Posted in books, characters, creative writing, editing, publishing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Improving your self-editing skills

Self-editing is not a skill that comes perfectly paired with great writing.

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Not all writers are good editors. Why?

  • It’s difficult to see your own errors
  • You’ve seen it too many times and practically have it memorized
  • You’re sick of looking at it by that point
  • It makes sense to you, or you wouldn’t have written it
  • You’re too close to it

The aspects of editing many writers are good at include:

  • They have the best overall understanding of the concept of their story
  • They know the characters best
  • They get what makes a good story
  • They are readers, and understand readers

Before you start editing, it’s important to understand what type of editing you’re undertaking.

  • Proofreading: Picking out typos, missed words, misplaced commas, etc.
  • Line editing/Copyediting: Critiquing sentence and paragraph structure, repetition, word choice, etc.
  • Content/Developmental Editing: Story, character, flow, cohesion, etc.

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It’s also important to give yourself some time away from the project before you start editing

  • Begin the editing process by NOT editing
  • Step away for a while
  • Get fresh eyes
  • Read something in your genre
  • Read critically for style, flow, and pacing
  • Forget the details
  • Do something non-writing related!

The overall editing process is broken into several stages:

  1. Read the entire text and focus on plot/character issues
  2. Focus on wording and readability
  3. Focus on word choice and sentence structure
  4. Focus on grammar and punctuation
  5. Final review to polish

Make use of tools that can help make the editing process easier and more efficient:

  • Run Spellcheck
  • Run Autocrit, Grammarly, or ProWritingAid
  • Print it out if possible/change the format
  • Many authors edit better in hardcopy
  • Read in different format than the one you wrote it in (like on your Kindle)
  • Get out your Freshman Comp books (Elements of Style is a classic)

Before you dive into typos and comma usage, think big picture when it comes to editing

  • What is the point of your story?
  • What is your character meant to accomplish?
  • What do you hope the reader takes away at the end?
  • Why did you write this book?

As you start editing, think like a reader

  • Change your perspective: As you’re writing, it’s difficult to be objective, so you need to start thinking like a reader
  • Read the story critically like you would any other book: What do you like? What don’t you like? What stands out as out of place?

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Evaluate the plot as you read and identify weak areas

  • Create a timeline as you read: Is the timing consistent? Is the pacing consistent with the timeline?
  • Are there plot holes or unanswered questions? Don’t attempt to answer them yet, but write them down
  • Does the reveal of information come logically? Where do the characters find answers? When do they find answers?
  • Is there enough complexity to remain interesting? Is their too much filler to cover up loose plotting?

Great characters can make or break a story, so focus on characters and their growth and development while editing

  • Character Consistency: Character BIO (know the details), Who is this character on page 1? Who is this character on the last page? What does their dialogue sound like? Write down a sample from the beginning, middle, and end and compare. What is their world view, attitudes, and ethics?
  • When to break consistency: Situational (Events or knowledge drastically changes something and they act outside their norm, i.e. “Insanity is a perfectly natural reaction to an unreasonable situation.”) or Paradox (The reader thinks they know the character and later learns more that changes who they are)

Lastly, check the overall fit of your story elements

  • Point of View/Tense: Is this the best point of view or tense for this story?
  • Style: Does this style of writing fit the character and story type?
  • Structure: Does the way the character move through the plot make sense?

The purpose of this first, full edit is to identify major plot, story, character, and content issues that need to be addressed before any further editing is done.

 

Posted in books, publishing, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

What exactly does “steamy” mean when it comes to romance?

When a reader says they want a “steamy” book, what does that mean? What does “sweet” or “clean” mean? Well, these often means a lot of different things to different people.

When trying to find the line between steam levels in different romance subgenres, it’s helpful to break down what each level means and which subgenres use each most often. Of course, there are books that cross, blur, or nudge the lines, but it’s good to have a firm basis to start with.

Hands Holding HeartsSweet

Low-level sexual tension, focused more on emotional elements than physical, limited to kissing and embraces. Stories often end with a proposal or strong HEA. Think G-rated movie.

Most often used in Regencies and some historicals, middle and younger YA, religious/spiritual/inspirational fiction, and sweet/clean contemporary romances.

Subtle

8a7998ee-211a-4316-9e7f-999a6df97905No explicit sensuality, kissing and touching is okay but physical descriptions are limited to general terms or are only implied. Physical acts should be focused on the emotional elements rather than explicit description. Off-screen sex is alluded to and left to the reader’s imagination. Think PG-rated movie.

Most often used in YA, mild contemporary romance, some historical romances, and spiritual/religious/inspirational.

Warm/Medium

sunset-691995_1920Moderate explicit content and sensuality. Sex is described, but not in graphic detail. The emphasis stays on the “lovemaking” and emotions, not the act. Euphemisms are more common and many details are left to the reader’s imagination. Sexual tension is used throughout, with more touching and some undressing involved, and there are usually only one or two sexual scenes in the whole book. Think PG-13 rated movie.

Common in single-title romances, upper YA, mild NA, some historicals, milder/teen paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi, and some romantic suspense/thriller/mysteries where the focus is more on the crime than the relationship.

Hot

Romantic couple in a hotel roomVery explicit sensuality and a deeper focus on sexual feelings, desire, and physical sensations. Sex scenes are longer and may have 2-3 in the book. Character thoughts are focused more on sexual urges and desires and sex is graphically described with specific body part words used and strong euphamisms. There may be light exploration of less-traditional sexual activities. The emotional aspect of sex is still important and should be balanced with the physical sensations. Sex scenes should further the story, not overtake it. Think R-rated movie.

Includes the majority of contemporary romances today, romantic suspense, most NA, some Apha/mafia subgenres, and most paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi.

Erotic

Marriage couple in the hotelExtremely explicit sensuality and descriptions with a strong focus on sexual thoughts, desires, and needs. Sex may be the primary focus of the story, but it still has a full-arc storyline and strong emotional elements. Sex often includes non-traditional elements such as light BDSM, use of sex toys, ménage or other forms of “kink.” Profanity is more common and graphic language is used in descriptions. There are usually multiple sex scenes throughout the book. These stories can’t be told adequately without the sexual content. Think NC-17-rated movies.

Erotic romance

***Always consider consent and the line between abuse and dominance. Characters must retain a choice on whether to participate and there needs to be a minimum level of respect between partners to keep it out of the realm of an abusive relationship.

Posted in books, creative writing, publishing, query letter, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Tips for writing a great hook

Writing a great hook takes headaches, crying, and endless rewrites.

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Below are a few things to keep in mind while crafting a stand-out hook

A great hook catches readers’ attention

• Write something that startles the reader: “Shaye Archer’s life effectively began the night police found her in an alley, beaten and abused and with no memory of the previous fifteen years, not even her name.” Malevolent by Jana DeLeon
• Open with the inciting incident: “When Willow is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, her parents are devastated—she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain.” Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
• Create intrigue: “Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.” Unspeakable Things by Jeffrey Eugenides

A great hook catches readers’ attention

• Introduce something ominous: “A bloodthirsty sheriff is terrorizing a small Texas town where justice has been buried with his victims.” In the Heart of the Fire by Dean Koontz
• Make the characters sympathetic and relatable: “What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?” The Princess Bride by William Goldman
• Capture the reader’s heart “Every so often a love story so captures our hearts that it becomes more than a story—it becomes an experience to remember forever.” The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

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Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, marketing, publishing, query letter, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Writing a blurb that catches reader’s attention

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It’s always a challenge to boil down and entire story into a few hundred words when writing a blurb. Most writers hate this part of publishing. We took all this time developing details and intricacies and now we have to take all of that back out and convince someone to buy it in two paragraphs or less.

How do you do that well?

Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years.

A blurb is a sales pitch

The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention. Think of this sentence as an elevator pitch. It should capture the most interesting part of the story. That may be the conflict, mystery, romance, etc. Whatever it is that will most make readers want to check out your book, mention it in the first line.

This first sentence often sits by itself before the bulk of the blurb, giving it a better chance to catch the reader’s attention. The preview on most ebook retailers barely gives you more than a sentence or two before readers have to click “read more,” so make that first sentence count.

Format the blurb according to genre conventions

Contemporary romance tends to use short, 1-2 sentence paragraphs that highlight main points of the storyline. Historical romance tends to use longer paragraph with a more in-depth summary of each point of interest. Study blurbs on Amazon in your genre to make sure you’re formatting correctly.

Of course, sometimes you need to break out of conventions and do your own thing. Just make sure there’s a reason for using a unique format and that it conveys the tone or action of your story.

Typewriter illustrationStart with a formula that works

First, introduce the situation, then tell readers about the main problem or source of conflict, and indicate the twist without giving too much away. Effective blurbs often end with a question or with a sentence that sets the overall mood of the story.

Don’t give away the ending. This isn’t a synopsis. It’s a tease.

Leave the side characters out of it

Introduce the main characters and leave the side characters for the reader to discover once they start reading. It’s important to get readers interested in the characters right away. Give their name, a few important traits that make them unique or interesting, what their situation is, and what dilemma or conflict they’re going to face.

Don’t try to introduce side characters in the blurb. It only clutters the pitch and may make readers lose interest.

Use a cliffhanger

This isn’t a must, but for many stories a cliffhanger ending in a blurb will be a good nudge toward purchasing. Avoid giving away too much in a blurb. Present the problem and leave readers wondering how the character will overcome it.

This answer shouldn’t be too obvious, though. Even with books that are more formulaic, it’s important to make the reader curious about how this particular story will unfold. Most romances end in a happily-ever-after scenario, but they don’t all reach it the same way.

Open Blue BookChoose your words carefully

Communicate the tone of the story with words that fit the genre and situation. A dark thriller will use more intense wording while a rom-com will use light, fun words. Word choice should also match the time period and regional setting. It’s also all right to use hyperbole when appropriate, such as “unimaginable” for a shocking crime or “intoxicating” for a sudden and passionate romance, but don’t overdo it.

Keep it short and to the point

Blurbs should run 100-150 words in most cases. Don’t try to tell the reader everything you think might interest them. Stick to the important highlights.

It may be helpful to start writing a blurb with bullet points to sift out what should and shouldn’t be mentioned.

There’s no one correct way to right a blurb that will help sell a book, but starting with proven tactics and expanding from there can help you craft an enticing blurb.

Posted in journalism, publishing, query letter, writing

Getting to the editor

Working as the editorial assistant for a newspaper has given me some insights about getting past the general email account and to the editor’s virtual desk.

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I work for a small, local paper, but we still get a crazy amount of submissions and requests for op-eds and guest columnists. It was pretty overwhelming at first to learn how to filter these. The editor gave me the basics my first day and spent a couple weeks answering my questions about what was important and who was interested in what. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it pretty well now, and it’s taught me a few things that can be applied to both submitting fiction and articles.

Dear Editor

This isn’t a new realization, because this is the first thing I learned when I started querying fiction, but being on the other side of the query has impressed the importance of this piece of advice.

Figure out who you’re sending your query to!

Addressing an email to Dear Editor, the name of the paper/agency, hello everyone, or no salutation at all is a waving red flag to click the trash button.

Why?

For one, it shows the sender didn’t bother to do two minutes of homework to find out who they should be sending their query to. Second, it’s a clear indication that the sender used the BCC to hide that it’s a mass email to every publication they could find contact information for. Laziness, on both accounts. These types of emails are the first ones I weed out in the morning.

Why would I care about this?

Then next thing I look for when culling emails is relevance. As I said, I work at a small, local paper. Aside from AP wire stories, we only cover local issues and events. The first thing I check on media releases and PSAs is the dateline. If it’s out of our coverage area…trash.

The next thing I look for is whether or not it’s relevant content. For the newspaper I work for, this means it not only has to be a local issue, but it has to fit into one of our sections. We don’t have a technology section, or an aging gracefully section, or a rap music section. I still get emails about random topics or locations we don’t cover every day.

This applies to fiction publishers as well. If the agency or publisher doesn’t work with your genre, don’t waste your time querying them. It’s annoying and wastes their time, too. Your query is not going to make a publisher suddenly decide to take on a new genre any more than it will make a newspaper add a whole new section their readers aren’t interested in. Do your homework.

The lonely link

I am not clicking on random links. I’m just not. If some sends me a link or list of links saying So and So Author has a new article available, I am not clicking on it. To the trash it goes. Same goes for attachments with no description or information.

Let me tell you how to do your job…

There is a difference between doing your research and providing all the pertinent information (section, date, topic, etc.) and attempting to tell someone how to do their job. Emails demanding I place a certain PSA in a particular section on a particular day when neither matches up with our publishing schedule and section requirements is a quick way to irritate whoever is reading your email.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Do your research! And be polite. Demands rarely go over well with anyone, and certainly not publishers and papers who receive dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions a day and have rules and requirements for every inch of the paper.

Be direct

Unless submission requirements specifically direct you to use the general account, send you query directly to whoever should actually be reading it. Newspapers, agencies, and publishing houses have specific people who deal with specific topics or genres. It takes more effort for me to figure out who should be looking at something, and it’s much more likely to get deleted.

If there’s a list of who handles what, and you’re invited to submit directly, for the love of God, figure out who might be interested in your work and send it directly to them! Your chances of it being seen will be much higher if the person who makes the decision sees it first. I don’t think I’m alone in prioritizing emails specifically sent to me over ones that are forwarded.

So, what should you do?

Basically the opposite of everything I just said.

  1. Address your email to the right person (and spell their name correctly).
  2. Only send relevant content the organization has stated they have an interest in.
  3. Provide a full and interesting description/query, not just a link or lazy “Are you interested in this?” with an attachment.
  4. Provide all the relevant or requested details without being pushy or demanding.
  5. Send queries to the right person.

Basically, put the time and effort in to figure out how to query an organization correctly and be polite about it.

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Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, cover design, date shark, date shark series, ebooks, editing, publishing, romance, writing

Re-releasing the Date Shark series

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Earlier this year, I got the rights back to my Date Shark series, and I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as simply republishing them for several reasons.

The editing on the first book had been horrible, and I realized when I started re-editing that the edits I had sent back to the publisher five years ago had been ignored. I’d received multiple complaints about the editing from readers when it first published, but it was out of my hands at that point.

The editing did improve over time as the publisher I was working with upgraded their editing staff, but there were still enough errors remaining that I knew the entire series needed to be re-edited. That process took me almost five months because I didn’t have a lot of spare time after starting a new job at the newspaper and taking on a few too many freelance projects.

I also needed new cover art before I could republish the series. I was happy to redo the first book’s cover, but I had chosen the model art for books two through four, so at least I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. My main challenge was not being able to use the cool shark fin A in the original cover art and trying to find something comparable. My husband helped me choose a new font and rightly steered me away from trying to include any water-like effects and just go with the sketched shark logo instead.

My next challenge was when to re-release each book. I asked other authors and got advice on scheduling, but in the end, it took me so long to format each book that they ended up spacing themselves out well enough, for the most part. Books two and three released within days of each other because, honestly, I was sick of working on them and just wanted to be done.

Going back through these books was actually a fun experience overall. I hadn’t chatted with these characters in almost three years and had forgotten how much I loved them! Sabine and Michael’s story is still my favorite of the series, and rereading the books reminded me that poor Leo never got to have his own story.

I had planned to give Leo a voice as the final book in the series, but because of issues with the publisher and limited writing time back then, I stored the idea away for later. I do have some other projects that need attention, but I want to eventually come back to Leo’s story and finish off the series by giving him his own happy ending.

For now, the series is back up on all the major retailers and ready to meet new readers!

You can find all the links here.

Posted in books, publishing, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

#AuthorChat with @TS_Krupa

Last week I was able to try something a little different!

https://blab.im/ts-krupa-authorchat-with-delsheree-gladden” target=”_blank”>TS Krupa, author of “The Ten Year Reunion,” invited me to chat on a new-ish platform called Blab. The neat thing about this is that you get audio and video, split-screen, as you watch the chat session. It was so much fun!

The replay of the chat is stored on the site and available to watch at any time!

https://blab.im/ts-krupa-authorchat-with-delsheree-gladden

author chat