Archive for 'Editing'

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Monday, August 15th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
The Making of a Collection

Tomorrow, my first short story collection is out!  I’ve been publishing short stories for over ten years now, so this has been a long time coming.  I want to talk a little bit about what went into putting this one together.

First question:  How do you whittle my list of over fifty published stories into the dozen that show up in the collection?  In this case, I started with a theme:  Kitty stories, or stories that might be considered part of Kitty’s world.  So the initial pick of stories was easy.  I had some technical considerations.  A couple of the stories that came out over the last year are still under contract — the anthologies they had originally appeared in asked for exclusivity for a period of time that overlapped with the collection’s release date, so I couldn’t include them.

I thought it was important to include new material.  I’m asking people to buy a whole book here, I don’t want it to be all stories they’ve possibly read before.  I wrote two new stories for the collection, one of which is a novella about Cormac.  The collection seemed the perfect way to showcase this novella, rather than trying to publish it on its own.  (It runs about 22,000 words, which is an awkward length — far too short for a novel, but too long for most short fiction markets.  Alternatives would have been to publish it as an e-book, or a stand-alone chapbook.  But bundling it with the short stories made a lot more sense.)

One big question:  how much editing/revising to do on stories that had already been published?  I will confess, I gave into the urge to polish older stories.  In a couple of cases, based on editorial suggestion, I made further changes.  I’m still waffling on some of them, but when you write for publication you sometimes just have to make a decision and go with it.

One of the hardest steps was figuring out what order to arrange the stories in.  I had a few options:  strict chronological order based on when the stories were written, chronological order based on when the stories take place, or a more arbitrary order based on what stories will hook readers early.  This is a guideline many anthology editors use — start with a strong story, end with a strong story.  Draw the readers in, and leave them with a good impression.  Chronological order based on when they were written would make sense for a retrospective collection, but not this one.  Chronological order based on when the stories take place made a lot more sense.  I discussed this quite a bit with my editor, who preferred the “anthology” guideline rather than a chronological arrangement.  The end result was a little of both.  I could have shuffled the table of contents around for ages, so again, I just had to make some decisions.

Another choice I had to make:  whether or not to include author notes about the stories.  I decided to include them.  Because the Kitty books are a series, readers have a lot of questions about how the stories and books all fit together, and this was a chance to answer those questions and talk about the evolution of the series as a whole.  I put all the notes in the back of the book, so readers who don’t care about them could skip them easily.

In my own mind, I’d been calling the collection Tales from the Midnight Hour.  Then Kelley Armstrong’s collection, Tales of the Otherworld, came out.  Too similar, I thought, so I nixed that idea.  On the other hand, that gave me a chance to come up with a much better title more suited to Kitty and her world:  Kitty’s Greatest Hits.

I’m very happy to finally have the collection done and out in the wild.  This was one of the sticking points I had with my old publisher, who refused to do a collection at all, Kitty stories or no.  When I shopped the series to a new publisher, I made a collection part of the deal.  Tor was happy to take the collection along with new novels.  So here we are!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 by Sasha White
Rock My World.

Over the past year or more we’ve been hearing more and more about self-publishing. Joe Konrath has been a force behind the message that we authors can have so much more control, and income, if we override the conditioning of Big Publishing and take control of our own careers. That’s not to say that traditional publishing is bad. I’m not against it in any way, and will still be pursuing it. But I’m also smart enough to know that options are never a bad thing.

In October I dipped my toes into the whole self-publishing pool with MEANDROS. I’d promised to keep y’all up to date on how it went, but have really posted nothing about it since because it’s been very slow moving.

Meandros is a short story just over 5k long. It’s been previously published, and it was also a free read on my website and scribd for a year or so, so I didn’t really expect a lot of sales. But I thought why not, let’s get it out there. I put out some coin to get it re-edited, and formatted and got a nice new cover. I put it up for 99 cents, because that’s the lowest price Amazon allows.

Here’s the stats of what’s happened with that book so far.

* In the four and a half months it’s been for sale, I’ve only sold 1 copy through Smashwords, and 150 through Amazon.

* Sales went up when readers posted reviews.

* Changing the blurb didn’t help sales. Although this could be because my story is about how the main character deals with the death of the love of her life, and I refused to hide that fact in the blurb. It was suggested to me I take that out, to sell the story, but I didn’t think that was cool. I didn’t want to mislead readers

I’m okay with slow sales on that story. Of course I want it to sell lots. I’m human and I want to keep working as a writer, but that particular story is a very personal one, and I really just wanted it to be available to as many readers as possible.

Author Jordan Summers has also been dipping into the Indie Publishing arena by re-releasing some of her backlist, and talks about it openly on her blog. So far she’s released one novella and one category length book, and states that she made a little under $100 in the first month. A few of the sales are from Smashwords and B&N, but the majority are from Amazon. Jordan’s done no promotion beyond her own blog because she wanted to see what would happen if she just put the books out there. Would people find them on their own?

It seems that many of us are not only seeing this as a way to re-release backlists, or short stories that connect to our books, or even new stuff, but also as way to really see what works with readers. We can see what works promotion wise, too. I know I noticed a bump in sales when readers started posting reviews on Amazon, and Jordan confirmed that she saw the same thing.

With that in mind, I went forward with a project with another author. Charlene Teglia and I decided to do an anthology together. We used the theme of rocks or stones of mystical value (ROCK MY WORLD is my story) and we each wrote a short story that connected to our previous print books. Because Charlene’s was paranormal, I chose to write one connected to my own paranormals that were published by Kensington, and not my Berkley contemporaries.

The idea of it is that our fans will buy the book because it’s connected, and hopefully new readers will enjoy the eBook so much they’ll hunt down the print books they’re connected to.


A Rock & A Hard Place had it’s official release yesterday, and is now on sale for 99 cents through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Below are some tips from me to anyone out there wanting to go the Indie Publishing route.

*When it comes to formatting…hire a professional. Save yourself time and stress.
Also, when getting the file ready to send to the formatter…Keep it as simple as possible.
Page breaks are okay. Italics and bold are good, but beyond that, there’s no need to format your file a lot. The person who formats it for publication has to break it down and completely reformat it anyway. However, you can make their job easier and smoother by giving them a clean and simple file to work with.

When asked about how she charges for formatting April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic gave me this list

Long Fiction: $30 for the first file, $10 for each additional format
Anthologies of three or more stories: $50 minimum (more if number of stories or authors exceed 5) for the first file, $10 for each additional format. If the ebook file needs to have Interior Illustrations (including diagrams for non-fiction or covers for excerpt books): additional $5 per image embedded (assuming all images are provided by author(s))

April says, “So far, length hasn’t really made much of a difference in either ebook formatting or for print book design. If anything does make a difference, it’s more likely to be the number of chapters or the number of sections or, say, stories in an anthology. This is because where there’s a hard page break, it’s usually the start of a new file — so the more chapters/sections/stories, the more “files” there are in an ebook and in a print book, and the more “entries” there are that refer to them in a table of contents.”

This shows that it’s not so much about the number of words when it comes to formatting, but the work involved..books with more work (Sections, or excerpts, or images that need to be embedded) will cost more to format.

Also…be sure to include the legalese in the front, and your bio in the back. It’s not up to the formatter to complete your file, only to format what you send them.
If you have any specific requests, (a table of contents, or embedded links) be sure to mention them at the same time you send the file in.
When you get your file back, be sure to check them over right away. You’ll likely get a chance to ask for tweaks if there’s something off, but only if you do so right away.

Smashwords was fairly simple to upload to. Step by step, instructions. One thing we did by accident was not check off the ePub version because we wanted to upload our book to B&N via PubIt. That was a mistake, as the ePub version is also what they use for the iBook store and Sony. We waited until the file was published, then went back in and redid it. It wasn’t a huge hassle, but it was a step that we could’ve avoided. Plus, having to republish set our book back in the line for the premium catalogue, a delay thats not really wanted when the goal is to get the book out in as many venues as soon as possible.

*Side note* Smashwords has a fabulous step-by-step guide on formatting your file for them. It seems easy. It wasn’t. I formatted MEANDROS for Smashword myself (The guy I hired for that one only gave me Mobi and EPub files, I didn’t know enough to ask for a word doc) I followed the steps. Everyone of them, and MEANDROS is till no even in the line-up to go to the premium catalogue because they keep saying it’s not formated right. So, I highly recommend hiring someone. )

Kindle also had step-by-step instructions that made publishing fairly easy. The thing we screwed up on there has to do with pricing. You see, we uploaded the story to all three places (B&N, Amazon, Smashwords on Thursday, and decided to wait until it was available on three before we announced the Sale and Giveaway we planned. We figure it was a better way to make an event out of the release. With this in mind we set the price at $2.99 when uploaded, figuring we could change it to 99 cents for the sale on our official release day Monday) On Sunday night Charlene went in to change the price so the sale could start. The change on Smashwords was immediate. B&N took an hour or so, Amazon took over 12 hours. So, next time, we’re not going to worry about co-ordinating and surprising with a sale, we’ll just put sale price in initially. LOL

B&N PubIt. Me, I didn’t bother putting Meandros up on there before because at that time it wasn’t worth it for the experiment I was doing. Charlene uploaded our anthology, and she cursed the whole time. She says “The real difficulty I ran into wasn’t the upload process, it was the account creation and verification. Also, the cover art requirements are different from Smashwords and Amazon, so it takes a separate file that fits their requirements exactly.”

I highly recommend these guys.

ImagineIf Creative Services by Michelle lauren
Editing, (three levels: proofreading, copy edits and substantive editing)

April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic
Fantastic cover design and graphic art as well as formatting for electronic as well as print publishing. *Did the cover for A Rock & A Hard Place* Visit

Anne Cain Graphic Art & Design
*Did my Mavericks Of Space cover not yet released*

And since I’m talking self-publishing, I just have to add that the news of Barry Eisler turning down a two book deal worth $500,000 to self-publish makes me wonder what’s next. While there is no denying this was a revolutionary move, it’s also one that make me wonder what this move means for those like me and Charlene, and Jordan, who aren’t NYT Bestsellers. How will it effect us if more “Big Name” authors follow in his footsteps? Will it effect us?

One thing is for certain, it’ll be along time before things are settled again in this industry.

Monday, March 7th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Sloppy Writing

(This is adapted from a post I did on my own blog last month.)

Something I thought about a lot on this last revision (Kitty 10) is how sloppy my writing was.  How sloppy my writing is still, even after 20 years of working at writing.  It may even be more sloppy now than it was, say, six or seven years ago when I trying to sell my first novel.  I kept correcting things that I knew were wrong, grammatically incorrect, vague, and confusing, and I kicked myself for not catching them on the first draft, because I really do know better.

However, I think this is subjective.  All in my own perception and not really  objectively true at all.  It’s impossible for me to tell (unless I went to dig up some old rough drafts, which I don’t really feel like doing).  I came up with two possibilities:

  1. Yes, my writing is actually sloppier because I’m writing the first drafts faster, because of deadlines and scheduling and so forth.  First drafts don’t matter if I can catch the problems on the revision, so I really shouldn’t worry.
  2. My writing isn’t any sloppier than it used to be, but as time has passed and I’ve gotten (I hope) better, I’m actually much more sensitive to sloppiness and mistakes than I used to be.  I’m actually catching more sloppiness, fixing more mistakes, and (I hope) getting better at this.

As with most things, it’s probably a combination of the two.  But sometimes, it feels a bit like whack-a-mole — for every problem I fix, two more seem to creep in to take its place.

To think, there was a time when I thought this would get easier. . .

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 by Candace Havens
Feedback Makes You Better

In an effort to help new writers to understand what happens after they sign with an agent, I’ve asked the lovely Jamie Harrington to share her recent experience with feedback from her agent on her manuscript. Her young adult novel is currently being shopped. -Candace Havens

Feedback Makes You Better

When I signed with my agent, I knew how much she loved my manuscript. She couldn’t stop talking about my unique voice, super fun plot, and fantastic characters–and I didn’t want her to. It was one of those fist pumping, dance worthy, win moments writers imagine.

Then she sent me her notes on the manuscript.


Wow. She ripped it up. Why didn’t I show more interiority? Was I sure the main character didn’t come off as condescending? Maybe the ending I wrote wasn’t the best way to finish the story. Of course that random person nodded her head. What else would she nod?

But, I thought she loved my book? It was just the high concept, fast paced story she’d been looking for.

Why would she sign me if I didn’t know how to write?

Exactly. She never would have signed me if she didn’t see the awesomeness in my work, and the awesomeness in me. She knew I had what it took to turn my story into something fantastic. I’ve had crit partners tear my stuff up before, and it didn’t freak me out as much, but I think that’s because if they didn’t like my story, then it wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. They weren’t going to be the ones championing my book to all those big scary editors, so if they saw the flaws in my writing, then oh well.

I took another look at the notes, and then I cried.

That’s right. I actually cried over edits. Not because I didn’t agree with them, not because I didn’t have the time to do them, but because I was scared I couldn’t.

How dumb is that?

Then I called a writer friend. If you don’t have any writer friends. Then stop reading this post right now and go out and make some. You have to have them, because they are the only people on the planet that understand what a crazy mixed up place the publishing industry truly is.

Since my aforementioned friend is much further along in the business than I am, she had some sage advice. And, since I’m a little worried that you didn’t run out and get some writer friends like I just told you to, I’ll share:

Don’t do anything for three days.

Of course, when she said it, I wanted to laugh her right off the phone. I just got my very first agent feedback and she was telling me I had to wait three days to do it? No freakin’ way. Sure, I pretended to listen–got off the phone and sat down at my computer, ready to get to work.

Then I cried again.

Well, it wasn’t worth crying over, and maybe my multi-published author friend was right. Maybe, just maybe she knew what she was talking about. So, I closed the notes and didn’t look at them again for three whole days.

Something crazy started to happen, I started to form a plan of attack in my mind. By the time I opened up the document again, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and it didn’t look so scary anymore.

And, so I edited. Don’t get me wrong, it was a slow process that sometimes made me want to pull my hair out, but as I went through her feedback and really read it–that’s when I realized that without her it, I wouldn’t be able to take my story to the next level of amazing.

Jamie Harrington is an author that spends her days frantically writing about super heroes and band geeks. She blogs at Totally the You can also find her mindlessly chatting away all day on twitter.

Monday, April 12th, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
Technology Marches On

We’ve talked a lot about various publishing technologies.  Today I want to talk about editing technologies.  Serious question here:  How do you all feel about the Track Changes and Review functions in MS Word?

Here’s what’s happening.  My first few books went through the editorial process in a completely traditional manner.  That is, I sent in a hard copy of the manuscript.  My editor sent back the copy with notes all over it and an editorial letter explaining the novel’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as details I ought to address.  I’d revise it and send back another hard copy.  This is what went to the copy editor, who marked it up.  I would then go over the hard copy, accepting or rejecting changes, making more changes of my own, etc.  Then the manuscript went to typesetting where it was turned into a book.

Over the last year or so I’ve been working with new editors at different publishers.  These editors have been incorporating electronic editing methods.  It’s now possible to go through the entire editorial process without a single hard copy.  The editor can make “review” notes throughout the text in the electronic file.  The copy editor can make changes electronically, which show up as highlighted marks, which I can accept or reject, or type over so it shows both our changes.  (I still print a hard copy to use for the revision stage, because I find looking at the book in a different format to be incredibly useful.  Being able to look at various scenes side by side and to scribble my thoughts with a pen help me think through problems.  Textual problems like typos, repeated words, and so on jump out on the page when they might not on a screen.)

The benefits of this method are apparent:  No paper and mailing costs.  The process moves faster.  The changes go right into the file without having to be transferred, with all the attendant mistakes that can creep in.

I see all these benefits.  I like these benefits.  However:  Electronic editing drives me a little bit crazy.

I’m getting used to it.  But often the notes seem invasive.  When the copy editor has already made changes to the text, it’s harder for me to see what I originally wrote, to be able to compare.  Because it’s easier for editors to make notes and changes, there seem to be more of them.  Because I’m used to working with pen and paper, it’s harder for me to think about solutions when I’m staring at the screen — especially staring at a note that has highlighted an entire paragraph in red.  All I see is, well, red.

Mainly, I’m a little peeved right now because I thought I was done with my current round of editorial notes (I had the letter, I had hard copy notes from the manuscript).  Then I discovered, attached to the e-mailed letter, a Word file containing even more notes entered electronically.  Sigh…

I think this is the wave of the future and most editing will go this way, for better or worse.  I’m aware that many of my reactions are those of a luddite stuck in her habits and unwilling to make the effort to change.  So, how do other writers who have worked with these functions feel?  Do you have any advice on how to cope when I’m clinging to my dead-tree ways?

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 by Sasha White

As someone who has always been a pretty mediocre student as far as classrooms and schooling went, the idea of critiquing someone elses work never really sat well with me. I always worried that I’d give the wrong advice, say the wrong thing, or worse yet…have nothing to offer as a critique partner. However, after years of writing and working with many different authors as both giver and receiver of feedback, I’ve learned a things or two. This little post is something I wrote up on the art of critiquing a while ago, and I thought I’d share it with you today.

Critiquing is a delicate thing. But I believe it’s a critical step in the process of improving your writing. For one thing, it can help you to build a rapport with other authors and a strong support system that is about more than the technical aspects of writing.

Receiving a critique is also a good way to find out how others view your work. You can see if the story in your mind is coming across loud and clear on paper, and find out where your stories need more development, more plot, less description…all sorts of things. Beyond that, giving a crit not only helps out a fellow writer, but it also help’s you to develop a more discerning eye towards your own work.

When you’re ready to open up your work to others for feedback your first step should be to find a critique partner that you feel comfortable with. Someone that is familiar with the genre that you’re targeting, who is willing to take the time to look at what you have, and that you trust will offer an honest opinion.

Writing is a very solitary thing. It’s also a very personal thing. Not matter what you’re writing; you put your personality, your effort, and a bit of your heart into every piece. It’s not easy to hand that over to someone and ask “Tell me what’s wrong with this.”

That courage needs to be respected.

Everyone has strong and weak areas when it comes to writing, and it’s important that we recognize this. And very important that we take care in the way we express our opinions of another’s weakness. It’s often easier to see mistakes in another’s work than it is in our own. But spotting the errors in another’s writing isn’t all there is to giving a critique.

When you take another person’s baby, (Don’t ever doubt that that’s how they think of it) and are given a red pen to do with what you will, be kind. But also be honest. You’re not doing that person any favors by telling that that they have written a fantastic story when you can see areas that need to be improved upon. Trust me, they’d rather hear it from you, than in a rejection letter from an editor or agent that will not give them a second chance to present their baby for consideration. However, there is no need to be overly critical, or superior, in the way you highlight those areas.

The key to giving a good critique is to be honest about trouble areas you spot, and equally honest about the good. Everyone enjoys a pat on the shoulder for a job well done and writers are no different.

You need to have the same strength of mind when receiving a critique. You need to know that no matter what anyone tells you about your story, that it is your story to tell and that the critique you receive is only suggestions for you to take or leave.It’s up to you to use or reject their advice. The most valuable tool a writer has is individual voice and that is something that you should fight to maintain.

SIDE NOTE: If you’re surfing around the web today, be sure to drop by my new Messageboard for the launch party. There will be guests, excerpts, doorprizes and giveaways.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 by Joe Nassise
Revision checklist

I’m deep into revising my second Jeremiah Hunt novel based on the notes from my editor.  Next to me as I work is a checklist I found on Darcy Patterson’s Fiction Notes blog several weeks ago which I’ve found to be useful tool in helping me stay focused on getting the most out of each of my scenes.

For those who haven’t seen it, I thought I’d share some of it here and you can hop over to Darcy’s blog (see above) to catch the rest.

I’d also be interested in hearing what you might add to the list from your own revision sessions…

Ten Point Checklist for Scenes

  • Where/When. (Setting) Did you orient the reader at the beginning of the scene? Does the reader know where this takes place: room in house, city, state, country, etc? Does the reader know when this takes place: time of day, season of year, place within chronology of story? If the answer to where or when is no, do you have a firm reason for leaving the reader disoriented?
  • Stakes. Are the stakes of the scene goal clear? If the protagonist fails, do we understand the consequences? Are the consequences substantial? Can you put more at stake, or make it matter in some way?
  • Structure. Is the structure clear, with a beginning, middle, pivot point and ending? Is the chronology of the scene clear (did you use transitions such as then, later, before, after, etc.)?
  • Actions. Are the actions of the scene interesting, and told with active verbs and great clarity?
  • Emotions. Are the emotions clearly stated or implied? Can the reader empathize with the characters? Does the reader weep or laugh, even when the character can’t or won’t?

… you can find the rest at Fiction Notes

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