Thursday, March 26, 2015

Polishing a Book, Part V - Minor Distractions

When I'm on the very, very last drafts of a manuscript, in addition to all the other things I'm checking that I've already blogged about, I'm looking for minor distractions, like typos and minor details or incidents that might leave a reader with niggling little questions.

First - typos.  What can I say?  I read a manuscript many, many times.  My editor reads it, an in-house copy editor reads it and yet, typos still happen.  The eye sees what it thinks it should see.  I find it much easier to catch typos on hard copy, another reason I prefer to print up my final drafts, but even then they slip by.  

I've had some doozies  in my time -- a hero walking through the "dessert" (caught that one!),  the wrong hero's name in a paragraph (missed that one - ARGH).  Believe me, it's upsetting if you don't catch them.

Minor details that might prove distracting and should be dealt with are things like, what happened to the heroine's horse after it runs off?  Does it come back?  Is it lost forever?  Something like that isn't a huge deal, but as I've said before, anything that disrupts the reader's experience should be corrected.

So there you have it -- five blog posts about the many things I'm looking for when I'm polishing the final drafts of the book.

More reasons why writing a book isn't as easy as authors make it look.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Polishing a Book, Part IV - Anachronisms

Because I write books set in the past, something else I have to watch for when I polish a book are anachronisms, words or phrases that are too modern for the time period in which my book is set.

If you've read one of my books, especially those set in medieval times, you'll notice I don't even try to make my characters talk in olde English -- no thees, thous, or mayhaps for me.  Oddly enough, considering I'm making these people up, that sort of dialogue makes me too aware that the people are fictional.  I do, however, try to avoid anything that sounds too modern, like "no way!"  I'll even think twice about something like "Get out of town!"  I mean, I could use it, but now it has a slang connotation, so I probably wouldn't.

I have to be careful about time.  Until relatively recently, people didn't own watches or even clocks.  So I won't have my medieval characters ever tell time in minutes, or say something like "Just a minute!"  "Just a moment," yes, but never "just a minute" because they wouldn't be thinking that way.  I avoid hours, too.  I'll use dawn, dusk, maybe canonical hours, but I usually keep time pretty vague, because for the vast majority of people then, it was pretty vague.

The time period I write in also affects the similes and metaphors I use.  I try to make comparisons only to things my characters would see or use in daily life.  This can get tricky at times, but I can usually find something.  

There are times I wish I could use a modern turn of phrase, and I'm sure there have been places I've slipped up, but I do my best to avoid anything that sounds too modern, even if it's a term or word that really was used at that time.  Unless I want to provide a footnote to prove it, I figure if I think it's too modern, so will other people and it'll disrupt their enjoyment of the book, so out it goes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Avon Books Still On Sale

All my Avon books are still on sale or FREE at Barnes and Noble (NOOK editions), at least for now.  (See blog post below for titles.)

But alas, most of my Avon books are no longer on sale at Amazon.  It looks like only KISS ME AGAIN (Kindle edition) is still on sale for .99 cents there. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Free Books!

It looks like all my Avon books are on sale at Amazon (Kindle versions) for 99 cents and two are FREE! 
ETA - this sale still seems to be on still, but could end at any time.

The two free books are

(Restoration trilogy)
The third book of that trilogy,

 HIS FORBIDDEN KISS, is on sale for 99 cents.

Also for 99 cents:



 (medieval trilogy)

And the two Regencies I wrote for Avon -



This sale might not last long, so get 'em while you can!

ETA -- The NOOK editions are also on sale for the same price (or free!) at the Barnes and Noble website.  

Polishing the Book, Part III - Consistency

Something else I have to be aware of when I polish a book is consistency.   For instance, if I've said a character's eyes are blue in one scene, they'd better be blue in a later scene.

This is what I call minor consistency, and I generally make notes of such details as the book progresses.

Even more important is character consistency.  We want our main characters to grow and change in emotional ways during the course of a novel.  That's good.  What we don't want is for a character to suddenly change or behave in a way we're unprepared for simply because the author wants the plot to move in a certain direction.  It's disturbing if a heroine set up as bold and take-charge suddenly does something stupid, like wander around a dangerous place alone and unarmed, because otherwise, how could the villain find her? That's a change in character solely for the author's benefit, and the character is the lesser for it,

I'm also looking for plot consistency, making sure that if I've had something happen to a character in one scene, it effects them in the next.  You might think this is an easy thing to avoid.   I don't generally have this problem with what happens to my characters emotionally, but I can overlook physical things sometimes.  For instance, in the book I just finished, the heroine has badly sprained her ankle in a scene.  In the next, she's fine.  It's a miracle!  No, it's a mistake.  I forgot about the injury when the time came to write the next scene.  Fortunately, I remembered the ankle in a later draft and now she's hobbling around for awhile.

As with unity of voice and pacing, I generally find the inconsistencies when I've finished a complete draft or two.  Until then, I'm still "feeling my way" with the characters and story elements, paying more attention to them than things like eye color and minor injuries.  But that doesn't mean that consistency of minor elements isn't important.  Anything that disrupts the reader is a problem that has to be fixed.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Polishing a Book, Part II - Pacing

Something else I look at when I'm polishing a book prior to submission is pacing.  If I'm reading along and find myself less than engaged, thinking I should skip over a part or go make a cup of tea, that is a big red flag.  It means that part is -- horror of horrors! -- boring.  Or to put it another way, too slow.

That is Really Not Good.   I have some thinking to do, and then some revising.

Often a boring part comes when I'm trying to get from Point A to Point B in the plot and I haven't figured out the best way. Sometimes I realize I don't have to explain or describe that transition at all.  I can say, "Three days later" and just get on with the story.

Sometimes I'm repeating previous information.  This can be a tricky call, because let's face it, readers don't always, or even often, read a book in one sitting.  Details can be forgotten.  So I won't say  never repeat anything.  I'll just say be careful how many times, and in how much detail.

Sometimes something I've discovered in my research that I find really fascinating can bog down the story.  Readers want to hear about the characters more than, say, financial transactions in the Middle Ages.  Again, it's a judgment call, but if I find myself wanting to skip ahead, that means I've got too much unnecessary information.

Some people write really fast-paced, non-stop-action books.  Some people write a much more leisurely paced story, and others something in between.  There's no right or wrong when it comes to overall pacing; that's part of an author's voice.   

But whatever your particular pace, you don't want to let the reader to hit a spot where s/he thinks it's time to take a break.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Polishing a Book, Part I - Unity of Voice

Now that I've sent my 47th book to my editor, I thought I'd talk about what I do when I "polish" a book.

One thing I aim for is "unity of voice."  It takes me months to write a book, months where things happen in my life, planned and unplanned, good and bad.  Sometimes when I write, I'm in a great mood.  Other times, not so much.  I move scenes around.  I add and change things, including characters.  I decide something that sounded great in the synopsis simply won't work and have to come up with something else.  Yet when the book is finished, I want it to sound as if I simply sat down one morning and decided to write a several thousand word story that same day.  I don't want the seams to show, or the book to sound as if written by a committee, different members writing different scenes. 
So how do I get that "unity of voice?"

I write at least three drafts.  With each one, I'm able to read and work on more of the book at a time, so I'm able to edit and revise for longer stretches.  That means I'm in the same state when working on larger portions of the book.  

I do my final revisions and edits on hard copy.  This puts me in reader mode and gives me a bit more distance from the work, so it's easier to spot the parts that seem too different from the rest.  Then I take out or change anything that sounds too different. 

How do I know if recognize something like that?   I don't have a critique group or partner, so basically, I rely on instinct.   A little niggling doubt that something's not quite right. That tells me to look more closely at that scene. 

What I often discover is a character issue.  In particular, a character acting out of character.  For instance, a genial secondary character is suddenly talking like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Maybe I was in a bad mood when I wrote that scene.  Maybe I wasn't sure at that time if that character was ultimately going to be a friend or foe, but have since decided friend.  Maybe I had a great line of snark  and simply couldn't resist using it.

Whatever was going on at the time I originally wrote the scene, that character's actions and reactions are now "off" and must be changed, even if I lose that great line of snark.  If it doesn't fit, if it's violating that unity, it has to go.  I've cut some of my favorite lines of dialogue because they simply didn't work in a scene. 

Sometimes changes to maintain unity of voice are easy - fix a bit of dialogue, change a few reactions.   Other times it's not.  Sometimes a whole scene simply has to go. 

Because when all is written and done, I want the reader to be immersed in my story.  Anything that interrupts that experience, that makes the reader pause and get a little niggling doubt that something's "not quite right", has got to be fixed.  It's not always easy, but it's necessary.