Escaping the winter blues

Winter, huh? Ugh. If you’re suffering with the dark, the cold, and maybe the coming apocalypse, you might need a little escapism. Nothing wrong with a little me-time. Even Harry and Hermione found time to dance while Voldemort and the Death Eaters took over the Ministry, tore up the rules to society and civilization, and terrorized the world. Just a completely random example.

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So what better way to escape than with some awesome 80s—and 80s-inspired—novels? Here’s your guide to escaping those winter blues.

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Steps to self-publishing, Part 3: Prepping your book

So, you’ve written your thing and decided to put it out there yourself, indie-style.  You’ve picked the best platform(s) for your work and now you have to make sure your book is fully ready to be uploaded and released into the wild.

Step one, which we’ve discussed before, is professional editing. Get your pages to an editor you trust. Most of the better ones offer different levels of editing, e.g. proofreading (checking for typos) vs. big picture editing (where they look at things like consistency of character, plot mechanics etc).  Choose your service (be honest with yourself about what your work may need), send it out, and receive their notes with an open mind. Getting a new set of eyes on your story is invaluable. Doesn’t mean you have to make every single change; with any notes, you have to be able to translate them into what’s relevant for your work. Sometimes the specific note/suggestion wouldn’t work, but whatever’s underlying the note is something you need to look at (e.g. you may hear a certain character needs more page time, which might destabilize your plot… the underlying issue might be that when that character does appear, it’s not in an impactful way, so you’ll actually need to make their few scenes hit harder, mean more emotionally, that kind of thing).

Once you’ve made your changes, your book really is at its final draft. That’s exciting!

Now you’ll need step two: cover design. If you’re handy with Photoshop,  you can take a shot at this yourself, using each platform’s size/design guidelines. Or, you can use a professional designer. The goal is to create a cover that looks professional, slick, and impactful in color, black and white, and at thumbnail size (since that’s how most people will first view it). So, you decide. If you have the chops, that’s awesome. We’ve done both, and often use ebook launch, since they produce awesome work like—#shamelessplug—our covers below.

Step three is formatting. Each platform will require your book to be formatted a specific way. While this is something you can do yourself—and if you want to, please have at it!—there are many places that will do that for you. We use 52 Novels, since they’re quick, reliable, cost effective, and very easy to work with, but there are many other options available too (e.g. Bookbaby, Lulu, etc.). They’ll prepare your manuscript so that when you upload it to the publishing platform, it’ll be accepted first time and published forthwith. Which is nice.  They’ll usually ask for the cover as well as the manuscript, since some of your files will need the cover to be included “inside” the file, attached to the manuscript.

Once you get your files back from the formatter, you really are ready.

Are you though? Are you ready? Because once you upload your files, write your book’s blurb for the site, add all the tags so that people can search for it, include your financial info so they can, you know, actually pay you… then the only thing left for you to do is hit the button that says PUBLISH.

Eek!

Go on. Do it. It’ll feel great.

We’ll let you coast on that beautiful feeling of having the book you wrote out there for people to read for a while… but soon, we’ll  cover what comes next (spoiler: marketing!).

So go enjoy being published! You did great!

 

Steps to self-publishing, Part 2: Platforms

You’ve written your book, and it’s awesome (we just know). You went through whatever process you needed to, in order to arrive at the point where you want to self-publish it.

Firstly, go you! In just about every art form, the creator—that’s you!—is expected to share their work. Bands record songs and albums and put them on Soundcloud. Movie makers film shorts and features and upload them to Vimeo or YouTube. Artists create their works, photographers take their pictures, and they try to find ways to display them online and in galleries, or even at cons. So, you’re just doing what everyone else does! There can be a little bit of a ‘tude in some circles when this is applied to books, but you can ignore that. Art is art, whatever form it takes. Those dudes in the caves way back when didn’t wait for permission or approval to share those extraordinary drawings for generations to come. You don’t need to wait for permission to display your art either. Again, some folks might want to tell you otherwise… but nah. People want to make things, other people want to see and experience those things… The trick is to figure out how to connect the two.

In this case you made a thing—your book—and now you need to get it out there to the world.

So, the question becomes, where ya gonna put it?

There are many platforms and options available. Your first major decision is format. Do you want it to be an ebook, or just a paperback, or both? If you’re thinking ebook-only, you can focus on one or all of services like Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo (Sony and other devices), and Smashwords (which covers everything else, including Apple’s iBooks). In some cases, Apple will let you upload directly to iBooks (more on that here), but if you find it all a bit above your technical knowhow, you can use a service that does it for you. Smashwords is one, but there are others, like Bookbaby, which does print as well as ebooks. Here’s a resource on Apple’s site to help you find one that you like.

Knowing where you want to put it is important for the next phase, which we’ll talk about in the next installment (professional editing, interior formatting, and cover design), as each service can have its own specs for how the text should be formatted, what size the cover image should be, etc. So if you choose ebooks, do your research for each platform to see what exactly they need from you.

The same applies if you want to hold your masterpiece in your hand (not a euphemism). There is something magical about actually picking up the BOOK THAT YOU WROTE and turning the PAGES THAT YOU MADE. It’s kind of amazing, tbh. So, if you dig that idea (and also want your book to have any kind of chance of being stocked in a physical bookstore, which we also recommend, because holding that book is a lot sweeter when you just picked it up off a bookstore shelf where it was sitting next to a Leigh Bardguo novel, for example), then you have to look at the various options for printing your book.

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Subtle

There’s CreateSpace, of course. The big kahuna. They print on demand, which is probably the most efficient way to go. Before POD, you would have to essentially choose how many copies of your book you wanted to be printed, have those shipped to you, and then deal with the rest of it yourself. With CreateSpace, they store the digital version and whenever anyone orders it, they print and send it. They also offer “expanded distribution” so that bookstores and libraries can see your title available from their distributors. Lulu is another option that offers a range of services including distribution, and there’s Bookbaby too, who we mentioned earlier; they offer the full spectrum of editing, formatting, printing and distribution services.

You just need to decide which one of these feels right for you, and your project. Each service has its pros and cons, its quirks and restrictions. But they all give you what you need: your book, ready to be read!

Next time: everything you need to know about getting your book ready to upload…

 

Yes, there were some good things in 2016!

In somewhat festive partridge in a pear tree fashion, here’s our top books, movies, TV shows, albums, and a special final category.

5 Awesome Books

It was a banner year for books by famous people who don’t normally write books. Sure, ’tis the season for such things—every year we get a glut around this time of celebrity memoirs—but this year, there were three that really stood out as special.

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Anna Kendrick, whose acerbic, snarky, and essential Twitter feed has been showing us for years that she knows her way around a finely honed sentence, gave us Scrappy Little Nobody, a brilliantly titled collection of essays covering her life from childhood to Broadway debut to Twilight to Up In The Air and beyond. What many of these books lack is a point of view; that’s not something Kendrick has an issue with. Bracingly honest, her often savagely funny and poignant stories are fascinating and hilariously told, and what becomes very clear is that her Thanksgiving and Christmas parties would be the absolute best.

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Not to be outdone in the Dorothy Parker-esque observational acting category, Lauren Graham, already a novelist as well as an actress, dropped Talking As Fast As I Can, which focused mainly on filming the Gilmore Girls, both the original run, and the revival. It’s a breezy, chatty, very, very funny read, and if you’re still basking in the warm glow of the revival, this will absolutely keep it going just a little longer. Graham has a smart, hyper-self-aware, quick-thinking, and warm view of the world, and she can tell a story with the best of them (one of the reasons why she’s such a perfect fit for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s quick-fire, storytelling dialogue… but—spoiler—more on that shortly!).

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As brilliant as those two books were, there was one more autobiography that truly shone, to the extent that it’s a contender for book of the year (or maybe of the decade). The mighty Bruce Springsteen brought forth one of the greatest autobiography/memoirs ever written with Born To Run. It was full of thunder and subtle profundity. Every sentence was poetic, hard-won, hewn from life’s granite face of truth and wisdom. The hyperbole is deserved. Nobel Prize, anyone? It should be no surprise; Springsteen has spent the last 30 or 40 years writing tough, beautiful and grittily evocative stories of American life, and he knows how to make every turn of phrase feel true, hit hard, and make you dream.

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In the world of novels, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was a welcome slice of atmospheric quantum techno-thrills, which took the concept of multiple universes and turned it into an unstoppable page-turner which was equal parts mind-bending, haunting, and terrifying. Deftly written but morally hefty, it made you think and feel and gasp, and the consequences of it all reverberate for long after you stop reading.

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But, when all’s said and done, at the end of the day, there was a novel that might just have to be the book of the year. Even more universe-shatteringly awesome than Dark Matter was GEMINA, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff‘s epic, EPIC, follow-up to last year’s book of the year, ILLUMINAE. Now, that book was huge. Momumental. It changed your perspective of what fiction, sci-fi and books could be. But GEMINA is bigger, and better (HOW?! What sorcery is this, Kaufman and Kristoff???). It takes place during and after the timeline of ILLUMINAE, which followed the Alexander as it tried to escape the pesky Beitech attack, and shows us what went down on Jump Station Heimdall. With a mix of all-new characters (and some old faves), it spins a thrilling, massive tale. It’s even more unputdownable that ILLUMINAE. It has all the action you could want, snark and sarcasm to spare, so many laugh-out-loud moments, and FEELS, man. SO. MANY. FEELS. Kaufman and Kristoff are sick, twisted puppetmasters… and we love them for it. GEMINA, folks. Book of the year. So, no pressure for the next one, you guys 😉

4 Kick-Ass Movies

2016 was an interesting year for movies. Not many achieved greatness, it has to be said. There were many pretty good movies, and a decent amount of pretty disappointing ones, but for us, four stood out above the rest.

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The year kicked off with the brilliant surprise release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, a not-quite-a-follow-up to 2008’s Cloverfield. It introduced the concept of the “Clover-verse”, a series of movies set in this slightly off-kilter world set up by Matt Reeves’ handheld monster movie. So, definitely not a sequel. What it was, was an awesomely nail-bitingly, twisty-turny, what-the-hell-is-happening thriller, full of paranoia, horror, loss… and maybe the best third act of any movie this year. No spoilers here. You just have to see it. John Goodman gives a hulking, towering performance as the guy who has Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr trapped in his nuclear bunker. Is he telling the truth? Are they safe, prisoners, or something else? The excellent script (rewritten by Whiplash and La La Land’s Damien Chazelle from an original by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken, with extra polish from Gennifer Hudson, and writer-on-set Daniel Casey), TAUT direction by Dan Trachtenberg, and surely Oscar-worthy sound design by Robbie Stambler, Will Files and Lindsey Alvarez (and team), made this an epic experience.

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Also sneaking under the mainstream radar was Hunt For The Wilderpeople, although writer-director Taika Waititi’s forthcoming assignment as director of THOR RAGNOROK (and his previous form with What We Do In The Shadows), meant this had anticipation and buzz amongst those in the know. And how deserved that was. Wilderpeople is one of the hidden, must-see gems of 2016, a beautiful, achingly funny, heartbreaking, and ultimately joyous experience. Julian Dennison, in absolutely the breakout role of the year, plays Ricky Baker, an unloved kid bouncing from foster home to foster home in New Zealand. He ends up with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (played by a brilliantly none-more-grumpy Sam Neill) in what seems to the aspiring Tupac-wannabe to be the middle of goddamn nowhere. Things do not go well to start with, with Ricky hating every second of it, but when Hec and Ricky have to go on the run through the wilderness, things begin to change. It’s a beautiful meditation on life, loss, love, finding your family, and finding yourself. It’s also desperately hilarious. And a thriller. Wonderful through and through.

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Also somewhat out of nowhere (definite theme here!), despite its heavyweight creative team, Arrival was one of the most beautiful, haunting, and mind-blowing movies, maybe ever. From a wonderful script by Eric Heisserer (adapted from a Ted Chiang short story), eerily and evocatively directed by Denis Villeneuve (currently working on Blade Runner 2049), with a profound and chill-inducing (but sadly not Oscar-eligible) soundtrack by Jóhan Jóhannsson, and starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, Arrival told the story of first contact. 12 alien craft appear above a series of seemingly random locations… and wait. The movie tracks what happens as Adams’ language specialist and Renner’s scientist are forced to work together to understand who the aliens are, and what they want. To say any more would take away from the experience, but this is a gorgeous, melancholy, and thrilling movie, and it truly is full of surprises and revelations.

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Adams gives a nuanced, career-best performance, as does Renner, and the whole thing is just mesmerizing. An extraordinary experience.

Not so much with the under the radar, Captain America: Civil War was Marvel’s biggest behemoth yet. And lo, it was AWESOME. Jam-packed with Avengers, Civil War did a radical thing for a Marvel movie these days — it put the epic battle halfway through (and what an epic battle it was), and made the third act deeply personal. And it was a much more effective movie for it.

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We can credit the overlord Kevin Feige, directors the Russo brothers, and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for that. The Russos—and Markus and McFeely—gave Captain America a welcome edge in Winter Soldier, and they hone that edge here. Cap has become a gritty, hard-headed warrior in a boldly smart franchise, and with Civil War, it’s a genuine contender for one of the best trilogies of all time. The script expertly wields a huge cast, giving them all compelling moments, scenes and sequences, all while keeping the story rolling with ever increasing emotional momentum. The Russo brothers direct it all beautifully and deftly, and thrillingly. Plus, Spider-Man!

3 TV Must-Sees

A strong year for TV—again!—had three standouts: One out of nowhere, one that had potential, and one that people had been clamoring for, for almost a decade. Let’s start there, with the Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life revival.

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One of the most feel-good TV stories of the year, for sure. Ever since the non-Palladino season 7 ended without those final four words, fans have been wondering when and if the show could ever return. Cue Netflix. With a building tide of momentum (the ATX festival reunion, the original seasons streaming on Netflix), the explosion of joy and goodwill when the revival was announced was almost tangible. And when it aired? You know we watched all four in one day. It was wonderful. Not consistently, mind you, and there were issues (no real-time musicals next time, please), and some concern about Rory (that whole being a terrible journalist/sociopathic monster thing)… but those weren’t the things to focus on. It was a hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream kind of experience. Wintry, cozy, warm, and fun. Hearing Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel saying Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue again… Just wonderful.

This Is Us was in the “had potential” category — an intense character-based drama from Dan Fogelman, with Milo Ventimiglia (in his second appearance in this list, making him the TV MVP?), Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown… seemed intriguing. The reality was so much more. This Is Us is a show with extraordinary writing. The scripts slam you with emotional body blows when you least expect them, make you cry at least five times per episode, take unexpected turns and twists that leave you breathless, and basically give the actors some of the greatest lines and scenes of their careers, on the regular. And those actors… wow. Incredible performances all round.

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Special shout-out to Ron Cephas Jones: after his scene-stealing in Luke Cage (necessary, since he barely had any lines there and had to hit hard with the ones he did get given), he takes center stage here with a magnificent and magnificently understated performance. He commands the screen and the show. Which is saying something, because Brown, Ventimiglia and the rest all bring it, hard. Brown in particular has been DESTROYING this year, with this, and The People v.OJ Simpson; he’s one of those actors… if you can get him in your show, get him in your show.

One of the greatest TV experiences this year came out of left field (or out of the upside down).

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Created by the Duffer brothers, Netflix’s Stranger Things was the incredible, 80s set, 80s geeky nostalgia-fest that we never knew we needed. From those utterly perfect opening credits, with their gorgeous synth score by SURVIVE’s Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, and those crackly, wobbly Terminator-esque titles, to the Spielberg-esque cast, to the Stephen King-esque thrills and scares, everything about this show just worked. We’ve written about it at length elsewhere, but suffice it to say, this might just have been the TV event of the year. Glorious storytelling at its finest.

(Quick moment of silence for Galavant!! This was a truly remarkable show, created by Dan Fogelman and with songs by Alan Menken, was one of the funniest, cleverest, most joyful, straight up FUN shows on TV. Season 2 was amazing, and ended with King Richard getting a DRAGON. It’s now streaming on Netflix… wonderful, beautiful Netflix…. so please, Netflix, give us more Galavant! Did we mention the dragon?)

2 Epic Albums

Two albums really tore through the endless stress of 2016 in joyous fashion. Starboy by The Weeknd was full of sci-fi soul-pop, taking the spacier, more Blade Runner-like elements of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and leaping off into a set of tightly constructed, gleaming, epically catchy monster tracks. The lyrics revolve around cars, drinking and women, but the overall effect is a futuristic haze full of epic hooks and android funk. Assists from Lana Del Rey on a couple of tracks add to the woozy, dreamy factor, giving the whole thing a “robot from Westworld having a long fever dream” type atmosphere. Hard to stop listening to.

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Or it was, until Lin-Manuel Miranda went and dropped that little Hamilton Mixtape he’s been talking about. Yowzers. Expectations were SKY HIGH. And it more than delivered. After the, uh, events of November 8th, Miranda realized we needed these tracks, so he started releasing them a couple at a time, until the Mixtape dropped in early December. one of those early tracks, Immigrants, turned out to be one of the absolute highlights. Featuring blistering verses by K’naan, Snow Tha Product and Residente, the track TORE IT UP. But it wasn’t done, because Riz MC (AKA Riz Ahmed, rapper in the Swet Shop Boys, and actor in the likes of The Night Of and Rogue One) also dropped a verse that was pure fire. The track crackled with rage and determination, and fully repped the rest of the mixtape, which took key moments from Hamilton and built off them to create something entirely new and thrilling. Ja Rule and Ashanti brought it on Helpless, the track that Miranda wrote that was inspired by them, while elsewhere Busta Rhymes roared through My Shot, Kelly Clarkson somehow added more emotional layers to It’s Quiet Uptown, and Jill Scott gave a sultry and memorable update to Say Yes To This. There were too many highlights to name. With overall production from Questlove and Black Thought, it was, simply, as epic and essential as you’d think.

And A Baby Groot In A Pear Tree*

*Not actually in a pear tree

As the year drew to a close, there was one more awesome surprise in the form of James Gunn dropping the Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 trailer. It was glorious. Not just to see the band back together. But because of Baby Groot. If you haven’t beheld its awesomeness yet, here it is in all its glory, with all its promise of a beautiful 2017.

 

Steps to self-publishing, Part 1: Should you self-publish?

So here’s the thing. This is not going to be a damning indictment of traditional publishing, nor will it be an ad for why self-publishing is the only option. Self-publishing is more simple than that: It’s nothing more and nothing less than a means to an end. A tool in your writerly grab-bag. A way to tell your stories in a way that will be heard. The literary equivalent of putting your short movie on Vimeo, or your web series on YouTube, or your album on SoundCloud. As an approach, self-publishing has pros and cons, and we’re going to take a deeper dive into what they are. You might find that you want to try it; you might be like, uh, no.

It’s all good.

But this is the first step — deciding if this is the approach for you.

If you’re writing, or have written your story, you need to know several things. Firstly, what the hell is that thing? Is it a short story, a novella, a long short story, a novel, a mighty word-beast of several hundred thousand words? The reason we’re asking is that if you’re thinking of going the traditional publishing route (you get an agent, the agent gets you a publisher), you need to know exactly what you have, and what part of the bookstore it would be shelved in. You also need to make sure that your work meets the current accepted word length for whatever it is, e.g., YA novels are usually in the ballpark of 70k-80k, literary novels around 80k-90k, and fantasy novels more like 100k-12ok (on account of all that awesome world-building). These are just broad outlines, and they tend to change over time (only a few years ago YA novels used to be closer to 30k than 80k), but literary agents often won’t consider a novel if it’s too far away from the appropriate total. If you want to go the traditional route, your book must fit the traditional categories with all their requirements. Which is cool. You just need to know that as you’re writing and editing. If your book does match up with the traditional requirements, that’s great!

But…

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That doesn’t mean that you have to go traditional. It’s a necessary requirement if you do, but doesn’t force your hand. Traditional publishing has many advantages—marketing, distribution—but some disadvantages too, e.g. everything happens extremely slowly (it may take upwards of a year to find an agent, the same to get a publishing deal, and your publication date will likely be 18 months to 2 years after that), and, the kicker, it’s pretty challenging to get through the slush pile. Think of it from the agents’ perspective. Every single day opening their inbox to look at queries feels like this:

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How are they supposed to really know which of all those super brief blurbs will turn out to be mighty-mega-bestsellers? It’s hard being an agent. If an agent gets thousands of queries a year (and most of them do), your chances of standing out from two paragraphs in a query letter are very slim. Not impossible, but on average, an agent may take on only a handful of new clients each year. That’s single digits, out of thousands.

But that could be you. And you should damn well believe that it will be you. you’re awesome!

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None of this is to discourage you; it’s just to let you know what you’re up against, and what you’ll need to be ready for. Still up for it? That’s fantastic! Write yourself a knock-out query (there are plenty of reputable sites and services offering query critiques, and Writers Digest has a great series analyzing successful query letters)[link], select your list of literary agents (making sure they handle the type of book you’re submitting), and get at it!

If that’s not for you for whatever reason (your book is unconventional, you don’t want to wait that long, you just HAVE TO GET THIS STORY OUT THERE RIGHT NOW DAMNIT), or you’ve been down that road and have amassed a collection of rejections and want to try something else, then self-publishing might be worth a shot.

Making that decision carefully and thoughtfully is step 1.

We’ll take you through the next steps in part 2!

 

 

 

Editing: Beta Readers

Finally, the words you’ve been waiting for: Your draft is done!

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You finally get to take a break. So power down your computer and relax… while you hand your manuscript over to… someone else.

Okay, so maybe relax is the wrong word. CRINGE might be more accurate. PANIC, definitely. SKIN-CRAWLING FEAR, possibly.

We’ve said before that writing can be an isolating experience. It’s just you, your computer, the wild and crazy thoughts in your head, and that beautiful bowl of peanut M&Ms (replace with the snack of your choice). It’s no wonder that bringing someone else into the mix feels so disconcerting. You might feel that what you wrote was awesome, just the way it is.

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But once your draft is polished, the next step is sending it out into a little corner of the world for feedback. It’s gotta go.

But what that corner looks like is totally up to you. Do you have a group of trusted friends that you could ask to give your work a read through? Are you a part of, or could you join, a local writing group? Are you lucky enough to have a mentor?

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We all need a Yoda to give our work the Jedi side-eye

It’s important that you can trust whomever you ask to give honest feedback. If your mom is the type to praise your achievement at finally completing something and will focus on the quality of the paper your story is printed on, she’s not the right person to ask. Nor do you want to give your work to a friend who prides themselves on getting through school without ever opening a book.

You need a reader who, you know, reads. And can be critical.

If you don’t have anyone that fits that description, don’t worry, there are loads of professional editors out there that will be willing to go over your manuscript… for a fee. Finding that editor is kind of like online dating. You need to check their profile and their background, make sure they’re legit, see what they’re into, and then ask if they would be interested. Hiring an editor who works mainly on historical YA fiction may not be a good fit for your sci-fi opus. There are a lot of groups online that have several editors “on staff” and once you describe your work, and what kind of feedback you’re looking for, will hook you up better than match.com.

Once your manuscript is in someone else’s hands, do your best to distract yourself. Rewatch of Gilmore Girls anyone? Whenever that annoying box pops up to confirm that you are still watching, take a moment and start to mentally prepare yourself for when your beta reader gets back to you. Because it’s gonna hurt. It doesn’t matter if only one tiny error is found, it’s still going to sting. Spoiler: There’s going to be more than one.

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But remind yourself that the good news is, you can fix it.

You can fix anything.

That’s what the next draft (which might be the 4th, or 9th, or 16th, whatever it takes) is all about; fixing what you couldn’t see because you were too close to it. When the feedback is ready make sure to take notes, ask questions, and before walking away, have a clear understanding of exactly what your beta reader is telling you. Even if you disagree, be clear on what they feel didn’t work. Then take those notes and put them away for a day.

Chances are you’ll be a mixture of desperately wanting to jump right in and fix any blemish, and furious that it was there in the first place. But give yourself time to adjust to the feedback. It’ll feel overwhelming, but once you start to tackle one issue after another you’ll see the full solution. As we mentioned before, sometimes those solutions were already there in the first draft and need to be added back in.

Come up with a game plan before you turn your computer back on. This way you’re not going over and over the same sections. At times it will go smoother than you think, other times it will drag. But you’ll get there. Every problem is solvable and when you’re done, you’ll have a completed manuscript!

GEMINA review: Wow.

One year after the all-conquering ILLUMINAE took over the YA world, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are back with the glorious and somehow even more epic GEMINA—and this time they’ve brought along Marie Lu for the ride to do the illustrations!! It’s CRAZY AMAZING. Bigger, bolder, more action, more emotion… Here’s D’s review on the BN Teens Blog. You  need this book. You need it. Buy it. Now.

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Seriously. Wow.

Editing: Structure

So you’ve gone through and tightened your plot, strengthened your characters, confirmed that the dialogue is realistic, and shaped your world until it was so tangible you forgot you didn’t live there. Congratulations! You have a solid second draft! Feels good, doesn’t it?

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Now it’s time… to create the (drum roll) THIRD DRAFT. We know what you’re thinking: wait, shouldn’t I be taking a break? Reconnecting with Netflix and friends? Or just Netflix?

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Sorry, but no. You’re on a roll and you need to keep rolling.

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Editing requires discipline and momentum. Whether you’re working on it eight hours a day every day, or during your forty-five minute lunch break Monday through Friday, or grabbing 20 minutes before your commute every day, you’re doing some serious work. Don’t stop now.

Serendipitously, your third draft will be all about momentum. Does your story have it? Is there a pace and/or structure that’s keeping the reader turning the page?

This is where you have to make some hard decisions about the structure of your story. Are you going to follow the classic formats (three act structure, eight point arc, etc.) or follow your own?  Are you going to have a change in narration or setting with each chapter/break? Are you going to have one chapter flow into the next, or end each break on a cliffhanger, so when your reader says they’re just going to read one more chapter before bed, they wind up finishing the book at three in the morning — loving and kind of hating you when their alarm goes off the next morning?

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While it’s tempting to fall back on classic structures and forcing your story into a mold, we recommend reading through what you have so far first. Chances are you’ll see some kind of structure already peeking through. It may be close to a classic format or it might be something completely new. Do what feels right for the story. The key is that it’s consistent throughout. Once you decide on your structure, make sure the work follows the shape from beginning to end. You shouldn’t ask your readers to fight to stay in your story — especially at three in the morning.

Once your story has a firm shape, like everything in life, it’s all about the details. You’ll need to go into every arc, scene, act and/or chapter and make sure they each achieve something that furthers the plot — whether it establishes an aspect of the setting, a facet of your character(s) or moves the action forward. Break down your story into smaller stories and make sure that they are essential.

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If they aren’t essential, you have to either give them more depth, or cut them loose.

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Just remember, if you really love a scene and desperately want to keep it, chances are it’s trying to say something but isn’t quiet there yet. Work on it, find its meaning and let it shine through.

Your number one task is to be brutally honest with yourself, though; if you can’t make it work, no matter how much you love it and how good it is on its own, it will only hurt the whole piece. Chocolate is amazing, but not on a steak. So if a scene doesn’t fit, even if the writing is impeccable, cut it. But paste it to a new document.

Who knows, it could be the pivotal ingredient to the second course/sequel!*

 

*Finish what you’re working on now first though!