Monday, August 22, 2016

5 Important Skills for the Indie Writer


At some point in time, every writer has to decide whether writing will remain a hobby or become a business. For the business-minded indie writer, there is always the task of figuring out what to outsource and what to continue doing. For those with knowhow and are diehard do-it-yourselfers, some things are must-dos and some, not so much.

·         If you're a graphic artist by trade, creating your own covers will make life a lot easier and negate the expense of paying someone else to do this for you. If creating graphics is not an area in which you shine, leave it to the professionals.

·         The ability to make banners and promotional material for your books for online use (think Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) is another handy skill in the indie's arsenal. Promo pics are fun to make and you can switch these up to prevent them from getting stale. 

·         Formatting is a good skill to have. I’ve read various books on this subject, including the free Kindle and Smashwords formatting guides and now do this for my books, which prevents me from having to pay to make changes. If this is beyond you though, don't waste time trying to figure it out. Pay for the service and avoid a headache.

·         Converting files to various formats might not be helpful to every writer, but it's an advantage when it comes time for a final read through of each book. There are free downloadable programmes such as Calibre or online versions, like Zamzar that convert word files to Mobi, which can be loaded on a Kindle for that last read before you ship your baby off to the editor.

·         Learning how to navigate social media is important. While it is not the place for a hard sell, many writers are successful in reaching readers on various social media platforms. Don't be afraid, dive in and learn as you go.

While time is always in short supply, I like having the option of knowing that I can do some things in a crunch. If I can't, there's the option of paying for these services. If you're on a restricted budget, it may suit you to learn as much as you can about the tasks that are required again and again in the publishing process.


So, have you added to your skill set lately? If not, do you plan to learn to do any of the things discussed?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Guest Post: Stuart Horwitz on The Process of Editing

THE PROCESS OF EDITING:
FOUR VERSIONS OF A PARAGRAPH

When Susan Gourley invited me to contribute to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I started thinking about the idea of security, and wondering whether it is a good quality for a writer to develop. Security can sometimes have you writing what you’ve already written. Security doesn’t want to try a different genre or write something that people won’t agree with, while remaining insecure is what helps a writer invent, elaborate, and produce.


But that’s no way to live. Instead, even if we can’t achieve security in our content or our current level of success, I think we can find security in a process. To that end, I will present here four versions of a paragraph from my most recent book: Finish Your Book in Three Drafts. I’ll focus on how the concept of my paragraph changed, provided I was open to new inspiration and help from others. From the title of my book, you might think there would be only three versions of this paragraph—all will be explained.


Here is the first draft. At the time it was placed just under the subhead, “A Word on Wordsmithing”:

You probably haven’t been able to help yourself from fiddling with perfectly good sentences to make them even better by this point — even though you were supposed to be focusing on the one thing your book is about… A lot of time when I work with clients, they ask me: When are we going to talk about the actual writing, you know? By that, they mean the word choice, maybe improving the vocabulary, or the syntax (i.e., the flow.) Part of me hopes the answer is: never. The idea that everything we’ve been doing thus far isn’t writing, and that we are going to get to the writing, strikes me as a set-up for pretension.

I typed (like, actually) the first draft of my most recent book for two reasons: because I had just inherited my Great Uncle’s 1963 Hermes 3000 Typewriter in mint condition, and to force myself to have to retype the second draft into the computer. Not every time-saving device encourages creativity.

When you’re retyping, push comes to shove a lot quicker. Some useless phrases like “by this point” were dropped (consult your Strunk & White for other likely candidates), but more than that, retyping caused the ideas to evolve. When I wrote my second draft, I didn’t want to write this twice: “By that, they mean the word choice, maybe improving the vocabulary, or the syntax (i.e., the flow.)” The second time, I wanted to write: “By that, they mean maybe improving the vocabulary, or importing some metaphors, or redesigning the syntax.” One of my second draft mantras is: “Make it better.” That’s all we’re doing in the second draft; no need for insecurity. We’re just making it better.

Another second draft mantra is, “Believe it, or Change it.” Keeping that in mind, I changed the end:

You probably havent been able to help yourself from fiddling with perfectly good sentences to make them even better – even though you were supposed to be focusing on the ‘one thing your book is about’… Sometimes when I work with clients, they ask me: When are we going to talk about the actual writing, you know? By that, they mean maybe improving the vocabulary, or importing some metaphors, or redesigning the syntax. Part of me hopes the answer is: never. The idea that everything weve been doing thus far isnt writing, and that were going to get to the writing, strikes me as a set-up for pretension, or at the very least an overly complicated surface.

Ending on the word “pretension” seemed harsh, and I jotted this note to myself in the margin of the original typescript: compassion. Meaning, try to find some empathy here, don’t be so heartless. Some of us have to try, you see.

Your second draft is the one that I recommend you send out to beta readers, those early readers who see your work before it is ready for the literary marketplace. Talk about insecurity! Nonetheless, such feedback is immensely valuable. I followed my own advice, and was happy that I did because so much new inspiration flowed my way. For example, one of my beta readers, Windy Lynn Harris, recommended that I give each draft a name. The first draft then became “the messy draft,” the second draft became “the method draft,” and the third draft became “the polished draft.”

Those kinds of ideas don’t come along very often, and the ripples extended far. Windys suggestion enabled me to situate the paragraph we have been reviewing within the context of the book I was writing, which should happen to every paragraph, ideally. To accommodate this, it actually grew to two paragraphs:

In the method draft you probably werent able to help yourself from fiddling with perfectly good sentences to make them even better – even though you were supposed to be focusing on the ‘one thing your book is about’… In the polished draft, the individual words likely became even more important. Using the right word, the one that you can pull off, is important. I just learned the word compassion like last week, what it means.

But a word on wordsmithing: Sometimes when I work with clients, they ask me: When are we going to talk about the actual writing, you know? By that, they mean improving the vocabulary, or importing some metaphors, or redesigning the syntax. Part of me hopes the answer is: never. The idea that everything weve been doing thus far isnt writing, and that were going to get to the writing, strikes me as a set-up for pretension, or at the very least an overly complicated surface.

Another reason it grew to two paragraphs, besides increasing the context, was the fact that I was still chasing the concept. Now the word “compassion,” from the margins of the typescript, made it into the actual text and augmented the idea. This feeling that you are still moving toward what you want to say is a crucial condition for finishing strong — and why the subtitle of my new book is: “How to write a book, revise a book, and complete a book while you still love it.”

Then these paragraphs (and the rest of the book in which they were contained) went to copy editing. Deep breath, everybody. I work with three copy editors, and I respect each of them wholeheartedly. That said, copy editors bring out the insecurity in even the most confident writers because having your work copy edited is often its own tug of war: between correctness and voice, between convention and style.

For Finish Your Book in Three Drafts I worked with Louann Pope (you can ask her here how much of an irritant I was to work with). Between the two of us we came up with this as the final version:

In the messy draft, you likely experimented with a few different tones of voice until you figured out who your audience members were, and what tone of voice would reach them. In the method draft, you probably werent able to help yourself from fiddling with perfectly good sentences to make them even better—even though you were supposed to be focusing on the “one thing your book is about.” In the polished draft, you considered the individual words even more carefully. Using the right word, the one that you can pull off, is important. I just learned the word compassion like last week, for example, what it means.

But a word on wordsmithing: Sometimes when I work with clients, they ask me: “When are we going to talk about the actual writing, you know?” By that, they mean improving the vocabulary, or importing some metaphors, or redesigning the syntax. Part of me hopes the answer is: never. The idea that everything weve been doing thus far isnt writing, and that were going to get to the writing, strikes me as a setup for pretension, or at the very least an overly complicated surface.

By now, the passage above had become the first paragraph of the Conclusion, and you can’t start the Conclusion of a book about three drafts with comments about the second and third draft only. Each draft allows you to take a further step back and that perspective allows you to see what needs to be done. Some of the sentences became more active, clarifying phrases were inserted and unnecessary ellipses were taken out.


And some lines, I wouldn’t let Louann touch. I know this reads as a fragment: “Part of me hopes the answer is: never.” I also know I left that sentence the same exact way every draft. Thats the music of going inside my mind. I don’t want to change it to: “Part of me hopes that the answer is never.” I was just counseling a writer about how your writing is always your writing. And you may feel insecure about it, but if you feel better about one version than you do of any other expression of the same idea, then you are done. “The end.”

Stuart Horwitz is the found of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors based in Providence, RI. Finish Your Book in Three Drafts is the third and final book in the Book Architecture trilogy. His first book, Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method was named one of the best books about writing by The Writer magazine. His second book, Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula was released as part of a five-year, 100-venue book tour of North America which will run through 2017.

Thanks so much to Stuart for being here today. Check out his website and see if he's appearing on his tour near you. He's a gifted speaker who will convince you to work even harder on your dreams. Did he inspire you today, IWSGers? Did you see how the editing process improved the writing sample?

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Writer's Legacy

You're invited to do a guest spot, or maybe you're asked to write several posts for your book tour. Instantly, doubts slaps you in the face. Your heart pounds. Your stomach lurches. Maybe not quite that dramatic but you still worry: What will I write about? I have nothing to say, nothing worth reading. I'll make a fool of myself. Or worse, I bore everyone to tears. What can I possibly say that's never been said before? Who am I to tell anyone anything about writing? Nothing--I know nothing!

Really?

You're writer. You've learned a thing or two.

Let me tell you a story...

The Prince George Regional Library invited me to do an evening reading. For two days prior, I spent my usual time in the washroom vomiting. I dragged my husband away from the NHL playoffs so I wouldn't have to face them alone. After the reading, a mother and daughter approached. I could see that the girl was nervous. Her mother kept whispering in her ear and patting her on the back until finally they were next in line.

"Hi," the teenager squeaked.

"She loved your book," the mum said.

The girl blushed. I gave her my best motherly smile.

She stuttered, "I-I loved your book. I-I always wanted to be a writer, but I-I'm just a small town girl. Real writers live in big cities like Montreal and Toronto. They don't live in Prince George. Then I heard you on the radio. I read your book in two days; I loved Valerie. Now I read your blog. You explain stuff I never understood in school. And you live here! Thank you, Mrs. Butler. If you can live here and write about characters who live here, then I know I can too."

That was eight years ago. I think about that young woman often. She'd be about twenty-three. I don't know if she's still reading my blog, but sometimes I write specifically for her.

Please don't under estimate the power of your words. You may have already met the equivalent of this young woman, or maybe not. But know that even if she's never been brave enough to leave a comment, send a personal email, or show up at a reading, it doesn't mean she's not paying attention to every word you write.