I, who have published 352K words of Pride’s Children, am terrified. Again.
It’s been a year since the writing of NETHERWORLD ended and the publishing part began, and my body and I have been through a lot.
And I’m getting started back into the final volume, with a strong path ahead of me through plotting that’s been necessary since the very beginning.
I wrote the first scene and the new Prothalamion, thought I was on a roll.
I decided to not mess with a good thing, and to go back to the detailed process that gets me through each scene.
So I started updating the auxiliary files and spreadsheets and graphics and Dramatica files – finding all the pieces one by one in my detailed Scrivener projects.
Getting ready to write as quickly as I can (I HAVE gotten faster at following my own system), I readied all the surrounding bits for the second scene, 41.2 if you number from 1.1 in PURGATORY and 21.1 in NETHERWORLD.
And I froze.
Have gotten NOTHING more written in two full days – only partly brain-fogged days – when I was so sure I’d just plunge right back in.
It’s the same old FEAR: you think you’ve conquered it – until it comes back again and waylays you.
It takes you into a dark alley and tells you you’ll never do it again: this one, the denouement, has to be higher and trickier and more explosive than the previous two, AND you have to bring everything to a logical, complete, and unforeseen but perfect CONCLUSION, and just because you wrestled the lower level bosses to a standstill doesn’t mean you have it for the Big Boss.
I remember reading about a Broadway megastar who still throws up before every performance.
41.1 can’t go out until I’m sure I haven’t left something important out by free-writing it.
41.2 can’t get written until I make the deep cuts in all the contributing files to get the gold – or write new gold.
It’s not going to get easier.
It’s going to get harder.
And I’m older.
Tough. DO IT ANYWAY.
Pretending it was going to get easier is simply the mind’s way of keeping you together until you get to the starting gate.
It’s a lie, a helpful lie, but still.
I have to DO THE WORK.
I have to GO THROUGH.
There is NO AROUND.
NO ONE is going to come rescue me – there isn’t anyone who can, anyway.
It’s my baby. It was vouchsafed to me WHOLE in 2000.
ONLY I can write it.
And I don’t quit.
Just remember I’m terrified when you ask me how it’s going.
I just paid to upgrade my ‘FREE’ wordpress blog to a paid PERSONAL blog – why didn’t anyone tell me my blog posts were larded with ads for garbage?
They said ads would appear at the bottom maybe – but today I got a taste of the horror of my post INTERSPERSED with gruesome ADS.
MY APOLOGIES if you’ve been subjected to this – LET ME KNOW if it happens again.
Now we’ve really gotten to Armageddon: you have to pay NOT to have ADS.
We’ll assume for the sake of principle that there are people who want to edit others, and people who want to be edited by others, and that they WILL FIND EACH OTHER, make commercial or other arrangements, and live happily ever after.
This post is not for them.
Good luck to those who use editors – but MAKE SURE you learn how to do every single thing they point out is ‘wrong,’ so you wean yourself off external advice as early as possible.
NO ONE is born knowing how to edit OR self-edit
It’s regular CLICKBAIT, and I’ll get in trouble with the Writing Police for pointing it out: if you’re going to be a writer, especially one who writes fiction, an editor is inimical to your process of discovering YOUR writing VOICE.
Someone else can’t sound like you. They can only drag your words closer to some idealized medium value that everyone thinks is ‘best.’
Editing and self-editing are LEARNED SKILLS. Writing is much harder, but if you’ve read this far, it’s because you, for your own writing ONLY, think that using someone else, at great expense and time commitment, to clean up your own work because it doesn’t yet meet YOUR standards seems somehow economically and morally wrong.
Don’t argue with me – and this may apply only to me: don’t pay anyone to trample around in your word garden.
When I see manuscripts Editors have marked-up in red, my stomach does very unpleasant things.
Self-editing is a learned skill. If you learn to edit yourself, you will only need to learn to edit ONE person – editing for fun or profit requires that you be flexible enough to, and interested enough to change someone else’s words, into “better” words; I have no objection to that – for those who want it and can afford it and don’t mind what it does to their words.
LEARN to do all the individual editing tasks yourself
Become a mature writer. DO the WORK of learning. You’re a professional now; this is your job.
You’ll thank me in the long run. Editors have to learn – they are not born.
Never trust software – always use it with extreme caution, and only for counting things (my pet peeve – Business English). Software, even that which claims to be ‘trained’ on fiction, is a regression to the mean. Think about it: who is their target audience? The small percentage of people who write fiction – or the masses of office workers who produce ‘content’ daily in huge amounts?
LEARN to plot. Lay your story out in steps from beginning to end. With or without detail.
LEARN to spell, and to recognize when you’re iffy about a word – meaning or spelling – and go look it up.
Be aware of the first time you write any kind of scene – and go read a couple of books with advice about that kind of scene, and then find your own path.
Read books which teach YOU. If you’re a pantser, don’t read books about plotting and outlining. If you’re an extreme plotter (like me), don’t follow pantsers for advice. LEARN to tell the difference, and figure out where you are on the spectrum between the two. It is the biggest contribution I can make to happiness in the newbie writing world.
It will all save you time, money, and angst in the long run.
If you’re me, of course.
Also, never let anything out until at least one trusted pair of eyes and a brain have read it carefully for you.
LEARN to sound like your models, the writers you admire
Your own sense of right and wrong and written should have been previously developed in fine detail from extensive READING, the books YOU like to read, for PLEASURE.
For writers like me, who want to write complex novels, it helps to read a lot of them, especially the classics.
And you can get the robot software on your devices to read things out loud to you, including your own writing: close your eyes and listen to the cadences, the awkward phrasings, the confusing bits – and the good stuff.
I don’t know if audiobooks would help – they are professional performances, and don’t show the mistakes in getting there. But a robot voice on my Mac, getting something absurdly wrong, has been quite helpful (after I stop laughing).
GO DO your own thing
Only you can write your books. Only you can make them sound like you. Only you can care enough to put in the effort.
Don’t bother trying to use this post of mine to tell people (and me) we need editors. Instead, kindly go write your own posts about why you think everyone always needs an editor, and supply your rates.
I’m a big fan of ‘canon’ – what the author of a book or series of books has written IN the book(s), what the true fans consider immutable and the final word.
I don’t read books or sequels written by someone else, mostly because every time I’ve tried that in the past, the results just made me mad.
Case in point: the sequel to Gone With the Wind, the book Scarlett, written by Alexandra Ripley – I know I would agree with many of the 1* reviews if I had read it, simply by seeing a plot summary.
Case in point: The 7% Solution, an attempt to write a Sherlock Holmes story in the ‘style’ of Conan Doyle – I did NOT like it, felt Holmes had been stretched and distorted in ways apparent in NONE of the canon stories from Sir Arthur.
I love writers precisely for their style, their unique way of writing a sentence, plotting a story, evincing the themes. And for THEIR unique creations: their characters.
Not very flexible – am I? – and either you are the way I am, or not, and I don’t aim to convert anyone!
This is your chance to argue for me to ALTER canon as I write LIMBO
Just as a writerly experiment, and because I’m at the stage (I have an awkward horrible rough draft written many years ago to scope out all the ideas, and written in a lot of haste before I learned better how to manipulate words) where I CAN possibly alter the text of the rest of the story a bit, I’m floating another one of my odd ideas:
If you were me, and could eliminate pet peeves in the final volume of my mainstream trilogy, Pride’s Children: LIMBO, what would YOU choose to emphasize?
Think like a famous author, with a ghostwriter who will do the actual writing, retaining all control over both content and style.
What would you have me do slightly differently from the previous PURGATORY and NETHERWORLD (preferably based on your having read them, but I won’t insist, and probably can’t prove it anyway)?
What would you like me to make sure does NOT appear in LIMBO?
What would you do if you were writing LIMBO?
What bothers YOU?
It would be kind if you mentioned why, or just generally what other kind of books you like to read, as the basis for your personal peeve, but I also won’t insist on a reason.
No promises, except that I will consider carefully and thoroughly any suggestions, and at least let you know privately that I did if I accept your suggestion. Fair enough?
I’m about to get serious.
I have started the process of bringing the new MacBook Air up to speed in my environment – just ordered an external SSD for backups which will be delivered tomorrow.
The thinking part, given that the Migration Assistant supplied by Apple has failed (it did last time I upgraded – must be me), will take a bit of time, but I’ve decided I can ALSO trust the beginning plot/plan for LIMBO, since it is so clear in my mind and starts only a few hours after the end of NETHERWORLD – and give in to the writing itch.
Plus the paperwork problem is supposedly almost finished (ask me Sunday night), and dumping it on the accountants should go smoothly (ha?!?), and I can get out from under something that has been in my way for over 1.5 years.
So tomorrow I install the SSD, download and authenticate my copy of Scrivener3 (paid for long ago) and watch a video or two about the new features, and WRITE again, with the intent of seeing if I can speed up the process to make up for lost time.
Oh, and install Pixelmator3, also long paid for, now that I have a LOT of internal storage space on the Air (one of the reasons for upgrading): LIMBO’s cover is clear in my mind, also to be executed in downtime (graphics are easy compared to words), so I have the cover ready by the time the text is finished and edited and proofed. Graphics take a lot of space if you want to keep layers separate for future ease of change.
TOO LATE, the prequel short
It’s been submitted to a literary magazine which would be a lovely addition to my credentials if they decide to publish it.
ONE of the reasons for doing so is that I forced myself to make the necessary final pass to edit the style as close as possible to match the style of the novels. It was as much work as I expected since TOO LATE was written before the final version of PURGATORY had settled into what you might call my voice.
If not, the cover is started, the crucial photo approved, and the whole plan for the ‘look,’ so it is obviously part of the trilogy’s story, is in place. I’ll throw it up on Amazon for a buck, and/or use it as a reader magnet, but a final ebook version is required, and it’s now much closer than it was before.
I never intended to stop writing blog posts here, and at the books’ site – it just sort of happened, for the usual reason these things happen to me: there is only so much energy left to someone with ME/CFS after dealing with it during a day, and only so much of it doesn’t have active brain fog, and stress makes it worse, never better (I don’t have the equivalent of being able to supercharge with caffeine, adrenaline, or, well, anything).
So ‘things happening’ and climbing to the top of the priorities lists (as they always do) means other things get neglected.
I’ve posted some when I had a little energy, but I have about twelve STARTED posts, six per blog, because when I have an idea I quickly create a new one, think up a temporary title, possibly even create a graphic (thanks, Stencil, for 10 free ones a month), sketch in a few quick notes… And usually follow up. Which I haven’t been up to doing lately.
Erratic is the result. Sometimes people even forget you exist.
And they certainly don’t have time in their lives to track another blogger down.
COMMENTING keeps my hand in
and serves a second purpose: getting the brain cells trained toward thought and typing.
If I find an interesting post, I will leave a comment if I have anything to contribute to the conversation. Bloggers don’t get enough engagement, and they put a lot of thought into the posts, and seem to like even my digressions (ON their topic) enough not to block me. Online I’m more of an opinionated extrovert than I manage in person. I still try to keep it civil and not sound as if I’m the ultimate authority on the subject – my rule for myself is, “If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it at all.” True internet anonymity is not my style.
If I get it wrong, I apologize. Text exchanges inherently lack nuance, and more than once I’ve interpreted something my way and found out from a reply that it was meant some other way. Even with knowing the blog or FB stream, it happens. Twice in the last year the best response was to delete what I said. Not too bad, considering I flap my fingers thousands of times. And have strong opinions of my own.
But commenting doesn’t mean I’m capable of organizing and finishing a post of my own; often it means the opposite.
THE BIG ONE is almost finished
I wish it had been another piece of fiction, but it wasn’t. It was a tax problem which affected me, has taken a lot of time to resolve, and is ALMOST finished, which is why I can START thinking about how to use my time for my writing again.
I like to contribute as much as I can to problems which are partly mine. And this one was big enough that I needed to maintain as much of my usable ‘good time’ for it every day – and ONLY for it – because I have such a small amount of it that it really can’t be split and still get anything accomplished. It also took almost all of my assistant’s time in the two 2-hour sessions I had with her over months, so I got no other benefit from her time most sessions.
But the problem slowly got pinned down and then solved, piece by piece, because I CAN do that, still, if I HAVE to.
I fear for when this is no longer true.
And worry that other things aren’t getting done.
But I refuse to be a parasite just because I am disabled, and I COULD help with this one, so I did.
And I still managed to get Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD published – by spending the money, and having my good friend Bill Peschel do the cover and formatting work. Yes, he was great. No, he’s not making a career of that part of it – he has enough work of his and his wife’s to keep him quite busy, thankyouverymuch.
Otherwise I would be sending everything I could his way. Our loss.
The PHYSICAL parts I will gloss over:
The first was necessary and long postponed surgery (due to the pandemic) last September (which is why I had someone else help get NETHERWORLD out – you never know for sure if you’ll come out of surgery). And a totally unexpected VERY painful recovery and meds mess; mostly over now.
The second, this year, for the fun of it, was a trip to the ER because of chest pain. Did you know that half of the time you have chest pain AND elevated troponin (a cardiac enzyme) levels, it is NOT a heart attack, but you’ve probably done something and deprived your hear muscle of adequate oxygen for a while? But they can’t tell without dragging you to a hospital WITH a cardiac unit, and performing an angiogram to see if any of your stents have plugged up OR you need a new one OR, I assume, something else is wrong. Big fuss. Hospitals (2). Days (3). Recovery (a good week). All of this very difficult when you already have ME/CFS. I will not be doing carpet scrubbing bent over any more. The good new was that I don’t need more stents; the bad part was that I already knew that from the angiogram required prior to surgery last September. And the final word was from the cardiologist who released me who said, “Well, that should be good for another 2 – 5 years,” and who probably wasn’t thinking that I’d had one four months before which should have meant I was okay now. I’m grateful they don’t take chances, but the effect on my tiny life was astronomical.
That’s me ‘glossing over’ anything. For Heaven’s sake, the woman likes to talk! Maybe the second paragraph will help someone else in the future…
Now that I’m supposed to be getting MY life back…
all I want to do is finish LIMBO, and see if I can shorten the 3-5 year expected time to write and publish it.
The other tasks (some of which I’ve been kicking along in little bits of time) include:
Getting readers and reviews for NETHERWORLD. Seven 5* reviews/ratings is a lovely start. Selling one copy in February 2023 is not. ARCs are slowly going out to the reviewers who said they were waiting for it, but it is a long time commitment (about 12 hours to read, plus the time it takes to review), and each ask takes me a couple of days of my tiny bits of leftover ‘second best time.’
Submitting to awards. NETHERWORLD was a Finalist for the 2022 Indies Today Awards, a decent showing for the second novel in a trilogy (PURGATORY won 2021 Best Contemporary novel from Indies Today last year). I’ve submitted to one other award – will know in May – but investigating awards which are good to have has taken a lot of time, and applying to them is getting expensive. I have more to say about help on that front, but won’t, for now.
Marketing. Two attempts to get help from ‘professionals’ have resulted in nothing yet; one of the companies has ghosted me twice (hmmm).
Mainstream literary fiction – the best way to categorize what I write – is a difficult sell if you’re a self-published author; even my Facebook group admin for marketing it has stated they ONLY take their recommendations from regular media (in their case, broadsheets (newspapers) of significant repute which still have review sections). Discouraging.
My somewhat tongue-in-cheek post about how to go viral with literary fiction left me with finding the right influencer as the main method, and I’m trying, but it’s even harder than finding reviewers!
I had at one time the thought of looking at the reviews of popular traditionally-published literary novels – and targeting the readers who DIDN’T like those – until I realized what a huge effort that might be (there were thousands), and decided it would be better to spend the energy writing LIMBO, as having a COMPLETE trilogy is considered far better than having only one or two volumes finished. I’m not sure I believe that – there was a lot of publicity (much of it expensive PAID publicity) for Elena Ferrante’s quartet before the last two came out – but my record for marketing up until now is unprepossessing. At best.
THE REST OF MY SO-CALLED LIFE
The pandemic – and waiting for surgery – did a number on the fun things here at our retirement community.
I’m now able to go out (when it’s warm enough) and ride around on Maggie (my Airwheel S8, a bicycle seat on a hoverboard) on and off our campus. I’ll have to build up to doing that more – and possibly find new people to do it with.
I will be going back to using our pools, including the nice warm therapy pool I love to bob in for a half-hour or less, followed by the huge but necessary time-wasting of a shower with hair-washing.
I hope to regenerate our folk-singing group, on hiatus because singing in an enclosed space turned out to be a really good way to spread the virus, but will have to find a safe way to do that (a bigger, better-ventilated room would help). It has been so many years since we sang together that it will be practically a new venture.
I’m back to using B1 (150mg of benfotiamine + 500mg of Vitamin B1, 2-3 times daily) plus B12 (liquid B12, dropperful sublingually up to 8 times daily) because they or the combination seems a LITTLE bit better than nothing for getting me to have a usable brain.
And I continue to write better when blocking the internet with FREEDOM or ANTI-SOCIAL for a given chunk of time, so I don’t get sidetracked (I’m easily distractible – shiny!).
finding MY readers out of the vast sea of not-my-readers
maybe some short stories about Kary, Andrew, Bianca – and offspring
the next big writing project/book
publicity of some kind – possibly including me if there is enough interest
the as-read-by-author audiobooks
the easier hardcover and large print books
applying for relevant awards
and always, finding ways to persuade reviewers whose reviews I like that they will enjoy reading MY story, and will possibly encourage me by giving the books one of their lovely reviews.
I think that’s about it. Y’all are sort of up-to-date about my MIA status.
I no longer have a BookSprout account (it didn’t produce a single download or review of either PURGATORY or NETHERWORLD in a year), so contact me (comments or About for the email address) if you would like an ARC and would CONSIDER writing a review; I don’t nag.
If you like my fiction, there’s a lot of short stuff here
I am always honored when a reader recommends Pride’s Children to friends or family. Or BOOK CLUB!
Visit the Pride’s Children blog for more about the books (including questions for book clubs!) and to read the prequel. If you FOLLOW there, you’ll find out more about LIMBO and timing and sales when I send out the occasional email/newsletter.
Pray for stability to my life – it helps the writing.
IS IT DESIRABLE TO MAKE LITERARY FICTION GO VIRAL IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Big question. Big risk. Big reward?
Before talking about HOW, the question is WHY?
‘Going viral’ is a short way of saying ‘become wildly popular so everyone wants one.’
Also, potentially lethal.
It is one thing to have a product/idea be popular with the masses, but it is another to have the masses laugh at it.
A hula hoop going viral at the right time becomes a toy that almost anyone can buy – AND almost anyone can learn to use – at least sort of. Right before Christmas, at the right price (enough for a hefty markup but not expensive enough to break anyone’s bank), and balanced with the manufacturing ability to produce more in a hurry, hula hoops were very popular and sold millions. (Disclosure: I had one as a kid in Mexico, and was pretty good at it.)
But a book?
It almost seems contradictory to the concept of literary fiction to try to make it go viral.
Except that it has been done.
Something like two MILLION copies of The Goldfinch were printed.
Something like half of those copies were eventually pulped.
Unknown numbers of the ones purchased were READ.
Unknown numbers decorated coffee tables as the ‘book to have.’ Not to have read, necessarily, but to seem to have read. It being literary fiction and wildly popular, if you had a copy you wouldn’t necessarily tell your friends whether you had read the whole thing or not.
Full disclosure: I read the reviews, lots of them, and decided it was probably not my kind of book: too many of the complaints were pet peeves. Some day I will find out for myself, but the day hasn’t come when I can divert MY focus without derailing my own writing. Yet.
How did it go viral?
The most expensive way, the way of the BIG traditional publisher, with a campaign that put the publisher’s entire resources behind a gamble: that they could push a literary novel into being THE literary novel of the season, make it a ‘must have’ and sell enough copies to justify the advance, the push, AND enhance the publisher’s reputation.
Not just reputation, but selling a reasonable number of paper bricks at a hardcover price is lucrative – one well-publicized ‘winner’ can carry the publishing house’s season.
The economics get all fuzzy if the numbers don’t work out, or they would use this system for all their books every season. But the economics MUST work out, or the big publishers wouldn’t keep trying to find (make) the breakout novel of the season.
In sum, it costs a lot of money, but can pay off with a lot MORE money.
How to take advantage of the possibility if you’re an SPA?
Well, if you’re already a popular SPA like Brandon Sanderson, with a loyal fan base, you can kick it to the next level with a huge Kickstarter calculated to both satisfy those fans and create a beautiful buzz for your books. [Hint: He wrote four books in secret – and then releases them to his Kickstarter fans before anyone else is allowed to buy them.]
What if you’re an unknown SPA?
Then you have to hope like crazy that you catch the public imagination – or, possibly better still, the attention of a significant influencer, and get the push from someone else’s fame.
Because the product is not an easy one to sell. For one thing, they consume, each, almost a whole waking day. And there isn’t yet an audiobook so you can do other things while listening – plus it needs closer attention than many, to pick up and follow its varied threads. It’s a pretty intense experience to live a story with three main characters by sitting inside their heads, right behind the eyeballs, thinking their thoughts and registering the external world through their senses.
Not a short commitment from a potential reader, as a popular five-minute song might be.
Add to the mix an author with no energy due to a boring chronic illness – no energy to do the vaunted indie marketing, which requires dedication and verve, spending hours creating material and doing what a whole lot of professionals at a traditional publisher will do for a favored author: designer cover, a book tour, appearances on media from internet to live TV, promotions at Walmart, movie tie-ins for the fortunate… arranging, arranging, arranging – by someone(s).
The right mix of promoting the book and promoting the writer is crucial – time-critical and planned and managed. And still subject to luck. Not just the cost – but the contacts – are crucial to try to control the presentation and roll-out for maximum exposure.
So what do I OFFER such an influencer?
Few things can be left to random kindness any more.
The best value from an influencer is one who discovers your book – and promotes it on their channel of influence (think BookTok) – without any work from the author. Because they like it.
But no one can COUNT on that LUCK. Even when a book such as the lovely The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, written by a very ill woman who paid attention to the snail in a terrarium, happens, there are friends and pushers, people who did the work of finding a publisher for her, who made it their job to promote her memoir and her writing. Another book which didn’t count on luck, but was awarded the Pulitzer for fiction, A Confederacy of Dunces, was pushed, after he couldn’t get it published and committed suicide, by John Kennedy Toole’s mother, to writer Walker Percy. Again, not something to count on.
What I can offer is the brownie points (does anyone still remember those?) from discovering something unique: a chronically ill and disabled writer who takes forever, but writes mainstream fiction – and writes it well, or the influencer wouldn’t even be considering using up their points for someone else. It could be pushed as ‘discovering the indie/self-published X’, where X is the influencer’s favorite important mainstream writer. I’m far too modest to suggest a comparison author, but my reviewers (at least two) have compared me to Jane Austen. It’s worth a thought.
And if you don’t go viral, how about getting banned?
Another path to notoriety! Otherwise known as ‘publicity.’ Anything to make a good story, right? Not mine – the influencer’s.
It’s a little harder for me – I’ve been looking to the future use of teaching Pride’s Children in schools, and have deliberately kept the actual words and events to the PG-13 level – but someone is quite welcome to take my third main character Bianca Doyle’s unorthodox way of getting a father for her children as scandalous and upsetting drivel to which innocent teenagers (!?!) should not be exposed. Go ahead – it takes little to get the righteous flustered and judgy.
Those are the potential arrows in my literary-publicity quiver
I am quite happy to discover and entertain more, if you have suggestions – I want to be widely read. I would like a few more reviewers, please rhapsodizing about my prose. You needn’t be fulsome – understated works, too.
I would like a huge contingent of breathless fans waiting for me to finally complete work on LIMBO (or LIMBO & PARADISE), to the extent of making preorders possible.
I would love a ready market for any prequel or sequel short stories about our merry band and their quarrelsome ways, and I will continue to work at my deliberate pace (or until cured) to add to the canon.
Wishes make good goals for 2023, if a tad unrealistic. One can dream.
Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, and HAPPIER NEW YEAR to all – may the holidays you love and celebrate bring you joy.
Success? I don’t know if others are in the enviable position of not writing for a living, but I am. Which is good, because I’m what we used to call glacially slow, until the glaciers started calving and melting with climate change. A friend called it ‘at the speed of continental drift,’ which still works.
My concern is that after I’ve put twenty-two years so far into the first two books of a mainstream literary trilogy, I want READERS. Legacy would be nice, but that isn’t exactly an aim, and if you’re not known during your lifetime, you will have to be unbelievably lucky in today’s world to be known because someone championed your work after you left us.
Disability – and now – retirement make writing my personal choice. I always meant to do it when I retired from computational plasma physics at Princeton; disability just made that happen at 40 instead of 66.
I spend my energy parsimoniously – there isn’t much of it, and I want it spent on writing when it is discretionary. I’m sure that if I had managed to persuade a traditional publisher to take me on, the marketing would have still been a problem – most traditionally-published works get six weeks on a bookstore shelf before they disappear.
I would like to see all the hoopla be about the quality and especially accessibility of the writing itself: as I have always found books such as Rebecca and Jane Eyre eminently accessible STORY- and CHARACTER-wise, that is what I’ve aimed to write. Maybe my view of ‘literary’ is flawed or limited (personally, I’m not a fan of ambiguity – others love it, or of speculative fiction – ditto, or of creatively formatted fiction): I want better, more intense, more compelling fiction with care for all the factors that make a ‘good book’. Which is why I appreciate the genre fiction with a literary quality – ‘Dune’ isn’t just SF: it is at least literary-quality SF, at best literary storytelling.
The problem is that ‘literary’ now covers anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere, a common contamination.
Instead of being the fiction that subtly raises literacy – and pleasure. As it was for me as an American child growing up in Mexico, with limited access to books in English and no libraries.
I want READERS. Readers who find what I write better than their usual fare. That’s how I define ‘success.’ It requires that I do a much better marketing job somehow.
And the books which become favorites, the ones you remember, are the ones that make you feel good somehow.
Because that’s what you get objectively and subjectively when you read/buy a writer’s book: their particular take on a life, love, and the universal.
It isn’t accidental that some books become classics: they appeal to something in the reader that makes the reader buy the book as an adult, and read it to their children, because it’s an easy way to say that: this is what I want you to grow up loving – and feeling – because it was important to me, and I want you to have it.
As you go through life, and get battered, you choose
But you have to read widely first, so you find out what you need.
Is it The Velveteen Rabbit?
Is is Pooh, original or Disney (or both)?
Is it mysteries or gory serial killer thrillers? Do you like fantasies and are you satisfied when someone else – the protagonist – is The One? Or do you prefer stories in which, due to the writer’s skill, YOU are the center, the quester, the One.
There’s a whole MATRIX of other relevant bits
Location on this planet or an alternate universe
Complexity of ideas
Style and tone and vocabulary
But the most important one is always: how does it make you FEEL?
Because that’s what you’re looking for in the next story, the next favorite, the next book.
And that’s what will determine a basic satisfaction with what you read, and what you look for when you take a chance on something new.
I’m a sucker for well-written books
And I get annoyed when that leads me astray: well-written – but with a basic nastiness to the ending; well-written – but with an underlying misogyny or racism; well-written – but with characters you’d never want to meet in real life.
I still remember one book which was recommended by a literary blog I no longer recall and which the reviewer said it was a shame more people hadn’t read, since it was so well-written. I bought it! I read it! I was indeed very well written. And the recommendation made me miss the early red flags, because the story, about a murdered young girl, and how it affected her family and friends, turned into a story which blamed the victim for her own murder – because of the way she ‘responded’ to the sick adults who perverted her innocence. And the final conclusion to the story was that it wasn’t important to identify and stigmatize the killer!
I deleted the book from my Amazon account, something I rarely do, but haven’t been able to scrub how it made me feel from my mind.
Because first the writer described how wonderful she was and how everyone loved her – and then destroyed her by saying she deserved what happened to her! As if anyone, especially a child, a teen, deserved to be murdered.
It makes me wonder WHY someone would write such a book. And realize there’s a whole subculture of writers who do – and readers who love those books.
When I write I make conscious choices
I leave the characters those turnoffs that the big trucks use on a mountain road when their brakes fail – but I can’t make the characters use them.
I adopt the slow burn: things happen with enough time to think about why, to consider consequences, to justify actions. There are plenty of stories – and real life events – where something pivots on a tiny accidental point. They don’t interest me because there is nothing a character can do to avert the coming disaster – they will cope with the change, and the coping will show who they are, but it’s a cop-out, and, under dire circumstances, even good people make mistakes. And have to live with the consequences of a split second.
Not much in the way of subtlety with the turn-your-life-on-a-twisted-dime stories, especially if the reader can see it coming at the previous mile marker. Plus, those books don’t reward re-reading, and that’s a waste: depending on a trick ending is a fool-me-once.
I WANT to write something re-readable.
I want it to take several readings to see many of the connections.
I want most readers to have to go back and read the previous volume before the new one – or to have internalized what came before so they wouldn’t have to (I’ve had both kinds of readers comment about this).
I offer the usual bargain:
I do the work – you tell me how it made you feel.
Then tell me how it worked for you.
Try it out on the prequel 1500 word short story Too Late.
Then remember there’s plenty more where that came from.
I’m going to be very careful with this post, as getting a bad editorial review is one of the hazards of paying for reviews: your book could be crap, and a proper reviewer is entitled to say exactly what they think of it.
This reviewer sends you the review as a courtesy, so you can tweak any problems before it gets published.
Sometimes you have the recourse of requesting that the review be dumped, and I have exercised that right.
So any quotes I list from the to-not-be-published review are my only product for my money – as only the reviewer and I should have access to the content, and therefore no one should be able to search for the quotes on the internet, and identify the person I’m complaining about here.
I will leave off any identifying information
and write only about the substance of the review, which is the subject of my complaint in a general way (I can already see readers wondering how bad Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD was, and whether I simply can’t take criticism).
Indies like me need a few impartial honest editorial reviews and we need to pay for them. They – in full, or quotes from them – go in the Editorial Reviews section of the book’s Amazon page.
Having a decent editorial review legitimizes you as an author, gives you some credibility.
We need to choose our source, as it can get into real money (for example, a Kirkus review is almost $500), and it will take a lot of sales to make that review worth the expenditure.
There are many other reputable review services available to self-published authors (SPAs), less expensive ones, but the field is, like literary agentry, completely unregulated, even taking into account that the ultimate result, the review, is published for anyone to see.
One would hope for some self-regulation, but the standard thing for an author to do if you don’t like a review is to let it sink like the millstone it is and hope no one sees it.
FIGHTING a review is not done, and will get you branded a ‘difficult author.’
Again, got it?
So why am I taking the risk?
Because I had expectations (silly woman?) that a professional reviewer would at least read the book.
Or enough of the book to be able to say something real and thoughtful about what I spent 7 years of my small supply of good energy producing.
When I was offered the draft review to tweak
my heart sank.
I wrote back, after a bit of reflection at the complete mismatch between my understanding of my book, and the review:
…I have been looking forward to your review for a long time.
And now I have to ask you to completely cancel publication.
If you have any interest, let me know, and I can provide you with a list of all the points your review did not mention that are critical to the story continued in NETHERWORLD.
I don’t know what to think, but the review below in the email you just sent me is not something I would want published if I have any choice in the matter. It does not represent the continuing story nor the characters.
I did NOT expect a response other than cancellation; what I received was:
Oh my! The review can of course be put on hold.
Please let me know what was wrong or missing. I will go over my notes and re-read, and re-do the review to get it right.
Sometimes I leave out some points in a story in favor of trying to preserve some elements of surprise for the reader; but in this case it sounds like I missed too many and was too general.
Please let me know specifics, and I’ll work at identifying where in my notes I went awry, and will redo the reading and notes as needed.
Lovely offer, so what’s the problem?
I’ll go into specifics of a few things below, but ‘missing a few points’ was not my interpretation.
In fact, when I started to make a mental list of the ‘few points,’ I quickly realized that the entire book had been left out, and a completely generic Romance review was what had been supplied.
If anyone knows Pride’s Children, they know that it is NOT a Romance, was never intended to be one, and misses every trope that a Romance reader expects from a satisfying Romance. Romance is a perfectly viable category with dedicated writers and MANY more readers than literary fiction – and enviably lucrative – but I don’t write Romance.
I’ll let a reviewer for PURGATORY comment:
…And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!), nor is it predictable or syrupy…
In fact, as much as I respect Romance writers and readers for knowing and getting what they like to read, I have been fighting Pride’s Children being categorized as a Romance everywhere that crops up, including Goodreads, where the librarians refused to do anything because some READERS had chosen to include PC on a shelf with ‘romance’ somewhere in its title.
Pride’s Children is a LOVE STORY embedded in a mainstream trilogy set in the intersection between Hollywood and writers
From the same reviewer:
…This is solid general fiction of a very high order, in the best Realist tradition, exploring human interactions and relationships between enormously well-drawn characters who come fully alive, as real, intensely human people. These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well…
And now for a few review details, so you can judge for yourself
The whole mention given to Bianca, arguably the most important character in NETHERWORLD, is “And then there’s Andrew’s film co-star Bianca, whose debut film is starting to make its mark on the world,” followed by a single reference to ‘the dance between these three’ and one to ‘a triangle of connections, ambition, and obsessions that embraces scheming, film industry politics, and love and friendship alike.’
The rest of the review tries, generically, to make a two-character Romance out of the friendship between Andrew and Kary: “… recommended pick for prior enthusiasts of the tale, who will find the ongoing growth and connections between Irish megastar Andrew O’Connell [sic] recluse author Dr. Kary Ashe continues to introduce challenge and revised their visions of life…” and “…As each makes their way through dates, other life connections, and events that test their talents and perspectives, readers receive an intriguing contrast in personalities and love that will especially delight prior followers of Andrew and Kary’s worlds.”
The ending tells libraries that NETHERWORLD has “… thought-provoking escapades and interpersonal conundrums where all the characters are both villain and hero will welcome the nicely-developed tension and psychological insights…”
All the characters are both villain and hero?
Excuse me while I gag. The whole point of Pride’s Children is that integrity and morality are NOT relative, not subjective, not ‘opinions,’ but fraught choices with consequences even for those who don’t get to choose.
What do authors do with bad editorial reviews?
Distinguish here first between the REVIEW being bad and the BOOK being so bad the review which says that is good, but this can be irrelevant unless the book is so hyped people go to the original source to see what was actually written, which could lead to a firestorm of sorts until the internet finds the next flaming pile.
The most obvious and most common response is to find some chunk of words in the review that can be used as a pull quote – words to put on the cover or in an ad – that are TECHNICALLY not a lie, because those words, in that order, appear in the review, even if the review context clearly negates the pull quote. Easy? “…one of the best thrillers…” from an original “Nowhere NEAR one of the best thrillers…” Usually a bit more subtle, but you get the idea.
Or if lucky or money is available, a bad review can be buried by several good ones. With the additional fillip of implying the unwanted review is somehow sour grapes.
Dropping the review completely means the loss of whatever was paid for it, which is sometimes the only option.
Arguing about the review in public, WITH names, is best left to well-paid PR pros, because of all the positive and negative ramifications. ‘Going to war’ is expensive, with pitfalls.
Another option, mine, is to use the review carefully as a cautionary example of what can happen, for the newbies to learn from and more experience writers to commiserate about. And then to put it behind you. And, of course, never use that reviewer or editorial review service again.
I briefly considered one OTHER final option
Complaining to the service managers or owners about the review and the reviewer.
Not probably the best option – the reviewer may have been bringing in cash for the service for a while.
Possibly an excuse for the review service to dump the reviewer (usually added to other examples of the reviewer cutting corners or losing their touch).
But extremely dangerous to the individual unarmored AUTHOR, because people won’t necessarily remember that there was some justification for a complaint, only that a certain AUTHOR (those horrible people) had the nerve to complain about a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER, followed by closing of the ranks of the pros and more complaints about, in this case, entitled indie AUTHORs.
So I’ll stop at ‘cautionary tale,’ hope I get some feedback and not too many people trolling (if you are not a regular, that behavior will get you banned before leading to any posting of your comment; regulars are welcome because I know they will be civil).
I can’t be the only one unhappy with a paid-for review that seems entirely unrelated to the book.
Oh, and don’t forget to BUY the book (or going to Booksprout to request an ARC if you are even considering writing a review), so you can make your own decision if my happiness with NETHERWORLD, and especially its ending, is a crock.
I am just coming out of a period that started, really, far before Sep. 26 when I went to Stanford U. hospitals for a badly needed surgical repair.
It involved taking care of myself in ways I had to learn, going through all kinds of medical tests to make sure that someone with ME/CFS (me) would be a suitable candidate for surgery at all, and then getting there at the right time without the coronavirus putting a stop to the whole parade: I literally had a covid PCR test on Sunday Sep. 25 in a parking lot in Redwood City – all ready for the hospital the next morning – and being fairly sure I was not sick, but knowing that the juggernaut would come to a shuddering halt if I happened to be and be asymptomatic.
And it would take months to get another surgical date, months I did not want to have to face.
Husband and I had isolated in our apartment in the retirement community for over two weeks, going out for doctor’s appointments, and husband going down to dining to retrieve takeout every night for dinner so we wouldn’t be exposed to the cases that seem to randomly infect this place now that people are being so less careful with masks and gatherings.
I had literally been waiting 2.5 years for this surgery date, since I needed it just as the pandemic was getting going in 2020, and anyone who could avoid going to a hospital did so.
Before going to my medical destiny, I published NETHERWORLD:
It was finished in March, but the complications of the health stuff kept me from focusing on cover and formatting, and I finally got help from friends, Bill and Teresa Peschel of Peschel Press in Hershey, PA. Bill kindly and accurately produced the cover from my notes and comments (patient man!), and responded to many rounds of requests for corrections to the interior formatting of the paperback – and I did the final touches to the ebook cover and interior produced by Scrivener on Sep. 18 and 19 and uploaded the files, which Amazon accepted with relative alacrity, making me no longer a one-book author.
And then came the surgery and its aftermath – the HORROR
The operation went fine, and the results have been stellar and relatively painless, and most everything now works properly, and all of it as well as possible.
But pain management went flooey – starting with side effects of medication changes the week before, and then continuing for the most pain I’ve ever had, for weeks, accompanied by side effects from other new medications designed to help, to finally me getting off EVERY NEW MED, and back to my long-time stable pain medications from before – and them slowly being enough.
I tried to tell them I’m a non-standard patient; I thought they had listened.
Don’t know what I’ll do if I ever need to do something like this again, but there will be some very interesting and thorough conversations somewhere along the line: ME/CFS patients are NOT normal patients.
It’s over, I will be released from restrictions in a week
and I will be able to use our warm therapy pool, and then work up to riding my tricycle, and longer trips that the bare minimum rides on Maggie, my Airwheel S8 (a bicycle seat on a hoverboard).
And after getting my brain back these last few days, and catching up enough on sleep to be coherent (pain makes it IMPOSSIBLE to get rest), I have a big paperwork task to finish and send to the accountants.
And I will then be able to start up my new Macbook (I got the midnight blue one), and plug away at organizing the upgraded software I bought it for, and get going to finish the trilogy by writing volume 3, working title LIMBO.
I will be back to whatever passes for normal in this body and this household.
Nothing has yet changed on the research horizons
Rather, it seems that every day some scientist group has a new theory about what may be going wrong in the aftermath of viral infections such as Covid-19 and ME/CFS, and they want research money to find out if they’re right.
One of them will figure it out – the economic impact of millions of people coming down with Long Covid cannot be tolerated.
Except for the diehard holdouts, most doctors are starting to believe that post-viral illnesses are real and not psychological, or hysterical. They have no clue how to help us that gets down to basics and CURES us yet, but they are starting to treat the symptoms and minimize some of the miseries.
There is where HOPE lies: enough scientists committed to figuring it out, supported by research funds. Whether it is too late for people like me who’ve been ill for decades won’t be known for a while, and indeed the research horizon, my husband cautions, is more likely to be five to ten years than anything much faster: the coronavirus does an incredible amount of damage.
Some of it may not be fixable. I may not be fixable. Which would be a bitter conclusion I’m not ready to face yet.
All us post-viral illness folk still have to make it through the days
If you have it, my sympathies. If you have managed to avoid long covid, please be careful – if you get covid, your chances are estimated at 10-30% to not get better.
Have sympathy if you are not ill or have not lost someone dear – the tragedies are endless.
And send good vibes, pray, or cross your fingers – because I can’t wait to get back to spending my daily tiny allotment of energy FINISHING Pride’s Children.
If you read mainstream fiction, or psychological literary fiction, and haven’t read NETHERWORLD, it’s on Amazon in ebook and print. And in KU.
I would love to hear what you think – especially about whether it ends suitably.
And you can sign up to be informed about matters connected with the books at prideschildren.com.
Seems such an obvious statement, but being invisible is a big problem for authors – getting the title of your book out there is a constant pressure, and you become very fond of those who make the effort on your blog, their blog, a writing site, a reading site, or any place where readers who would like YOUR books congregate.
And then something has to persuade them to read enough words to get to a ‘Call to Action,’ which can be as simple as a recommendation followed by a link.
The problem of recommendations
If the subject of what you’re reading comes up naturally, I don’t find it too difficult to ask a few questions about what someone new to me likes to read.
I rattle off a couple of favorites of mine – say Jane Eyre and the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries and maybe Dune – and watch to see if the listener’s reaction is fight or flight.
No one likes pushy authors, those who insist their books are ‘for everyone.’ Because it’s not a very believable statement in general, though people who are glad they read Jane Eyre have the most flexible mindset (which is why it gets so much attention). The enjoyment, or even that the story was self-chosen, are the keys – such a reader probably plowed (or ploughed) through similar long-lasting books.
I tried reading A Confederacy of Dunces – an award winner with a good author story (John Kennedy Toole committed suicide when he couldn’t find a publisher, his mother persuaded a legendary literary agent to champion the book, and it won the Pulitzer Prize), but had to force myself to finish Chapter 1. Because it may be brilliant, but it made my gorge rise and choke me. ‘Icky’ is the best I can remember about that long-ago attempt I have no desire to repeat. I don’t get very far into Lolita, either, for similar reasons. Or The Catcher in the Rye.
I can’t imagine their authors spending time with those characters, however good the writing may be.
So I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and am glad I don’t have to assign either book to, say, a class of high school juniors (assuming teachers still get to make those choices), and then have to talk about it in class.
It’s personal for the author
And books can become a personal crusade favorite for readers who then recommend, gift, or lend something they loved.
So, if you LIKED a book, take a moment and do SOMETHING to encourage the author to keep it up:
Rate the book
Review and rate it
Blog about it
Recommend it to a friend
Leave nice words on the author’s websites
Buy an extra copy to lend
Send a copy to a friend or family member
Use as gifts
Ask your library to order the book(s)
Write a guide
Mention your favorite parts
Tell people you can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy
Hire a band to parade in DC in costume
Anything you would like if YOU had written the book.
Be your most creative.
Give a copy to any medical personnel who have no empathy for diseases like ME/CFS – this will allow them to live the life of one – without actually having to get it, or Long Covid, or Post-polio Syndrome, or Lyme disease – or any one of a bunch of post-viral syndromes and similar misunderstood ‘invisible’ diseases.
Crusade for indie books in principle by doing something a little beyond your normal response – the author will be delighted.
It’s not the money (though adequate royalties of around $6 per any version I have are about three times larger than many traditional authors make per book) – I crave the readers. Thanks!
When we find something that blows us away, that touches us somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts – sometimes for an odd reason – in this case because something about Mark reminded me of our middle son, so that when they appeared in my FaceBook feed, with an instrument (the Chapman stick) I’d never heard about, I was intrigued enough to listen: we need to share.
Because of my ME/CFS, I have a very hard time listening to music, instrumental or otherwise, and have a horrible tendency to get earworms from it, and to not be able to get it out of my head for literally weeks (I think it’s one of the many processing problems from the damage the disease does to the brain).
So I don’t listen much any more – but Cascade’s versions don’t kick that pile of dust up. I just went through making up a weeks’ pills, listened to 3-4 of their pieces, and none of them wrangled my brain to the ground, so I was immediately prejudiced in their favor, because I LOVE music, and miss it greatly.
Not intending to be dire or apocalyptic – but often being able to write a blog post, almost any kind of a post, signals, for me, the end of a difficult period where the brain power needed to do almost anything is just not there, and I’m not sure if it’s the waxing and waning of ME/CFS – or the beginning of the end of being able to write.
Those who know me, or have been following for a while, know how close to the edge of completely non-functional I live. A little bit worse, and no creative juices flow at all.
I wait it out, deal with whatever is causing additional problems beyond chronic illness and disability, pick up where I left off when I can function a bit again.
THERE IS NO POINT
in wasting any of my energy in railing against my fate – it doesn’t help, and doesn’t make me feel better. [Note: my brain supplied ‘railing’ as the appropriate form of protest against things bigger than I can manage. I was terrified for a few seconds when Google only supplied ‘fencing’ as a definition, until I insisted further and ‘rail’ as a verb came up. Phew!]
It is what it is until they figure it out, this ME/CFS, come up with a definitive diagnostic, find the mechanism(s) that cause it, find a treatment, find a CURE!
Today I had an interesting interaction with someone online who claims 1) to have had it, and 2) to have a treatment protocol that cured him. I had the strength of character to tell him I was glad for him, and not interested in arguing with someone online who has the ‘solution of the week.’ And to please stop writing to me.
As we tell new people, “Hope it’s something else – something that DOES have a diagnostic and a treatment.” If something actually cured someone, it is awfully likely they didn’t have what I have in the first place, but something with similar symptoms – and a CURE!/treatment/prognosis.
It’s vanishingly likely that he has something that can help, and I don’t have the bandwidth for another savior with a solution. I’ve been at this nonsense for 32 years.
There is a finite (ie, non-zero) possibility that now that they’re pouring money into long covid research that they will actually look enough to find a real solution. That’s where my hopes are being pinned; ask me in a couple of years if anything panned out – because governments finally realized that 10-30% of the long covid survivors were, essentially, getting ME/CFS and, more importantly to governments, turning from productive working tax-paying citizens into sick citizens needing the disability benefits they have been promised since they started working. Ie, it will COST the governments, and they may figure out a cure is finally worth putting some money into research, instead of telling people it’s all in their heads.
Hope I’m still around.
More than that, hope it works for people who are not recently ill – not that I begrudge the newbies, but I want to be at the head of the line.
Hey! Look! I’m producing coherent (okay, you may argue about that) sentences!
It’s been a rough time since I announced I had finished writing Netherworld, and now that I have finished proofing the text.
The plan was to format and then to get the cover out of my head and onto a page. It’s been weeks. Sometimes I just go read the end, fall in love with it all over again, and go back to sitting staring at the screen.
Because love hasn’t been translating into action.
So far it’s just par for the course, and I expect it will resolve itself, and it won’t hurt to get the new Airbook(name?) from Apple with the M2 thingamabob my eldest daughter says is good – not having the computer question resolved – should I format and cover on the old machine, or wait for the new one and bite the bullet and update my Scrivener which may have some of the things I needed that the previous version didn’t have?
But I can’t believe how much that tiny obstacle in my path stopped me from making ANY progress.
Physical problems have been the stumbling block
I don’t want to go into details, yet, on a public blog, but my already-strained-to-the-limit body and mind have had a huge task added to keeping us all going, it has affected sleep, pain, and comfort to an incredible degree, and taken every speck of energy I had.
Finding a solution took energy I didn’t have, and going outside my medical system, and I’m glad I did – but it won’t be over for a while, and it isn’t going to be any fun. Until AFTER September, and then there will be recovery.
And I won’t have any relief from taking care of the problem constantly unless I am very, very, VERY lucky next week.
I’m sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. That should account for the feeling of doom – sleep deprivation is classified as torture.
So I shouldn’t worry, right?
Except that there’s always that one last straw, the one that breaks the badger’s back, and I wonder, when I have the brain to wonder, whether this is it, and hope it isn’t, because I’m not finished writing quite yet.
If I am, it isn’t because I quit. I was because I was wrestled to a standstill by Reality, which always wins.
Meanwhile, putting words on page has given me a little much-needed hope again, and getting the news my computer situation might be resolving has given me a goal in a decision I kept going back and forth on (wait – or go ahead on familiar if not completely adequate technology – wait -…).
Thinking outside the box hasn’t worked yet
but I am vastly encouraged by the fact that I figured out how to, initiated it, was fortunate enough to find a listening ear (after several tries), and it may work much better than what I have had (nothing). And in my weakened state, no less!
I’m very proud of myself for trying – hope it works out.
So there – and mysterious. The women who read this blog and are older than 50 and/or have had children may have a clue; the rest of you really shouldn’t want to know. It’s grotty and embarrassing and against all the modesty my middle-class Mexican upbringing instilled deep, courtesy of my beloved Mother.
If I navigate it successfully, you may ask privately, and I’ll name the Beast.
As soon as the fog clears a bit more, and/or the new laptop is here and mastered, I will go doggedly right back to working on the publishing of NETHERWORLD, instead of just going to the file, re-reading the end, and crying into my beer because I love it so much.
I’m just waiting for two good friends to let me know if they liked it, too, to feel a whole lot better.
And if you like to be in at that stage, my contact information is in the About. I could use a few more readers/reviewers who are familiar with PURGATORY, and need to keep going.
In the publishing of the next book, every self-published author has to face the fact that typos exist, are blamed on the author (who has ultimate responsibility), and are as hard to eliminate completely as cockroaches.
What is a practical limit for the number of typos?
A little checking provides a couple of rough guidelines:
A typo per thousand words is too many.
Three typos in ten thousand words is proofing to a professional standard.
That standard means that, in a novel of 187,000 words, one could discover 56 typos – a huge number – and still be within professional quality. But it’s a twenty-chapter book, and that is only 2-3 typos per chapter, which doesn’t sound quite so bad.
The kind of errors matters
Using the wrong word isn’t a typo – it’s a mistake. It often comes from not knowing a word well enough, and not looking up the correct usage if you’re not certain.
There are a number of these anthills to die on, and experienced writers will know the difference between may and might, principal and principle, and verb affect/effect and noun affect/effect.
No one but beginners should have problems with its and it’s, or their/they’re/there. A professional writer needs to be certain about the basics, and have a cheat sheet for the ones which cause them trouble personally.
And it never hurts to check again, reinforcing what you know, challenging what you think you know. I am getting very humble in that department, as my damaged brain keeps throwing me the almost right word, I find it slightly odd – and have the sense to check. The bigger your vocabulary, the more chances for this to trip you up.
Leaving out a short word is a typo – a good friend just caught me leaving out ‘to’ from the infinitive ‘to commit’ – thank you!
The little shorties which are the wrong word, but are an actual word, are one of my peccadilloes: it, if, is, in – it is so easy to type the wrong consonant!
Transposing a couple of letters or leaving off a final letter – happen frequently to all typists, and can be very hard to catch. Sometimes the best way is to have the robot voice of your computer or program read you your own deathless prose – and make you giggle. My current typo-in-hiding is leaving the final ‘r’ off ‘your,’ which sounds funny when read back to me – YMMV.
Paying for professional proofing
does not guarantee perfection, unfortunately. It may be worth it but I think it doesn’t teach you anything. You’ll still make mistakes and typos, and have to figure out how to make the corrections stick in your writer’s mind, if they’re the kind you can learn from such as using a word incorrectly.
If you accept the corrections made by a pro too quickly, you may not move the problems into long-term memory properly – and so will continue to make that kind of flub. It’s worth taking some time to ask yourself why they happened, and whether you can make a permanent self-fix.
And you’re still the one with your name on the book.
So wish me well on what is the final proofing:
Sending out ARCs I think are perfect, and getting back the little niggly (and wonderfully welcome), “I liked it – but on page #n, you have a typo…”
Embarrassing – but I am grateful for every catch.
And vow to learn from them.
Can’t be perfect – but I can always become better.
Gak! It’s been almost a month since I posted anything!
There was a lot of quarantining in that time. NOT because we were exposed to Covid, though some independent living residents in this facility were (we found out because they had dinner with friends in Assisted Living at the Friendship Table, and the AL people ARE tested regularly because they’re in the health-care portion of our facility).
And because those people in IL who WERE exposed to the people in AL who tested positive, the State of California required them to quarantine for FOURTEEN DAYS in their apartments. None of the IL residents got Covid, thank goodness, but WE had a vacation in Lake Tahoe with our kids a few weeks later, and realized that WE wouldn’t be able to go IF we got exposed ourselves, here, and then had to do the same quarantine for 14 days.
That is, we quarantined for 14 days so we wouldn’t have to quarantine for 14 days – at an inconvenient time which would put the kibosh on OUR vacation. Mixed up world, eh?
So – any progress on publishing NETHERWORLD?
Well, yes and no.
For the ms., I created an easy ARC from Scrivener – the complete, very long pdf of the whole thing (~500 pages), and sent it to the first person who’s offered to review AND buy it on launch day (thank you, David!), and as a backup complete proofed file to several places, including my amazing beta reader (thank you, Rachel!), and gave my husband and children the necessary information to manage my literary estate (and publish Netherworld) if something happened on the trip/vacation/return. You never know.
The formatting is no further than that.
For the cover: I have all the pieces, an updated Pixelmator 3, and an updated Learn Pixelmator 3.5 video course (free update – thanks folks!).
I’ve bought licenses for the two cover images from Dreamstime, acquired another photo from the same friend who supplied the sky for Purgatory’s cover, found a couple of low-res images to guide me in the changes I’ll need to create the cover in my head, and put the whole thing into a folder and a backup on the iCloud. Phew.
Now I just have to do the work, get it past my cover mentor (thank you, Jessica!), and create ebook, paper and hardback covers to spec, and then, because I want to make one change to them, redo a bit of the Purgatory covers (bigger name so it shows on the thumbnail, add the award, etc.) which really amounts to redoing a fair amount of the Purgatory covers AND creating the hardcover one.
I have my permissions from Cambridge U. for my KJV quotations – feels nice and official.
I got my copyright certificate from the Library of Congress! I always feel better after I do that, for whatever it might be worth.
Launching is, of course, dependent on having something to launch. I had approached a PR firm, put up with a long delay to talk to them, checked in with them and received a promise of an answer of some kind before the end of May, and than have been ghosted. It does remind me that if people are not reliable in the small things, it’s probably better not to rely on them for the big ones, so that firm is permanently off the table. Too bad, because I liked them, and had already invested some effort into them.
I’m still obsessively re-reading the end of Netherworld – and not changing a word. I promise explosions, and I hope they are well received.
I want to continue getting into writing LIMBO
I literally can’t wait – because there are only a few hours between the end of 2 and the beginning of 3, and I’m very happy how that turned out.
And I’ve already started writing Chapter 41(LIMBO goes to 60).
BUT I’ve been dealing with some medical problems for 2.5 years to no solution, and I’m in the middle of trying to fix some things that really need fixing, and it’s a slow process because disability means EVERYTHING is so much harder – from making phone calls through phone systems that won’t just let you call someone to make an appointment, to doctor visits which consume an incredible amount of prep time, energy, and recovery time, to a whole slew of medical tests with the same problems – which the new doctor insists on before she will even consider DOING something.
Plus a big paperwork problem I’ve finally admitted I had to step in and manage, do some of, get help, hand over to the pros…
And my limited number of daily spoons is gone every day before I manage to write. Because it’s not just ‘write a few words’ now – it’s the whole huge Book 3 planning review, restart, clean up, carry stuff from 1 and 2 typical glorious mess of starting the final volume in a trilogy. Drives me up a tree that I can’t just do it.
But I’m literally doing the best I can
And not managing to sleep very well with all the above, to boot.
I can tell stress that I’m fine until I’m full-body blue, but that does NOT take away the stress. It just doesn’t add worry, but the things I’m having to do are stressful in and of themselves, and that is such a deep autonomic process that you can’t affect it much.
Plus the physical problems have extra pain and much discomfort associated, which has to be micromanaged – and I was already exhausted before that.
There are signs, portents, and possibilities
of improvements, but not fast.
This is literally the first time I’ve even been able to think of writing a simple blog post, in the whole past month.
Life happens – you deal.
I know what my primary aim is (if family is okay), but I’m not able to DO it right now.
Don’t worry. Nothing TOO horribly grim. But I’m all tapped out of spoons every day, almost the end of the morning, when I’ve done nothing yet.
But stuff slowly gets done, and goes into the rearview mirror queue from the To Do list, and I’ll get there.
On the bright side
my oldest daughter is helping me select my new computer for the foreseeable future – my current lovey is from 2015, and can’t be upgraded far enough because then my necessary old software – Office 2011 for Mac and Dramatica Story Expert – won’t work, and I don’t have the mental bandwidth right now to deal with another potential crash.
Everything is properly backed up (Time Machine and iCloud), but bobbles with computers cost me days or weeks when they happen, so for the first time in a long time, I’m being proactive: a new Macbook Air with the M2 processor and good camera should take me far into the future and definitely through LIMBO.
It will, however, require some learning – not my strong point.
So that’s the update:
I’m working as hard as I can on the critical list items
I’m as far along with Netherworld as I can be, including covers
Ditto redoing the Purgatory covers
Ditto writing into the future with Limbo
and dealing with the sorry carcass which makes all of this possible at all in as graceful a manner as I can against the extra stress of having to do it at all, and the unbelievable amount of extra energy it takes
AND, courtesy of my lovely assistant Sammy, whose last day is today (she’s graduating! going on to grad school! going home for the summer!), I have already acquired an assistant for the fall (another senior – so I’ll get 8-9 months of her life, and leave her a changed young woman – but seniors are really handy), and she’s interested in learning the self-pub aspects of the job I haven’t had time to do with Sammy because other things were more, uh, important.
And the ability to write this post reassures me that there’s still a ‘me’ here.
More when there’s actually progress on this laundry list.
Be well. Have a great summer. Don’t work TOO hard.
PS: If you are desperate to read NETHERWORLD, and wouldn’t mind writing a review to be posted when it’s published, email me (abehrhardt at gmail), make your case, and I’ll send you what I have at the time.