Self Editing

Editing is not my favorite part of the writing process. Other than formatting, it’s probably my least favorite. How can one stay focused while doing something one dislikes? You have to have a plan and work through each step. I tend to get finished with one step and get really excited and jump ahead to ordering a proof and then remember that I have a few more steps before I should actually be ordering a proof.

Ordering a proof before you are actually ready, is pretty much a waste of time and money. If you know there are more steps that you need to take, then ordering before you finish ensures that you will have to order a second or third proof copy.

So slow your roll and work through the process before you move to the next step in your publishing journey. Self editing is a lot of work. Once you have the first draft of your novel, you are going to want to put it aside and then read your book.

did you loose track of a minor character somewhere? are descriptions the same throughout? are names the same throughout? do you use a skill in the first half and then never use it again? Are you trying to solve problems in the second half without any mention of the possible solution in the first half? Does your character have an arc? Is there a logical progression to all aspects of your story? Do your characters stay in character throughout the novel?

These are big questions and you will need to go through your novel slowly and methodically to get to the answers. This is similar to a first round of a developmental edit.

Second, really focus on your sentence structure. Use a program such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid to find mistakes in grammar, repeated words, passive voice where you didn’t mean to use it. Sentences that are difficult to understand or follow.

Put your novel aside for a week. Read your novel from start to finish. How is the pacing of the story, fast where you want it to be and slow where you want it? does it sag in the middle? did you rush your ending? does it start in the right place and with the right question? is the question in the beginning answered in the end?

Finally, go through with the ProWritingAid or Grammarly again to fix what you messed up with the last round. You can hold off until the end to do all of this but for me it is distracting to try to read it with messed up grammar and such.

Find beta readers. Order Proofs of the book. Even if you don’t have a final cover yet, you can create a simple dummy cover for the proofs. Hand them out to 4 or 5 people and have them read it and make notes in the margins. If they are really good friends ask them to read it twice. First time for just the enjoyment of the story and the second time looking for problems. After the first read through, they can write up some thoughts about the overall story and any questions or praise they have. For the second read through, tell them to rip it apart and not to hold back.

When you do ask others to provide feedback and critic your writing you have to be accepting of the feedback and not get defensive. Just hear what they say. You don’t have to change a thing. It’s your book after all.

Good Luck!

Lost in the World

Writing fantasy and sci-fi takes a very special idea in this day and age. It takes a unique question twisted up with a theme set in a world with beings who struggle, fail and through dumb luck and fierce will answer the question and find their path.

As a fantasy and sci-fi writer you get lost in your world, but you have to be careful not to delve too deeply that your story is never written. If you are spending so much time creating every detail of your world from the very beginning, you are probably never going to finish the book or series that inspired the world to begin with.

Why? because by the time you are finished building the world, which will take years, your story is finished in your mind and no longer peaks your interest. You have moved on to bigger ideas and the next adventure.

World building is a joy laced with satisfaction and challenge. Yes, you need to have a good idea about how your world looks, feels, sounds, evolves, and functions in most aspects of life.

I suggest getting down a framework, more than just an outline, but not as much as could be considered a novel in and of itself. Leave some wholes, you will need them later as your world grows.

Filling in all the blanks prevents you from having the flexibility to create something later to move your story forward. Leave things ambiguous. Leave questions unanswered. Leave ideas not fully explained.

Things happen as novels come to life and characters begin to interfere with what the writer had in mind. If you are not able to add things in because you have everything so locked in place from the beginning, you will have to go back and rewrite the entire novel. It’s not fun and everyone who has been writing long enough, has probably made this mistake.

Half written books live on all writers computers. It’s possible to dust them off and overhaul them after you leave them for a few years and forget many of the details. It is easier to just write the first draft, leaving question marks here and there and then go through a second and third maybe a fourth time and flesh things out more as needed.

You may intend for a novel to be a stand alone, and then a year after it’s published find yourself pulled back into the world for a sequel or two. If you haven’t left unanswered questions this can make it very difficult to finish what you started.

Forever Learning

As an author and writer it is critical that you continue learning and improving your craft. Yes this means that the books you wrote a year ago will not be as good as the books you are writing now. Well, that’s how it should be. We can all learn to be stronger writers, to use more detail salient prose. To pull our readers down into the crucible along side our characters.

This is what sharing the stories in your head is all about after all and the better you get, the more you can engage your readers. There are so many resources out there to improve your writing. There are podcasts, blogs, YouTube (authortube) content creators, books and conferences/conventions. I say take advantage of all that fits in your time and financial budget without stopping the momentum of your writing and getting to that completed first draft.

It does make it hard when you learn something and realize that you have to go back and re-edit your latest work in progress because you did something “you should never do.” Things in the writing world are always developing and there are always new people coming on scene. The great thing about this is that you may resonate more with one person’s suggestions than another or what one particular person says just clicks with you and what you have been trying to learn just comes in a rush.

This is why you should never limit the sources you explore. I’m not saying you should try everything anyone says about writing. I’m saying find a few people you jive with and follow them while at the same time keeping your eye out for new material or old material presented in a new way.

Taking Your Outline Too Far

Some people outline and some don’t. Neither way is wrong. Some people do both, depending on the book they are writing and how it comes into their head. If you do outline your book before diving into the first draft, make sure your outline stays an outline and doesn’t become so detailed that you feel like you have written the book before you even start the book.

If you dive too deep into your outline, you may loose your motivation to actually write the book from start to finish. You will feel like you have already written it and it’s no longer interesting or fun. When you loose the fun and interest in the story and characters, it is very difficult to keep the tension you need to keep your readers turning pages.

How do you know if you are taking your outline too far? Your outline is becoming very lengthy and very detailed. You are not just making some notes with a few details and maybe a line or two of dialog, you are fleshing out entire scenes and full on conversations. You are describing every detail of a room and the clothing or other things present. You delve deep into the thoughts and feelings of a character.

An outline is just that, an outline. It gives you a sense of direction as you move from scene to scene and from plot point to plot point. It is not your manuscript. It shouldn’t look like your manuscript. A reader should not want to read your outline, although other authors may want to.

Happy Writing!

Commit and Finish

So many people want to write a book. I think it must be on about 65% of the populations bucket list. Yes, I just pulled that out of my back pocket, but it feels right. They may even delve into the pool of ideas and words. The struggle for most who get to the point of starting a book is they give up and never finish it.

Writing is hard. It takes a lot of time. There is a steep learning curve. There is so much more that goes into publishing a book than just writing a bunch of words on a page and throwing it out there for the world. Well there is if you want to sell your book. If you are only writing for your family and friends, then it doesn’t have to be perfect or even look professional. If you are writing to get readers outside of your family it does need to be professional.

This post is about finishing what you have started and part of that is not getting lost in the overwhelming tasks ahead of you. Focus on finishing your manuscript first and foremost. There are somethings you will want to start doing while you are writing, if you intend for your book to sell to more than your family and friends and especially if you want to have a writing career either full or part-time. We’ll talk about those things later.

Set yourself a word count goal and set aside time each day or each week to write. This is important if writing is your hobby or if you are working full time at the day job. Word count goals should be something you can reasonably achieve. You don’t want it to be something too high where it is difficult to achieve because if you fall behind it is easy to just give up and say you cant do it. So consider this goal carefully.

Having a special time and space to do your writing is also helpful. The time is probably a bit easier than the space. Both are a challenge when you have a full time job and a family. You can write on your phone as well. There are many apps that are specific for writers. You can just keep ideas or you can compose a full novel in the spare moments you find hiding in the bathroom or in a closet.

If you can only find an hour a week, then start there. Start with a word count of 150 words for each hour you have to write. If that is way easy, then bump it up a bit. The point is to make it doable and also motivating. If you go over, that doesn’t mean you get credit for the next session and can skip. If you need to miss a session try to make it up somewhere else.

Tell other people who care about you. If you tell those who support you in your goals then they can help make sure you have your time to write. They can also hold you accountable and encourage you to keep at it. This can be critical when things are difficult or you hit a block or lack motivation.

Just keep at it. It can take years to write a book. It’s okay. It really is. Lots of authors only produce one book every year or more. You have to work within your life.

Mama’s Choice

Mama’s Choice is now available in the Amazon store. This is a wonderful book for all types of mother child relationships including adoption, kinship, stepparents, and natural parents. Mama’s are more than the ones who carry us in their bellies or sit upon our eggs. Mama means hugs, kisses, and cuddles. Mama means I love you always and forever. Mama’s Choice can be a gift for mom on Mother’s day, her birthday, adoption day or just because. Moms and children will love this tender book about what a mama is with pictures showing different mother child relationships including some you would not expect. All are actually found in the world, most of the animal relationships are among the families at sanctuaries.

Big Feelings Little Ballerina

Big Feelings, Little Ballerina is now available in both ebook and paperback on Amazon! This is a debut children’s picture book for Nicole McBride.

Riley Ann is a little ballerina with big feelings and when they happen, she says not so nice things to people she loves. No one wants to play with Riley Ann because she isn’t very nice. Riley Ann and Mama come up with a plan to gain her friends back. Will Riley Ann’s plan help her stop saying mean things that hurt other’s feelings? Let Riley Ann help your little ballerina come up with her own plan of dealing with big big feelings. Get your copy here.

Back Cover Blurb

The little piece of story found on the back of a book is called the back cover blurb, well that’s what we call it anyway. These few sentences have a lot of work to do. Their job is a continuation from the front cover.

The front cover shoots out the tractor beam drawing the reader in with its irresistible call and gets them to pick up the book from there, it’s up to the back cover to seal the deal.

So how do you write a great, no an amazing, no an award winning blurb? By boiling your book down to the most intriguing one to three paragraph summary, without spoilers, and lots of foreshadowing.

Introduce your main point of view character, set the scene, hint at the character’s ghost (hidden past, trauma, loss) and the give them a taste of the plot.

Doing some heavy in the trenches research is going to lead to a big payoff here. Take your handy dandy notebook (yes, that’s a blues clues reference) and held to your nearest bookstore or library. Virtual visits and research is accepted.

Look at books from the genre you are writing in. How long, what’s the structure, what elements of the story are covered, what point of view is used?

Your blurb should leave the reader with unanswered questions and a connection to a character. I know this is really difficult in just a few paragraphs. That’s why you need to research and write it over and over. Have people review it. Have followers vote on versions before choosing one.

Cover Research

The cover of your book is arguably the most important piece of creating your book. I believe the statement “Don’t judge a book by its cover is exactly opposite of what happens.” is now a cliché. I’ve read some rendition of that statement on every blog and heard it in every YouTube video on creating your cover that I have read/seen. That said, it is absolutely true.

Your cover is the first thing readers see. It is the thing that get’s them to pick up your book in the first place. It get’s them to turn it over and read the blurb on the back. It may even be the selling point of the book if it is eye catching and intriguing enough.

How do you make sure your cover is something that pulls your readers rather than repels them? The first step is doing your research. Go to the book store, virtual right now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Once the pandemic allows and you are comfortable with venturing out, go in person and also head to your local library. Take a note book with you. Find the section for the genre you are writing and go through the books. Look at their covers, I mean really look.

Keep notes on what is popular, what you don’t like and what you like. Is there a person on the front. More than one, what is in the background, what colors seem to be the most prominent. Where is the title placed. How big is the Title. How big is the author name. Where is the author’s name placed. Is there something about the way the art is done such as faded backgrounds or metallic colors with some sparkle to them.

Don’t for get to look at the spine and the back as well. The spine is very important because in a physical bookstore, it’s likely the first thing readers see. Does the art wrap all the way around the book. Is the color uniform. What aspect of the art is on the back. Does it interfere with reading the blurb. What else is on the back cover. Publisher’s name. Age range. Quotes from the book or book reviews.

In person research is important because you need to ask yourself these questions: How does the book feel in your hand. Can you feel the cover design. Is it a matte finish or glossy. Is it a hardcover or paperback. Does it have a dust jacket.

I would start with virtual research even when it is safe and you are comfortable (not always the same thing) going to places in person. It is easier to find best sellers virtually. You can search on Amazon for the best sellers in your genre. This is great especially if you plan to publish on Amazon. If you are publishing wide, you will want to look for more extensive best seller lists just to be sure you are all inclusive in your research.

I recommend looking at and taking notes on 15 to 20 top selling books. This should give you a good idea of what is catching readers attention in the genre. Yes some books sell because of the author and the book cover could be bad, but with looking at 15 to 20 books you should be able to weed those ones out.

With the research you have collected, there are a few ways to find a book cover. 1. hire a book cover designer. You can find some on Fiverr.com and upwork.com are the most recommended cites to find this work. Etsy also has book cover designers. Please do your research on designers and get samples of their work before you hire them. Try to find reviews of their work and look on other self publishing author’s websites for recommendations. Make sure they understand the genre you are publishing in. Work closely with them especially if they are a newer designer. You will want PDF and PNG files of the book cover and the Title. You need to use the same font/typeface for the title page as what is on your cover.

Second option: buy a premade book cover. There are a bunch of them out there: bookcoverzone.com, thebookcoverdesigner.com, and selfpubbookcovers.com. Most of these websites with premade covers also offer custom cover designing as well. Looking at these cites can also help in the research.

Third option: design and create your own cover. This is time consuming unless you already have the programs and skills to do it. You can teach yourself to do this if you have hours and hours of time to dedicate to it. This is the last option for a reason. Most people can’t do this well.

If you are creating your own or buying a premade book cover, have other people look at it and critic it. If you have a following on instagram, facebook, or other social media platform ask for feedback or take a poll between two or three designs you are considering.

Happy writing and creating.

Back Matter

Back matter or end matter is the stuff you put at the end of your story. It’s what you type after you have typed “The End.” Just as in front matter, there are a lot of different things you can stick at the back of your book. Some of it is standard and some of it is dependent on the genre you are writing in. Some of the elements in your front matter can be included as back matter instead. Some authors even put their call to action in both the front and the back along with the list of their other books.

Why would you put these elements in both the front and the back of the book? because if a reader picks up your book and flips through the first pages or previews the book on Amazon, then they see you have other books so even if they don’t buy the one they are looking at, they may go and buy another. For the call to action, they may not buy your book right then but look you up on their smart phone and follow you on your social media sites, which may get you book sales in the future.

For a list of the elements you can put in either front or back matter, see last weeks post all about front matter here.

Here are some elements for you to think about when deciding what to put after your story:

Epilogue: this comes immediately after the main text. The purpose is to provide a sense of closure to the book. Basically it is your last chapter called by a different name. It is the resolution portion of your book or the what happens after the climax of the story. It can be set in the future like 10 years later or in the days following the climax.

Afterword: This element explores how the book came to be written, how the idea developed. It is the same as the Preface but at the end. It can also be more similar to a Forward but at the end. If used more like a forward, it is typically written by someone other than the author and covers the books historical and cultural impact.

Postscript: Basically another word for afterword. It is typically found as letters or personal communications between the author and someone else about why the book was written or the authors desire for the impact of the story and theme being communicated.

Extro or Outro: This is the opposite of an introduction. It’s used to conclude the book. It’s not often seen in books but music. However, you can include it in a book.

Appendix or Addendum: This includes supplementary information about the book such as extra details, updates and corrections to earlier materials.

Glossary: This is a collection of terms from the book. Its purpose is to explain new, uncommon or specialized terms to provide a clear definition for the reader. It’s like the books personal dictionary.

Index: This is used to find terms in the book. It is an alphabetized list of terms and indicates on which pages the terms are used.

Bibliography or works cited/reference list: This is a list of resources the author used in the book or are someway relevant to the book. You can include a bit of detail in this section about why references were used and a brief summary of the reference material.

Colophon: This provides information on the printing and publishing process of the work, mostly the technical details. It can include the type of paper used to print the book, the ink, the binding used, and the typeface (font). Sometimes the information about the typeface is separate and called “Note on Type” and includes a detailed description of the typeface, its history and characteristics.

About the author page: This is where the author provides a brief summary of their previous work, education and personal life.

Copywrite permissions: if the author has sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended excerpts from other books it should be included here.

Discussion questions: This is thought-provoking questions and prompts about the book intended for use in school settings or book clubs.

Chronology or timeline: This is mainly found in nonfiction but could be helpful in a fiction series like epic fantasy.

End notes: This is supplementary notes that related to specific passages of the text and is denoted in the body of the book with a superscript. Mostly used in nonfiction but it has also been used is classic fiction as well.

As you can see, there are a lot of choices. Try not to overwhelm the reader and only include what you believe is beneficial to the readers understanding of the book. Try not to duplicate things from the front matter.