The Future of the Readalongs

If you’ve been with me for a while, Squiders, you know that I have traditionally done a readalong or two a year (depending on series length). The last one we did was The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, which wrapped up mid-2014.

We’ve previously done Harry Potter, the Time Quintet (A Wrinkle in Time, etc.), the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and the Howl’s Moving Castle books (which probably have an actual series name, but I don’t know what it is).

I’d like to do another one, but I find myself at a loss as to what to do. I’ve been focusing on more “classic” series with the idea that other people would either want to read them also or would already be familiar with them, so we could discuss them as we went. But I can’t think of another one I want to do. Narnia would be an obviously choice, but I don’t feel like re-reading it. The Oz books, though it’s harder to find some of the later books in the series. (Also, I’ve been reading The Wizard of Oz to my eldest, and man, the description can really drag.) The Lord of the Rings, maybe, though I just read The Hobbit and have read LOTR enough times that I can probably quote bits of it in my sleep.

(Plus I’d have to get through the part in the Old Forest again, oy.)

Maybe a newer series? But is there one that has been enough of a cultural force that most genre readers will have at least heard of it? I don’t want to touch a series of BFFN (big fat fantasy novels) like Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time, at least not for the readalong. I’d like to be able to guarantee I’d be able to get through a book on a reasonable time frame.

I’ve been reading some promising fantasy series, but they’re all ongoing and I’d prefer to do a complete series for the readalong.

I do like the readalongs and I’d like to keep doing them–I feel like they’re interesting from a learning standpoint, to see how authors continue story and character arcs across a series, as well as in individual books.

So, any suggestions? Anything you’d like some company reading through? I’d prefer something scifi or fantasy-related, if at all possible.

Otherwise, read anything decent lately? I’ve got the second book in the Tearling series out from the library right now and I’m looking forward to jumping into it.

January: Came and Went

Is it just me, or did January seem extra short this year? One minute it’s a brand new year, brimming with possibilities and freedom, and the next it’s snowy, dark February and despite trying to be realistic in my goal planning I am already horribly, terribly behind.

Sure, there were extraneous circumstances. My website (technically websites, since I had to move my editing one as well, though it hadn’t been crashed since October), which we’ve gone over. (Now all moved and still working, thankfully, except I still need to figure out how to fix my stupid theme.) And I’ve been sick all month. First there was the pink eye debacle (two and a half weeks to clear up, all told) and now I’ve had a cold for about as long, with is mostly annoying because I cough myself awake several times throughout the night and can’t take any decent decongestants because of life.

Oh, sleep, how I long for thee.

Oh, well, life happens, and you just have to shrug your shoulders and climb back into the saddle, and other nonsense sayings.

(As a random aside, my sister got bucked off a horse when she was about 12 and did the whole get back on and so forth, but I don’t actually know what her current thoughts on horses are, and she didn’t answer when I called her to find out. We were part of the Westenaires at the time and I don’t know if either of us have done anything with horses since. I know, for me, that it firmly determined that I didn’t actually like horses.)

(I think it probably says something that my favorite horse was a cranky Appaloosa named Smokey that liked to try and bite me when I brushed him and was known for kicking people across the arena when they tried to pick his hooves.)

(ANYWAY.)

I mean, January wasn’t all bad. I wrote half of a nonfiction book and got my short story collection in order with a title, cover, and everything. (I’m just waiting for the final go ahead on that.) I’ve done a fair amount of work on the co-written sekrit project. I submitted two short stories, one of which is still out (and finally got a rejection on a story that’s been out for almost a year and a half). I learned to use a new image processing tool which I can use both in book publishing, and probably here at the blog when I stop being lazy. And I did a ton of freelance work and made a bunch of leads in that direction. So those are the good things.

I did have a lot more planned, though, things that probably wouldn’t take too long if I could just get to them. Mostly marketing things. Poor Shards needs a new book description and to be re-categorized on Amazon. My YA paranormal needs a decent query letter (and probably a Twitter pitch–I’ve been wanting to try out those #PitchMad things and there’s one around Valentine’s). And I’d like to get Hidden Worlds some new reviews, so I need to hunt down some reviewers for that. (Let me know if you’re interested, and I can get you a free review e-copy in the format of your choice.)

Sigh, alas, and all that rot.

It’s no use crying over passed months. It’s February now, and there’s still things to do. And, maybe, I can get some of those dropped January things done around the sekrit project edit. (We’re still waiting on our formal feedback, so if nothing else, this week is kind of free! Though I have tons of edit prep to do.)

How was your January, Squiders? Get anything exciting done?

 

Revising on a Deadline

I apologize for the lack of posts this week, Squiders. My website (which, you might remember, went down at the beginning of October) has become quite the job between browbeating my host to fix it (like they promised in October), figuring out how to transfer it to a new host, and fixing everything else in between (I’m currently backing it up in case the transfer between hosts takes too long and the site gets eaten in the meantime. I should probably do a backup through wordpress also, argh.).

I have spent so much time fighting people on it that I feel like I’ve gotten nothing else done. Such a pain. The site is currently up, but the theme is broken and I am too tired to try and fix it at the moment.

So, let’s talk about revising. In an ideal world, your revision process probably looks something like this:

  1. Write novel
  2. Fix up major issues if you know of any
  3. Give novel to beta readers/shop through critique group
  4. Get comments from beta readers
  5. Do major revision
  6. Polish
  7. Have someone proofread/copyedit
  8. Do what you will with it (self-publish, submit, etc.)

Look how lovely and organized that looks. And it works well too, especially if you have all the time in the world to get your novel ready.

But then deadlines come in, like the one we had on our co-written novel. The good news is that the editor loves it. The bad news is that our editing/revision process looks something like this:

  1. Write half the novel
  2. Do preliminary edit on first half
  3. Write second half
  4. Flail about in a half-edit
  5. Submit it to publishing editor (step 8 above, for those paying attention)
  6. AT THE SAME TIME, give it to betas and co-writer’s critique group
  7. Hopefully get all comments back at about the same time (Sunday, in this case) (hopefully)
  8. Do major revision
  9. Send to proofreader/copyeditor
  10. Polish
  11. Publish

Also, that major revision has to happen in a month, which should be interesting. I’ve never done one with someone else before. I have done a major revision in a month before, but on a much more polished draft. I don’t supposed anyone else has tips for co-editing?

Anyway, that’s my life at the moment, Squiders. Website woes. Looming edit. How are you? What are you up to? Anyone know if there’s a way to split Amazon revenue on a single product automatically?

Revision vs Editing

To continue along in the writing process, Squiders, today will talk about revising and editing.

Now, you should always revise before you edit. Why? Well, first, let’s discuss what the difference is.

Revising has to do with content. When you revise something, you cut things, add things, move things around. You look at what you have versus what you wanted, and you change important things–character arcs, plot points, story structure.

Editing has to do with appearance. When you edit, you fix typoes, grammar, and punctuation. You make sure Bob has the same hair color on page 5 as he does on page 134. You make sure, if you decided to capitalize something, that you capitalize it throughout, and that you use the same type of dash throughout the whole thing.

You need to revise before you edit, because if your core is no good, who cares how pretty it is? I know this can be hard to do, though. It’s much easier to read through, fixing grammar and occasionally rewriting small points to clarify things. It feels productive. But if your pacing is off, no amount of editing will fix it, no matter how much effort you put into it.

Revising takes a lot of work. You have to look at your whole story and really understand it. You have to know your character motivations, your theme, your tone and style. You have to be able to look at the big picture, and you have to figure out where things have gone wrong and how to fix it.

And THEN you can edit. After all, why waste time on a line by line level if you’re going to end up cutting the whole scene, or rewriting a major portion of it?

What’s your editing/revising process like, Squiders? Do you have issues with one or the other?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

I think I picked this one up because it sounded like it might be magical realism, though I’m not sure where I got that impression. It’s not; it instead falls into that category of family/personal drama.

As kind of an aside, I noted when I started reading the book that Eleanor Brown is a local author, and I happened to read in the newspaper a few days ago that she’s hosting some sort of writing class at my local library tomorrow. How random is that? Coincidences work in strange ways.

Title: The Weird Sisters
Author: Eleanor Brown
Genre: This one goes in my “general literature” category.
Publication Year: 2011

Pros: Interesting first-person plural viewpoint, doesn’t get trite or depressing like so many family/personal dramas
Cons: Doesn’t quite justify the interesting viewpoint

I actually enjoyed this quite a bit, so I was interested to note on Goodreads that it actually has a lot of one-star reviews. It just goes to show how arbitrary people’s reading preferences are. Maybe people like those sad, depressing dramas that I want to throw across the room. And I can’t tell you how pleased I was to read a book of this type without a dead baby anywhere to be found.

The book is about three adult sisters (in the late 20s-early 30s age range) who all find themselves returning back home because of their own issues, as well as their mother’s breast cancer. The narration is from a plural first person, which I haven’t seen before, from the perspective of the sisters. This kind of works because each of the sisters regards herself against the other two, but because the sisters don’t really function as a collective unit, sometime it feels a bit weird. (Har.)

The title comes from Shakespeare, and there are a lot of Shakespearean references throughout the book, though they don’t actually seem to have anything to directly do with the plot.

So I’d recommend this book for people who like their drama to not be of the soul-crushingly depressing kind. I found it an easy read, and it’s worth it to give it a try to see the interesting viewpoint, though I will warn that it’s hard to get used to.

Anyone else read this and have opinions? How’s your 2016 going in terms of reading? I’ve finished two novels (including a BFFN–big fat fantasy novel), am in the middle of three nonfic books (whoops), am still very slowly working through a SF anthology, and am reading Web of Air, which is the second book in the scifi!steampunk Fever Crumb series.

Pantsing vs. Plotting

Sometimes, Squiders, it’s good to go back to the basics. I would divide the writing process into the following steps:

  1. Outlining
  2. Writing
  3. Revising
  4. Editing
  5. Submission and/or Publication

Would you agree with that?

The first step of that is (arguably) outlining. It’s said that writers fall into two categories, plotters (people who plan a story before writing) and pantsers (people who write by the seat of their pants without an idea where the story is going).

I would argue that we all plot, at least a little bit. Even a pantser typically doesn’t go into a story without having an idea of length, main character, and premise. I mean, I’m sure people have, but I’m not sure they got very far.

Perhaps that’s a point for discussion another time. Does planning things out make it easier to finish a story? My experience says yes, but that’s only one bullet point.

So, I would argue that we all fall somewhere on a sliding scale between true pantser (no planning whatsoever) and true plotter (detailed, several thousand-word outlines, character sheets for all major and minor characters, world map, etc.).

People on the pantser side of the scale like to jump into a story with a minimum amount of planning and see where the story gets them. They can add in whatever cool new thing catches their attention because they don’t have to stick to an outline.

People on the plotter side, in general, have an idea where they’re going. This makes it easier to stick with a story and not get stuck. Plotting also helps you remember things, especially if you’re prone to forgetting your latest great plot epiphany or character motivation.

I think people kind of float back and forth along the scale throughout their careers. As for me, I started out close to true pantser, many years ago. My first novel, all I had going into it was a premise and a genre (murder mystery). It stands uncompleted at 29,000 words, and will probably never see the light of day again.

I’ve been drifting more toward plotter ever since. At first, I would pants the first half of a novel and then outline the rest so I could pick up the loose ends. My last few novels I’ve outlined the whole thing before I started using a fairly loose method that identifies key plot points (inciting incident, midpoint, climax, etc.).

Oh my landsquid, this makes it so much easier. It doesn’t kill your creative wiggle room, and taking stories in chunks, knowing where you need to be at a certain point and what you’re working toward overall, makes it easier to get there without wallowing in unproductive middles.

Of course, that’s just my experience. What about you, Squiders? Are you a pantser or a plotter? How have your methods changed throughout your career?

Why Do You Follow an Author?

Good news, Squiders! We got our novel off to the editor, so if all goes well, it should be out in the world around the beginning of the summer.

Woo! Onwards. One of my goals for the year is to get an email mailing list going. (I mean, I have one, but get it actually going going.) The Internet and marketing books/etc. tell me this is the best way to interact with readers, but I find myself at a bit of a loss, because I don’t follow a lot of authors myself, and so I don’t really know what entices people to follow authors. And I also don’t know what exactly you guys would get out of an email versus a post here at the blog. So I thought I’d do some polls, and if you have any insights about why you would subscribe to an author’s mailing list (or mine specifically), please let me know in the comments.

The survey is here. I’d really appreciate a moment of your time.

How are you doing, Squiders? Anything you’d like to see more (or less) of this year here at ye olde blog?

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