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writing

Editing With Netta-The Plot

Last week we talked about story structure—the basic framework on which to hang the flesh and blood of your story. Keep in mind this is just the basic structure. There’s a circular structure, the Hero’s Journey, etc. but at the core, it all boils down to these five elements. I could go on and on about story structure; it’s an obsession/fascination for me, but for the sake of self-editing this is what you need to know.

A Word About Outlining

There has been and probably always will be an endless debate about outlining. You have your die-hards who will outline to the very last detail down to the color of their character’s underwear, and others who paint broad strokes and leave the rest to the actual writing process. I’m not going to get into that here—everyone has their own way of writing a story and there is no right or wrong way. However, I will say once you start editing your story, it’s quite helpful to create an outline of what you’ve already written.

But Netta, you say, isn’t that backward? No, not really. An outline before you write can keep you (mostly) on track, but we all know outlines are not written in stone. Many things can change as you write. Characters can get a wild hair up their ass and take off in a different direction; that’s part of the creative process. So it’s a good idea, in your first read, to construct an outline of what you’ve really written. This will help you chart your tale, and pinpoint areas which need work to flesh out, tweak, and help you evaluate your plot line.

The Backbone of Your Story—Plot

Think of the plot as the spine. Without a strong plot line, all you have are a bunch of random people wandering around doing random things. After you complete the first read and construct an outline, take your red pen and read over the outline with these things in mind:

1. Do you have a clear story goal? In other words, what is the point of the story? Even in a series with an overall story arc, your novel requires a clear story goal within the arc of the series.

2. Does your story start in the right place? You want to establish your protagonist’s problem early, and hook your reader from the beginning. Ideally, this should happen in the first two chapters.

3. Does the plot make logical sense? No matter the genre, you are asking your reader to suspend their disbelief, but if you establish rules/parameters for your world, they need to make sense within the constructs of your world. For instance, if angels are invisible in Chapter One, you can’t make them visible in Chapter Twelve unless you lay the groundwork for this to be possible.

4. Do your hooks, twists, and turns make sense and are they related to the rest of the plot? Or are random fixes appearing out of nowhere?

5. Are there too many or not enough sub-plots? Is it clear what’s going on? Or are you leaving your reader lost and confused in the maze of Too Much Happening?

6. Do you have the right point of view (POV) for the story you are telling? If you’re writing in the first person, how might your story look in the third person instead?

7. Have you maintained a balance of narrative, action, and dialog? Or are there pages of backstory, info dumps, and long conversations going nowhere?

8. Is the climax sufficiently dramatic? Is that deep, dark, black moment ripping out the guts of your readers? Good. Clean up in Aisle 5. If not, go deeper.

9. Did you resolve the main story goal or problem for the protagonist? It’s okay to leave some sub-plots dangling, especially if it is a book in a series, but regardless, the major issue needs to be resolved even if it’s a part of a series.

Cliffhangers

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*Photo courtesy of hotblack from morguefile.com

A word about cliffhangers at the end of a volume in a series: Some readers love them, many readers hate them, especially if they have to wait a significant amount of time between books. If you are writing a series, it might be a good idea to finish the series before launching, especially if you include mind-blowing cliffhangers at the end of your volumes. Otherwise, you can easily lose your reader following and really piss them off and this way, too, you can control the timing of release.

Make notes in your outline as you read through a second time, targeting soft spots in the plot and ways to shore up the story. With a strong outline based on what you’ve written, you can easily see where important tweaking needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to cut and paste, change things around, or mark certain spots for a re-write. DON’T BE AFRAID. You always have the original document, so if you feel you’re messed things up beyond all repair, you can always return to that. Think about one thing as you evaluate your plot: If it doesn’t advance the story, it has got to go. Period. Yes, it’s a lovely scene. Yes, it might be the best writing you’ve ever done. Yes, it’s gorgeous and you love it and it amuses you. But does it ADVANCE THE STORY? That’s the real question.

Here. Have a tissue. You’ll get over it, I promise. Cut and paste into a new document and save it. These bits and pieces can be used in a variety of ways–blog post extras, a short to include in the back of the book as a bonus, a collection of outtakes for your adoring fans. Your main focus here is to create the strongest story you can. It only hurts for a hot minute. Keep your story goal foremost in your brain.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Next week, we’ll take a look at your cast of characters.

Editing With Netta–Story Structure

In the beginning, I advised you start the editing process by throwing your masterpiece into a drawer or a closet for at least a couple of weeks before you begin digging in. This is to not only give your brain a much-needed rest, but to also give you distance so you can look at the manuscript with “fresh eyes.”

Don't be scared. Unless you're writing about the undead. Or spiders. *shudder*
Don’t be scared. Unless you’re writing about the undead. Or spiders. *shudder*

*Photo courtesy of kconnors from morguefile.com

You will be surprised—maybe even shocked when you take it out and look at it again. It might be better than you thought it was, or it might be worse. A word to the wise: a writer is the worst judge of their own work. A close second would be your mother, or your Best Friend Forever. At this point you want to maintain a certain amount of objectivity, or at least as much as you can muster. Please refrain from blasting it out to everyone you know, because at worst you will get a ton of back-patting, which serves you not at all, or at best, a ton of back-patting which serves you not at all when it comes to editing.

Yes, you just wrote a book and you should be proud. But let’s wait until we pretty it up a little, okay?

The first thing you need to look at is the basic story structure. This is the framework on which the rest of your story hangs—the skeleton, if you will. There are many ways to look at the framework, but it basically boils down to this:

1. A character has a problem. (Also known as the “inciting incident”.)
2. Bad things happen and conflict intensifies.
3. Climax
4. Resolution
5. The hero learns something about self/life. Or not.

It sounds really simple, doesn’t it? It’s just that easy and just that difficult.

Take the time and resist the temptation of the red pen just yet. What you want to do here is keep a notebook and pen handy, or whatever writing implements float your boat, and read the manuscript. Jot down notes about what “feels off” as you read. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does the beginning drag? This is a common issue with many manuscripts, because in your first draft you’re getting your feet wet, putting your back into it, finding a way to open the story. The beginning of your book is crucial–this is where you will either hook your reader or not. Start with a bang, not with a boring conversation or long description of the setting. Grab your reader by the balls and take off. This might mean cutting a paragraph, a chapter, or even the first two or three chapters. Try to look at it through the eyes of the reader. Have you engendered enough curiosity for the reader to turn the page? No? Then cut it.

2. Is there enough conflict? As bad as you’ve made it for your protag, can you make it worse? If the Prince is on a horse to rescue the Princess, break the horse’s leg. BE MEAN. Then be MEANER. Cry in your Kleenex if you must–I know, I hate being mean to my characters, too–but if you’re crying, then your reader is crying. But without conflict there is no story.

3. Is there a satisfying climax? Do the events come to a resounding crescendo? Or do you leave the reader unsatisfied and wondering why the hell they just slogged through two hundred pages only to be left hanging? Readers don’t like this, people.

4. Is your major plot point resolved? Or are there dangling bits which need a solution? If it’s a stand-alone work, you need to make sure your subplots are dealt with in a satisfactory manner, but if it’s a series, these can dangle for the next work. However, it’s necessary the MAJOR PLOT POINT of the book is resolved. Readers don’t like this, either. As a matter of fact, if you don’t resolve your major plot point, be prepared for pitchforks, fire, and possibly tar and feathers. Worse than that, those readers will most likely never buy another thing you write for fear they’re going to be left hanging once again.

5. The story goal—what has changed about your protagonist? What has s/he learned from this experience, or what have they missed? If there’s no change in the character, then why? And there’d better be a compelling reason, or you just lost the whole point of the book.

Once you’ve got your notes jotted from the first read, then you can take out your red pen and work on specifics. This is what we’ll talk about next week.

Next week--IT'S THE RED PEN!
Next week–IT’S THE RED PEN!

*Photo courtesy of jppi of morguefile.com

Thursday Editing Tips, Tricks, And Observations-Where To Start

Well, you’ve finished your masterpiece, and finally written THE END. Omg, what a relief! And congratulations! There are many, many writers who haven’t gotten to this point. Pat yourself on the back, because this is a huge accomplishment.

HOORAY!
HOORAY!

*Photo courtesy of hotblack at moreguefile.com

But now what?

Finishing a manuscript is a rush, no doubt about it. You did it! You wrote a book! You’re dancing around the house, maybe envisioning millions of dollars just roaring into your bank account; ready for the critical acclaim you just KNOW is coming your way, movie deals, interviews on Good Morning America, hitting the NYT best-selling list. Maybe an HBO series.

Then you sit down to re-read what you’ve written.

And here starts the cycle. The cycle of, “Holy shit, this really sucks, I suck, who wrote this crap?” and moving on to, “I’m so brilliant I can’t stand myself,” to “Just what the hell did I write here? Nothing is making sense!” And then it starts all over again.

The first draft of any manuscript is full of holes, errors, and tangents. No matter how well-plotted, it’s a first draft. It’s not supposed to be pretty. It’s supposed to be butt-assed ugly; raw, bleeding, and in dire need of CPR. But it’s also glorious in its rawness–your story is now on paper, and there is very little which can’t be fixed in an edit.

First off, let me just tell you a writer is their own worst judge of their story. Why? Because it’s in your head, perfect and complete, but transferring that to paper is very difficult. Sometimes a writer errs on the side of caution, and holds back essential information the reader needs. Other times, a writer may suffer from diarrhea of the keyboard and lets all of the cats out of the bag at once. Pacing could be off, the plot needs thickening, some of the characters are as dimensional as a hunk of cardboard. It’s a first draft, so that’s to be expected.

You might feel the urge to send your masterpiece to close friends and your mother. Restrain yourself, cowboy. I know, trust me I do, you want to crow about this to everyone. But you still have a lot of work to do before your story is ready for an honest critique, and in light of your joy, the people who love you will not tell you what you need to hear. They’ll tell you what you want to hear. Although that may be very gratifying at first, it’s not going to help you take your story to the professional level for which you’re striving. WAIT. It’s difficult, I know! YOU JUST WROTE A BOOK! But…that’s just the beginning of the process.

So, where do you start the editing process?

You start by sticking it in a closet and leaving it alone. That’s right. Throw it in drawer or closet, lock it, and forget it. I guarantee you if you start editing as soon as you finish, you’re never going to see what needs to be fixed. You’re too close, you’ve been living with these characters too long and you know what’s going to happen before it happens. What you and your manuscript need is some space apart.

That's right. Throw it in there with the rest of the stuff, like the treadmill you never use, and LOCK THE DOOR.
That’s right. Throw it in there with the rest of the stuff, like the treadmill you never use, and LOCK THE DOOR.

*Photo courtesy of ronnieb at morguefile.com

My advice is a minimum of two weeks. A couple of months might be even better. Leave it alone and start on another piece. Get your head OUT of your book and into something else. Let the manuscript marinate for a while, spend some time alone to ripen and for you to develop a bit of distance so when you do go back in to re-read and note the issues which need work, you can do so without feeling as if you’re ripping the arteries out of your heart.

So the first step? Closet, drawer, whatever. Mark it on your calendar to take it out in a couple of weeks, longer if you can stand it. Start on your next story.

Next week I’ll tell you the next step in this editing wonderland. Don’t be scared. You’ll love it.

Thursday Editing Tips, Tricks, And Observations -What Is An Editor?

I thought I’d kick off my series of articles about the editing process by defining certain editing terms. In my wordage travels, I have come across a lot of confusion regarding just what an editor does and what certain terms mean. If you want to know WHO an editor is, I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but you might find this article–I Am An Editor And Batshit Crazy–particularly interesting and enlightening. Go ahead and read it. I’ll be reiterating the major points here, but that article in particular will give you an idea of how my brain works and why I love my job so much.

And believe me, I love my job. It takes a lot of caffeine, I won't like, but I love that, too.
And believe me, I love my job. It takes a lot of caffeine, I won’t lie, but I love that, too.

*Photo courtesy of godidwlr on morguefile.com

My approach to editing is from the position of a freelance indie. I work mostly with indie writers; I love the freedom this gives the both of us. The process of taking a raw manuscript from the bloody beginnings to a polished and professional product is amazing. But there are different types of editors and different levels of editing.

Content or developmental editing: My specialty is content editing. A content editor evaluates the entire and complete manuscript from start to finish for story structure, including plot, character arcs, story flow, pacing, logic, back story, and an overall look at where these things can be improved or tightened up. Under this umbrella also falls developmental editing. While a content edit deals with a completed manuscript, a developmental edit may start at the very beginning of the writing process, in which a writer and an editor start from a basic outline, character sketches, and working together, “develop” a working ‘script.

A content editor will never, ever try to change your “writer’s voice”. And if they do, RUN. This is not the type of editor with whom you want to work.

Copy editor: A copy editor is not involved in the overall plot, per se, but helps you tighten up your prose to mean what it says and says what it means. A good copy editor will help you clarify what you want to say through word choice and sentence structure, along with cleaning up any grammar faux-pas. For instance, where to use “lay” and “lie”, catch those pesky “there, they’re, and theirs”, or how to construct a sentence so your reader knows what you really mean, which might sound good in your head but not translate well to the page.

Proofreader: A good proofreader is gold. This is your final polish, and the intrepid proofreader will catch spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Not a job for any but the most detail-oriented. I bet most proofreaders have their sock drawer color-coded. I have a lot of admiration for proofreaders because it is a particular skill-set, and one I do not possess.

Ideally, your manuscript needs to go through each step even after you are done with your own self-editing. There is no way for any writer, I don’t care who you are (looking at you, Stephen King) who can be objective enough about their work to be able to perform each and every step.The human brain is not built that way.

Think of it this way. You live with a partner every day for six months. One morning, they come out of the bathroom and say, “Holy shit, why didn’t you tell me half my left eyebrow was gone?”

“Huh?”

You never noticed. Because you’ve seen this person every day, your eye just happens to pass over the missing left eyebrow because you’ve seen it and it doesn’t even register. Same with your manuscript. You’ve worked on it so much for so long, the flaws disappear into your brain cells and you just can’t see them anymore. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it just means you have blind spots that only someone else who is objective can pick out. That’s where your editor can help.

In the same vein, my opinion is a content or developmental editor is so involved with your story that by the time the content edit is finished, if they’ve done their job correctly they are too close to the story to serve as a copy editor and/or proofreader. Be wary of people who say they can do all three jobs in one. While a certain amount of copy editing may be accomplished in a thorough content edit, this by no means precludes the need for a professional copy edit and proofreading.

Next Thursday I’ll talk about contracts. And then we can get into the nitty-gritty of how to whip your manuscript into shape so you can get the most out of hiring an editor at any level.

Handcuffs may or may not be involved. Depends on the editor. Heh.
Handcuffs may or may not be involved. Depends on the editor. Heh.

*Photo courtesy of Penywise from morguefile.com

I Am An Editor And Batshit Crazy

That’s the first thing you should probably know.

I’m a lot of other things, including a writer, but the question I’m asked the most is, “What’s it like being an editor? I mean, what exactly is it you do?”

The thing is, when people think of the term “editor”, they may think of a hunched over old lady, gnarled and grey, with crazy hair and long dirty fingernails, just looking for your grammar and punctuation mistakes. When she finds one, she’ll cackle with glee, wielding a red pen with unbridled joy, slashing the words, sentences, paragraphs with all the happiness of a zombie eating fresh (or not-so-fresh) entrails.

I don’t do that.

Or, the picture may be of a prim and proper virginal school teacher, with a mighty ruler at the ready to smack your knuckles into shreds of bleeding flesh should you end your sentence with a preposition; using “their” instead of “there”; abusing semi-colons on a regular basis.

I don’t even own a ruler.

Some people think of editors as nasty, overweight men who smoke cigars, play poker, and simply look at the first word of your story before dousing it with gasoline and lighting a match before sending a rejection letter which makes you cry for your mother and vow to never go near another writing implement ever again.

I don’t do that, either.

The term “editor” is somewhat misleading, because there are many different types of editors. The technical term for what I do is a content or developmental editor, also affectionately known in some circles as a “story doctor”.

In essence, I evaluate a story for proper structure, plot holes, character development, and story arc. I look at narrative flow, dialog, and voice. I’ll determine if the story holds together, and provide suggestions on how to tighten tension, balance narrative with action and dialog, and whether or not you really need the monkey in the corner with the cymbals.

Monkey
Yes, it’s a monkey. Yes, it’s cute. Yes, I’ll cut him from your story because I’m mean like that.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In order to perform my job properly as a content editor, I have to know the story better than the writer. I need to know the characters intimately; understand the writer’s vision; connect with the overall message or theme the writer is attempting to get across. As a writer myself, I can say being a content editor is more difficult than writing your own book, because I actually have to crawl inside the writer’s head. This is not always easy to do, and it doesn’t always work with every writer because everyone is unique. While I’m used to the insanity inside my own head, it might take time to adjust to the insanity of someone else. Because as we all know, writers are basically batshit crazy, too. I mean that with all due respect and love.

Bats in the belfry
Don’t play. You know they’re flying in your belfry too.

Story editing is very much a team effort, and it takes a great deal of trust. The writer has to trust I know my shiz-niz, and I have to trust the writer to be open-minded and willing to do the work. To stand up for what he or she feels is necessary to the story, but to also understand my passion is the story and I have the story’s best interest at heart.

In order to do this, I have to dive deep. When I perform a first read, there is no other world for me than the one the author has created. I liken it to lucid dreaming; my background is unique in that I have been reading almost every genre known to mankind since I was three years old. That’s over fifty years worth of reading. Uncountable books have saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count in very difficult and personal life circumstances, but as a result, I understand on almost an instinctual level what a story needs in order to connect with the reader. I take my job very, very seriously because fiction means so much to me.

There is no greater joy for me than when a client I have worked with releases a book on which we have both worked to great reviews and readers who find a new author with whom they’ve connected. I know how much a good book can make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s momentary entertainment or a story which makes a reader think of a situation in a different light. There are books which can actually change the way a reader views the world or gives them a perspective they’ve never considered before. Other books can take you away to a different place, introduce you to people you’d never meet in real life, or whisk you away into a marvelous world making the stresses of everyday life disappear if only for a few hours. Books which refresh the soul, make you cry, laugh, and relate to similar experiences. It’s amazing.

I absolutely love what I do. It’s not always easy and it can be very draining emotionally. It takes a lot of work; sometimes I’m dreaming of the narrative, working out problems in my dreams, and sometimes I wander around in a daze forgetting to feed my cat or even myself. And you should see my laundry pile. Sometimes I have to take a break and put some distance between myself and the manuscript, give myself some time to re-charge and re-assess, because the book and the writer are depending on me. I am acutely aware of my responsibility as a content editor and the fact I hold the writer’s beating heart in my hands.

The shadowed heart
Trust me. I know exactly what I’m holding in my hands, and I’d rather break my own than yours. But the story comes FIRST.

And when I see a raw manuscript transformed into something wondrous, I am the happiest I have ever been. When I see a writer “get it”, and find their voice, see their vision come to light, it’s like being a midwife to a joyful birth.

I love my job. It’s taken a lot of work to get here, and I know there are many people who hate what they do; I spent many years (too many!) in the same position. I feel extremely fortunate that even at this late stage of my life, I have found my passion, what I love to do, and am able to make it happen. I thank the Universe at every turn for the most amazing people with whom I’ve had the honor to work; for the support of loved ones even when they think I’m batshit crazy, and the opportunity to have a small part in helping a fabulous book or story be the best it can be.

For me, story is everything. It is the reflection of the human experience, the heart and soul of what makes us all human and connected.

Yes. I am an editor. It’s likely I’m batshit crazy. But I’m also one of the luckiest women alive.

Fun In The Sandbox – A Writing and Editing Update

Time flies when you’re having fun, but it also flies when you’re up to your armpits in “To Do” lists. And it’s only the “To Do” lists which are keeping me from going nuts.

Oh sure, he looks cute. But see that crazy gleam in his eye? Yeah.

Lots going on. First of all, working on several editing projects and loving every minute of that, even though most days it means my eyes look like this:

Yikes. That's a scary eyeball right there.

Several of my client’s projects are coming out or have been launched over the last couple of months, and that’s really exciting. After much soul-searching and teeth gnashing with a little bit of hair-pulling and heartache, I have come to the conclusion pimping out my clients when they launch could be construed as having a conflict of interest. So, as much as I love each and every one of them and believe in their work, I must limit myself to simply posting the links on my sidebar over there <- labeled as "Editing Work", which I will be updating regularly so make sure to keep an eye on that list. A hard decision, for real. *sniffle* [caption id="attachment_1449" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="I do not endorse violators. Or bitch slapping. Unless you're a violator."][/caption]

But honestly, I have been extremely privileged and honored to work with these writers, and I encourage you to check them out. There are some amazingly talented people out there. It’s really humbling.

Next on the list is the launch of “Athena’s Promise” on October 28th. I’ve been posting snippets on my Facebook Fan Page, and that’s the only place you’ll see them. So, if you’re curious about what I’ve been doing in my spare time, “like” the page and see what’s shaking. I’m all the way up to Chapter 19 as of today with three more to go. Share the page with your friends, and the day I hit 200 fans is the day I will post here the first two chapters. FOR FREE. Sound like a deal?

No, not a deal like this. Besides, those are really shitty cards. I can do you better than that.

The covers of all three books in the series are being crafted even as we speak, along with a blazing trailer. I am beyond excited about this, especially since I’ve engaged the uber-talented Rebecca Walker. And let me tell you, she is AMAZING. I’ll post them when they’re ready, because I love you guys that much 🙂

In addition, I’ve set up all Kindle publications for a Kindlegraph. How cool is that shiz? Visit my fan page for more details! (See what I did there? Heh.)

Sneaky little bugger, ain't I? Heh.

Now that you’re all caught up for the moment, I need to take care of some of those “To Do” lists before the nice men in the white jackets get here. 😉

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

Noses Where There Shouldn’t Be

I love my job.

Today the weather is perfect. Sunny, clear blue sky with white puffy clouds. The dewpoint is thankfully low, meaning almost no humidity and it’s a balmy 72 degrees — a great relief from the 100+ temperatures from this Summer of Hell.

The windows are open, the breeze is blowing through the house and I’m working on articles today; tonight I’ll move on to editing. Foster the People are singing on my garage-sale stereo, procured for a mere $2. Life is good.

So, what’s the burr in my panties today? Because you know there has to be one. Well, I have to say it’s not entirely my fault — there were conversations, and then I read my friend Patti Larsen’s post and my irritation runneth over. And I just have to make some pertinent points:

1. Publishing a book doesn’t mean you are suddenly rolling in the money. Especially if you self-publish. Bitch, please. Saying something like that just highlights your ignorance of how the writing business actually works. Like Patti says (and it’s been my mantra for years) this is a MARATHON, not a SPRINT. Meaning, you might earn some decent cash over the span of months or years, but you don’t publish and take a wheelbarrow to the bank the next day. I wish.

This is more likely what's in my wheelbarrow.

2. People don’t take into consideration the fact that successful writers (notice the distinction, okay? Don’t make me point it out again) have put in thousands of hours learning their craft, practicing their skills and falling flat on their ass. Hitting it big right out of the gate is rare and you will probably have a better chance of being hit by lightning. Seriously. Not that it doesn’t happen, but the stars have to be aligned just right. The vast majority of successful writers have worked hard to get where they are, and work hard to stay there. They’ve taken second jobs, worked ungodly hours, made time at five am to throw words at the paper and hoping they stick while juggling a full-time job, family and personal relationships.

This is more like what we do. It's dangerous and we sweat.

3. In addition to this, successful writers have also invested in their BUSINESS. That’s right, you heard me. Writing for a living is a BUSINESS. Oh, there’s art and skill and talent, of course — but if you don’t treat your writing career as a business, you’re not going to make it. This means you are going to have to make some sacrifices along the way. Equipment, books, workshops, conferences, membership to professional organizations, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s editing, book covers, formatting, ARCS…so much more. If you’re not willing to invest in your business, in improving your skills as much as you can, you’re making this ten times more difficult for yourself. Don’t believe me? Fine. I’m the one making a living as a writer. How about you?

Tell you what. You don't dissect me, and I won't dissect you. Deal?

4. As far as asking me how much money I make or how many books I’ve sold, my advice is…DON’T. Don’t ask me or any other writer that kind of question, because it’s rude, invasive, and none of your fucking business. I would never ask YOU such a personal question, no matter what your profession is. How would you feel if someone asked you how much you have in your bank account? My kids don’t even know this. My boyfriend doesn’t know. And I don’t know this about them. It’s none of my business. No one but ME knows my financial status, it’s classified and unless you have the decoder ring and the password, you aren’t gonna know either. I’m the one that pays my bills. I’m the only one privy to that info. It blows my mind that just because you’re a writer, people think they have the right to stick their nose right in the middle of your personal business. So don’t be a rude fucktard.

GET OUT.

In conclusion, mind your own business and I’ll mind mine.

Decisions, Decisions

It’s been a very busy summer, and it’s only been summer for a week. I’m sure not complaining, just trying to keep up and keep it going. It’s more difficult than it sounds.

I’m very happy with the beta responses to “Athena’s Promise”, and the revisions shouldn’t take long at all. I’ve even started the first chapter of “Athena’s Chains” and I plan on having that done before I release AP so I can include it. Of course, that brings me to the Ultimate Plan.

I have no idea what the Ultimate Plan is. Besides total Universal Literary Domination, that is. How to get there is the real question.

With the publishing world in such flux, I’m really struggling with making a decision on which way to jump. Do I trust my precious work to a “legacy” publisher and hope for the best? Go with a small press, an indie press and retain a better measure of control? Or do I indulge my inner control freak, and blaze the trail on my own?

I’ve been back and forth so many times I’m dizzy.

By the time I get off this ride, I'll probably puke.

I won’t go in to all the pros and cons of each path or I’d be here all night. Suffice to say it’s not an easy decision and I will most likely wait to make a decision until next week.

Why wait, you ask? Well, because of the First Annual Intergalactic Pretendacon Sporkfest (A Very Serious Writing Conference). I plan on picking the brain of my esteemed colleagues, all of whom are in various stages of their own successful writing careers and whose opinions I value highly. I am very, very excited about this conference, especially since one of the participants I have known for nearly a decade yet have never met in person.

I will be connecting with my tribe. Like the Bee Girl. I’m so happy 🙂

In the meantime, I plan to keep writing. And editing. And writing some more.

This is what I see, night and day. Eyes open and closed. Makes it difficult to drive. Heh.

I have a great support system, online and offline. I have great friends and special people supporting me, and I appreciate that more than I can say. Although there have been, and probably will be, very difficult times, I still consider myself quite fortunate.

Thank you, supportive peeps! You lift me up and I love you.

I’m old enough to know everything works out the way it’s supposed to, so I guess for now I’ll just hang on to that.

Of Deadlines and Betas

Ah, the deadline for my beta readers was today, and with only a couple of exceptions, they were all really great about getting back to me regarding comments and critiques or notice they would be unable to fulfill their beta duties.

I have a bit of a reputation about deadlines, and that’s because of the copy background. Well, that’s not strictly correct. I have been anal about time since I was late showing up out of the womb. (Sorry, Momma!) See, in my line of business, time is money.

Notice there is silver in this pile. I usually see more pennies than quarters.

Being self-employed, I have to set my own schedule. And while I’d rather schedule marathon viewings of “Firefly”, long bubble baths to soothe my aching back, or hour-long sessions of cat-skritching, unfortunately none of those pay my bills.

Sometimes very difficult to explain to my Cat Overlord.

So, instead of leading the life of luxurious sloth I so richly deserve, I find my boss is an absolute bitch about deadlines. I know people depend on my finished work in order to accomplish theirs. I also know one of the best ways to kill your writing career is to make a habit of missing deadlines. That’s not to say when I set someone else a deadline I don’t understand when Real Life happens and things are derailed — sure, it’s happened to me. But I think the key here is communication. If I don’t think I’m going to meet a hard deadline then I’m in touch with the client as soon as possible to communicate that. To me, it is the height of unprofessionalism to stick your head in the sand and pretend the train wreck is not going to happen.

Do I miss the mark? Sure I do, but not often. It’s a personal thing. I know writers who blow off deadlines like it just doesn’t matter. That irritates me. Either you’re a professional or not — and if you are, act like it. Just because you have thirty days doesn’t mean you leave it to the last one. That’s stupid, and in NettaLand, a hanging offense.

Yes. I will find you, and I will hang you. But first, you will suffer.

The moral of this little story — if you’re not going to make it, communicate that factoid. This gives everyone a chance to make changes and shuffle important activities around.

***

Now that little lecture is over, let’s talk about something more fun, shall we?

Mired as I have been in writing web copy, I am very excited to be putting on my editor’s hat in the next week or so. Not only will I be editing the fabulous Lori Whitwam’s Make or Break, I will also be starting edits on the equally fabulous Patti Larsen’s second book in her Diamond City Trilogy. I’m very excited about both projects and can’t wait to begin.

Even more exciting, with the notes I’ve received from my blessed betas, hopefully I will begin revisions on Athena’s Promise.

This is Zach Carter. He looks like how I feel! Only he's so much cuter!

I’m not setting a deadline (heh) because I never know what the next day is going to bring and I have a wedding in August which deserves my full attention.

Don't worry, it's not me. I'd stick one of these in my eye first.

But, my hope is to have Athena’s Promise ready for publication in September. Of course, updates here as they happen. 🙂

And of course, I couldn’t let you go without expressing my eternal gratefulness to my beta readers. It really takes a special person to be a good beta reader, and all of mine are GREAT. Their insightful, perceptive and honest observations have confirmed some thoughts I had and opened my eyes to places where Athena’s Promise needs a little help. Thanks to them, I can take Pallas and her story to the next level, and for that I can’t thank them enough.

I Love You Beta Readers! *MUAH*

Change Is The Only Constant

Yep, some changes in Netta-Land, and while change is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a little disconcerting.
So, if you’re tired of the same old story…turn some pages.

This is me — turning some pages.

***

One of the biggest changes and one I am ecstatic over, is the position I’ve accepted at Etopia Press as a Content Editor. I am over the moon.

This moon. Not the other kind of moon. That would just be wrong.

I am so happy about this because fiction has always been my first love, story my passion. I really enjoy working with new authors and taking a manuscript to the next level. This position allows me to expand my scope and exercise my Mad Editing Skillz, as well as provide an opportunity to meet and work with some outstanding authors. I am very excited about this!

I decided to sign with Etopia for many reasons. One of them was because of the fabulous Managing Editor and founder, Annie Melton. Not only is she smart and savvy, she and I share the same driving passion for story and what really resonates with me is her respect for writers in general. She gets it. Annie has a lot of experience in the publishing and editing field, and she has the kind of high standards I can get behind 100%. I feel very fortunate.

So, if you are interested in working with an indie press dedicated to nurturing and supporting both new and established writers, take a look at Etopia Press. If you think it would be a fit, use their submission form and if you would like to work with me, include my name. If accepted, your story, novella or novel will come to me and we would get to play together! Doesn’t that sound like fun?!

Don't be scared. Those are fake horns. Mostly.

I am interested in all genres, but I will admit a fondness for speculative fiction, horror, paranormal, urban fantasy…you get the picture. Length doesn’t matter (so many jokes here, so little time, but I’ll spare you, heh!) because I love short stories as much as I do longer works.

Send me what you have! I’d love to see it.

***

And not so much of a change, but in addition, I have some new releases on my Amazon. Three of the covers I did myself, but the cover of The Blood is Not Enough was done by Laurie O’Hare who totally nailed it on the first try. I love this cover so much, I’m thinking about getting a tattoo. The story means a lot to me, and could be in development as a longer work.

My other cover, for Of Virgins and Indigestion was done by graphic artist Rebecca Treadway. She brought George to life, and it is SO COOL! This is the first Netta Character ever to have a face, and I’m so happy with it. I love George, bless his heart.

Both of these stories appear in Not Nice and Other Understatements but stand quite nicely on their own. I’ve also packaged a selection of stories in On the Edge of Insanity – A Triptych of Crazy and Little Rebellions for those who aren’t sure they want the whole collection. (And why not?)

For something new, I’ve released a volume of twelve stories called Musical Chairs – A Jamming Bio, a unique look at significant memories over a period of time inexorably linked to a selection of popular music.

More projects in the works as time allows. Stay tuned.

***

Another major change in Netta-Land is I’ve decided, except for a few select clients, to retire from writing web copy. I’ve had a good run, but it looks as though the Universe is poking me to travel in a different direction. To that end, I am currently on the hunt for an Outside Job Involving Real People. (Oh, the horror! Heh. For me, not them! Although some people may differ on that opinion.)

I’ve chosen to do this for many reasons. The main reason is I want to focus on my editing and writing endeavors. Right now that’s not enough to support me, so I will have to adapt. I can do that.

Decisions, decisions.

Another reason is I have become increasingly disenchanted with writing web copy, and this is partly due to the demanding deadlines. Now, I don’t have a problem with deadlines, and I have made it a priority to never miss one and I am proud to say I haven’t. But it is extremely wearing to always be “on alert”, so-to-speak, especially with other factors becoming major issues.

“What factors, Netta?”

Well, I’m glad you asked that question, Dear Reader. Factors like low pay, unreliable payments, disrespect and general Fucktardary (sure to be the subject of another NettaRant. I’m sure you can’t wait). I’ve had enough, to be perfectly blunt. Truth is, I know the world of fiction and publishing a lot better than I know the world of web copy, and I’m much more comfortable with fiction. I’ve straddled the line for almost three years, and it’s time to pick a side.

Talk to the hand.

So, I have.

I don’t count my years writing web copy full-time as a loss. I have learned so much that will serve me well in the fiction arena, and I feel as if those lessons will give me an edge. I’ve met and worked with some fabulous people, and I’ll still be working with a select few. I also feel as if it’s time to put my butt on the line in a different way, and to that end I will focus my energy on what I truly love to do.

Change is the only constant. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.