Awesome Author Updates

Awesome Author Updates

It’s been a little bit of time since I posted here, so I figured I might as well break the ice by doing some author updates.anniversary-1x

  • I have been on WordPress for one year! Yay! During that time, I have received over 23,000 views, which is about 2,000 views per month, so it’s not too terrible.
  • I have finally finished doing a myriad of edits for When Stars Die’s sequel, The Stars Are Infinite. I have cut out over 11,000 words, just from copy editing alone. I have sent it off to my publisher and am just waiting to hear back. More edits are probably going to be needed, because there’s only so much you can do by yourself, but hopefully the edits won’t be as severe as the ones I had to do to get rid of a bunch of those words.
  • My author website has been entirely re-vamped. The editorial tab is still under construction. I do have a rough draft contract, but I just haven’t sent it off to be looked at. But here is the link to my website. I hope you all adore it as much as I do.
  • My most popular post on Tumblr thus far has over 1500 notes, and I have over 1600 followers on Tumblr! For me it’s been easier to get followers on Tumblr than on here, but it’s probably because Tumblr is that one platform that has been successful for me. However, the SEO tags on WordPress are great, plus my Tumblr and WordPress are both connected to my Twitter and Facebook page, and my WordPress is also connected to my Tumblr.
  • Mike Evans has started a Kickstarter campaign. He will be a future editorial client of mine and is seeking donations to help him with the publication of his book, The Orphans. I’ve done a sample edit, and I can tell you it’s going to be a fun zombie read. Just donating a few dollars will help out–and spreading the word, especially.
  • When Stars Die has finally reached 70 reviews on Goodreads! It’s slow-going with the reviews, I know, but it’s nice to know that at this many it has a rating of 4.36. That tells me I definitely did something right.  Screenshot (56)
  • The Turning Pages will be hosting my books at their own personal books signing and awards event. I won’t be there, because I can’t afford it, but if you’re in the Orlando area, stop by and check out my books. They’re all autographed and you can pick up some flyers, which can be used as bookmarks. You can buy tickets here.
  • Youtube channel! Yes, I will be going back to my Youtube channel. You know why? Because I spent 78 dollars on the best HD webcam available on Amazon (#1 Bestseller!), so you better believe I’m going to start some vidoes. A lot of my episodes will be inspired by what my Tumblr fans would love to see, but you guys can also give me inspiration as well. My first video will be an introduction to me, and I’ll answer a few questions some of my Tumblr fans have asked.

Well, that’s all for the author updates! As for my personal life, I started online courses, which I definitely prefer over going to class. I’ve had to step down from pointe work due to an ankle injury, but I can still do ballet–I’m just very limited in what I can do. Jumps are one thing I definitely am not allowed to do.  It’s OS Trigonum Syndrome, which is just having an extra bone at the back of my ankle that didn’t properly ossify when I was young, so it either fused to my talus or is being held in place by cartilage. But pointe work did me in with that one. It just started crushing it, basically, although it’s not as violent as it sounds, even though it is painful. Just cross your fingers that I don’t need surgery. Research tells me that most dancers have to get it as compared to other athletes, just because pointe work puts a lot of pressure on the Achilles tendon anyway.

My Popular Writing Posts on Tumblr

My Popular Writing Posts on Tumblr

So I decided to do a link set of some of my popular posts on Tumblr that have received 100+ notes. Here are the links!

Creating Character Backstory

Character Voice Consistency

Brevity: How to Write Less and Say More

How to Use Commas: The Not-So-Obvious Rules

Writing An Effective Action Scene

Creating Effective Tension in Your Story to Heighten the Stakes

Crafting Effective Dialogue

I had one more, but it’s too far back in my Tumblr to find.

Tips on Becoming a Freelance Editor

Tips on Becoming a Freelance Editor

This should have been Publishing Friday, but my Tumblr took precedence, so I’m going to provide you with tips on how to become a freelance editor. I’m going to do my best not to be too critical with my tips, but all of these tips are from experience in regards to how I got my start as one. *Note: you actually just want to refer to yourself as an editor and not a freelance one, but for the sake of this post, I wanted to differentiate between an in-house editor and an out-of-house one.

  1. You have a desire to become a freelance editor? Awesome! Try to receive some editorial experience before taking on projects from people (or at least be an author with a well-rated book of 50 or more reviews). Okay, so I know there are editors out there who started having no editorial experience at all but end up receiving good testimonials from their clients. However, sometimes their clients are new and so can’t judge what good editing is from bad editing, which is why I myself would only go with an editor who has some type of editorial experience–be it editing for a magazine or what have you. I would also look at books of the clients, assuming they published them. If the ratings are bad because of the editing, I’d stay away from the editor in question. Also, I would even accept an author with a well-rated book, as this author has obviously gone through the editorial ring and knows what good editing looks like. My editorial experiences before becoming an editor were being with two magazines and apprenticing underneath Georgia McBride, who I learned the actual craft of novel editing from. Now she started out with no experience herself, but she has been contracted by major publishers when their in-house staff was flooded with projects. At the same time, I believe she started out ghostwriting before becoming one.
  2. This probably should have been number one, but really look at why you want to become a freelance editor. You want to become one because you see all sorts of grammatical fudge-ups in self-published titles? Probably not the best reason to become one. I’ve seen one editor that became one for that reason, and from the grammatical mistakes on the website alone I could tell this was an editor no writer should ever hire. Not to mention that I’ve seen the work this editor has done for published indie books, and the editing was severely subpar–and this led readers to believe no editing had been done, even though the service was in the acknowledgements. There is far more to editing than grammar, and you need to know how to do all types–content editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading–if you want to be seen as a legitimate editor. If you don’t know what these are, then you definitely need to find some experience before jumping headfirst into the editorial waters.
  3. You feel like you’re qualified? Great! Now create a contract. I have the rough draft of a contract I’ve done for myself. I’ve learned over time that I need one in order to protect myself, and you should get one too. It isn’t necessarily for the sake of legalities, but it’s something you can point out if a client is complaining about something that breaches what is in the contract. It’ll be your fastest rebuttal for a particularly argumentative client who insists his book was for adults when he signed a contract stating you were editing a book for young readers. Failure to read the contract is on him. And if you have to take legal action because of a serious breach, like a client refusing to pay, do so.
  4. Start a website. I would go with a platform like wordpress or weebly and actually buy the domain. Or if you can create one from scratch or hire someone, go with that. Choose a crisp, professional template that is easy on people’s eyes. I would then figure out a name for your services and maybe create a logo out of it. Mine is simply Amber’s Editorial Services, and I have an opaque ballerina with a tagline  that basically says let me take your manuscript from rehearsal to performance. Make sure you have tabs detailing all of the services you provide, like line editing and proofreading, with descriptions on what these services are–these should be sub-tabs. Then you’ll want a tab on pricing, and I would have a tab with a PDF version of your contract and an explanation of some of the clauses contained therein. Then obviously a tab about you, why you started it, and your qualifications. And if you can, have a tab on testimonials.
  5. Start finding clients. This one isn’t easy. Since 2010, I have had clients simply contact me. I never made an effort to push myself out there because I never wanted to become overwhelmed. Now that I’m in the process of putting things together, I want to get at least one client a month to help build up my business so that by the time I graduate, I can really put myself out there to get at least one client a week. So I don’t have too many tips on what to do to get yourself noticed. Many editors who are pushing themselves out there say word-of-mouth has been the best tool for them. Until then, you can start a blog on writing advice that can help push your services out there. Make sure you use strong SEO terms, too. Facebook groups are probably another way to get your services out there, as there are a lot of indie authors on there seeking editorial services. It can be competitive, so make certain you offer the best sample edit possible and make your services seem more enticing than anyone else’s. You will be able to find your competition in these FB groups, so look at their websites, use theirs to make yours more enticing, and try to make your prices competitive or justify why your prices are the way they are.

There you have it! Any questions, feel free to ask.

Handling Rejection: An Editor’s Viewpoint

Handling Rejection: An Editor’s Viewpoint

Recently I found someone complaining that an editor rejected her piece because the editor didn’t like the style of writing she submitted to this particular magazine. Her assumption is that the editor shouldn’t have rejected it because of that, but should have looked at the value of the piece itself instead of the style it was written in, that the editor shouldn’t have used his/her personal preferences to reject a piece. As founder of a literary magazine, I am here to deliver a hard truth that writers who have never been editors or slush pile readers need to hear.

  • Your writing only has value to us if we like it. If I read your piece and I don’t like it because it’s stream-of-consciousness (a style I frankly hate), I’m going to reject it. I don’t care that you think I need to look outside of my box to see the value contained therein. If I don’t like your story, I don’t like your story. That’s all there is to it.
  • We editors choose pieces that both fit our personal preferences and fall within what would best suit the magazine as per the guidelines.  Editors are human, and we want to love what we read. Frankly, there is no value to us within a story if we don’t like what we’re reading. Even if my magazine accepted stream-of-consciousness, if I’m reading the story and have no passion for it, I’m not going to accept it; therefore, I’m not going to look for any supposed innate value. In any case, why would you want to be accepted in a house or magazine where the editor has zero passion for your story?
  • Being published in a million places doesn’t obligate all magazines to publish you. Writers need humility. Just because someone has been published in hundreds of magazines doesn’t suddenly give that person permission to think he or she is “hot stuffs,” so to speak. It’s fine to have confidence in your writing, but be humble about it. Don’t get angry or annoyed if an editor rejects you because he/she doesn’t get what you’ve written, and you think you should have been accepted because your publication history is as big as the affordable health care act. We all perceive things differently. What one editor doesn’t get, another editor may get.
  • Be tactful. It’s fine to need a place to rant about being upset about a rejection, but it becomes very tasteless and unprofessional when you basically imply the editor who rejected your piece is an idiot and then suddenly your friends join in on the topic and back you up, calling the editor an idiot, too, saying you’re the best thing out there. Yeah, that’s what I saw today. It wasn’t me being talked about, but it boiled my blood to find this editor being maliciously attacked by people who know nothing about the editor who rejected the piece. We’re human. Plain and simple. We slough through tons of stories, most of which we don’t like, and eventually get annoyed because we want to find the one piece we do like. The Corner Club Press only submits form rejections, but I know some magazines out there will justify why the piece was rejected. Sometimes it’s tasteless, sometimes it’s not. In the case of tastelessness, keep in mind that editor is probably cranky, tired of going through the slush pile, and probably sent a tasteless rejection as a way of easing tension. Am I justifying it? No! Not at all. But this doesn’t mean the editor is a crap editor, just that the editor is human. You obviously submitted to that magazine because you wanted to be in it, so calling the editor an idiot is unprofessional and counterintuitive, especially because you likely looked at what has been published by this magazine. And, yes, sometimes rejection letters are sent with typos in them because we’re bleary from reading all of those submissions that we don’t care to take the time to proofread.
  • Rejection. Handle it with grace. Just because I didn’t like your piece doesn’t mean another magazine won’t. We all have different preferences. That is the fact of the matter. You cannot remove bias from the acceptance process, which is why editors work in different houses and at different magazines. I’m not going to work at a magazine that only publishes erotic fiction. I don’t like erotica. Safely assume that the editor is at that magazine because the editor likes what the magazine publishes.
Writers: How to Use Tumblr Effectively

Writers: How to Use Tumblr Effectively

Recently I have been re-vamping how I use my social media platforms, WordPress being one. I have Heather Hebert of AEC Stellar Publishing to thank for this. I have been doing informative posts on WordPress lately, and I am seeing the benefits of doing so, as well as using generic tags that register me in the WordPress reader and tags that will make my posts appear in people’s search engines. Because it’s difficult to interact with other people’s blogs on WordPress, all of my posts on here will be about providing a service to you.

In any case, I have noticed that generic writing advice on Tumblr receives the most attention for my blog. I never did generic writing advice on WordPress, as I know WordPress is used by more adults than teens, so I wanted to go beyond generic writing advice in terms of my audience. Teens, however, spend a great deal of time on Tumblr, and teen writers are no exception; therefore, I want to help out teen writers in any way I can. They pretty much treat Tumblr as the entire internet itself, and Tumblr might as well be–you can find ANYTHING on there. I can type in any anime, and I guarantee you that a lot of the pics that pop up in the images on Google will all be from Tumblr.

While we writers are expected to have platforms now, and we are overwhelmed by the various social media options out there, I argue that Tumblr is one social media site you cannot ignore. And I am going to tell you how to effectively use it.

To start, here is a picture of a post I did on Writing Effective Action Scenes that has received a sudden influx of attention. I posted this two days ago. When I last checked it, it had about 45 notes. Now it has over 200 and is still receiving attention as I write this very post, so the picture I’m showing you is actually outdated, even though I took it several minutes ago (also notice how short it is):

action scenesLook at the very bottom. Notice that little heart and the number before it? That heart is your notes indicator, which includes re-blogs and likes. The number before it indicates my total notes, which is 274. The great thing about Tumblr is that people do not like and re-blog to like and re-blog. Their likes and re-blogs are genuine. I wrote a post before this with generic writing advice that received over 400 notes. I didn’t know this until I checked the post a week later. Needless to say, I was completely astonished. So how did my post receive this much attention?

  • Tags. You cannot underestimate the importance of tags on Tumblr. The good thing about Tumblr is that everything you need is right on your dashboard. If you want to know what popular tags are, type in a certain word into your search bar, and you can go through that tag and see how popular it is. With WordPress, you have to go to the reader to see what your followers are doing. Not with Tumblr. Now the screen capture above is via thewritingcafe, so thewritingcafe only tagged it as #fightscenes. However, when I tagged it, I used writing, writers, writing advice, writing tips, revising, editing, editing tips, revising tips, authors, teen writers, and so on and so forth. Tumblr does not limit tags like WordPress does. When you’re typing in a tag, Tumblr will recommend a popular tag to you as well, but make sure that tag is relevant to your post. Don’t try to use Google search SEO tags, because Tumblr isn’t about that. A good post on Tumblr has the chance to receive more notes than the followers you have, so it’s unnecessary to try to use Google SEO tags, not when generic tags can carry you far enough. Plus, when the right person spots your post, that person can create an SEO tag for you, if that person so desires, which brings me to my next point.
Tumblr photo
Thank goodness there wasn’t anything inappropriate when I screen captured this. Users don’t always censor themselves. But this is what a Tumblr dashboard looks like.
  • Getting the right person to re-blog your post. thewritingcafe is the reason why my post has received a sudden influx of attention, as this blog likely has many, many followers. All it takes is that one person to find your post, and your post can become a sudden hit on Tumblr. Feel free to re-blog your own post, too, tagging it with the same tags you used so that it gets right back into the tag. If you provide something awesome, that one right person WILL find your post and give you the attention your hard work deserves. At the same time, I think I MAY have followed this person on the writing tag before it received all these notes. Even so, if you write a quality post, regardless of whether or not you followed that person that made you a hit, that post is receiving much-deserved attention, so don’t think your hard work is riding on the back of someone else.
  • Creating content that provides a service. Many of my followers tend to re-blog a lot of pictures posts, but these are followers who are in it for the content and aren’t necessarily about creating content themselves. This is not a bad thing. This is a great thing. They are actively seeking content that appeals to them, so if you can provide that content, you are guaranteed re-blogs by these people who want others to see what you’ve created. As I am still an unknown writer, I have to create content that appeals to them. Someone like John Green can post whatever he wants and receive attention; he already has a massive fanbase from his books alone. Not me. So I have to work at creating content. As a writer, you need your Tumblr to be different from your other social media sites, so you want your Tumblr to be something that will gain popularity on this website. Peruse it and see what’s generally popular among writers and readers. You do not have to post generic writing advice like I do. I am a YA writer, so it makes sense for me to post generic writing advice to aspiring teen authors. If you write adult fantasy, for example, you need to tailor your blog around this and create content that will be popular.
  • Re-blog others’ posts that are relevant to your blog. I love going through my Tumblr feed. My followers post such interesting things, like gifs, text posts, videos, among other things. However, I generally only like these posts. I do not re-blog, because most of them are not relevant to the content I create. Even so, if a popular post shows up in my feed that is social justice in nature, I will re-blog it and add my own commentary that will boost the conversation and, subsequently, have my followers interacting with it as well. So when you do re-blog something, add text relevant to the conversation. This will give your followers a taste of who you are as a person based on what you re-blog. Try not be controversial, though. I made that mistake in the beginning, and it earned me some trolls.
  • Follow everyone back who likes and re-blogs your ORIGINAL content. Not only will this give YOU more attention, but once you post something, all those followers are going to be able to see what you post, granted their feed isn’t cluttered, which is the only downside of Tumblr I can think of. Then again, any social media site has the potential to be cluttered–Wordpress isn’t innocent in this, especially if people subscribe to mass amounts of blogs. Even so, Tumblr users will scroll and scroll and scroll through their feeds since Tumblr is so user friendly. *Note: You cannot individually thank all those who follow back; more likely than not, a mass amount of people will do so. 32 people have followed my Tumblr today, so I wrote a post thanking them.
  • Utilize your ask box. All you have to do is create a post encouraging people to ask you questions that are relevant to the content of your blog. Sometimes you don’t even have to do this. People will eventually start asking you questions of their own volition. Try to answer their questions. However, once your blog picks up in popularity, you may not be able to answer all questions. John Green certainly can’t, but he will still answer questions anyway.

That’s my advice on using Tumblr effectively. You can feel free to follow me on Tumblr if you are seeking writing advice. My Tumblr post tomorrow will be tips on brevity–cutting the fat, basically. My WordPress post on Wednesday will be updates on my author life, plus a picture quote from When Stars Die. Can’t wait to see you all then!

Magazine Submission Etiquette

Magazine Submission Etiquette

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As you all may or may not know, I found a literary magazine called The Corner Club Press about 3 years ago. I am now simply the president and web designer for the magazine, having decided to take a backseat to focus on all the other things going on in my life. In any case, throughout these three years, I have come across a multitude of things that are just downright annoying. You expect them, but countless posts have been written like mine, and, yet, writers still do these things we tell them not to do. I feel like there are no excuses anymore, not when you have an entire world’s worth of information at your fingertips. Not to mention that every reputable magazine should have solid submission guidelines. In any case, let’s begin with what you should be doing when submitting a short story or poetry piece, or when you are considering doing so.

  1. Follow submission guidelines down to the very last letter, lest you be rejected. It doesn’t even matter that the submission guidelines are detailed. People will still sub to us with wonky or small fonts, incorrect formatting, genres we don’t want, or more pieces beyond the limits we’ve established. We’re not desperate for submissions. We receive more than enough. And, to be frank, when I was going through the slush pile, I was looking for any reason to reject a piece because I’d get so many. The ones we accept are the rare few that make us not want to get up from our chairs to fetch a snack.
  2. When submitting, address us accordingly. I once had a writer address me as Mr. Forbes. Read the bios. They’re not just there for gloating.
  3. Rejection. Throughout the three years of the CCP’s existence, only one has ever gotten into a fight with us about rejecting his piece. I wasn’t able to find the e-mail he sent us. Otherwise, I would have posted it right here, sans name. I am not above doing that. We editors eventually develop a snarky side. I can’t even remember exactly what he said, either, but it was enough to cause me to send a polite, nasty letter to him, simply for the sake of his own writing career. So, technically, I was doing him a favor by responding at all. Mariah was the one who read his response first, by the way. I don’t look at submissions anymore. I trust my experienced staff with them.
  4. Don’t respond to rejection letters. Even if you’re just thanking us for taking the time out of our day to read your piece, don’t do it. At all. It’s not going to make us accept your next piece, just as not responding is going to make us reject your next piece. Just send to us again. That alone tells us you really want to be in our magazine, and that alone makes us hope we eventually accept you.
  5. Respond to acceptances immediately. Please. Don’t send us a revised version, either. We liked what you originally sent us. Plus, we do light editing anyway.
  6. Don’t tell us to make corrections AFTER PUBLICATION, when there is no error on our part. I actually had one writer tell me I published the wrong story. It was THE ONLY story said writer had submitted. Poets are especially notorious for doing this. Don’t tell us to italicize something when it wasn’t italicized to begin with. This means having to go through and change something so you don’t slander our magazine, having to change links, and then having to re-upload the issue. Think about how you’re inconveniencing us before you send a correction to an error we never made. We’re not perfect, and we have made errors in the past that we’ve fixed, but if no errors were present to begin with, don’t accuse us of doing something we didn’t do in the first place.

There you go! My post will be just one of thousands already written, but it’s worth repeating, over and over and over and over and over…

How I Overcame Writer’s Doubt

How I Overcame Writer’s Doubt

For a few weeks I struggled with trying to overcome doubt in my ability as a writer. The Stars Are Infinite, in a sense, was rejected a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t say rejected, necessarily, but I don’t know any other way to phrase it, because it is going to come out, and it is going to receive a contract once I complete the necessary edits; however, the initial blow had shaken my faith in myself as a writer. It was a misguided blow on my part, of course. Even so, I had a lot of confidence in my writing because of When Stars Die and some feedback from ‘I Am the Bell Jar,’ published in 2013: A Stellar Collection. It’s great to have confidence; however, once you’re published and then you’re rejected, that rejection stings 10x harder than if you had never been published.

When you’re published, you have the expectation that you’re going to be published again. After all, fans of your books are counting on it. So for a bit I struggled with all these questions: Is When Stars Die going to be my only book ever? What if I just got lucky with it? What if every book I write from here on out sucks? What if my writing actually is crap? Why am I doing this? And so on and so forth. Any writer who has EVER struggled with self-doubt knows the exact questions I’m speaking of.

How did I regain my confidence?

I completed the edits of the first fifteen chapters my publisher did, and those edits alone crammed brevity into my mind. They weren’t difficult to do. I also considered that I was perhaps OVERCONFIDENT in those chapters. I wrote them when I was 20, and while I did have professional edits on them, I was still 20 when I wrote them. I wrote When Stars Die when I was 21, and completed it, revisions and all, at 22. So it was 2 years after The Stars Are Infinite that When Stars Die was basically born. When I went back into TSAI, I didn’t touch the first fifteen chapters that much. Just did some edits here and there, added some stuff, and that was it. However, with the remainder of the book, I had to write it all over again, so it can’t even rightly be called a re-write. Even when I did write those chapters, I ended up re-writing much of them. I probably spent more time editing the latter half than the former half, just because I know more now than I did when I was 20. I wrote the first 15 chapters at the age of 20, and the rest of the book at 23. I spent 5 months doing intense edits of the rest of the book–7 if you count January and February. That’s 3 years of improvement since beginning TSAI. Arguably I should have spent equal time with both, but I get discombobulated at times.

A common writing error is for writers to spend more time on the first half than the last half. I did the reverse. I think this happened because I wanted–and still want–TSAI to be a million times better than WSD, and those chapters leading up to the climax, and the chapters that fall thereafter, are crucial.

That was my error.

I regained my confidence when I completed those edits, and the edits my personal assistant did for me–I am SUPER indebted to her. When I stepped away from All Shattered Ones, the book I was hoping to finish before getting TSAI back, I realized that if I were a crap writer, I wouldn’t have any idea where to begin with revisions in regards to ASO. I do. I know exactly what I’m going to do to better ASO, to make it cleaner, more crisp–cleaning up metaphor overkill, for one. And re-structuring a few things in the plot, of course.

I also fully regained my confidence when I was able to proofread for a previous client. I learn a lot by editing other people’s manuscripts, and I learned a lot from proofreading this client’s manuscript. I learn what I can do to better my own manuscripts, pretty much. Proofreading this manuscript also instilled brevity within me. Now I’m going through TSAI and cutting unnecessary, lengthy sentences, or just breaking up those sentences. I’m also going to–and sigh–read my book out loud, or have my Kindle do it for me at least. I didn’t do that with When Stars Die. The book was just that easy.

I have also accepted that it is going to take more than a year for me to create a book I am satisfied with.

Also, as strange as it sounds, my confidence in ballet directly correlates to my confidence in writing. If I can freaking do ballet, I can sure as heck get another novel published. I mean, I’m at grade IV, and I’ve only been dancing ballet for 2 1/2 years (arguably, I should be in grade V, but the Cecchetti method is different from my last school’s). And…drum roll please…my boss pretty much implied I’m going to get hired on at Southern Siding, which means I will receive more commission–I’m going through a temp agency for them currently.

Ultimately, I think good things happening outside of your writing life can actually improve the quality of your writing life. After all, we need lives outside of writing, and we need good ones at that. All this goodness going on for me has shifted my perspective, and has thus put a positive spin on how I feel about my own writing.

Have you ever lost your confidence in your own writing? If so, how did you regain it?

Authors and Beta Readers

Authors and Beta Readers

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Sorry writers.

My PA, Mariah Wilson, recently posed something interesting about authors and beta readers. Here is her exact quote:

Authors also have to protect themselves. Beta reading for just anyone isn’t a good idea once you get published…why? Because if you publish something that even remotely resembles a shred of an idea that was in a book you beta read 10 years ago…that person can try to sue you. Best to B-read for peeps you know. That’s why authors like Koontz and King won’t read ANYTHING you send them, unless it’s published. It’s for their own protection.

Plus it IS time consuming and it’s not like I would not have returned the favor…but I cant’ drive 2 hours to go to a lousy writers group. (I used to be part of a writer’s group, until, for some reason, we were expected to pay? But I never attended the writer’s critique circle. Too time consuming to read for others. Too many expectations in a writer’s group.)

I’ve been wanting to seek out a few beta readers for a contemporary fantasy I am working on, but when Mariah sent this to me during a Facebook conversation we were having, I immediately realized this was a bad idea. Mariah has been my only beta reader. She’s fantastic, but it also doesn’t hurt to receive another perspective. Now I am going to bring on a second beta reader because she is a part of my lit magazine and loved When Stars Die. Not only that, but she has actual editorial experience to boot, but I’m not expecting her to fully edit it. I don’t want her to. A beta reader’s job is not to do that.

I originally wanted to hire an affordable editor for this contemporary fantasy. Before Mariah, I had nothing but bad experiences with beta readers. I would look at their novels and provide actual editorial feedback in exchange for their reading mine, but they never finished, or suddenly found themselves too busy. This was frustrating for me. I gave them valuable feedback, and I never got anything in return.

If you have been following my blog since it’s inception, you’ll also know I stumbled across Georgia McBride, who basically showed me that past feedback I had been receiving for The Stars Are Infinite actually wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Even though I had completely changed the book from its original draft, she told me it wasn’t ready for beta readers. But that in itself is frustrating. It basically says that writers need to retreat to freelance editors first before finding beta readers. So I concluded that the beta readers I had weren’t that experienced in the first place. But they still provided actual feedback. They were honest, but apparently it’s not the feedback that my book needed.

How are you supposed to know that though?

This is when I lost my trust in beta readers. Georgia McBride taught me a lot about structural editing. Because of her, I had been going to affordable freelance editors for my books. All I had to do was pay them, and it was a guarantee they’d get back to me. Plus, I wasn’t expected to return anything other than money.

Even so, that’s not ideal, especially because I’m not seeking to self-publish my work. I just wanted a guarantee that my book would receive feedback in an appropriate amount of time, with no expectations of returning a beta read.

I posed a question on my Facebook page. How many beta readers do writers normally have? Here are some of their responses:

Elizabeth Guizzetti: Other Systems had 2, The Light Side of the Moon had 1 before it went to the publishers. The Martlet so far has had 3, plus a few people who helped me with specific scenes. So 5?  I guess the answer to your question is as many as I need.

Ryan Attard: Personally it’s between none, one or maximum 2. Including the people at the publishing house. But that may say more about my paranoia than it does about writing
Mariah Wilson (she had more to say): That’s precisely the reason I don’t beta for many people. Time. I hate promising something, then never going through with it. I only take on projects that I’m confident I can return in a timely fashion. Why? Because it’s infuriating to send a book to betas and never hear from them again.

And now that I’ve been a beta reader for awhile, and a writer for awhile, I think that the best beta readers are ones who you have established a relationship with. I think that there should be some form of trust. Trust not only that you will do what you say you will, WHEN You say you will, but trust that you will put forth your best effort and your unabridged honesty. If you offer anything less, you are useless as a beta reader. If I want someone to candy coat it and tell me how awesome I am, that’s what I have family and close (non writer) friends for.

As for me, I’m sticking with Mariah and this other beta reader. I don’t think I’m going to retreat to freelance editors, unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary. I’m not bringing on anyone else, though, and I won’t beta read, unless it’s authors tied to my publisher(s), and their books fit my particular tastes–and Mariah and the other one. Especially Mariah. She’ll actually receive full, free editorial services from me whenever she thinks her first novel is ready for it. Otherwise, I’m going to charge people who want me to look at their books.
Writers, how many beta readers do you use?
Don’t Treat Clichés like the Plague

Don’t Treat Clichés like the Plague

images (4)I remember being in a junior in my AP Junior Literature class, which mostly focused on argumentative writing. In the beginning, my essays weren’t that great. In fact, no one wrote that great of an essay. Then again, the teacher never really mentioned what she was looking for when we first began writing them (I normally made A’s up until then). It was up to all of us to pretty much teach ourselves how to write essays based on individual feedback. There were a couple of essays I wrote where she would circle words or phrases and write ‘trite.’ I knew what that meant, and I suppose triteness shouldn’t be used in essay writing, but I don’t fully agree (this is coming from someone who generally makes A’s on her essays). Then again, writing essays isn’t about colorful or creative writing.

There was one class where she was talking about clichés as it relates to speech writing, and she said, “I was so unnerved by this one woman who was in an argumentative forum, and she had the gall to say “They just want to cross their T’s and dot their I’s!” I couldn’t care at that at the time, because it was one cliché. What’s the big deal? I still don’t see what the big deal is, and I’m a pretty good speaker. I don’t know what the argument was, but I think that’s an effective cliché to convey that these people just want to nitpick on everything. I mean, if she had simply said, “They just want to nitpick,” I feel that wouldn’t convey her message strongly enough.

Clichés exist for a reason. To me, they’re like those little gems that people are familiar enough with, but can be effective when used properly. I know I find myself prey to trying to come up with some original phrase, when, really, a “cliché” might serve me better. But I’ve read tons of writing books, and sometime it’s hard for me to break from them, like said bookisms, which are basically words you use other than said. I always try to find a way to avoid adverbs in my dialogue tags by either conveying that adverb in the dialogue or an action tag. But, still, in all published books I’ve read, writers use adverbs, writers use clichés. As long as they’re not overdone, it’s fine.

For this post, here are two articles that inspired me to write it: Cliché’s Exist for a Reason. This article focuses on primarily plot clichés, and why they’re popular. Then this one, 12 Clichés Writers Should Avoid, which talks about clichés that you shouldn’t use. I don’t agree with this one at all, because those cliché’s exist for a reason.

Again, cliché’s, like any other writing device, should be used sparingly.

Being Published Sometimes Sucks: Why It’s Sometimes Worse to be Published Than Not

Being Published Sometimes Sucks: Why It’s Sometimes Worse to be Published Than Not

untitled (16)I found this post on Tumblr a few days ago, and I had been meaning to write an article in response to it for a few days. Sometimes, however, you come across something else to talk about that takes more precedence–or that needs to take precedence. But the basic gist of this post is that readers–and I’m not sure if this is an ‘on average’ thing–have this notion that once you’re an author, it’s a gold-colored mountain you don’t even have to climb. You just have to take the stairs, because writing is hard work, but you’ll only keep going up, never once stumbling to publish that next book. That mountain just keeps spitting golden dollars at you, and you’re suddenly a celebrity, be it micro or what, when that’s far from the truth.

(I’m excluding self-published authors from this post because the above article doesn’t seem to include them. Even so, self-published authors can relate to some of the fears present within the linked post.)

In any case, I implore you to read the post before continuing on with mine, as I basically want to touch upon this one point:

Published authors deal with all of the same fears that unpublished authors do, and most of them are magnified by a factor of ten. The fear of the blank page, the fear of not meeting publisher/editor/agent/audience expectations, the fear of embarrassing yourself. These fears can be absolutely crippling. They can prevent the books you want to read from being written at all. I guarantee you, the author in question is a lot more upset about this than you are, no matter how much you love their books.

The above quote is so real for me.

So for those who have never been published, it sucks getting those rejection letters, right? You start to question if your writing will ever be good enough, or if you’re even cut out for the field of publishing. And if you answer both those questions, and you realize you’re not, well, then, at least you have an answer. Yeah, you can definitely self-publish that book, but not a lot of people have the money to do so, or the ability and skill to market and promote said book; thus, that book goes on to collect dust. You may never put your fingers to the keyboard again, but at least you have an answer. Then there are some who persist, and that persistence comes with rewards, but publication doesn’t alleviate the fears that unpublished authors have. As the quote states above, they are heightened.

Imagine already having a book under your belt as a traditional author, be it with a small or big press. Imagine that the reviews are rolling in. They’re good at first, but then bad review after bad review after bad review just starts killing all those other reviews. Your confidence is suddenly shaken worse than those rejection letters, I can promise you that. You wonder if your publisher made a mistake on you, because publishers sometimes do make mistakes on books. Either the books don’t sell well at all, or they sell well, but the horrible reviews start to kill those sales. That sort of a guarantees that the publisher will not take on any future projects of yours, even if you have a literary agent–and it can guarantee that you’ve just lost a great deal of your audience. Even if you’re close to your publisher, have a relationship with said publisher that isn’t so formal, don’t be deluded. It’s still business at the end or the day.

In fact, the author (Jordan Locke) of The Only Boy, has a literary agent, but that agent could not find a publisher willing to take him on because the dystopian hype is waning. He went on to self-publish it, and I’m grateful he did, because I loved the book. At the same time, he didn’t have to sink that much money into it, if any at all. He and his agent had already edited the book to death, and he is a graphics artist, so he was able to create the cover art himself. He probably formatted the book himself, too.

When Stars Die has 61 ratings. Currently it shows 55 reviews on Goodreads at a 4.42 average, so I’m not sure what the real average would be if you added in those 6 other ones. It tends to jostle between 4.37 and 4.47. I have more 5 star reviews than any other star reviews. Even so, as time goes by, I expect that those ratings will pick up in intensity, and when they do, will they be continuously okay to great reviews (3 , 4, 5 star), or will they start dragging my book down the proverbial mountain?

I have an author acquaintance whose ratings started out great, probably more than the 61 I have right now, but as time went on, the ratings grew worse and worse. Her rating is dangerously teetering, and any more bad reviews could push it into the 2 point something range. I loved the book, but I find it’s more of a literary dystopian than a commercial one. Most people lack the necessary analytical skills to truly understand a book that is literary in nature, so books like that are often more difficult to understand than books that are commercial–unless you’re John Green, who might actually be more commercial than literary.

It’s a very real fear I have, that my book will eventually plummet into horrible-rating land. Sometimes I wish the book had never been published. It’s totally irrational, and that could be my anxiety disorder speaking, because publication has always been my dream. Even so, let me point out to those who haven’t been published yet, if you’ve already been published and only see rejection letters for your next book, those rejection letters will sting 10x as hard. After all, you’ve published once. Why wouldn’t you be published again? Or are you just going to be a one-hit wonder, and that’s it?

Once you’ve published a book traditionally, your expectations of publication grow more than someone who has never published a book. You basically expect that your current publisher, who loved your previous book and would most likely enjoy the next because it fits with their tastes, will take on your next project. And when they don’t, you feel more lost than ever before. Which brings me to my next point.

When Stars Die went off without a hitch. It was a relatively easy book to write, and a relatively easy book to find publication for. High expectations were met, and, admittedly, those met expectations made me preen. But then I started going into the second book, and I began to realize that it was much harder to write than the first, and I think any author should expect that with a sequel. Libba Bray did. I worked my butt off on it. I even had two professional editors (one who did it for free, and even edited books for mainstream publishers), edit about 20 chapters of the book before the mainstream one and I had to part ways because I couldn’t intern for her anymore–although I will admit her fact-checking skills were lacking. However, her comments were phenomenal for TSAI. Her comments are the reason When Stars Die is the way it is today–and why it was so easy to write.

Then the other editor, now-turned author and a former pupil of hers, enjoyed it, even though I knew there needed to be a first book, as there was a lot of information given in the beginning that needed to be broken up; thus, When Stars Die needed to be written. She did a copy edit of the book. She seemed to believe no structural changes were necessary. I still made structural changes, though, after having been away from it for a few years. Doesn’t mean she was wrong. Just means I thought up a better path for the book to take.

So I was confident when I sent this book off, unable to find anymore more that needed to be done with it. Mariah had some great criticism, which is more than I can say for previous beta readers I’ve had with initial drafts of the book years ago, that initial draft being a terrible piece of garbage, so entirely different from The Stars Are Infinite, the current book I sent off.

Even so, this sudden dark pall overtook me, especially yesterday. Those high expectations for the first book hadn’t been met with the second, and even though I knew it would need work (what sequel doesn’t?), I didn’t expect that I’d begin to feel like a failure.

Your ultimate fear is that you will not meet your agent/editor/publisher/audience’s expectations. They adored your first book, but then you feel like you’ve disappointed them when your second book can’t compare to your first. Your publisher’s opinion is what matters most, though, and if it seems like you’ve disappointed them, you begin to question whether or not subsequent books you write are even worthy of publication, or even worth writing. You yourself might love the story, but you might only ever be the one, until you start hating it because it doesn’t meet anyone’s expectations.

So it doesn’t matter that you have one book published. Not one bit. Yeah, you defied all odds, but now you have to keep up that success, and when you can’t, you spiral into this temporary depression. Sometimes it’s not temporary. Sometimes that book you want to send off to your current publisher goes unwritten for a few days, thus forcing you to lower your expectations further over when you’ll get it finished.

Now that you’re an author, people are going to expect that you will keep publishing. You’re going to expect that you’ll keep publishing. And when those expectations aren’t met, you wonder if you were ever good to begin with.

I’m writing All Shattered Ones right now, because I can’t outline the third book in the stars trilogy until I know just how much work TSAI will actually need. I don’t write all three books in a trilogy at once before sending the first book off. A lot of authors don’t. It’s why it sometimes takes two years for the sequel to come out.

So I’m writing ASO, this contemporary fantasy, wanting it to be my next book to keep my readers fed, so to speak. It’s not in The Stars Trilogy. It’s a standalone. While I know exactly what work it needs when I go through to revise it after I’m done writing it, my biggest fear is that even when I work my butt off on it, my publisher won’t take it. Then I’ll feel completely lost. Yep, I can totally sub it to other publishers. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but I already have in mind that I’m going to seek a lit agent for a contemporary book I’m going to write once The Stars Trilogy has been completed. As it stands, I can’t do anything with A Collisions of Stars, until I have the edits complete for TSAI.

As you can tell, I feel like a complete and utter failure, despite what others have said. When I can’t meet someone’s expectations, I feel like I’ve failed that person, that I disappointed said person. Sure, I can handle edits and criticism just fine, or else When Stars Die wouldn’t exist. If I meet someone’s expectations, even if there is still a lot of work to be done, I can feel comfortable knowing I didn’t disappoint that person.

I suppose it’s a fault in me. I’m a people pleaser. When I can’t please people, that feeling of total failure sets in. I feel like I’ve studied for hours for a particular test, took the test, only for that test to be handed back to me with a 63. It didn’t matter how hard I studied. I still got a 63, and only I can come back from that. No amount of reassurance can take back the fact that I got a 63 after all the hard work I put into studying (and, yes, this mostly happens to me in history-related classes, but it’s the essays and projects that always made up for the tests).

All in all, only I can come back from feeling like a failure. No one else can do that for me.