Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Reader Roundup 5-9-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have learned much since launching my first books last August. Many revisions have already taken place as I update/correct/improve the manuscripts, but there is always more to be done. Time is, as always, in short supply, so do I spend it writing new material or improving existing books? Some authors advise focusing only on new material, rather than wasting time on older work. I want to do both and hate having to make a choice!

This week, I put off starting on the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series to do some work on Green’s Thumb, which has already received significant revision. You see, a recent review caught my eye, and I took the reviewers words to heart (yes, I pay attention!). Later today I should have the manuscript in better shape and it will replace the version currently for sale. Now I have another problem – I want to expand the book!

A number of earlier reviews for Green’s Thumb made note of its brevity and “hurried” whirlwind romance, reducing its real-world credibility. I may or may not agree with that assessment, but I acknowledge the story could be improved by fleshing it out with more back story and additional interaction between the characters. Now that I recognize it needs to be done, where will I ever find the time to actually write it?

I already have readers demanding the next Gladstone Shifters book, so how can I justify delaying new material by going back and improving an older book? Not an easy decision, but I think I need to file my notes for Green’s Thumb for sometime in the future. The old adage “strike while the iron is hot” applies in this case, and I don’t want to lose the feel of the series or characters by allowing too much time to pass between books.

The quality of my writing increases with each book I write, so at some point I will be able to bring my earlier works up to speed while producing new novels which won’t need major post-published corrections. Until then, I have to figure out how to balance it all and keep everybody, including me, happy.

 

 

 

The Odious Apostrophe

The Odious Apostrophe

 

Apostrophe, Apostrophe,

or should I say catastrophe?

You make me nervous, angry, mean,

You’re Satan’s punctuation scheme.

I put you in and take you out,

Confusion reigns, along with doubt.

Unlike the period or comma,

You thrive on messiness and drama.

English would be much less rotten,

If you could only be forgotten.

Alexander Elliott

 

How Many Misteaks Can You Find?

Put on your spectacles and see if you can find all the errors in this ridiculous story! I have been keeping track of boo-boos as I read, and these were found in various eBooks and news reports. Some are garden variety errors, while others are truly cringe worthy. One thing is certain – if we don’t catch them our readers will. Have Fun!

It Never Seizes to Amaze Me

Darlene was passed indigent, woken up by the careless made careering around her room. The smelt of her breakfast tray repealed her, and she was weary of what the new cook might have sent up from the dinning room. The variating menu made her shutter as she took a cautious peak under the domed plate. She was conscience of the made watching her, champing at the bit to return to the safety of the kitchen. Trying a different tact, Darlene ignored the oppressing meal, righting it off as a lost cause.

“You may buddle up this mess ay ess ay pee and throw it in the wooden stove! If this is the cook’s idea of an aspirational meal, she is the hugest dumbie I have ever known.”

The abstracted made span around and left the room, closing the door. Her absents gave Darlene a chance to distress and consider her boaring life. Yes, her boardem grew huger every day, scaring her sole. She got up and glanced out the window at the rot iron fence around there small front yard. The eradicate heartbeat which kept her in this room made it difficult for her to gleam slithers of information about the outside world.

The few tit-bits she heard edged her on to escape the homely atmosphere, and she shunned upon the selfness of her family as they left her alone day after day. Her room was filled with interesting bobbles, but she dreamed of a latter to climb down from her perch or ascend through the crowds. But it was no use, as her feet were made of led and she was entirely too plaint. She would never be able to sew her wild oats in Silicone Valley, hunt a wildebeest, buy a cumber bun, or order something eatable from a resterant. What an opressing life!

(Hint – there at least 56 misspellings, incorrect usages, or non-existent words. How many did you find?)

Manuscript Editing for Self-published Authors

I am not the only self-published author who has to edit his own manuscripts, but it’s one of those absolutely necessary tasks if I want my work to be taken seriously. It’s time consuming (meaning less time to write) and almost as interesting as watching paint dry. With the correct mind-set, which I will mention later, the task becomes much less onerous

One of the blessings/curses of doing it myself is not incurring the expense of a professional editor. I addition, I never have to spend time explaining or justifying my word choices to a stranger. So, since the buck stops with me, I need to produce the cleanest manuscript possible. How do I do that?

I have learned some tricks in the last few months to make the task a bit easier and take less time:

  • I use MS Word, and turn on the spell check and grammar check. I make corrections as I go while the text is fresh in my mind. I may not agree with all the suggested changes, so I override the ones I wish to keep.
  • After finishing each chapter, I use the “search” function in Word to look for all my crutch words, and eliminate as many of them as possible. For me, this includes the blasted apostrophe – there are many mistakes caused by the misuse of the darn thing!
  • I  remind my beta readers to look for ANY flaws, no matter how minor.
  • When I have made all the beta reader corrections, I set the manuscript aside for a day or two.
  • The last step is a final read-through, from start to finish. It’s amazing how many more errors I find! Thankfully, I also discover better word choices and phrases which improve the readability of the book.

The hard truth is this – it is almost impossible to catch every single spelling or grammatical error. The goal is to release my book with as few as possible, and then continue making corrections as they are brought to my attention. (Yes, I read my reviews, and I recommend every self-published author do the same. They often contain valuable feedback I would not learn any other way.)

After the book is released, I purchase a copy and read the book again on my kindle. Inevitably, I find things which need to be changed. This is a good thing because it gives me the opportunity for continuous improvement (obviously, this works best for eBooks).

I had to learn that I am not simply selling a book, but I am promoting my brand – ME! It’s my job to make sure the product is polished and ready for the public to enjoy. This is where the mind-set I mentioned earlier comes in. I want my readers to have the best experience possible every time they read one of my books. Even if they don’t happen to like the story for some reason, I should never knowingly sell them an inferior product. Another term for this is CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Readers are generally not interested in how many hours of work are involved in producing a great book, but they certainly DO care if they pay for one riddled with errors. Bad reviews are difficult to overcome, so it’s better to prevent them in the first place.

I only have one chance to make a good impression (which of course includes the cover image and description), so I want to avoid disappointing my readers. I cannot force them to enjoy the story, but I can certainly package it correctly. After that, it’s up to the individual reader, and unless you have  working crystal ball, there’s no way to predict how people will respond. Maybe I will talk about that in a future post!