The First Novel – A new direction

It has been a tumultuous couple of months. Despite some upsets, much good has come of them. Taking a break from blogging made me realize how much effort and time I had been devoting to thinking up new material to post about. I have been distracted from my primary goal: writing and publishing novels.

In redirecting my efforts, I realized I almost need to start over in this process. Four of my novels in The Bucks County Series are published on Amazon. The fifth is in the hands of my beta readers —that one can sit on the back burner for the time being. So far self publishing has proven to be less than successful. Why? Because all the marketing and promotion fall back on the author. I have neither the time or the stomach for it.

And that is how I fell into the trap of blogging on nearly a daily basis. I love writing —that is what I want to do. I was telling myself that a popular blog would help me to promote my books. That hasn’t happened. Granted, I’m also not hitting the reader in the face with book promotion every time I write a post. That’s how timid I am about marketing. What I need is someone to do the marketing for me.

Back in early 2015, when I finished my first novel, I tried finding an agent but my fragile ego couldn’t take rejection. After only six tries, I gave up and self published through Amazon. That is not how it works. Many popular and successful authors have been rejected numerous times —sometimes for years before an agent finally agrees to represent them to a publisher. I need to brace myself for this possibility and not let it derail my process.

I also realized that my self published novels need to be the very best they can be. If an agent is even remotely interested in your query and the first five pages you send along with it, they are going to look for you in the cyber world. They will find your Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, LinkdIn, and WordPress blog. They will find your Amazon and Goodreads Author Pages. They will see that I have four self published novels. These need to be ready for view —even a brief one.

With that in mind, I have revisited my first novel: Three Empty Frames.  Three Empty Frames_02_HR_front_2In three years since I wrote the first draft of this book, I have learned so much. Fortunately, I feel like the story is strong and it’s just the writing that needs polish. And that is what I have been doing the last couple of months —putting my efforts into making Three Empty Frames ready for an agent. And while I do, I am educating myself on the query process, taking webinars on finding an agent and reading everything I can about how to do this successfully. Hopefully I won’t have to wait years for someone to take a chance.

Going Pro Versus Going It Alone

Adventures in editing.

As I begin editing Breaking Bread, I can’t help but think about how I fumbled through the process with Book One: Three Empty Frames. As a first time, unpublished author, I didn’t feel I had the luxury of hiring a professional editor. Professional editing can get expensive. Depending on the length of your document and the level of editing you choose, it can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. And though I knew an editor could take a good manuscript and make it great, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t so naive as to think I could do this alone. I had to get objective feedback before I published the book. Sure I loved the story, the couple of friends I let read it were enthusiastic about it too. But kind words from a few people close to me were not going to be enough. I needed beta readers: non-professional readers who will carefully read your manuscript with an eye to finding plot holes, disruptions in continuity, grammar and spelling mistakes and possibly highlighting aspects of the story that might be unbelievable.

When choosing beta readers, make sure they aren’t just going to tell you what you want to hear because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. You NEED constructive criticism. That’s why your mom and dad, husband or wife, or beloved aunt are not the best choices. So what now? Are you in a book club? Ask your group to beta read for you. How about an online writer’s group? Other writers are usually willing to help you out. Ask your blogging friends here on WordPress to read for you. Just be sure to choose people who will give you an honest opinion and some thoughtful feedback. Make sure to attach a copyright warning to anything you send out, too.

And for heaven’s sake don’t be thin skinned! Take the feedback and learn from it.

At the time I had completed Three Empty Frames, I belonged to a book club and asked some of the other members to read for me. Even though the group has since broken up, I can still count on the same folks to read my unpublished work. I also recruited my friend Brett, who is an English teacher to read it. I know I said don’t ask your friends, however, I know the teacher in him won’t let me put a foot wrong. If you have kids in school, perhaps you could approach their English teachers for help. But maybe wait until summer…

These days, I do use a professional editor. Formerly of Simon and Schuster in New York, my editor Kevin (now good friend) quit the rat race and works for himself. Often, he comes over with his wife and baby and hangs out with me in the pool. I ply him with beer and pick his brain. I have him cleaning up my first two books, the ones I published without professional help. Why do that? Because when I publish Breaking Bread, one of the older books might be part of a deal to market the new novel. I want it to be the best it can possibly be. The point in telling you all of this is that in handing Kevin my older work, his feedback assured me that I and my beta team had done a good job. The manuscript was ‘very clean’ in his words.

So for you first time writers, if you are meticulous with your process, AND if you find people with sharp eyes to spot your mistakes, give you good insights, and offer constructive criticism, you may be able to forgo the services of a professional editor.

In Medias Res

I meant to share this post by my friend Roger weeks ago because I enjoyed his illustrative description of a writing device called In Medias Res. It’s something I’d like to try as it lands you at a different point in the story than the beginning. My plan is to rework one of my existing pieces using this format to see how it works. Enjoy this piece and if you haven’t visited Roger’s blog yet, you absolutely must!

rogermoorepoetdotcom

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In Medias Res
Wednesday Workshop
12 April 2017

In medias res is Latin for in the middle of things or in the middle of the story. It is a device from classical literature, going back to Homer, that allows the narrator to start the tale half way through, to return to the beginning to show what has happened leading up to the current situation, then to end the tale in suitable fashion with all the necessary details now in place.

In some ways it’s a bit like the arrival of a pizza from a new pizza home delivery service. You are hungry, you make the phone call, you order the pizza, and then you sit and you wait. The doorbell rings and the dog comes rushing out of nowhere and barks at the delivery man who stands there with his delivery bag in which the pizza nestles comforting and…

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