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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel

 



3. SMALL ISSUES

    First of all, congratulations! You almost have a book to print!!! It will be tempting to send it out. After all, you have already corrected a few misspellings along the way and you've read through this thing a lot of times.

DON'T. 

Take the time to have someone go through who is a detail oriented person. Find someone with fresh eyes not really reading the story for content but for grammar, spelling, paragraph flow, and general readability. I write Middle Grade so I also have to think about vocabulary and grade reading level. Your genre may have similar necessities.


Do it your self  - ONLY SORT OF

In all reality, you should not be the one to do this. Seriously. You are too close. You can find an inexpensive proofreader on Upwork. It may not be 100% error free, (get what you pay for), but it will still be better for the expense. 

I would say you can reduce your cost by saving the person time (you still need to give it to someone else) if you use / purchase software such as grammarly. Grammarly has a free version, but I do not have experience with it. It will do a remarkably good job going through your work, though you may have to do it in smaller sections since it is an online tool. Again, I do not think it replaces a set of human eyes, but it may reduce the cost of that task.

My other advice is to read your entire book OUTLOUD. Seriously. You will be amazed what you discover. Try it just for a chapter or so and I think you will see how it draws out little issues. If you don't want to say what's on the page out loud, it likely means you need to change that snippet of dialogue, description, or narrative.

Pay someone to do it.

I think this is your best option. There are lots of places to hire a proofreader. I've mentioned a few. The person I use I found through networking. I hired someone to proof Jam Sessions. Then, after publication, I decided to make it into an audible book (will discuss this in a later post). The gentleman I worked with identified a couple of things my admittedly very cheap proofreader missed. He was an author of a Hallmark movie (that starred Kenny Rogers!!) and connected me to the lady who proofed his work. She was kind, affordable, and didn't advertise beyond referrals. She has done everything I've taken to print since.

A word about seeking an agent. A manuscript should be in its best form possible before going to an agent. I suppose, you could get by with taking your first few chapters (what most agents request) to a professional editor with the expectation that when your work is picked up the publisher can help you with this final polish. My book twelve Hours was published by a small, Indie Press (Three Ravens) and they did the bulk of the final walk-through.

-3. Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

If you know a librarian school marm who loves to correct apostrophes, knows when to use semicolons, and has t-shirts that say things like "They're practicing Their grammar over There" then you won the lottery. Even more if he or she is willing to help. These people are rare gems. If you are writing a single book, perhaps your own memoir, I would suggest this route. However, if you are planning to write more than one I would suggest finding someone to employ. I have seen groups around that do this level of editing also. In my limited experience they are no fun and somewhat hateful as they bicker over the use of the oxford comma and - if you take corrections from different members - may leave you with inconsistencies. I left the one I was in when they spent thirty minutes debating whether a British spelling was appropriate. It is, by the way. They invented the bloody language.



Sunday, January 23, 2022

Review: Things Happen: A Collection by Christopher Acker

 

I was given a copy for review. The thoughts an opinions are my own.



First, Christopher Acker spins a good tale. He uses well trodden tropes that play well in contemporary fiction (actress trying to make it big but something unchangeable about her is a hinderance which later turned virtue or down-on-his-luck journalist fights depression). The prose are solid and the stories read well with clever endings. My favorite was the closing line of "Lady, You Shot Me."

On the down side, Acker's stories require a bit of commitment to the start. In the story mentioned above the second paragraph introduces a first person character with "My throat feels like sandpaper."  We don't hear from the POV character directly for another three pages, making it difficult to discern her (something we don't find out for another page or two) place in the story. 

However, once we learn who she is the story picks up and becomes a delightful read. Certainly contextual in a world where we see riots on TV, question whether the civil rights movement is progressing or failing, and watch groups such as the BLM movement grow. In "Lady, You Shot Me," Ackers gives voice to a population we seldom hear from but know are plentiful in a country where everyone should be equal: mixed race Americans. I appreciated his prose and loved as I said before the ending - a good reminder that even in a personal story that ends well there is still work to do.

My second favorite of the four stories is "The Salazar House of Horrors." It too suffered from the opening pages where the reader has to work a bit to sort through names in the italicized news report verses the characters introduced in the primary narrative. But with a name like "House of Horrors" it is easy to predict the two will meet in pages to come. I loved the incorporation of HO scale buildings and models. It was reminiscent of my childhood experiences... but without the horror. The other two stories are equally good. Overall, I would recommend Acker's work and wish we had more "medium length" fiction. These were a bit more than a traditional short story but less than a novella. It made for a great short read. Pick up a copy and introduce yourself to a solid author writing in our current political-social context.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel

 



2. MEDIUM ISSUES

    Medium issues occur at the chapter and scene level. These are issues you may have recognized in the first edit. You may need to rewrite a scene, introduce something earlier that appears later as a solution to the MC's problem, or add details / introduce a character better.I love Save The Cat's model, so this often guides me as I seek to lengthen or shorten a scene to fit the book's flow. This is also a good time to read through your manuscript for "Show, Don't Tell," use of passive voice, "head popping" (changing POV), or providing information that your Point of View wouldn't allow (If first person, your MC won't know what his nemesis is thinking). This is also the place - in my opinion... many want to do it before they write. I think this can stall out your work unless it is absolutely critical). 

An example in my current WIP (work in progress). I have a group of convicts working as miners on a space colony under the military watch of NASA. In due course, they drill into an asteroid and out come a bunch of pterodactyls. I know, dinosaurs in space. Love it. One of my Beta Readers mentioned in the section on my world that he thought dinosaurs couldn't fly in space and they certainly couldn't howl as I had them doing. My gut reaction was to say, "In Star Wars the ships' gunfire makes sounds." But I am not George Lucas and this is not Star Wars. Humility. I resolved the flying in space by talking to someone in NASA I knew from my college days. The other I fixed by acknowledging it to my reader but never explaining. Someone asks my MC "How can we even hear them in space?" He replies, "I don't know, man. It's like they are screaming inside my head rather than out here."

There were probably other solutions. Better ones. Hopefully, though, this serves as a good example of a mid-size issue. Another example in Jam Sessions came when one character uses the Duck Song (Wanna buy some lemonade?). I liked the song in the story but it isn't mine to use. I wrote the composer / author and got permission. If I had not, I would've rewritten the section.

Medium fixes should take a... wait for it... a medium amount of time. If you come across anything epic that involves overhaul of a major character, plot point, or story arc then return to step one.

Now, how can you accomplish this?


Do it your self 

    Here you need to do some soul searching. Are you really the right person for this task? I am not. You may be. If so, I would recommend you do a few things in succession. First, identify your tendencies. I tend to write dialogue that is polished rather than slang. I go through my entire work doing nothing but examining dialogue. I have a friend who tells rather than shows a lot. Identify what those issues are for you and do a read through only looking at those corrections. 

Develop a character sheet. There is software out there (Scrivener mentioned before), excel sheet templates, or make your own. Minimally it should contain names of all characters, places, things, unique stuff to your world (In Freckles they played RumpleBottom Ball.). 

Good news, if you had a good Beta Reader or content editor, you now have a Honey-Do list and action plan. Look at their comments, evaluate, and either fix or leave. I should mention, it is YOUR work. Just because a reader doesn't like something doesn't mean you have to change it. However, if three or four readers all tell you something is confusing, disengaging, or wrong you should probably take a look. 

I would also recommend listening to a podcast or reading a book on characters, scene development, etc... during this phase so the ideas in those teaching resources are fresh in your mind. There are also templates out there for how to start and end scenes for varying genres.  Lean on those.

Pay someone to do it.

    I much prefer sites like Upwork and Redsy for this task rather than using them for content edits. It is cheaper because the issues should not be systemic. You also have the option to hire someone to critique a defined set of pages (10, 50, 100). This is great because they may identify something for you that is a small / medium but repeated problem. Now, you can move into "DIY" mode and fix the remaining chapters. There are even conferences you can attend where you are invited to (for a fee) to submit your work to an agent or editor. I've done this several times and found it exceptionally helpful. These are people who make a living discarding books and selecting books for market. They are willing to (hopefully with kindness) speak into your work and help you be a better writer. They may also tell you something that draws you back to the big issues.

 I have a 40,000 book meant to be a series sitting right now after such an event. I paid for two additional consultations. Both told me the same thing. My novel read like a MG (Middle Grade) with lots of action and very little head-dwelling. However, my characters are young adult age. They both suggested I needed to make a choice once I narrowed my target audience. That means I need to do some POV work or change my main characters' age (and thereby some of what they do, say, think, and feel).

Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

    Here I would promote the value of a writer's group. By the way, not all groups are the same and you should (1) know you can be in several) and (2) know what each group you've joined does. I was in a very intensive group for a while. It was under my membership to the Society of Children Books Writers and Illustrators (great place to network if that is your genre and fantastic boards to peruse or ask questions). There I found a group of people who read 1500-2000 words per week  (6-8 pages) and everyone edited the pages. We then met by zoom and discussed. You would edit every week until your week and then you would provide a section of your WIP (work in progress). You had to contribute to get the reward, but it was worthwhile if you are in this stage of a project. People come and go from the group and I probably will rejoin here in a bit. Obviously, if only 2,000 words are getting reviewed every month it would take several years to go through your whole manuscript. That is why this is a great resource for Medium Issues. This is a great place to present individual troublesome chapters.

I am in another group where each month two of us submit short sections for review. Again, it is not a place to edit an entire work, but it is nice to get a dozen voices speaking into a problem area. 

Finally, BE CREATIVE! When I wrote Jam Sessions, I asked a good friend of mine who is a child psychiatrist to read it. He did, gave me feedback in the particular area of his expertise, and even agreed to write a brief afterward for the paperback edition. 


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Review Pawel Kuch's Oxford Girls

 

Read the Blog Here

Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Pawel D. Kuch. Pawel has written and published the first part of a Young Adult/thriller series "Oxford girls; Michaelmas – Alex." 

 

First, let me thank you for joining me. I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.

 

YOUR INFORMATION:

different vendors you can buy my book from: https://books2read.com/oxgirls

my website: https://pdkuch.com/

amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MYR1GQ5/

Goodreads book website: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59751685-michaelmas-alex

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22038972.P_D_Kuch

Tumblr: https://pdkuch.tumblr.com/

the book "Oxford Girls - soundtrack" on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4iDstkubK9BdBDtR8Lk8hb?si=752b7b372d564048


"I placed the “Oxford Girls” series in the magnificent town of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Oscar Wild, and Harry Potter after visiting my friend who was studying there at that time.

I take a lot of inspiration from other people’s lives, blogs, but mostly from my own ‘dirty’ imagination. The research nowadays is quite simple through the internet."

 

Title of book we’re promoting: "Oxford girls; Michaelmas – Alex" vol. 1.

 

That is great. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?

 

Thank you for having me. I'm a lawyer and legal scholar. I always wanted to write a book, but my career and family life postponed it. Plus, I had no good topic to write about. A few years ago, I started my Ph.D. and to distract myself from the challenging research, bored with TV content, I decided to write a book on the side, a book that would amuse me, a book I would like to read. In short, yes, childhood dreams, boredom and concern for my sanity made me do it.

 

Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

It’s a great question. From everywhere, to be honest. I took a few ideas from my own life, but mostly from other books and films. I placed the “Oxford Girls” series in the magnificent town of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Oscar Wild, and Harry Potter after visiting my friend who was studying there at that time. I take a lot of inspiration from other people’s lives, blogs, but mostly from my own ‘dirty’ imagination. The research nowadays is quite simple through the internet.

 

What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

In summer I like to sail. Interestingly enough, it was a book that lured me to it. One Christmas, I got a sailing album with a drawing of a half-nude girl and a man shaving to a sextant mirror, and I was lost. In winter I like to ski and play chess. A few years ago, I managed to get a Private Pilot License – flying was something I had literary dreamed about since a little boy. And yes, all that play some part in my writing.

 

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

First and foremost: just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Second, secure an income source other than writing ;). And third, don’t be discouraged by toxic people and especially by your own insecurities. The time for editing comes later.

 "readers, thank you for buying our books. Do us, authors, a favor and dedicate a few minutes to post a review and spread the word if you like a particular book."

Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

I mostly write in the evenings. During the day I'm a serious lawyer and legal scholar. I don't write on any particular schedule, I just try to write 5-10 pages a week.

How many hours a day do you write?

In a good day I wrote for 4 hours straight. Usually 2 maximum 3 hours.

 

What is your favorite part about writing?

That is a tough question. I would say it's like with all seasons: I love and hate them all equally.

What does literary success look like to you?

Definitely my readers' satisfaction. I am thrilled when readers say they like the book, the premise or the protagonists, and they recommend my book to others. Surely, I would love to see myself as a bestselling author or could afford a porsche like Hank Moody from 'Californication,' but I'll be happy if the books bring me enough to take my family on extravagant vacations.

 

Please tell us about your current release.

"Oxford Girls" is a brand name for a Young Adult adventure thriller series. The first book "Michaelmas – Alex" introduces the main protagonists but is only a prelude when it comes to the main plot. Still, it is full of action and many bright but also dark threads. The second part will be published in March-April this year.

 

Can you read / provide us with a small exert? 

Let me share the more darker sample:

Now, Mr. S. was facing the storm – self-controlled, still fueled by rage and vengeance, well trained and motivated human girl – a very well-prepared girl. Her helmet equipped with high-tech solutions detected and actively shielded her brain against any radio signals that might trigger her implants. Built-in optics with night vision technology enhanced her visibility. Her skills sharpened by grueling training and a clear objective to crack down on her enemies made her deadly dangerous. 

Without further ado, N. pulled out her sword and cut off the left hand of Mr. S. – the one he was reaching for a phone on his desk to call for security. Mr. S. was in shock. Before he could make any move, N. quickly strapped Mr. S. to the chair by his neck and secured first his right hand and then the unamputated part of the left one with a strong, silver tape. She committed few moments to stop the hemorrhage of the open wound, and when Mr. S. tried to stand up with his chair, she only hissed ominously:

‘Sit still, or I’ll cut off your feet next.’

N. plays an essential part in the series, and Mr. S. is a villain. It may seem strange in this short part that I use their initials only, but those two are exceptions. I assure you the rest of the characters have proper names.

What exciting story are you working on next?

I've started to write the third part. It may be a little darker, we'll see.

 

Who are your favorite authors?

They're so many and for many different reasons. But being honest, I don't care so much for the author's name but rather for the good story.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

It's a whole series under-appreciated for a long time but thanks to Netflix resurrecting like a phoenix from the ashes – "The Witcher" by A. Sapkowski. Written in the '90s waited 20 years to be translated into English, finds now new fans and new audience.

 

What is your writer’s kryptonite?

Book marketing. Not that I don't like to promote my books and meet new fantastic people like you, but it takes an enormous amount of energy and is time-consuming.

 

What part of writing and publishing was most difficult for you?

Waiting. It's so much different from my regular activities where time has a great value, and everything happens rapidly. The book publishing market has its own time dimension; everything moves in slow motion.   

 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

 

Dear readers, thank you for buying our books. Do us, authors, a favor and dedicate a few minutes to post a review and spread the word if you like a particular book. We love to know your opinions. And please check the link to the "Oxford Girls - soundtrack" on Spotify.

 

One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?

 

"Oxford girls; Michaelmas – Alex" vol. 1.

different vendors you can buy my book from: https://books2read.com/oxgirls

paper back on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/8396323402/

my website: https://pdkuch.com/

Goodreads book website: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59751685-michaelmas-alex

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22038972.P_D_Kuch

Tumblr: https://pdkuch.tumblr.com/

"Oxford Girls - soundtrack" on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4iDstkubK9BdBDtR8Lk8hb?si=752b7b372d564048

 

MY REVIEW AS FOUND ON AMAZON AND GOODREADS:

The lead protagonist, Alex, is introduced. Her parents have passed away and she is now in college. She narrates portions of the book with some perspective, acknowledging that her younger 16 year old self didn't fully understand her parents' love. But she is also immersed in her daily life getting on the rowing team/

 Other sections are third person narrator and take the reader first to China, then England, and ultimately to a DC agency her parents participated in. There is also a letter given to us the reader from a 10 year old claiming to be on a space ship.

The two storylines build with emphasis on Alex's world and POV. The book certainly sets up possibilities for future books.

I enjoy a bit of dark plot. This work has it. However, I typically do not enjoy books with romance-novel style sex scenes and lines like "I really hoped it wouldn't be Hal's d--- that imprisons me, but rather the person attached to it." I say that because I understand many do enjoy that in their reads to accompany up the story like salt added to chips. This novel has it between the protagonist and two different characters which kept me from rating it a 5. I say that, because for many readers this would make it a six. The scenes are very well written, just not my thing.

I was given a copy to review. My review and opinions are my own.


Friday, January 14, 2022

Middle Grade Fiction

 Chattacon Presentation - View It Here

I led a breakout session today at Chattacon. ( https://chattacon.org/ ) on Middle Grade Fiction. Why I am by no means an expert, I have spent my time in my writing career learning this genre and it's close counterpart: Young Adult. For those who were there and would like the slides or for those who are interested in the presentation I have included the link here. Let me know in the comments if for any reason the link does not work.

Chattacon Presentation - View It Here


The ugly link:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1I6dfXAnOkgLdbdG869TYa6nMFl98i8ATF57enqL7GPw/edit?usp=sharing




Wednesday, January 12, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel

 



-1. BIG ISSUES

    These are the gaping plot issues. It may be as simple as when you are writing the first draft you got to a fight scene and wrote in big print "INSERT FIGHT SCENE HERE. MC WINS." Well, guess what? Now you have to write the scene. It may be you change your magic system, need your boyfriend to have a different job than he had the first five chapters, or perhaps you discover you need to tell the story from 3rd person point of view instead of in your character's head. These issues involve major rewrites

    When I wrote my first book, Jam Sessions, I got to the end and was overjoyed. I had written a book! Well, I had written a draft! I was ready to go to press, right? No. My main character moved schools in the middle of the year. On his first day he is taken to class by the school bully who subsequently becomes his friend. That is until, the MC is bullied and teased. My MC must find a new friend group and a way to work through his panic attacks. That was my book. I had a whole backstory about why he was in a new school. It was interwoven into the book with a lot of "not in school" scenes. It made the book darker (an abusive dad) and lost focus on my MC finding his way amongst his peers. Beyond that, it was a conflict already resolved (maybe not fixed, but resolved) when the opening chapter arrives. Simon (my MC) and his mom had moved states and were living near Simon's grandparents. I went through teh book and cut all my beloved passages. I rewrote the start of the book. It showed a sleepy kid being woken at 2:00 am as his mom drove away from their house. It sets the stage without being a book about trauma in the home. That's a good book, but not the one I was trying to write. My intro isn't on par with the best openers on the market today, but it is a solid freshman effort because I was willing to radically rewrite sections of the book.

However you decide to do it... DO NOT... I repeat DO NOT start sending your first draft out to agents yet!!! Take some time to correct and revise. If an agent is something you want, it should be pursued with the cleanest manuscript you can offer. So, what are your options to fix the major issues?

Do it your self - If you choose to do this yourself you MUST walk away from the book for a while. Get some distance. Start a new project, read, go reconnect with friends and family you neglected as you did the final writing sprint to finish. Six weeks to six months. I would not suggest less or more. Then come back and read the book. Do not edit. Read it through and annotate sections that need work. Again, don't fix them. Just identify them. That way you are reading the book all the way through in one pass. It is the best way to catch the big issues.


Pay someone to do it. - Paying someone to beta read is fairly expensive on sites like Upwork and Redsy. However, there are folk out there you can subcontract out for the work. I think better are groups who love ARC's (Advance Reader Copies) and book bloggers. You can find ARC readers on sites such as Netgalley. They will read and offer feedback. The good part about such sites is you can join with a group of people (network!!) and it has great promotion capability also.

A word on paying someone. Don't be prideful about this. In fact, embrace it. For me, writing is a hobby. I spend much less on it than my brother does on hunting and flyfishing. It costs less than my neighbor's obsession with buying souped up trucks and atv's. Today, my hobby even pays me a little bit back. Whether you are doing it as a future income stream ("gotta spend money to make money") or as a personal journey, it is okay to spend. Just spend in the areas you need it the most. Set a budget (more on this later) and follow it, just like you would if you got heavily involved in golfing, scrapbooking, backpacking, or aquatic crocheting. 


Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

    Ahhh the Beta reader. This is not your mom telling you how special you are and posting your book cover on the fridge. Don't get me wrong, that is important. But here we are talking about that unique person who loves (1) to read (and has read a lot, especially in your genre), (2) likes you and is willing to read an unpolished copy, and (3) is willing to take the time and energy and risk to offer correction. 

My first set of Beta readers I asked ten or so people. six said yes and never read or got back with me other than the occassional, "I haven't forgotten!" This is true. They hadn't forgotten. They just weren't all three of the things above. Of the other four, two sent my manuscript back telling me how great I was. Kind, but unhelpful. One spent lots of time correcting small grammatical issues. Again, it was kind, but by the time I rewrote the draft these corrections were often mute. 

One sent my manuscript annotated as another author asked her to do. She was awesome. Here is her list:

"ZZZ" meant the story did not hold my interest.

"???" means I am disoriented, confused, or see something that doesn't match. These often had comments attached.

"!!!" meant I loved this section.

A solid line "--------" meant she stopped reading here.

In the end she spoke to these areas:

-1. Characters - Were they believable? Could I identify with them, especially the MC?

-2. World - Was the world / setting  understandable? Interesting? Coherent?

-3. Plot - Were there plot points that were unbelievable or you had trouble with?

-4. Dialogue - Did each character have his/her own "voice?" Was dialogue used well? Sound artificial?

-5. Show, Don't Tell - Were there areas you felt like I was teaching, lecturing, preaching rather than immersing you in the story?


You can google "Questions for Beta Readers" and come up with hundreds more. My suggestion, keep it simple so the reader can annotate as they read with a very brief overall assessment at the end. i've seen some Beta reader questions that emphasize the first chapter too. Since this often gets sent to agents it makes sense.

I should mention I discuss the Beta Reader as a free option. You can pay Beta Readers as well, though if I was going to spend that money I would get someone more professional on the content editor status. Also, in the realm of advice, if you "pay your dues" in a writer's group by being active, helping others, and generally not being an ass you may find some folks in that circle who will swap ARC (advance reader copies) with you.



Monday, January 10, 2022

Freckles Included in an Author Bundle!

 See the Bundle Here!!!