Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Three Phases of the Soul-Crushing Edit

Three Phases of a Soul-Crushing Edit
By Brad R. Cook

I was warned about them. I’d seen the posts on twitter and heard the groans from my friends who are authors. The Soul-Crushing Edit. Is it me or is everything in this business looming over with the potential to crush us? Hunger Games has nothing on the publishing industry.

When I got the edits for Iron Horsemen, my steampunk novel released by Treehouse Publishing Group last December, I was so happy. Then I kept reading, so much red, sooo much red, with lines, sooo many lines, and comments, sooo many comments.

Now I'm waiting for the edits on Iron Zulu, the sequel due for release this November. Screw winter, the red marks are coming...

The Soul-Crushing Edit is the right and proper stomping of your sweet pristine manuscript by the editor of a publishing house. It’s editing not with an axe or a scalpel, but with a hammer – we work for months or years on these manuscripts and then *!SMASH!* our beautiful glass sculpture is shattered. I think they use Mjolnir. 

Pssst, so as not to frighten you… there’s a happy ending. Because the editor takes those shattered pieces and make a gorgeous stained-glass window. Something better than was there before.

Here they are the three phases all writers go through upon receiving the soul-crushing edits.

1 – Anger
Common reaction: “But that line was everything to my whole book and you just cut it out. Not only the sentence, but the paragraph, and what… the whole scene???!!!!
Every word of my baby (manuscript) was pristine in its perfectness, all you had to do was rubber stamp it and print it, right, right… change what… never…”
It’s at this point that we gather up our arguments like a political debater and get ready to write that scathing email – may I suggest not emailing until you’ve gone through all the phases of the soul-crushing edit process.

2 – Bargaining
Common Reaction: “I’ll show them. I’ll rewrite the rewrite and edit my line back in. Ha. Maniacal Laugh. Then spend the next two hours rewriting half a page. Sit back contented as the sentence is back in the book. All is right in the universe.

3 – Acceptance
Common Reaction: “Hmmm.” Stare at screen, scratch head, hold chin, sit back, and repeat.
Reread – makes no sense. Reread the rewrite.
Send a note to the editor inquiring about why they made that change. Realize this theme was dealt with in the previous chapter. The story doesn’t need this scene. Reread editors original edit – “Well, it does flow better.” Hit accept.

Sadly, the world will never know the genius of that line.

Result, the book is better than it was. As authors by the time the book is ready to print we can no longer see the flaws, our minds fill in the missing details, and gloss over the dangling plot lines. The editor comes with fresh eyes, they have experience with books, this isn’t like your family telling you its great. This is hard hitting advice meant to improve the reader’s experience.

As a warning I must report that it can go the other way. An editor can completely miss the point of a scene. They might not see your intention, but that’s why the editing process is a back and forth. The point is never to take down, insult, or destroy the author or the work. Edits are about making it the best it can be.


The Soul-Crushing Edits can’t be avoided. There will always be more red than expected. But that’s a good thing, it’s better to catch it now, than after it goes to print. So to the editors who went through Iron Horsemen, and those that will read Iron Zulu – thank you! 




Brad R. Cook, author of the YA Steampunk Series The Iron Chronicles. http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Horsemen-The-Chronicles/dp/0989207951. He is a contributor to The Writers Lens and Write Pack Radio. He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more about his books and endeavors at www.bradrcook.com or on Twitter @bradrcook https://twitter.com/bradrcook. Follow my blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr http://bradrcook.tumblr.com/

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Write Pack Radio - Writers Talking about Writing

Write Pack Radio – Writers Talking about Writing

I’ve shared Write Pack Radio posts before on The Writers Lens, but it’s been awhile and I wanted to share some of the great episodes that we’ve been running and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of David Lucas and the rest of the pack.

David Lucas stared Write Pack Radio about a year and half ago, since then it has exploded and now has reached over 10,000 downloads! For those that don’t know what it is, Write Pack Radio is a weekly podcast about all things writing. A panel of writers of all levels, from self-professed amateurs to published authors, meets once a week to discuss a topic and offer insights into the literary world. Led by David, with the musings of Co-host Kathleen Kayembe a group of writers discuss everything from plot and character, to what is preferred, blasters or phasers.

I’ve had the honor of guest hosting several episodes and regularly serve as one of the panel experts. What I’ve found is a mix of a humor and informed discussions. With a panel of six to ten, or more writers, every discussion is filled with a variety of opinions and an informed discussion. Some episodes are serious and others are more light-hearted, but all of them reach in-depth into matters at the heart of the writing world.

Write Pack Radio airs Sunday at 3pm.
Find episodes online at blogtalkradio.com and i-Tunes.


Here are few of the recent episodes.


Weapons of the Future

What is a Story Bible and What Good is it?

Preparing for the Siege of a Long Novel

Dystopia: What is it Really?





Brad R. Cook, author of the YA Steampunk Series The Iron Chronicles. http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Horsemen-The-Chronicles/dp/0989207951. He is a contributor to The Writers Lens and Write Pack Radio. He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more about his books and endeavors at www.bradrcook.com or on Twitter @bradrcook https://twitter.com/bradrcook. Follow my blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr http://bradrcook.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hodgson's NO DAMAGE: Follow your heart to create the life you want

Welcome to this week's guest, Kathryn Hodgson. She was born in England and spent her childhood exploring the rugged beauty of Cornwall. Kathryn pursued her love of nature as an adult and created a successful career within environmental enforcement in England and then as a scuba diving instructor in Egypt and Great White Shark wildlife guide in South Africa. She is co-founder of the marine conservation cause Friends for Sharks, inspirational indie writer & blogger, author of No Damage (December 2014) and lover of life, laughter and adventures.

What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? It is definitely the love of words that brings my writing (and my passion for writing) into focus. It is such a joy to be able to use different words and writing styles to describe tiny details that the eye sometimes misses but the mind holds dear. To think I can use words to create new worlds and to inspire others leaves me feeling very lucky and privileged. We all read books for many, varied reasons and I am fortunate that my love of words helps readers to laugh, cry and escape into new realities when they need it the most.  

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? I am currently on a ten-month charitable world tour with my fiancé and our shark and marine conservation cause, Friends for Sharks. We are touring the world providing free educational conservation events for adults and children of all ages/backgrounds in eight different countries whilst also raising money for two charities. Finding the time to write whilst managing our events and everything that comes with it whilst living in a tiny campervan without mains electricity is a huge challenge for me right now! I try and squeeze in an hour or two of creative writing whenever I can find mains electricity and a table. I am also fortunate to have travel, scuba diving and creative blogs to maintain along the way. It is a busy and exciting time but, I admit, I long for the ability to get up at 6 a.m., sit at my own desk with a pot of tea and begin my day with a solid writing routine.

What inspired your latest book? 
My memoir No Damage was inspired by a deep need to inspire and uplift others. After all that I had been through in recent years, I wanted to write my story down in the hope it would comfort others going through similar circumstances and remind them to never give up and to always be hopeful that tomorrow would bring them sunshine. I wanted make people laugh at the humour in the dark moments and to share my story to free myself from the emotional baggage I was carrying; it’s not often someone is left at the almost-altar twice, and I was very embarrassed by being that person! I also felt inspired to shed light on the uplifting and hilarious moments of going through those circumstances without casting judgement on anyone involved. It was important to me that I wrote a book that talked about taboo subjects such as abuse, cancer and grief with compassion and honesty in order to help others going through similar times feel less alone. I was also inspired to show the world you truly can survive anything life throws at you if you change your perspective, think positive and NEVER give up! Life is truly precious and I learnt the hard way how important it is to dig your heels in, fight for your dreams and smile all the way.

What do you think readers will like about your book? I think readers will enjoy the honesty in my writing and that No Damage is written in a fictional style yet it is an entirely true story. I didn’t use any artistic license and I didn’t include embellishments, as I wanted my story to shine all by itself and be a record of what actually happened (sometimes I still can’t believe it all happened to me). I think readers will enjoy the humour in the highs, the heartfelt tone of the lows and the triumph in what is, by the end, a story of survival and joy. 

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? The sound of laughter would be the music for No Damage and for my life in general. The curve balls life throws at each of us are unexpected, remarkable and often difficult to deal with. They can however be laugh-out-loud funny if we choose not to take them too seriously and instead go with the ride as best we can. Laughter has always helped me through and would definitely be the sound throughout No Damage.

NO DAMAGE is an inspiring and uplifting look at one woman’s journey to survive two runaway grooms whilst coping with cancer, the loss of her career and more. 

Kathryn’s optimistic tale of hope, adventure travel and an unexpected stint in a South African prison explores how, as a single 30-something woman with just one suitcase and a head full of emotional baggage, she conquered her fears to pursue her passions. 

This memoir is both a hilarious true story of the power of positive thinking and a self-help guide to overcoming loss, following your heart and creating the life you want.

Links
Website: http://www.kathrynhodgsonauthor.com/ (Paperback £7.99 plus P&P direct from my website, which is cheaper than purchasing from Amazon. I also have an author blog on my website).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Robert Lalonde's ELH Diet focuses on weight loss & keeping the weight off


Welcome to this week's guest, Robert Lalonde. He is a Canadian author who writes about health, nutrition and weight loss. His books are based on research he carried out to lose weight and regain his health after a battle with cancer. Robert lives in the Georgian Bay area in Ontario, Canada, with his wife Marianne and their Shi Tzu, Lucy.

What Inspired You To Write Your First Book? I had been very ill for a number of years. During this time my health deteriorated and I kept putting on weight until I was finally diagnosed with cancer.

I started doing research about the causes of cancer while also looking for a good way to lose weight. It was at this point that I came across the link between diet and cancer.

At What Point Did You Decide To Write A Book? While doing my research I came across the fact that two thirds of the population are either overweight or obese. I also found out that 85 percent of dieters regain any weight they lose within one year of going on a diet!

It’s a big problem that affects all of us in one way or another. Even if you’re the one in three that isn’t overweight, the cost to the health care system affects you. I made the decision to contribute to a solution in any way I can.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. People only think about losing weight and they don’t worry about being able to keep the weight off. And that’s the real problem; keeping it off.
It’s hard to understand why so many people keep making bad diet choices year after year. It’s a real life example of the meme that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result. It makes no sense and that’s why I decided to write the book.

What Do You Think Readers Like About Your Book? I’ve always had the ability to take complex things and explain them in simple language. That’s what I do to understand things myself; I take the technical explanation and break it down into simple English to get a deeper understanding of the material.

I think the readers also like that it comes from personal experience. I’ve actually lived it and worked my way through it and I’m sharing that with my readers.

EASY, LEAN AND HEALTHY: The ELH Diet is the Easy Way to be Lean & Healthy. 

85 percent of dieters regain lost weight within one year of going on a diet! It's even worse than it looks because the average person actually gains an extra 10 pounds for every diet they go on. 

What’s missing is an approach you can stick with long term. You will find it easy to keep the weight off with the ELH Diet. Learn how to reset the mechanism that keeps you hungry and drives you to eat the wrong kind of food. 

Easy, Lean & Healthy is available on Amazon and as a Kindle download:   

  • Twitter: @RobtLalonde



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Guild presents Ann Leckie’s “Journey to the Top” on July 11 in Des Peres

Ann Leckie will tell of her “Journey to the Top” as the winner of many prestigious awards for her debut novel, Ancillary Justice, at a workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, July 11, in the Oak Room at The Lodge Des Peres, 1050 Des Peres Rd., St. Louis, MO. 63131. Free for St. Louis Writers Guild members; $5 for nonmembers.


She will offer tips on writing speculative fiction in the 21st Century and discuss historical influences on her work. Ann’s novel won the science fiction and fantasy “Triple Crown”--the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. The sequel, Ancillary Sword, was named Best Novel by the British Science Fiction Association, and nominated for the Nebula and Hugo. 

She has also published short stories in Subterranean MagazineStrange Horizons, and Realms of Fantasy. Her story “Hesperia and Glory” was reprinted in Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton.

Ann has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, and a recording engineer. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at www.stlwritersguild.org.



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cotterill: Playwright turned author offers first novel in romantic fantasy series

Welcome to this week's guest, Rachel Cotterill. She is professionally and perpetually indecisive, splitting her time somewhat haphazardly between writing, computing, linguistics, recipe development, and travel. She's half of the feminist SF book blog Strange Charm and her third novel, Watersmeet, is a romantic and optimistic fantasy published earlier this year.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus -- the characters, the stories, the love of words? RC: I quite often start from some idea of a setting or scenario, but it's the characters that bring a story to life for me. I started off as a playwright, and a lot of my approach to writing is still very strongly anchored in dialogue: I'll write down snippets of conversations in the very earliest stages of brainstorming, and flesh out the scene later with actions and thoughts and colour.

What inspired your latest book? 
RC: Watersmeet actually started life as a stage play, which I wrote while I was at university, quite some years ago now! But fantasy isn't hugely a popular genre with theatre types, and the cast was frankly a bit too large, so it wasn't ever staged. I'm glad of that now, as the plot and characters have grown a lot since those days.

When I came back to it last year, I really wanted to have a go at writing a romance, and to write something with a more optimistic slant compared to my previous work. It's slowly evolved into a tentative series outline which stretches to five books so far, plus a number of companion novellas (the first of which, The Falconer, is available for free on all major ebook retailers).

What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers? RC: I love a decent chatter, whether that's with my readers or for that matter anyone who has a story to share. I'm a huge fan of social media for forming friendships without borders - you can find me on all the major sites, but I'm most active on Twitter and Instagram. 

What’s your favorite writing accessory or reference? RC: Don't take this the wrong way, but I have an amazing book of drugs and poisons. It's designed for clinical diagnosis, and covers everything from overdose symptoms to antidotes and treatments. I picked it up very cheaply in a discount bookstore, and it's done me well over the years. On the slightly more positive side (but not entirely unrelated), I also have a fabulous book of medicinal plants. Generally, my writing reference bookshelf is something that will have to come with me to the ends of the earth!

Describe the best writer you know and something wonderful he or she has written. RC: That's a hard question! There are so many amazing writers out there - I even started a book blog last year to give myself a platform for shouting my favourites from the rooftops (Strange Charm, http://strangecharmbooks.co.uk, if you're interested). One of my recent favourites is Charlotte E. English, who writes beautiful fantasy across a number of sub-genres: her Draykon trilogy is fairly traditional high fantasy, Black Mercury is an excellent steampunk adventure, and the Malykant Mysteries are murders in a secondary world. She writes great female leads, her plots are always compelling, and she has a real way with talking animal companions. So if there's an author I'd like to be more like, she's probably the one!


WATERSMEET: When a stranger tells her she's a mage, Ailith is intrigued but she's also afraid. Magic is heresy, and heresy means death under the Temple Law. Even literacy is suspect in a girl of her background, and her sister's impending wedding only serves as a reminder that she should be focusing on her future. Then a local priest asks her to rescue his son, and she starts to wonder if her talents could be a blessing, after all. 

The Lord Baron of Watersmeet, Leofwin isn't accustomed to welcoming uninvited visitors. A commoner turning up at his gates should be no more than a minor footnote to his day, but something about Ailith catches his attention. Alchemy can be lonely work and an apprentice might be just what he needs. 

As their lessons grow into shared experiments, Leofwin wonders if he might even trust her with his greatest challenge. But Ailith can't forget why she came to the castle. 

Watersmeet is a romantic fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Maria V. Snyder and Cassandra Rose Clarke

Praise for Watersmeet:

"This was a very enjoyable, well-written read, recommended for fans of quieter, more thoughtful fantasy" -- Pauline at Fantasy Review Barn

Links:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Coryell: Researching a contemporary novel with a historical background

By Susan Coryell
Author of new-release 
BENEATH THE STONES

I suspect that every writer must do some sort of research. I have friends in my writers’ group who craft murder mysteries. You’d think that would be something not requiring much in the way of research, right? Wrong! One friend spent days trying to see if a dead body could be stuffed whole into the toilet of a porta-potty. She even went to the PP store and tried it herself. Another writer needed to know how long a body would stay “fresh” in an abandoned deep freezer. And there’s a huge research trail on poisons that are hard to detect in a corpse.

Well, I write cozy mystery/Southern Gothic cross-genre and, let me tell you, I am always up to my ears in research. My Overhome Trilogy is set at fictional Moore Mountain Lake, based on the real lake where I reside in Southern Virginia. For A Red, Red Rose, the first book in the series, I did extensive research on the flooding of several river valleys to create a hydraulic dam. I learned how officials handled removal of the graves buried in its path, as this was important to my plot. Files of newspaper stories on this topic provided vital facts, as the flooding and dam-building progressed over a number of years. In keeping with my theme of Southern opposition to modern ideas because of long-held and hard-felt beliefs, I scoured museums for information on the local effects of the Civil War, attended lectures and queried university professors re slavery practices and slave rituals. My fellow writers actually dragged me (kicking and screaming) to a horse farm and made me ride a horse so that I could provide sensory details about my protagonist’s riding lessons.

For my new release, Beneath the Stones, the second in the series, I spent many hours in the requisite local museum as well as the Museum of the Confederacy, since several characters in Beneath the Stones were Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. I toured a Virginia battlefield, and visited an ancient abode in which folks now live quite comfortably. This 1760’s dwelling became the prototype for the overseer’s cottage on my protag, Ashby Overton’s, Overhome Estate. Then, because Ashby writes for a magazine concerning arts and artists in the area, I toured a local winery (that was fun!), spent a day at a horse farm (also fun!), interviewed the leader of a bluegrass band and attended several concerts (more fun!), took a psychic to lunch and bent her ear on the paranormal sphere, and kept up an email correspondence with an Olympic equestrian. It’s a wonder I ever had time to write the book!

Why do I work so hard to authenticate my history background and contemporary setting? Because I am writing about the very place in which I myself live. Though I call it by a fictional place name, local readers know quickly that the setting is based on the same real place where we live. If I am going to build a following, I have to do my homework. If I know nothing about farms and actually fear horses, I have to make up for my void of knowledge and surplus of unhelpful emotions. Believe me, my readers here would be the first to let me know where I have erred.

Now, I am working on the third book in the series. Because one main character is a large-animal veterinarian—a field about which I know exactly zero—I am reading up on the profession. Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow, by Dr. Pol, is both helpful and humorous. I have names of two vets I am going to interview for personal vignettes I can use in the book. I have browsed through about a dozen books on the topic so that I feel comfortable writing about the warp and woof of farm animal vets.

I’ve researched a nearby chapel built by and for slaves which is currently standing but not in use. How to get such a structure on the National Registry of Historic Places, and, thus, preserve it, is an aspect I have to further pursue for purposes of plot.
Another area for research has been truly difficult as there is a dearth of information on the topic. I want to incorporate what actually happened to the freed slaves from the end of the Civil War to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s. 

Though information is scant, what I have learned is both gripping and horrifying. Many Southern states adopted black codes, which allowed police to arrest and fine “vagrant” free black men, forcing them into prison with trumped-up charges and charging exorbitant fines, knowing the poor blacks would be unable to pay. Rich plantation owners and big businesses, many founded in the North, would pay a pittance for work release for these men, treating them horribly and literally working them to death. The term “peonage” has been applied to these practices. There is much more to the story, of course, and I am having one tough time finding information about the practices that virtually re-enslaved the freedmen. How much peonage took place here in Virginia where my novels are set? Were the work gangs employed for building railroads and bridges? Tobacco fields? I need this information to authenticate the situation of my characters, and I am still looking, as we speak.

At a recent signing I was asked, “Does writing get easier the more you do it?” I answered the question with a resounding, “Heavens no!  Every subsequent book I write becomes more difficult because my standards climb higher with every publication.” And so, I will persevere until I know enough to base my fiction on fact. In the meantime, I’ll concentrate on ways to craft the plot and flesh out the characters. Hard work? Yes, but it’s what we writers all do. At least, for now, I do not have to worry about stuffing a body into anything.

Thanks to T. W. Fendley for asking me to participate on her informative and fun blog “The Writers Lens,” a great vehicle for writers who want to connect with other writers and readers.

About Susan Coryell
A career educator, Susan has taught students from 7th grade through college-level. She earned a BA degree in English from Carson-Newman College and a Masters from George Mason University. She is listed in several different volumes of Who’s Who in Education and Who’s Who in Teaching.  Susan belongs to Author’s Guild, Virginia Writers, and Lake Writers. She loves to talk with budding writers at schools, writers’ conferences and workshops. Her young adult anti-bully novel EAGLEBAIT is in its third edition for print and e-book, updated with cyber-bullying. EAGLEBAIT won the NY Public Library's "Books for the Teen Age," and the International Reading Association's "Young Adult Choice."

A RED, RED ROSE, first in a cozy mystery/Southern Gothic series, won a literary award with the Library of Virginia. BENEATH THE STONES, the sequel, was released in April of 2015.

The author has long been interested in concerns about culture and society in the South, where hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. The ghosts slipped in, to her surprise.

When not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. She and her husband, Ned, love to travel, especially when any of their seven grandchildren are involved.

Where you can find her books: