Tag Archives: editing

“This is a really great book.”

16 Feb

Reading a really good book is a wonderful opening into someone else’s world. It can refresh you after reading mediocre… or just plain bad books. However, it can also be terribly disheartening when trying to write your own.

Not that quality has anything to do with success; but it helps. I try to reassure myself that if really bad books can somehow make it to be published, sometimes hitting the best seller lists, then my decently written books can also be read and enjoyed.

So recently, I’ve finished reading “The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (“bag of galoshes”) and was bowled away by it. First off, because it was set in post-apocolyptic Bangkok, which appealed to me greatly since I lived there for a year. However, second, it was the perfect mix of steampunk and cyberpunk which fit beautifully together. It was also a great choice, because even though it was written ten years ago, it’s setting of a world ravaged by genetically engineered diseases and climate change didn’t seem too far fetched. The characters were wonderful, nuanced, and blended well together to tell the whole story of a Thailand in trouble.

However, it also had another side effect. It made me completely stop wanting to write my own story. Of course, I wasn’t that motivated to outline it as of late, but having my own story set after the warming seemed rather trite after reading the major award winning book. What kind of story could I tell that could compare with that?!

So I feel like I need a better story idea–and after reading Leviathan Wakes, I’m realizing that my merchant marine in space story is kinda weak tea as well. Thankfully, I already knew that was whale puke, so that’ll have to sit in the electronic desk drawer for a little longer.

But what do you think? Have you read something so good that it’s turned you off to working on your own stories? Let me know in the comments below!

Saving Mr. Crooked Nose

8 Feb

Last July, I worked on and finished a novel. The problem is on August 1st, I realized that when it was done, it was whale puke. How do I save this story and make it salvageable?

How this situation came about was that I decided to focus harder on my writing. I’ve found that doing NaNoWriMo is the most effective way to ensure that I actually get a novel done. So since I was starting in June, I enrolled into the Camp NaNoWriMo program so I do it into the summer instead of November.

So this was the “merchant ships in SPACE!” story that I named my fan club after. I thought this would be really fun – I did a lot of research into what merchant marines do today – and I managed to write 57k words of the novel and finished it on time! However, I realized within a couple thousand words of the end that… it sucked.

However, I don’t want this story to go to waste. The story of Cameron Crooked Nose (yes, that’s the main character – the naming conventions of this world is a little tricky) I know that part of the problem is that I tried doing the “flashback.” Problem: I really didn’t know where I was going with the story, so I didn’t really know where he’d been. Which is the primary problem – there was no plot!

You think I would have figured that one out, but I was so enamored with the setting that I just ran with it… and didn’t think about what story would actually be told. Whoops. Well, now I have a chance to fix all that.

Now that I’ve had enough time to think about it, I feel more confident that I can tackle this problem without beating myself up too much. Have you run into this before? Love a concept so much that you completely miss the flaws? Let me know in the comments below!

Making you Book Text Look Professional

14 Jan

Today’s blog post is brought to you by frequent contributor Editor Ed, a small press publisher, author, and my dear friend. You can read his latest short story compilation, Sorcery Against Caesar, in the Amazon store.

Why Is Looking Professional Important? Because the Gatekeepers are gone, and readers know it. In the days before self-publishing, only big publishing companies could afford to print books. That meant every novel in the bookstore has been vetted by experienced editors, formatted properly by industry professionals, and met at least minimum standards of quality.

Those days are gone, and there are no quality controls on the books found online anymore. The unpleasant truth is that Amazon today is full of terrible self-published novels that twenty years ago would never have made it past the slush pile at a big publishing company.

Readers know this, and don’t want to risk spending money on an awful book (like this one Marcus reviewed). Consequently, they tend to shy away from self-published novels, automatically assuming—fairly or unfairly—that they’re badly written. After all, if it’s really a good book (so the thinking goes), it would have been picked up by a real publishing company… right?

The self-published author’s saving grace, however, is that readers don’t really know if “Excelsior Press” is a legitimate-but-obscure indie publisher with an office and a dozen employees, or an amateur high school student with a laptop. I suspect most shoppers assume it’s a professional small press unless you give them a reason not to—and that’s where looking professional comes in.

If your paperback looks amateurish, you risk losing sales. Although readers may not be able to consciously identify what exactly makes the text look professional, they’ll know when it just looks wrong.

So here are four tips on how to make your paperback interior look as professional as possible. They may sound obvious, but I’ve seen various amateur self-publishers make each of these mistakes.

Include Front Matter

Front matter is the stuff in tiny print at the beginning of the book that people rarely read—but will notice its absence, since it’s a clue the book isn’t professionally formatted. At the very least, include the following information at the bottom of your title page:

  • A Copyright Notice in this format: “Copyright © YEAR by YOUR NAME”
  • A similar Copyright Notice for any cover art or interior art, if a different person from above
  • The ISBN number (or, if you don’t have one, the assigned ASIN (Amazon), Google ID, etc.)
  • The name and city of the publisher in this format: “Publisher Name, City, State, Country”

Use a Serif Font

Nothing screams “amateur” like a novel printed in non-standard fonts like Comic Sans, Handwriting, or Gothic fonts. Professionally published fiction almost always uses a serif font like Times New Roman, Georgia, Baskerville, or Garamond (Amazon’s preferred font). So unless you’re doing Kindle/ePub versions only, use a Serif font.

Single-Space Your Text

The body text in professionally published fiction is almost always single-spaced. Double-spaced or even 1.5-spaced text is a red flag to readers that the novel was self-published by an amateur.

Indent Paragraphs

Professionally published fiction indents the first line of each paragraph, and doesn’t have a blank line between paragraphs. Text on the intent, however, usually doesn’t indent paragraph, preferring to separate them by a blank line instead (like this blog post). When the text in a novel is formatted this way, though, it’s another sign the book was self-published, and thus might scare readers away.

Only Use One Space Between Sentences

While two spaces is becoming more common and acceptable, especially in internet content like blogs and social media, the publishing industry still uses only one space between sentences.

There’s a LOT more I could say about presenting your book text in a professional-looking way. For example, there are some guidelines that apply only to paperbacks and not ebooks (and vice versa!), but I’ve run out of space. If you found this useful, say so in the comments. If I forgot something you think it’s important, let me know in the comments as well!

The God of Continuity

28 Dec

Plot holes can go undetected for years or covered up rather clumsily. They can throw your audience out of the moment and you may never get them back. So how do you avoid that problem?

The easy answer? Get someone to read your story before you publish it. There are so many things that can be caught by having a fresh pair of eyes. For example, in my most recent book, Drag’n Drop, I thought I’d throw in something really cool for the villain to say: “And then I will become the singer and not the song.” To which my friend, “What on Earth does that mean?” Whoops–not everyone got it. So I actually included my friend’s quote in my hero’s response, which allowed my villain to explain what the heck he meant.

In my old writing circle, all of us had one superpower that helped out the rest of us. For example, one of my friends was the Technobabble God. He was more interested in science than the rest of us, so if you had trouble with a particular technology that you were trying to make sound believable, he could give you a line of BS that sounded good, and you put that in your story.

I was the God of Continuity; I found your plot hole and ensured that whatever wacky #*$&@($ idea that you got in your head to put your story that somehow, someway, it would makes sense as part of your plot. You happen to use a digital gate in your story, because you just read Piers Anthony, and thought that turning a ship into an energy signal, and then rebuilding it on the other side was a cool idea. And it is… except that you’ve already established that we use hyperspace gates. So… why another method of travel?

The answer–the digital gates were an experiment by the government to improve space travel. However, they were so expensive that they could only be used on one established route. Duh-da! Your prayers have been answered, writer!

For my father-in-law, he built a world where the colonists had been medieval reenactors who wanted to get away from the modern world. It happened to be a world where psychic powers could be mistaken for magic. So when you run into a ghost of one of the original colonists, and he sees this computer, he didn’t know what it was. Except he should have–and one of his fans pointed this out. So in the prequel, he had to put in a bit about erasing their memories, so that the original colonists wouldn’t be having second thoughts about leaving. Plot hole closed.

If a friend won’t read your book, then it helps to wait a while between finishing your story and publication, then come back and read it again. Sometimes, just giving yourself time to breathe between finishing the first/second/fifth draft and getting it ready for print that you can realize, “Oh, Sancho Panza disappeared for two chapters!”

Is there an easier way to detect (and close) plot holes? Do you have an army of beta readers who can figure these things out? Can you lend them to me? 🙂 Let me know in the comments below!

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