Quick Update: The Lord’s Tale (working title?), Puck’s Call

fantasy butterflies forest
From Pixabay

It’s been a very busy time for our family. However, I have some time to post an update on my works-in-progress, so I will.

First, I switched projects. Pre-COVID I was working on Puck’s Call. After COVID, I decided to go back to the world of Trial of the Ornic and finish the third part of the second volume.

I finally finished the third part of what I’ve been calling The Lord’s Tale last month. I’m fairly pleased with the general shape of the story. There are issues that need to be fixed, and I need to make sure this third part flows well with the parts that came before it, but I think it’s good. And I’m glad the whole second volume of Trial of the Ornic is now written.

I’m thinking of changing the title, though. Thoughts?

While that cools off, I’m back to working on Puck’s Call. It’s flowing a lot better than it was before COVID showed up and I switched projects. Setting is clearer and I got down a really great scene the other day involving the land of Faerie itself. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and wondrous. Makes me happy just thinking about it. It’s one of those scenes that I’m pretty secure in saying will make the final cut.

It’s also a scene that’s helped me define the rest of the story, including the point of the series. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story ends now!

That’s about it. What about you? Any projects you changed this year? New plans? New direction? Let me know in the comments!

Bootstrap Publishing: Copyediting

First off, if you can, hire a very good copy editor.

If you have any money at all, find a good one and hire him or her.

If not, keep reading.

At this stage in the editing process, all major story problems should be resolved. There should be no glaring, fundamental issues with characters, plot, or other overarching story elements. If not, all this must be resolved first before this next step is taken because at this stage, you’ll have bigger issues to focus on.

Copyediting is not proofreading. Ideally, you won’t be looking at your own manuscript. Ideally, you’ll either have the funds to hire help, or you’ll have a few beta readers who are particularly good with both grammar and story to help you spot the errors. But if you have to do it yourself, if you have no other option, here’s what I’ve found helpful.

First, tools. You’ll need the following:

  • A style guide. (This will probably be either the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook.)
  • An up-to-date dictionary. (I use Merriam-Webster’s dictionary app on my phone.)
  • A stylesheet. (This one you create. Lots of ways to do it, but it’s incredibly simple once you understand the point. I’ve added a link about creating one to the Resources list.)
  • A grammar guide if you feel at all uncertain about the rules of English.
  • Plenty of time between when you last looked at your manuscript and now.

In addition to this, you’ll need to learn and keep learning the elements of good writing. There are plenty of books on self-editing and the elements of both fiction and non-fiction writing. Lots. Find them. And keep learning the art of writing good sentences, dialogue, etc., even after you think you’ve learned them.

Now, for the actual editing, here are some things I do to keep down the number of errors.

  • First, if you can’t print out a copy (see below), create a separate document and title it whatever will help you remember that it’s the copy you’re making changes in. Make changes in that document, then type in those changes into the final document. Helps catch missed words and gives you a chance to smooth out the rough element of changes you’ve made.
  • Change the settings to allow line numbering in the document. This way, you’ll have a specific line you can reference. Very handy for things like continuity issues. Add page numbers if you plan on printing it out.
  • Print out a copy if you can afford it and mark it up with your changes. Make sure the printed copy is double-spaced with a monospaced font like Courier.
  • Read it aloud so you can hear the way the music of the language flows. This is especially vital in fiction. You’ll be tempted to skip this since it forces you to go slower, but that’s part of the reason to do it. It forces you to look at each word.
  • I’ve heard it might be wise to read it through once, but I’m discovering that the initial read-through isn’t necessary for this phase of the project. I miss more errors if I do a read-through first.
  • If you have the smallest bit of doubt about something, do not let it pass without checking it. Even if you think you’ve checked it before.

That’s all I can think of right now. Please check out the resources listed below for all that I’ve missed.

I do want to stress that if you can get another set of eyes on it, it would be wise for you to do so. The smaller the problems, the more likely it is you’re going to miss it and the more likely the error is going to stand out to a new reader.

May not be posting another installment of this series next week. We’ll see. But I will post.

Resources:

Style Sheets — The Set Up and the Benefit

Check the Facts: 10 Tips for Copy Editors

(Book) Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies

(Book) Copyediting: A Practical Guide

The Chicago Manual of Style Website

IWSG Post: A Rambling Post on Why I Chose to Become an Indie Author

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeIt’s the first Wednesday of the month, so this post is for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s my first post for this blog hop. I’m just a little bit nervous.

Fitting.

I’ve decided to answer the totally optional prompt this month (paraphrased): What publishing path did I take, and why?

About five years ago I decided to self-publish instead of sending my manuscript (first three chapters printed out with a synopsis and cover letter) to a traditional publisher. There were a number of reasons. They all stemmed from a book called The Naked Truth About Book Publishing by Linda Houle. I still have it in my Kindle library.

It’s a pretty good book, though very dated now. At the time it was published, this book pointed out all the problems and good points of traditional publishing, publishing with a small press, and self-publishing, as it stood at the time. And it came out around the time of the Kindle Revolution, when some authors were making a huge amount of money by publishing their work themselves. Which means self-publishing was increasingly in the news.

I would like to say I thought through my decision completely and totally. And I kind of did. I liked the idea of hiring my own cover artist. I liked the idea of a 70% royalty. The biggest attraction was control. I wanted whatever mistakes that got into the book to be mine. Because then I at least had a chance of fixing them.

But that’s not what made me pick up Linda Houle’s book in the first place. I couldn’t even tell you what it was exactly, except that my husband would take that manila envelope to the post office and either forget to drop it in or not feel right about doing it. I went by there myself and ended up not feeling right about it either. And it made no sense. I decided I must have missed something in my research, so I began reading whatever I could on the subject. Thus, the book by Houle.

Now, this decision was not easy. I wanted a book that looked professionally published, but had no money to do anything. And that terrified me. I try not to think about those early days because I knew I was making mistakes as part of the learning process and I hate mistakes so very, very much.

But those mistakes were mine, so I fixed them as I worked.

I learned the editing process and (confession time) did all the editing myself using every trick I could find (still do). I studied book covers at my local bookstore and Wal-Mart and tried to figure out the fonts and images needed for the genre I’d chosen. I read books on design and art. I made basic ebooks using Smashwords’s formatting advice and put together readable ebooks.

And, over time, I improved and became less afraid each time I hit Publish.

I still have a lot to learn and I still make mistakes, some of them costly. Like, for example, the time a reader pointed out a couple of errors in a book and I decided to switch from my “I’m so glad you’re reading” tone to a “professional” tone because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who didn’t know what they were doing. It wasn’t until much, much later that I realized I’d come across as cold. *headdesk* And enough time had passed by that point* that I didn’t feel comfortable trying to write back with that “I’m so glad you’re reading” tone.

So yeah. Still make big mistakes.

But the point remains: those mistakes are mine. I can own them. I can change them with minimal fuss. And that makes me glad I chose self-publishing.

* I was going through the death of a family member and a move at the same time and both had repercussions for months afterward. That’s why it took so long to realize how I’d sounded.

 

Bootstrap Publishing: Developmental Editing (or Getting Readers)

So, you’ve finished your revision. You’ve worked out all the issues you can see with your potential book and you’ve got what you hope is a good, solid story.

Before you publish or send it to a copyeditor/proofreader, it would be wise to let someone else look at it. It doesn’t make sense to fix commas if your story has deeper issues.

Now, this step is a tricky one. Editors, critique groups, and beta readers can all kill a person’s writing. However, the most important thing, especially for those just starting out, is feedback. Honest feedback. Without it, your writing will suck for a very long time, possibly the rest of your life. I’m not kidding. I started heading down that path early on and narrowly avoided it. My writing would have become a marsh of confusion if not for a handful of people I can rely on if I need feedback. You’ll need the same if you want to improve as a writer and still do this on the cheap. That means, since we’re talking cheap here, no developmental editors.

You need readers. Good ones.

How you get them may change over the years, but it always comes from being in the right place. Which is…where?

It depends. I’ve found my beta readers while networking with other writers (i.e. making friends). You could try blogging (which includes finding other blogs and commenting on them). You could also join something like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and get to know other writers through their blog hop. Take a writing class. Find a local group that looks specifically for feedback. Try Critters or Hatrack or some other forum that’s devoted to helping writers get in touch with writers specifically for feedback. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll find good readers among your family and friends.

I personally believe there’s as many ways to find readers as there are ways to meet people.

Wherever you find them, it’s important that they:

  • Are willing to be honest with you, even if it hurts. (They should not be mean, though. More on that in a minute.)
  • Know something about what makes a story good. This doesn’t mean they have to label things a particular way. It does mean that if the story falls flat, if the characters are acting stupid, or the story gets boring or confusing, that they will pick up on it and be able to point to exactly where they lost interest/got ticked/got confused.
  • Listen when you tell them the genre. This is more important than you’d think. If you missed the mark, they’ll be able to tell you what they expected to find. That’s vital in genre-writing. And in line with that…
  • Enjoy the genre you’re writing in. Do not ever give a romance to someone who thinks romance is trash. Do not ever give a fantasy to someone who thinks fantasy is for losers. Even if they’re intelligent and otherwise well-read, do not ever, ever, ever put your work in a position to be torn apart by someone who thinks they’re being helpful by destroying a story that is perfectly acceptable within that genre. (I’ve seen a very good argument against this, though.)
  • Are objective. There is no excuse for cruelty or snobbery when it comes to feedback. If you feel personally demeaned in the process or if the person mocks your writing or…you get the idea. Run from this feedback. Ignore it. Dismiss it. Even if they’re right, this is the stuff that will kill your writing. Find someone else.
  • Do not suggest you change the genre of your story. Do not get intimidated by someone who says your space opera doesn’t have enough science behind it, but hey, if you made it a fantasy you wouldn’t have to worry about it. If the thought of changing genres makes you feel as if you’re doing something wrong, stop. Do whatever it takes to fill those gaps instead.

 

It’s also important that you, as a writer:

  • Bite your tongue. Do not answer the feedback in any other way but in the story itself. (Saying “thank you” is the exception to this rule.)
  • Stay nice. Do not argue or belittle the feedback. Only dismiss it if it’s toxic. Otherwise, ask yourself if the feedback is correct.
  • Stay grateful. This is someone who took valuable time from taking care of their own world to help you with yours. Be grateful they did so. Say thank you, even if they irritate you.
  • Take all suggestions under advisement. Don’t panic and think you’ve got a whole lot of changes to make. Only make the changes that make sense to you, that feel right, that make you want to facepalm when you hear them.
  • Return the favor. If they need a beta reader, be more than willing to be that reader.

Beta writers and developmental editors are not gods. They’re an extra set of eyes that can look at your work with a certain amount of detachment. The good ones will have read a lot, especially in the genre you’re writing in. The good ones will tell you what you’ve missed. The good ones will tell you when you’ve fallen short. The good ones are very hard to find and are worth everything you can give to keep them interested in reading for you because the good ones will help you see both your strengths and your weaknesses and keep you on the right track. They’ll find the holes and point them out before paying readers fall through them.

If you want to publish on the cheap and still make a career out of this, it is vital that you find someone who can give you this kind of feedback.

Next week, I’ll give my suggestions for copyediting.

Any thoughts on what I’ve written? Feel free to tell me below!

Resources:

How to Find and Work with Beta Readers to Improve Your Book by Kristen Kieffer (via Jane Friedman’s blog)

Introducing the Beta Reading Worksheet! by Jami Gold

Ask Jami: Where to Find Beta Readers?

(BTW, Jami Gold has a LOT of stuff on beta readers on her website. I highly recommend searching and reading what she has. Very good stuff.)

5 Things You Should Know about Working with Beta Readers by Corina Koch Macleod and Carla Douglas

 

Update on The Curator’s Song; Bootstrap Publishing: Revision

I’ve finished the rough draft of The Curator’s Song. While I wait for it to cool off, I’ve moved on to another project, a space opera story I write under a pen name. I’m also back to writing this blog once a week. And, in the interest of sharing what I’ve learned after almost five years of self-publishing, I’ve decided to create a series of blog posts on bootstrapping a self-publishing business.

I may jump around a bit, topic-wise. Just so you know. For example, I’m starting with editing, which is the most important part of creating saleable fiction.

And now for the first post in this series: Revision.

###

This series of blog posts is for those who have never published a book themselves and have also never had a book published by a publisher. It’s for those who have a novel they’ve always wanted to see written, or a handful of short stories that have either gone the submission rounds and not been picked up or have been in the virtual drawer. It’s for those who have written for themselves or put stories out on sites like FictionPress and Wattpad but who aren’t sure where to go from there.

It is NOT for authors who are already making serious money from their writing, especially those who are already making enough to justify paying others to do work for them. More importantly, it is not for authors who expect immediate riches, or for those who don’t care what they put out as long as they upload something.

It is definitely not for those who aren’t willing to put time and effort into making the best book they can before it gets published without spending more money than they can afford.

* * *

So, you have a great novel you’ve just finished writing. If you want to publish on the cheap and still have readers by the end of it, you’ll need to edit what you’ve written. That takes time. It takes energy. And it takes planning.

The first step is the revision.

I know there are some authors out there who are so insanely good that they don’t need to revise anything. You’ll know if you’re one of those. Skip this section. If you’re delusional and think you are one of those but aren’t, you’ll find out eventually. If you want to make sure you’re not delusional, get a beta reader or hire a developmental editor (more on that in my next post).

But for the rest of us, it would be wise, as a first step, to revise.

Now, some do their revision as they write. They cycle back through the story, adding and subtracting as they go.

Some make notes of things they think of along the way and put the story aside for a while after the rough draft is finished. They make their changes after a week or two (or three or four or…) depending on what they feel is needed.

In fact, there’s a number of ways to approach fixing your story. Because that’s what you’re doing. You’re fixing.

Do not think you have to make wholesale changes to a perfectly good story. Do not think you have to alter genre or plot-lines or anything when you first take a look at it from a fixing standpoint. Do not panic and decide it’s all garbage.

If you tend to do that with every story, don’t try to fix it. Just hand one raw draft over to a trusted Someone Else and see what they think.

For the rest of you, you’ll have to make sure you fix the story before you hand it off to someone else. The more mistakes you fix before someone else reads your story, the better the feedback you’ll get on the actual story. So, take the time and fix it however you feel comfortable approaching it.

Because there’s so many ways to approach fixing a story, I’m not going to go in depth about it. I’ll give some tips and resources that I’ve found useful in my own revisions.

Tips:

  • If you have the money, print out the story.
  • If you don’t have the money, put it in a separate document and track the changes. Changing the font sometimes helps, too.
  • Read the story through once before making any major changes.
  • Keep track of the scenes you have. Make a summary sheet or fill out notecards or something. Make it so that you can get a sense of the overall story.
  • If you haven’t already, distill your plot to one sentence.
  • Make a modified stylesheet to keep names and facts straight.
  • Timeline your story, especially if you have parallel events.
  • Read the story through once before making any major changes.
  • If you find you need to scrap a scene and write a new one, put in a separate document. Don’t write in the version you’re making notes in. I number any redrafted scenes and use that as a reference when I write my changes into the manuscript.
  • Read the story through once before making any major changes.

Resources:

Holly Lisle — How to Revise a Novel (short version)

Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision

Joanna Penn — Writing Tips: 9 Steps For Effectively Revising Your Novel

How To Revise A Novel: Taking Your Manuscript From Scruffy To Spliffy

Next week, I’ll cover what’s commonly called “developmental editing,” or, in other words, getting feedback on your story.

The best way to get my books before anyone else

If you’ve been reading one of my series and not only want updates but a chance to get an early copy (an eARC) in exchange for a review, I now have a mailing list that will deliver all this directly to your inbox. No need to follow my blog or make a point of visiting here. Nope. Just click the link below and sign up. I promise never to share your email with anyone and also to only email you when I think I have something related to my writing that might be worth your time.

Amy Keeley’s Email List

Another perk is that this list is where I’m going to ask for feedback and give out news before I post it here on the blog. This includes any discounts, freebies, or sales that I’m aware of. You’ll be sent a somewhat more detailed list of what to expect after you sign up.

Even if you don’t decide to sign up, thank you for reading! It’s because of your support that I’m able to keep publishing these stories.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Title Change; The Lost Princess now available!

Cover 7242017First, after much consideration, I decided to change the title of The Castle in the Story to The Lost Princess. So much had changed, I felt the title of the original didn’t really capture what the story had become.

Second, this story is now available at Amazon, Kobo, and my store at Gumroad. It should be available at most other retailers by the end of the week.

Third, it’s currently priced at $2.99. This is an introductory price. The price will go up in the next couple of weeks, so if you want a copy at this low price, might be good to get it now. (And if you get it from Gumroad, you get more than one format!)

Here’s the description:

In a land once ruled by powerful families, Maple, a thief, wants nothing more than to escape the thieves’ guild that holds her captive. When she picks the wrong pocket and ends up with a blade to her throat, freedom appears in the form of Doriel, a mysterious elf who claims to have sworn an oath to serve the family she came from, a family with a terrible, evil legacy. Will she have the strength, determination, and faith to overcome it? Or will the darkness eventually claim her as well?

I am so thrilled to finally be able to publish this alongside all my other stories. It’s been a long time coming, it pushed a lot of other projects to the side, but what I gained has been more than worth it, even though it took what? Two years? Thank you so much for being patient, especially if you’re a reader of my other series. I really appreciate it. And to show my appreciation, I’ll get back to work!

Why Going Back to an Old Story Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

In the indie world, I’ve read enough articles about how a person should never look back, that it’s a waste of time, that it will slow down the path to success because the point is to write and write as fast as you can so you can keep up with Amazon’s algorithms, etc., etc., that it’s good to read an opposing view. Especially given what I’m working on tonight.

When You Actually Should Dig Out Those Old Stories From the Dusty Drawer

In other news, I found a gaping hole in my storytelling that has to be patched with a new scene. I’m actually pretty excited about it, because not only will it emphasize Maple’s growth (hopefully) but it will show a little more of Doriel and how Tanner and Hushweather work together with Doriel to execute a strategy. And it will explain a little more about Doriel’s past and how it relates (no matter how much he tries to ignore it) to his present.

Can’t wait until I’m done with the Write-in and get started on the Type-in!

Want a Free Copy of The Castle in the Story? (YA Fantasy)

I’ve finally finished redrafting and the fixing that inevitably comes afterward! Now, it’s just a matter of searching out the errors.

Unfortunately, I can’t do that very well on my own. Someone reading this for the first time will always find more errors than I will after I’ve read my story several times over.

I’m very aware that reworking The Castle in the Story has taken far, far longer than I first anticipated. I am very sorry for that. Unfortunately, because of budgetary constraints, I’m doing a lot of this on my own and that means everything takes longer. If you’d like to help and get a free copy of the final version with your name in the Acknowledgments, and if you’re the kind who loves pointing out errors in the stories you read, please send me an email through the Contact Me form on this site. Unlike previous crowdsourced copy edits, this time you can choose whichever form you like of the following three:

  • ePub
  • MOBI
  • PDF

Just let me know which one you prefer and I’ll send you that format along with what I need in order to use your comments to copy edit the final version. Once it’s ready to be published, I’ll send you your free final version with your name listed in the Acknowledgments!

This offer will be open until March 22. After that, the final copy edit will begin.

Impress; The Castle in the Story scene snippet

I’m using LibreOffice Impress (their version of PowerPoint) as a sort of virtual index cards for outlining. It’s working much better than I expected. I create them in Normal view, then click on the Slide Sorter tab to organize them. If anyone out there uses a notecard outline but hates the space they take up, I suggest giving this a try.

*  *  *

A while back, I mentioned that I was revising The Castle in the Story. After outlining a bit, I realized I was going to have to redraft the first fifteen chapters. This morning, I wrote part of the first redrafted scene.

Now, please be aware that the scene excerpt below is subject to change, even to the point of being thrown out entirely. Also, because I wrote this just a little while ago, there are bound to be typos and errors, etc. Please forgive those.

Anyway, here it is. Short, but progress is being made. Hopefully, I’ll add several more pages by the end of today.

~@~@~@~

Maple kept her footsteps soft as she followed the swaggering merchant with the fat purse jangling in front of him toward the pleasure district. A fat priest of the High God talked with one of the more wealthy wives of the merchants of Refuge, both of them wearing clothes more light, airy, and suitable for late-summer than Maple’s elven cloak and both of them moved so that they were in her way. Not that they knew it. She hoped. If the man who had sold her the cloak was right, no one would be able to see her, as long as she kept the hood up.

But the streets of Refuge were narrow as well as dusty. And she wasn’t as thin as she had been when she was younger. Her lithe frame had a few more curves than she wanted. That was why it had to be today that she bought her freedom. There was no time left.

She gathered the cloak around her and somehow managed to ease her way between the priest and one of the misshapen walls of the mud brick building next to him.

The priest murmured flirtatious pleasantries that Maple heard as a vague hum. Her sights were still on the merchant, who had just turned into the street that would lead to the best known brothel in Refuge.
She had to get to him before he spent his money there. Anyone heading that way, dressed like he was in robes of purple and red with embroidered birds on the cuffs and hem, had to have some money behind him. Losing him, she would never have the chance to buy back her freedom.

The fat priest leaned toward the wealthy wife and Maple quickly left them behind, clutching the cloak tightly around her, terrified she’d be seen.

No risk. That’s what she’d thought when she’d bought it. She’d more than make up for the lost money before the deadline with a cloak like this.

But fewer merchants arrived and those who lived in Refuge weren’t easy marks. And good as she was at locks, she’d never really enjoyed breaking into someone’s house to steal. Not since Marrish the Mouse had been disembowled in the public square for it ten years ago.

So she’d stuck with pickpocketing, a lesser skill of hers, and look where it’d gotten her. Following a swaggering merchant to a place she might end up if she didn’t get to him before the whores did.
Running as best she could while holding the cloak so the hood didn’t fall and the sides didn’t flap open, she breathed a sigh of relief as the merchant stopped to talk to one of the whores that walked the streets. She hadn’t tested the cloak, too afraid one of the other members of the guild would tell Handlee. Elven cloaks were rare enough in the Southlands that he might want it for himself.

But she’d never been sure if the cloak worked, or if she was just a better pickpocket when she wore it, and it was with this in mind that she hurried past, letting go of the cloak long enough to reach out with knife and hand. With one swift cut, she relieved the merchant of his heavy burden and spun away, racing toward the streets that would lead to her hiding place.

He noticed, but didn’t see her. “Where–?”

She didn’t look behind her to see if he was following. There were no footsteps, no shouts.

And she realized, even in the middle of her jubilation, that that was odd.

Someone slammed into her, knocking her into a side alley. Before she knew what had happened, she was on the ground, a strong hand gripping her wrist, twisting her arm behind her back. She ground her teeth against the pain. She’d had worse. What concerned her was that she no longer felt the money bag in her hand.
Panicked at the loss, she struggled. “Give it back!”

“What isn’t yours? If I thought you’d face any justice in this city, I’d give you to the authorities.”

–END SNIPPET–