Sunday, March 26, 2017

Editing by Computer or Pencil?

I read an interesting quote from P.J. O’Rourke, which was posted in the Passive Voice newsletter (it’s a great newsletter, by the way). The quote is:

Writing on a computer makes saving what’s been written too easy. Pretentious lead sentences are kept, not tossed. Instead of sitting surrounded by crumpled paper, the computerized writer has his mistakes neatly stored in digital memory. - P. J. O’Rourke

I’m not sure I agree with O’Rourke’s opinion about pretentious sentences being kept rather than tossed. I spend far more time tweaking and deleting words on the computer than I would if I was still bashing novel chapters out on my typewriter, or writing in longhand. But I do agree with the essential point: writing and editing by computer is not the same as doing so with pencil and paper, or even a typewriter.

For many years, I wrote and rewrote short stories in longhand. It was cumbersome at times, but there was something about the impact of brain to hand to paper creativity that is different than clicking a keyboard.

I used pen and paper in the first place because my secretarial job required me to type correspondence, minutes of meetings, and tax returns, among other things. I therefore didn’t associate typing with creativity.

But as time progressed, I decided to experiment with first and subsequent drafts on the computer, to see if I could speed up the process. It took me years to complete my first three novels, so I had to do something.

I wrote and edited my 5th Casey Holland mystery primarily on the computer. For the final draft, I’ve been printing out chapters and bringing them to my day job. I arrive early, find a quiet place to work, away from my office, and reread everything carefully with pencil in hand. As I’d already completed four drafts, I thought I’d get through it quickly. Boy, was I wrong.

By the midway point, I found myself needing to make important changes. My pencil’s gotten a workout, and it’s been an invaluable lesson. For me, editing on computer is simply not the same as editing on paper. These days, I write and edit in longhand and on the keyboard. Both options are effective, yet neither provides a complete and thorough editing process.

The decision to print out each chapter and edit away from a computer was a spontaneous one. Who knew that it would turn out to be one of the best things I could have done for this book?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Overlooking the Obvious

The membership of the Southern Indiana Writers Group has changed over the twenty or so years we've been together. Some of us have been there the whole time. Others have left, and new members have joined. So, when I began the rewrite on the book formerly known as Eel's Reverence (first published as Eel's Revenge), I decided I couldn't do better than to take it and read it to the group, a chapter at a time.

I knew that the chances were good that the new members would catch things we missed in our earlier days. Sure enough, one of our long-time members caught something and one of our new members caught something else.

As the title implies, what we had all overlooked (chiefly, of course, me, since it's my little world) were obvious. Things that, once pointed out, made me slap my forehead and go, "Duh!"

The main character is a woman, a priest of Micah, a holy man of legend. The main conflict is between her and the priests of a section of coastline called The Eel, who are mercenary hypocrites. Her spiritual stance and behavior are central to the action. And what did I forget?

She's hidden by a family who had prepared a secret room, certain that a "true" priest would come to them, eventually. And I forgot to have them put an altar in the room.

Although she's always saying to others or thinking to herself about what a priest of Micah would do, she never has an inner dialog with Micah, the way Christians pray to God the Father, Jesus, Mary, or a saint. I could pretend I decided priests of Micah don't do that, but that would be a lie. I just left it out. Didn't think of it. Missed the obvious.

I know why I did it: I was thinking about other parts of the story construction. But that's what rewrites are for, and that's especially what getting new eyes on something is for: reminding us of the obvious things we overlooked in writing and editing and rewriting and revising and reworking. And I still missed the obvious!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Avoiding Burnout

An interesting phenomenon has been noticed occurred over recent months, one that has been mentioned on a number of different blogs. Bloggers have discovered that a number of familiar names in indie publishing are no longer around. Frequent posts to favorite networking sites have disappeared, there's no newly published books, and websites haven’t been updated in some time.

Some believe that the huge number of books now being published annually (I hear that it’s two million or more) has so glutted the market that many authors aren’t selling nearly as many books as they did between 2010 and 2015. Substantial royalties have therefore diminished, forcing some to return to day jobs. Still, others seem to have given up. Keep in mind that a small percentage of authors, particularly in the romance and erotica markets, are still making good incomes.

Another theory also factors in here. Burnout. On indie sites like Kindleboards, authors were touting the necessity of putting out a book every three months to stay visible and on top of Amazon’s mysterious algorithm. To me, this is akin to investing in stocks you don’t know much about, but hoping they’ll rise in your favor anyway. A number of authors have tried to do this with varying degrees of success. As those who follow my blogs know, I’ve tried to step up my pace, but it’s truly difficult.

So, I was really interested by a recent blog that discussed burnout…what it really is, and how to overcome it. Author BelleCooper identifies burnout as a combination of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. It seems that burnout is not just a matter of overworking, but of losing enthusiasm for what you’re doing to the point where you become inefficient and unproductive. I’ve seen evidence of this in my own life, so I’ve been taking steps to avoid complete burnout.

First, I put four of the six writing projects away to focus on just two. Secondly, I’m improving my diet, getting more rest when needed, and exercising more. Third, I’m adjusting my life/work balance by spending more time with friends, planning, weekend getaways, and even a couple of vacations over the next twelve months. A rarity for me!

It’s already helping. There’s more I can do, and Cooper has other great tips. If you feel like you’re working too hard and are becoming jaded by the lack of reward for your efforts, then please read her blog. Maybe it will help.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Dead Man Floating and Other Novella Stuff

As some of you know, I began writing mystery novellas a while back, and was delighted when Imajin Books published my first Evan Dunstan mystery, Dead Man Floating, in September, 2015. To that end, my book is currently on sale for 50% off on Smashwords this week until Mar. 11). You can use the code, RAE50, and find the book at:

I had hoped to finish the second installment last year, but real life responsibilities got in the way. I’m now working on the final edit and will submit the manuscript to Imajin next month.

The second novella has a Christmas theme, and Evan’s feisty, eccentric grandmother plays a key role in what is tentatively titled Crafty Killer. Since the setting takes place at a seniors’ Christmas craft fair, the title fits, but I’m never completely sure until I see it on the jacket cover.

I’m also working on the third installment, which has no title right now, but it’s a ghost story set at the post-secondary campus where Evan works as a security guard. The story’s inspired by my real life work in campus security, where rumors of hauntings in some of the older buildings circulated now and then. I never saw anything, but I didn't work graveyard shifts, and that’s when the real ghost action happened, or so I was told.

I didn’t set out to use holiday themes for this series, but it’s worked out that way. Whether I’ll do the same for the fourth book Is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned!