How Do You Know When You’re Finished Editing/Late Night Inspiration

As I get closer to the final editing stages of my book I’ve started thinking about how we’re supposed to know when everything is finished and perfect and ready for agents and readers. I’ve realized this is a complicated question.

I have heard before that with any piece of writing the author will eventually get to a point in their editing where they’re simply moving periods or commas around and then changing them back. I have also heard people say a piece of writing is never really finished. The editing is never done. You just have to find a point you’re happy with and call it quits. I’m not sure I agree with either of these beliefs (but then again I’m not finished editing yet). I’m hoping if I continue following the editing steps that I’ve laid out for myself I will reach the last step and then (yay) be done and ready to query agents.

Current Editing Steps/ Progress Report:

1. My wonderful aunt returned my copy-edited manuscript with four (yes FOUR) typed pages of suggestions and critiques which was amazingly helpful. I had reached the stage where I knew it wasn’t perfect, I knew it wasn’t finished, but I couldn’t quite connect with what wasn’t working or what needed help. So with her notes I have begun another round of editing! Which I love. It’s exciting coming up with new ideas and brainstorming ways to make characters come to life.

This step has also included random bouts of late night inspiration. My brain doesn’t just turn off when I’m done working on editing. Sometimes, like last night, it decides to keep working while I’m trying to fall asleep. Last night my brain would not turn off. I was thinking about changes I wanted to make and scenes I was going to write (or re-write). I wrote down some notes in my phone and, luckily, I woke up this morning still excited about them. I love waking up with fresh ideas, ready to edit. So I guess late night inspiration is a good thing (also slightly annoying because it makes me feel restless and then it’s really difficult to fall asleep).

2. When I’m finished with this round of revisions (which is actually a bit more extensive than I anticipated) I’m going to send the book out to Beta readers. I’m just choosing a few people that I trust to give honest and helpful feedback. Many of my friends and family members have offered to be Beta readers, which I am unbelievably grateful for, but my manuscript is still in the editing stages and I really want to be able to show them my absolutely best work. Which is one of the reasons I won’t be asking every person who offered to read the manuscript to be a Beta reader. Don’t be offended if you offered and I don’t ask you to be a beta reader, it just means that I want you to read my best possible work in the future! I really am grateful though for every single person who wants to read my work and I can’t wait to share the finished product.

3. Beta readers will read the manuscript and give me feedback. Hopefully after this stage there won’t be too many extensive revisions left. I’ll fix anything that needs to be fixed and go back through looking for any mistakes or discrepancies.

4. One final copy-edit to make sure everything is perfect on the sentence/grammar level before I send out query letters to agents. I didn’t include this in the steps but I have been steadily working on my query letter since my last post and it’s getting much closer to where I want it to be.

So, to sum everything up: Hopefully after Beta readers have looked at the manuscript and I’ve taken their feedback into account (oh and when the final copy-edit is done) I will be finished editing! I am fairly certain I can be done with my current round of revisions in a week (if I actually work on it every day and set goals for myself) and then the manuscript will be ready to send off to Beta readers who will hopefully agree to finish reading and give me critiques within a couple weeks (but we’re only human and it may take longer, which I’m ok with).

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Steps to Getting a Book Published (Part Two): Cali Style

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Yesterday I wrote a post describing the steps I’ve taken so far to edit my manuscript. If you haven’t read the post already, click here. Ok, if you’ve read that then you’re ready for todays post: Part two of Steps to Getting a Book Published (Cali Style).

Before I start I’m just going to mention that I would like to get my book traditionally published, which means that I want an actual publishing company to buy the rights to my manuscript. This is why I want a literary agent (I’ll explain more about what a literary agent does later in the post). With one of the big publishing companies they will generally help with marketing and cover art ect., but that’s generally only the big publishing companies. There are also much smaller publishing companies and there is also the option to self-publish. At the moment my plan is not to self-publish, so I don’t know exactly what goes into it (not that I’m any sort of expert on traditional publishing, so take everything you read with a grain of salt). Anyway, back to my steps to getting traditionally published.

After editing and polishing your manuscript, the first step towards getting your book published is to:

1. Write a query letter! Or hundreds… depending on how long it takes to pique an agents interest. A query letter is a one page letter that is meant to sell your manuscript. It is supposed to grab an agent’s attention and tell them exactly why they should, why they need, to read your entire manuscript. It also introduces the main characters as well as the main plot points. A good query letter should showcase the author’s writing ability and show agents why the author’s story and characters are unique and exciting. Many agents also ask for the first five to ten pages of your manuscript along with the query letter, which is why it’s essential for those first five to ten pages to be amazing. They have to show the character’s voice and excite the agent enough to keep reading. If the agent is interested then they’ll ask for the next few chapters, or even the entire manuscript. Just because an anent requests the entire manuscript doesn’t mean they will represent you. They may still reject you, but at this point you are at least on their radar and sometimes those agents will be interested in the authors’s next project(s), which is good. But sometimes after an agent reads the entire manuscript they are interested, which leads me to my next step.

2. Find a literary agent! Literary agents are the people that work with authors to get their manuscripts ready for publication and they generally take 15-20 percent of any money earned from the future sales of the book. They read through hundreds of query letters, searching for manuscripts that they would be interested in representing, and when they find one then they offer the author representation. Sometimes more than one agent will offer representation for a manuscript (which is amazing and wonderful. Dream on, Cali) in which case the author will have to decide which agent is best for them. Authors work very closely with their literary agents during the entire manuscript to published book process, which can take over a year, so it’s important that the agent is someone you trust and can get along with.

3. Work with agent to further prepare manuscript. When you’ve found a literary agent and have been offered representation you can celebrate, but only for a second, because having a literary agent doesn’t guarantee that your manuscript will be sold to a publishing company and published and become the next big thing. Nope. First your agent will go over the entire manuscript with you. Some agents actually edit the entire book for the author, requesting extensive revisions as well as minor changes to things like the title or character names, others will have an outside editor look at the manuscript. Once the agent believes the manuscript is completely ready they will get their fancy clothes on and start networking. Ok maybe it’s not always that glamorous, but I like to picture the agents and the acquisition editors from the publication companies all dressed up drinking cocktails in fancy New York restaurants.

4. Literary Agent finds a Publishing company that’s interested. So once all of the glamorous networking and lunches and dinners and cocktails are over and the agent has found a publishing company that’s interested then you can celebrate. Once an author signs with a publishing company then the company owns the rights to the manuscript. This can be scary for some authors and is the reason that many authors choose to self-publish. Also once the author has signed with the publishing company they generally get an advance to secure the book deal. This doesn’t mean the manuscript is all finished and ready to go though. At this point the publishing company will have either an in-house editor or a freelance editor go over the manuscript again and work with the author to complete more revisions. The big publishing companies will also help with marketing and cover design ect.

5. Manuscript becomes a real book. There are a million other steps that happen once an author has gotten a book deal with a publishing company, but I am not as familiar with everything that happens at that point. I don’t think anyone really is until they’ve either worked at a publishing company OR actually had a book published by a big publishing company. I hope that someday I will get the opportunity to go through those steps myself, and if I ever do then I will share those steps with you 🙂

So right now I am writing query letters. I have a list of agents that I am interested in querying, and each query letter should be a little different for every agent. Not every literary agent represents every genre, Some specialize in non-fiction or mystery, so it’s important to find an agent that wants to represent the type of manuscript that you’ve written. Most literary agents have websites that specifically mention what they’re looking for and how to submit to them. I am currently experiencing query itch a wonderful term that I learned from Veronica Roth’s Blog (Veronica Roth wrote Divergent Insurgent and Allegiant and is someone that I admire). If you’re interested in reading her blog post about query itch or pre-query woes (the title of her blog post) click on the link. Basically query itch means that I’m not ready to send query’s yet because I’m still revising. But I really really want to. I’m ready to start querying, even if it means that I’m going to get lots of rejections. Ok, I know I’m not ready. But I really want to be! So I’m just going to keep trying to make my query’s as perfect as possible and keep researching literary agents and when the time comes and my manuscript is completely ready then I will also be ready.

Ok, right now I have a dog staring at me and whining incessantly (see picture below). So I’m going to go. But happy Thursday!

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Steps to Getting a Book Published (Part One): Cali Style

Happy Wednesday everyone! I have been job hunting and enjoying the last few weeks of beautiful Oregon weather before the rain returns in full force. It has been such a long summer that I’m almost ready for the cooler weather (ALMOST) but then I remember the nine months of rain that we have ahead of us and I start to second guess myself.

I wanted to write this post today because I have a lot of people, mostly family members, ask me when I’m going to finish editing my book, how long it’s going to take until it’s done, what the next steps are, ect. Don’t get me wrong, I love that people are interested in my book, but whenever I try to answer these questions my brain becomes a big ball of mush and I get irrationally angry (which hopefully isn’t obvious to anyone but me). Every book is different and every writer is different, and I think that every writer understands the struggle of editing. But not everyone I know is a writer, actually very few are. So I apologize for my irrational anger and brain mush. This post is for you non-writers and all the normal people that don’t write novels in your spare time. Just kidding, no one is normal.

Steps to getting a book published: Cali Style

1. Post a very excited and celebratory post on Facebook announcing the completion of the first draft of the book. This is an essential first step for any writer, obviously.

2. Alternate between loving and detesting newly finished manuscript. Can’t I just be done? Do I really have to edit? Ugh this is terrible, I need to rewrite the entire thing. (These are my brain thoughts)

3. Start editing. Realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. Remember that I think that every time I go to edit anything. Remember that I need to give myself a cooling off period before I can really edit competently.

4. Read through entire manuscript (yay I actually wrote a 300 page book!)and make notes of what needs work. At this point I am just looking at content, not sentence structure, grammar, ect.

5. Edit! This first edit involved cutting some sections, restructuring others, and adding in additional scenes or extra tidbits to existing scenes. After my first edit the manuscript went from around 69,000 to 77,000 words. That’s 254 pages to 292 for all of you normal people that don’t write novels in your spare time 🙂

6. Print out all 292 pages so exactly two people can read it. One of those two people finished it in a week. The other still hasn’t (Madeline Powell. Cough cough). After their somewhat limited feedback I realized I needed someone with writing and editing experience to look at it and give me some educated feedback.

This list is getting really long… whoops.

7. My wonderful aunt, who happens to also be an amazing writer and editor, read through it and gave me feedback. She only read through it for content. She gave me feedback on characters and plot and the big things which was perfect. SIDE NOTE: whenever I receive feedback/criticism on my writing I get all my writing is horrible and I’m never going to be able to fix this ect.. I’m not proud of it, but it’s what happens every time. Luckily, after one to three days of being a sad little kitten I start being able to brainstorm again, and then I start getting excited and motivated. This is what happened when I received feedback from my aunt. After a couple days of stewing and thinking I started to edit again.

8. After another round of revisions my manuscript is now 81,000 words and 302 pages. Most of my aunts feedback required adding content rather than cutting anything out (Although I’m convinced that there are some bits that need to come out, I’m just not exactly sure what they are yet). The bits that I added in were mostly meant to strengthen my characters and create a stronger ending. When I finished this round of revisions my lovely aunt volunteered to read the manuscript again this time looking for content and grammar/ sentence structure/ ect.

9. I am currently writing query letters! Well just one at the moment, but it will eventually evolve into many. My next step, as soon as my aunt is finished with her editing (which could take awhile because she’s about to become a grandma!) will be to revise anything that needs revising and then… drum roll please… ask a few people to be my Beta readers! Once again, for all of you normal people that don’t write novels in your spare time, a Beta reader is a regular person (usually someone that likes to read and knows what works with books) that a writer asks to read their manuscript. Writers usually ask Beta readers to looks at certain aspects of the manuscript and answer specific questions that will help the writer fine-tune the manuscript so it’s ready for agents to look at. So I am almost ready for Beta readers and I am so excited! For anyone that has already offered to read my book and give me comments, watch out, I may just ask you to make good on your offer 🙂 As for my time line, it really depends on how fast everyone, including me, can read and edit my manuscript. I want my book to be finished more than anyone, but it takes time. And I want my first book to be as perfect as it can get. The good news is that every day I get closer, and I’m so excited!

In my next post I’ll cover what exactly a query letter is, why I want to get a book agent, what a book agent is and does, and what will happen after my manuscript is completely finished. Also, I haven’t forgotten my promise to write and share an actual summary/synopsis of what my book is about! Lucky for anyone that’s interested, a large part of writing query letters involves creating an exciting synopsis, one that I will hopefully be able to share with everyone soon.

Good News!

I have been massively failing on the blogging front lately, but I just finished the first draft of my manuscript! So I don’t feel too bad about the lack of blogging…

I had been taking a break from writing for the last couple of weeks because I was packing and then moving and then unpacking and decorating ect. but I really only had a few scenes left to write. So I spent the entire day today writing (seriously, I got 20 pages done today!) and finished all the scenes I had left.

I wrote the beginning and then end of the manuscript a few months ago, but I’ve been steadily working on making the middle stronger ever since, and I finally connected the middle scenes up with the ending. It comes in at 69,430 words (260 manuscript pages) and I’m really excited about it! I did take some parts out earlier because they were from a different characters pov and most of the book is narrated by my main character, but I might add them back in so it could get a little longer… But it also could get a little shorter after editing so we’ll see. I will keep everyone updated on my editing process and how everything is going. Hopefully editing will take a lot less time than the writing. 🙂

Graduation is Fast Approaching

Graduation is fast approaching and it turns out meeting even simple weekly goals (such as the ones that I outlined in my post on platform building) is extremely hard when you’re nearing your last couple weeks of college. 

I want to post to my blog every week and write 2000 words every morning ect. but when I have a millions papers and projects and I’m applying for jobs and making graduation invitations and trying to have a life (haha right.) it’s just not possible to meet all of those goals. At least not right now. I’m going to keep working on my book as often as I can because I really really want to finish my first draft before I graduate. But I probably won’t be posting to the blog or interacting on social media until I’m finished with my classes. Right now I’m just too busy 😦 

Good luck to all the students finishing everything up right now and congratulations to everyone that has already graduated! 

Building a Writer’s Platform: Is it as Hard as it Seems?

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So I’ve been reading a lot about creating a writer’s platform lately. You know, so that when I eventually try to publish my book there will actually be people who care about me and want to read it… Or so they say. But the more I read the more find myself pulling away from the seemingly daunting task. Even if i had all the time in the world it seems like building a successful platform would be impossible, except for those crazy blog/youtube/Instagram sensations who are obviously just aliens masquerading as humans. But I’m not an alien, and I don’t have all the time in the world. In fact, I am currently at war with the clock. My to do list for any given day goes something like this: 

  • Wake up at 6am (except for the days my body just won’t wake up until 7 or 8).
  • Work on book until 10am.
  • Scramble to finish homework before class.
  • Class from 11am-3pm.
  • After class plan social media posts for Unbound, the University of Oregon Literary Arts Magazine I work for (which is actually really cool! We publish UO students art, fiction, and poetry. You can check it out here: Unbound).
  • Do homework.
  • Play with/feed my animals (2 cats, 1 dog, and 1 fish. I don’t really play with the fish but he knows some tricks. He can jump out of his bowl to grab a piece of food off my finger!).
  • Freak out that I’m graduating college in a month and still have no idea what I’m going to do for “real life”.
  • Plan posts for my personal social media outlets (blog, twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram).

Except by the time I’m done with everything else I’ve had to do during the day the whole platform building thing kind of goes out the window. Really?! You want me to write a blog post now? And I have to connect with people on LinkIn and Twitter and other blogs? Can’t I just watch a movie and go to bed?

No. Not if you want to build an awesome platform and make lasting connections. Which I do. I’m an all or nothing person, which makes it great when I want to wake up early every morning to work on my book and there are tangible successes and a goal in sight. But when my all or nothing attitude gets directed at something like a diet, or platform building, it goes great for a week or two, and then it fizzles out. Maybe because I’m not seeing direct enough results, or there isn’t a clear goal in sight. Or because I’ve given up something else in my life to support the current object of my all or nothing affection. (Right now I’ve given up exercise time to work on my book. At least I walk to class and all around campus all day, right? Right??) So with the whole platform building thing I decided to rein myself in. If I set little goals for myself  I think it will be easier for me to slowly and steadily make posting to the blog, connecting with people on other blogs, twitter, LinkedIn ect. a habit. So without further adieu, here are my initial weekly goals (which I think are totally reasonable for anyone trying to build a platform):

  1. Write at least one blog post a week.
  2. Find at least one blog I like and post a comment in the comments section. It has to be relevant, engaging, ect. (this is part of the making connections bit of platform building).
  3. Post something to twitter every other day. This can be an original post or an engaging retweet (apparently I think everything needs to be engaging…).
  4. Once a week spend time finding other writers, literary agents, book people (meaning people who love books, work with books, publish books, review books ect.) on twitter and follow them. This can include favoriting interesting material of theirs and tweeting at them.
  5. Every two weeks comment on a LinkIn group post or create a new and interesting topic. My current topic is on naming fictional places and you can look at all the great response I’ve gotten HERE.
  6. Post pictures to Instagram/Facebook of my daily life. Because I totally have one… 

And here are some of my big goals:

  1. Buy a website/domain name. (I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing this or what information would go on the website at this point so I’m hanging back on this one).
  2. Create an Author Facebook page.
  3. Finish my book, get an agent, and get published! (Or get rejected over and over again and start writing a new book, this is probably the more realistic outcome).
  4. Get a job? Make money somehow? We’ll see… It’s all still so far in the future. Just kidding, it’s in a month. Yay for college graduation!

So what do you guys think about platform building? Have I missed any key points? Do you have any tips on how to make it easier or more effective? Now I’m off to connect with people, happy platform building everyone! 

 

Writing and Editing

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Writing and editing. So simple. So easy. Right…

When I started writing my first book a year ago I thought that I would just sit down and write and everything would flow perfectly onto the page (what magical world was I living in?). But I learned quickly that not everything I type onto the page is great or perfect, or even close to that. I was trying to cling to the idea that I need to be constantly editing myself as I’m typing which led to some slow going and much frustration. So much frustration that I put off working on my book for awhile (a year). I made excuses like: I’m a student, I should be focusing on school, I can work on my book when I graduate- I’ll have far more time then, I’ll wait for more inspiration. But last month I decided to stop procrastinating and start writing. And at first I struggled with the same thing; I was trying to edit as I was writing. But then I found this quote (the one in the picture above this: “Write like nobody will ever read it, edit like the whole world will) and took its words to heart. Stop editing as you’re writing, Cali. Just write. The scene might not be perfect, heck, the plot might not even be going in the right direction, but at least you’re getting something onto the page. And when I’m done getting everything onto the page I’ll go back and edit like crazy.

On the other hand, I do wish I had made myself an outline before I started writing. There are days when I’m not sure what’s going to happen in this scene and how it’s going to propel the story forward. And that’s exciting, but also terrifying. If I had an outline I might be able to shave off some serious time spent blundering around in a scene trying to figure out what’s going to happen. Either way, by turning off my inner editor I’ve written more of my book in the last two weeks than I was able to in an entire year. I think having the proper motivation helps too (impending college graduation and being thrust out into the “real” world where I’ll have to get a job and contrary to my past assumption will not suddenly have tons of time to work on writing my book) as well as scheduling out specific time to work, but that’s another story.

Good luck writing and editing, everyone!