Category Archives: Author Advice

No, I am not crazy. I’m just really, really anal.

Last week I posted an article about word clouds and how you can use them to spot overused words.

One of the comments, from a dear friend and fantastic author, was this:

Think GirlOk, 300 – 400 times out of 80,000+ words? That’s like what, .005% of your words are the same? seriously woman? You crack me up. 

It got me thinking. “Am I crazy?”

Well yes. Just ask my kids.

But also, no.

I don’t look at 400 occurrences as .005% of the words being the same. My mind calculates the problem as “that word appears at least once a page”.

But, you might say, the words won’t be on EVERY page.  Yes. This is true. However, that means if I skip one page, there might be a page somewhere that has the overused word twice in it. Even worse if there are places where the word might appear more than twice on a page.

And in my worst nightmares, something like this happens. This is an actual screenshot of a page in on of my manuscripts, pre-editing.

1 book page

.

Here is the thing: Repetitive use of a word stands out to the reader. Especially when the words appear close together.

As a rule, I try not to use a word more than once every ten pages.

Say_What

Well, that’s what I shoot for. It doesn’t always happen. If I can’t do ten pages (and I try very hard to hit this mark) I try to not repeat in less than five pages.

On rare occasion, I do go less.  But 5-10 pages is what I shoot for.

Is it crazy?

It can take me a week to get rid of a very frequently used word. Sometimes when I’m doing this kind of edit I want to give up and not care… but the end product is unbelievably worth it. I find myself rethinking paragraphs. I find new and interesting ways to describe things. Being this detail oriented takes my writing to a whole new level.

Crazy? Yes.

But for me, it’s a good kind of crazy.cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

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Even after you’ve learned everything you could possibly learn – Find ways to learn more @SJWriters

Helpful_RemindersLast week I attended a talk at SJWG given by fellow Month9Books author Donna Galanti.

It is always interesting to hear how other authors clawed their way through the world of publishing.

But what really stuck out to me, was when Donna discussed some of the mistakes she saw authors make while she was working for an agent. Her job was to cull down submissions and decide which would be read by the actual agent the authors had submitted to.

No___Pressure

While most of the mistakes were obvious to me, a few were obvious… but not so obvious at the same time. They gave me pause.

Had I done that in my current first draft?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Maybe._Maybe_not._00000

Today, I’m going back to a particular scene in my new book, and deciding if a section is “tell” or not. I don’t think it is, but a few things she said made me at least want to go back, take the scene out of context, and decide if it is a valid introspection at that point in the story, or am I forcing information.

Likewise, I have a string of dialog that is there for the sole purpose of explaining where the mother is. I believe that there is a valid reason for this conversation to happen at this point—but again, I want to make sure.

Helpful_Reminders

I guess the “gist” of what I am trying to say is this:  Even after you’ve sold multiple novels, sometimes it helps to listen to people tell you things you already know. That may sound incredibly stupid, but sometimes it helps (at least it helps me) to get kicked in the butt and reminded sometimes.

Writing is art. Art evolves. Listening to others speak about the craft, reiterates what I already know, and helps me make sure that my art does not devolve into the mess it was what I first started out.

Happy_Writing!

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What do you do when your conflict doesn’t work?

Ugh!  I am working off a very loose outline for my book ASHES IN THE SKY, the sequel to FIRE IN THE WOODS that releases September 23, 2014.

Here I am, cruising along with about 100 pages written, and the bad guy starts discussing the reason for being bad.   Ugh_Back_to_the_drawing_board

It totally fell flat.  I mean, the whole idea sounded great in my head. He had a perfectly good reason for doing what he was about to do. I even sympathized with him… until I wrote it all out and read it on the page.

It just seemed… I don’t know… STUPID.

Now I don’t know WHAT to do.

After stewing over it for quite a while, I just skipped to the end of the scene, and kept writing.  Hopefully I will work it all out.

I really HATE doing that, because I find my writing is much more fluid if I write chronologically.  Now, I will need to go back a rewrite that chapter from scratch.

I’m NOT feeling good about it.

Has this ever happened to you… and idea tat sounded great in your head just didn’t work once you wrote it and read it back to yourself?

Jennifer___Eaton

Editing Under Pressure. Yes, It can be done #2

I am knee deep in the content edits for my new novel FIRE IN THE WOODS. The turn-around on the editing is KILLER.

So far, I’ve done okay. Easy changes to make the plot-lines flow more smoothly.

Then I got to the hard stuff.

The editor mentioned three words she felt were over used. So I went back and revised them to a minimum.  However, in doing this, I made notes of what I changed those words to in order to make sure I did not overuse these new words as well.

Ugh.

This is when the editing became a nightmare.  Each overused word I found, I changed. If it was a new word, I added it to the list to check later.

In the end, I had a list of 94 words to check. Each time I made a change, if it was a new word, I added it to the list. My goal was to use the words no more than once every twenty pages. Now, I have to admit they got a little closer than that at the end. There are just so many ways to explode something. But this process was long and tedious for me.

This led to long nights and a weekend behind the computer.

Okay, maybe I did NOT need to do this now. This kind of thing is normally not part of the content edit, but now that I saw the problem, I could not send it back until it was fixed. The perfectionist in me just wouldn’t allow it.

Seriously___Come_on..._Seriously___00000

I mean seriously: Do characters have to shake their heads/hands/or other extremities 94 times?

For your own search-and-destroy pleasure, here is the list of 94 words, and the rabbit trail that followed. Not all of these words were overused, but most of them were. For instance, “spewed” only appears once in my manuscript, but it was a word that I used to replace something else.

My challenge:  Take a look for these in your own manuscripts. Some involving explosions may not apply to everyone, but some of the everyday words might surprise you.  Try to use them only once every 20 pages and feel my pain.

Dang/Darn/Dernit

Shoot

Wow

Woa

Holy cow

Yikes

Sheesh

Geeze

Crap

God/Oh God

Say

Boy

Funny

Screamed

Howled

Shriek

Flinch

Gritted

Trembled

Adjusted

Moved

Shrugged

Pushed

Gazed

Scared

Terrified

Beckoned

Reeled

Burned

Itched

Seared

Handling

Recoiled

Throbbed

Spewed

Echoed

Yearn

Warn

Shuddered

Quaked

Bite cheek

Straighten

Eyes wide

Gape

Hunch

Looked

Spread

Slid

Churn

Singed

Shoved

Shimmied

Shiver

Tremor

Begged

Darkened

Strode

Startled

Gasp

Gulp

Alarmed

Chilled

Dumfounded

Frightened

Petrified

Wheezed

Whimpered

Sigh

Succumb

Groan

Moan

Grunted

Hitch

Shouted

Wailed

Stared

Shift weight

Thunder

Shook

Exhale

Finger

Grimaced

Slumped shoulders

Rub temples

Clenched

Puffed

Spoke

Hollered

Yelled

Called

Barked

Huffed

Sneered

Grumbled

I’ve already handed in my edits, and just reading over that list again made me tired.

What words do you tend to overuse?

_JenniFer____EatoN

Editing Under Pressure. Yes, It can be done #1

My first round edits came back for FIRE IN THE WOODS, which has been contracted with a three-month deadline to publication.  I took a deep breath, knowing that the completed edits were due back in FIVE DAYS.

Yikes!

I was pretty surprised, though.  This is the content edit phase, and they asked for very few changes.  In one spot, they thought the father should have reacted more quickly.  I fixed this simply by editing the dialog a smidge.

The next thing they said, which made me sweat a little, was that they didn’t buy the reason why my MC was afraid of another character. So I thought this over, and realized they were right when they said it felt like a forced conflict.  I really hadn’t developed that secondary character at all. He was too flat, and had no history.

Soooo

So I thought over why she might be afraid of him, and gave him a 100 word history based on a strategically placed inner thought/flashback.  I have to admit, this little change really gave both the MC and the secondary character depth.

Another thing I had to fix was a product of the multiple revisions this manuscript has seen over time.  Jess comes to a conclusion about “what’s going on” with no reason for it.  After thinking it over, she had a very good reason to come to this conclusion. The problem was, I never let the reader in as to HOW she came to this conclusion.  Again, an easy fix with a simple inner thought right before she comes to that little epiphany that drives the story onward.

The other changes were simple. A missing word here or there.

Then I hit the OMG part. And I will admit, this was totally MY DOING. In the spirit of always keeping my posts short, I’ll tell you all about it in my next segment. This is something I usually check for. I don’t even know how I missed it.

JenniFer_EatonF

The Big Announcement! Jennifer M. Eaton signs with @Month9Books for YA SciFi FIRE IN THE WOODS Series

Yay!  Today’s the big day!

I’m thrilled to announce that my young adult contemporary science fiction novel FIRE IN THE WOODS has been contracted with Month9Books for release September 23, 2014.

Did you catch that?

September 2014!!!

Yes, I’m a little stressed, because most books being signed right now are pushing out to late 2015 or 2016, but in my editor’s words (answering a tweet from someone saying how fast that was…)

“Whew! Can ONLY do when work comes in nearly perfect shape. Even then, whew!”

Wow. Nearly perfect shape? I’m still tingling.  Awe, Heck. I think I’ll just show your the entire Twitter stream, before the official announcement was made, so there is no mention yet of my name, or the title of the book.

Twitter Stream

 Wow. Just Wow.

You can’t even imagine what public tweets like that are doing to my ego.

Mostly, though, I’m holding my head and trying to not fall off this fast moving train I’ve suddenly (and a little unexpectedly) found myself on.

Now, that is not to say that I don’t have a whole lot of work ahead of me. My editing timeline is KILLER

Wait! There’s more!

Did you catch the last word in the title?

SERIES.

Yup. Month9Books has contracted a series of 3 FIRE IN THE WOODS books, with an option for a fourth. The first will release in September, 2014, and the next two will release in 2015.

Being that I don’t even have concepts for a second and third book, and the second book is due in two and a half months, and the third book due four months later –

Wow

I am in for a heck of a roller coaster ride.  No – Other than plotting out how many words (YIKES) I will have to type a day, I have NO IDEA how I am going to pull it off.

Be prepared for a stream of FREAK OUT posts to fill you in on how I’m doing.

Here we go.  The roller coaster ride has officially started!

Wahoooo!

_JenniFer____EatoN

How to Publish Topic #4: Qualified Small Houses

I will admit, this is my sweet spot.  Qualified Small Houses are the up and comers that have the big-guys quaking in their boots.  Some of these people have jumped ship from bigger houses.  Some are experts in their fields, while others are succeeding because they are not afraid to break the rules.

These companies have the ability to do everything that the bigger houses do, without the name recognition of the larger houses.  Royalty rates, in general, are higher, and contract terms (in some cases) are easier to swallow.

While these companies may not have the big sales forces of the large houses, that’s not stopping them from publishing best sellers. Not only that, these houses still see the value in MARKETING, and not just the big titles.  They back every book that they publish.

The list of these little gems is not as long as some other lists, because there are not as many “independent publishers” that can boast best sellers. If you know of any that are not on my list, please let me know so I can add them.

Ellora’s Cave (Romance only – Could be considered a big-guy these days.)

Entangled (Strong Romantic Elements Required)

GMMG (Month9Books, Swoon Romance, Tantrum Books)

Lyrical Press (Recently acquired by Kennsington – Romantic Elements Required)

JenniFer_EatonF

SUCCESS! Holy Sh— Um— Wow! BEST WEEK EVER!

Okay, I admit, I am a Twitter stalker. Some people make it easy. They use Twitter as a method to voice what they are feeling about everything from the weather to really important stuff… like editors reading submissions.

A few days ago, the editor that has had my manuscript for quite a while tweeted:

“Catching up on subs. Really like the voice and story in the YA scifi I’m reading, It’s from March. I’m so far behind.”

I tensed. My sub is a YA Sci Fi.  And I submitted in March.  I’d be lying if I did not admit my head went ka-blooey!


A few hours later an email popped up from the same editor.

Nothing definite, just a note to say she was reading AND ENJOYING my manuscript.

How_stinking_cool_is_that

Okay, deep breath. That’s good. Really good. Fingernails are now officially non-existent. Let’s hope she doesn’t have an explosion phobia!

At one o’clock in the morning the next day she tweeted:

“Stayed up late to finish a manuscript I will offer on tomorrow. Really love this story.”

Now, I’m really glad I was fast asleep at one o’clock in the morning, because there would have been no sleeping that night for me if I had read this when she tweeted it.

PKO_0001147The next morning I woke to an email sent just after that Tweet. She’d stayed up late reading because she couldn’t put it down.

Yes!!!

Now let me tell you. Spam filters can be evil. E.V.I.L. because after almost a whole day, thank goodness, she poked me to make sure I got the contract offer.

“Umm, no.”

Resend is a wonderful thing.

I spent the next half hour reading and re-reading everything she had to say about my book.  I mean, you have dreams about people going on and on about how great your work is, but you never really expect it to happen. Especially from an editor with such a great reputation in the business. I was numb. Completely numb.

Wow. Just Wow

An editor at my target publisher loves my story just as much as I do. She loves my quirky voice, and the themes blew her away. (Literally, in some cases).

Wow.__I_mean_REALLy_Wow!_00000

Now on to the nitty gritty. I hope I will have exciting news to share with everyone really soon.

_JenniFer____EatoN

How to Publish Topic #3: Bigger than you can imagine houses

We’re continuing our Monday discussion of different ways to get published. Today we’re talking about large publishing houses.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that there were a “Big Six”, because there sure are a lot of OTHER houses out there that can give you exactly the same stuff.  Some take unagented manuscripts, others do not.

Some that don’t take unagented submissions open up once a year (or once in a while) to unagented authors, and always for a short time.  If you are interested in this, you need to follow these publishers closely.  The windows are tight, you don’t want to miss it.

In general, everything I said about the “Big Six” is true about these guys.  One in particular – HARLEQUIN – should be particularly attractive if you are a romance writer. TOR should be very attractive if you are a Speculative Fiction writer.  The reason I say this, is that these publishers have followings.  People who like a certain type of romance trust Harlequin, and will buy a book for the Harlequin name alone.  Hey, I wouldn’t say no to that.

Here are some of the “biggies” that are not considered “Big Six”

Harlequin (Recently purchased by HarperCollins)

Tor (St. Martins Press)

Baen Books

Baker Book House

Daw Books

Houghton Mifflin

Scholastic

Kennsington

Personally, I think the bragging rights are just as good to get into any of these guys. I certainly wouldn’t say no… but only if I believed that they loved my book enough to help promote it.

_JenniFer____EatoN

Rejection. Sometimes coming to grips is harder than others.

Like everyone, I’ve had a lot of rejections. Usually form rejections. I brushed myself off and moved on. But none of them stung as badly as this one.

83 days— twenty three days over their posted “get back to you” deadline, all leading to a form rejection.

Rejection.

Wow. I was speechless. Took me a while to get over it. I mean, I understand that publishers are busy, but when they have had the manuscript so long that they probably read the whole thing, and maybe even had several people read it, and then getting a form rejection?????

Ouch.

I’d just love to know— was it good enough? Did they have two alien novels on their desk that were great, and someone flipped a coin? Do they have an explosion phobia? Do they not like the color purple? What was it?

It took me a full day to get over this. Once I did, I dusted myself off and started reading my novel from page one.

Picking myself up, and getting back to it.

You know what?  I was amazed. After not reading my novel for several months, I found myself instantly engrossed, and stunned when I realized “Hey, I actually wrote this.”

I know why the publisher had it so long, now.

It’s good. Damn good.

I was probably rejected for one of those silly reasons you read about… like they already signed a sci-fi this month, or someone spilling their coffee or something.

My novel just needs to find the right person. Someone who loves the idea as much as I do.

I’m fine. I’ll get there. Patience has never been my strong suit. In the immortal words of Yoda “You must learn patience.”

There is still one more publisher on my “wish list” reading my baby. Maybe they are “the one”.

So I sit back, relax, and hunker down into my new novel.

This sucker ain’t gonna get written on its own.

 

Jennifer___Eaton