Is the self-publishing industry being held back by hack writers?

I’ve been reading articles and having discussions with my peers and industry professionals regarding the future of self-publishing, and while the outlook is generally positive, the reputation isn’t so bright.

When canvasing readers about self-published titles I generally get a pensive face… and when I push harder, the responses I get revolve around poorly produced cover art, poorly written novels that have not been sufficiently developed or edited; and occasionally, the reader desires a physical copy, only to find the novel is available only in ebook format.

Admittedly this mirrors my own experiences with self-published authors. While it is not the rule of everyone, but it does seem to be a common thread. When I start to push for examples and numbers however, we start to see a slightly different story. And I have to think about that saying of “If you get ten compliments in a day and one person yelling a derogatory comment at you, you are more likely to only remember that one bad comment.” So too, readers tend to remember bad reading experiences more prominently that good ones when it comes to self-publishing… leading to the self-fulfilling prophecy that self-publishing is amateur and rife with a whole lot of sub-par material.

So basically, the self-publishing industry, more often than not, is getting judged by readers on the authors either inept at the publishing and writing process, or doing it for the wrong reason entirely. That’s a pretty harsh and bleak statement to make – and it infuriates me – but the results into my research and discussions with readers support this statement.

Granted, there are self-publishing success stories, and reports of various increments of success across the board. But, it is those poorly produced and written tomes that readers are using to pass a blanket opinion on the industry in many cases.

There are many authors whose body of work can dispel this assumption, and the tide is slowly turning, but what do we have to do to eliminate this attitude completely? The cost of self-publishing is weighted fully on the author, and services like cover art, editing, marketing, and manuscript development services are expensive – they are steps self-published authors shouldn’t be skipping, and it is unfair to ask professionals to offer their services at a discounted rate or for free for self-published authors. Do we start booting off under-cooked material from online stores? That’s censorship. Can we force self-published authors to do a minimal number of steps in the writing development stage before allowing them to publish on a given platform to ensure a certain standard is being represented? It’s hard to start putting regulations like that on a free-form market. There are authors churning out up to ten novels a year (or more) just to earn enough money to live off, but does their content meet the cut?

I read a number of self-published authors personally and I have to say there is a 50/50 split between books that if I didn’t know any better I’d say were traditionally published, and the rest have really obvious mishaps: spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, formatting errors, poorly developed writing style, novels that have been rushed to publication… don’t get me started on some of the cover art. While some are exceptional, others look like clip art from the 1980’s.

When I first started blogging and reviewing I accepted review requests from self-published authors hoping to support those trying to carve out a career in writing, but I found nearly all the manuscripts I received were sadly not up to scratch. I teach English in High School and any of these novels wouldn’t have even received a passing grade. So after that I stopped accepting review copies and focused on a curated selection of novels appeal to my tastes.

Another aspect I found my readers reporting was regarding career authors: not only were many of the self-published authors they listed falling into the ‘rushed to publication’ category because they were trying to get a high volume of work out there to earn a suitable income. But also the readers were inundated with online marketing and blog posts. Spam and junkmail seemed to add to their discomfort with self-published authors. It seemed like some of these authors were not selectively marketing effectively and barraging their subscribers with continual and repetitive content. This kind of strategy quickly turned readers off as they unsubscribe… and subsequently stopped reading the authors books.

I understand the whole self-publishing journey is a learning experience, and your mistakes are going to be out there for everyone to see with a google search, but I guess slow and steady wins the race. Reputation is the biggest commodity for an author to have in their arsenal. That and a solid, professional body of work. The publishing industry as a whole (traditional or self-published) is a slow moving creature. It takes hard work to get a novel published, time for readers to read and review a book. Heck I still have unread novels on my shelves from five years ago that I am still keen to read once I get the time. But after all this, I still ask myself what can I do – all of us do – to help the self-publishing industry? It does have a valid place – not everyone can afford the cost of a physical, traditionally published book, not everyone has access to physical book stores. Traditional publishers set and follow trends and an author’s work may not fit into the current marketing trends, and self-publishing may afford them that niche market they need to reach. Increasingly we are seeing textbooks and manuals reach the self-publishing industry because of the volume of pages in their publications, why try and carry around 2 or 3 books over a thousand pages long, when you have an e-reader? Readers read for a variety of reasons and in a variety of forms, and self-publishing has its place, but I was sad to read the results of the survey of my peers, industry professionals, and readers alike when it comes to the general feel of the self-publishing industry.

Which I find astounding considering the market share e-books have in the economy. Though, that share is dominated with traditionally published authors. The whole situation feels a bit of a quagmire. And don’t get me started on the number of pirated copies of books then self-published by ghost profiles stealing income from popular authors.

I think the reality is, we need some policing on standards for self-publishing, but also a more transparent view of the amount of work – the number or tasks and roles you need to perform above writing the book – for a self-published manuscript of a certain standard. With so many resources online – for free – and courses you can access, I’m still a little bewildered why some authors are not taking advantage of these to give themselves the best possible chance of success for their book launch and their career. Did they just run out of steam? Are they ignorant of what they need to do? Do they just not care? Too harsh? Well, it’s because I get a little heated over some of the attitudes I’ve been reading – and come of the poorly developed work I’ve seen around the self-published industry. I hear people saying “But so-and-so is a successful self-published author, why not use them as an example?” Well. They have put in the work, educated themselves, invested money to get that success, why should another author who’s put in a fraction of that effort ride on their coattails? Don’t they need to put in the hard work too? Again it comes back to reputation – the author who has put in the effort, maintained a quality body of work and found that balance of marketing and a target demographic will thrive in the self-publishing environment over time; those who do not, will falter. I just hope readers stop judging the industry as a whole on those of the latter.

So there is no easy answer, no easy solution. The industry will be swayed by larger platforms and their market share. Newer authors are still going to blunder their way through the digital publishing process and either succeed or buckle under the enormity of the task. Our industry relies on word of mouth and marketing – no matter how good a writer you are – a book does not sell itself. I have heard of online platforms dropping authors and works that do not sell, and algorithms for how your book is listed in search results plays a bit part in that behaviour too. That’s why it’s important to have a marketing plan and cover all your bases. Build a subscriber list. Argh! So many thing for an aspiring author to think about… and try not to spend too much of their own money to achieve it.

What’s your opinion on self-publishing? Are there too many low quality books saturating the market? Do you have any solutions that could help rescue its reputation?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Attitudes in the book blogging community

There are some outliers that make the experience of sharing love and support for fellow writers very difficult.

I love reading. I love sharing my thoughts on what I read. I love recommending great novels. I also love sharing my experiences with writing and tidbits of information around writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. For the most part the online community is greatful and supportive. I have delightful conversations and garner knowledge from other bloggers on their own journey.

In dealing with a wide sample of the population we get a plethora of experience, knowledge, and attitudes.

Helping younger bloggers and writers elevate their content. Provide more critical reviews and recommendations, more insight into the craft of writing is what I consider what this community this community is all about.

One of my biggest dislikes has been the spam, the unsubstantiated emotional responses (*cough*trolling*cough*) and professionals coming back to members of the community with cold, threatening attitudes because they are trying to monetize and ‘own’ the content that a multitude of bloggers are posting for free. Granted it’s a small minority of the community at large, but it exists and can have an enormous impact on the person targeted with this type of behaviour.

I’ve personally had my content plagiarized. And it takes nothing to reach out to the instigator and politely ask them to either take the post down, or link it to your original material. There is no need for threats of lawyers, being rude, or charging them money for using your content. After all, you can contact the hosting service if they are in breach of copyright (WordPress has its own guidelines and governance regarding this) and the material can be taken down as a last resort. Or ultimately there is the registrar, the DMCA, or even google. (I have previously written a post with step-by-step actions about these topics here.) There are always steps to take other than a heated emails with no response.

On the other side of the coin, I have myself inadvertently breached copyright. In researching an article, I copy and pasted material into several documents for reference later offline, and to link to when I wrote and published my article. However after writing my post, I accidently deleted the finished article, and saved one of those source material documents under the title… and then it was subsequently scheduled to post. So what was published were notes cut and pasted without context of someone else’s material. Plagiarism out right. So embarrassing. A lesson learned in triple, quadruple checking the line-up of scheduled posts. I received an email the next day of a threatening nature. Granted it was my mistake, and I was able to find my original article and upload it in place of the mistakenly published article – the in-question material having only been live for 10 hours. However, this time I expanded on the topic, researched more and made it even better. The thing is, if I’d received a better toned email, I would have admitted my mistake, altered the article and the owner of some of the source material would have been credited and given a lot of hype in the article – benefitting us both. But instead I found alternate source material – who don’t require a paid subscription to access – and much more examples. My newly edited article was infinitely much better, and all reference to the nasty emailer removed. They missed out on engaging any audience funnelled from my publication just because of their attitude. I would have responded to a nice email… but I don’t reply to threats. You don’t get results for inciting negativity. You can escalate the issue for importance sure, but keep it neutral in tone. I hesitate to mention, that even after I had uploaded the correct and finished article, removing reference to the emailers original content, they continued to harass me to the point I had to block them on all of my social media accounts. This person clearly did not check the updated article, or check her tone. I wanted to issue a public apology, I wanted to contribute some of her material as inspiration for my article, but after the bullying nature and threatening nature of their correspondence (from a professional in the industry mind you,) I’m doing what my mother always said. Ignore the bullies and eventually they will find a new target to annoy.

I guess with a background in teaching – you learn a bit about reacting to attitudes; a little about conflict resolution. But with the rise of social media we are seeing a lot of this clapback mentality. Off the cuff posts, tweets, DM’s, emails designed to hurt, scare, or embarrass the target when you could take a night to sleep on the matter and craft your response more maturely. It’s hard to make this point in a world where sensational content trends regularly. Cancel culture, online bullying, clickbait, response videos, apology videos… they are big business in the news cycle. We are seeing more and more inexperienced (and some who rightfully know better) falling into this trap.

It’s a form of bullying, of hate culture, of negativity that stalls the growth of our community and the publishing industry as a whole. Sadly this is not going to go away. The only way we can start to change attitudes is to not react, or react appropriately. Know appropriate ways to respond to threats. Know the avenues you have available to protect yourself online.

Granted I don’t see this bad behaviour happen a lot within the book blogging community, but it does happen; and when it does it can really impact you.

Anyway I thought this was an interesting discussion to bring to the blog – have you experienced any of this type of behaviour? How did you deal with it? Have you made a faux-par with copyright or plagiarism, and what did you do to make amends? Do you think information around the craft of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing should be widely free and accessible to anyone online, or is it something that should be paid for?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ghostwriting and earning money from writing under a pseudonym

Ghost writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I aspire to write novels under my own name… but at the moment, the majority of my income comes from writing for other people.

Ghostwriting, or writing for other people so they can attach their name to your work as the author is more prevalent than you might think. More so in Non-Fiction genres, but it’s pretty much everywhere.

When you take a step back and view writing as a whole – and not just novel writing – there are plenty of opportunities to earn a living. For me, I’ve diversified. I get a little bit here, a little bit there, and it all adds up enough to support myself as I chase my dream. That suits me. If I focused on a certain specialization, I find I get stagnant with creative flow, as well as being pigeon-holed as only being able to produce that kind of material. I like to mix it up and keep things fresh.

Ghost writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

The majority of my income is derived from Manuals, Text books, Academic Support Material, and Speech Writing. It’s also easier to do because it’s more about conveying facts than embellishment and world building. Plus I love research, so I find it fun. It’s the type of work where there is a team involved – you work to a spec, fact check, submit for feedback and re-write. You get a stamp of approval and it’s off to someone else to worry about the editing, formatting, publishing, and marketing.

It’s much the same as Article Writing for media, except in media you need to include marketing terms and hot topic phrases (*cough* click bait *cough*) which is usually for an established columnist who is on a break or overworked. You will get a sample of their writing style to match before submitting. If you do a good enough job it can mean a fairly regular source of work.

I used to do a lot of Copywriting, but am scaling back on that, as the Marketing environment has grown exponentially in the last five years, and with so much new talent and a technology/social media focus, I’m not wanting to take a year or so off to update my skills in order to compete. It’s time I’d much rather spend writing my own content.

Screenwriting is something I fell into, and I’m finding the more work I do, the more offers I get. It was a case of who you know to get this score. Always a part of a writing team, deadlines that must be met no matter what, and I’ve gotten to work for some big movie productions down to a scripted YouTube piece.

71a83a70-33b2-4e9c-89be-b9a98cf8220eAll of that is fun and full of variety, but I’m also branching out into releasing work under a pseudonym. Only because in the world of publishing and marketing, everything is genre based. You can’t become established as a Mystery writer and then drop a cookbook on your dedicated fan base. So it’s recommended by your publishing team to ‘brand’ yourself. And thus alter ego’s are born. Plus the different genres/forms of publishing differ greatly for each pseudonym. They have their own marketing plans and budgets, different demographics and markets. Although I’m only small fry, it makes me feel like some big corporation at times with all this diversification with my writing.

All that I’ve mentioned is well and good for an established writer. I’ve got degrees, industry contacts, and thirty years of experience. For those of you starting out, do the research. Each of these endeavors were the result of weeks of toiling through information to form an action plan. Know your stuff. The internet has provided you with perfect tool to get the advice you need right in front of you for free. It just takes some time and perseverance to pull it all together. Plus, you need to get out there and network. Attend industry conferences in the field you are interested in writing for, publishing workshops, writers groups – the more resources you have, the better equipped you’ll be. Make sure you have samples of your writing handy at all times, whether it’s something you can email, or examples listed on a website, these will be crucial for attracting paid work. Don’t be afraid to put in a submission for work. Call places or send them an email query. It is an investment of time in trying to set up and get prepared for an income other than that from your novel… but it will mean you are a full-time writer.

Ghost writing Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

These different forms of writing income have given me freedom to follow my passion, and although I’m not getting credit for my work in the form of notoriety – because it’s being published under someone else’s name. It does provide the financial freedom I need to work from wherever I carry my laptop. Plus releasing work under a pseudonym not only gives me a chance to brand work best suited to marketing activity to reach its target demographic, but also gives you the opportunity to try out different tactics in promoting. Whether traditionally published, or self-publishing, it will always be beneficial to learn how to sell your own work.

Keep at it author friends – find a way to follow your dreams!

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Connecting With Professional Writers – Growing Your Network

Connecting with Professional Writers Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Writing in and of itself is a solitary journey, especially in the beginning stages. But when we embark on that publishing and marketing stage it can be extremely difficult and a somewhat insurmountable task. That’s where we need to reach out. Find resources, use editing services, tap into education… but how do you actually grow a network of like-minded professionals short of cold-calling?

I’ve managed to meet published authors and other professionals in the publishing industry through a number of means. But it all comes down to getting involved. Introducing yourself and becoming a part of a conversation. And it doesn’t have to be about writing. Just break the ice, once that is done you can get to more important and exciting matters. Share your experiences.

I’ve attended a number of workshops and seminars and ended up trading emails with people I met there. We keep in contact through social media and arrange the occasional coffee for a chat. I find this helps with staying motivated and meeting others going through the same process reminds me that I’m not alone. Not even in my own neighbourhood.

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I’ve also joined a few facebook writers groups. These are great. We swap tips, critique each other’s works, and pass on great contacts that have been vetted. Heck even if I don’t post much there, just reading everyone else’s chats is invaluable. Additional to that, I’ve garnered great contacts through LinkdIn, and registered State literature sites. Not only do they post up-to-date information on writing competitions, postings for paid work, but also regularly release news on gatherings, seminars and workshops in my area. More and more I’m finding that writing does not have to be such a solitary endeavour.

I’ve also connected with published authors through other social media platforms and emails. Whether it be over the love of their writing, a shared review, or a heads-up on something a bit hokey going on with their book. I can’t tell you how many pirated copies of books I’ve been spruiked. I always notify the author so they can take action… We don’t want our industry leeching money when it is already so hard to make a worthwhile living from.

The concept of business, technology, the Internet and the network. A young entrepreneur working on a virtual screen of the future and sees the inscription: Social media

Growing this kind of network can provide you with great Critical Partners, references for editing services, tips and tricks for marketing your novel, and even contacts to get your foot into the door with traditional publishing houses. It also helps get the word out about your novel. Once you have released your book it can mean having the difference of a ‘Street Team’ spreading the word, and having to do it all yourself (or pay big bucks for advertising.)

If you’re reading this blog post – you already have a valuable source at your fingertips. There are authors-a-plenty with blogs of their own. Post a comment or send a direct message – generally the online community is supportive and will help you on your journey.

So don’t be afraid to reach out. Go to a workshop, attend a seminar, visit a book launch, scout out a writer’s group either in your local area or online, register with writing organisations. We all have to start somewhere, and the more friends and resources you have at your back the better chance you’ll have at success.

Stay Calm and Keep Writing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Editing your novel

Blocking time and different types of editing – what does it take to edit your novel?

Editing Your Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There are many types of editing that I’ve been exposed to, and not only do they have many names, but also overlap in function and many are re-visited in the publishing journey. There is no rule of what you must do, but it is advisable to develop your own process to have your manuscript publish ready. The more steps you include in your vetting process, the more professional your novel will appear. And we all want to give ourselves the best possible chance of success.

It can be daunting to hand over your book baby to someone else to critique, but I’ve put together some information that may help you view the process objectively and put you on the road to publishing success:

Editing Your Novel Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleContextual edit (Substantive or Developmental edit also called a Structural edit) – This type of edit is best done by a professional in the publishing industry. They should concentrate on story structure, organisation, coherence, logical consistency, relevance, continuity, world building, and character development. It’s ‘big picture’ thinking over your novel. To make sure it makes sense. That the basics are covered and you have a sound structure to build off.

This type of edit can be done on a partially completed manuscript, or a first draft. It’s about shaping the concept.

Story structure is about making sure you have a beginning, middle and end. Identifying the themes of your novel, its genre, and clearly plotting things out like the heroes (protagonist) quest and the obstacles they overcome. Ensuring a turning point (or points) and the climax of the storyline.

Organisation deals with a logical sequencing of your plot/paragraphs. You may switch and reorganise chunks of text to create a better flow to your story and cut other parts completely.

Coherence and logical consistency are all about making sure the story makes sense. That it follows a clear train of thought. That ‘voice’ or narrative style is consistent. Or that character perspectives are consistent and definitive from each other if including more than one point of view. This can also help identify tense, active or passive voice, show don’t tell, perspective (first person, third person, third person removed/omnipresent) and ensure each of these remain consistent throughout the manuscript.

Relevance refers to judging if the sentence/paragraph adds to, or drives the plot forward. Whether it helps develop the character, or sets a scene – otherwise it should be cut so as not to drag the pacing of your novel.

Continuity deals with the following up of events, mentions, dates, passage of time, names of characters and so on. For instance if you state early on in your novel that a character hides an object in a place, that it is resolved in some manner. Like tying up all the plot points. That Wednesday follows Tuesday. That the descriptors used for each character remains consistent throughout. This is a great step to eliminate plot holes and inconsistency within the physical world of your novel.

World building deals with how you introduce the reader to the rules, mythology, and description of the setting of your novel. How much is too much description? How much to suggest so the reader can use their imagination to fill in the gaps? This is important to ground your story and create a set of parameters in which your characters interact with each other and their physical environment. Again, show and don’t tell usually come into play where you are uncovering facts about the characters surroundings, or getting to know other characters through experience rather than a long paragraphs of info dumping.

Character Development is also an important aspect. You want the protagonist of your story to be impacted from the obstacles he/she/it faces and change from the experience. This also ties into motivation of the character – why do they do the things they do? What is driving them towards the goal/climax of the story? It not only adds for interest for the reader, but gives a sense of completion and the ability to connect with the character through a shared experience. At this time attributes of a character can be addressed. Aspects like race, gender, sexual orientation, special abilities, able-bodiedness, financial resources, social hierarchy, mental/medical ailments or disorders, physical characteristics, age… elements like these help paint a more realistic picture and add interest for the reader.

Word count – Depending on your genre, how you are publishing your work, and market trends, it may be identified that your manuscript may be too long or too short. In this stage of the editing process you will need to identify a word count goal (usually decided by your publisher) to work to. Publishers use this to not only stick to a budget when dealing with the cost in printing, or to meet an expected length commonly accepted by the targeted demographic. Word count will differ per publisher, genre, target audience and relevance to your manuscript.

A professional can complete a contextual edit from anywhere between three days to a couple of weeks depending on the length of your manuscript and how much work is needed. Editors also charge per word, so be sure to get a quote before committing.

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Line edit or Copy edit – Where the abovementioned edit deals with larger issues of the story and structure, a line edit, or copy edit deals with intricacies in how it is delivered. Issues like grammar, style, repetition, word usage, and jargon come into play. As does relevance (again).

Grammar focuses on sentence structure, the sequence of words and their meaning. Style refers to the tone and feeling that your writing as an author invokes – something that is unique to your expression. Repetition looks at eliminating common words that frequently appear in your manuscript so that you don’t bore your reader with overuse of particular words. You can either rework the sentence or replace a word with a synonym to add interest and keep flow. Word usage usually refers to ensuring you are using a word in its intended context, that it makes sense, and that it does not confuse the reader. Jargon (and slang) can be polarising – depending on the intended format of delivery of your novel (i.e stream of consciousness) Jargon and slang are usually confined to dialogue, however if deemed appropriate, can be used in the narrative. The reason it’s not common practice is that because of the different culture and backgrounds of readers, you will be limiting your audience to those who are familiar with the jargon/slang you are using – and it messes with the voice and tone of your novel. Letting the reader create that in their own mind will help them relate to and connect with your novel. Excessive use of colloquial words may isolate your story from its intended market. Again relevance comes into play – ensuring each paragraph helps to drive your story forward and is not weighing down the pace of the novel.

A line or copy edit from a professional usually can take anywhere between three days to a couple of weeks depending on the length of your manuscript – as also will a content edit, or proofreading.

Editing Your Novel Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleContent edit – Depending on the style and genre of your novel, checking on factual information and their sequence i.e. dates, places, references; fact checking may be of high importance. You want to make sure all of these things are correct. It adds trust, integrity, and professionalism to your name as an author. This type of edit is especially important in non-fiction.

Proofreading – Is done after the above edits are completed. Proofreading is a light form or editing primarily used to pick up minor errors: grammar, capitalisation, punctuation, spelling, and word usage. This can be done by anyone with a high competency in the language in which the manuscript is written, and who has knowledge in the topics mentioned in the novel. Obviously a professional is more adept and identifying errors and suggesting corrections.

Formatting – This step deals with text, ensuring layout is appropriate for the medium in which it is being delivered (i.e. script, novel, electronic media, etc…) You determine how the words will appear on the page/screen. Font size. Whether you are having chapter headings or artwork. Number of pages in the printed copy. Content to be included in the end pages. Margins from the edges of the page or screen. It’s all about the physical appearance of your manuscript.

Formatting takes as long as it takes – it is dependent on technology, software, and process for the intended delivery. But it should not take any longer than a few weeks at most.

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Critical Partner – It is important to have at least one critical partner in your writing process. More if possible. A critical partner is usually another writing professional who writes in a similar genre as you do to help identify issues in pace, relevance, structure, impact, plot holes, potential triggers, flow, tense, and narrative style consistency. Commonly in the form of writer’s groups (or online groups) where you swap work for a critique for free. Its authors supporting fellow authors. It helps to have friends or professional associates within your industry, not only to become a critical partner, but also to be a resource of information, emotional support, and even a mentor in your writing process.

Beta reader – This type of editing comes at the end of the process mainly to determine the impression your story makes, or market reception predicted after publishing. Beta readers usually aren’t professionals, just readers for your intended demographic that will give you feedback on how your novel will be received. This can offer valuable insight of tweaks and issues that may have been overlooked and a valuable resource before spending time and money on publishing and marketing your novel.

The time it takes for a beta reader to complete offering feedback varies depending on their available time and reading speed. Some can get back to you in a couple of days, others can take longer than a month. But use understanding and manners when dealing with beta readers as they are usually doing it out of kindness. I usually touch base every few chapters for feedback while it is fresh in their mind with a list of questions on hand (and it keeps track of their reading.)

Editing Your Novel Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

I’ve listed the types of editing in the journey towards publishing in a logical order, but of course you may cycle back up the list, or jump down depending on your needs, resources, and state of your manuscript. It will also depend on if you are following a traditional publishing route, or choose to self publish; and well, how much money you want to invest in this step.

Editing services can be expensive, and you need to identify an editor who works with your writing style. You can find editors endorsed by your states/countries publishers and writing associations on websites. Usually they are registered and vetted for you, and you can send a chapter or two as a sample to see if you are happy with their style and get a quote for your entire manuscript before deciding on services. Critical partners may also have suggestions for different types of editors you can use.

Sending your work out for critique can be scary, but you have to develop some objectivity and a thick skin to give your book baby the best possible chance to succeed. Do your research and take the time to get it right. I find this list (and process) handy in the writing process for self-editing – so I have the manuscript as polished as possible before sending it out to a professional. Hopefully to reduce the number of times I have to pay for services, and flex and grow my writing muscles.

What is your editing process? Do you have any resources you can recommend to fellow writers?

In the meantime, happy editing 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Re-vamping an old manuscript to make it culturally relevant for a present day release.

Can you polish an old turd?

Revamping an old manuscript Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I read through an old manuscript the other day and still really loved the story. But given it is one of my earliest attempts at writing a novel, it is rife with inexperienced writing and pop culture references from the 1980’s. So can you rescue an old story without completely re-writing the whole thing…? I’ve given it a bit of thought and listed some things below to consider in giving on old piece of writing a new lease on life.

Firstly, deciding on an era. Maybe I want to keep it set in the ‘80’s. It is certainly on trend right now. What was once a current and relative setting is now historical fiction? But I was cringing with the use of snail mail and landlines, and feel the implementation of email, webcams, and mobile phones would help in the pacing of the novel so that it is not tied down with too many details – and can eliminate some locations for a better feel and flow. It’s a personal preference, but I agree that the story would benefit from this. Again, as an amateur writer all those years ago, I hadn’t learnt to get rid of details not relevant to the plot – so this will help a lot.

Revamping an old manuscript Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

With setting it in a more contemporary time, all the pop culture references will need to be current – and easily identifiable. So bring on the research! What falls into this category of relevance and well-known, and will flow with the narrative? This can be fun, it means lots of television, movies, and scouring the internet.

Another big thing, and which seems to be on trend at the moment, are diverse characters: anti-heroes, women of colour, a spectrum of gender identities and orientations, differently abled characters, people living with mental illness… and the list could go on and on. We are seeing authors taking risks and exploring the human condition much more than ever before, so ensuring your cast is representative of the real world can only add interest and complexity. My earlier writing reads flat and is full of stereotypes and tropes – because that was all I had exposure to back then. So switching up my protagonist and supporting characters can only be a massive improvement.

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I am also able to identify issues with pacing much more easily these days. Due to experience. The floundering, flowery writing of this early piece is in desperate need of some tightening up. I go paragraph by paragraph asking myself these questions. It this relevant to the plot, the scene, or the character’s motivations. If the answer in no, it gets cut. Can I express this in a shorter, more meaningful (or punchier) sentence? In this manner, I can also address grammar, spelling, tense, active/passive voice, and eliminate too many adverbs.

Another attribute of my early writing is the simplicity in plot. It is predictable and tends to only deal with the protagonists outcome. So adding in some story arcs for secondary characters, a bit of their background to support their motivations to favour the protagonist sounds appealing. Then brainstorm twenty ideas for some plot twists and decide on a few…

And hopefully you have a much improved manuscript. Beta readers will let me know if I’m on the right track.

Have you tried to re-visit some of your old writing and breathed some new life into it? What tools helped you?

In the meantime – happy writing and editing.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quarterly Goals / Resolution check-in

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2018 is one check in away – looks like there is going to be a mad dash towards Christmas to kick those goals!

This past quarter was awesome! I trail-blazed through the months writing like I was possessed. Got out to visit amazing places and caught up with lots of family and friends for some parties full of love and laughter. In my down time I read sooo many books and managed to get some house renovations done to magazine-quality aesthetics… pity it all happened in my head. Reality was a little different.

A few issues due to health and a holiday stole a chunk of time in meeting my goals for the July-September quarter. I was trying to force myself to finish a few projects… but with the creative process, wrestling to man-handle out the inspiration can have the reverse effect. So I stalled on the two WIP’s which would have been easily wrapped up if I hadn’t stressed myself out. Not writer’s block, but a creative slump. When you’re getting to the pointy end of a novel, the conclusion needs to zing. But I was zingless. 😦

Quarterly Goals Jul-Sept 2018 Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Though, here’s how I performed overall:

This quarter has shown the highest word count than in the past three years, however, I was working on scattered projects and not on the ones I wanted to complete. It was hard taming the muse. At least I have my groove back and am making progress – now I’m on the home stretch, as the year ends, so will many of the projects. *rubbing a rabbits foot, kissing a four-leaved clover, and tossing salt over a shoulder* It feels great to edit all the text that has been flowing from me lately.

I wanted to get some more of the renovations and furniture restorations done, but alas, while the words were flowing after a sparse previous quarter, I didn’t want to jinx it, so the manual labour I use for breaks was pushed aside. As too were any professional development studies, though, I did get a lot of research done around the publishing landscape and some marketing ideas.

Quarterly Goals Jul-Sept 2018 Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This quarter was more about getting back on the (writing) horse than anything else. I stopped blogging. Back to concentrating on the basics. Why I love writing, and what I was doing it all for. It seems to have worked, I feel like a weight has been lifted and am back to the regularly scheduled programme. So expect to see this blog coming back to life after just over a month away.

I’d say there was only a 20% progress for yearly goals overall – pitiful really, but I’m just glad to be writing again. Can’t express how terrified I was that my excitement over writing was gone. But there is only one direction left to go. Onward and upward!

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Next check in will be at the end of the year, and hopefully with some news of a publishing date in 2019!

Stay calm and carry on writing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How reading sub-standard and low quality novels has bettered my writing…

…and things to look out for when I publish my own book.

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I see it all the time on Goodreads, readers DNFing a novel, and a review of a sentence or two saying how horrible the writing was. And that’s it.

Good for them. I’m not knocking anyone’s opinion. I’ve tried to give up on completing a novel, but my brain won’t allow me. I at least have to skim through so I can find out what happens and reassure myself that what wasn’t working continued throughout the book.

The biggest aspect of my OCD with reading is that I now turn even the worst reading experience into an educational endeavour. There are always good points and bad points in each story. What worked, what didn’t. I like to list how I would improve the novel as if I were an editor and about to publish the book under my own label – what changes would I want to make in order for me to sign my name to the title?

It’s helped develop a critical eye, and use these tools on my own writing.

So I welcome low rated novels in my reading habits. (But not on purpose.) It helps to hone my skills, pick up on things I hadn’t previously thought to identify in my own writing, editing, and publishing processes. Things like complex characters and character development, spelling and sentence structure, pace and tension are a given. But I have found elements in context, and writing style that I hadn’t noticed before. Issues with cover art, formatting, font size and style, information for the end pages, the quality of the physical book are starting to jump out more and more. Especially for self-published titles.

It has re-iterated how important it is not to rush the publishing process. Steps to take to vet and proof your work. And skills in marketing and market research you need to acquire to help make your writing a success.

I am slowly compiling a checklist for the whole writing to publishing process to put my own work through. Granted it is going to grow and evolve over my career as I gain more experience and insight.

Reading Substandard Novels has Improved my Writing Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleI’ve heard some of my friends say that it is a useless endeavour to read low rated books – that I should be focusing on top quality literature as something to aspire to. What’s wrong with doing both? I find glaringly obvious issues with my low rated book reading that I would have otherwise overlooked in top rated books. It’s like brushing up on the basics. High rated books give me examples of nuance.

It also helps stretch that editing muscle – a must for your own writing process. And helps to create not only a critical eye, but gets you in a frame of mind to distance yourself from your own writing. So heavy cuts and rearranging aren’t so gut wrenching. It helps you identify what is lacking so you can get that second draft even more polished.

It’s not about tearing down other authors writing, or striving for perfection in your own. It’s more about exercising the essential tools you need to improve the creative process. Creative flow is one thing – having it make sense and relate to a reader is an entirely different thing. That’s why we have rules in language, spelling and grammar; to help set a standard that everyone can build from.

So when I read something that makes me cringe for all the wrong reasons, I’m glad for the opportunity to identify what is not working for me and go about fixing it. Then I can mirror that exercise on my own content. It will help me grow – and hopefully keep the professional editing fees lower 😉

What is your opinion on completing novels that feel like a dog’s breakfast? Are you one to scrap it in and not waste your time, or do you at least have to see what happens at the end?

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quarterly Goals / Resolution check-in / Mid-year freak out

 

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Call it what you want. New Years resolutions aren’t just for being declared and forgotten… I’m posting updates each quarter on social media to keep me motivated from fear of embarrassment all through 2018.

Initially, in 2015-2017, I was creating yearly goals, but because of the amount of time that’s spanned, things were too easily put off and I wasn’t getting as much done as I wanted. I’d fiddle-fardle around until the last 3 months of the year and then go on a tear to start completing things off the checklist…. Only to finish a dismal amount of items. Just like my approach to studying in high school. *sigh* After inspiration from Jenna Moreci, I’ve re-worked my goals in to quarterly lists for 2018 and hoping to increase my productivity. I tried monthly goals in the first quarter, but found it wasn’t enough time for my lofty goals, and writing novels are chunky items to get through, so quarterly seems to be the business. Those first three months were depressing: I locked myself inside, in the dark, working my behind off and did not complete one task. Oi vey!

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Here’s a link to her latest quarterly goals video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67VbahiISDo

So what achievements were in my sights for Apr-Jun? I wanted to complete the final edit on one manuscript and finish the first draft of another. I was also looking at expanding and updating my online platform in preparation for a marketing campaign when my novel is ready for the publishing stage. Then there were some personal goals around income, home renovations, and socialising…

How did I perform?

None were completely finished, but progressive percentages all added up to the halfway point as a whole. I feel like it’s not good enough – I should have been able to complete everything comfortably but was sidelined with a lengthy period of illness twice this quarter, and had family come to visit. Spending time with family and taking the time to recover to optimal health is important, so I’m giving myself a break. But I’m hoping to have everything ticked off and adding a few more items for July-October quarterly goals. *crosses fingers and strikes a pose in the mirror – I got this*

Is this new format working? I’d say so. With a more immediate deadline, I tend to be more focused. Value my writing time and stop distractions that waste time. I’m a checklist gal. I like to cross things of a to-do list to make me feel happy and productive. Breaking down my writing into completing set scenes/chapters has made it easier to keep the pace up for my writing goals. Especially when it gets to the pointy end of completing your novel because there is so much to keep in mind wrapping up a story, your head can get ‘full.’

It has also helped in keeping me balanced. I get out and explore the Coast a lot. I catch up with friends more frequently. Last year I was starting to feel a bit down, and on closer examination, it turned out I wasn’t leaving the house for weeks on end. No sunshine, no outside contact, just sitting at my computer for hours typing. Having those breaks – that balance – has invigorated my stamina and helped me focus when writing. I has also increased my physical health. I’m more active and my waistline and expanding rear are shrinking back to a more modest size.

How do you set goals and track your progress? What works for you? All tips and tricks greatfully welcome! List some of your best tools in the comments section.

I have always cherished and guarded my writing time, but quarterly goals have made a point in just how valuable it is. I’ve stopped falling into the social media k-hole, or binge-watching shows or YouTube videos. I set a timer and get some solid writing done each day.

Check back with you at the end of Sept, hopefully with a big list of completed items – and some great news on the writing/publishing front.

Stay calm and carry on writing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing characters – ensuring your narrative ‘voice’ is different for each point of view

 

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Firstly, ‘voice’ is a somewhat ambivalent word that describes the feeling, tone, or personality behind the writing. For instance an author, or characters voice (or writing style) could be described as witty and sarcastic, direct and to the point. An author finds their voice when they develop a particular way of writing that is distinct in all their works. It has something to do with common word use, sentence structure, and the impression that is left with the reader after reading their stories. Comparatively, a character’s voice is similar in that it is distinct to them, and sets them apart from the rest of the characters in your story.

Writing Characters Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe way I ensure my characters are distinct from each other is always identifying their background, identity, and motivations first. From there I may list words or phrases that are common in their dialogue. Maybe a certain way of acting, physical ticks, disability and/or phobias. Do they suffer mental illness, discrimination? All of these aspects play on how a character behaves and lets you develop a style that is unique to each member of your cast.

Why is this important? Well you want your reader to clearly identify who is speaking, or from which character’s perspective the narrative is delivering from. It avoids confusion and keeps the reader engaged.

You don’t want to have to write “so-and-so said” after each line of dialogue. It’s unnecessary and kind of amateurish. It shows intelligence and great writing skills if a reader can immediately identify which character said what line, or from what perspective a narrative is taking from a single sentence or two.

I’ve experienced reading some novels where I’ve had to go back and re-read half a page because I wasn’t sure who was speaking, or which character was controlling the narrative. It’s frustrating and takes you out of the story.

My experiences in working as a screenwriter amplify this device even further – writers quickly identify if the dialogue is representative of the character in the script. It’s not uncommon to find them repeating catch phrases, inventing slang, and word chains. For example Lori in the ‘Glimore Girls’ was always using dialogue that was intelligent and chock-full of long thesaurus-sourced words. This type of dialogue was representative of her passion for knowledge and love of having conversations with her mother. Or even Giles from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ where he would have fatherly advice, broke things down for simple explanations. While he is also a bookish, intelligent character, his motivations were different. On the reverse side of things, Giles became a bit of a characture of an English gentleman, so that is something to avoid unless you are writing for comedic purposes.

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We tend to create a voice intuitively to some extent. There is already a person realized in our head from which we are writing. But in order to really nail voice, we need to take a step back and look at our manuscript with fresh eyes and involve as many tools as we can to separate our characters. The clearer you are, the more understanding your readers will have. Our target market comes from a wide variety of backgrounds in culture and education, so the more distinguished you can make the voices of your cast, the better. And it also provides you with a diverse cast – giving a plethora of characters that your reader can relate to.

A handy tip could be to pin up a few character profiles on your wall. Pictures and notes that are unique to your character and their motivations – what is driving them through the story. Then in the 2nd draft stage (so not to ruin your creative flow when getting the bones of the story down) start applying those attributes to every presence the character has in your manuscript and ensure it rings true to their profile.

Of course there are many other ways to differentiate voice – maybe a more physical approach by changing font for each perspective when printing your novel, or definitive chapter headings with the character’s name… it’s up to your own preferences, your creative process and expression, and the tone you want for your book. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the beta reading/testing process and gauge reader reactions.

What tips do you use to help create your voice? How do you create a distinctive style for each characters perspective? I’d love to hear about other methods for cultivating voice. Comment below.

And in the meantime, as always, happy writing 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.