12 Helpful Tips When Writing a Book

There are a lot of tips to keep in mind when writing a book. One of my favorites is show—don’t tell. Here are a few other helpful tips I’ve learned along the way.

12 Helpful Tips When Writing a Book

  1. When an idea comes along—jot it down.
  2. Make time to write. Create a writing schedule that works for you.
  3. Set and meet your deadlines.
  4. Save your first draft. It can help you stay on path when you accidentally stray from your original idea.
  5. Edit. A LOT.
  6. Read what you’ve written out loud. Hearing your own words will help you in the editing process.
  7. Write—even when you don’t feel like writing. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.
  8. Get beta readers you trust.
  9. Pick your editor carefully. (My first editor missed a few things on my manuscript. Thankfully, I caught and corrected the mistakes before my final draft was published.)
  10. Pay attention to constructive criticism, but do what you feel is best for your story.
  11. Keep your book title short and memorable.
  12. Endings need to close the story—not ruin it. Write it carefully.

What’s your favorite  tip when writing a book?

 

Tips I Learned from My Editor

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I overate, as usual.

Now that I’ve gone through my whole manuscript and read all the markups (a dozen times) from my editor, I thought I’d share what I learned with all of you. I think these are helpful tips we can all use the next time we write.

Let me preface by saying that most of the edits I got were focused on making sure my manuscript aligns with the guidelines of The Chicago Manual of Style and that the spelling choices of certain words match Merriam-Webster’s.

Okay vs. OK:
Per Merriam-Webster’s, use OK.

Toward vs. towards:
Use toward. (Both are acceptable, but toward is preferred in American and Canadian English.)

Numbers:
• As a general rule, all numbers at the beginning of a sentence should be spelled out.
• Spell out whole numbers one through one hundred.
• Spell out numbers in dialogues.

Time:
• When using o’clock, the time should be spelled out (e.g., The meeting starts at five o’clock in the morning).
• To show exact times, use numerals (e.g., The last bus leaves at 11:30 p.m.).

Commas:
In direct address, use commas (e.g., Thank you, Adam.), and after yes and no (e.g., Yes, I will be there.).

Capitalizations:
Per Chicago professional titles are generally only capitalized when used with a name.

Foreign words:
Foreign words and phrases are usually italicized unless used commonly.

Watch out for overused words:
Turns out I used “deep breath” more than a dozen times. Yikes.

Well that’s it. I hope you guys find these tips helpful.

Have a great weekend!

Back from the Editor

I’m excited. I’m smiling and I can’t stop. I just got my manuscript back from my editor and I am thrilled to say that I received pretty good feedback. There are minor edits throughout the manuscript, like deleting a few commas, italicizing certain words, etcetera. But the overall feedback was positive. Whew. I can breathe now.

I’m glad I edited my manuscript as much as I did and that I used beta readers to help me tighten and polish my story. After getting feedback from my editor, I feel ready to finally release HIGH.

Now I’m off to the next phase—editing and figuring out when my launch date will be.

Happy writing!

Novel Update and More

Oh dear. It’s November.

I think it’s about time I paused and updated you on what’s going on with my novel and why I haven’t been blogging recently.

My manuscript has been with my editor the last two weeks. In the meantime I’ve kept myself busy—maybe a little too busy.

Ever since I became a mother a little over 3 years ago, I’ve thought about creating (writing and designing) my own children’s books and self-publishing them. Mostly because I wasn’t satisfied with some of the books I was reading to my daughter. But I put my ideas aside for a while because I was busy taking care of her and was focused on writing. But now that my daughter goes to school in the morning and I’ve sent my manuscript out to my editor, I have a little time to spare. So I thought it would be a good time to start creating my own children’s books. So far, it’s going well. Since my daughter loves Goodnight books, I decided to create a Goodnight book I hope she will love and hopefully other kids will love too. I am also working on a book on First Words, plus a few other ones.

I have one more week before I get my manuscript back. My goal is to get the Goodnight book to print by the end of November. I know it sounds a little crazy, but that’s the funny thing about inspiration, when it hits you—it’s hard to stop. Just like when you get an idea for a story in the middle of the night and you must write it down.

It’s a lot of work, but it’ll all be worth it in the end. It will be a nice gift for my little Samantha.

I will have a separate website for my children’s books, which I will share here soon.

Do you have kids or nieces and nephews under the age of 5? What are their favorite books?

Novel Update: Beta Readers and Their Feedback

After I sent my manuscript to my beta readers, I didn’t look at my story for about a month. It felt good to take a break from editing. It gave me time to work on other things that are still related to my book, like my book cover and editing my synopsis. I gave my beta readers 3 weeks to read and critique my work and within the 3 weeks, I slowly started getting feedback. Each critique was formatted differently and each one varied in length. The longer one took to get back to me, the longer their feedback seemed to be. I’m sure it was a coincidence.

The most gratifying feedback I got was they all liked my plot and characters. To me, this is the most important thing.

After going through all the comments/feedback from each beta reader, I noticed that there were only a few comments that were similar—about 4 to be exact. The rest were different from each other. My challenge now is studying each comment and figuring out which edits to make. Whatever change I end up doing has to work with my story and has to help strengthen my novel.

So far, I’ve looked at each critique and highlighted the changes I feel will help my story. I am currently applying the changes by going through each critique one at a time. For instance, today I’ll do beta reader A’s changes and tomorrow I’ll do beta reader B’s and so on. After applying all the necessary edits, I will be reading my manuscript a few more times until I feel it’s ready for my editor.

I am so thankful to my beta readers for giving me such honest and helpful feedback. This process has definitely helped me learn and grow as a writer.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Novel Update: Editing

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
-Ernest Hemingway

It’s been a while since I last updated you on the progress of my first novel. I spent the last few weeks rewriting and editing my full manuscript on my computer and I’m happy to say that I finally finished that part of the editing process this weekend.

The next step is printing the whole manuscript and reading it over again, this time on paper. It’s amazing to see what we catch from looking at printed copies that we may have missed on the computer.

Here’s a summary of my editing process:
Edit on screen (computer)
Edit off screen (on paper)
Apply necessary changes
Send manuscript to Beta Readers
Apply necessary changes based on feedback
Edit on screen and off screen
Send manuscript to proofreader and editor
Apply necessary changes
Edit on screen and off screen

I am aiming to finish the whole editing process by October.

Although editing can be time consuming, it’s an important part of the process and should not be skipped or taken lightly. As a soon-to-be self-published author, it’s my responsibility to deliver my book in a professional manner. I want my future readers to enjoy the story I have written and not be distracted by typos and other careless mistakes.

What’s your editing process?

Novel Update: Editing

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
-Ernest Hemingway

It’s been a while since I last updated you on the progress of my first novel. I spent the last few weeks rewriting and editing my full manuscript on my computer and I’m happy to say that I finally finished that part of the editing process this weekend.

The next step is printing the whole manuscript and reading it over again, this time on paper. It’s amazing to see what we catch from looking at printed copies that we may have missed on the computer.

Here’s a summary of my editing process:
Edit on screen (computer)
Edit off screen (on paper)
Apply necessary changes
Send manuscript to Beta Readers
Apply necessary changes based on feedback
Edit on screen and off screen
Send manuscript to proofreader and editor
Apply necessary changes
Edit on screen and off screen

I am aiming to finish the whole editing process by October.

Although editing can be time consuming, it’s an important part of the process and should not be skipped or taken lightly. As a soon-to-be self-published author, it’s my responsibility to deliver my book in a professional manner. I want my future readers to enjoy the story I have written and not be distracted by typos and other careless mistakes.

What’s your editing process?

Why We Need Beta Readers and Editors

I recently mentioned to a friend that I was self-publishing my first book this November as an e-book, as well as a printed book. I told him that after I edit on my own, I will be passing my manuscript to beta readers, possibly a proofreader and after that, edit it again and then it goes to an editor.

To which he replied: “The editing process is never ending anyway. With the technology now with e-books, why don’t you just eliminate the beta readers and editors and publish your book now and get the readers out there to give their feedback and then revise your book again based on the feedback you get, and then publish it again.

My head spun a little.  So I said, “What do you mean? Revise my book again, even after I’ve already published it?” A bit confused, I added, “Why would I want to do that?”

He said, “Yes, keep revising the same book and publishing it over and over based on the feedback you get from readers.”

I asked, “The same book?”

“Yes, the same book. The one you have now,” he confirmed.

My head spun again. “You mean, just print what I have now and let the readers read and judge it without having beta readers read it first?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “But once my book is published—that’s it. I’d like to be done with it so I can move on and start writing other stories. Why would I want to keep revising the same book and publishing it over and over again?”

Completely nonplussed, I asked my friend what the advantages are of doing it the way he’s suggesting. To be honest, I don’t even remember what he said because it probably didn’t make sense to me.

For me, it almost sounds like he’s saying:
“Why don’t you rush and publish your book now, even if you’re not satisfied with it and it hasn’t been read by others who can help you polish it. Who cares? You’ll get feedback from readers outside anyway. You can use the feedback to keep revising and keep publishing THE SAME book, over and over again.

To me, it also sounds like: Why don’t you just put a product out there that hasn’t been tested? Who cares if it doesn’t work? You can keep revising the product anyway?

But wouldn’t I be setting myself up for failure by doing it that way?

First of all, why would I risk my reputation as a first time author and publish a book that’s not polished? Just to get it out there because I can keep revising it anyway? It doesn’t make sense. Also, what happens to the printed pieces?

After researching, reading articles and posts from other writers over the last 6 months on self-publishing and e-books, and seeing the results of self-published authors, my friend’s comment didn’t make any sense to me. I can think of a hundred reasons why I do not think his idea is a good idea. For one, beta readers are there to help you. They will read your book and critique it and give you helpful feedback. If I rushed and published my book now and eliminated the beta readers and editors, I would probably get feedback, but none of which would tell me if I made a typo on page 40 and 180, or that I should rewrite a sentence or a paragraph because something is missing, etcetera. Regular readers won’t give the same feedback. They will give general feedback, but won’t go into specifics like beta readers and editors do.

There are many reasons why a lot of e-books fail and why some succeed. I’ve read a number of posts from self-published writers who all give the same advice:

  1. First, write a good book.
  2. Get people you trust who aren’t family to read it and give you honest feedback (example: beta readers) before you publish.
  3. Hire an editor.
  4. Create a great book cover.
  5. Have a marketing plan.
  6. Know your target audience.

I’m sure my friend meant well. Maybe all he was trying to say was take advantage of technology. But even then, some of the things he suggested didn’t make sense.

At the end of the day, I am still sticking to my plan. My manuscript will still be going to beta readers. I personally believe that having them read it and critique it will help me polish my book before it gets published.

Here are links to some posts that I’ve recently read on self-publishing and why beta readers are important:

http://crimefictioncollective.blogspot.ca/2012/08/three-mistakes-you-dont-want-to-make.html

http://jennymherrera.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/four-reasons-why-you-need-beta-readers/

http://saraflower.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/beta-readers/

What do think? Eliminate beta readers? Rush and publish and keep revising and publishing the same book over and over again?

An Interview with Lori L. Otto, Author of the Emi Lost and Found Series

Recently, e-books and self-publishing have been hot topics on my blog that I felt the need to interview another self-published author. I came across some rave reviews on the Emi Lost and Found series on twitter and knew immediately that Lori L. Otto was exactly who I wanted to interview.

If you’ve contemplated on self-publishing or have questions on e-books and what it means to be an independent author, or you simply want to learn about the talented author of the Emi Lost and Found series, then this interview is for you.

Meet Lori L. Otto:

What inspired you to write the EMI LOST & FOUND series?
After reading a very popular young adult series, and its subsequent not-so-young-adult fan fiction, I realized there was a need for an epic, romantic series for adults.  I first didn’t really know what the story was going to be.  Instead, the three main characters revealed themselves to me.  After I had a clear understanding of who they were, the story began to unfold.

Did you always know you were writing a series, or did the idea happen in the midst of writing your first novel?
No, this was intended to be one novel.  When I outlined everything, it was all meant to be contained in one book, written in the same way it’s published now.  I wanted the three different narrators telling their stories, so when each of their story lines grew to more than 100,000 words each, I knew I had to break it up.  Fortunately, with the way I’d decided to use three narrators, that lent itself well to breaking it up into three separate novels.  That’s why there’s an intro by Emi in the first book and an epilogue by her in the last book.  

Who edits your books? Did you hire an editor?
I have a “team” of well-educated friends who love to read, and I consider myself lucky.  This means that about 10 people get to read the books before they’re published, and it’s amazing how each friend sees different mistakes.  I don’t hire them to do it– they do it voluntarily because they get to read the books before anyone else.  I also read and re-read the Emi Lost & Found series about twenty times on my own, and still found a few errors right up to the publication date.  I will say, I’ve received reviews from multiple people who compliment my editor because there are so few mistakes.  I do pride myself on this, and strive to have them be as error-free as possible.

Did you ever consider traditional publishing or did you always know you wanted to self-publish? How did you decide?
I queried agents for about nine months before I decided to self-publish.  I received quite a few rejection letters, many of them because of the length of the novels.  That seemed to be a big hang-up for a lot of agents, and in traditional publishing, I understand that can be a problem, putting forth so much money on a long book by an unknown author.  I totally see where they’re coming from.  But times are changing, and I believed in the books so much that I wasn’t willing to cut them down, and really felt like they would be successful in their entirety in e-book form.  This is what eventually made me decide to self-publish.  Even with their lengths (125,000 words for Lost and Found; 129,000 words for Time Stands Still; and 126,000 for Never Look Back), readers have devoured the series in a couple of days and begged for more.

Describe your experience with self-publishing. How long did the whole process take? Did you hire people to help you?
I thought the actual process of self-publishing was easy, and it didn’t take too long.  I first self-published paperbacks, using CreateSpace, because I wanted to have a physical book for myself and many of my friends, and also because I understood the process better.  When people would talk about formatting for ePub and things like that, I was a little frightened, but once I started reading the requirements of sites like Smashwords, Kindle Digital Publishing and PubIt, it actually was very easy.  They all accept files formatted in Word, so what was good for one site was fine for another with just a few modifications of the title page.  I published first on Smashwords, and did a lot of trial and error adjusting for about three weeks.  Mainly it was from viewing the book on my Kindle and seeing mistakes I hadn’t seen before.  (Many of my test readers had Smashwords copies to work with.)  I didn’t hire anyone to help at first, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this process is that people do judge books by their covers– and my original covers say nothing about the story.  Just recently, I’ve hired an illustrator to redesign the covers for me.  The first is complete, and the second and third should be done by late April.  I know that I could have this done cheaper than what I pay, but I think her work is worth it.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
Advantages: The author is in total control.
Disadvantage: The author is in total control.  
Self-publishing truly is a free-for-all at this point, with no standards to uphold.  I’m happy that I got to make all the decisions on what could be included, or what needed to be edited out.  But anyone who self-publishes will also be forced to face all of the bad work that’s been rushed to publication just for money.  The bulk of these are short stories (that aren’t necessarily marketed as such, but are often between 1000 – 5000 words) that are erotic in nature…and I’m using that “erotic” term rather liberally.  I’m not a prude by any means– there is a healthy amount of tasteful sex in all of my current books– but the things I’ve seen are shocking to me.  I imagine they make a lot of money, though, so it just encourages more and more of these stories to be slapped together and uploaded.  Sometimes, I think self-publishing is too easy.

Would you recommend self-publishing?
I would recommend it, and have to multiple other authors I know, provided they have proper expectations of what will happen and how much they need to be involved to generate sales.  When I published, the story about Amanda Hocking had been floating around the Internet, and I’ll be honest, I had very unrealistic expectations.  I didn’t think I’d become a millionaire overnight, but I thought I’d make more money than I have and didn’t think I’d have to work so hard to sell my books.  Marketing is the hardest thing about self-publishing.  I’m a good writer, but even though I worked in marketing for ten years, I still fail on a daily basis in this arena.  I’m pretty introverted, and that seems to work against me.

Would you consider traditional publishing if a Literary Agent approached you now?
Of course I would!  I’d be a fool not to.  I’m working on two other series now and am considering trying to get an agent for at least one of them.  Again, I believe that my books are good and that women who read them will be drawn to the characters, but my biggest problem is finding readers.  If an agent could help me with that, I might be willing to make a few concessions.

What makes someone an Independent Author?
I guess my definition is someone who writes and/or publishes without the backing of an agent or publishing house– a writer who is left to handle every aspect of writing, editing and promoting the book on their own or by using their own resources (time, money, etc.).

How do you market your books? What has been the most effective?
Not well.  😉  I have a Twitter account that I use, setting up different campaigns and scheduling tweets in bulk on a daily basis.  As you can imagine, this is tedious and a little exhausting, and I’m not sure how effective it actually is.  I know when I don’t tweet at all, I get very few hits to my blog, book sales pages, etc.  When I do tweet, even though I don’t have a lot of sales to show for it, the page counters tell me that the word is getting out there.  It’s just very hit-or-miss, and I haven’t found a way to target my specific market yet using Twitter.  I also do have a Facebook page, and quite a few people who’ve read my books have found me there on their own.  I only recently started using this as a tool to try to sell more books, because I figured most of the people who “like” my page have read the series already.  But, again, it’s a good way to keep the word out there and to keep the books top-of-mind.  If someone needs a gift for their wife, friend, whoever, they may decide that my series is a good gift after seeing a reminder post on the Facebook page.  I’ve used email marketing, which was helpful at first, but most of my list was made up of people I knew, so after they purchased the books, the emails just seemed to be redundant, reaching the same audience, and I was worried of becoming “spam.”  I’ve done a few book giveaways on goodreads.com, and while many people sign up to win– and many put the book on their “to read” list– this hasn’t seemed to really generate sales for me, either.  I’m a member of a few different Independent Authors groups online, and the members are very good in helping to spread the word about other Indie author’s books on Twitter and Facebook.  The Indie Author community is vast and very supportive of one another.

What are blog tours and do you participate?
I’ve never done a blog tour.  I know I should, and I know it would help, but I just haven’t taken the time to research what is involved.  

Is your book series only available electronically or do you also have printed copies?
It’s available in both formats.  The paperbacks can be purchased on Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.  E-books are available for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone, Sony eReader, Kobo, Android eReaders and PDFs for the computer.

If you could do it all over again, would you still pick self-publishing?
Yes, I would.  I wanted my story to be out in the world.  Even if I don’t have a million readers, the ones who have contacted me from South Africa, Ireland, Australia, India, and everywhere else in this vast world make this whole process worthwhile to me.  

What advice can you give writers who are having trouble deciding between traditional publishing and self-publishing?
I’ve encouraged writers to try the traditional publishing route first.  I do think that they have ways to promote the book that most Indie authors are lacking, and marketing plays such a huge part in the success of books and requires so much time and energy.  If they don’t find an agent after six to twelve months– and if they just want to share their story with other readers– then I’d suggest self-publishing.  The fact that I don’t have an agent is not a failure on my part, in my opinion.  It just means that my books didn’t fit into a traditional mold or category that the agents were willing to work with.  (On a side note, I think my books fall between genres, and if I had understood what this would mean for my book in the long run, I might have done something differently.)

What makes you unique as a writer? Describe your writing style.
I’m a very emotive writer, and I like developing characters.  I write stories that people can relate to and get involved in.  The worlds described in my books create a nice escape, and I think the situations are able to generate real emotions.  In fact, quite a few readers have told me they had to take breaks from my second book, Time Stands Still, because they couldn’t see the words through their tears.  Many reviewers have said that they feel like Nate, Emi and Jack are their friends.  That’s a huge compliment to me.

Who is your favorite author?
I love Vladimir Nabokov’s writing style.  I think Lolita is a fascinating story and a beautiful piece of art.

What is your favorite book? What are you reading now?
Again, I love Lolita for its prose.  Nothing compares to it, in my mind.  I love most well-written books with a love story, but I don’t read romance novels.  Right now, I’m re-reading the Hunger Games so I can be ready for the movie.  I thought Suzanne Collins wrote a thought-provoking series about what society could become– and it also gave me a sweet love story to follow.

Define a good book.
A good book provides an escape for the reader.  It can transport them through time and space, taking them to places they’ve never been and may never see.  It captures their imagination and leaves them thinking about the characters long after they’ve read the last page.  It’s something that keeps them up late at night reading.  It’s something they don’t want to put down, and something they want to pick up again to re-read later on down the line.

Define a good writer.
For my genre, which I consider to be women’s fiction, a good writer is someone who can get in the head of a certain character, and describe the world through that person… and then be able to do that with many other supporting characters as well.  She’s someone who knows the background of everyone involved so that they can accurately predict motives and reactions to make the story as real as possible.  She’s able to accurately communicate situations to let the reader develop their own feelings and emotions.

If you could describe your book series in one sentence, what would it be?
Having given up on her ideal love, Emi Hennigan suffers a great loss after taking a chance with her best friend– only to discover that what she’s always been looking for is still out there.

Are you working on your next book? Will it be part of another book series?
I’m working on five other books right now: three in one series, and two in another (which will eventually have a third book).  For those of you who have read Emi Lost & Found, the second series (chronologically) revolves around Jack’s brother, Steven.  The third series (which takes place thirteen years after Never Look Back) is about Livvy.  The other series are spin-offs of the original, where other characters take center stage.

And finally, what tips can you give writers who are considering self-publishing?
Don’t get frustrated and don’t give up.  (These are tips I have to remind myself of sometimes, too.)  Keep trying new things, and network with other authors.  Make sure your book is as polished as it can be.  Present it as if an agent just might pick it up one day and read it cover to cover.  It needs to be the best it can be.

Thank you Lori for giving me the opportunity to interview you. It was a blast!

For more information on Lori L. Otto and her Emi Lost and Found series, visit her blog at: http://authorlorilotto.wordpress.com/

Where to buy her books: http://authorlorilotto.wordpress.com/where-to-buy/

Check out more interviews.

Who is Your Editor?

I am currently editing my manuscript (for the 100th time), but would also like to have a professional editor look at it. I was wondering if anyone has an editor or an editing service they love and would like to recommend. And if you don’t mind me asking (this part is optional), can you give me a ballpark figure of how much they charge? Please share some positive experiences you’ve had with them too.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!