Friday, March 25, 2016

The Mighty Series

Or so everyone is lead to believe these days.

Of late, I've certainly seen a lot of them. Of course, that might simply be due to the waters I'm swimming at the moment. It seems everyone has, or is working on, or is planning a series. I see it like this: Picture the ocean. Each little ripple across that vast expanse of water is a book. The occasional hill or gentle roll of water contains the multitude of series - the bigger the hump, the larger the number of books in said series. Those smaller humps that might gently rock your boat consist of series number 2 to 4 books. The medium size humps, the kind that might make you hang on in your boat, or catch a cup sliding off the table, are made up of series numbering 3 to maybe 4 books. The big humps, the scary kind that might make you secure the hatches or simply get the flock out of there, are made up of those series of say 5 to 10+ books.

Now lets look at sales: When these waves make it to shore, they all swish up on the sand with a certain amount of foam or bubbles - those equate to sales. Most of those little ripples will generate some foam as it scrapes up on the sand, but not all. A series might curl over in a breaker, and then crash against the sand with a lot of foam and bubbles, but then they're spent too soon after. Now those big waves, the kind that attract surfers from around the world, those make an even bigger splash, but they also might scare some people off the beach - I do know I wouldn't want to hang too close to something like that, though I might be inclined to watch.

My point is, if I see an advertisement for a seventh book, and I don't find it interesting enough on it's own, I'll probably stay away from the entire series.

If you're writing a series, more power to you, but you never know who will find book X before they come across book 1. I look at the blurb, and if that's intriguing enough, I might take a look inside if I can. Given that sample, if I'm left wanting information from a previous book, I won't buy it, and I probably won't go in search of that first book. For me to do that, I have to be really intrigued.

My trilogy might be guilty of this very thing, but it was written as a single book that happened to fall into three parts. What did I know? At first it was over a thousand pages long, and that was just the text part. At the time, I was still in search of a publisher, and I was told that no publisher would take on such a large project from a newbie writer. So, still leaning on the experience of others, I offered the book as a whole, but conceded that it could be separated into three books. Book one made a pretty good splash. Book two, less of a splash, but then it was published in less locations. Book three was pretty much of a bomb. That is the last time I will publish a series one year between books.

I have another series in the works that is plotted out to be 16 books, but since most of them are really quite short, I think I'll only offer them as eBooks (kindle editions). I thought I might offer the book as a whole for paperback, but I'm thinking it might be too big. The biggest CreateSpace will handle is 828 pages. So if I do decide to go paperback with this book, I might release all books at the same time and sell them as a boxed set. Depending on ultimate page count, it might end up being three books. I'm working on book 10 at the moment, so I have a ways to go yet before I need to worry about any of that.

But enough about me.

What I'm getting at, is make each book of your series a stand along story, more or less. It's fine to have each story farther along in your character's timeline, but if your reader can't understand why Prince Caspian is staggering through the woods, going out of his way to avoid his guards, you might lose your reader as he drowns in questions.

Like I said, my series didn't do this. But I'm willing to learn from my mistakes, and above all pass along what I've learned, or at least my opinion of it all. The best series I've read did just that - each book told its own story, and while development might have occurred along the way, and book two is better for having read book one, book two and even book three were just fine on their own. I used to have the Tarzan series once. I don't even remember how many books there were, but they all stood alone. In fact, I think some of them were written by different authors, but I didn't pay attention. It was just another story, another adventure. I'm willing to pick up a book if I know it's the next adventure. Maybe that's why my trilogy doesn't sell so well.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Editing

Once was the time when I could churn out ten pages of writing a day. Doing so piled up nearly a dozen full length books and even more short stories, though I personally don't care for short stories. In my drive to tell stories, some of them simply ended after like five pages. For the life of me, I have no idea on how to make them longer - so, they will stay short, and someday I'll publish a book of short stories. Who knows, maybe I'll do that next. Hmmm now that's an idea.

But I digress - I seem to do that a lot lately.

Anyway - about editing. Since my writing has been mostly taken over by editing, it has become something of a habit. Even when I read a story on my kindle, I frequently see things that should have been treated differently somehow. A lot of the time, putting away my editor in order to enjoy a good book, is really quite hard. That doesn't keep me from recognizing a good story when I see one, and I've seen many.

Recently, a friend of mine posted in an FB group I belong to. She was concerned about mediocre reviews she'd received on her book. I offered to take a look, and since it was my offer, I wasn't about to charge her. I know - I'm never going to make a living by editing if I keep doing it for free, but really, I'd much rather see a good story made better than earn a buck. I'm a long way from earning a living this way anyway.

I was especially dismayed when I learned that my friend had already paid for an editor. I understand that many editors charge different prices for different levels of editing. I found a good page that describes it all here. I charge $1 a page, which puts my price range among the lowest on that page. However all I have is my passion for a well written story that doesn't raise any questions as I read along. So I guess I do most everything mentioned on that page short of the rewrites mentioned there. I have done a few ghost writes though.

What troubled me was that it seemed like her editor did little more than look for the cool little red and green squiggly lines. And while I leaned heavily on those when I first started writing (I learned a lot doing that), an editor really does need to give a manuscript a careful read-through in order to find those pesky little typos that aren't misspelled. I did find a couple of those that would have been easily caught if read. I wasn't looking for typos so much yet. I wanted all those questions answered first. In my book, first comes the story, then comes the mechanics.

I want the story to remain yours, so any questions that arise as I read along, I ask. My asking tells you that you missed something, just as any changes I make say the same thing. My goal is to help you develop your story to a point where it is a clear movie inside your reader's head. Only then can a reader truly enjoy the story. Questions and jarring inconsistencies diminish a good story.

Freelance editors abound of recent years, or maybe they were always around and I just wasn't around enough to run across them. And checking their credentials isn't all that easy, which is why I do ask for a comment on my website. I don't ask for a good review, it is important to me that I get an honest review. For any editor you want to hire, you need to make the effort to look into their credits. I don't have any education to support my editing. All I have is a passion for good writing, and what I've learned on the internet from other writers who are more knowledgeable than I am. When I go through a manuscript, all I have to offer is my opinion, and the hope that it helps. I find it frustrating that other editors seem to think only of the dollar.

This isn't the only time I've read through a book that had already been edited. The first time, I told the guy he needed to ask for his money back. I have no idea if he ever did, but he sure was embarrassed by the major mistakes I found. Whole plot holes and typos - that was years ago now and I don't remember what all I found in that book, but I do remember that it was pretty bad. I didn't know how to use the track changes feature back then, all I remember was that I would send him an email every time I ran across something, giving him page number and telling him what I found. I was sending him an email or two every day. It was still rather astonishing to me that he'd actually paid an editor for what I was reading. I've come across this a few times since. I find it rather sad really. Sometimes, I feel like I'm alone in my passion for good writing - good writing wherever I find it - not just my own.

Well, it's time to get back to my passion and my obsession. Happy writing, people. Remember to do your homework when hiring that editor. Now, I think I'm going to head over to my personal blog and write a post there. Check it out. Every day is an adventure around here. Well, almost every day is. :D

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Evolution of a Blog

My very first post was on September 15th, 2009 - That's six years of blogging - wow. I never would have imagined.

Today I had reason to look back through my posts and I was really amazed by how it had evolved. At first, when I was so shy about writing online, the only thing I could think of to do with a blog was to post samplings of some of my writing. I could only do that for so long though before I started to repeat myself. Then, on the 19th of February, 2010, on the advice of others online saying I should be willing to give something away, I created a blog novel. You'll have to be patient with the structure of a blog to read this book, but I tried to make it easy. There is a table of contents. Thanks to a donation through this blog, I was able to buy the shown cover and then on 5th of January, 2013, I published it through CreateSpace. That was almost the very first thing I did with Amazon, and it has become my preferred publishing platform.

But I digress - I get ahead of myself.

Not long after starting my blog novel, thanks to a very non-writerly rant on this blog, I came to realize that I might be able to use a personal blog as well. So, on the 14th of June, 2010, I created Anna of Alaska, named after a book a friend of mine wanted me to write. I tried, but I just can't write about myself in book format, so this was something of a compromise.

That makes three blogs to maintain. It might seem like a lot, but somehow I managed. The last chapter of the blog novel was posted on the 20th of April, 2012, which made it a little over three years old. Other than keeping side panels updated, there is nothing more to do there. I do have a wordpress blog, but I almost never post there.

Over the years, this blog evolved to being my interpretation of writing techniques, usually in response to some book I read or something I saw online.

Over the years, I too have evolved. I've gone from a non-stop writer, tucking book after book under my belt to a blogger and platform builder. I think I've done pretty good on that but my writing has greatly suffered. Now I edit more than I write, and I'm talking about editing my own books mostly, because I still have some to get out there, but I've also taken on some paid editing jobs, and most recently, a ghost writing job.

At work over the last three years, with about +/-3 hours of free time during the afternoon, I took my computer to work so I could continue working on whatever I was working on, be it editing or writing. During the summer before this last summer, my boss kept worrying that I wasn't getting my job done. So, last summer, I decided not to take my computer to work at all. Instead, I took my kindle and was either on Facebook or reading. With an 11 hour day, I was in no shape to do anything by the end of the day.

I ended up allowing the whole thing to get to me more than I thought it would, and I've been off my game ever since.

My new year's resolution was to climb back in the saddle. I'm pretty sure I can hang onto the saddle horn because I also quit that job for a job across the river and much closer to an 8 hour day. Plus I get to dig back into the garden I'd spent 14 years developing. I missed that garden. But that's for some other post, probably on my personal blog.

So, though distractions abound, and they always will, I'll buckle down and get on with my writing, in one form or another. Be patient with me.

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