Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If I Was A Developer Who Could Program My Own Freaking Ideas??

I’ve been extremely occupied with edits for my second novel, “Nothing Ventured,” this week.  And I thought there was no creativity left in my overworked brain to pour into the old entrepreneurial arsenal.  Thoughts of Mia and Chris incessantly swarm my mind and my sole focus is to finesse their love story to the satisfaction of my editor.  In fact, I think I’ve dreamed in italicized subtitles for the past few nights.

I didn’t think I had anything left.

But then I came up with..ta-da!!!!  An idea.

In my past life, like a waaaaay long time ago, I was responsible for putting together business requirements for system development projects.  Of course there were endless Microsoft Word doc templates available for this exercise, with tables of contents so long they’d rival the length of the actual document.

I’m exaggerating. Kind of.  =)

But then software packages were developed to simplify the process and analysts could input their requirements into a program and answer a whole slew of questions that would translate into a section of the overall deliverable.  The software package would tie all the components together and take the work out of building the narrative.  Analysts input the pertinent information, the software does the rest.

Not that I’m suggesting authors write books with this type of software but think about applying this concept to the editing process.  Developmental edits are a huge pain.  If an author needs to move chunks of a manuscript around, it becomes very tedious to track all the downstream changes.  Plus, sometimes an author may want to “test” a scene out in a different location but wants to see how it might impact the overall story WITHOUT messing everything up.

A software package that could help with this process would be super useful.  Instead, authors (read: ME) end up saving multiple versions of the manuscript, trying to test out various scenarios and often forgetting which one is the gold copy.  To mitigate the risk of THAT, my titles are normally something like this…

NothingVentured v1.12.3.4 ChrisGetsDrunkMiaGoesOverboard.docx

Not confusing at all, right?

 

If You Want Perfection, You’d Better Be Prepared To Pay For It!

Some authors opt out of having manuscripts professionally edited.  I guess they think it’s an unnecessary expense.  Some authors just don’t know specifically what an editor does so they fail to see the value in hiring one.  And SOME authors may think that their friends and family members can read a manuscript and find any spelling/grammatical/plot issues, for FREE.  Because this is certainly a group that would always deliver an unbiased opinion, right? 

The reality is that a professional editor can bring to light soooo many things that you never considered before, specifically if you are completely new at the writing game (which I AM).  Let me give you an example that always springs to my mind when I am glorifying my own editor.

Head hopping.

Whaaa?

Yeah, I’d never heard of it either. Basically, it means that within one scene, the author delivers the story through multiple characters’ points of view.  The term came about because thoughts are jumping from one perspective to another, making it very confusing for the reader to identify and understand who in the scene is driving the story.

I had no idea that this concept even existed.  And I totally abused it, until my editor pointed it out to me.  I also wouldn’t have known that some publishers will reject you immediately if any hint of head hopping appears in your manuscript.  But she completely opened my eyes to this and subsequently provided so many other little pearls of wisdom she’d collected throughout her career. 

Now, I know that the Internet provides endless volumes of information about a plethora of writing topics and if you know the right people to ask or websites to research, you could probably find out a heck of a lot on your own about the evils of head hopping and the like.  But for me, having that go-to person who is intimately involved in the publishing industry and can teach the tips and tricks required to produce a stellar piece of writing is worth every cent.

Think about it this way.  Perception becomes reality.  If the world sees your work as sub-par, so shall it become.  And how many people will want to buy another one of your masterful creations then?  I’m guessing not many…

Stop Trying To Bypass The Process! It’s There For A Reason!

I’m a very process-oriented gal.  It’s a big part of my day job and I’m good at designing them.  There are very good reasons why processes are developed, implemented and executed.  They guide an initiative to completion.  They lay out a set of logical steps that individuals can follow in order to achieve a specific end.  They account for deviations and exceptions along the way and they include alternate steps to avoid pitfalls and challenges that may crop up.

Generally speaking.

As a newbie author, I didn’t realize that I could apply a process to the development of a novel.  I thought that creativity trumped organization.  I was SOOOOO wrong.  

My wonderful editor Cindy showed me the error of my ways and because of her, I used PROCESS to learn about my subjects.  One of the key steps in the process of developing a compelling novel?  Develop your characters!  Learn everything about them!  Create a robust backstory for each character in your story, so that you know where they came from, what past experiences shape their views, and how they interact with others.  After I followed the process and learned about my characters, I was able to rewrite my story with depth and purpose.  I didn’t realize how shallow my first versions were until I spun out the third.

But yet again, I find myself resisting the process.  What the hell is wrong with me?

I got halfway there.  I know Chris like the back of my hand, but I’m still not sure about Mia.

Cindy gave me a few different scenarios to build out as I developed my character sketches.

1.  Most Embarrassing Moment

2.  Angriest Moment

3.  The Character’s Reaction to a Dog’s Incessant Barking

You’d be surprised how well you get to know someone as you create the events leading up to these scenarios.  My immediate problem is that I’m only halfway through Mia’s character sketch.  I haven’t fully developed her backstory.  Sixty pages into Nothing Ventured, and I’m still at a loss.  I don’t know where I’m going because I don’t know HER.

This madness has to STOP!  I need to embrace the process or the whole story will unravel like a cheap rug.

Taking The Weekend OFF!

Today is a good day.  I feel very relaxed right now.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m getting a pedicure as I type, but that’s not the real reason.  I just feel like I have a lot to look forward to on this journey toward publication.  I don’t know where it will lead me, but I’m okay with the unknown.  For now, anyway.  People who know me well are fully aware that my OCD will only allow me to flail around for a very short time before I start to get antsy.

I just printed out my final manuscript.  Of course, I had to check with my editor twice this morning (before 7 a.m.) that it really was polished and perfect and ready to submit (or whatever).  After telling me for the umpteenth time to relax and stop being so insecure, I decided today was the day that it was ready for prime-time.

So he’s reading while I’m getting my feet scrubbed.  I can’t wait to get his feedback.  He’s been so amazing and supportive throughout this whole process.  I’m really lucky to have such a wonderful partner who is so invested in me.  =)

Just as an aside, it’s kind of hard to blog about my book when nobody really knows what I’m talking about.  The assurance that “you’ll see what I mean sometime in the not-so-distant future” will lose its luster pretty quickly.  I need to figure out new things to chat about in the interim.

And since my mind is so clear today, I actually have time to think about things like whether or not I want to take a shot with some new  fake eyelashes tonight.  I have some really awesome bejeweled ones that’ll look fantastic with my outfit!  Like I said last night, I’m taking the weekend OFF!  =)

 

 

 

Getting To Know My Next Hero…It’s All About The Character Sketch

Image

Liam Hemsworth

When I decided to write Unlikely Venture, I just WROTE.  I made some notes here and there but for the most part, I found out what was going to happen as I typed.  I didn’t have the whole story mapped out, didn’t use an outline.  But that style kind of suits me.  I’m impulsive so I don’t like wasting time on the planning.  I like to jump in feet first, headed straight toward the action.

I’ve learned a lot over the past year, though.  And I’ve determined that maybe a bit of planning can go a long way.  So, while I am taking a very short hiatus from my last set of edits, I delved into book 2.  I’ve been making notes everywhere, including on my iPhone as I drive (not advisable).  Sometimes to avoid potential fender benders, I call myself and just talk through my notes so I have a voicemail as reference.  Maybe it’s time to download a voice recorder app.

Anyway, I’ve been working on character sketches for my new book.  I didn’t create these up front with book 1; it wasn’t until my editor requested them that I actually sat down to learn about my characters.  I love the robust backstories that resulted from that exercise and a lot of the detail made it into the story.  Anyway, I now recognize the importance of planning.  I could continue my helper skelter writing and eventually, I’d spin out a new tale. But it would lack depth and breadth because I wouldn’t be intimately familiar with my cast of characters.  And that’s a necessity!  You need to be connected to these people to craft a compelling story about them.

So I’ve been working on Chris, my next hero.  But before I can write about him, I need to picture him in my head.  So I’ve been Googling and finally landed on this image.  It’s exactly how I see Chris in my head.  And you know what?  The backstory is just pouring out of me now.  I just needed to make that physical association before I could really understand what he’s all about beneath the surface.

This pic of Liam totally hits the nail on the head.  He is Chris.  =)

What’s In It For Me?

Let’s face it, contemporary romance novels are ubiquitous.  So how can you differentiate yours from the rest?  This is a big part of the value prop for an author but you don’t always get an opportunity to deliver a full Power Point presentation complete with charts and Smart Art explaining why your novel commands attention.  All the elements of value prop are essential in crafting your message but here’s the deal…you need an elevator speech to convince people on the spot that you’re book is worthy of their time and money.

I’m always challenged by the 30-second spiel.  By nature, I’m very long-winded so trying to whittle down my delivery into one or two sentences throws me into a major tailspin.  Luckily, I’ve learned to tailor my writing style with the help of a very patient editor.  But summing up my fabulous manuscript into so few words?  Impossible!

The problem is, if you can’t be proactive and distinguish yourself quickly, people will automatically assume you’ve written the next Fifty Shades.  At least, that’s the assumption I’m faced with most often.

Here’s how the dialogue usually goes:

“Kristen, you wrote a book, how fantastic!  What’s it about?”

“It’s a contemporary romance novel.”

(The knowing smile and head nod)  “Oh, so it’s another Fifty Shades?”

“Haha, no.  Actually mine is much hotter.  In fact, it’s so intense that steam will rise from the screen of your e-reader and peel the paint off your walls.”

Well, there’s a very convincing value prop!  But I’ve found that it’s not exactly proper as a description for my eighty year-old aunt or my son’s preschool teacher.  So I made some changes.  I’m still working on variations but this is the latest:

“It’s an emotional tale about an unlikely romance that develops between two people and is ultimately threatened by the heroine’s risqué past.”

I typically leave out any sexual references unless specifically asked.  Not everyone would appreciate that granular a description.

The key is to generate enough interest with your elevator pitch so that it drives the potential reader directly to the Kindle e-bookstore to buy your novel.  Not an easy feat, but that’s why the value prop is so important.  Once you’ve identified all the fabulous elements of your book, you can shrink them into a meaningful sound byte, kind of like creating a tiny URL.

 

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