Indie or…?

The editing is finished; the photos all ready and the whole book “Close to the Edge” is ready for uploading to CreateSpace…or is it?

I was extremely uncertain about using an editor but I am willing to admit there was no need for concern. The whole experience has been helpful and positive. Caroline High (my editor) has worked through the mss and combed out all the nits – the odd or inconsistent spellings, the bits that didn’t flow well or where I’d left the reader a bit at a loss because I’d forgotten to tell them something earlier in the book. No matter how thorough and careful you think you have been I would recommend that at least a “copy-edit” is a worthwhile investment.

Now comes the snag albeit an interesting one. Not only did Caroline do a sterling job as editor she also approached a publisher on my behalf. Now I’m in no-man’s land; sample chapters and an outline are now with the local history commissioning editor. Today, she has written and said she Likes It and is putting the mss in front of the sales team and has asked a few questions about the potential market. There’s a long way to go and nothing is at all certain but do I “stick” (with indie publishing) or, if I get the opportunity, do I “twist” (with traditional publishing)? I have to say it’s one of the best dilemmas I’ve ever found myself ruminating about and, if you haven’t guessed already, I know which way I’ll go.

So, a waiting game for a week or two. Indie or Trad? It’s a cliff-hanger!

Aldeborough Road End 3.jpg

Labour Pains II

Approaching the end of the editing process for my book Close to the Edge, have my witterings in my last blog been justified?
Emphatically not!

So far, Caroline Chadderton, my editor has combed through my typos, inconsistencies and bits of burbling with tact and zeal. No blood has been spilled; no tears shed. Instead her comments have been both insightful and helpful. What is particularly spooky is how she picked up on points where I felt some unease-such as my predilection for using modern slang and idioms at inappropriate moments. The objectivity she has brought has also increased my ability to see things from the reader’s viewpoint and hence improve my explanations of certain events and issues.

She has yet to do the final formatting and let me have her final comments but all in all this has been a powerful experience and one definitely worth considering if you are going down the self-publishing route.

The next steps are to wrap up the permissions for photos and quotes which so far has been a bit fraught as I struggle to ensure I don’t infringe anyone’s copyright. Then there are the photos to caption, acknowledgements to make and finally uploading it all to Createspace. Oh yes, then there’s a pricing policy and a marketing strategy to work out. In between, there’s a quick trip back to the UK and I’ll try to finish my next Mag. Op. – a collection of spooky short stories. That’s me stitched up for the next three months. Christmas? What’s Christmas precious?

Labour Pains

Prolonged birthday celebrations mean I’ve been somewhat tardy in attending to this blog nevertheless I’ve not been entirely lost in jollity. I’ve started on what I hope will be the last twiddle phase of my book Close to the Edge.

I finally came to a decision about professional editing and have entrusted the book to a pro. How much she will slice and dice is yet to be seen but I confess, I await her verdict with some trepidation. In coming to this decision – to edit or not to edit – I read up on others’ experiences and talked to a few trusted friends and even to a “proper” author who lives here in the village. Opinion was divided but there was one area where agreement was reached –the number of poorly presented, formatted and copy-edited e-book offerings that are out there and that’s before the quality of the writing is put to the test. Even I, a late-comer to reading ebooks , have noticed this. I would say about 10-12% of those I’ve downloaded fall into the category of poor presentation with typos, photos that move from one page to another, confusion over homonymic words and so on.

I don’t want to fall into this category and even though I’ve combed my mss umpteen times I still pick up the odd error or the desire to tweak a paragraph here and there so perhaps professional copy-editing is essential. However, I’ve gone for the Full Monty to include textual/structural editing. It’s a more subjective element and I wonder how and how well I’ll manage the feedback.
Already I’m picking over the one piece of feedback I’ve had so far – and that is only based on a read through of the first and last chapters so that the poor lady could give me an idea of cost.

“You write with fluency and authority” she observed. Like a cat on a mouse I pounced on the words. Is that good? Or does she really mean I waffle on and sound like a bossy know-it-all? I’ve turned her words inside out and upside down to understand her “true” meaning. Why can’t I take them at face value? Shades of my schooldays when Miss Grey, my teacher, returned the obligatory weekly essay, garnished with red ink, with the comment – “Sheila you have let your imagination overrule the necessity for neat hand-writing and attention to punctuation.”
Have I spent the better part of a year only to turn out a pile of goose-poo? Would I be better taking up underwater-knitting? What do I do if I receive negative feedback or suggestions for changing parts of the book? Do I change them?

The obvious answer is…it’s my book therefore it’s my choice…and yet.

I’ve paid a lump out of a limited budget to someone who is well-established in her field with a list of credits a mile long, particularly for non-fiction. How confident would I feel about ignoring her opinions? Answer – I don’t know. In most areas of my life I’m a pretty confident cookie, but with my writing – it’s the opposite. Generally I shrink from exposing the waffling of an over-taxed brain to anyone – it is a miracle akin to the wine and water trick that I’ve had anything published at all. I’m guessing it’s the same for many writers.

So over the next few weeks this blog will be less about adventures in France. Instead, I shall be sharing the pains, the labour pains if you will, of the editing process and hopefully you’ll be in on The Birth of this masterpiece around Easter next year.

Close to the Edge

Close to the Edge

Heavy Editing

Finally I have the house on the market and looking all neat and tidy for the photos. What will come of it I don’t know but it has made me put my skates on and complete the editing of “Close to the Edge” my book about the life and times of Holderness coastal communities. The idea of to-ing and fro-ing from France to complete it ain’t too appealing.

After the first round of editing I found I had committed every cardinal writing sin and probably invented some as well. One that keeps creeping in is that of slipping into the passive tense which dulls the writing and robs it of a sense of movement. On my old version of Word there used to be a gizmo that not only counted words, paras and sentences but also told how many times I used the passive tense and, even more helpfully, gave the reading age score (Flesch readability) which I found a useful guide. Now on the new version – the one with the scrolling toolbar – I can’t find it anymore which is a pity.

So now the second editing round is over what have I discovered?  Above all that it takes plain foolhardiness to savage one’s opus. It is scary to see your words flutter to the cutting room floor, as it were. After round 1 of editing, I forced myself to scrap about one third of the book entirely because it was repetitive, stuffy and made the book structurally incoherent. After that I introduced completely new material and then shuffled around great wodges of text like they were chess pieces. Shall I put it there…or maybe…no…there..no? I hate to say it but often it went right back where it started from…but it needed to be done.  Overall, I have improved the structure of the book and by grasping the thistle and abandoning a strict timeline approach (which was even  harder to do than scrapping parts of it) I think I have achieved something nearer my original idea.

The book is an eclectic mix – people, places, events and stories relating to this changing coast – chosen for no other reason than they tickled my imagination.  I have struggled with the tone from time to time – whilst aiming for quirky and occasionally irreverent, I wonder if I am a bit too flippant. Time will tell when the feedback comes in. Above all though, I hope it transmits some of the affection I have developed for a part of England where no major event of national importance ever occurred; where the one constant is a hungry sea gnawing at the cliffs; where, over the centuries people learned to adapt, build their settlements anew or go under and where a big sky suddenly shifts from grey, melancholy and brooding to  glorious sunlight casting sparklers on the sea.

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The book is on its way to some strict beta-testers and depending on their feedback I think it will need an editing Round 3 –in the hands of a professional editor. In the meantime, I’ll tidy my desk, sharpen my pencils, and start to play around with an idea that’s been buzzing around like an angry hornet for a few weeks now.

The Editing Bell Tolls

As of midnight yesterday the first round of editing is complete. I’ve de-blooped the bloopers; ruthlessly rooted out repetition and purged purple passages. Those sentences and phrases that, at the time, sounded good came across as pretty naff when I considered what purpose they served or in what way they moved the narrative on. It was painful at times with my fanciful self at war with the ever practical and objective one.

What am I left with? At best probably half a book. That’s not a problem since I garnered enough research material to decorate two tomes at least, although things on the domestic front being what they are, it may be a few weeks before I can actually sort and integrate it.

Although this is the second book I’m preparing for publishing, for the first time I can really see the value a professional editor brings to the process. First time around it was all a rush of excitement and enthusiasm and a belief in my own editing skills. The result was OK but it’s definitely time for a second updated issue. This time, partly because I have a whiff of interest from a publisher, I’m nervous. I’ve come to realise how easy it is to miss the most obvious gaffes. You just don’t see them. You know what you’re saying and what you mean so that’s what you see and read be it ever so obscure to anyone else. Methinks a professional edit will be money well spent.

From the outset, I intended to have a modicum of humour in the way I presented the history of this shifting coastline – indeed the title strap line is “an incomplete and often irreverent history of the Holderness coast.”  Those of you who follow my blog (and by follow I mean actually read) will have met snippets from the book and will, I hope, understand  when I say that as you read the tales of the Naughty Nuns or Fat Willy you are definitely hearing my voice and my interpretation of history. I’ve never felt that history should be dull or boring but have I over-egged it? Other books the publishers have produced are quite po-faced, serious and on occasions rather scholarly…not words that apply to my offering.

I’ve struggled too to find a consistency of style. Once, way back, I wrote a newspaper column based on my antics as a self-sufficiency disciple.  In time, I pulled these articles together into a book and did the rounds of publishers with no success. However, one publisher gave me some feedback to the effect that he “suspected the book was based on a series of articles and felt stitched together as a result”.  In his opinion turning articles into books never quite worked. After I finished this editing round I do think it reads inconsistently…a little “stitched together”…almost, dare I say it, like a series of blogs rather than an integrated piece of work.

One bright light is that I’ve resolved the issue I had with structure that I mentioned in an earlier blog. I’ve ditched the chronological approach and moved into a more topic based one. Despite what I’ve written above, that does appear to help the flow and fluency of the book.

So back to the drawing board or rather the writing table and yet there’s one thing I am pleased about – I didn’t think the book so dreadful that I consigned it to the rubbish bin. Maybe that’s where it’ll end up but in the meantime, I’m on that so-called steep learning curve and there’s work to be done.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Yesterday was a glorious day for a bit of field research and, purely by chance, I happened to have a commissioned article to write which entailed just that. I needed to take some photos and to pay a visit to a local museum in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

I’m finding that short (1000-1200 words) articles are a useful way of adding to the coffers whilst working on my magnificent octopus…oops, opus. My goal is to have two to three of these articles on the go each month. It’s a bit of an ask but I’m sure I can rise off my beloved sofa and meet the challenge full on.

I don’t look to the nationals to stop my financial wheels from falling off; it is mainly regional magazines, small press and trade press that keep the Writeonthebeach literary aspirations on the road. The pay is reasonable and (so far) reliable and it’s fun to write for them too.

The only problem is that I get so immersed in the research that it takes me a lot longer than it should to produce the finished article and that impinges either on writing time for the M.O. or on the day job. But then, when you’re striding out across the moors with only a few tatty-wool sheep for company and a lone curlew calling overhead, who cares?

The article is finished and the photos ain’t too shabby so after a few days “mulling time” (just to be sure I’ve not made any howlers) it’ll be winging its way to the editor and after a decent interval the next pitch will follow.

I love it when a plan comes together or am I tempting fate?

What Can You Do with a Belgian Chocolate Mousse (BCM)?

Ha! Gotcha! You only looked at this post because of the title didn’t you? (Note to self it does go to show how a title can draw in the readers). Well, although BCM has a role in this vignette, I confess I’ve deceived you, it’s only a rub-on sorry I mean walk-on part.

Over the weekend I treated myself. It was what I call an anticipatory treat – I was anticipating the arrival of a cheque which would help to make the month go a bit further. So I wandered into WHSmith (a newspaper, book and stationery chain)for a browse. Browsing is my second favourite occupation; my first is lying on the sofa thinking beautiful thoughts whilst eating WeightWatchers Belgian Chocolate Mousse in an effort (as some of you may remember from earlier posts) to rediscover the lost territory of my waistline.

In WHSmith I headed for the magazine sections – something for everyone here from topshelf tit fetishers to solve-while-you-shit sudoku puzzlers. However, I was looking for something specific and found it – a regional countryside mag. I scanned through it and there it was – my article, my photos and my name. Ah Heaven! I get such a buzz from seeing something I’ve written actually make it to print. It’s even better than taking a WW Belgian Chocolate Mousse and smothering…well, let’s move on.

I’m basking in this admittedly minor glory when Inner Crit pipes up;
“that sentence is a bit clumsy;should’ve put a full stop there not a semi-colon”
But for once I have the upper hand. It was good enough for the editor (lovely, lovely man that he is) so up yours inner crit – go back to sleep.

I’m not normally so brash as to bang on about a 1000-word article and a couple of photos (I’m quite shy and retiring really…honest) but this is a milestone for me. Apart from the book (which somehow feels like a different thing altogether because I published it) this is the first bit of my work to make it to the world stage – well UK stage – all right then Yorkshire stage…as part of my second-time-around writing career. It’s the first piece that a third party has looked at and given the green light to. (I know, I know, prepositions-end of sentence and all that jazz)

There’s more in the pipeline so I hope I get free copies of the mags otherwise I’ll be spending a fortune on buying them.
Can you imagine what I’d be like if something I wrote truly went global?
Unbearable – who said that?

A Tale of Two Editors

One aspect of the feature and article writing I do is research –not just subject research but also market research. At the moment I don’t receive many commissions so I have to pitch most of my work to an editor, once I think I’ve found the right market for it.

Four months ago I sent out two pitches. One went to a specialist magazine, the other to a more general one with a countryside theme. Both have about the same circulation figures although different reader profiles. I read back copies of each mag; I obtained their writers guidelines, followed them to the letter and even phoned up to make sure I’d got the editor’s name correct – they do seem to change fairly frequently.

Editor no.1 – the generalist replied to my email within a week.
Yes he was interested and could I supply photos?
Yes I could, how did he want them?
Email and at 300dpi minimum.
OK. Good – job done. The proofs came through ten days ago and the article appears next month.

Editor No. 2 – the specialist magazine
When I phoned in to check his name and email I actually spoke to him. He said: ”I’ll look out for your pitch coming through my email.”
Great. Six weeks later not a peep from him. Do I/don’t I send a reminder?
I wait ‘til the eight week mark and then send a polite note –“ hope you got the pitch, wondering if you have been able to make a decision?”
Sixteen weeks later still nothing.

I assume that the guy is not interested – fine. I understand :-
– the pitch might not have suited – either through content or style;
– the editor might need to take all submissions to an editorial panel and that slows down the process;
– the concept of “busy” and “overwhelmed with emails”. When I had a “ proper” job 50 emails a day was not unusual and I’ve had clients who topped the 100 per day but still managed to answer them, however briefly;
– the pitch might not have reached his desk…but did lightning really strike twice?

Truly I do understand all of that but what I can’t get my head round is complete silence. I cannot believe that with the electronic bells and whistles that abound these days, it is impossible to send a quick, automated “thanks but no thanks” email.

The question is what do I do next? Shall I be passive and leave it a while longer – but how long? Or shall I start again, find another potential victim and revamp the outline? Should I send him a free copy of my book Time for Your Life – there’s lots in there about managing emails and other “stuff”?

There is some small irony here, in that this specialist magazine, without naming names, is aimed at newbie writers and is packed full of good advice about what to do and not do when approaching an editor with a pitch. What it doesn’t tell you is what best to do when your pitch appears to have fallen into a deep black hole.

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn

It was a red-letter day on Saturday…not in the sense of Woo Hoo – great! No, it was more the red pen of an editor rejecting my carefully crafted feature with a brief “not quite right for us” scrawled on it. I sat for a while, with umpty cups of coffee just staring at those five words and I could feel a big sulk creeping up on me.

It’s no good telling me that rejections happen; that it’s the nature of the biz we’re in; that I’m in good company and to think of all those famous authors whose works were rejected many times. I know about that – I know the best thing to do is to get back on the bucking bronco pdq. However, I’m still hurt, part offended, part angry. My expectations are in tatters. Was my poor piece so unworthy?

Gawd! I can be a right drama queen when I want.

However, I also know that in a few days I’ll be able to look at the piece again and reflect on it. The hardest part of rejection of any sort is recognising that what I do with the feelings I have now is down to me. It’s my choice. I can turn tub-thumper and rant with the best of them or I can run away, find a cave and curl up to lick my wounds. Or perhaps the sensible thing to do would be to stop taking it personally. It’s all part of the writing process.

It’s not as though I haven’t had work rejected before. I have; oodles of it. But the inital feelings don’t change. I’d love to be able to utter the immortal words: “Frankly my dear editor, I don’t give a damn” but I do, very much. It wasn’t War and Peace Revisited that I wrote, it was just 2500 words – but they were words that I put my heart and soul into.

Yet, even now, as I write this on Monday morning, the fire’s died down. I’ve re-read the piece; I’ve looked again at the magazine and it’s guidelines. Personally I don’t see the mismatch but I have to respect the editor’s opinion…can’t do much else really and anyway I’m probably still a bit blinkered.

So it’s time to stop being a wuss and get back to work. I’ve three short pieces sitting in the in-tray and my novel’s heroine is in the middle of a tricky escape from her villanous uncle and her sly-smooth cousin.
I’d better go and rescue her.