30 January 2011

Tone up those saggy middles

Editing and rewriting your novel part 2.

SoYouThinkYouCanWrite contest by Harlequin is nearly resolved. It seems that the organisers replied to the majority of participants. Although we all expected there would be rejections, the fact that there will be A WINNER came as a bit of surprise. I guess, the winner (and runners-up?) will be announced on Monday on Harlequin blog.
photo by Idea goat FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of my eHarlequin and blogging friends, Serenity Woods, has already got her reply (you can read her well-balanced and thoughtful, if not serene reflections on her experience here).

I'm still waiting and trying to carry on editing my NaNo and SYTYCW novel, in case I've got a request for a partial (miracles happen :)). I've rewritten my opening chapter and the following two and now I'm entering the shaky ground of the middle.

Roz Morris have recently posted on her her 3 fixes to give a story a good middle, and here are mine.
How to write (and rewrite) a well-paced middle?

1. Think of your character arc. Where is where she/he needs to get by the end of the book? Where is she/he now? What are their motivations? What changes does she/he need to undergo to get there? What challenges do you throw at her/him to give her/him a chance to change? How do you show the change happen?
Repeat for any main character you have. Make sure their stories intertwine.

2. Think in scenes. Which scenes are crucial to your character and the story? Which scenes show the journey? Write these ones first, then the less important but still necessary ones. Link them. In genre fiction links can (or even should) be limited to a couple of sentences (e.g. When she got off the bus, he was already waiting with a bunch of flowers).

3. Plan for your climax. Is there anyway you can foreshadow your climax? Which of the middle scences could be used to hint the reader at what is to come? Make sure that you have shown all the skills, abilities etc your character needs for the final challenge and the climax (miracles happens but not in fiction, so no last minute secret weapons digged out of the pocket, unless you've hinted at the existence of this pocket and your character's tendency to hind things in pockets, and their mastery at using the secret weapon, and... )

4. Keep track of what you're doing and stay focused on the story end. Have a map of your hero journey or a plot line and tick the milestones along the way. Keep record of the number of pages you write every day. Get one of those word count/ writing progress meters widgets (you can get them e.g. from Writertopia)- I love them! - it helps me see the end.

Enjoy it!

26 January 2011

Editing, querying and feeling naked

I'm still editing my NaNoWriMoNovel. I'm right in the middle, just done Chapter 5 out of 10 (in which my Heroine starts changing but does not realise it yet) and I'm pleasantly surprised because I actually like the story!
This is unusual for me. I tend to feel embarrassed when reading what I've written, regardless of the quality. I think it may be something to do with feeling exposed, naked. As if I've undressed myself in a public place. Any of you have a similar problem?
photo by Ambro (Freedigitalphotos.net)

In the meantime I've received an email from the publisher of my nonfiction book with a request to correct 3 (THREE) sentences from the manuscript. Now, I'm not sure what to think: is it good or bad (my initial reaction was that's it's good), or only just a beginning?
What do you think?

Correcting these three sentences shouldn't take me longer that 15 minutes (usual comfort break included), so tonight I'm back to my novel.
I will however take a little break to participate in this fantastic query contest on Roni Loren blog. I'm going to enter a query for my still unfinished women's fiction novel.
Anyone else entering?

22 January 2011

Who wants to shine online?

I do.
So I've done a lot of reading, and thinking, and again more reading, and even more thinking and now I'm starting to put what I've learnt so far into practice.

At BookBuzzr C.Patric Schulze argues that blog is 'the single best marketing tool for an author', so I've joined S.H.I.N.E. Online project, to hone my blogging skills and make my blog a place with interesting and/or useful information. I will be posting twice a week, using the tips by Julie Isaac (@WritingSpirit).

I have also decided to start off another online project - launching myself into busy waters of lifestyle and emotional health advice niche. I know, I know - it's very popular with many experts laready out there, but I think I have something new to offer, even if it's only my short attention span and down-to-earth 'how-not-to-go-bonkers' attitude to life.

After all I'm a bit of an expert on those things ;-)

Do you want to shine online? Have you joined Julia's project? If not, you can do it here or on Twitter by using #SHINEOnline tag.

How do you try to stand out of the crowd? Do you care about it at all?

18 January 2011

How to revise your manuscript

Finally I've sent that nonfiction project off to the Publisher and here came time for revision and self-editing of my NaNoWriMo novel.

So I've read all the posts on revising and self-editing I've bookmarked over the last couple of months, read and made notes from a book by James Scott Bell 'Revision & self-editing' and, as advised, sat to print my manuscript off.
But my printer ran out of ink and I had to wait for a new cartrige.

In the meantime I've decided to collate advice on how to revise a manuscript / a novel.
Here's the summary of what I've found out:

Revising your manuscript in 6 steps:
1. Print your entire manuscript off.
Make sure the font is legible, with 1,5-2 spaces between the lines, margins ample enough to make notes on them; one sided preferably. Many revision experts advice to print your MS the way you would to send it to your publisher.

2. Get mentally prepared for revisions - this is going to make your book better, stronger, punchier. Janice Hardy has more advice on how to put yourself in the right mood before revisions on her blog The Other side of the Story.

3. Get ready to read: get a pen (why not a red one?), a comfy chair, a table, good lighting, a bit of peace and quiet.
Holy Lisle also suggests a notebook and nerves of steel.

3a. At this stage is also good to remind yourself- what is the theme of your book- who are your main characters and what are their emotional journey- what is the conflict about

4. Read your manuscript.
JS Bell advises to read MS in a couple of settings, as a reader would; don't make any changes at this point, just make comments on the MS (red pen comes handy).

You may want to use shorthand markings to make comments about the changes you may want to make.
The best way of going about it is to have your own system.
I'm going to use:
-  V to mark places where story is dragging on (the more VVV, the worse)
- [?...] around passages that feel unnecessary/ in the wrong place
- [ more!] where I feel I need to add something
- underlining and a circle for potential plot holes (green or amber eyes??)
- circle around the name of a character / an event that I've decided to change or may not otherwise suit the plot, emotional arch or the story theme

5. Analize your
- story (does it make sense? is the plot compelling? does it flow nicely? Are the stakes high enough?)
pace/flow ( is the pace right? does every scene is a story in itself and does it end with a mini-climax?)
- characters (do they jump off the page? are they tri-dimensional? do they grow? what are their motivations and does it make sense?
- setting (does it add another layer to your story? does it change? do you use all 5 senses?)
- dialogue (does it sound natural? does it move the story forward or help building your characters? is it rambling?)
- voice/style (show vs tell? active verbs or passive voice? does the opening paragraph introduces the main threads of the story?)
- technicalities (lenght of the manuscript and chapters, ponctuation, grammar, formatting etc)

More advice on specific aspects of this stage: Fiction Editing Checklist by Sherry on Dark Angel's Blog and A self-editing checklist by The Book Doctor

6. Implement the changes in your manuscript.

The process can be repeated until you are happy with the final product.

What are your revising and editing tips?

I'm off to find a comfy chair.

15 January 2011

The End - finishing, ending, closing

I have a problem with finishing things. I am almost, nearly, just about to finish and then - I lose the steam.

I've been trying to finalise the manuscript of my book on OCD for about a week now. And I'm telling you - I've nearly, almost just about to get it in the envelop and scribble the Publisher address on it, and send it off on Monday.

Well, I still need to print that front page (still can't produce it as part of my main MS, because I don't know how not to put headers and page number on the first page), and write authors bio (completely forgotten about it; gosh, I HATE writing bios!), and add my photo.

And copy it all on a CD.

And write at least a short cover letter.

And get it all together in one nice document and send it via email, too.

No, I'm rubbish at finishing. I hate the hassle of formatting. I have horrible handwriting and nearly always need to rewrite the address on the envelope because it's illegible.

I've similar problem with finishing my stories. My NaNoWriMo novel was left unfinished (last 500 words) for a couple of weeks, because I decided I finished the novel the moment I crossed the 50,000 words line. I just couldn't get myself to finish it.

I don't know where this hatred for ending comes from. I guess is my short attention span and low threshold for boredom, but knowing doesn't really help.
Still have to go downstairs and print that bloomin' front page, bio, fiddle with my photo (anyone else never happy with the way they look on the photo?), get the whole document ready for emailing, and...

Even thinking about it makes me feel that I'd rather wash the dishes.

Anyone else has problems with ending?

11 January 2011

Formatting nonfiction manuscript

Do you dread formatting, like I do?

Not only it comes when you think you have finished that b***y manuscript and all you want to do is to sit back and admire it; or just get on with it, send it off to the publisher and move onto the next project! Here comes the very independent spirit of Word, Open Office or some other word processor and makes your life a mysery.

Have you ever been a victim of Disappearing Indent Paragraphs? Have you suffered from Stubborn Unmovable Margins? Or have you had to seek medical attention after you've failed to remove that page number and header from the first page gazzilion of times?
Well, I hope someone have said 'yes' at least once, because it will make me feel less lonely in my sufferings.

I admit, I'm technically challenged and I'm crap at reading and understanding manuals, I learn by doing stuff myself. Usually it takes 5-7 successful attempts before I can learn a thing; unless it;s driving somewhere I've never been before. The latter takes months.

Anyway, I've came to the point when I have to format my manuscript, so I've researched the tips thoroughly, as usual, and here is my 5 tips for formatting your manuscript for technically challenged:

1. Get someone else to do it. Must be trustable and experienced in formatting manuscripts for publishing industry.
2. Stay cool. Don't let the blimmin' machine make you go 'off the rails'.
3. If you feel like going off the rails becuase of the flippin' computer, take a break. Repeat until you've finished the formatting.
4. if the computer/word processor keeps playing up - ask someone for help (see p. 1 for advice)
5. Get that done asap, preferably the same day. You stil have The Printing Challenge to enjoy.

And here's some professional advice and some more on how to format fiction and nonfiction manuscripts:

1. Novels and nonfiction books need a cover page: centred book title halfway down the page, skip 2 lines, centre your name/byline, another 2 skipped lines and centred contact details; another 2-3 skips and put your manuscript wordcount.

2. Each chapter on begins on a new page, half way down the page Chapter Title or Number. End chapter with a page break.

3. Running headers on the top of every but the first page, including you name and title.

4. Pages numbered (don't start over with every chapter).

5. Reasonable 12-point font (Times New Roman, Courrier, or follow your publisher guidelines - mine wants Arial), double-spaced.

6. 1'' margins each way (now, I can see another problem for me - my word procesor doesn;t have an option to switch to imperial, it's all in cm and mm), 1/2 inch indent para.

7. No fiddling with anything else.

And here are some very user-friendly step-by-step instructions on  how to do that.

What a shame that I use Open Office :(
Now, off to get that formatting done before tomorrow.

07 January 2011

Author as a brand - inventing your public image

Have you got a brand as an author / writer?

How did you create it?

What is your brand name? Do you use your own name, a pen name, a monicker, your website name? Why?

Who is your target audience?

What do you offer your audience and how is it different from what's already 'on offer'?

How did you come up with the idea for your brand? Gut feeling? Research? Professional advice?

I have been thinking a lot about 'launching myself' as a nonfiction writer this year and decided that if I really want to continue in this direction, I need to start it NOW. So I'm trying to answer the above listed questions for myself.
My nonfiction book 'OCD - The Essential Guide' has been rescheduled for publishing from April to September, but it is happening this year. I have nearly finished my revisions and planning to sent the manuscript off as per original contract, by the end of January.
I have some more ideas for nonfiction books as well. I could also write nonfiction articles.
I really need a platform.
I need an image.

For me the most difficult part will be to decide about the name I'm going to use (I'm quite paranoid about keeping my private and professional life apart from my writing and 'public' image), and the title for my website (as I see it as indicator of the uniquness of what I am going to offer).
The rest is just derivatives from the former.

I have just made some minor changes in About me section as suggested by M Hyatt - I hope it reads better and is more informative. I also decided to start adding pictures to my posts (will try to post some mine but otherwise bought from iStockphoto) and put a hopefully helpful Subscribe to replies button.
I am working on a classy picture (I must book that appointment with my hairdresser next week!) and I'm reading, reading, reading on how to build my brand and create a platform as a nonfiction author.

How have you created your brand as an author? What is your public image?

01 January 2011

Turning the page (blog takeover day)

Hi, my name is Kasia and Scribocin has asked me to write something for Sally Quilford's Blog Takeover Day 4.

I'm not a writer, and I'm really bad at expressing my emotions or sharing my thoughts. I've only agreed to write this post because I'm no good at saying 'no'. It's all to do with my fear of judgement. My mother has taught me that people would always judge me. That's why it's so important to do the right thing.
If only I knew what is right for me, like my mother does.

Of, course, my mother is toxic. I know that, but knowing doesn't help. I still can't stop trying to live up to her expectation. It's the same with my lack of assertiveness. My fiance's affection is suffocating me, but I can't tell him to stop calling me gazillion times a day, or always be there for me, even if I don't ask. It's because he loves me and I so desperately want to be loved. But I've just learnt to ignore his phone calls - it helps. I can reply to him later in bulk. It gives me a bit of a breathing space.

I know it's wrong. I know some people think I shouldn't be with this guy, since I don't love him. Some even think he's abusive and manipulative. Scribocin says he'll hit me one day. Can he, really? He's such a goody-goody. Can you kill with too much love?

Well, I know you can, but like with many things I know - so what? Knowing that something in your life or with you is wrong doesn't mean that you're ready to change it.
Insight is not enough to change. You need more to turn the page and start your life afresh.
You need good motivation and a firm decision. You need to stick to it. You need to carry on against all odds, people, and sometimes agaist the grain.

So for now, I'm stuck in my unhappy life, in Chapter 18 of Scribocin's first and still unfinished novel 'Mr Pretender and Dead Princess'. I'm doomed until she picks up her pen (keyboard) and let me sort it out. She's promised she'd do it this year. She says she's turing the page and taking her writing seriously.

She better keeps her word, because I can't stand people who don't keep their promises.