The next chapter: July 2018 update

Greetings, all you writerly people!

I think I’ve said this nearly every month this year but, once again, July was weird. This whole year has been weird.

I have to concede the effects that not only Phil’s health issues last year, but also the issues he’s been experiencing with his employer—not to mention the increasing stress of my day job—continue to have on me. I think these have been some of the chief contributing factors to my protracted burnout. When you have shit going on in other aspects of your life, it inevitably affects your creativity.

And while Phil’s health issues have been addressed and he continues, according to all recent test results, to be healthy, the work-related stresses are not at an end. I find myself struggling. Doubting. Resisting. Self-sabotaging.

As I mentioned previously, Phil’s work issues should be resolved by the end of the year. Unfortunately, my work stresses are just ramping up again. It’s usually the way things happen. One of us is in an upswing while the other is spiralling downward. I’m hoping that the fact that we’ve both been on the downward trend for the last while means that relief is in my future as well.

Once again, July has been hit and miss, but more hit than miss 😉 In other words, I wrote more days than I didn’t. Still, even adjusting my writing goal down for Playing with Fire, I was just shy of it, writing 4,858 words of my 5,000-word goal. That’s 97%.

As I like to say, every word’s a victory.

I wrote 3,454 words on this blog, or 123% of my 2,800-words goal. I had no other writing-related goals in July.

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I attended Ad Astra on July 14th and 15th, though. Because I’d spent so much on my grand adventure last year, I didn’t attend Ad Astra, even though Brandon Sanderson was one of the guests of honour. Normally, Ad Astra is in May. This year, they moved it into July and I think it was a good move.

It felt a bit more understated than in past years, and I decided that, this time, I was going to focus a bit more on networking and chatting up my fellow writers and less on rushing from panel to panel, making all the notes I could.

Last year, at WorldCon, I made the decision not to post my panel notes, but I still made notes, and I still rushed from panel to panel in a vain attempt to cram all the things into my wee skull. This year, I attended panels out of interest and enjoyed them. I didn’t take scads of notes, and I took the time to be social.

I introduced myself to J.M. Landels, one of the people behind Pulp Literature Magazine and Press, which I have been supporting through Kickstarter and other means since its inception. I met up with fellow SFCanada members Joe Mahoney and Douglas Smith. I enjoyed the company of fellow CAA members, Matt Bin and Ness Ricci-Thode, who introduced me to a number of her writing friends from the K-W area, several of whom were also CAA members. And I attended Jane Ann McLachlan’s book launch for The Sorrow Stone, her historical fiction release. There, I won a door prize of some lovely red wine, which has already been consumed 🙂

I also reconnected with Beverly Bambury, publicist to the stars. She actually remembered me before I had a chance to say, “hi.” I also saw a lot more people in passing that I’ve met in the past, like Robert Sawyer.

I started out by attending J.M. Landels’ reading from her novel Allaigna’s Song: Overture. Then, I headed to The Timey-Wimey Stuff with Jen Frankel, James Bambury, Cameron S. Currie, Cathy Hird, Kari Maaren, and Douglas Smith. It was interesting to hear how other authors used time travel in their fiction and how.

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I followed that up with The Business of Writing, with Jen Frankel, Beverly Bambury, Larry Hancock, Matthew Bin, and Jane Ann McLachlan. There was a lot of interesting information in this panel.

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After that, I broke for dinner, where I met up with Matt, Ness, and their friends, and then headed to what was the best panel of this year’s Ad Astra, Writing a Series.

Jen Frankel, Sarah WaterRaven, Justus R. Stone, Thomas Gofton, Kit Daven, and Lesley Livingston kept the room, which was packed to capacity, in stitches the whole time. Their chief collective advice: don’t do it. Apparently, when you get contracted to write a series, publishers generally set very steep deadlines. They don’t want readers to forget about novel one by the time the second is released.

After that was Writing Through Darkness, with Erik Buchanan, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, and Cameron S. Currie, which was a very helpful panel on writing with mental illness. The panellists shared their strategies for improved mental health.

Then, I capped off the day with Jane Ann’s book launch.

On Sunday, I hung out at the dealer’s room and got myself this tasty pile of books.

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At the end of the month, Gail Anderson-Dargatz delivered a workshop on Writing Through Fear for members (and guests) of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. We discussed the personality traits (read neuroses) and fears that most writers share, how these reveal themselves through the creative work, and how to address any problems that may arise because of them.

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It was, overall, a great month, despite my ongoing difficulties.

Torvi graduated from intermediate obedience, and is getting closer, all the time, to being a good dog.

What’s ahead for me?

I’m now (finally) within striking distance of the end of PwF (yay!). Once I finish with that draft, I’m going to organize my now-considerable notes (think series bible) before I begin another revision of Initiate of Stone and then I’ll be deep in outlining mode for the fifth and final book in the series, Tamisashki, for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’d hoped to be able to get through revisions on the whole series, but that’s not going to happen. Next year. After I finish up with Tamisashki.

The exciting news I have for you this month is that I’ve found another critique group. It’s early days yet, and I have to spend some time getting my submission together, posting up my information on the various forums, and diving into another member’s posted draft. But I have a good feeling about this one. I think it’s going to help me break through some of my resistance and get back on track.

There was an admission process. These authors take their work seriously. Other than that, I’m not going to say much about it.

That’s all the writerly news I have to share with you this month.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

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Ad Astra 2016, day 1: The relationship between self-publishers and editors

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please let me know and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

Panellists: Rob Howell, Jennifer Jaquith, Charlotte Ashley, Beverly Bambury (moderator), Vanessa Ricci-Thode

SelfPubAndEditorsPanel

VRT: There are three types of editing: the substantive edit, line editing, and copy editing. The substantive edit is also called a comprehensive edit, or a structural edit. It’s big picture stuff. Does the story make sense, is it compelling, are characters distinct, are story events consistent, are there too many or too few characters? Line editing looks at the story on a paragraph/sentence level. Given your style/voice, is each sentence written well, does each paragraph make sense, do your transitions flow? Copy editing is the nitty, gritty stuff: spelling, punctuation, and so on. There are places where the various editing tasks might overlap. In doing a line edit, some spelling and punctuation might be addressed.

RH: My editor works with me in stages. She’ll address global concerns first, then move on to more detailed editing. My mom’s a professional copy editor, so I have that covered.

BB: I don’t work with a self-publisher who hasn’t had at least one professional edit done on their book. What are the common issues editors see?

JJ: I have a list of hit words. Seems, felt, just, started to, etc.

CA: People who come to me at the wrong stage are a challenge. I love writers who come to be expecting the cost and work involved. Writing is a process of drafting and resting, but some people are on deadlines and they can’t do that.

NRT: Writers make the same mistakes over and over. Mixing tenses, head-hopping, showing versus telling. If you enter into a relationship with your editor, we get to know your particular weaknesses and look out for them.

BB: I look for the crutch words . . . actually, as I see it. Filler words that don’t really add anything to the work.

RH: I am guilty of overusing the shrug. I use it a lot. My editor points it out so I can fix it. You need an editor who can see your faults.

BB: How did your relationship with your editor evolve?

RH: When I was writing academically, I had my ego knocked out through editing. We’d debate the amount of white space on the page.

BB: Editors, how is it from your perspective?

VRT: I use beta readers for structural editing, but otherwise, I depend on my editor.

CA: I write short stories. You don’t get edited until the story is accepted for publication.

JJ: I’m a possessive writer. In technical writing, you hand everything over to the editor. I don’t argue and nine times out of ten, I’ll make the requested changes. Sometimes I don’t know how to improve the piece.

BB: I wrote a piece for Dirge. A friend of mine turned out to be a sexual predator. It was very internal. The editors helped me turn it into a personal essay. You have to trust the process.

CA: I write a lot of non-fiction as well. I once wrote a book review and the editors cut it up. I didn’t know until I saw it in print and at the time, I thought they hadn’t liked it. It turns out it was a matter of the space they had to devote to the review.

RH: If you’re a writer, the most terrifying moment is when you have to send your work off. I know I have someone on my side. It’s still terrifying, but it’s better.

BB: Do you have a success story you’d like to share? What constitutes a successful relationship?

RH: I’m the driver of the race car, the jockey on the horse, what have you. We all do our parts, everything comes together, I read the manuscript one last time, and if I think “I like this,” it’s a job well done.

JJ: You have to understand that the editor wants to like your work. They want to make it better. You have to be open to questions and discussions. You have to make a connection.

CA: A successful client is one who comes back to me. Some don’t come back, or they come back years later and say “you were right.”

VRT: Authors who come back, who are happy with the results, who are willing to do the work.

BB: The editor is rooting for the writer. Everyone needs an editor.

Q: How much time does a substantive edit take?

VRT: It varies, but I can review an 80 to 100 thousand word manuscript in 30 to 40 hours. Sometimes I might recommend a manuscript evaluation. It’s focused on overall strengths and weaknesses.

RH: Scheduling is important. I create a schedule so I can produce consistently. I try to write three books a year. My business model works because I produce. I have 2016 all planned out.

BB: That’s a good point. How far in advance should a writer make contact with the editor?

AC: I like two months lead time.

Q: What’s better proofreading or beta readers? And if you have betas, do you still need a developmental editor?

CA: An editor will be able to tell if your work needs a developmental edit.

VRT: A good editor will be honest.

RH: I chose my beta readers for specific reasons. I have a friend in martial arts who looks specifically at my fight scenes. I have a horse person who looks at logistics and whether I’m treating my fictional horses right or not.

Q: When you’re doing a developmental edit and you hate the story, what do you say?

VRT: I can tell the author that I’m not the right editor for this piece. I’m a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) and we make referrals to one another.

CA: When someone says to me they’ve sent the manuscript to 500 agents and 1000 publishers and nobody wants to take it on, I know I have to be cruel to be kind. An editor can’t sell your novel for you.

JJ: I can’t edit horror. I can’t sleep.

CA: There are some issues I can’t handle in a manuscript. Racism or sexism is a definite “no” for me.

BB: As a publicist, I see some things that bother me. People of colour who are stereotypes, pedophilia.

Q: How do you generate a client list?

VRT: I work through the EAC and referrals mostly, but I get some clients through social media and networking.

RH: I have an embarrassing story for you. My editor Kelly and I have known each other forever through the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The first two editors fell through and only after I was working with the third and had my first book out did I find out that Kelly was an editor.

CA: I get most of my clients through word of mouth.

Q: How much should I expect to spend?

CA: A substantive edit usually runs about $2000. Proofreading can be $300. Expect to spend between $500 and $1000 on average.

And that was time.

Next week, one of my favourite sessions from this year’s Ad Astra: The influence of Shakespeare on  science fiction and fantasy.

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: High quality self-publishing

Panellists: Beverly Bambury, Caro Soles, Catherine Fitzsimmons, Samantha M. Beiko, Stephen Kotowych, Mark Leslie

Self-publishing panel

ML: When you self-publish, do you use your own name?

CS: It’s not professional.

BB: If it’s a small publisher that no one has ever heard of, why not use your own name?

SMB: It doesn’t really matter. The book will speak for itself.

SK: Using your professional name adds credibility.

ML: I run Kobo Writing Life for small publishers and independent authors. The top 15 to 20 best selling Kobo books are independently published.

BB: Does Kobo offer supports?

ML: We’re looking into how to best connect authors and services. There are a lot of predators out there. We should be bringing out something later this year.

BB: Supports vary. Authors have to do more regardless.

SMB: An author will finish writing and editing a book and say, “Well, that was a nightmare.” Fasten your seatbelts, people: it gets worse.

ML: What’s your best advice to the author considering self-publication?

CS: Join writers’ organizations. You find out what’s going on in publishing. Hire a copyeditor.

SMB: Come out to events like this one. Everyone really wants to help everyone else.

SK: Don’t spam people. Offer something of value.

CF: Don’t skimp on the cover, but be smart. Shop around.

CS: I do my own covers. You just have to learn how.

BB: Someone with a graphic design background could be better than an artist. Invest in an editor.

CS: A beautifully written story, if poorly copy edited, will lose competitions for awards and other opportunities.

ML: A good cover catches attention. A good back cover copy reels readers in. Write your next book. Nothing sells you last book like your next book.

CS: An ebook cover has to look good in thumbnail form.

CF: Check out Kindle cover disasters on Tumblr.

Q: You mentioned two different kinds of editors. Could you elaborate?

SMB: There are substantive editors. They look at the big picture, structural stuff. They can cost a lot. A copyeditor or line editor looks at sentence structure, grammar, and syntax. Is this the best way to convey your intent? A proof reader looks at spelling and punctuation.

ML: Who’s looking at the revised copy? If you have beta readers, ask them, “Where did you fall out of the story?”

CF: With beta readers, the more the better.

ML: Beware the hype of the Kindle gold rush. Don’t look at self-publishing as your ticket. It’s a long term game, not a quick buck.

BB: As a publicist, I have people coming to me with unrealistic expectations.

Q: What are your thoughts on giving away your work for free?

CF: You shouldn’t start that way. If you have a complete series, then offer the first for free. If readers like it, they’ll buy the rest of the series.

ML: Kobo uses free in different ways. It works best when the call to action is to buy the author’s next book (series or otherwise).

SMB: If you have a novella, don’t give it away for free. It’s considered an exclusive item. Give it a limited run.

ML: Let’s run the numbers. Say you offer a book for free and 10,000 people download it. Of those 10,000, maybe 2,000 will open the book. Of those, only 350 will finish it. Of those, only 175 will buy the next book.

Q: How do you balance everything?

CS: That’s up to you.

SK: Schools can be a goldmine.

And that’s all we had time for.

Next week: Ad Astra gets punked 😉

And sorry folks, you’ll have to wait until next weekend for my report on Madeleine Callway’s workshop and Wordstock. I’m bushed.