Growing Pains… The Self-Editing Process

I completed my fourth book in my novelette series. I have been neglecting this blog. I am sorry. I had trouble trying to find the ‘perfect ending.’ Well, I decided that my stories are not perfect. That’s what makes them awesome. They are raw, dirty, unpredictable and jaw-dropping.

I couldn’t decide on a character and if they were going to be good or evil so I played around with them a few scenes. Then let it come naturally. I did my darndest to plan out this book, at first, but it always turns out I write the way I think. I let it flow and it happens naturally.

When I plan, I tend to write myself into corners and look around aimlessly. If I don’t plan I can crawl out a window or use the back door. Weird analogies but I am hoping you all get it.

I recall hearing the famous quote by Hemingway Write drunk, revise sober.” 

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Well, I am very uninhibited with my writing. This time was different. I tried to plan. I tried to be sober. It took a little longer until I decided that doesn’t work for me.

My revising and self-editing is another story. This process I need to do many times before I consider giving it up to a professional.

I have Grammarly in my Word Doc so I can pick up some flaws that Word doesn’t see; if I overused a word or if I need a comma. Usually, it’s because I used a comma too many times (I think). Grammarly loves to use commas for the words but, and, so, yet. I was taught these words connect phrases so that you don’t need a comma and Grammarly loves to try and add them. I am always second guessing myself while self-editing.

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I also have Hemingway set up in my laptop but it ruins my formatting if I integrate the document and app. I must have downloaded it wrong. The way I use Hemingway is I have the document open (messed up format) on the app and my original Word (better format) open in another window.

I look at the phrases or sentences they highlight as ‘hard sentences’ or ‘very hard sentences’ and reword them. They also highlight how many adverbs used in the document along with word count. Hemingway tells you your goal to match or stay under.

Weak phrases and words are in both apps. I do my best to reword these. As I am working on the self-editing with these two apps, I see how much I have to learn. I notice I am getting better at grammar but still have a way to go as a professional.

Once I go through these two processes, I read the story again. I make sure I didn’t add to the story or delete an essential section because my grammar was poor. This area is touchy. I wrote it, I read it a few times already, sometimes I can’t remember what is still in the work or in my head.

I give a copy to my mom. She reads it and gives me feedback. She asks me questions or tells me if there’s something missing. If anyone is not afraid of telling me the truth, it is my mother. She is my biggest supporter and can be an honest critic. My mother knows success comes with honest feedback. I consider mothers to be true test readers.

I have others that I can go to. I use them once in a while, but many of my friends and family have little ones to care for, so it is difficult for them to find the time.

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So, I get my feedback. I write down the questions and reread the manuscript. As I read, the story may change again. This means some other areas might change. I should mention here I have a printed copy of the manuscript and three highlighters.

The highlighters are to keep me updated on where and what I changed or what I kept the same. The yellow highlighter is used first. This is used to show where the significant changes are needed. The blue is where the main plot and scenes are. The orange is for the subplots and twists or turns. A pen is used to just cross things out entirely and rewrite in the margins.

After I read the hard copy, I take it and go back to the laptop. Sometimes this is more tedious than the original writing. I think this fourth novelette edit will be no different.

Jerry Jenkins has a 21-part checklist you can download for free. I read over it and if you don’t have any apps that are integrated into your laptops, I suggest you check it out.

Here are four of the suggestions in the checklist:

Deleted that, except when necessary

Omitted needles words

Chosen the simple word over the complicated one. Anywhere I could have simplified, I have.

Deleted the word literally when I actually mean figuratively.

One thing I found interesting is he said to omit overuse of adjectives and adverbs. I agree with this, I see it in my work. I noticed he uses adverbs in his checklist which forced me to recognize how he could have omitted the needless words.

I tend to do something so I need to add this to his list. Tense…I change the tense in my work without realizing. I go from past tense to present, and vice versa.

I would like to omit one from the list. Jenkins mentions using the word ‘said’ as opposed to any other option. I have found that an annoying word while reading if it is there too often. I feel it is not an ‘invisible word’ as many call it.

I know many disagree with me. I had a debate in my free writing class with my professor on this (years ago). I write a lot of dialogue in my stories. Half the book would be the word said (or says) if I did this. I would not want to read my own work if I went with the rule.

Most of the checklist is awesome and I use it. I believe in it. It will make me a better writer. Don’t get me wrong. I suggest you print one out for yourself. check out his website

After all of your self-editing and the checklist, more editing/revising is complete you pay your editor(s) to go to work. I can’t afford to go to multiple people on my stories. I know many go to a content editor, a proofreader, and the others to get the most out of their books.

My accomplishment is one editor. I am happy to afford one. Test readers will be another, thank goodness they are not paid. The ups and downs of newbie writers. Good luck, I see many posts on editing which means many are at that final stage. I hope to see some great stories out there soon!

 

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. - Colin Powell

Have a great weekend and stay fabulous!

Robyn Branick

aka

Robbie Ellie

 

 

 

Growing Pains…Is It Worth Paying For Advice?

I have been contemplating this for months now. I sign up on an expert’s mailing list for some free advice, I am blown away by their knowledge, I look up the ‘VIP’ package, I almost pass out by the amount they ask. I go through this vicious cycle at least once every two weeks.

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In the beginning, it was a little bit more often. I knew a lot less, obviously. I learned a few tricks since then. I am reading blogs, I am listening to podcasts, and I am learning many of the experts are friends with each other.

Some associate more often than others. Some are former students of the experts on the podcasts. For example, Joanna Penn is a former student of Mark Dawson. Does this make a difference in deciding whether it’s worth listening to her praise his product? I don’t know. All I know is they are both reasonably successful authors in their own rights, in fiction and nonfiction.

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I can find out a lot of information online for free. Do I know what I need to know? I have no idea. I know I have three emails on my list and one is mine. Not great.

I also know that I was going about this process wrong for the entire time I began my career as a Self Publishing Author.

I advertised two of my five free days of my KDP Unlimited. I forget where I hear that Sundays and Mondays were great days to use, but it worked. I got great exposure. I waited a few weeks, advertised, and asked for those two days. My ebook rocketed to #5 in my category.

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Well, that did nothing for me. I skipped the most important step in the process. I didn’t request reviews, nor did I have a link to an email list anywhere in the ebook. I didn’t even have a link to a website. I was pretty ignorant. I had about a thousand downloads in one day, and I did nothing to solidify any of those readers to become fans.

If I did more research or if I followed the close advice of a paid expert, I might have set it up correctly. I learned this step on my own weeks after my freebie launch. I learned by making BIG mistakes, reading up, watching YouTube, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and paying closer attention.

I am absolutely confident that I don’t have the faintest idea of my next mistake if I stay solo. I most likely will not know even if I go the pay the piper route. I think I would be able to narrow it down, or at least ask. I could probably ask if I felt comfortable in any groups I am in too. The cyber introvert takes over; this I need to get over. I’m sure there are many of us out there (at least I like to think so).

Say you choose an expert course. Which one do you choose? I tend to think the course material is similar since many of the authors run in the same circles, no? Well, Kindlepreneur wrote an article on his blog about four self-publishing courses. He broke them down and analyzed them. He ACTUALLY took the courses, according to the article.

The article is called:

SELF PUBLISHING COURSES: WHICH ONE IS BEST FOR YOU?

So, not all of the courses are EXACTLY the same, I guess.

I know there were a few emails I received about a specific course. I didn’t trust the expert and the money they were asking? I almost fainted.

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I appreciate you trying to make some money but woah! The reason I need help is that I am not making money. You think I have over a thousand dollars to hand to you? I will stick to searching the internet and making mistakes, thank you.

There are swindlers in every business. This person is rarely seen in the circle, I believe I only noticed one or two webinar spots with this person involved. Then the person disappeared. That leads me to think others saw through the garbage too.

So maybe it is a good thing I did not choose to pick up an expert course so quick out of the gate. I may have ( couldn’t afford that person) picked up the wrong expert for me. I might have not been ready or may not have understood the terminology. Maybe I would have been lost in some of the material. Possibly I would have listened to a swindling expert that would have steered me in the wrong direction.

I wouldn’t know, as I was so new and green at the time. Timing seems to be in everything we do. Whether you choose an expert or go the ‘organic’ route (a term I’ve learned from experts meaning free), I wish you the best of luck.

 

Stay fabulous.

Robyn Branick

aka

Robbie Ellie

Growing Pains…Reviews

The other day, I was reading an article on how a newbie or unknown author can improve the number of reviews on their books. I didn’t implement any of the tactics as of yet, I am still waiting on how useful my improved blurbs are. I must wait another week or two before I change anything.

However, I was curious if I received any new reviews for my perma free book or my other books. To my surprise, I received one. Let me be clear, the first review I received for “Wendy’s Song” was great but I will not be discussing it. This review was a five star and the comments were complimentary.

Yesterday, I received another review for the book, it was two out of five stars. The confusion for me is, the comments for me were complimentary as well (in my eyes). Except for the first line, I didn’t think it was so bad.

“I did not enjoy it unfortunately.

It is well written and realistically painful.

I read to escape and this made me sad.”

I felt good after this review. I don’t know how many see the two stars and not read the comments. I am not sure how many will skip the blurb and read the review. The reviewer did not like the book, which is fine. I am not going to connect with everyone’s taste.

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It worries me now; how do I move on and start to ask for reviews after I received a two star? My style is to evoke anger, sadness and (at times) the feeling of loss or confusion. The emptiness one feels inside when you just lost a playoff game or your childhood pet runs away.

If I struck that emotion inside of you, I doubt you will be happy with me. I think the comments might be nice, but I am not sure about the stars. I am not positive about all the comments. “John’s Journey” has a review and the title is called “A book with two endings.” This review received three stars.

I love that the title is so captivating. The reviewers are giving me GREAT advertising. I am confused on the star ratings. It is more apparent the “John’s Journey” review is less appreciated, but the comments give more of a synopsis than hate or love of the book. This is why I am assuming it is more a hatred of ‘a book with two endings.’

I may have misunderstood the review. Either way, I love getting input in comments. Having only stars would make me cry. Having both stars and comments gives me agita.

For one small moment, I was confused. I questioned myself. I don’t have five-star reviews but I have okay comments. I didn’t feel comfortable asking for reviews, to begin with, but I knew the task has to be done.

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I decided to check out my email. I needed to forget this for a little while, let it fester in my subconscious. My brain will work it out somehow. I opened an email that was surprisingly perfect for what I was going through. I thought only Facebook read my mind; now I have experts emailing me and knew EVERYTHING I was thinking.

The email essentially said not to let a one-star review get you down. There will be one-star reviews and there will be nasty comments coming my way, it’s inevitable. At this moment, it hasn’t happened, but if an expert says it will happen, I’m not going to argue.

I am still astonished at the timing of the email. It couldn’t come at a better time. I am really grateful for the free advice that so many experts offer. I really love the comradery I feel in this industry.

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I know I blog, but to be honest, I am not one to put myself out there and comment much on unfamiliar social media posts. I notice many familiar names are connected on social media and it is a helpful and welcoming community. This is encouraging for cyber introverts like me.

 

Well, thank you for the email and encouragement. If you have an email list, a little bit of support goes a long way. I know this one did for me today. I will also remember this for when I have more than three people on my list. I am sure that will happen soon. I know by the time I get a nice list I will know what the heck to do with it, too.

Stay five-star fabulous and have a great day!

Robyn Branick

aka

Robbie Ellie

 

 

 

Growing Pains…Blurbs, Again!

This is the third post in a row discussing blurbs, but I am beginning to realize they are unavoidable and the difference between book sales and going back to waitressing. I love waitressing, but I would rather sell books.

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Vania Margene Rheault commented on my last post about Libbie Hawker’s blurb tips. I took notes and went through the exercises. After I completed both of Libbie Hawker’s YouTube video’s (both about 13 minutes long, first one here), I reread my blurbs.

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Wow! I do need the practice. I might have been better off leaving some blurbs blank (I’m aware that’s ridiculous). I did a complete overhaul of my e-books. Well, I ‘reblurbed’ my novelette series. For now, I will keep the children’s books as they are. I would like to experiment for a bit. See if the books that are ‘reblurbed’ sell any better than non-revised blurbs.

While I was completing the YouTube exercises, I came across Joanna Penn’s video on Back Book Blurbs. This video is only about five minutes long and gives an insight on what to say for the print version of your synopsis.

Both videos shared have two things I felt that are very important. A target audience and words that are relevant to the genre. I am probably always discussing simple tips to everyone, but to me, they are such common sense, and I don’t think of them. Almost as if when you walk in a room a thousand times, and someone asks what was on the mantle, you can’t answer. It’s always overlooked.

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The target audience of my books is in their thirties and forties. The books are set in the 1990s to early 2000s so they will identify with my main characters. If I said JNCO jeans, most (if not all) of my target audience would understand this detail. Many probably wore them in their teen years. If my target audience were six-year-olds, they would have no idea, JNCOs went out of business years ago.

Then again, JNCOs shouldn’t be in the blurb to begin with. That is a detail. It is vital to stick with the four or five (depending on which article you are reading/ watching) key points and stick to the ‘meat’ (Libbie’s comment) without taking away from your key points.

According to Reedsy’s How to Write a Book Blurb: A Guide for Novelists, using keywords in your blurb will help your Amazon book sales if you write the correct word strings or phrase. For example, if I were to write my synopsis to a mystery or thriller, I would make sure I used the phrase ‘murder victim’ (if there was one in the story). The phrase murder victim will become an Amazon keyword that book.

Both Joanna Penn and Reedsy point out a blurb should be very short. Joanna Penn says 100-150 words for the back of a  print book, Reedsy claims 150-200 words. I didn’t catch if Libbie Hawker gave a word count, but she agrees that the synopsis should not be bogged down with details.

Last post I was curious if I could have a review from Sammy in San Diego (or any regular Joe). Reedsy answered this question. If I have a raving review from an editorial or a reader, I can use it in the blurb. I only have one or two reviews for my books, but this is good news for me.

A few of my books only have five-star reviews with no comments. The readers will see this, so I see no need in wasting my word count by saying ‘five stars’ unless I have nothing more to say.

In any event, I am happy I continued on the quest for influential blurbs. I would never have been able to utilize the content just by ‘researching examples.’ I think I missed the mark. It seems I am researching a bit backward. Maybe I should investigate how to succeed in whatever task it is, then look at examples.

I need to make a mental note of this. At this rate, my one-year goal may need to be pushed back a few months. It is still early, we shall see. Sticking to the plan is essential for success, no?

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Next post will be Friday, I don’t know what I will be blogging about yet, but it will definitely be on writing and not marketing. I am going back to that side of things for a while. A good friend told me it is good to change things up a bit, to keep things from getting stale. Besides, we are writers, that’s the part of the job we like best.

Happy writing and stay fabulous.

Robyn Branick

aka

Robbie Ellie