Posts Tagged ‘editing’
I’m approaching the revision process for the last two books of The Steam and Steel Chronicles, and thought I might share my revision process, as it stands now. It’s based on Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revision process (I highly recommend reading that post before you finish this one—go ahead, I’ll wait), though I’ve made a number of tweaks to it that fit my own way of writing and revising.
A couple of points before I begin, though:
- One-pass revision is probably not going to work well for first-time novelists or first-time revisers. If you’ve never revised a novel or if this is your first novel, you’re almost certainly going to need to do more than one pass. That’s okay.
- You need to figure out what method works best for you. If you prefer to go over your manuscript ten times, then that’s fine. Personally, I don’t. My goal is to continue writing new things, and get the old things as perfect as is reasonable in as little time as is possible. That means 1-2 revision cycles, tops.
So, without further ado, here is my method: (more…)
I just came across some pretty disturbing information about the time frames involved in legacy publishing. Right now, from the time a book is signed until it’s actually released is running upwards of two years. TWO YEARS! And in some cases, we’re talking about ebooks taking that long!
What on earth are publishers doing with writers’ manuscripts that it takes them two years to publish them? I mean, seriously. I’m asking the question.
As an individual, I can put an ebook out in a matter of months. That includes a couple rounds of editing, copyediting, cover design, formatting, uploading, and marketing. And I work full time, so it’s not like I just have all day to do these things. If I can do this in a matter of months, why does it take publishers years? These are people with staff. With resources at their fingertips I could only dream of. And it takes them twenty-four months to put out a novel? As a freakin’ ebook?
And if you tell me that it’s because of backlog, because there’s too much in the pipeline to begin with, then the problem is only going to get worse. I’d say it’s time to fix that pipeline problem. Hire some additional staff or publish fewer books, faster. It’s not rocket science. I’ve worked with a large publisher, and I have to tell you that the inefficiencies in that system are astonishing.
Yet they wonder why indies are doing so well? As an indie author, I can see a market trend that I find interesting and I can write to it. I don’t have to wait three or four years (if you consider the time to write the book, get an agent, make the submissions rounds, and finally get signed, in addition to the actual publishing time) for someone else to put my book out. I see a trend, decide if it’s something I can actually passionately write about, and I can write it and have it out before that trend has reached its peak.
Publishers have a very hard time doing that anymore, because their publishing workflow and timeline is just too damn long. There are too many steps to the process that aren’t necessary and there are too many points of failure (and let me tell you, they do fail, and in my experience, they fail quite often). There are hundreds of digital tools out there that can be used to speed up the publication process and make it more productive and more useful, and from what I can tell, large publishers aren’t using any of them.
Granted, some publishers are putting books out rather quickly, in less than a year (my own non-fiction book was done in less than eight months between the time I signed the contract and the time it was available on Amazon, and less than a year when you look back to when the proposal was originally submitted). Some small fiction publishers manage to get books out in a matter of months. But the standard, the length of time most legacy published authors are coming to expect, is now eighteen months to two years. And that’s after the contract is signed.
I’m sorry, but this isn’t acceptable. Let’s actually crunch the numbers here:
I write a novel. Let’s say it takes me six months to get it into submission-ready condition (which is typical for a lot of professional, career-oriented authors). Let’s say I start this on January 1, 2012 (for ease of tracking). It’s ready to go on July 1, 2012.
I send it out to agents. It takes six months to find an agent who wants to take me on (which is honestly probably a bit on the quick side, as I know a lot of people who sub for much longer, but we’ll be optimistic here). It’s now January 1, 2013. It takes that agent another three months to find an interested publisher, and a month beyond that to negotiate an acceptable contract (again, this is being optimistic, but I’m trying to paint a best-case scenario here, not a worst-case one). It’s now May 1, 2013.
The publisher schedules it for release in April of 2015, just under two years after the contract is signed. But that’s three years and three months after I started writing the thing. And don’t forget that I’ll need to do a good bit of marketing after the book is released, so I better just round it up to four years.
Now, let’s say I have a very good agent, and she gets me a good advance for a first-time author: $30,000 for the book. I know a lot of authors would jump at that kind of advance, and a lot of them are getting paid a whole lot less than that. But broken down yearly, that’s only $7,500.
You might argue that during the two years that book is with the publisher I can be writing other things. But that publisher might just (probably does) have a clause in their contract saying I can’t publish any other novels (or even book-length works) before this one comes out. So effectively, my hands are tied. And the publisher isn’t going to contract another book from me until they see how the first one fares.
$7,500 a year. A part-time minimum wage job at McDonald’s pays more than that. Sure, you might get royalties down the line, but probably not until after that four years is up. And even then it’s completely up in the air whether you’ll actually get anything more than your initial advance. And we’re expected to make a living on that? I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t cover my mortgage for the year (and I live in a very, very inexpensive area).
Authors need to look at writing and publishing as a business if they want to actually make a living at it (and if you don’t, then ignore what I’m saying here). You need to site down and crunch the numbers and the time involved in each and figure out which one fits your own goals. Just remember that there are indie published authors out there who are making the best seller lists (including at least two in the Kindle Millions Club), so that’s not a deciding factor anymore.
So I’m finishing up the edits on The Smashing Idea Book this weekend. I’ve got two chapters left to finish, and I decided to do what I thought was going to be a major revision on part of one of those chapters, basically combining two sections and cutting part of each. It’s been intimidating just thinking about this bit of revision, because it felt like such a huge change. I’ve sat here in front of my MacBook for hours just staring at the chapter, trying to figure out how to combine these two parts and make it all make sense and sound like it was meant to be that way all along.
I was getting nowhere. My deadline is tomorrow. I do not miss deadlines unless there’s something horribly, horribly wrong. I’m not about to start now.
Finally, I copied and pasted the two offending sections into a new document and printed them out. It’s only about nine paragraphs total, and it fit on a single page.
It took me ten minutes to do the necessary edits on paper. Ten. Minutes. After I’d spent hours looking at a screen and feeling very, very discouraged. What felt like a HUGE edit turned out to be rephrasing five sentences, adding one sentence, and moving three paragraphs. That’s it. That’s all it took.
I couldn’t see that when it was on my screen. I couldn’t get a glimpse of the big picture, and instead kept trying to focus on each individual part. Once it was on paper, in front of me, it immediately became apparent that the content wasn’t as disjointed between the two sections as I’d feared.
The moral of all this is that if you’re stuck on something during the editing process, try changing formats. Print it out. Upload it to your e-reader. Change the font. It will give you a new perspective and sometimes make what seemed like a daunting challenge a whole lot easier.
The structure of a novel can make or break it. If it’s well-structured—as in the pacing is good, the events happen in the most logical order (even if that’s not necessarily chronologically), and the characters do things you’d expect them to do—that’s more than half the battle. And if you’re lucky, the structure is pretty good starting with the first draft. Most of my novels/novellas are like this (now—maybe not in the beginning), but not all of them.
One of the novels I’m working on now wasn’t so lucky. The first draft was okay. It was actually pretty good until about 2/3 of the way through. And then it kind of fell flat. The ending sucked, to put it bluntly.
So on my first round of revisions, I rewrote the ending entirely. My protagonist made a better decision to start with, and then I added in a new twist after that, and then everything wrapped up more or less neatly. But I still didn’t really like it. I kept looking back at my original ending, wondering if there was something there after all. (more…)
Considering this blog is “Cameron Chapman On Writing” and not “Cameron Chapman Promoting Her Books and Nothing Else”, I thought it was time to get back to writing about writing. Besides, there’s a nice, big, shiny link to where you can buy Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris in the sidebar.
So today I’d like to talk about my strategies for revising and editing my work. Some writers have very set techniques for editing their work. Others are sort of all over the place. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. (more…)
I’ve written before about using beta readers to find holes or inconsistencies in your manuscript. Good beta readers, including good online critique sites, can be an invaluable part of polishing your novel or other writing, especially if you’re fairly new to writing and your betas are more experienced (or more widely read).
But there are downsides to beta readers, too. (more…)
I was talking to a friend on Facebook the other day and he mentioned something about how I knew all these great resources online for writers. I have a tendency to forget that not every writer out there knows a lot about the resources the internet has to offer them. I work online on a daily basis, constantly looking up new resources for one project or another, and come across new tools all the time.
So I’m going to attempt to put together all the best resources I’ve found useful into a single reference guide for fiction writers. I’ve scoured my Google Bookmarks to come up with this list. If you have other tools you’ve found useful that aren’t included here, please share them in the comments! (more…)
I still can’t believe it’s nearly 2011. I’ll be turning 27 this year (which sounds so much older than 25, or even 26). I’m still refusing to grow up. Now that I’m getting toward my late 20s, I feel like I’m finally ready to be a teenager! When I was a teenager, I was always acting like an adult (though not a particularly responsible one). I bought a house when I was 19, became in insurance agent, and generally started acting like I was 35. So now that I’m firmly rooted in adulthood, I’m ready to have fun and act like a teenager.
So that leads me to my resolutions for this year. There are some big ones, for sure. And even if I don’t achieve all of them (remember, I’m not afraid to fail, as long as I’ve at least tried), I plan on making positive steps toward them. And that’s all we can really do, right?
“Kill your darlings” is probably one of the hardest things for a lot of writers to do. And yet, if you want the final draft of your novel or short story to be as close to perfect as it can be, it’s necessary to cut all those wonderful little bits of prose that you’re just in love with. (more…)
Mondays are notorious for being the least-favorite day of the week for the majority of working people. Just because I work for myself doesn’t mean I’m any different. While I don’t dislike Mondays, I’m certainly a lot less productive on Monday than on most other days of the week. But I’ve figured out a nice little secret to dealing with Mondays if you’re anything like me.
Don’t fight it.
That’s right, don’t fight the Monday blahs. I don’t. And because of that, my Mondays are much less stressful than they used to be.
See, I used to treat Monday like any other workday. I got up in the morning and tried to get as much work done as possible before I called it quits for the day. And that usually resulted in me feeling like I hadn’t gotten as much done as I should have at the end of the day. After all, if I could write two articles on the average Wednesday, why could I barely outline one on a Monday?
But the truth is, I’m just naturally less productive on Mondays than on other days. I’m usually coming off a very busy weekend and sometimes I don’t make it to bed until after midnight on Sundays. So it’s no wonder Mondays aren’t my best day.
Finally, I started just not worrying about how much work I get done on Mondays. I use it as a sort of planning day. I try to get everything in order for the rest of the week. I do some research. I catch up on email. I update my productivity system to reflect what I have to do that week. And when I get sick of work for the day (which could happen anywhere between 1:00 and 5:00), I stop working.
Occasionally, I write on Mondays. But only if the mood strikes me. Sometimes I edit on Mondays, but I’ve found that’s not always productive, and I either have a hard time focusing or I tend to nitpick and be too harsh (not good for editor-writer relations).
On some Mondays, I go visit my grandmother, who lives a little over an hour from me. If I didn’t make it to see her on the weekend, Monday afternoons seem like as good a time as any. It brightens my day and hers (she’s 90 years old and just gave up living alone this winter).
Since I started treating Mondays as a “workday lite”, I’ve found I’m actually much more productive the rest of the week. I wake up on Tuesday ready to get tons of stuff done. And I don’t dread Mondays. In fact, I look forward to them, as I love the work I do and don’t feel the pressure I used to to get everything possible done every single day. Sometimes it is better to put off till tomorrow what you could do today.