Thursday, August 1, 2013

Quality Control

I've been described as a perfectionist, at least when it comes to myself. But I lax a bit when I'm working on stuff for other people. I've learned that the general expectation of what is acceptable quality for published work (newsletters, newspapers, books, magazines, etc.) is way lower than my expectation. Especially when someone is doing it for free, just for the sake of having the information out there. This really, really, really bothers me.

If you're going to do something, you should do it properly and if you don't know how to do it properly, then you hire someone who can do it properly. I'm not perfect and I make mistakes all the time, but I generally don't attempt to do things for the public that I don't know how to do. It really bothers me when people install an art, web design, or Publisher-type program and think they're suddenly an expert and should be creating things to put out in the public.

Years and years ago, I belonged to a huge writing critique group. It had some professionals but for the most part it was made up of amateurs, including me. They had some very innovative ideas and it was an interesting experience. The head of the group put out a newsletter. The information in the publication was good. But, it broke just about every layout/design rule there was. It was hideous and I couldn't read it. I cautiously asked if I could help with it, to give the head of the group more time to focus on other things. "No, no ... I can do it." So I stood my ground and I left the group. I didn't want my name associated with something that was so poorly made.

I was recently faced with this type of situation again. I was being given substandard novels to edit. The story ideas were great. The writing ... was not. An editor's job is to take a story and mold it into something people will want to read and I truly believe that there's no story out there that is beyond help, but these stories needed to be in much better shape before they landed on my desk. I would have been okay with that but the acquisition editor said, publically, the stories were in good shape and nearly ready to go. I wonder if we were reading the same stories as the ones I got were not like that. As I started working on them, I realized my hourly wage was going to be cut substantially and it was not going to be worth it. Job and school changes were also contributing factors to my decision but I could have worked around them had the quality been there. It was disappointing but life goes on.

Again, I'm not perfect. My stories have mistakes in them. I can't catch every little thing. Paying for editing is hugely expensive, and is not a guarantee that the story will be any better for it. I've paid for just grammar and spelling editing then found errors they hadn't caught. Often many errors. It makes things difficult but you do the best you can do. I hope my stuff is still a little bit better than average and that people are able to enjoy my writing.

I think this is one reason I like eBooks so much. I can have mistakes pointed out, make the corrections and republish. And, it doesn't cost anything to do it and no paper is wasted. This is another way Print on Demand is nice, too. You can fix any mistakes and when the next batch is printed, it will be a better product. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be as close to perfection as you can get it before publishing but at least it isn't "written in stone" like with traditional publishing.If you read my work, please! point out the mistakes. Tell me where plot holes are or where it gets boring. I welcome the criticism and am ready for it.

Are you really critical, too? Or can you look past the packaging to enjoy the writing?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Write What You Know

I like to set my stories in locations I've either lived in or know well from having visited there. Even if I don't necessarily use the name of the town, the basis for where they're living can be found in a very real setting. For example, in A Mystic Romance the story starts in NYC then goes to Seattle, where I've been on a mini vacation, and Mystic, CT, where I've been several times on mini vacations.

The new story, A Ghost of a Chance, is going to start in northern New Jersey then move to the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. I lived in northern NJ for a dozen years and am very familiar with the areas I'm writing about, though I've not been living there for eight years so I've had to Google a bit to get building names, landmarks, street names, and so on correct. The rest of the story is going to take place on a farm that is actually located in Alstead but is going to be moved to Keene for my story and the land be changed, like it isn't going to be huge fields or a brook. The only parts that will be included are the garage with a apartment above it and the main farmhouse, and maybe some other features like the old outhouse and small garden behind the house.

Do you write about the places around you? Or do you prefer to create new worlds?

Another New Story

I've started a new story that is tentatively titled, A Ghost of a Chance. It is going to be a romance with paranormal aspects but isn't going to be a paranormal romance. With the moderate success of my first attempt at a semi-romantic story, A Mystic Romance, I thought I'd try another romance.

The synopsis (for the moment): A woman's husband dies, she buys an old farmhouse in NH, leaving her life in NJ behind, and starts to renovate it. While she's working she discovers it is haunted and the ghost, Daniel, helps her forgive and be ready for love again. The renovations aren't going well so she has to hire a contractor to help her. They start out bumping heads but reach a compromise so they can at least get the project finished. Eventually they fall in love but she's not ready yet so she runs back to NJ. When the project is completed, she comes back to see the work and bumps into the contractor. And they live happily ever after. Or something like that.

I actually wrote out a full page (legal pad size) of plotting for the story. I wanted to get down all my thoughts for the story before I forgot them. It is just a very loose outline that gives a bit more detail than the synopsis, which is what I wrote first, but doesn't really delve into the details. If I stick to the outline it will be the first 'plotted' story that I will have written, though there's still plenty of time and opportunity to deviate from the story. It is going to be a hybrid method as much of it is still going to be 'by the seat of my pants' as I know very little about the characters yet. For example, I didn't know the husband, Shane (who started out as Stan on my notes but was changed, mostly because I'd forgotten I called him Stan my outline) is an elected local official and has presidential aspirations (rather, had ... he doesn't live through the first chapter). I also discovered Kimberly, the main character, doesn't like having the job of representing the couple, and furthering Shane's political career, on local community committees, social clubs and charity events.

I started with 775 words yesterday while I was at work. I was too busy last night to do more writing on it. I'm hoping to change that today. 

Doh!

It really does help if one pays attention to what they're doing. I had intended the free day to be today but KDP n00b'd me. Their calendar is Monday to Sunday, and I thought I was picking Saturday but chose Sunday. Now it is too late to change it. Drat! So the promotion I was looking to set up before the event will be for naught. BUT there is still hope. I have all the places to post about the book on the day of the sale! Guess who'll be getting up early tomorrow!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Marketing

Wait! You mean my book isn't going to sell itself?! (Don't worry, I'm not going to quit my day job!)

My friend Kerri Cuevas (a really amazing YA author) warned me that marketing a novel was a lot of hard work. She wasn't kidding! It is much harder when you've decided not to go with a traditional publisher and are doing the whole thing on your own. I have no regrets, the marketing would have had to be done either way.

One way I'm trying to leverage my eBook, Amrita, is by using the Amazon KDP program. This allows me to offer the eBook for free for five days every three months. My first go with my YA novel is going to be Sunday. For one whole day you can get the book for free. While Amazon will do a lot of the leg work on making it more noticable to buyers, I still have to do a lot of work. My first line of attack is getting web sites that announce/promote free Kindle eBooks to list Amrita on the days it is free. I found the list of sites I used at the Training Authors blog article, 47 Places to Submit Your Free KDP Promotion for Kindle eBook (note, the author makes a lot of references to Christian books and publishing a Christian eBook but the information is good for a wide range of genres). They provide a list of places to contact before the event and places to contact the day of the sale. The authors of the article also give you a template to follow for providing most of the information that will be needed. I'll let you know if I can see a difference in my "sales" tomorrow.

Two of my beta readers were nice enough to post their reviews of Amrita. (Thank you so much guys!) I know, however, that I need more reviews. Ugh. Kerri shared with me a blog that lists some of the many book reviewers out there. You can find the list here. (Did I mention yet how amazing and knowledgable she's become with this marketing thing?) A lot of them are not currently taking new books or do not review YA novels but there's still a lot of reviewers out there that are looking for new content to read and review. I am hoping one or two of them will be willing to read Amrita.

Finally, Kerri has decided to create a blog hop. I'm still not completely sure what it is going to entail but I've signed up for it. How could I not after all Kerri has done to help me out? Basically the way it works is that you "hop" from one blog to the next. All the people who are signed up write for children or YA. I'm not sure when it starts so you'll have to check back so you can find out more about it.

I hope this post about marketing helps you out. I know it has helped me to organize my thoughts about it and see what my next steps are. Do you have any marketing tips? How do you get your book out there for people to read?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Amrita is Published!

Amrita, my new YA novel, is now available! After five years of writing, I am so happy to see it make its debut!

Amrita Yavad is a 16 year old girl from India. She has moved to the U.S. with Arjun, her 28 year old husband. They live with his very traditional parents in a three bedroom house. Arjun is a computer programmer at the company where his father also works part-time as a management consultant.
 


Amrita was unable to finish school in India because of her marriage so, according to local laws, she has to go to high school until she graduates or turns 18. It isn't the ideal situation for the traditional family but they have no choice. A condition of her attending is that her marriage be kept a secret. A few weeks after they arrive, Amrita has her first day at Garfield High School where she meets Tom Flanders, the star quarterback. They quickly become friends and Tom sees Amrita, a math whiz, as a solution to his problem with failing his math class. Nikki Adams, Tom's girlfriend, dislikes Amrita from the beginning and is always looking for ways to drive a wedge between Amrita and Tom.
 

Attending school, maintaining her secret, and trying to be a wife is very stressful for Amrita and causes much havoc in the Yavad household. Then they find out that Kamal, Arjun's younger brother, and his family are moving to the U.S. and expect to live in their parent's home. It causes much stress and anger for Amrita and Arjun but it also brings them closer together and deepens their relationship. It also serves to lighten Amrita's work load at home and allows her to focus more on her studies.

Then Nikki discovers Amrita's secret. It is just the ammunition she needs to end the friendship between Tom and Amrita. It also has unexpected consequences for Arjun, his family, and Amrita that lead them down a path none of them could have imagined.

For more information, reviews, and links to purchase it, go to http://amrita-thenovel.weebly.com

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Novel Started

Last night in the wee hours of the night I started writing a new novel. I wrote about 124 words, including the title and my name so really only 120 words. All I really had was an idea (the bad guy uses a game like Words for Friends to leave clues) for the story and a name (it was John Holmes then it was pointed out to me that there was already a famous John Holmes and he was in 2200+ adult movies, so my character's name is now John Hamer) and that he could pick pockets.

Over the course of today, I wrote 4100+ words (as of right now, I hope to get more added after I finish this post!) and am on chapter three. I guess you could say I was a bit inspired today. It was also further truth that I am truly a pantser.

As I said, I knew very little about my character when I started writing this morning. Over the course of the first chapter I discovered that he was 17 and living on the streets, that his mother was dead and he was still quite angry at her for deserting him, that he and his father were both drug addicts, he had been arrested three times, and that he had an invisible friend named Sam. It was fascinating to watch this character develop before my eyes and the story that he leads. As John develops, I will start writing down things about him so that I can refer to it later in the book but for now I am going to reveal the character like an onion being peeled, exposing one layer after another.

I've challenged myself to have it written in less time than it took me to write my novella A Mystic Romance, which was written in 39 days. That would mean by August 14th, I would have to be done. I only have one class in college this term and the kid is off at college until the end of that week. It might actually be do-able.

Could you write a novel in just 39 days (without it being NaNoWriMo!)?