Monday, May 28, 2012

Eight Things I Learned about Editing

Since I’m close to sending FROM RISING FLAMES off to a professional editor, I thought this would be a good time to share a few things I have learned. When I decided to self publish, I knew for certain that my book needed professional editing. I consider myself an amateur and never felt like ON FALLEN WINGS was where it needed to be, despite over twelve drafts I had written at that point. I knew I needed help and made sure to budget enough money to hire a quality editor. That was the best writing decision I’ve ever made. These are notes and personal observations from the process I went through, so please don’t take them as rules of the road.
  1. You’re writing will never be perfect; accept that and move on to telling a great story. There are chapters in ON FALLEN WINGS that I wrote more than others. Over and over, I rewrote scenes, cutting and splicing words to have the perfect meaning, the right prose. I studied books and manuals and took classes to get those chapters right. I had beta readers critique my words and made changes based on their feedback. When those chapters came back from my editor, they were the most marked up parts of the novel. It was difficult to absorb at first. Why were these marked so extensively? Well, that’s the way it is. Nothing is perfect. There are chapters in ON FALLEN WINGS that I wrote once and very few changes were made though editing. C’est la vie.
  2. Be prepared to cut your favorite scene. I had read this before, but it didn’t have value until it happened to me. The pivotal scene in ON FALLEN WINGS didn’t make sense to my editor. In fact, she hated it. THE PIVOTAL SCENE! The book is named after that scene. It's the climax, the explanation. I loved that scene. Why did she want me to cut it? I followed her advice and chopped it. Gone.
  3. Hire the best. I don’t care if it costs thousands of dollars; DON’T release a book without getting the best possible editor you can find. Once you hit upload, the words you’ve chosen are there forever. You’ve spent months and years polishing your baby novel. Why put its fate in the hands of some English Major undergrad offering services for a few hundred dollars? Find someone who knows the industry, who will challenge your writing, who will make your novel better. That someone also needs to be the best fit for you. Don't just pay more money to someone who doesn't understand your writing or the direction you want to go. When I was searching for an editor, I sent the same email to 3 different editing services. Their responses were SOOOO different and the quality of their sample edits definitely reflected the asking price of their services.
  4. Your editor is right. Pay attention to their notes and understand why they want the changes listed. Then follow their advice.
  5.  You don’t have to answer all of their questions directly. There are a dozen or so notes in the margins of ON FALLEN WINGS asking questions about why something is happening or why I’ve chosen to describe a person or event a particular way. Those are questions the reader could have, so the editor included them. I did my best to answer those by adding or cutting somewhere in the story. Sometimes my explanation was an additional chapter. Other times, a single word.
  6. Healthy dialog between you and your editor is a must. They should expect it and you should foster it. While I’ve never met my editor, I feel like we know each other pretty well simply from the detailed email exchanges we’ve had. Some have been pretty intense. She’s challenged me and chastised me and I’ve offered a healthy dose of explanations in response. After a couple months of dialog working on ON FALLEN WINGS, I don’t want to work with anyone else for the rest of the series. I don't trust anyone else.
  7.  A good editor is your secret weapon. Enough said.
  8. Even after editing, there will still be mistakes. It happens. After three rounds of professional edits and a couple reviews after formatting, ON FALLEN WINGS still had a few errors. Oh, I cringed when I found them. I was so upset that I had sent my book into the world with flaws. One night I discovered a page where Leila’s name was spelled wrong. I was so upset that I immediately took the book off sale and corrected the error. It was 2 am. Her name was missing the “i.” That’s it. I was freaking out over one letter in a 90,000 word manuscript. Mistakes will happen. Small errors will be missed, even by professionals.
There’s one last note I want to share about my editing experience. I mentioned in number three about hiring the best. I chose my editor because she basically hit a home run with her response to my email. Not only did she respond quickly and professionally, she chose the most important page on my manuscript as a sample edit and made it better. Without saying so, she told me, “You think you’re good at this writing thing? Look at what I can do for you.” The edit blew me away. Yes, I think my editor is the best. The inevitable question that you might be asking is, “Who is she?” I won't answer that here. I’ve given her credit in the acknowledgements of ON FALLEN WINGS.

Happy reading.
~ Jamie

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Never Gives Up

Today's special post is courtesy of an email my 10 year old daughter sent me this morning. It's all the inspiration I'll ever need.

My Dad

       My dad can feel the motivating thought of pursuing his dream. He will always be my father, he will always be a very creative writer. He has his own qualities that make him who he is right now. 

     I look up to him as my role model. He knows that he has a daughter that understands him. He has a family that loves him.

     His mind has a way of expressing his feelings and never gives up.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Future of E-books

In January, 1997 I attended CES in Las Vegas. The highlight of that conference was a demonstration about movies on a CD sized disk called DVD. Movies on CD had existed before then, but the new technology brought clarity to both the vision of sound of the movie experience. Later that year, DVD movies hit the market. The “establishment” was outraged that such a clear, crisp version of film could be placed into the public’s hands. Pirating would get out of control and motion picture studios would lose money. Because of the risks, many movie studios refused to introduce their films to DVD, insisting that video cassette was and should remain the format for the home.

Has anyone purchased a VHS tape lately? How about a DVD?

Technology changes. It’s inevitable. It’s wanted. It’s a good thing. Just like the commotion over DVD, the e-reader has shaken things up a bit. Soon, e-readers as we know them will soon no longer exist. The days of simply reading words on a screen will go the way of the VCR. Interactive reading experiences are coming. Actually, they’re here.

Imagine opening your favorite book to a menu of music, video, and more options than a simple chapter list.

·                     Watch the book trailer.
·                     Play games or answer trivia about your favorite characters.
·                     Enjoy an introduction presented by the author.
·                     Enter contests or giveaways
·                     Learn about similar titles

When you open to the first chapter, a song sets the mood of the scene. Depending on what options you’ve chosen, that music will fade away or continue until you end the chapter. At certain scenes, small video clips of the action or romance will entice your senses and encourage a more interactive experience.

Can you imagine the possibilities with this technology? Like it or not, changes are coming fast, so hang on tight.

Happy reading.

~ Jamie

Monday, May 14, 2012

River Trip

My very first blog post mentioned the moment when I first decided to write. Since that moment, I've plotted and planned how to recreate the scene so that everyone who reads it feels what I went through. That day happened in 1989 and I still remember every detail, every thought, every taste, smell, sight, feeling, and emotion. It's so vivid in my mind that there are nights when it's all I dream about. I hear songs from that summer and am instantly transported back to the moment. Capturing the moment right is a big deal to me. No, it's a huge deal. Because I wanted to get it right, I never tried writing it before. Today, 23 years later, I'm finally putting it on a page; it will be a scene in book 3. Forgive me for the short message. I'm busy writing.

Have a great week. Happy reading.

~ Jamie

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Love the Sequel More

In the middle of writing a scene for book three today, I opened the FROM RISING FLAMES file. HUGE mistake. No work on book three continued after that. I love this book!

I love ON FALLEN WINGS, but not like this. FROM RISING FLAMES is my baby. It's my love. This is the book when all things introduced in ON FALLEN WINGS start to make sense. Once you read this book, you'll know where the series is headed, you'll know the evil plan I've been building all along, you'll know why certain things happened in book one. (Those who have read ON FALLEN WINGS know what I'm referring to.)

It shouldn't be normal. It can't be normal. But, it's my reality. Perhaps my writing improved. Maybe this book is more my style. I honestly don't know why I love the sequel more than the original. Still, I do. Giddy as I've been for the last few hours since looking at the words of this book, I've decided to share the chapter names with you. These may change a little by the time edits are finally done.

Take a peek into FROM RISING FLAMES. Here are the chapter titles:

·         The Man in the Meadow
·         Hallowed Places
·         Over the Mountain
·         Brilliance
·         A Wedding Day to Forget
·         Homecoming
·         Sun Season
·         Flames
·         Escape from Aisling
·         Morgan
·         The Enemy beside Me
·         Flight
·         Common Ground
·         Thorns and Roses
·         Taya Zhan
·         Echoes in the Dark
·         Sanctuary
·         Forever Night
·         Fortune
·         Shattered
·         Stone Meadow Secret
·         Cael Bauer
·         The Crimson Faerie
·         Given

I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited! I had to share, I just had to. Did I mention I love FROM RISING FLAMES? The Fall can't come soon enough.

Happy reading.

~ Jamie

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pure Energy

To quote myself: "That was freakin' awesome!"

Yeah, that's the kind of week I had. Didn't get much writing done, but I'm not bothered by that. It was a week to recharge my batteries and add true inspiration to this endeavor. It was the kind of week that can't be categorized, so I'm calling it "Pure Energy."

First, work was a good time. Most people don't/won't say that, but I will. I enjoy what I do for a living and especially like the times when special projects come my way. I also LOVE that I can write while working. My boss totally supports me, which helps. I haven't told you what I do and where I work because it's too ubercool to share in this forum.

Second, I spent Friday at LDStorymakers in Provo, Utah. Pure, fanatical, geek loving joy. I couldn't imagine a better day of writing energy. I reconnected with a lot of writerly friends and met a bunch of new ones. It was fun to mingle with "famous" writers and a couple editors who I've met before. Since I have self-published, there wasn't any pressure to try to "sell" my book to anyone, which made a big difference in my attitude. Filled with phenomenal classes, StoryMakers is a set date on my schedule every year.

Third, my 12 year old son participated in a harp festival at BYU. This kid blows my mind. He's only been playing for a couple months and he's getting really good. Since I'm not musically inclined, I'm always impressed at the talent of my children. Great music.

Fourth, and this wasn't even the best part, I met some friends from StoryMakers and saw the Avengers in IMAX 3D. "Freakin' Awesome!" Go see it. Go see it. Go see it!

Fifth, I took a nap on Sunday afternoon to recover from my late night at the movies. (No, the nap isn't the best part.) When I woke, however, I had an amazing new book idea pop into my mind. It's so amazing that I don't feel qualified to write it. Really. I need to study some things and develop some new skills to write it. It's not anything that I read or know about, but the book idea sounds groundbreaking. I bounced the idea off my wife and children and luckily they agreed, which means additional support for yet another project. This last point is a big deal to me because I've always felt that taking a break or stepping away is the best way to inspire creativity. After more than three years invested in the Stone Portals series, and knowing that there's another few years before I finish it, the weight of it all is bearing down on me. Sunday's inspiration reminded me why I started this adventure.

Yeah, it's been that kind of week.

I held a giveaway about a week and a half ago. Since there were only two entries (inserts sad face), I decided to award a signed copy of ON FALLEN WINGS to both participants. Angela and Esther, congratulations! Send me the address you'd like your book sent to and I'll mail it right away. onfallenwings @ gmail . com

I also decided to join Pinterest. It's a great place for me to visually explain who I am. I've created a board specifically for ON FALLEN WINGS, so if you'd like another peek inside my mind, check it out. I'll add more photos as I find them. Jamie McHenry on Pinterest.

Have a great week. Happy reading!

~ Jamie