Do you read contemporary stories set in countries other than the USA? What kind of stories are they? What do you especially like about them?
I have a reason for asking.
I’m just back from a most excellent vacation in the States, including an action-packed weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin with fellow 8 Lady Kay, followed by a few days in picturesque Door County (click here to read Kay’s description of our excursions to the Northern Sky Theater Company).
Before I met up with Kay, I spent an afternoon in Chicago talking all things writing with a developmental editor. Mostly we focused on Alexis, but we also talked about my English/Scottish contemporary romance, which I decided to dust off in time for the next (and final) RWA Golden Heart contest.
The editor gave me the same feedback I heard from a very respected agent a couple of years ago when I tried to shop this book: the writing is strong, but a contemporary British setting, with all British characters, is hard to sell outside the UK. She said that the story offered a kind of insider perspective on life in London and Scotland, which is not what the mainstream American romance reader is conditioned to expect.
In her view, when US readers pick up a foreign-set story, they expect the setting to be either
- glamorously urban; or
- small, close-knit communities where the culture is a large part of the appeal.
I’ve been reading the Ladies’ posts—you know which ones I mean—the ones where everybody talks about their development editors, proofreaders, graphic artists, cover designers, blog tours, FaceBook friends, Twitter followers, and advertising campaigns. I am totally in awe for the time, energy, commitment, and planning all this work requires. I admire them beyond words for what they’re doing.
I’ve never done any of that.
Not that I’m proud of it. Far from it. Mostly I’m just super lazy. And I’m an ex-editor by trade, so when I think my manuscript is as good as I can make it, I get a cover, and I publish it. Done. And sometimes people buy my book and leave a review, so overall, I’m fine with my career, as low-key as it is.
However. Continue reading
I started reading a book recently that had a character whose name randomly changed from Benedict to Benjamin from page to page. The hero was intermittently a Marques and a Viscount, with no relevant incident which would have caused the change. Don’t get me started on the spelling and grammar.
I tossed the book (now I know why it was a freebie) and moved on to another, but it got me to thinking about the importance of editing before releasing a book out into the wild. It seems a shame to spend time and energy crafting a story, just to have readers give up on it a few pages in due to grammatical errors, inconsistencies, uneven voice and the like.
In a perfect world, you’d write your story, make a revision pass, do a read-through to correct any errors, and be all ready to move on to the next story. Reality, however, doesn’t work quite that way. It can be incredibly difficult to clearly see errors in your own writing. Your brain will fill in missing words, fail to notice incorrect punctuation, and even overlook story inconsistencies and plot fails. I can (and have) made dozens of editing passes through things I have written and repeatedly found things that needed to be fixed that I’d overlooked previously.
Fortunately, there are professionals out there who are experts at seeing those things we tend to miss. So let’s talk about the different types of editors your manuscript may encounter before it’s ready to take its place out in the world. Continue reading
I am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.
In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t. Continue reading
My journey toward publication has been loaded with new learning opportunities. One of the biggest was choosing a content, or developmental, editor. This is both because this selection has the most impact on the quality of the book(s) I will put out, and because it’s the single biggest expense in the self-publishing journey.
The problem was, I didn’t really understand what a content editor would do. I knew they weren’t the same as a copy editor, who would look for problems with grammar and wording. Content editors work at a more macro level—they’re concerned with characters and plot.
But I still didn’t understand exactly what that meant.
Were they just a glorified (and paid) version of the critique group I’d had for so long? Or something more? What should I expect? How would I even begin to tell a good one from mediocre one or even a bad one? Continue reading
What have you been reading lately? What did you like or dislike? Did you learn anything?
Over the last few weeks I’ve sampled a number of new-to-me authors and had the same problem with several of them. I always read the blurb, Look Inside excerpt and a few sample reviews before buying, so none of my purchases was a disaster. They all had interesting characters, an intriguing premise, and quality writing, but either I didn’t finish them, or I skimmed to the end to see how the author wrapped up the plot.
I gave up on these books because I got overloaded. It seemed clear that all the information stuffed into the opening chapters would be used at some point in the story, but the pacing was lightning-fast and data was thrown at me until I wanted to beg for mercy. I was too busy trying to remember everything to care about the main characters. In the end, the read became too much like hard work and I quit, which was a shame.
In one book, we learned Continue reading
This could be me in March.
There I was, just whistling down the primrose path, working through the problems in my manuscript that I’d identified during a Revision Sprint class and the subsequent weeks of revision. I didn’t mean to do it. Really, I didn’t think it would happen! But as I updated the final scene sequence of novel 1 of my Victorian Romance series, the next to last step (last step being read-through/proofreading) before sending it to a content editor, I realized it had happened.
I am in love with my story.
Now, being in love with your story in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, during the long, dark days that try writers’ souls, sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is our love for our stupid, ugly, misshapen mess of a (kind of, sort of, almost) story. But to spin the story mess into gold, at some point most writers will want input from other smart people, fresh eyes on the story to catch what we who are too close to it just can’t see. Those other people might be individual critique partners, members of a critique group, or a content editor (as ladies Jeanne and Jilly).
For this particular story, I plan to work with a content editor. Sounds great, you say. Should help clean up the hot mess, you think. So what’s the problem? you might ask. Continue reading