Self-Editing for Fiction Writers got recommended on the Facebook group for the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association, of which I am a member. So I decided to check it out. By and large, I’m glad I did. I’ve now written and released five novels, and I’ve worked with a couple of different editors. And a lot of what I see in this book lines up pretty well with what my best editorial experiences have taught me about my own writing.
Because yes–whether you’re planning on querying to traditional publishers or going indie, your work will require an edit pass. Probably multiple edit passes. And if you can’t afford to hire your own editor, and/or you don’t have handy immediate friends with editing skills in your social circle, you will have to do that editing yourself. This text could do you well as a how-to guide for tackling the job.
Here are some of the things the book discusses that I’ve learned about in my own editorial experiences: minimizing dialogue tags, and when you actually do need one, it’s okay to use ‘said’, really; minimizing use of dialect for effect, and techniques to capture the cadence of a character’s accent without making him or her unreadable; using action beats instead of dialogue tags to convey who’s speaking, and how; and all the various ways to think about handling point of view.
There are a lot of exercises in the various chapters as well, on which you can practice. I skipped those, just because I’ve actually gotten in a fair amount of editing practice at this point, working with my own stuff. But if you haven’t edited yourself or someone else’s work before, you might try those and see how valuable they are for you. Me, I’ll be buying myself a copy of this for reference, now that I’ve read the library checkout copy. Four stars.
Every so often well-meaning family and/or friends ask me questions like “So when do you get to quit your day job?” or “When do you get to be the next Tolkien/J.K. Rowling/Stephanie Meyer/Amanda Hocking/etc.?”
Which are lovely questions and I do appreciate the support, but the long and short of it is, the likely answer to both of these questions for the foreseeable future is “I don’t”.
For a writer, especially these days, getting to a point where quitting the day job is feasible is extremely hard. For one thing, I live in the United States, and while I’m fortunate enough to have a good job with good medical benefits, if I left that job, those benefits would vanish. And getting health coverage on your own? That’s just about as hard as trying to support yourself as a writer. And after all the medical adventures I’ve had over the last ten years, frankly, I ain’t leaving a well-paying, benefits-providing job unless my books start selling a few million copies a year.
Which brings me to the second question, i.e., will I ever match the sales levels of those aforementioned famous authors? Probably not.
Because let’s get real here, folks–even though I do have a trilogy about to start coming out via Carina, I do remain a primarily digitally published author. In 2012, I sold 143 copies of Faerie Blood to the general public (which doesn’t count the Kickstarter backers). Some of those are print copies, but the majority are ebook. The maximum number I’ve sold per month is just over 50. The minimum is 12. Given that I suck at self-promotion, I’m deeply grateful that I’ve managed to score even these numbers–but still? They’re tiny numbers.
And I don’t honestly expect them to change much when Valor of the Healer comes out. A few reasons for this.
One, people still keep periodically saying to me, “Well gosh Anna, I’d love to read your books, except I don’t like ebooks/can’t read them/can’t afford an ereader/etc.” Whatever the reason, it boils down to “I’m not going to buy your book.” So the fact that I’m a digitally published author means that I don’t pull those readers in.
Two, even though I do have print copies of Faerie Blood, you do still have to buy them from me directly. This takes effort, more effort than just walking into a bookstore and picking a book off the bookshelf. There’s an inevitable delay between “asking me for the book” and “actually getting it so you can read it”.
Three, it’s going to be a tough sell to get Carina’s majority book-buying audience (which is coming out of romance) interested in what I write (which is to say, SF/F with romantic elements). Likewise, it’s going to be a tough sell to get SF/F readers willing to look at an epic fantasy trilogy sold by an imprint of a company primarily known for romance–because there’s still a lot of genre snobbery out there, and a lot of it is unfortunately directed at romance. So I fully expect there to be some level of “well, she’s published via a romance imprint, her book must be a romance novel, pass” in play.
Four, even among the digital book-buying public, it’s going to be hard to stand out from the crowd. It is supremely easy to self-publish these days. Anybody with a novel and the tools to slap together an ebook can do it, and so the major ebook vending sites are awash in an overwhelming flood of digitally published work. Just because a book’s out there though doesn’t mean it’s good, or that people are going to be able to find it, or that they’re going to actually want to read it when they do.
Five, hell, you guys, I know a lot of authors in print who struggle to sell enough copies to quit their day jobs. I know of authors who, despite the fact that they are well-lauded in their respective genres, despite the fact that they do in fact have day jobs, despite the fact that they’ve gotten titles onto the New York Times Bestselling list, still have to struggle to make ends meet. I’ve seen authors in print have series collapse out from under them because print sales have taken such a hit over the last several years–authors who have then had to either start writing under different names, or choose to self-publish the rest of their series via Kickstarter, or what have you.
“Writer” is very, very seldom synonomous with “rich”.
Long story short–if the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy performs better than Faerie Blood, even if just to the tune of a couple more hundred copies sold per year, I’ll be happy. I’m not in this for the money; that’s what I’ve got the day job for. I’m in this to share some stories with you folks, and I’m in it for the long haul and the hope that each time I put out a book, I’ll maybe pick up a small number of new readers. Maybe eventually, I’ll hit that critical mass and be somebody who can get talked about on the same level as Butcher or Richardson or McGuire or Priest or what have you.
Till then, I hope y’all stick around. And be on the lookout, because Valor of the Healer is COMING.
Memo to my brain:
No, you may NOT write a short story based on the Le Vent du Nord song “Le dragon de Chimay”. No matter how awesome a mental image you have in your head of a dragon breaking out of chains that hold him underground and surging up into the open air in desperate search of his lady love, and finally transforming back to human shape before her…
… damn, that’s an awesome image, innit? And it is NOT HELPING that I’m totally seeing this young woman and her “preux chevalier si tendre et amant”, as the cathedral collapses on him and he’s forced into dragon shape and she frantically tries to dig him out and no, no, no, dammit brain! You have a novel to finish and a novella to finish and a whole other novella to write and plan for all these lovely Kickstarter people throwing money at you, so STAY ON TARGET!
You are, however, totally allowed to geek right out over the translation of the lyrics, and listen to the song as many times as you like.
Because yes, folks, I like this band so much I want to write them fanfic. Or in this case, songfic!
Which is to say, I’m going to take the entire week of Labor Day off since I have the vacation time to spare, and work on finishing my edits. To further this goal, I will be also dropping off the net for the duration of that week. I’ll still be answering email, but I won’t be monitoring Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, and for the most part I’ll only be answering email sent directly to me (as opposed to any of the mailing lists I’m on, or comments on any of my posts).
Noting this now by way of general accountability. I may post status updates during that week–again, for purposes of accountability–but I can’t guarantee I’ll answer any comments on them.
We’ll see how much I can get done before then; any little bit I can get done before does after all further the goal. And anything I can write above and beyond finishing the edits on Lament will be bonus. Christopher and Kendis are looking VERY expectant in the back of my brain, you know.
So there you have it. If you think you might want to get a hold of me during that week for whatever reason, email, text, or phone will be best! If you think you should have those means of contacting me and you don’t, let me know.
Those of you who follow my personal blog know that my partner and I are getting shiny, shiny iPad 2’s!
One of the things I’m thinking of doing with mine is seeing if I can write effectively on it. So if you’re a writer and an iPad owner (first OR second generation model), I’m very interested in hearing about whether you find them effective writing devices! If so, what apps do you use? I’ve kind of liked Documents To Go on my iPhone and I plan to see how well I can use it on the iPad, but I’m open to other suggestions as well!
I am sure this will probably make some of you gasp with surprise, but I have finally posted Chapter 5 of Iterations. Most of my writing time is going into my original work these days, but I had a bit of time tonight, so decided to add a bit more in to this. In case anybody out there is still checking in to see if I wrote anything else. ;)
In the meantime, just in case anybody also happened to notice this, I fixed several broken links on my logs page.
Well, having participated in Nanowrimo, I am most pleased to announce that I did in fact hit the goal of 50K set by that whole activity. I am now sitting on 51K of a novel in progress, which is absorbing the vast majority of my creative energy at the moment. Since this is a work I intend for actual publication I won’t be linking it in on my site, but I will be at a future point putting out a call for proofreaders. Meep!
In the meantime I have taken the icons off my splash screen for Nanowrimo and put the Winner one over on my Writing page. And I’ve fixed the broken styles for the Winter style, so they’ll map over to the mirror site on drizzle appropriately!
It is the first day of November, and I have done something very silly: I have endeavored to get back into writing, now that my arm has more or less healed from the break it suffered in June, by participating in National Novel Writing Month. This involves writing 50,000 words of a novel in one month. 30, count ’em, 30 days. I have my doubts that I can do it, but it’s going to be fun to try! And I’ve added the official Nanowrimo participant icon to the entry page of my site; when I have enough of it done, I’ll start posting chapters of the novel I’ve chosen to work on as well.