REMEMBER ME

The Quotable Writer, a book filled with

“Witty and wise…words from writers and others on
the craft, practice and business of writing…”

was a gift to me from my daughter.

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“What a wee part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and it is known to none but himself.” –Mark Twain

 

I turn to it from time to time for inspiration and recently decided to use it as a jumping off point for future posts.
As a Book Muse…of sorts. I would begin with the first topic, and explore a new one each month. It seemed like a marvelous idea, until I actually opened the book and saw the first topic: Biography.

Ugh! This isn’t going to work. What inspiration can I possibly gleam from quotes about writing biographies? I’m a sci-fi/fantasy writer. I don’t even pretend to tell the truth. So, I closed the book and set it aside. Yet, my book muse had already taken flight, her winged thoughts fluttering around my head whispering, “biography, biography…that’s the topic!” And wouldn’t you know…it is. It really is.

REMEMBER ME…

Be warned, people say, on your death-bed it’s not the hours you missed working you’ll regret, but the hours you missed spending time with your loved ones.

True…I guess.

Yet, have you ever read a biography about somebody whose greatest achievement in life was hanging out with his or her family? Biographies are not obituaries. Obituaries are filled with families. Of so and sos left behind to grieve. Everyone gets an obituary. Only people that live interesting, *significant lives have biographies written about them. Which makes me wonder… am I living my life in a way I would find significant and interesting?

Would my life inspire me?

I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but I’d like to think that if I ever had the chance to read my own biography, I’d be pleased with how I’d spent each day. That I’d accomplished certain goals. Not Einsteinian sized goals—just MY goals.

It’s definitely not the same as living every day as if it was your last. Heck, if this was my last day on Earth, hanging out with friends and family would be the only thing I’d care about. But it’s not my last day…at least I hope not.

–Excuse me while I call my mom and tell her I love her.

(Okay, I’m back.)

Maybe it’s as simple as asking: Am I living my life the way I want to live it? Or, from my author point of view: Am I writing my own story?

Anyway… it’s something to think about.

*Biographies about celebrities (i.e. people that live interesting, insignificant lives) are purely gossip and simply don’t count.

 

Necessary, Though Not Necessarily, Writing Apps

One thing I know about writing—it’s fattening. Fattening, unhealthy, and horrible for your back…not to mention your knees, your hands and your neck. Writers are fatI should have chosen a healthier career, such as tightrope walking or race car driving. Unfortunately, I suck at heights and you have only to look at the back of my car to see that…well, I should stick to writing.

Which is why I absolutely love the two apps I’m about to tell you about. Apps, without which, my butt would be as wide as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (hardcover edition, page to page, all the way to the moon). Most important, my inspiration would be lost to aches and pains.

Time out Free

Time Out Free

Time Out Free , by Dejal Systems, LLC, is a simple app that encourages computer uses to take regular breaks. As they say,

“The human body isn’t built to sit in one position for endless hours, gripping a mouse or typing on the keyboard.”

While you could achieve the same effect by setting an alarm, Time Out Free gets in your face by popping up on your screen and, based on your preset preferences, blocking your ability to work for a period of time. Yes, you can still push a little button to skip the breaks, but the in-your-face element is a good reminder to get up and stretch. Plus, you can program in micro breaks (i.e. 15 seconds stretch reminders). (Click HERE to check out similar apps for PCs)

yoga studio

Yoga Studio

Yoga Studio, by Modern Lotus, is the answer (well, my answer) of what to do while you take that break. Yoga not only makes you feel better and keeps you feeling that way, but more important, it helps you look good (i.e. Keeps your writer’s butt in check). And we all know…

“It’s better to look good, than to feel good.”

(I guess I should add, please check with your doctor before trying yoga.)

Anywho, I’ve check out tons (Okay, several) yoga apps, and Yoga Studio is by far my Yoga studio
favorite. It offers three levels, a variety of lesson lengths and most important, the instructions flow well and are crystal clear. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced student, add Yoga Studio to your iPad and enjoy a healthy, feel good 15 minute (or 30 or 60 minute) break. (Click HERE to check out a similar app for Android users)

What Apps do you use to keep you healthy, moving and motivated? 

 

 

Baby Panada

Brainstorming and Baby Pandas

After vowing to join my significant other on more business trips, I find myself posting from Washington D.C. this week. Timing is everything—right? So, along with other tourists I will not be visiting the Lincoln Memorial, nor will I be viewing the cute baby panda on the Smithsonian National Zoo’s panda cam. 😦

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Awwwww

That said, I’m having a wonderful time. The weather is lousy, our hotel has a great exercise room, and Starbucks is only minutes away. Most important—I have SCAPPLE!

Scapple is, in my humble estimation, one of the most brilliant brainstorming tools I have ever run across. It’s mind-mapping software in its most user-friendly form. Jot a thought here, another there, a few more over there… line them up, down, across, or connect them with a line. It’s like brainstorming on a yellow legal pad, only better because you can move your ideas around, organize and reorganize them however you want.

scapple-papertodigital-lg

Regular brainstorming vs Scapple. With Scapple you can move your ideas around!

I know… it’s not baby pandas, but it is beautiful, don’t you agree!

So, while I’m not doing a lot of sight-seeing, I am actually accomplishing a lot here in D.C.(Which is more than I can say for the politicians!)

Just so you don’t think it’s all work, work, work… below is video of hubby and me on Sunday morning visiting the National Cathedral. If its arches and spires don’t inspire you, nothing will. Moreover, while I may not be Episcopalian, I’m so grateful we attended mass. The Very Rev. Gary Hall gave one of the bravest, most inspiring sermons I have ever had the honor to listen to. Click HERE to listen.

SERIES: To Be or Not To Be (and when to stop being…)

The following is a guest post written by author, Jade Kerrion

SERIES: To Be or Not To Be (and when to stop being…)

If Amazon (the company) were a river and all the books in its vast online repository were drops of water, you wouldn’t be able to skim a pebble across its surface without hitting a book that is a part of a series.

Series are popular–they work in movies, on TV, and in books–and for good reason. No one ever likes saying goodbye to the people they’ve fallen in love with. We like to see our heroes and heroines overcome adversity, and then do it again, and again.

Novel series come in at least three different flavors.

1. Standalone books within a series with a rotating focus on various protagonists. Each novel within the series focuses on, and resolves, one major storyline, but the protagonist (usually a side character in one of the other novels) will claim the spotlight for one book within the series instead of all of them. Romance novels tend to lean this way (after all, happily ever after usually happens only once per couple.) Nora Roberts has written many trilogies of families and friends, with each book focusing on a particular person finding his or her happy ending. Sherrilyn Kenyon does this with her (apparently unending) Dark Hunter series as well.

2. Standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists. Each novel within the series tackles one major problem and resolves the problem by the end of the book. Many detective and mystery novels adopt this flavor. As a teenager, I enjoyed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. These days, I read P.L. Blair’s Portals series that features human detective, Kat Morales, and her elven partner, Tevis.

3. Non-standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists, and story is typically best enjoyed in order from the first novel to the last. Fantasy and science fiction novels, with their sweeping storylines and their tendency to put entire worlds and civilizations at risk of extinction (hey, high stakes, right?) tend to lean in this direction. Each book should resolve a major crisis, but some threads are clearly left trailing as feeders into the next book. Some of my favorite authors fall into this category, including David Eddings who wrote the Belgariad and Mallorean series, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman.

Just about all of my favorite authors are series writers. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that I would, as an author, lean toward writing a series. My Double Helix series is a series of four novels. When I finished writing the fourth book, I finally tackled the issue I’d been avoiding since November 2010, when I first started writing Double Helix series.

When do you stop?

Sometimes, the answer is easy: “when you save the world.”

But what if the answer isn’t as obvious? What if the world careens from crisis to crisis (sounds like our world, doesn’t it?) What if the world always needs saving?

I wrote the Double Helix series as a blend between a type 3 series (non-standalone) and a type 2 series (standalone.) The fourth book, Perfection Challenged, was actually the transition book between a non-standalone and standalone series. In theory, I could have gone on forever, coming up with yet another crisis for Danyael Sabre, the alpha empath, to handle. Challenges would always abound in a society transformed by the Genetic Revolution. Danyael would likely encounter most of them, but did he have to be the protagonist?

Let’s segue briefly into another series—Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Occasionally a storyline or plot transcends each book and unifies the series. In Kushiel’s Legacy, it is the rocky path to love and happiness between the heroine, Phedre, and her protector, Joscelin. That storyline is the single thread that runs through the series, and for the series to end, the thread needs to be neatly knotted by the final book.

My readers love Danyael. It was hard to make the decision to move him to the sidelines, yet in practice, I knew that Danyael’s story was done, and for one primary reason. His story had come a full circle. He dealt with different challenges and antagonists over each of the four books, but the storyline that unified the series—his apparently unrequited love for the assassin Zara Itani—reached its conclusion in the fourth book. It was my gift to Danyael, the ending he deserved.

“But,” dismayed readers howl, “you haven’t yet done this, or that, or another. You haven’t finished telling all the stories…”

I’ve moved the spotlight off Danyael, but that doesn’t mean he won’t appear in a smaller role in another novel. Spin-offs are popular among series writers. Some side characters in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series show up as focal characters in her Dream Hunter series.

And so it will be for my Double Helix series. I’ve already written a young adult spin-off. I have others planned, including a standalone series of romantic thrillers featuring mercenaries from Zara’s agency, a novel about Xin, the Machiavellian clone of Fu Hao, a 1,200 BC general, priestess, and queen (busy woman indeed…), and a novel about Galahad, the genetically engineered perfect human being. Inevitably though, those novels and series will someday end.

Quoting one of my favorite characters, Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series: “It always ends. That’s what gives it value.”

“The best of the four books…the perfect ending to an amazing series.”

Perfection Challenged, the thrilling conclusion to the multiple award-winning, bestselling DOUBLE HELIX series, is finally here. Grab your copy today.

If you’ve never picked up the DOUBLE HELIX series, keep reading for a special offer on the six-time award-winning novel, Perfection Unleashed.

perfection-challenged-600x800PERFECTION CHALLENGED

An alpha empath, Danyael Sabre has survived abominations and super soldiers, terrorists and assassins, but he cannot survive his failing body. He wants only to live out his final days in peace, but life and the woman he loves, the assassin Zara Itani, have other plans for him.

Galahad, the perfect human being created by Pioneer Labs, is branded an international threat, and Danyael is appointed his jury, judge, and executioner. Danyael alone believes that Galahad can be the salvation that the world needs, but is the empath blinded by the fact that Galahad shares his genes, and the hope that there is something of him in Galahad?

In a desperate race against time and his own dying body, Danyael struggles to find fragments of good in the perfect human being, and comes to the wrenching realization that his greatest battle will be a battle for the heart of the man who hates him.

E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords

Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK

PERFECTION UNLEASHED Perfection Unleashed

“Higher octane than Heroes. More heart than X-Men.”

Recipient of six literary awards, including First place in Science Fiction, Reader Views Literary Awards 2012 and Gold medal winner, Science Fiction, Readers Favorites 2013.

FOR A LIMITED TIME, E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FOR JUST $0.99 (Discounted from $2.99)

E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords

Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

Connect with Jade Kerrion: Website / Facebook / Twitter

 

Lonely Writer

When my husband and I decided to pack up our things and move, I knew at some point I’d face a period of loneliness. The decision to move had everything to do with what type of house we saw ourselves living in, taxes and family responsibilities. It had nothing to do with needing new friends. In fact, in the years since we’d moved to the northern suburbs of Chicago, I’d made some of the best friends, writing buddies and coffee clutchers a girl could have.

6a00d8341c5c2253ef01538f28a54a970b-500wiWith that in mind, however, I knew if I was ever going to start over, I wanted it to be sooner than later.

Writing, for most people, is a solitary pursuit. It’s even more solitary when you’re a writer, as I am, who needs complete silence to be creative. I wish I could write in a coffee shop—Oh, how I wish! I have been somewhat successful writing in libraries, though my habit of reading my work aloud tends to earn me odd looks and “shhhhs” from concerned librarians. Anyway, I say solitary rather than lonely, for just as blogger Nathan Bransford, in his post on Writing and Loneliness, points out, I’ve never felt lonely while writing.Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 4.20.08 PM

I guess what I’m saying is that the time has come. The period I knew was waiting for me is here. My husband is back on the road teaching and the new people I’ve met, while wonderful, still feel more like acquaintances than close friends. Now, suddenly, when I observe people busy working together in offices and retail stores, I wonder if being a solitary writer is such a good idea. I try to imagine myself in their world…but it only takes a moment for regret to set in. Regret, that is, over the image of myself taking any job that would take me away from the solitary act of writing—and immense gratefulness I don’t have to take such a job. That I don’t need to regret.

Solitude is heaven and loneliness need only be temporary. Soon after I post this blog, I’ll be off to my new Piloxing class. There, with other people I’m—as yet—only acquainted with, I’ll enjoy practicing a delightful combination of Pilates and boxing!

For more on writing, creativity and being alone…

one-million-dollars-435cs110512

ONE BOOK – ONE MILLION DOLLARS

The other day, after listening to The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (my 4th time listening to it, by the way) my husband and I The War of Artstarted discussing what it meant to be passionate about your art. To really love what you do—what you create—versus simply working for money. He posed this question:

What if someone offered to pay one million dollars for your shiny new unpublished novel, but in selling your novel to them, they would own all the rights and only they would ever read it?

No one else—Nunca! Ever!

One Million Dollar BillMy initial response was, “Fine with me. I’ll gladly take the money and write another novel.”

Then I thought about it. I write educational books for hire all the time. I enjoy writing them, but there’s no question I write them for money… although, I make nowhere close to a million dollars. Too bad.

But, what about my novel?

I’m not the type of writer who can whip out a novel every few months. WHEELS, my first novel, took me several years to write. What if after all that work, all the time spent getting to know my characters, their world, their deepest desires—not to mention all the daydreams I’d had of people actually reading my story—what if after all that, only one person ever read it?

I can’t honestly say the money wouldn’t be enticing—very enticing—but I know if I took the deal, a large part of me would be sad. It would feel as if I’d been silenced. Like a chunk of me would remain hidden from the world for the rest of my life. In fact, the more I thought about my husband’s question, the more empty, ugly and unappealing the offer became.

one-million-dollars-435cs110512

Then again—A MILLION DOLLARS!
What would you do?
The War of Art

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

Or: How To Overcome Resistance and Write Your Novel!

“The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

I’ve never attended boot camp, but listening to George Guidall narrate Steven Pressfield’s book: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, it feels like I have. The War of ArtPressfield doesn’t hold back, nor does he try to be nice, when he explains why many writers, including myself, often choose to do just about anything other than write. Actually, he doesn’t only target writers, he targets artists, actors, musicians, entrepreneurs…anyone attempting to accomplish something that takes time, effort, and most likely, doesn’t come with the immediate gratification of a paycheck. Those things our heart call us to do. Things like:

  • Writing a novel
  • Painting a masterpiece
  • Opening that restaurant
  • Learning a new language
  • Learning how to play the piano

How many adults have you heard bemoan the fact they gave up taking piano lessons? “There just wasn’t time!” or “Sports got in the way.” Yet in their hearts they know (as do you and I) the true answer: there was plenty of time, but they chose to do other things.

For me, the timing of reading Pressfield’s book (or rather listening, via my audible.com account) was perfect. I’m at the beginning of writing a new novel. Looming ahead of me is the knowledge that it could take me six months or six years to complete—I won’t know until I write it. Because it’s fiction, I can’t submit it until it’s completed and then there’s no guarantee a publishing house will pick it up. Or, if I self-publish, that it will be successful.

Why am I crazy enough to attempt such a feat? Because I have this story and these characters in my head, and I want to write about them—even if I’m the only one who ever reads what I write. Now that’s love. However, just like a good love story, there are plenty of bumps in the road, plenty of misdirection, plenty of activities (I call them my “To do’s”) that keep me from finding true love (i.e. writing my novel). Those “To do’s” are what Pressfield calls, resistance. Moreover, every day, he says, no matter how long we’ve been writing, we must overcome resistance anew!

What are my resistances?

  • Paying bills
  • Cleaning house
  • Calling an old friend
  • Cooking, reading, exercising, organizing…
  • Making sure everyone’s needs are fulfilled before I sit down and write!

How do I know these things are resistance? Because as I do them, in the back of my mind I’m telling myself, “As soon as I finish this, I’m going to write.” However, in my gut, I know I’m lying. I know I’ll find other “To do’s”, other things that “need” to be done (because they won’t take much time, and besides, they’re important and this novel is going to take years to write anyway, so I should do the quick things first—right?) and by the end of the day I’ll be so tired I’ll start telling myself, “Tomorrow, I’ll write. I won’t have any more chores to do or reasons not to write. I’ll wake up, I’ll get my coffee, and I’ll sit down at my computer and write. Right? All I’ll do is write.”

We writers make very good liars.

It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s that I fear it. I fear I may get halfway through writing my novel and discover it sucks! I fear no one will ever read it. I fear I will spend my life writing, but never make a good living at it. I fear, I fear… Oh yes, I have so many fears. As do most artists. But listen up—here’s what Pressfield has to say about fear:

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.”

“Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.” 

CompassPressfield also talks about fear being like an arrow on a compass that always points north. Whatever that arrow is pointing at, is what we need to be doing—prioritizing—in order to make ourselves happy. For me, north on my compass is writing. Specifically, writing my novel.

More importantly, it’s clear to me that I can write every day and still have time to pay the bills, send a care package to my college kid, call my mom, organize my desk, etc. All I have to do is wake up every morning and overcome resistance! Say no to the cleaning, the organizing, the to do list full of chores, the email, the twitter—you name it—until I’ve put in three to four hours working on my novel. It’s not the word count, it’s doing the time! Which, come to think of it, leaves me plenty of time to write a new blog post. (Yes, I worked on my novel before I started writing this post.)

Having trouble finding time to work on your novel? Read “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield.

 

Creating Great Characters through Personal Paradigms

Sometimes the best writing advice comes from non-writing sources. I recently subscribed to an e-zine (a magazine subscription on my iPad) called THRIVEOLOGY. Recommended to me by a good friend, THRIVEOLOGY MAGAZINE publishes articles that are “dedicated to helping you thrive.” One article in particular, found in the free introductory issue, inspired not only my soul, but also, my writer’s spirit!Paradigm-Shift

“We All Have A Paradigm!” written by Lee Baucom, examines the concept of personal paradigm; meaning, that lens through which each individual views the world.

 “Everyone has a paradigm. We all have a way we view the world. That view is created by many different factors…These factors include our genetics, gender, age, education, culture, society in which we live, and many other factors.”

The intent of the article was to help promote personal growth; however, from my perspective, it was one of the clearest articles on creating characters I have ever read.

Baucom explains how our paradigm (that point from which we start, whether we grew up poor or rich, loved or unloved, in a conservative or liberal family…even our genetic predisposition for depression, genius, etc.…) affects almost every human encounter we have.

 “…our paradigm helps us explain the world.” Also, “…your paradigm and my paradigm are different, and create very different understandings of the same events.” And perhaps most important (at least from my writer’s point of view), Baucom points out that “Struggle gives us an opportunity to challenge our paradigm.”

So how does this relate to creating great characters? By defining your protagonist’s paradigm, and then forcing them to step out of it, to change, you not only give them a chance to grow—you give them a story!

The Hobbit

From the movie, THE HOBBIT: An Unexpected Journey

For example, at the start of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel, THE HOBBIT, he begins by clearly defining the paradigm through which his protagonist, Bilbo Baggins sees the world. Having spent his entire life in the Shire, Bilbo views the world as a place of comfort, plenty of food, the surety of a good smoke, and one in which he can expect little variation from his daily routine. Then the wizard Gandalf arrives, bringing with him thirteen dwarves intent on killing a dragon and promises of adventure—adventure, which Bilbo Baggins wants nothing to do with. Why? Because adventure and dragons (danger) threaten his paradigm. But, of course, that’s exactly what Tolkien meant to do. Had Bilbo remained in the Shire, he would not have risen above being a simple hobbit to become a hero. More importantly, Tolkien would have had no story to tell.

I might also note that Tolkien took into account genetics when he created Bilbo Baggins. As Gandalf points out, the reason he chose Bilbo was due to Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took, with whom he’d been good friends. One of Belladonna’s relatives was said to have taken a fairy wife and the Took-clan had a reputation for not being entirely hobbit-like (i.e. having an inclination towards adventure). Had Tolkien not provided this non-hobbit genetic predisposition, it might have felt false for Bilbo to decide suddenly to take off and join the dwarves. In fact, Bilbo’s Tookish side explains why, though he loved the quiet life of the Shire, there was always a part of him that never entirely fit.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

From the movie, THE HOBBIT: An Unexpected Journey

I encourage you to examine some of your favorite stories and notice how each of the characters, be they major or minor, react to their world based on their personal paradigms. Then look at your own writing. Are your characters remaining true to their paradigm? For example, a character with no athletic ability would not suddenly find climbing a mountain easy unless he or she had recently acquired a special power. In fact, a character like that would need a pretty good reason (aka, motivation) to be climbing a mountain at all. (In Bilbo’s case, being chased by Orcs and Dragons was definitely motivational!)

And remember, in order for your protagonist to have a story worth telling, there must be some event, be it physical or mental, which forces them to step out of their paradigm and see the world in a different way.

For more information on personal paradigms, check out:

http://thriveology.com/?s=PARADIGM&searchBtn.x=0&searchBtn.y=0

http://advancedlifeskills.com/blog/paradigm-perspectives/ 

 

 

Great Wall of China

Writing moments that count

I’d never heard of a the term bucket list until the movie, The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, came out. After that, of course, I had to sit down and make my own bucket list. What I discovered is that I’d already accomplished most of the items that, well, had I not accomplished them, would have been on my bucket list. For example, I’d:

  • Sky dived and been parasailing
  • Visited China and hiked the Great Wall

    Great Wall of China

    It was exhausting climbing up all those steps!

  • Climbed to the top of a pyramid
  • Traveled to Australia and scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef
  • Sang the lead in an Opera (as well as several plays)
  • Drank coffee in Austria and backpacked through Italy
  • Had a picture book published and completed a sci-fi novel…

…to name a few of my bucket list items.

This coming Thursday (a.k.a. Thanksgiving 2012) I’ll be checking off another bucket list item. I’ll be attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! Woo Who! I can hardly wait, even though I’m pretty sure it’s going to be crowded, cold and one of those things (like sky diving) I won’t want to do more than once.

Rafting in Seattle

Rafting in Seattle is a bucket list worthy item

Anyway, thinking about my bucket list made me realize that while it’s cool to think I’ve done all those things…in the end, they are far from the most important moments in my life. In fact, bucket list items are like the settings in a book. Important, yes, but without people to experience them with, empty. I do not feel strong emotions when I look over the bucket list items above. However, when I recall moments, such as the time I returned home, having blown an audition for a part I really wanted, to find my husband and children waiting in the hallway for me with flowers (because they were sure I’d gotten the part), I realize those moments and the people I shared them with, are far more precious and important than anything I could ever accomplish.

Recently, I’ve been cleaning out my office, ridding myself of, among other things, copies of my novel, WHEELS, which I’d printed out to edit. Like most writers, I live in fear of someone finding a printed copy of my manuscript and publishing it before I do. I know, I know—ridiculous! Nevertheless, I’ve been holding onto them. But, now that I’ve published WHEELS, and more important, we are putting our house up for sale, it is time to let go. And, I have. I have gotten rid of every single, marked up, edited edition except one: the copy my daughter read. The copy with her dear little handwriting edits on it and her one page note taped to the cover telling me how much she loved my book. Once again proving it wasn’t the goal of writing a novel that was important; rather, it was that someone I loved…loved me enough to read it.

You can’t put those moments on a bucket list, because they are almost, always, unexpected. However, as an author, you better have a few of them (along with some really cool settings) in your book!

Josh & Katie in Greece

Traveling through Italy and Greece, with his girlfriend, made my son’s bucket list.

Self-Publishing, Part 3: My Most Important Mistake!

This is the third post in my series on self-publishing, in which I share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned. It is the post I’ve most dreaded writing. Why? Think about it. How do we learn? We learn from mistakes. I’ve already shared one mistake with you. (See: Self-Pub, Part 2) Now, I’m going to share another—a mistake that, for me, is far more embarrassing.

Having been traditionally published, and written several books for hire, it was a difficult decision to strike out on my own and self-publish. Then again, I come from an entrepreneurial family, and as they say, “timing is everything!” Timing, for me, came into play on several levels:

  • After years of writing, receiving critiques, and rewriting—WHEELS, my first novel, was finished.
  • At the same time, traditional book stores were closing, publishing houses were disappearing, and authors like Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath were successfully publishing their own eBooks; more importantly, improving the image of self-published authors.
  • Finally, self-publishing had become a risk that, quite simply, was affordable.

In short, while I made a few half-hearted attempts at querying agents, my little entrepreneurial soul was no longer content with waiting around for someone else to take control of my destiny.

I approached self-publishing fully aware that there is a reason authors who self-publish must work harder to be taken seriously. It has to do with editing, or rather, lack of editing. Let me back up a bit…

There is a class of self-published books which are clearly first drafts, hastily thrown together, and quickly published—I’m not speaking of those, as they don’t deserve to be spoken of. Rather, I’m referring to books that have been labored over, edited and revised, but in the end, lack the final touch of a professional copyeditor. In fact, copyediting, I believe, is the biggest obstacle self-published authors (if they are good ones) must tackle if they hope to be taken seriously.

First, let’s take a look at how I approached copyediting. Once I felt WHEELS was ready for publication…

  • I read, reread, and edited it multiple times. (This was in addition to the many drafts I’d written and revised over the years.)
  • I had well-educated family, friends, and other authors read my manuscript.
  • I had my computer read my entire manuscript out loud to me (a good way to catch missing words).
  • When I had no one left to read it and when I could no longer stand the sight or sound of my own book—yet, despite having a nagging fear that it probably wasn’t perfect—I uploaded WHEELS to Amazon. (I even asked early readers to email me any mistakes they found.)

Sounds like I was thorough—right? Wrong!

You may be a fine writer, you may be well-educated, but a true copyeditor has the eye and training to find typos and grammar mistakes that you and your closest and smartest friends will miss.

I had put in the effort to produce a good novel (whether you agree with me or not), and then made the mistake of thinking that, with the assistance of colleagues and family, I could tackle the copyediting myself.

Big mistake!

What got to me was the reviewer who said she would have given WHEELS five stars, but gave it only four stars because it had six mistakes.

REALLY! Six mistakes out of 100,000 words earns me one less &#%!@?! star! (I promptly thanked her and requested the edits.)

Still, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I’d already received edits from caring readers and fixed them, yet there were six more. Worse—I was horrified, because I’d sent out copies to reviewers and over 8,000 people had already downloaded WHEELS. Mainly, however, I was frustrated because most of the downloads had been part of a freebie promotion and I knew that hiring a copyeditor was an expensive proposition.

…half of self-published authors earn less than $500.

If you click  go to the link under 4 WRITERS, you’ll find a list of copyediting services. Look closely, and you’ll find the going fee for copyediting a book the size of WHEELS (approx. 100,000 words) is around $1,200.00.

YIKES!

Given that figure, I still consider not having WHEELS professionally copyedited before I published it as the biggest mistake I’ve made on my self-publishing journey. It is also a mistake I rectified before publishing the paperback edition.

That said…few books are perfect. When the first copy of my 950 word, traditionally published, picture book arrived in the mail, I eagerly sat down to read it only to be horrified that the main character’s name was misspelled on one page. Honestly, between the editor, the professional New York copyeditor, and me—not one of us had caught the typo before the book went into print.

So, mistakes happen. And, while a big part of me wants to say something like, If you want to be taken seriously as a self-published author, make sure your manuscript is professionally copyedited before publishing it, another part of me is completely sympathetic when I find (a few) typos in a self-published book. I often, in fact, make a list of those typos and send them to the author. The great thing about eBooks is that you can quickly fix and republish your book.

For me, I will invest in the services of a professional copyeditor before I publish my next book. I want to be taken seriously as a writer (even if I do write about aliens). YOU must decide for yourself. However, in an attempt to help you with that decision, I’ve created a list of copyediting services. I implore authors who have used a copyediting service, and have been satisfied with the results, to send me a link to add to my list. Help improve the reputation of self-published authors! Send me a link to the service and any pertinent details via my contact page.

Finally, I leave you with a link to a TED talk most appropriately titled, “How to learn? From mistakes.”

Happy Writing.

For more on self-publishing/copyediting visit: Susan Kaye Quinn’s post: Tips N Tricks: A Checklist for Self-Publishing