Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Editing – The Devil’s Bane Continued

Above is the current version of the cover for the new Sharon O’Mara Chronicle. Please post a comment below; would be great to hear what you think!

Blatant Plug: Our Windsor Hill Publishing books (four of them) will be at the September book shows for the IBPA, (the Independent Book Publishers Association), a great help to small publishers and people in the book industry in general – go to their site HERE  Five shows this fall for book buyers, wish us luck. For the shows and the locations CLICK HERE.

Editing – The Devil’s Bane Continued
Early this month I discussed editing my novel Elk River, now I’m faced with the pleasurable yet daunting edit of Toulouse 4 Death, the initial raisone d’être for this blog (don’t you just love italics!). Speaking of italics it’s one of the more important points of the editing as well.

For me I approach the task in a multi-level, systematic manner. A check list, if you will, serves me quite well. In general there are three parts to the editing: 1) technical mechanics, 2) content and story, 3) and professional editing of the manuscript. For my part in this I look at the first two as my responsibility, the third is accomplished by my hired gun. As noted in the 8-8-11 blog, the final version, the proverbial buck, stops at my desk. As the writer and publisher of these books, my hands (or finger tips) will be all over them, the pride and shame are mine.

Technical Edit:
I try to complete the mechanical aspects of the editing first. (Never, ever, ever believe that Microsoft Word is correct – Check and Verify!) This helps me to remember and review the story (good for the next stage of content editing), as well as remove distractions when I edit the content. Here is how I attack the technical aspects of the manuscript:
1.      Make sure you have placed back-up copies of the draft in as many places as possible (hard disk, memory stick, hard copy), date them. These will be there when your computer crashes or a hurricane blows through. I even email a version to myself so a copy sits in the cloud (Ah, let me think of that image for a moment, my words in the cloud!).
2.      I look for misspellings or actually correctly spelled but wrongly used words. There, their, they’re come to mind. In my edit log, (yes, keep one so you know what you have or have not done), I list words that should be checked. You can make an easy list; add more as you find them. There is no easy way to do these. In Word use the find/search function. NEVER do a find all and replace. Here is a start: to, too, two; knew, new; know, no; won, one; your, you’re; etc.
3.      I look at contractions next. Is not, and that is come to mind. Search and decide when they are appropriate. In most dialog we tend to contract the is not’s to isn’t, but there are times for emphasis or clarity we leave them as is. It’s your decision. By the way please, look at your its and it’s, we all know how to use them, unfortunately the computer may miss them. Do each, one at a time. You will be happy you did (no contraction for emphasis). Again, NEVER do a replace all.
4.      Punctuation next. The usual commas before end quotes with an attribution such as: “I will never do that,” she said. Sometimes a period sneaks in at the end of the quote, they are hard to dig out, but you must try. Don’t leave it to the hired editor; make his job a little easier – especially if you are paying him.
5.      Then there are: italics, quotes, jargon, compounding and hyphenation, semi-colons, colons, semi-demi semiquaivers, and other stuff. Get a good punctuation book, make your list, check them off.
6.      Save copies with appropriate titles and dates – again place in an editing folder.

Content and Story
My shelves are full of books dealing with content editing. So many it would be foolish to try and list them, each of us has our favorites, others are just plain simplistic, and others so complicated that trying to explain James Joyce through editing is just, well, just silly. Writers do what they do, like it or not, it’s up to the reader to decide.

But a story is a story: it has a beginning, middle, and end. Satisfaction or confusion is the result. I try to read the first content edit with an ear to the continuity of the story, I make notes in the edit log (make up your own system to find these locations for editing – I use page number and key words, post in the log). Does A lead to B, then C? Do you get through the story in a cohesive and understandable process? Did A lead to G then back to B?

As you edit ideas will pop into your head, make a note – use or discard later. But don’t lose the thought. In my Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, I have written about her clothing more that Ian Fleming would have noted James Bond’s tailor. For my stories it’s important. But I have been taken to task for some of my combinations (by a fashion expert no less, Men! was all she would say.), never mix green silk blouse with red shoes unless it’s Christmas. One of the things I’ll be looking at and adding is a bit more on her clothing, I was criticized for a lack of information in the last book, seems my readers want to know what to wear to a gun fight. What accessories to wear while packing a Beretta 94F? Shoes, don’t get me started!

I realize that there is a lot more about editing, but I think you get the drift. Set a plan, be logical, take notes, make copies, keep a log and checklist, and try and be dispassionate. Hopefully you won’t get halfway through and want to chuck the thing as a load of tripe. Push through, try and enjoy the ride, then get it to you editor.

More on the role of the paid editor and hired gun later.

More later . . . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Done, Complete, Finished, Huzzah

A short missive today, I’m exhausted. Toulouse 4 Death was completed late Monday night, it’s done. I will let it gestate a week or so then get into a hard edit. Add a few things that have occurred to me as the story evolved; nothing major. Also have to pick up a few issues of continuity and make sure that Sharon O’Mara is properly dressed for the important parts of the book. I am getting feedback that some of my readers from earlier books want to know what she’s wearing, some of the girls want to know how you conceal a Beretta 94F with that figure of hers, and some of the guys don’t care. My readers are important, so let’s see what happens.

The story finished at 70,300 words, 5,000 more than Containers 4 Death. It will still fit within the format and layout I’m striving for in these books. Now I’m working on the cover and hope for feedback as I try some different ideas. I’ll let you know.

The first rewrite is due October 7, 2011 per the schedule. I’m aiming for the rewrite by mid-September. It will be on to my editor Dennis DeRose, soon after that. Put it on your calendar Dennis (see blatant promo above in header). Publishing date is November 15, 2011, just in time for Christmas. Hint-hint! I may also be putting the three books in one bundle for a special price, again watch this space for updates. Ebook for Toulouse 4 Death will be available about then as well.

More later . . . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Finish Line and Long John Silver

Blatant Monthly Plug: Buy my books, please. How can we make Sharon O’Mara a household name, get her cooking utensils on QVC, and bring out her own line of perfume and handbags if you don’t buy her books? She doesn’t do drugs, date boy-band members, or beat up paparazzi. She does occasionally drink a little more than she should; after all, she is a rock star. (end of blatant plug).

Toulouse 4 Death reached an important milestone on Tuesday night around 11:00, I finished the primary narrative. Just a few thousand words to tidy things up and the draft is done. My hope is there will be double scotches all around Sunday evening.

My Schedule (see earlier blog posts) called for the draft to be finish by September 15 (I have it pinned over my desk, it watches me like an expectant teacher). This will be done. I required that the story be 60,000 words, it will be about 70,000 words when done. I have always wanted a fast paced book that requires me to keep the miscellaneous and irrelevant out. It’s working. Keep to the story and it will tell itself.

The issue of the schedule has been debated. Why force yourself to a time limit? Why the word count? It’ just too inhibiting, let the story tell itself, they say. That’s like allowing your children all the freedom they want so they will grow up independent and happy doing what they want. Phooey. We all need rules and requirements. Discipline, especially as we apply it to our writing, is critical. Move the story forward, push it, drive the reader. Whether you aspire to be a John Grisham or a Jane Erye, the goal (beyond the story) is to keep the reader involved. Boredom is the writer’s fear.

Right now I am retreating to the classics in my own reading (there are so many free or very inexpensive classic books out there for e-readers, it’s shocking and exciting). I just finished Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, published in 1874 and I’m halfway through Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, published in 1883 (reliving my early childhood I think). Two books, only nine years apart, that show a remarkable breadth of structure and detail (or lack of). Both are very enjoyable reads and I can understand their appeal a hundred and thirty years ago. Both are calls to adventure and mystery (not unlike Ms. J.K. Rowling’s efforts today). One goes into exasperating detail over iron mining and shelter building (it does go on and on a lot, but it is a good adventure), and the other, in Stevenson’s case, is a wonder of jargon and “Pirate Patter.” It’s also a story written with brevity in mind. Some author’s would have written page after page of the voyage from England to Treasure Island on the Hispanola (remember it might have taking two months in the mid-1700s), he dismisses it in half a chapter and in one over-heard discussion. Brilliant! Remember, like cop stories today, pirate adventures must move quickly.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest --
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done the rest –
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

I think Sharon O’Mara often hums this to herself.

More later . . . .

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Editing – The Devil’s Bane

Note the additions to the header above, first chapters are now available for the O’Mara Chronicles.

A published book must be edited, period. Well edited, period. No buts or excuses. Remarks such as: “No one will notice.” “It’s just a comma for Pete’s sake.” “It’s my book, I can do what I want. It’s my way if being independent.” are not acceptable (and I’m sure the punctuation is wrong, somewhere, for the previous phrasing). Baloney, you worked hard on the story, it must be presented in its best English, spelling and punctuation.

I am saying this after having my novel Elk River professionally edited. But still, while going through the galley proof, the errors I continue to find just make me shake my head. Not to blame the editor, but I, as the author, must review the book at every stage, checking for spelling, spell-check is great but it is dumber than a box of rocks, i.e. canvas and canvass are both correct, except when they are reversed in the story. Punctuation has rules, but it’s the typos that get lost, little things like the comma after a quote that is followed by an attribution, i.e. “She melted,” Dorothy said. If you place a period after melted the punctuation review in you MS Word won’t pick it up. Do a search and replace. And on and on and on. The axiom, “The devil’s in the details,” is truth.

An editor is critical; they are someone with the experience and single-minded purpose to eliminate errors and confusions. With Track Changes in Word, the author can follow the changes proposed, approve or reject them and then produce the final manuscript. But at the same time the author must not blithely okay them, look at the suggestions and understand the corrections before approving the final. Learn.

This has nothing to do with style or content. In this particular area of editing or more specifically copy-editing, it is form over substance. For some books both a content editor and a copy-editor are needed, and in fact demanded. And, even beyond that for non-fiction, a fact-checking and even data checking editor might be employed. The wrong address in a travel book can be messy, the wrong phone number is there until the next edition (and if for an inn you will never be comped a room). The responsibility is yours as the author.

I have started a list of phrases and misspellings that I commonly make, I do a search for each in a methodical way to find and change as needed. I do the same for punctuation, things like the above mentioned period instead of a comma. Keep a list, in fact start a manual to use for each edit. Do your reviews before you send the manuscript on to your underpaid editor. If they work hourly, you will save some time and money.

Get a good book or guide on writing that focuses on grammar, spelling (difficult words), style and punctuation. The rules (and they are rules) are simple and direct. One of the best guides is Lynne Truss’s book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It’s humorous and stays with you. Also Grammar Girl is very good, but you can get lost or lose hours reading thru her subjects – but it’s worth it. (CLICK HERE)

We all try hard to present the best story. We fold time, kill off evil doers, invent fantastic machines, discover unknown countries, and tell simple stories of boy meets girl or boy meets alien mind-sucking zombies. Don’t mess it up with a poor presentation.

More later. . . .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Progress and Printing and Promotion

Elk River is in the printer hands, it was sent last Friday, they promised galley proof tomorrow, Thursday. Not bad during these hard times at printers and publishers. I am using BurdgeCooper in Los Angeles. They printed the first two books for the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles and did a great job at an affordable price. They don’t have complicated setup charges and other indirect costs, they are clean and efficient. Love it. If you want to know more about them and what they can do for you and your self-publishing empire, email Darnetta Brown at Use my name, give them a try, but be warned you have to do all the prep work and composition. They are only a printer, period. If you need more hands-on help probably Createspace or Lightning Press would be the way to go. Check out the advice that Joel Friedlander has on his website (click here). Joel is my guru on all things books and book building. His book, A Self Publisher’s Companion, is a must, available through Amazon – the ebook is great. (go here for both) 

Now the fun part, marketing.

In the latest O’Mara Chronicle, Toulouse 4 Death, Sharon is fighting a 93 year old Nazi and his blond granddaughter while trying to return stolen paintings to their rightful, though unsuspecting, owners. I’m back into the fight now; my goal is to have the draft finished by the end of the month. Rewrite soon after and ready for the street by November. When I started this missive/blog at the beginning of the development of the book in January, I was optimistic about the schedule, still am, but more humble. It’s a lot of damn work!

Sharon has an email address now at, drop her a line, she would love to hear from you. Maybe discuss weaponry, handbags, fishing, scotch, cooking, or dog care. She’s up for anything.

Here at Windsor Hill Publishing, our little operation that produces and markets the 4 Death Chronicles, Elk River, GI Town, and travel guides for the Gardens of England, our website will be underway very soon. We are reconstructing the look, access and communications between our customers and us. Bonnie, the president of Windsor Hill Publishing, is working hard on pulling this together. We also see this as a portal for our bookstore partners to order books. Be patient, I’ll let everyone know when are up and running.

More later . . . .