a degree in Film & Video Production.  So I know something about how the medium works.

So I'm putting something together, teaming up with my son (who is pretty gifted in the video arts, see below) which should be fun and dynamic to watch in its own right, and just possibly inspire some book sales.  We'll see.  Watch this space, because stuff is coming.  (And in case you missed it, earlier this week we dropped the cover to Lady Henterman's Wardrobe.  Check it out.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Trailers, Animations, and Cat Scully

Because we are talking about videos and trailers in book marketing this week, here, again, is my trailer for Jovienne, featuring music from the original score I composed...




Yes, that's my music. I created a new arrangement of the song Immanence  just for the trailer, which I also made. This was my first ever attempt at a trailer.

My research showed 45 - 75 seconds was prime. I shot for that, but the feedback I recieved forced me to push it a little longer. I would like to think that the music was interesting enough that it maintained viewers for the full play. Personally, I don't think there's anything WRONG with it, but I know it could also be better because I believe that anyone's first attempt at anything can be improved upon. The constraints of a trailer include not only the skill and experience of the creator, but the budget. I purchased images of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower, as well as a demonic eyes image. The woman representing Jovienne is a friend, and her images, taken by Candylust, were used with permission.  ALL of the images I tweaked/altered in Photoshop. (As a dormer graphic artist, I do have some skills in that area.)

This was 1.) a great means to enable people to quickly know something about the story, and 2.) give them a taste of the music I've composed for it. For me, this was a triple win... 3.) I had fun and learned stuff creating it.

You can buy a digital copy of the CD for $5.99  HERE  or you can buy a hard copy CD from me either at a convention, or you can use the link on my website HERE.

Now, the important question: Has this generated sales?

Answer: I don't know.

I can tell you, though, that I plan to do more trailers for my books and music because it was fun, I love being creative, and it can't hurt.

That said, I recently saw a "book animation" for another friend's book, Christopher Golden's Ararat.
I was struck by it. I'm currently reading that book and this animation captured the essence of the tale. The premise of it is straightforward and simple (though I doubt the work involved with it was) and as a viewer, I came away with a sense of quiet menace, which pairs perfectly (IMO) for the story.

When I researched it to link it here for y'all, I realized it was done by Catherine Scully, who I met at DragonCon last year and is an awesome woman. You can see here portfolio, LINK HERE. (*And you can see that Ararat animation HERE *scroll to the bottom*) She does so much more than trailers and animations--she's an author too!!!

Her bio:
Cat Scully is an illustrator and graphic designer who enjoys lending her experience to help authors as they develop their personal branding platforms. She's worked for nearly a decade as a print, web, and motion designer for clients like: Cartoon Network, Boomerang, CARE, AT&T, Comedy Central, Cosmo, NBC, ABC, and Marvel/Paramount. She assists authors and publishers by creating illustrated world maps, character trading cards, posters prints, banner stands, website designs, author logos, social media ads, and animated book covers. She currently works with River City Writers, Christopher Golden and James A. Moore, designing their social media ads, web assets, user experience, and assists with print design and production. In addition to being a designer, Cat Scully is a writer herself, and her work is represented by Miriam Kriss of Irene Goodman Literary. 


CHECK HER OUT!!!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Gettin' Flashy: Can Videos Sell More Books?

Ah, advertising. Trying to grab eyeballs. Create an impulse. Make a sale.

Book trailers. 30-sec video clips. GIFs. Animated ads. Do they sell more books than a static, flat ad? Are they worth the money? The time to create?

Guys, hehehe, ~slaps knee~, let's have a reality check. If sales and marketing divisions knew without a doubt what kind of advertising would guarantee a sale, there'd be a revolution in the industry. 85% of S&M (yes, yes, snigger if you want) is spaghetti against the wall. When an ad has a conversion rate of greater than 10%, it's considered a rousing success. A good campaign is somewhere around 5%, the average is 2%.

The holy grail of advertising is a viral campaign in which the company doesn't have to do much. A Taste Maker has fallen in love with the product and given it legs. If they can't get a Taste Maker, get a teenager (lookin' at you, Fidget Spinners). They're the second most influential group. Women are the group with the greatest purchasing power. You place your ads where they'll be seen by influencers and purchasers. 'Dems da broad strokes of S&M that haven't changed in decades.

So, what's that have to do with trailers, clips, and GIFs?

Disclaimer: I don't work for a publisher or an advertising agency. I do not work for an ad farm or a research firm. I do not have actual stats on campaigns. I do have amazing Google-fu and experience trying to get people to buy stuff they don't know they need.

Let's start with book trailers. You don't make them for the audience you wish you had. They're not a sales tool. You make them as a reward for the readers you already have. At best, they're a retention tool. Usually, book trailers are done because the author simply likes having them.

But what if I'm advertising on YouTube and I want a pre-roll or in-play video ad? Then you probably are spending too much on your advertising budget. ~cough~ In all seriousness though, you have 10-seconds to grab the attention of your viewer, by 15-seconds you've lost 2/3rds of them. 30-seconds is your max time allowed for the ad. My gut says the ROI isn't there for an author. You're selling a book, not a Marvel movie. YouTube isn't where you'll find your audience. If you're committed to a video longer than 60 seconds, you're likely better served by having your own channel and directing existing readers there--again, for the fun of it, not the sale.

Viral Video Clips (15-30 seconds):  Here's the thing, videos take time to render on the page. On mobile apps, they can be turned off, aka, never seen. They're usually prioritized to render last. By then, the consumer's already clicked away or they're reading the content of the page and your video will piss them off when it finally plays because it's now a distraction and it's probably stolen focus (e.g. claimed the cursor's control from scroll bar).

However, if you have fans who send clips to you of your book in the wild, of their reviews, of cosplaying your characters, etc., my friends, that is AWESOME. Promote that stuff on your website (after getting the reader's permission).  Do not make them into ads.

Flash(y) Ads/HTML5 Animated/Rich Media: When the tech behind Flash ads was new to market, it was something hungry advertisers and hungrier ad sales teams pushed. To the point that consumers are now as blind to them as static ads. If you have your heart set on a rich media ad and some cash to burn, limit the play to 6 seconds. More than 9 seconds and your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) tanks. 6 is the sweet spot.

6-second ads, aren't those Vine video clips? Folks, Twitter killed Vine. It didn't replace it as the best tech, the company Twitter bought Vine then killed it. Pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Yes, there are other providers out there. Yes, of course, the tech is still used. If it could have been successfully monetized, it wouldn't have slunk off to the shadows.

GIFs: As a file format for advertising, GIFs aren't typically supported. It's most likely you're thinking of using gifs on your website or on your social media accounts. On sites that support the playback, it's not the time that's limited, it's the file size. It's technically possible to make a 3-min gif. Use GIFs as you would any status update on your social media --to engage with your followers. If you deploy these as cheap/free sales opportunities, you might as well be screaming BUY MY BOOK at your audience. That's how you lose followers.

There is nothing wrong with static ads. Vendors have all kinds of limitations on text versus image and what kinds of images are not acceptable, but there is an industry standard for visual and file size. One ad can go in a lot of places and across a lot of platforms. For now, static ads are still the best bang for your buck.

A better option for your time with minimal money: Build your newsletter subscriber list. Send free short stories to your subscribers quarterly.

The best option for your time and money: Write the Next Book.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Um. YEah

Everything that Jeffe said, except about awards.

I have never tried a video. I just spam the internet from time to time with links.

Have a great week,

James A. Moore

Because we all like the occasional discount: ALIEN: SEA OF SORROWS is available on the Kindle right now for $1.99

PR you can get the entire ALIEN: TRILOGY by Tim Lebbon, Christopher Golden and yours truly for @5.97

Each story is a standalone but it's a pretty darned cool price and oif you read them all, there are connections and threads of other things throughout.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book Trailers and Animated Ads - Do They Work?

Lonen's War is on sale for .99₵! If you haven't read it - or if you've been bugging your friends to give it a try ;-) - this is the perfect time to grab a copy.

I'm doing this in part to celebrate my good news: THE PAGES OF THE MIND and THE EDGE OF THE BLADE are both finalists in the fantasy category of the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal (FFP) PRISM Award! It's always a thrill to be a finalist, but with two books in there, I have my fingers crossed that maybe I'll get one of these:
Only with, yanno, MY name and book on it! A girl can dream.

Marketing: Book Trailers, Vine Vids, and Gifs: Can/Would/Could Animated Ads Work For You?

So... I'm just so not a marketing person. I could probably get good at it if I could get over the idea that a lot of it is manipulation. I have issues with manipulative behavior of all types, and I pretty much loathe advertising tricksiness. I learned a long time ago that the purpose of most advertising is to convince us we have a problem, so they can then sell us the solution. Thus the whole "do you have ring around the collar?" sort of commercial, where you come away wondering, "do I???" And they want you to buy the stuff to make it disappear. 

Marketers like to created fear and worry, so that we purchase their product to make it go away. This fear and worry we didn't have until they created it.

There's this whole divide between showing people that something is available - like, just for example - me leading this post off with pimping that .99₵ sale. I need to mention it, as there's no point in having a sale if I don't tell anyone about it. But I'm not going to be one of those who tries to create fear - SALE ENDS SOON, BUY IT NOW OR YOU'LL MISS OUT! - or worry, by implying that you're the only one who hasn't read it or by telling you about the bills I need to pay. Nor do I want to bombard people.

To me, the flashy, blinky stuff falls in the category of bombardment. Animation catches the eye, so advertisers like it. In the Big Competition for Attention, video stuff does well. 

I like doing Facebook Live stuff, because it's fun and I feel genuine just talking about random stuff. Gifs can be amusing and I use them sometimes, but not for marketing. Book trailers... I know Veronica Scott loves them and she'll almost certainly talk about why. I don't care for them myself. I've never bought a book from a book trailer. They can be fun treats for fans, but otherwise ... meh.

But, you know, I don't much care for video anything. I get annoyed every time I click on a news article link and it turns out to be a video I have to watch instead of something I can read.

I dunno - as readers, are there animated ads you like? 

Could be I'm just old and cranky. ;-)





Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Ego and Other Tales

When I saw our topic for this week - how to keep the ego in check - the first thing that came to my mind was the Id Monster from "Forbidden Planet." Now the Id works with the Ego and the Superego according to Freud. Close enough for me!


When you first suspect your ego might be getting a bit oversize...


When you know you're in Condition Red...


Examine the situation...is it you? Was it the Krell?


Friends and colleagues will help you keep it real....

A Happy Ever After ending will ensue....


And the Universe will be in good balance again.

(See also the previous posts this week wherein my fellow SFF7 members offered good advice as always!)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ego Calling, Line Two

Once upon a time, a book sold. It was the author's first. The reviews were good, but then, the book was declared a finalist in two categories in a nationally recognized contest. That's when things got weird.

The author's agent started saying things like, "You're brilliant."
Readers and other writers started treating the writer as if she were suddenly an expert in the art of peering into the future of publishing. There were interviews and generally just attention that this writer simply wasn't accustomed to. Then the editor echoed the agent's words. "You're brilliant."

Terror sent the author racing to the hotel room and the phone for a call to Mom - to someone who could speak sense and point out that the writer hadn't changed. She was still herself. The flattering attention, while startling, was part and parcel of the profession. So it was up to the author to find her ground before her ego started feeding off of the attention like some kind of emotional vampire. The author need not have worried. The attention didn't last. It couldn't.

But the author did come up with some resolutions to keep the ego on an ultra short leash, should it ever again be needed:
  1. Clean the cat boxes. Nothing keeps you from imagining you're hot shit than scooping some other critter's poop. If there are no pets, do the dishes. Scrub your toilet. Anything less than glamourous that reminds you that you aren't exempt from being human.
  2. Ground. You keep your feet on the ground by returning to the places where you're rooted - the places where you are most purely you. For some that's within the family. For others, it's a retreat in the woods/desert/mountains/by the sea. It can also be that group of friends who laugh and gently puncture you when ego starts inflating.
  3. Ask the agents/editors/whoever to rephrase the praise. No saying 'you're brilliant.' Want to say 'brilliant?' Fine. Say the writing is brilliant. It's a fine line, but it's praise for the work, not for the person.
  4. Work. Keep your eyes on the next story. And the next. And instruct the crit group(s) or beta readers to slap the crap out of you should you imagine you're too important to be edited.
  5. Be of service. This is especially useful at conferences when the spotlight might feel a little unrelenting. Go cart boxes for other authors. Volunteer to help set up a room or clean up a room. Stuff reader bags. Whatever the conference needs done. It helps to be reminded that this is for the readers. Not for the author.
Not that you can't have some fun. Drinks in the bar are absolutely within reason. Just make sure that if other people are buying you drinks that you buy for someone else. Spread the good will.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ego Check

The topic this week from the SFF Seven is "How do you keep your ego in check?"
And I'm just thinking-- pretty much by being a midlist fantasy writer.  Frankly, I can't imagine anyone getting too big of a head doing this work.  
More to the point, you have to get in the absolute top levels of this industry to even be in danger of getting a big head.  Unless you were already the type of person for whom any level of success would inflate your ego.  To an extent, that's some Dunning-Kruger territory.  
Look, I don't want to give the sense that I'm not thrilled, absolutely thrilled that this is my life, and that I'm incredibly fortunate that my hard work has paid off as well as it has, that I get to tell the story of Maradaine and all the champions within that magical city.  That I get to keep telling it.  It's amazing.
But aside from a few brief moments, rarely does anything in this business actually charge your ego up.  It's far more of a Keep Your Chin Up So They Don't Grind You Down sort of industry.
I still love it, though.  I love the work.  Time to get back to it.   

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Do I Keep Humble?

Source: King Arthur Flour Blog
Wrapped in foil, not clingwrap. It's all about reheating.  Wut? I'm talking about...

Pie. 
Literal  Pie.

Humble Pie, ladies and gents, can be a wonderful thing. Yes, it's essentially leftovers wrapped in dough. The term is derived from the French word for scraps, "nomble," which suffered Misheard Lyrics Syndrome and became " 'omble," which got prettied up to be "humble." Hard "h."

Traditionally, Humble Pie is a savory, meaty pie. Give the beef, lamb, or duck versions a try. They can be really good depending on who's in the kitchen and what veggies and fruit are thrown into the mix. Word to the wise, don't ask what cuts of meat are in the pie. It's usually made from the viscera. I know, anything involving the word "viscera" brings to mind that scene from Braveheart. ~crosses legs~  Focus on the awesome aroma of the pie.

My favorite is the Humble Fruit Pie. I'll bust out a flaky crust (store-bought, 'cause I'm lazy) and fill that sucker with fruit that might be a bit damaged, bruised, mutated, or nearing its end-date (food that embodies your emo is awesome, right?) Emo fruit is often available at a discount at your local farmer's market if you ask the vendor if he has baking fruit. They don't tend to put the less-than-pretties on display, but they do tend to bring 'em. A sale is a sale. What's the difference between Humble Fruit Pie and Regular Fruit Pie? No idea. Possibly the tears you shed while exulting in its glory?

Want to try your hand at Humble Pie?  Here's King Arthur's Flour recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/humble-pie-recipe, see if your pie comes out as pretty as their picture.


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Ego That Walked Like A Man

Naturally, Jeffe is right.

Listen, everyone has an ego. I'll even go so far as to say it's a necessity in the writing business. To paraphrase Harlan Ellison ( I think it was in the foreword to his DANGEROUS VISIONS anthology, volume one) Every writer has to have an ego. First to presume that anyone would want to read what the writer has written and then to presume that anyone would want to pay for the privilege. Again, paraphrasing, but you know what? He's right. That's a damned big leap.

Still, we all have that dream, don't we?

A little ego is a good thing. Like a little anger. In the right doses both can motivate a person to do better. Get angry enough at whatever ever you decide is annoying you and it can be a driving force, You remember to get up and dust yourself off on those days that just plain suck the will to live away. Of course you're going to keep trying, if only to prove to the naysayers that you can get it done. That is anger focused into motivation.

Ego tells you you're getting it right, especially on those days when you feel in your soul that you are getting it wrong. Fake it until you make it. Ego can be a balm to soothe a crushed self confidence. But just as easily it can become bloated and tell you that you are something special. Never listen to that voice. Instead listen to the voice that reminds you to take out the trash, that reminds you that you are so damned lucky that anyone every believed in you or that anyone, ever has taken the time to by and read your books.

Ultimately, that's the voice that matters. You wrote a story? Awesome! People like it? Amazing! You got published and paid? How very, very lucky you are. Is talent a part of it? of course. Are drive and determination significant? Hell yes, and you better believe it.

Practice, hard work, honing your skills constantly and remembering that this is the life you chose. Those are all part of it. Celebrate your victories, but don't let them fill you with the belief that you and you alone are responsible for all that has happened in a positive light, not when it comers to your career.

I can tell you, and with a certain amount of truth in the statement, that I have busted my butt to get where I am. I can also tell you with that same element of truth that some people have had a harder time and others have had an easier time getting to the same point. None of that makes a lick of difference at the end of the day. I write damned near every day. I've done it for a quarter of a century and sooner or later determination and the law of averages says I'll sell something to someone. Trial and error and a lot of patience have led to a modicum of wisdom. I have no doubt that luck has played a part as well.

Lucky. Damned lucky. Somewhere along the way a few editors looked at my stuff and saw potential enough to take a chance.  Somewhere along the way a few readers decided I didn't suck and they bought more than one story.  Some of them even buy most if not all of my stuff. I can never thank them enough. I am grateful.

My ego? I keep it locked away for the bad days when I look at he screen and the words refuse to show themselves because I've let self doubt get out of its cage again.

When self doubt is once again penned, I lock ego away, too. getting cocky means thinking my work is perfect, and that an editor's possible wisdom is a waste. I'd rather listen to the advice and consider it carefully than brush it away. I'd rathe, at the end of the day, remember how lucky I am than think for even a moment that I am deserving of every bit of praise.

Ego is a tool to use, not a crown to wear.

James A. Moore

Look at this one and look at the names attached, I am LUCKY. I am BLESSED. I have NO IDEA how I managed to get my name in this particular hat.



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Watch What You Feed that Ego

For those who don't follow me on Instagram or Twitter, this is our agave flower spike. It's fixing to bloom any day now. Really spectacular!

Some of my friends find this monster spike unsettling and alien. More than one has compared it to the flesh-eating, massively growing plant in Little Shop of Horrors.
via GIPHY

I can see their (okay, pretty melodramatic) point. But there was something about that manipulative plant, whose hunger for human flesh could never be sated, that sticks in our heads and still gives us the creeps.

We could say it's that atavistic and animal instinct to avoid the predator. I'd go a step further and say that stories of this type warn us of another great peril of being human: the overweening ego. That's our topic this week, asking each other "How Do You Keep It Humble?" aka "Great Cautionary Tales: the Enormous Ego Edition."

Now, there's nothing wrong with a healthy ego. In fact, I'd posit that it's crucial to being a successful author. You need that ego to believe in your own work enough to survive all the criticism, rejections, and those (So Not) helpful advice givers who counsel you to give up on your silly, impossible dreams. Ego is good, because that's what gets a writer through it all. We need a strong ego.

But a strong ego is like a strong body - it should be made of muscle and bone, not fat. An ego built on a solid foundation will be a workhorse. An ego made of lean, well-trained strength is an asset to fight off all attackers.

An overfat ego, or an obese ego, is a liability. It grows huge and bloated on a poor diet of flattery, lies, and denial. It gets in the way. No longer is the ego a responsive weapon and foundation, but it becomes an insatiable monster demanding ever more to feed it. It craves flattery and attention. The truth burns, so it fosters lies and denial. The overfed, bloated ego lives and grows only to serve itself.

That's the greatest danger told by these cautionary tales. In the beginning, the plant offers Seymour gifts, wishes granted, in exchange for food. But in the end, it consumed everything good in his life.

That's what a bloated ego does. It loves only itself, and it will devour everything if not controlled.

So, how do you keep that healthy ego fit and in fighting trim? Watch what you feed it.

  • It's wonderful to have your work praised, but keep it in perspective. Remember that it's the work that's wonderful, not YOU.
  • Consider the source. There's a lot of suck-ups out there who will tell you everything you want to hear. Your true friends will call you on your bullshit, too. Treasure them.
  • Be brutally honest with yourself. Graciously and joyfully accept the good things that come your way, but always treat them like gifts, not your just due.
  • It ain't just a river in Egypt. Guard against denial. Even on the little things, make sure you're seeing things clearly, not the way that makes you look the best.
  • Acknowledge the role of serendipity and blessings. We achieve success through hard work, but also through the grace of the universe. Whatever you believe in, give thanks daily for the luck that brings you good things.
  • Ask "why me?" One of my favorite religious studies professors said, "When bad things occur, we raise our gaze to heaven and ask God, 'why me?' But when good things happen, do we ever question it?" This has stood me in excellent stead. When something terrific happens, I ask "why me?" and then I give thanks.
  • Observe the cautionary tales. When that writer does something that makes you roll your eyes at their huge ego? Quit rolling and pay attention. It can happen to any of us. Be vigilant!
And, please, don't feed the plants. ;-)






Saturday, June 3, 2017

I Won't Publish the Book Without the Editor's Input

I’ve been on the record forever as stating that a book must have a professional editor. As my friends have said all week, the author is too close to the story to catch everything that might need revision, or to think of some cool twist that resolves a plot issue or even to see a plot issue sometimes. I absolutely will not release a book that hasn't been through both my developmental editor (our primary topic here) and a professional copy editor. I hire my developmental editor to review my novellas and short stories for anthologies as well.

And the editor does need to be a professional, not just someone who likes to read books or who is good at grammar. Ask those people to be beta readers perhaps. Your editor should understand your genre and the tropes and traditions of that genre. Even if you’re writing something you think is genre-busting, it helps to have a second, knowledgeable eye. Also, you may have fallen into a few lazy writing habits that the editor can check you on. Sometimes if you read enough books by an author you come to know all their heroines will be named Mary and have red hair. Or that there’ll be certain lines that get used verbatim in every book, for example.

I learn from my developmental editor’s comments and now avoid some mistakes I used to make every time, although I suspect I’m probably developing new ones. I had a bad habit of kind of skipping over parts I wasn’t too interested in writing (to get to other parts I was very excited about writing) – in Mission to Mahjundar there’s a dramatic escape across a raging river, which takes up almost an entire chapter in the finished book. It was one sentence in the manuscript. “They crossed the river and rode on.” My editor very properly gave me a hard time over that and basically demanded I flesh that episode out, which I did. In two of my ancient Egyptian novels, the early drafts pretty much said “they sailed up (or down) the Nile for two weeks” at a certain point in the narrative. What is it with me and rivers??? At any rate, the editor refused to settle for that and gave me suggestions, which I then enlarged upon and ended up writing quite a bit of hopefully interesting plot that shed more light on the characters and their motivations. In Warrior of the Nile her ideas really upped the stakes and the tension.


Nowadays I catch myself when I realize I’m about to skip writing some portion of the story and I go back and ask my Muse what I could add to the tale at this point.

 The other thing which is also a joke between me and my editor is what we call “slime trails.” In an early draft of Escape From Zulaire I wrote this really cool, shape shifting alien and then in what I thought was a further amazing burst of late night creativity, I had it leave a slime trail when it moved. Uh duh, if the alien has shifted into the shape of a human for example, won’t the other humans in the vicinity think it a mite odd (and disgusting) that ‘Sam’ leaves a slime trail LOL? I did a similar thing in another story idea that hasn’t been written yet where it was tactfully pointed out to me that if I included cool plot point X, I’d be undoing the entire established history of my worldbuilding. This is why I don’t write time travel.

I think some authors have the mistaken thought that if they have an editor, then they must follow that person’s inputs blindly, that it isn’t entirely their own book any more…maybe that’s how it was in trad pub. I can’t say because I never was traditionally published. My two books with Carina Press were the closest I came and I loved my editor there. She gave me great feedback but – leading to my key point here – I did not accept everything she suggested. A few things I felt were ‘wrong’ for what I wanted with the book and a couple of others I said, “Oh, okay, not exactly this but maybe I can do that instead,” and we were both satisfied.

On Star Survivor my editor felt I could cut out a couple of scenes with Nick and Mara (the lead characters in the first book, Wreck of the Nebula Dream) but my instinct was that my readers had been waiting about five years for this book and would feel cheated if they didn’t get to spend some meaningful time with the couple, even though this book focuses on Khevan the assassin and Twilka the interstellar celebrity. So I left both sections the editor suggested trimming and I have had reader feedback and reviews about enjoying the chance to catch up with Nick and Mara, and see them in action. I think she was probably correct about the scenes not being absolutely necessary to the plot but I stand by my final judgment that they were necessary to fully satisfying the readers.

It’s always going to be your book, you call the shots as an independently published author, but you want to present your readers with the best story possible. A strong, professional editor can and will help you polish that diamond to its brightest sheen.


(Award winning Escape From Zulaire is free by the way, if you want to see what happened to that alien and its slime trail.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

To Edit or Not To Edit

To edit or not to edit. That is the question.

Fortunately for us all, I'm not Shakespeare, nor am I currently sufficiently caffeinated to offer you a two hour treatise in iambic pentameter that would convince you the answer to the editing question is yes. Always yes.

I can have the tendency to be the contrarian here on the blog. But not with this issue. You've had a legion of excellent reasons from excellent writers on why you should hire at least one editor for your work. I'll add another.

Let's suppose your work is polished and clean. You've even had some beta readers. Their feedback was generally good and you fixed all of the typos and misplaced commas they called out. You're golden right?

Nope.

Hire that dev editor. Reason being that the dev editor exists to call you on your story-crafting shorthand. We all have it. It's the reflex gesture or the phrases we use so habitually that they become invisible to us. Unless you are an extraordinarily unusual writer, you have information about your scenes, your characters and your conflict that are in your head, but that never made it to the page. Also, that slow scene just before the climax? The one you've spent so much time telling yourself is just fine but you only half believe it? Yeah. It's not okay. And a good dev editor will call it out and even suggest options for fixing it.

I have a critique group. Two, in fact. On that meets in person and one virtual. All of my books go through those groups. That's four multi-published authors and several very experienced writers  who well on their way to being published reading my stuff and yelling at me when I mess something up. That should be good enough, shouldn't it? I mean. That many eyes on my writing makes for some very clean stuff.  Except.

Because these people know me, they know my modes of expression, both in person and in writing. When they read my text, they hear MY voice reading it, not their own. It's gotten to the point that major plot holes have been missed because these lovely writers know me well enough now to know what I meant even if I didn't say it on the page. This is natural and normal human behavior. The key is acknowledging it. The groups bring tremendous value to my process, especially early in a book's life cycle. But it's on me to accept that these groups no longer call me on every last bit of my story shorthand.

So. Editor. Editor. Editor. Editor.

The edit letter will annoy you. It usually does me. You get 24 hours of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then you suck it up and you objectively evaluate what you were told about your book and you fix it. Your readers will thank you. I'd like to tell you that you'll be a better writer - and maybe at some point you will, but all I can see is that I keep finding new mistakes to make. So ymmv.

Apologies for the late post. The week has defined shitty. Starting with Saturday night, when Autolycus informed us that he was done with this life. He died Saturday night. He had acute renal failure likely brought on by bladder cancer. He was 18.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

On editing and editors

So, I had a few different angles I considered taking on this.  Do I talk about my editing process?  I considered that, but that's largely only useful to you if you think my nuts-and-bolts method is something you can use.  Do I talk about the value of beta-readers & editors and getting other eyes and opinions?  I could, but you know that.  Or, rather, if you're looking for writing advice of any kind, you've already seen that, and have absorbed it, or it's bounced off you and nothing I say will change your opinion on the subject.
Instead, let's talk about specific editors.  Namely, my editor, Sheila Gilbert, who I adore. She won the Hugo for Best Editor Long Form last year, and she's nominated again this year.  Now, you may say to yourself, "Hey, she won last year, should she really win again this year?"  I say: hell yes.  And that sort of thing is hardly unprecedented.  Heck, in the history of the Best Editor Award, before it was split into Long and Short, over thirty years there were only nine different winners.  NINE.  And after it was split, Patrick Nielsen Hayden won three times, and David Hartwell won twice in a row.  So there's plenty of precedent for Sheila to win twice, and she totally should.
Now, you're going to ask me, why should she, Marshall?  What does she do that puts her above the rest of the crowd?  (The rest of the crowd is 80% excellent, of course.)
The obvious answer is, she publishes my books.  This makes me biased, certainly, but it's an important point from my point of view.  But you want something a bit less subjective.
So, let me put something else on the table, in terms of What Editors Do, since it often seems so very nebulous.  I often go to conventions, meet other authors, do the barcon thing, and so on.  There's a lot of in-the-trenches horror stories.  Stories about editors butchering manuscripts, demanding changes that would fundamentally alter the story.  Stories about copy-edits that went outside of the bounds of the copy-edit.  Stories about horrendous covers that the author got stuck with, deeply unhappy with how their books were going to look.
These horror stories are part-and-parcel with the industry.  I've heard them from big names and midlisters and newbies.  
And I don't have one.
I do not have one of those editorial horror stories, and that's because Sheila has been there to keep me from having them.  Even when I've had cover art come in with problems, she's right with me saying, "Yes, let's fix this."  That's what makes someone a Best Editor, in my book.  All five books, in fact, with the sixth, seventh and eighth on the way.
(Speaking of, I have editing to do on that eighth one.  Off to it...)