Tag Archives: Publishing

Why Does my Creative Mojo Need a Kick in the Butt? AKA: What is Editing Block?

I am one of those annoying writers who NEVER experiences writer’s block. Yeah, I know. Go ahead and spit at me (I’m protected by an alien enhanced force field <AKA a computer monitor>)

But what I do experience once in a while is EDITING block. It is when you are reading your own story, and you hit a section and say, “This is unrealistic. This character wouldn’t do/say this right here.”

So, like a good author, you think it over.

This is when “editing block” comes in. You look at your outline and carefully placed scenes that support you character arcs and plot, and decide: “It has to be here to support the arc.” And let it go.

Arghhh! PictureI did this through 12 drafts of my current WIP. I had an important scene that had a pivotal even occur. After this pivotal event, the characters involved have a conversation about two topics. One topic was far too personal for them to have at this time. The other, although placed correctly to make the rest of the story work, seemed odd for them to talk about after the stressful pivotal event.

I knew this, but I did nothing about it, because I couldn’t figure out another way to do it.

Then I sent the novel out to my beta readers. I love/hate it when they tell me what I already know. In this case, the chapter wasn’t working. [Smacks head against keyboard] But for some odd reason, after the third person told me this, I had an epiphany.

For some odd reason, after the third person told me this, I had an epiphany.

It was a really long chapter. I could split it up into three shorter chapters, and spread the conversation out over a few days.

Yes, this sounds stupidly easy, but it didn’t occur to me early on. I needed that extra push of SOMEONE ELSE telling me it was bad, before I had the creative mojo to figure out how to fix it.

And guess what? Not only did it work, but the entire flow of the novel feels better. Total score!

Have you ever overlooked something your gut told you didn’t work, and then got smacked by a beta reader for it? Does this light a fire under your but to get it fixed?

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Dear Mr./Ms. Publisher: May I have my rights back, please? Getting a Rights Reversion for Your Book.

Now Available from Jennifer M. Eaton

Cover Copyright MuseItUp Publishing

For the last three years, I’ve been scratching my head over the lack of sales for The First Day of the New Tomorrow. Even the success of Fire in the Woods did nothing to trigger interest in this little treasure trove of paranormal explosive happiness.

I volunteered for promotions, dropping the book down to $.99 for a short time, but nothing seemed to have a lasting effect.

In April, 2016, my contract was due to rollover. After long, hard deliberation, I decided to ask for my rights back.

The market is a very different place now than it was three years ago. In a world where so many people are placing full length books on sale for $.99, (or free) the novella format is really taking a hit.

I mean, I get it. I wouldn’t pay $2.50 for a novella when I could get a longer book for $.99. It really doesn’t make sense.

But writing that “Dear Publisher” letter was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Part of me likes seeing multiple titles available. It boosts my inner ego. But I had to be honest with myself. The truth was, nothing was happening with a story that I love. No one was reading it.

A story that is not read is like a puppy not getting any love.

It’s wrong, and I owe it to those characters and the world that I built to give them the chance to be read.

I couldn’t do that at the $2.50 price point.

PKO_0013466 sadThankfully, a few days after my request, my publisher agreed that due to the changing market, this was probably the best thing to do. There was no yelling, no ranting and raving, no challenge that I still have four months left in my contract. All of the sudden, The First Day of the New Tomorrow just started to disappear from distributor cyber-shelves. (Note: this is not always typical. I’ve heard of publishers holding on to rights until the end of the contract no matter the sales.)

Yes, having New Tomorrow leave distribution makes me sad, but now I have the power to offer this story to readers as I see fit. happy smileIt is already written and edited for publication. The hard part is done. Now I can set off on a new adventure … Hopefully where the story can be read by a wider market.

I hope it’s a fun ride.

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How the heck do you write all this stuff?

Last week I shared my writerly “To Do” list, which included:

  1. 1 novel about to release
  2. One in developmental (publisher) edits
  3. Two completed novels just sitting in my computer
  4. Four first drafts
  5. One 95% complete work in progress
  6. Five 5000-10000 word outlines of soon to be written novels

I discussed a little about how I ended up having so many “almost complete” books, and I wanted to discuss the madness of my writing process a little.

My MO used to be:

  1. Write a first draft
  2. Leave #1 to simmer while I write a first draft of something else or edit something else
  3. If I edited, send completed piece out to query. If I wrote, let that one simmer.
  4. Go back to draft in #1 and start editing
  5. Rinse, repeat.

Basically, I liked to distance myself from something before I started editing. It worked well for me for quite a few years, until I suddenly found myself with three contracted novels to write, edit, submit (on time) and publish/promote an all that good stuff.

While writing the series has been a blast, it’s given me WAAAAY to much “simmering” time on all the other projects that I have. And when I had some “down time” from FIRE IN THE WOODS, all I wanted to do was start something new in a completely different world. THAT’S why I am 95% through with a novel that I just love the stinking alien pants off of. (Does that even make sense? Aww, who cares?)

So, will I ever get back to all those first drafts?

I sure hope so, since each of them adds up to a significant hunk of writing time, and a story that meant a lot to me.

But another thing that I am very aware of, is that I learn something every time I write a book. Also, my style changes exponentially.

I am a hugely different author now than I was just a few years ago. Part of me is AFRAID to go back to those works, because I know I will not be as happy with them as I was when I wrote them.

So what is really on tap after I finish book three?

My #1 goal is to finish and submit the novel that is currently 95% done. I think the timing is perfect for that one, and I know Fire in the Woods fans will just love it.

I have one more publisher project that I will probably have to work on soon after that is done.

Then the next project after that will be the Adult Science Fiction Horror that is in first draft form.

Why that one?

Well, for one thing, it is one of the later things I’ve written, so I hope it is in the best shape. Also, I think it is wildly original. The idea still makes me want to read it.

After that is done, yes, I will probably start something new, because I don’t like to do that much editing back to back. I prefer to switch things off once in a while.

The best-plans are meant to be broken

I’m smiling as I write this. Plans are made to be broken. Especially in publishing. Because all that would have to happen to completely blow this plan out of the water would be for one more title to get published. (Which, of course, would be great.)

Come to think of it, I really HOPE that my plans get ruined again this year.

 

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Fulfilling your contract: So, what is an “option book” anyway?

For the past two weeks I have been working on the “option book” as required by my contract.

What is an option book?

My contract with Month9Books was for a three book series with an option for the fourth.  That means I agreed to write three complete novels. (Already done. Yay!) Once those are done, the publisher has the “option” to request a fourth book.

The next step in the process for me was to provide a summary for the fourth book (This will vary by publisher and by author/book. I have friends who have been asked for outlines, first chapters, first fifty pages, etc.)

So, in my mind, I figured they just wanted a rough idea of what I had in mind. After all, they have three books from me already, right? They are familiar with my writing style.

So what I did was write out a rough, fairly detailed outline.  This is very similar to how I would start any book … just hitting on the key points, figuring I would fill in all the “holes” as I write (Which is my normal process.)

Since I had two large signing events back to back weekends before this was due, I shot it off two weeks early so I could check something off my to-do list.  Yay! I felt accomplished!

Imagine my surprise when the next morning I got an email from Month9Books, asking for a phone meeting that same day.

Yikes!

Well… I found out that I hadn’t quite done my summary right. What they were looking for was a complete, highly detailed summary so they would know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this would be a book they would want to contract even before I had written it.

So then started the conversation … Why did this happen?  What about this? Did you realize that this part contradicts that part? What does this scene even look like? Why? Who? Which? Huh? Etc, Etc, Etc…

As humiliating as this sounds, I found it incredibly useful.  My editor was able to see problems in the manuscript before I had even written it. (This is the kind of stuff my beta readers would see later and I would have to fix) She asked questions that got my wheels turning, and we came up with ideas together to strengthen scenes before they were even written, and come up with a few that weren’t even there yet.

Now I have pages and pages of notes to strengthen my story.  Total score.

Due to the extremely intricate nature of the book I am proposing, my next step is to submit a detailed timeline. Since a few things happen at the same time, she needs to see how the timelines run together, and how they intersect.  I have one month to do this.

This is a lot harder to do this that it might seem, since the book isn’t even written yet. Like I said earlier, I usually plot only major points in the story, and then I write each day trying to get my characters to that point.  A lot of my ideas come “on the fly”. Coming up with them when I’m not completely engrossed in the story?  Really, really hard.

Think GirlBut what this exercise is forcing me to do, is to really THINK about the story scenes, and how they interrelate.  I am finding that I need another scene here, another there. There is not enough time for this scene in this spot. I need to move it over here… and so on. I am really glad they asked for this exercise, because there is a lot to this story, and as she told me, “We need to nail this or it will bite us.” Nope, don’t wanna be bitten.

So, that’s what I’m working on at the moment. Once this is done, if they take the option, it will be interesting to see if this extremely detailed timeline, summary, and subsequent notes from our phone meeting help me to write faster, of if they will stifle my creative mojo.

How detailed a plan do you come up with before you start writing?

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Lesson Six from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Watch that Voice! #MondayBlogs

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

When you are writing, especially if you are writing YA or middle grade, watch the voice. In the Gold Mine Manuscript, I know I mentioned the voice when I was beta reading, but my BP said her teenager read it and said it was okay, so I figured maybe I was just behind the times.

In this novel, the Main Character is supposed to be 15, but my brain just made him 17 (no matter what the novel was telling me).  Do you know why?  I believe it was the voice.  I mentioned it, but my BP seemed comfortable with it, so we moved on.

I was also having the same struggle in my own novel, and was on an up and down roller coaster with my own young character’s voice, so I know how hard a young boy’s voice can be, so I knew I was no expert.

You know what the publisher marked up over and over again in the gold mine manuscript?  THE VOICE.

2014 Edit:  I had a wonderful opportunity to have my manuscript read by Harper Collins. They loved my story, but guess what they said I needed to work on?  VOICE. I knew voice was key to FIRE IN THE WOODS. As soon as I nailed the voice, I got an editor to pay attention.

[continued] They mentioned that teenagers answer in quips and half-completed sentences.  I have to admit, my middle graders do the same thing. No perfect grammar for them.  Simplicity is the key.  “Yeah” instead of “yes” is more realistic than a full sentence.

I’m wondering about my own novel on this one.  My kid is from another planet, and grows up under the tutelage of a King.  I don’t want him saying “yeah”, but I don’t want a publisher calling me on it, either.  Maybe a few of the other characters can slip on their grammar a little.  Hmmmm…

My suggestion:  If you are writing for teens, get several teens to read it and ask them to be honest.  Same goes for Middle Grade.  This publisher actually had a teenager read the manuscript to make sure of the voice, and the teen said it didn’t sound real and they didn’t get the words she was using.  Yikes.

Moral of the blog:

If anyone reads your manuscript and tells you that there are possible problems with the voice, I’d take them seriously… ask a few more people to read it.  Drop it on a web site (I like Nathan Bransford’s site).  Get as many opinions as you can.
In the end, you still might not end up okay.  (To be honest, my five-year old drops bonus S.A.T. words all the time, so if I wrote his voice for-real, this publisher would red-line it—so who knows?)

There are a lot of things I’ve not changed about my manuscript that people have mentioned, but voice is one that I have always paid attention to.  If one person mentions something, I may tweak just a little, but if a few people mention it, I tweak a lot.  There is still a possibility that my MC may age a few years in the opening scene, just because of voice issues.

Don’t fall in love with your characters so much that you cannot recognize that their voice is all-wrong.

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Lesson Four from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: And Then there was a Conjunction, or Was There?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

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Originally, I was going to skip over this, because I thought it seemed a little obvious.  But then I thought, maybe not.

This publisher simply hated the idea of “and then”.  They said: “And then is not a proper conjunction.  And is a proper conjunction… use for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so which are considered “proper” conjunctions.”

I did a search in my own manuscript, and found 73 instances of “and then”.  Honestly, I was a little surprised to find so many in my story.  The more I thought about it, every instance is like a laundry list “tell sequence”.

Matt did this, and then he did that, and then he did that. (It was not quite so blatant, but you get the idea) If you think about it, it’s kind of funny.  I know when I was beta reading the manuscript for my BP, the “and then’s” did pop out here and there, but I just figured it was writing style.  I didn’t particularly like it, but I let it go.  I didn’t even realize I was doing it myself.  Now that I’m re-reading with these comments in mind, they are popping out and blaring:  No No No!

So, my advice is, do what I did:  Do a search/replace on your manuscript just for starters.  Search for “and then” and replace with “and then” (just make sure you spell it correctly)  It won’t change anything, it will just give you a count of how many times you did it.  If it’s a lot, search again and start editing!

This is an easy fix.   I’m not saying this will bother every publisher, but if it’s a pet peeve of one publisher, it will probably bother another one, or two, or three.  Personally, I’m not willing to take a chance and let them go now that I realize what I’ve done.

_Keep_Editing._Stick_to_your_guns_00000

JenniFer_EatonF

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Lesson Two from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Do we like your main character yet?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

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I wasn’t going to write about this, but someone told me once they didn’t particularly like my main character, and I tried to make him a little more endearing right up front. If I had a bad Main Character (MC) intro, and my BP (Beta Partner) did too, then some of you may have done it, also. So, yes, I am going to blog about “making your main character likable”, even if it seems like a “Duh” thing to talk about.

On page three, the publisher said that the Main Character is portrayed as spoiled and we’re not led to feel any compassion for him. Now, in the case of the manuscript in question, this was partly done on purpose. We aren’t supposed to completely love this character. It’s part of his growing experience. I understood that once my BP explained it to me after I told her I didn’t particularly like him when I read the first chapter.

Think that over. I UNDERSTOOD THAT ONCE SHE EXPLAINED THAT TO ME.

You are not going to have the chance to “explain” to the agent you are querying, or the publisher you are submitting to, or to your reader… why your main character is the way they are. Even if they are completely despicable, there needs to be something about them that makes you drawn to them to keep them reading on. Either that, or something has to happen in the plot, and QUICK, that grabs their attention and distracts them. (That’s my two-cents… not sure an agent or a publisher would agree on the plot hiding what they would consider character flaws)

So, go back and look at those all-important first few pages, and make sure that your character is lovable to someone other than you.

Not to beat a dead horse (I will be talking about cliches shortly by the way) but GET SOME BETA READERS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW. You might be too close to your story to realize that your MC isn’t likable.

Amendment:  Just read a great blog  from CB Wentworth  about an author thinking up a character and falling in love with him.   I think we all fall in love with our characters in one way or another.  We just need to make sure our readers feel that love, too.  (I’m not saying Noah isn’t likable, by the way!  I’ve never met CB’s work.)

http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/one-photograph-changed-everything/

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Lesson One from the Gold Mine Manuscript Mark-Up: Write Without Looking

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

Gold_Mine_ManuscriptHow many times do your characters look at something?  Mine do.  All the time.  I never thought it was a problem.  I feel really bad now, because I am the
“Show Vs. Tell Barracuda”, and I absolutely missed this…

If you say your character looks at something, you are telling the reader that they “look”.  Show the reader instead.

Example:  The wind blew cold, and Magellan looked up into the trees.  The branches bent and shook over his head.

Now, I honestly would not think this was telly, because I showed you what he was seeing right afterward.  My writing partner did the same thing in her manuscript.  The publisher highlighted the “looked” and said “rather than telling us what he is doing, show us what he sees instead.”

Suggested rewrite:  The wind blew cold, and Magellan pulled his jacket closer.  The branches bent and shook over his head.

Here, I took out the offensive “looked” kept the characterization by giving Magellan something to do (pulling his jacket closer), which gives me a place to mention his name.  (In case it’s needed)   I left the “what he saw” exactly the way it was originally written.  You can assume he looked up.  The whole scene actually flows better, and all I did was take a moment to pull out the word “look”.

Even better for you word count barracudas out there… count ‘em… there is one less word in the corrected example.  Yea for me!

Here’s another easy one:  He ran down the hall and looked at the dark stone walls.  The sconces were still lit and the light danced across the ceiling.

Easy fix:  He ran down the dark stone hallway.  The sconces were still lit and their light danced across the ceiling.

Now, I’ll be honest… This is not always this easy.  I’ve growled a little over some of these.  But I am going to try my best to take all of the “looks” out of my novel, unless they are in a personal thought… but I will be looking at those pretty closely as well.

Honestly, I emailed my friend yesterday on this, and she said she’s only taken out “most” of the looks.  Once in a while, your characters will have to “look”.  I am finding the same thing.  But I am finding that a lot of them can be removed easily like the ones above.  (We also discussed that we’ve read published novels that have “looks” in them.  yes, we know they exist… I’m just letting you know there is a publisher out there that redlined it and asked for a revision.)

I am finding I am taking out all of the “looking” that is being done by a POV character, and leaving some of the looks that are not from the POV character.
For instance, if another character in the room (not the POV character)
looks over at the door, you are not going to tell what they see, because you are not in their POV.  Therefore, it might to be okay to leave that look in there.
However, I do not let the POV character look up and see that the other character is looking at the door.  Does that make sense?

This, by the way, is just my opinion.  If I submit, and get slapped for these “looks” I will let you know ASAP.

If you can, get rid of any and all looking, because this publisher emphatically flagged it.  Only look as a last resort.

Hope you found this helpful!

Related Articles:http://kristinastanley.net/2011/09/01/listening-to-your-novel/

Is this a gold mine or what?

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Here we go! As promised, in recognition of my recent television interview on the Gold Mine Manuscript Red-Line Analysis, I am starting up the posts again from all the way back to the beginning… One post at a time so you can let it all sink back in.

Hey, I’m reading along too… You can never review this stuff too much. Enjoy!

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[From 2011] I’m sitting here, staring at a rejection letter one of my writing partners received. “Not quite ready for publication at this time.”   Bummer.

Rejection letters stink, but this one comes with an offer to resubmit through alternate channels if she decides to revise. Hmmmm. Sounds positive.

I open up the PDF file of the full manuscript, and find it redlined to heck and back. HOLY COW!   Wait a minute, one thing they said is never use capital letters. Excuse me… quick correction… Holy Cow!   Wow, it even looks better.

So, yes, this is a rejection, but I cannot help but be extremely positive.   It took me three hours to read and take notes on all their comments. Did you get that? THREE HOURS Oops… Three hours!   I can’t help but think, “Wow… if they put that much work into it, they must have thought it was worth something.”

Yes, they are gently suggesting a few pretty major changes, but most of them are minor, and they are really dumb mistakes that I realized my own manuscript is riddled with.  Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize that these things were mistakes.  I looked at my own pages, found three of the same mistakes in a single chapter I was editing, and fixed them with about ten seconds thought.  It was so simple, and it flows so much better now.

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So, was this just another rejection? Nope! No Way! This is a stinking gold mine!

I have my writing partner’s permission (keeping it anonymous) to post what I’m learning from this experience here on my blog.  As I really digest everything, one topic at a time, I will send up a blurb about it.  At the end, I think I will post all of the entries up as a permanent page.

This is stuff every writer should know, because it came right from a publisher.  I know I’ve heard some of these things from other writers, but didn’t really understand the concepts completely, or just blew them off, but here is a manuscript (that I personally thought was awesome) that was rejected because of it.

I’ll be shooting up a new topic every few days, so stop by to be baffled by the simplicity of the mistakes that we are all making.

For now go back and look for capitalization in your manuscript. Yes, some pretty major published authors are out there getting away with it, but we don’t have the clout to argue yet, do we?

I hope you get as much out of this as I have!

You’ll never guess what I’m doing today!

About a month ago, I was contacted by a television producer who had been surfing the web and stumbled across my “Gold Mine Manuscript” series of posts from 2011.

She thought these topics would be a great addition to a television series she’s working on aimed at writers.

How_stinking_cool_is_that

And she wanted to know if I’d like to appear on her show. Isn’t that even cooler?????

So today I am practicing my breathing exercises, trying to keep myself calm, and then I’m heading out to the studio to do my first ever television interview.

Isn’t that neat?

We are taping today, but the show will be airing some time in October. That does not take the pressure off, though. The show will filmed like it is live. Any mistakes will be immortalized forever.

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PKO_0004442 Nervous ScaredI’m both excited and a little nervous… but probably more excited than anything else.

This is a brand new experience for me, and it sounds like so much fun!

Wish me luck!

And while you’re here, have you had any “unexpected” opportunities pop up as a result of using social media?