Editing – Phase 1

I write quick paced fantasy books with a sprinkling of humor.  With that being said, here’s what I edit for on the first pass through:

Long sentences.  I love commas.  I love them so much that on the first editing run, I can sometimes break one sentence into three.  Long sentences slow down the pace of the book.  My beloved commas must go to keep the pace I want.

Tense confusion/verb confusion:  When I’m type, type, typing along I sometimes used uses use the wrong tense.  This is particularly true when I’ve rewritten a scene.

Where was I going with that?:  Sometimes I’ve rewritten a scene later in the book and when I go back and re-read I find a snippet of dialogue or description left over from the earlier draft.  I rewrite or delete these (no matter how brilliantly written they may be).

Long paragraphs:  I keep my paragraphs short in general, but every once in a while I read through a monster paragraph where I must have been on a roll and was too excited to hit the return key.  I break these down, sometimes and delete whole, redundant sentences (thank goodness).

Stating the obvious:  I have an annoying quirk of writing out the conclusion I want the reader to draw in my first draft.  I delete these when I find them, and then I re-read the scene to make sure I really did lay the ground work for the reader to draw that conclusion.

Frequent words and indecisive words:   Sometimes, almost, practically, a little, smiled…there are so many words that I find over and over again in my stories.  I delete the indecisive ones (sometimes, practically, etc.) and find new ones for the common words that are more descriptive (smiled becomes smirked or grinned, etc.).  I also read each paragraph to make sure I haven’t used the same word multiple times in one paragraph, or used it again in the next paragraph.  For instance:  I closed the car door and looked back at my partner.  Coyote stood with his elbows on the roof of the car and stared at me I sighed and walked back to the car, a little reluctant to leave without finding any clues.  If I were reading this book I would close it, roll my eyes and give up.  Unfortunately, not everyone reads their own material for over used, unnecessary words.  **Sigh**

Back story:  I have to give back story now and then, but I keep it to one or two sentences.  If it’s a paragraph of details about my character’s past, it gets cut to one or two sentences.  Back story pulls a reader right out of the present action.  I also delete multiple tid-bits of back story, and I try to keep those in the first few chapters.  Sometimes, I find I have explained some critical bit of the character’s history in the second half of the book.  When this happens, I go back to the first half and work it in to the story earlier.

Because I do so many back and forth edits, I only look for a few things per editing pass.  The ones I’ve listed above are the easy edits for me to do…the second pass is sometimes more challenging.  I hope I’ve given a few good hints here.  Good luck and happy writing!

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Choosing Sides – Part 3

Alazio sat at the table, looking at the now vacant seat.  The Ancient One had indeed asked a good question, but should Alazio be encouraged or insulted?  The truth was he didn’t believe the United Coven andAlliance paid him any attention at all.  That could either mean they were ignoring him, or that they thought him unworthy of their attention.

He tossed back the rest of his drink and stood, slamming the glass back on the table.  Those fools wouldn’t know true magic if their lives depended on it.  He could make them notice and then it would be impossible for the Alliance to ignore him any longer.  He was a Bokor, serving the powers of light and dark magic.  How dare they ignore his talent?  Alazio was one of the few capable of commanding the Loa, the spirits that kindled magic in its purest form.

He stalked out into the night, reviewing his status in the magical community.  His eyes darted around and a scowl creased his face.  His footsteps thundered on the pavement and he shook his shaggy head, lost in his assessment.

A group of thugs stood on the corner, hands shoved deep into their pockets and trouble rising from them like heat waves from hot pavement.  Alazio sauntered down the street, oblivious to the younger men.

“Hey, Shaggy!”  One of them called.  “Why don’t you buy us a drink?”

Alazio tilted his head and glared at the boy, taking his measure.  Smaller than Alazio by six inches, with the wiry build of an adolescent who worked out but had yet to finish maturing enough to have the physique of a man.  The boy took a step closer, his hands invisible in the pockets of too-large jeans.

Alazio glared at him again.  “Don’t waste my time, kid.”  The whole group of them together were no match for a man of Alazio’s power.

“Kid?  Who you think you’re talking to, old man?  I said you should buy us a drink.  Show us some respect.”  The young man stepped forward and his friends crossed their arms, nodding their agreement.  The tension ratcheted up another notch.

“I don’t want to waste my time hurting you.”  Alazio replied, squaring his shoulders and stopping right in front of the leader.  The Bokor’s smile held no warmth and his eyes glinted in the dim light.  One of the other young men stepped back, recognizing the predator in the prey.  Alazio smiled grimly.  At least one of them was perceptive.

“Come on, Ricky.  Leave the man alone.”  The smart one said to the leader as he put his hand out to stop another of his friends from stepping closer.

Ricky didn’t listen, and Alazio smiled broader, he rolled his shoulders and set his feet apart slightly.  The tension crackled like static electricity in the air.  The group moved closer, posturing and moving their small muscles in what they thought was an intimidating way.

The smart one grabbed the back of another boy’s shirt.  When the boy looked at him, the smart one jerked his chin over his shoulder, indicating his refusal to join in whatever fray broke out.  His friend glanced warily from him to the others, clearly torn between jumping in and turning tail.  The smart one took another step back and Alazio nodded at him.

The rest of the group wasn’t quite as perceptive.  Ricky pulled his hands out of his pocket and flashed a pathetic knife at their victim.  Alazio laughed.  He started tapping his fingers, the pads making whispers of noise.  He placed his palm against his thigh, increasing the rhythmic beat.  Ricky’s eyes held a hint of wariness but he didn’t retreat.

Alazio’s eyes dropped to the knife and the glint of cold metal was reflected in his eyes.

“What are you going to do with that, boy?”  Alazio asked.

Ricky smiled unpleasant,  “Get that drink you owe us.  It’s your choice:  do you want to buy it alive or dead?”

“Really?”  Alazio raised his thick fingers and tapped the tattoo around his collarbone, feeling the instant connection to the energy in the symbols.  All tattoos are capable of tapping energy.  The symbols inscribed into the flesh give them substance and power.  Both the spirit of the symbol and wearer become one.

Alazio’s tattoos honored the spirits of the Caribbean and of Africa, they were tuned to the energy that carried the spirits, and bound them to add their powers to his own.  “Then I guess we’ll test your theory.”

The smart boy backed up a few more steps, looking suspiciously at the dark ink that circled Alazio’s throat.  The boy pulled his friend back another step and shook his head in warning.  Instead of stepping back, the friend grinned maniacally at the wise boy and pulled a knife from the pocket of his own jeans, watching the metal glint dully in the dim light.  Alazio saw his own desire reflected in the younger man’s eyes.  Both of their reputations were at stake.

Alazio shook his head unrepentantly.  He flexed his own shoulders and opened the channels.  The spirits rushed in, and the tattoos writhed and slithered over his skin, making the connections automatically and magnifying the electricity in his brain, feeding off the energy.  Alazio felt the faint pull as one spirit burst from the center of his tattoo and invisibly streak across the darkness, striking the smart boy’s companion, and burrowing in through his weak defenses.

The boy’s eyes turned completely white, and his hand ran over the blade of the knife, drawing droplets of blood from his palm.  The metal shone with the wetness and the boy gripped it tighter.  His head turned further than it should have and in the silence of the street, the bones snapped like firecrackers.  His wiser friend’s eyes widened and without a word of warning or even a single noise, the wise one turned and ran, his expensive shoes slapping on the wet pavement.

The other boys hadn’t recognized the significance of the snapping sounds, and they quickly dismissed the smart boy with murmurs of “wuss” and “chicken”.  As a group, the young men stepped forward, lulled into a false sense of superiority because of two tiny blades of stainless steel.

Fools.  Alazio smiled and held up a hand, beckoning the white eyed boy closer.  He obeyed, because that was what loa did when commanded by a Bokor.

“Boys…you have a horse in your gang.”  Alazio whispered, calling the weak boy closer.

They exchanged confused glances, ignoring the boy who stepped closer to their quarry.  The horse stopped one step in front of Ricky when Alazio raised his hand.  Ricky grabbed the back of the boy’s shirt, pulling him away from Alazio.   He stumbled back and Ricky stepped front and center.  He was their leader and none should step in front of him.

“Who you callin’ a horse, old man?”  Ricky asked, waving his knife.

“The Loa rides your friend like a horse.”  Alazio bit out the words like an insult and shrugged.

“What?  You’re crazy, old man.”  Ricky laughed, not grasping Alazio’s words.

“Do you fear me?  You should.”  Alazio whispered.  With a surge of energy, Alazio tapped his tattoos and spoke the incantation to command the Loa.  The boy who was the ridden like a horse by the Loa grabbed Ricky and spun him around.  He opened his eyes wider, revealing their white surface.  Ricky stepped back, a look of confusion quickly replaced by terror.  He lifted the knife and stabbed in a reflexive action born from fear.  The blade sliced the flannel and the tender skin of the horse.

The Loa laughed through the horse’s mouth, raised his own knife and brought it down on the Ricky’s shoulder, grazing the flesh.  The Loa dropped the knife and wrapped thin fingers around Ricky’s neck.  Alazio backed up as the other boys broke rank, some of them ran while others tried to pull their friends apart.  In the confusion, Alazio walked by them, unconcerned with the outcome.  When he was far enough away, he touched the tattoo again, breaking the bond with the Loa and scattering the energy the spirit used.  Sirens sounded in the distance and Alazio turned down another street, deep in his own thoughts.

No, Alazio decided, the Alliance didn’t fear him….but they would.

 

 

If you read this, Happy Memorial Day, and remember…Destructive Magic will be released soon…Alazio makes another appearance in that story.

Revoking the Beta Reading

I finished my draft…yes, draft…and gave it to my beta readers.  Then, I loaded it on my kindle and with a giant sigh of relief I crawled into bed feeling relaxed because I had completed the draft.  I opened my manuscript and began reading it, with a smile of contentment.  I read three pages, highlighted things that were awkwardly worded…read three more, found two typos…read another four and re-sequenced something…the next day I called my beta readers and requested they delete their copies because I wanted to edit it once BEFORE they got it.  I might have issues, but I think I made the right call.

My beta readers were fine with waiting.  I did it because I don’t want to waste their honest opinions on something that I feel is still too rough to send out.  I’m looking for flaws on something that I think is pretty polished, not obvious flaws that make me cringe when I read it.  I think this is a critical lesson.  Don’t waste the beta read.

Here’s my most helpful tip for what to do when you complete the first draft:

1.  Change the way it looks.  You typed it on a computer and your eyes are used to reading it there…just saving it as a .txt file and then putting it on your kindle (or another e-reader) makes it look different and things that you glossed over on the big screen become so obvious that you can’t miss them.  Highlight them (if your e-reader has this feature) and then make those changes to your “real” manuscript.  Don’t waste a beta read on typos or missing words or bad phrasing.

As the author, you have been so engrossed in your work that you don’t see the obvious.  Changing the format helps me on a first read.  Let me know if it works for you.

Draft 1 completed!!!

I’m taking a deep breath!  I have just finished my first draft of Destructive Magic and now the task of editing begins.  So the 1st half will be with the beta readers this afternoon, and then this week I’ll take a second brief run through the entire manuscript looking for the big things like typos and continuity and other glaringly obvious mistakes.

Then I owe it three more runs through before I even think about submitting it for publishing!  Yikes!

I’ll take you through my editing process while I do this…I might make things harder than they need to be, but I think editing yourself is tough and I have a system that I use.  It seems to work for me and if someone else finds a nugget that helps them, all the better!

Ah, the misery of it all…

It seems there’s an increasing number of posts from authors on several sites complaining about negative reviews. I think this is one of the harsh realities of life: not everybody will love your work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a house painter, a chef…you’re going to have someone not appreciate your diagnosis, trimming, or meal. Heck, I’ve given up on reading a few books by great authors because that particluar story didn’t grab me, move me, or I just plain couldn’t get into it (maybe I was just having a bad day when I tried to read it).

Are people just saying negative things to say negative things? Sometimes. There is no shortage of people out there who are just miserable. Perhaps they intend to be miserable, or perhaps there just isn’t anything in this world outstanding enough to make them happy. Maybe they’re having a bad day.  Maybe your main character reminds that person of his/her ex who stole the house, car, and dog.

Think about this: I’m sure you know someone in your life who is happiest when they are complaining. I can list five people I know who are just downright mean and unhappy. I certainly don’t spend hours obsessing over why they are that way. It seems that some people just choose miserable, and I choose not to be around them.

So you can spend hours obsessing about why that person wrote something negative, or you can take it as constructive criticism and reframe it this way:  Is there something you can do to make the people that liked the book/story/article LOVE it?  Is there some value to the negative comment that can make you grow as a writer?  Do you need to edit, rewrite, or expand on something so the people who were positive it about feel even more so?  You’re not trying to pander to the critics, you’re trying to increase your power as a writer.  Your aim is to go from something good to something great.

If you honestly can’t find anything of value in the negative comment, then you need to dismiss it and move on.  You can’t change mean people into rays of sunshine.  You can’t dwell on venom and hate…you can only try to please those people who are willing to be pleased.  If they don’t like it, they don’t like it – if you’re happy with it, then that should be enough.

Keep writing and hang in there!

Amazon KDP & Smashwords Experience – a tale of two publishing sites

When I first decided to publish my own book, I investigated Smashwords and liked what I saw.  Then, feeling a little intimidated, I went with Amazon.com’s KDP program instead.  I did well at Amazon and am very pleased with their program, but really wanted to branch out and see what else was available for Indie authors.  So when my KDP Select 90 exclusive with Amazon expired for Elementary Magic I decided to try Smashwords as well.

I can’t say enough about how incredibly easy it was to format and publish on Smashwords! Because I had read their formatting guide before I completed my final edit on Elementary Magic, I did what they called a “Nuclear Format” and wiped out all of my formatting – INTENTIONALLY – then went back and followed their formatting guide and redid my book while I edited it.  This was the version I uploaded to Amazon (without the Smashwords front matter) and my formatting on Kindle was good because of this.  I was way ahead of the game for formatting on Smashwords because of this and I did a final format in about 2 hours last weekend in preparation for uploading it today.  I even followed their instructions for hyperlinking my chapters and “about the author” section and it worked (go, me!) on the first shot.

I was so inspired by the ease of the Smashwords format that I reformatted for Amazon and uploaded the HTML file this morning to fix some of the annoying formatting issues I found when I downloaded my own book to my Kindle.  Amazon has a great program, but I think it should be clearer that if you upload an HTML file it’s much cleaner and it doesn’t automatically indent quick dialogue sections in HTML like it does when you upload a “.doc” file.  I discovered that on the Kindle boards and a HUGE shout out to those other authors who recommended the HTML trick!

So here’s my advice for the newbie author who’s a little nervous about clicking the button:  Download the Smashwords Formatting guide (it’s free) and set up your documents according to their suggestions (chapter headings, first line indents, font, etc.) and write away.  Then, when you’re finished editing and you have a good cover design, save two copies of your book.  Name one Amazon Format and one Smashwords Format.  Try Amazon’s KDP program and get some good feedback about your book.  Then definitely put it on Smashwords and don’t be intimidated.  Both companies are simple, fast, and offer support through their own sites that will have you up and downloadable in no time.

Bad Metal 01: Wrecked by Robert Black

Robert Black

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Metal-01-Wrecked-ebook/dp/B007GEYHKW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336195475&sr=8-1

This is one of the first indie books I’ve read, and I was pleasantly surprised by it.  I admit, I picked it up because I ran across a post by the author requesting feedback and I thought “what the heck, I’ll give it a read – if I don’t like it, I won’t finish it and nobody will ever know.”  Well, I liked it – I read it in a day (it’s really more of a novella than a novel) and although I don’t usually jump into science fiction, I really enjoyed this story.

The characters are well-developed and the author does a good job of “showing, not telling”.  The scenes are quick-paced and the plot is clean without a lot of back story or side issues which helps the story to move right along.

I’m not really into robots, but this was well done and character driven with a plausible story line that didn’t frustrate me with improbability or lengthy explanations (okay, there was one that I could have done without, but it didn’t take me out of the story enough to really even notice it beyond the first two sentences).

If you like science fiction and are looking for a quick, enjoyable read, check this one out.