• Tag Archives editing
  • The importance of beta readers and editing for self-publishing

    Red pen

    My post last week on The costs of self-publishing one book. By the numbers., elicited some passionate responses and more than 900 views so far. The response proves to me that authors, new and seasoned, are curious to know if they are on the right track.

    All I can share with you is my experience–the good, the bad and the ugly–of my first effort at self-publishing Haunt My Heart.

    One of the biggest points of contention in that post last week was the discussion that I spent too much on editing (or in the case of the copy editing too little). Some suggested I could have used beta readers for the editing or a critique group and saved that expense altogether.

    I consider the building of my writing career to be the same type of investment one would make with any new business or franchise. No one starts a new business for absolutely no money. It cost money to make money and cheap is not always the best way to go. Sure you can rely on beta readers for your editing and make your own book covers in Canva or Word or whatever program you manage to manipulate successfully, but is that the best course? Does the quality truly reflect the image you want readers to have? Is it your best?

    For the record, I do utilize beta readers but their input comes well before I ever send my work to an editor. Once I finish the first draft, I follow Stephen King’s advice from On Writing and let the story rest for a week or two. Honestly, the longer the better. As an author, there’s always another story to be working on or a book to promote, or other authors’ works waiting patiently on my Kindle to be read.

    When I go back to that story, I reread it with fresh perspective. It really is like the King says, almost like reading someone else’s work. Next I scour through the manuscript for my personal demons: ly words, just, that, only, feel (show, don’t tell), was and all passive voice. I pay close attention to my POV and make sure I haven’t slipped out of character. I comb through those pages with care until I know I’ve done everything that I can from my biased perspective.

    Then I send it to six of my trusted beta readers. One is my first reader and not a writer, but she tells me what I need to hear, not necessarily what I want to hear. She tells me when my characters are whiney and unlikable or do ridiculous things that make no sense. She points out when I’ve had three days and no nights or my timeline is so wonky there’s no way it will work without time travel. The other beta readers are also writers.

    Their time is especially precious because I know they have their own projects as well but their input via Word track changes is priceless. They catch things readers overlook or are oblivious to like dialogue punctuation and POV head hopping.

    After I consider the changes/suggestions from all six, I pour through the manuscript yet again, polishing and shining until it’s the best I can make it.

    Then I send it to my editor. And she makes 1,091 comments of suggested changes. Not. Even. Kidding.

    Some of the changes, on Haunt for instance, were things like simultaneous actions. Two things that are physically impossible to do at the same time. Like these examples:

    Sarah joined her in the car, shutting the door against the cold.

    (How did Sarah join her in the car if she shut the door at the same time? One thing happened first: Sarah joined her in the the car, then shut the door against the cold.)

    Floating up and then out from his body, he stood beside it.

    (Pretty sure you can’t float and stand at the same time: He floated up and out from his body, then stood beside it.)

    Apparently this is a pretty common rookie mistake I make when trying to vary my sentence starts. I had 62 simultaneous action comments from my editor to correct. I challenge you to find one in Haunt My Heart now, ha!

    My editor makes both structural edits for me and light line edits in the first round. More line edits in the second round. And usually a third run through before we call it a done deal. At that point, I send it to my copy editor/proofreader for a final run through. My copy editor is an eagle-eyed grammar Nazi. For real.

    The final stage is formatting.

    I do not have the patience for formatting so I hire it out and it’s back in 24 hours. I could spend a week on it and still not have it right. I know my limitations.

    The last step for me is a final read through for any last-minute typos or formatting weirdness.

    By this time, I’ve read through my work eight to ten times. All the way through. Honestly, I sort of hate it a little by then, but I do it. For you.

    Nothing turns me off quicker than to find mistakes in a book. It happens to everyone. I found several in the latest edition of The Stand  by Stephen King and other bestselling novels. No one is immune.

    But I do my best to avoid it with several layers of editing. Every time. And when I do find something wrong, I fix it.

    No one is perfect but that doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to be.

    Want to read my first self-publishing effort?

    Get Haunt My Heart here: Amazon Kindle     

    3D Haunt my HeartBook Description:

    A Civil War soldier dies to save his men. Can he find true love to live again?

    Sarah Knight has a job she’s good at, a quirky BFF, and a boyfriend who’s bad for her. When Sarah unearths a Civil War artifact on a ghost hunt at Chatham Manor, she brings home more than a souvenir.

    Lieutenant James “Tanner” Dawson fought for the Union, working as a supernatural liaison for his Major General in a secret Masonic offset called the Brothers of Peril. When he’s hexed by a witch, he learns the only way to save his men is to die himself. But death is not the end. Awakening 150 years later, he knows if he wants to be corporeal again, he has to find true love to break the hex—a task no easier in 21st century than it was in the 19th.

    Don’t miss a thing! Sign up for my NEW RELEASE NEWSLETTER.




  • Reaping The Benefits: Tracking Book 3 and Book 2 Edits

    IMG_3928 (1024x768)

    I received my next two contracts from Harlequin in the mail last week and diligently filed them away. I can’t believe this is becoming routine.

    Monday, August 12, I’ll get my structural edits for Reap & Redeem, book two of my Reaper Series.

    My goal (admittedly impossible) was to finish writing book three before the book two edits arrived. That did not happen. Life happened.

    What did happen is that I wrote 24,646 words in fifteen days, and now I’m sitting at 61K on book three. I still have to write the ending and the entire first draft feels thin to me. After my book two edits are finished, I’ll be ready to tackle it again. I need to be over 80K at completion. And I have to turn it in by October 31.

    Now THAT is scary.

    I have a problem with all of my books actually ending around 70K then I tack stuff onto the end. Apparently, I should be writing 70K length books. But the contract says 80k and that’s what I’ll do. Originally I thought I would write maybe ten books in this series but it’s feeling more like a trilogy.

    I have plenty of characters I can spin off into a new direction however, so we’ll see.

    After I finish with book three, Reap & Reveal, I plan to take a break and wait for at least one of them to publish. It looks like Jan-March will be the likely time frame for Reap & Repent. Reap & Redeem should come out three months later. I can’t wait to have a book out so I can start sharing and promoting it!

    Although, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from the keyboard for long.

    I have two other book ideas eating a hole in my NOVEL IDEAS folder. One is a ghost romance and the other is an erotic vacation romance. I also plan to write a Reaper short story to post on my site or sub to an anthology once the books start publishing.

    Once the writing Kraken is released, it won’t go easily back into the dark night.

  • Anything I Can Do You Can Do Better!

    Gosh. Today another email from Harlequin magically appeared in my inbox–for the next two Reaper Series books. One, Reap & Reveal, I’m working on right now.

    Okay, so right now, I’m screwing off on the internet and writing a post…you know what I mean.

    My friend Beth Carter, author and marketing guru for our group, says that marketing is not bragging. Sometimes, posting about these amazing successes does feel like bragging, but I sincerely hope no one else sees it that way.

    My intent is to journal the process and the progress–good and bad. Because if I can do this, you can too. If you’ve ever had a germ of an idea float through your head that you just couldn’t shake or even a passing desire to write, what are you waiting for?

    Granted, publishing a book is not like winning the lottery. Most books don’t make 50 Shades of the Harry Potter Games money. There are many other rewards, however.

    Who knows were the path might lead you.

    Join us in Springfield, Sept. 21 at the fabulous University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center for ORACON (Ozarks Romance Authors Conference).  Let us motivate you and help you along your path to publication.

    Register now, right here and start writing TODAY.

    A year from now, you’ll be so glad you did.




  • Write. Edit. Write. Edit. Repeat.

    First off, I’d like to give huge thanks to my editor, Angela Polidoro, for her saint-like patience in editing my first novel, Reap & Repent. The woman is the Word Whisperer. For reals.

    Angela sent me three pages of structural edits to help me get my sometimes random and errant plot in line. I’m a pantser. Or at least I was on the first book. A pantser just starts writing with a vague idea of where the story may or may not go then continues forward until the end.

    Yeah. That was book one.

    Angela labored meticulously over my book, pulling the gems forward and giving me gentle suggestions of ways to solve my plot problems.

    I did everything she said and basically rewrote/restructured the second half of the book. It’s much better.

    Then came the line edits. Holy. Cow. She would give Job a run for his money in patience. I happily accepted all of her suggestions and tried to find some rhyme to reason or common denominator in her edits so I could do better next time. I don’t know if she laughed more or cried more during what had to be painfully tedious revisions.

    I emailed her and asked for any common things I could try to avoid next time to save her sanity. She just said,” Everyone needs a good polish!”

    Bless her heart.

    She’s the best and most positive cheerleader. She’s obviously worked with dozens of emotionally needy authors and knows how to soothe our savage insecurities.

    I promised her I could do better.

    She already has book two. I think my plot/story is better in book two. It’s a darker book, which I totally dig. More of a J.R. Ward vibe (I hope) as opposed to the little quirkier vibe of book one. I suppose I’ll know soon since she’s reading it now.

    I only have 800 words written on book three so far, but I do have five pages of notes.

    Slowly but surely, I’m upgrading to a plotter. See…I can learn.

    God help me.

    God help us all.


  • RT Convention 2013 & Book Two is in the Wind

    IMG_3379 (1024x768)

    So…this happened.

    May has already brought so much writerly awesomeness, I couldn’t wait any longer to post about it.

    The first week of May, I attended my first ever big writerly, book lovers convention hosted by the Romantic Times Review Magazine. If you love romances in any or all flavors, you should subscribe. They review hundreds of romance novels every month, and you get sneak peaks and previews of what’s on the horizon. It will do your bookshelf and your Kindle good.

    The pic above was taken with the fabulous cover models of Ellora’s Cave. I wasn’t going to have a pic taken but then thought, Carpe Diem, baby! They are called the Cave Men by the way. Yeah.

    I knew going to this convention would be intense. I signed up for one craft workshop after another and was booked from dawn until well after dusk. I hit every party and mixed and mingled my butt off. It was FANTASTIC!

    IMG_3383 (1024x768)

    Luckily for me, it was in Kansas City this year and the spectacular A.M. Buxton (an Ozarks Romance Girl) was my roomie. The fabulous Cara Bristol was also my partner in crime at more than one event.

    IMG_3393 (624x1024)
    Cara & I took our shoes off to wait in line for the ball. I can’t do high maintenance footwear for very long.
    IMG_3399 (768x1024)
    I look like an Amazon next to the cute little Cara Bristol!

    Cecily White, ORA girl and author of the new YA Prophecy Girl got to SIGN in the GINORMOUS BOOK FAIR. Look at me, dropping names like they’re hot. And they were!

    IMG_3404 (1024x768)

    Our Ozarks Romance Authors are on fire this year. We’ve had so many books published I’m losing track!

    The book fair was incredible because I got to put faces with names and Facebook/Twitter heads. I even got to shake hands and meet several authors in person. It was so cool. Maybe next year…I’ll be there.

    IMG_3403 (1024x300)

    I’m not generally ate up with the whole autograph thing, but I came home with a dozen signed books. In fact, the swag factor was a little overwhelming. I’m not sure how effective swag is in the long run, but in the short run people were collecting it like it was gold. I came home with a bagful myself but mostly in the spirit of education.

    IMG_3405 (768x1024)

    Here is my haul of FREE books. There were 50 paperbacks, and I still haven’t made it through the pile of postcards with free ebooks yet.

    Most of these will go to ORA for raffle baskets at our Sept. 21, 2013 convention in Springfield. A few I’ll keep for SOMEDAY. Yeah, my to-be-read pile is ridiculous.

    On the writing front, I turned my structural edits in to my editor Angela Polidoro before I left for the convention and weeks ahead of time. Angela had some fantastic suggestions to restructure my plot. I basically rewrote the last hundred pages, but it was worth it.

    Now she’s sent the line edits and a few comments to HQ headquarters and as soon as they get back to her I’ll dive into those. I pulled the trigger and sent book two to her after taking one more pass through it and writing the most painful synopsis known to man.

    I really stink at a synopsis. All the details seem so important. It’s tough choosing the high points. Instead of agonizing over it, I whipped it out and hit send. I hope it’s okay.

    I did have the pleasure of meeting Malle Vallik, the director of the Harlequin e (Harlequin Digital First line). She bought me a drink (very grownup I know!) and filled me in on the happenings. I’m excited to be included in the beginnings of this venture. Malle thought Reap & Repent would publish as an ebook sometime between January and March. Book two, Reap & Redeem, could publish as quickly as three months after that.

    Now my mission is to begin book three, Reap & Reveal. I have some good notes and plan to dive in this week. Hell, I might even actually plot this one.

    I know, crazy time. Right?

  • Editing Redeux: Round One

    I just hit SEND on my first round of official edits.

    It feels great.

    And terrifying.

    I had no idea what to expect since this is the first time I’ve ever worked with an actual, real-life, official editor. Angela gave me some fantastic suggestions of ways to combine the two main plot lines of my story so my action would build tension instead of rising/falling/rising then falling again.

    She also had some terrific advice as to how I could layer in details and build depth in my hero and heroine. I worked for two weeks, a few hours at a time, weaving in the details she suggested. Then last Saturday in one twelve-hour marathon session, I reworked the last hundred pages of the book. Sunday I spent nine hours reading through the book from start to finish so I could hold it all in my head for continuity.

    This week, I reread through the last hundred pages twice more tweaking and correcting.

    I feel like the story is much stronger now. My girlfriend, Dawn, read through it again for me after I made the changes and helped me clean up the loose ends. Now, it’s in Angela’s hands as I head to the Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City next week.

    It’s such a relief to be going to this conference to learn and socialize instead of trying to sell my work. I’ve never been very good at sales, but I do like meeting new people and this convention is going to be filled with readers and writers. I know it will be inspiring.

    The best part so far is Friday I got an invitation to a Harlequin luncheon to talk about the new digital first series. My book is one of the first acquired in the Fantasy/Fantasy Romance genre. How cool is that? Very, very cool.

    On another note, you may have noticed, the title is changing. I loved the title Reap ‘Em & Weep but the new title is more appropriate for the story AND it is more consistent with the series titles I have coming up. So Reap ‘Em & Weep becomes Reap & Repent.

    The second book in the series is Reap & Redeem. I finished the first draft of it in January and as soon as Reap & Repent is completely out of my hands and heading towards production, I’ll go back and begin my work on book two. I have plenty of ideas to plump it up and make it even stronger.

    Book three notes are compiled, and it’s impatiently knocking on the basement door of my mind. I’ve been able to keep it at bay since I’ve been concentrating on book one so much, but I’m pretty sure it’s ready to burst out as soon as I crack that door open.

    It’s an exciting time. I can’t wait to see what’s in store with the new Harlequin Digital First imprint. They are accepting submissions for so many cool new genres there is something for nearly everyone! Shivers (Gothic), Horror, Intrigue Noir, Space Opera, Reckonings, Erotic Vacation, Big Book Melodrama, Pop, Mystery, Time Travel, Time Travel Romance, Fantasy & Fantasy Romance, Science Fiction and Science Fiction Romance, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, Teen Romance, Your Brilliant Idea*.

    If you are a writer, you should definitely check them out. They accept submissions 10K and up in most of the categories.

    Get your words on and come play with me at Harlequin.

  • I Have An Editor!

    welcome writing After much waiting (okay, so it wasn’t that long, but I am exceedingly impatient), I have an editor! Yesterday, the amazing Miss A (keeping her secret identity for now, ha!) contacted me to tell me she has been assigned as my editor. We exchanged several emails, and I love her already. And let me tell you, there’s a lot to love about her. She spent the last five years working as an editor for a MAJOR NY PUBLISHER before signing on with HARLEQUIN.

    Uh, yeah…she’s da bomb. Lucky for you, dear reader, she’ll soon have me sparkling like a scythe in the moonlight. I’ll speak with her again next week, and she expects to get my first edits to me mid April. Then…it’s game on!

    Speaking of editors…you have an opportunity to unleash YOUR inner editor on the first page of my second book in The Reaper Series, Reap & Redeem. I’m on the chopping block over at historical romance author Mia Marlowe’s page which you can find HERE. Edit on!*

    *No editors were consulted in the writing of this post. All mistakes are my own. Sigh.

  • Author In Waiting

    February 2013 002

    So it’s been a while since I posted because I’ve been waiting. And waiting. And waiting since my big news. 

    If you know me at all, you know that patience is not my strongest trait. Of course I’m also a multitasker so I’ve been putting my downtime to good use.

    I did another pass through of Reap & Redeem eliminating extraneous LY words and added several hundred words in rewrites to end at 79,389 which is within striking distance of my 80K goal.

    Here’s the thing with LY words for you readers out there who aren’t or have no ambition to become writers. You probably never even notice LY words, but LY words are the TELLING part of the story. As authors we are tasked with SHOWING you what’s happening like it’s on a big screen in your head. You are going to fill in subtle details the way you want to, but we have to SHOW you body language and action instead of just telling you after the fact. That way you get to make your own assumptions and deductions (like in real life) about what’s really going on: the underlying subtext.

    Sounds easy but for me at least, it’s been a real learning curve to overcome.

    One of my beta readers (first readers or your work before all of the edits) suggested I look at my LY words in book one, Reap ‘Em & Weep. I did a ‘find’ in Word and discovered 1,395 LY words. Eek! I went through it word-by-word and rewrote down to 803 LY words. Still too many, but a colossal improvement. Harlequin did/is doing revisions on the copy BEFORE I did that so I expect that to be one of the many big things they suggest.

    Over the past couple of weeks, I gave the same attention to Reap & Redeem. You would think the second book might be better but keep in mind I didn’t get the LY suggestion until AFTER the second book was already finished. I had 1,345 LY words in book two. Doh!

    That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited and anxious to get my HQ revisions back so I can learn and stop repeating the same mistakes. I’ll probably hold off on starting book three, Reap & Reveal until this summer. July seems to be my natural starting time for some weird reason.

    Between all the edits on book one and two that will be coming soon, I’ll have plenty to do, but I can’t stop thinking about the next book. A very good problem to have. From what I’ve read, book two is the biggest hurdle for success as an author. No one wants to be a one-shot wonder. I’m glad I’m past that milestone.

    Another way I’ve passed the time is by beta reading for Allison Merritt. She has a great indie published series called Legends & Lovers which combines romance, steampunk and the paranormal into a fabulous and fun package of readerly goodness. Go check her out here http://legendsandloversseries.blogspot.com/ . I beta read her third book in the series, The Turncoat’s Temptress which will be available sometime in April at an online retailer near you.

    February 2013 001

    I’ve also been hard at work compiling a Reaper Series Bible. A series bible is a collection of character sketches, settings, rules of your world, research and all the ephemera of my series so I can maintain some level of continuity from book to book. You know, so I don’t give Kylen blonde hair in book one and black hair in book two etc.

    The devil is in the details. You’d be amazed how difficult it is to keep all the minutia of two books in your head. Not. Possible. At least not for me, hence the series bible.

    I know soon. Very soon. I’m going to buried deep with revisions but I’m ready.

    Bring it.


  • Writing Resolutions

    August 2012 057 (1280x928)

    It’s time for some resolutions.  It’s time to make promises and hold ourselves accountable so we can all experience a great writing year.  What do you want to accomplish this year? Start a blog? Write your first short story? Write your first novel? Finish some of your unpolished gems lingering in the dusty corners of your hard drive?

    What’s holding you back?

    Make this the year of Git-R-Done! We can do this my friends. All we need is a plan and the stick-to-it-ness to make it happen. You make your plan, and Ozarks Romance Authors will help you with the motivation to see it through.

    We’ll begin with JANO (along with our Sleuths’ Ink friends) January 1 and kick things up a notch on January 5 at the Write-In over at The Creamery in Springfield, MO. Go here to signup now for JANO and here to signup for the Write-In! They are both FREE! You can follow JANOers on Twitter too at #JANO2013.

    If you haven’t seen the February and March speaker line-up for Ozarks Romance Authors, check out our ORA Facebook Page or the ORA website because you are not going to want to miss either meeting! Hot, hot, hot!

    My personal writing goals this year include:

    • Finish the last 25K of book two in my Reaper Series by Jan. 31 (my JANO project).
    • Edit, Polish, Edit, Polish both books until May 1
    • Attend the Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City May 1-5
    • Network, query, pitch and submit until Agents/Editors/Publishers bend to my will

    See…it’s just that easy.

    Make your goals. Post them. Live them.

    I want to see all your names (or pen names) in print somewhere this year!

    Submit! Submit! Submit!

  • Harlequin So You Think You Can Write Top 25!

    I made the Top 25!

    I still can’t believe it. It’s because of YOU, your persistent and frequent voting, and unwavering support.


    I got the email today at 11:30 am and nearly fell out of my chair. I was screaming around the office at the blood center like a crazy woman before I’d even read more than the first paragraph. I saw “Congratulations” and flipped out.

    I called Bryon, my mom, my aunt, my BFF then proceed to tell strangers and everyone on every social network I have ever been on. It was quite a day, and ten minutes ago I emailed my completed manuscript, synopsis and interview into Harlequin.

    It’s out of my hands.

    Editors will be reading all twenty-eight manuscripts (there were three wildcards, I could even have been one of them) over the next two weeks. They’ll announce the TOP THREE on Nov. 5. Then it’s up to public voting once again.

    It’s possible you could be pressed back into service.

    You’ve already proven your support. I’ve been very blessed.

    I hope we get to do it again.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.