Transparency in Self-Publishing: The Perfect Book

Good morning, everyone!

Only 2 weeks until the release of Forged in Dreams and Magick!

Which leads into the fourth installment in my weekly series, Transparency in Self-Publishing: The Perfect Book.

The perfect book?

No such thing.

In fact, my supportive husband keeps highlighting typos from bestselling authors to help calm the anal-retentive perfectionist in me. Because at some point, we have to let the book go to get it published.

But . . . we have a variety of tools available to make our book The Perfect Book, or what should be more accurately described as The Best Book Possible.

After all is said and done, and the publishing button is irrevocably clicked, don’t you want your masterpiece to be well written and grammatically correct?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, our published books are out there forever. They are our immortality. Commit early to your level of quality, and hopefully readers will devour your books for decades and beyond.

Below are various resources that helped me write The Perfect Book The Best Book Possible.

Craft and Conferences

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I first began writing in the spring of 2010. As an escape from my Type-A side. The last thing I wanted to do was learn how to write. Nope. The whole writing thing began as a hobby and outlet for my creativity. And so I simply wrote.

After the draft was finished and an inexperienced edit was done (by me, who knew nothing about editing), I thankfully attended a national RWA conference. And promptly buried myself in every craft and editing workshop I could squeeze into my wrinkled, well-perused schedule. From 8am until 5pm for three days straight, I absorbed myself into all things writing, took copious notes, and realized I still had a lot of writing and editing development to do.

I highly recommend attending workshops at conferences. The caliber of talent at the national RWA conference was unparalleled, sage advice being doled out by bestselling authors and other professional experts in the industry.

Still, my aversion to doing anything too formal and outlined governed my learning tendencies. In keeping with my ruling creative, I only retained one or two nuggets of wisdom from each workshop to help improve my fledgling writing.

Writing Contests

Luckily, one of those workshops happened to be about the benefits of writing contests. I have a post from last year dedicated to the topic in Why Writing Contests Matter, which talks about the benefits, drawbacks, and process. But suffice it to say, writing contests were integral for my moving forward with my writing. Knowing key points that needed improvement, such as eliminating repetitive words, avoiding passive voice, and increasing the emotional depth, helped me hone my early craft.

Was it nice to have them praise me for my strong points? Absolutely. But setting aside my ego in favor of learning valuable lessons to improve my writing was the true benefit.

I strongly recommend them, if for no other reason than to get early opinions about your strengths and weaknesses. Later contests were entered with new material, what’s now known as Forged in Dreams and Magick, and I began to final in several, winning two of them. Although I’m immensely grateful for the awards and the validation they provide, the greatest benefit to me was in knowing how much I’d improved as a writer.

Books and Posts on Writing

As someone who did not want to “learn” about writing in a school-type atmosphere (nuts and bolts are too anal-retentive for me), I did shockingly pick up one or two books. Now, truth be told, I only thumbed through and scanned, seeking the get-it-now golden nuggets of wisdom.

Actually, the very first book I ever read about writing was J. R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide. {laughs} Yes. I am a fan, and it’s mainly about the BDB. But you know what? When I was in the middle of drafting my very first book in the spring of 2010, I read a golden chapter in there entitled “For Writers: Writing Tips, Advice, and the Original Proposal for the Brotherhood.” And then I reread it. As a fledgling writer, it was fascinating to understand the entire process and terminology from draft to published from an author I admired. And one phrase sticks with me as a mantra to this day. “Finish the book.”

Another book whose advice went from thumbed-through pages and into my hungry mind? The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. The absolute two best things I pulled from that book, but there were many others, are the importance of tension and the merits of scene rewriting.

Tension should be everywhere in a good book. If there’s a slow part? If readers (or you) are skimming over something instead of hanging on every word? You are missing tension. In order to create that page-turning, can’t-put-it-down novel, you need emotion and tension woven into each sentence, paragraph, scene, and chapter. Okay. Maybe not every single one. We do want the reader to take a deep breath now and again. But you get the point.

And on the second point, he makes assignments to the readers that involve rewriting scenes. After the internal groaning ended over how long it took me to create the coveted scene in the first place, I realized the exercise creates a talented skill. Soon after, I read a post by Karen Marie Moning (another amazing author I admire) about how she often writes a scene from several different perspectives until one feels so right, she knows she nailed it. Well, hell. If Moning sees value in such massive scene rewrites, so do I. Embrace your inner editor!

Beta Readers

Beta readers are invaluable in the writing process. Usually trusted friends, they are willing to read your manuscript for free and give you their opinion. Done prior to editing, their main role is to find slow areas, missing elements that should be there, or unnecessary inclusions. Ask them to tell you if it sucks. And where. And why. If you insist upon this brazen honesty and can take the brutal truth, your writing and story will be all the better for their invaluable feedback.

You can read more about the topic in my post from January of this year, Beloved Beta Readers.

In my humble opinion, beta readers are a key element in the writing process and an integral part of any writers team.

And keep an eye out this Wednesday! I’m sharing a behind-the-scenes look into my team in The Beta Reader Interview. :)

Online Workshops

This spring, about a month before I sent Forged in Dreams and Magick to my editor, I took an editing workshop. Yes. You read that correctly. Unfortunately, I’m unable to leash my anal-retentive side everywhere. Hey, perfectionism is a valuable asset! So I allowed the overkill to occur.

And you know what? I’m SO glad I took that editing workshop.

The professional-editor instructor reinforced things I already knew and introduced techniques I hadn’t considered on my own. I swept through the manuscript and employed all the new nuggets of wisdom I’d gleaned before I sent it off to my editor.

The result? She said mine was the most polished manuscript she’d ever received. Did I take that as an ego boost? Nope. My extra diligence helped to make the product the readers will hold in their hands The Best Book Possible, which is all that matters to me.

The Price and Value of Editors

A strong reason for doing the Transparency in Self-Publishing series is to help writers understand more of the self-publishing process than I did when embarking upon it. Editing is no exception.

Editing is EXPENSIVE.

There. I hope that saves you from the heart-stuttering sticker shock I had. My editor sensed my unpreparedness and blessedly broke the news to me gently, but I gasped for air nonetheless. And researcher me should have known, as pricing is easy to find online. You will also find that pricing and experience varies significantly. After the sticker shock wore off, I vetted my choices carefully, asking for references and speaking to said references before shelling out the wad of cash for the much-needed service.

How expensive? Well, I was initially thinking $500-1000 for my 100,000 word novel. Perhaps, I’d read an article or two on book lengths of 50,000-70,000 words and hadn’t paid close attention. I truly hadn’t paid much attention at all and just had a lower-than-reality ballpark figure in my head. The cost for the developmental and copy edits was $1,750 for my 100,000 words. That didn’t include proofreading or formatting.

Lucky for me, we had a savings account to dip into. From there, proofreading and formatting seemed a bargain at around $400.

The value of the edits? PRICELESS.

I can’t underscore enough the incredible benefit gained from good editing and proofreading. Sure, they caught every typo and proper hyphen usage I’d missed. And I’m apparently the queen of dangling modifier, emdashes, and ellipses. But even greater than all of those corrections? The continuity issues, plot holes, historical inaccuracies, and conflict issues that were captured and corrected.

Every item corrected through the editing process keeps the reader out of grammar-groaning mode. Instead, they get lost in your engaging story, exactly where you want them to be.

How Much Editing is Enough?

Edits need to happen until you have The Best Story Possible.

I imagine the need varies from writer to writer. Anal-retentive me believes the story should be in the best condition possible prior to every stage.

My beta readers deserved to read a sufficiently edited version. Prior to sending to the professional editor, I swept through the story once on my PC with beta-reader suggestions and a second time on my Kindle. Prior to the proofreader? Yours truly proofread my copy edit changes again on my Kindle, reading every single word of the manuscript from the first page to the last.

A side note here: I find reading the manuscript on my Kindle to be invaluable. I catch many typographical errors and reading-flow issues on my Kindle, and believe reading the manuscript on an e-reader helps our eye catch more flaws.

Why go through all the time and effort of reading through before each professional stage? Isn’t that what they’re paid to do?

Well, that baby is MY manuscript. Anything I can do to polish it to shine, I’m willing to do. No matter the time or effort necessary. If each team member has the manuscript in the best condition possible, then they can make it even better.

As a well-qualified and hard-working team, we publish The Best Book Possible.

~~~

Thank you for joining me for the Transparency in Self-Publishing Series! More on many of the topics can be found in my posts in the Writing Tidbits category, including Seducing Your Story ~ The Magic of Editing

I’ll likely add more posts to this series in the near future, perhaps one on budgeting and another on publishing decisions. Let me know if there is a fresh topic you’d like to see here or one you want expanded upon.

~~~

Also, please mark your calendars for the upcoming posts and events:

9/11 – The Beta Readers’ Interview
9/16 – Forged in Dreams and Magick promotion event begins (organized by AToMR Tours) *
9/21 – Forged in Dreams and Magick launch party hosted by Bookish Temptations (begins 7pm EST on blog and Twitter)
9/23 – Forged in Dreams and Magick RELEASE DAY!
9/23 – ARC Review Tour begins and promotion event continues (through 9/28)

* Any bloggers interested in signing up for the promotion event can still do so by clicking on Forged in Dreams and Magick AToMR Tour link here. Sign-ups for the promotion event will remain active until 9/25. Although the Review Tour portion of the promotion is now closed, reviewers can still obtain review copies either by contacting me through my Kat’s Connections page or by requesting a copy from NetGalley.

A huge thank you to everyone posting the wonderful early reviews of Forged in Dreams and Magick on Goodreads. I greatly appreciate each of you for taking the time to read and review the book. That so many of you love the story and are raving about the writing means the world to me, especially given the effort taken to write the best book possible. I’m incredibly grateful and truly honored.

I shall endeavor to write many more of the best books possible for you to read in the months and years to come.

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Book Recommendations From a Finicky Reader

I LOVE reading.  That said, I choose not to read while writing.  My reading abstinence helps me maintain my voice and stay motivated. {whispers} I’m easily distracted.

By the time I’m finally able to read, I’m starving for really great books. I search for the phenomenal reads.  If I find a paranormal romance? I’m in heaven.

After months of editing my paranormal romance manuscript last year, I took my first reading break in late September and read many spectacular books over the holidays. Most were outside my preferred genres.  The experience of stepping outside my comfortable reading box was highly rewarding.  I encourage everyone to do the same.

Books that blew me away among a field of a dozen very good books:

Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard (Romance)
Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard (Romance)
Iced by Karen Marie Moning (Fantasy)
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (Comedy/Romance)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Young Adult/Fantasy)

My first read in late September? Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard. I chose well. In the beginning few pages, compelling writing drew me into the world of Gabriel’s Inferno while I sat in the middle of a chaotic airport. Over the course of a week, I fell in love with the characters, the story, and the author.  Gabriel’s Inferno  instantly became my favorite book and Sylvain Reynard my favorite author. Why? The complexities are great as to the reasons. It’s written differently, which I enjoyed.  The references to art and culture are so plentiful and detailed, I became a student in the professor’s class. Gabriel’s Inferno is a captivating sensual and poignant journey of love, hope and redemption written in a delightfully artistic manner.  A must read.

My second read? Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard, of course. I needed more of Gabriel and Julia.  Sylvain Reynard’s second book did not disappoint. Complex storylines emerged and wove together taking the reader on the ultimate journey of self-sacrifice, hope and love. The main character’s continuing transformation in this book, from a man past all hope of redemption to one who has been saved through love of many kinds, is an amazing must read.

The book I’d been waiting almost two years for? Iced by Karen Marie Moning.  I’ll admit I began reading with equal parts excitement and apprehension, as this is the first book in a spin-off series after her phenomenal Fever Series.  Could Moning match the stellar writing and intriguing story from the Fever Series?  Suffice it to say, she eclipsed it.  I couldn’t put the book down.  Her imagination is incredible and her writing and vivid imagery are flawless; you are there in her world. I highly recommend this book if you love fantasy, but to get the full effect, you may want to read her five-book Fever Series first.

A surprise love? Wallbanger by Alice Clayton. I didn’t think I was a fan of romantic comedy. Apparently, I am a huge fan of Alice Clayton’s brand of laughter and love.  What began as Caroline’s midnight irritation, turned into her neighbor’s well-earned nickname, and evolved into a wonderfully fun love story.  I fell in love with the characters and story through Clayton’s well-written humor. Even Clive, the heroine’s cat, had me in stitches.  What captured me the most in Wallbanger is the way the comedy endeared you to the characters.  I share the same sense of humor with the characters and found the exchanges very relatable. I wanted to be at their dinner parties.  In fact, I now find I want to go to Spain.  And bake… :)

An even bigger surprise? Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, my first Young Adult genre read. I’d never ventured into Young Adult, but was not disappointed.  It quickly became clear to me that Laini Taylor is a very special author.  She writes fantasy, a genre that I love, flawlessly.  The story was unique and fresh.  The way she unfolded events had me page-turning until the very end.  If you like fantasy, or even paranormal, I highly recommend this book.

All five of those incredible books are now cherished stories on my Kindle that I’ll be reading again when the time is right.  I hope you enjoy their well-written heartfelt stories as well.  Thank you to all the authors for sharing your imaginative worlds with us.

I’m adding those reviews to my Goodreads Page, which I’m still learning to navigate.  {laughs}  Stop by there and say hello! :)

Please share your thoughts.  What other stellar books have you read?  I need to start a list for my next writing break later this year!

Have a wonderful time reading, my friends!

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Highlander – Alpha Incarnate

Highlander – Alpha Incarnate

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

 

Those of you who’ve been following my adventure know that I’ve just finished my manuscript. This weekend, while doing my final read through, I’ve had the incredible pleasure of falling in love with my Highland and Pict warriors all over again.

As I described in an earlier post, The Lure of the Great Alpha Male, I have a love for a powerful primal man who is brought to his knees by love. He’s an impenetrable force of nature, yet no matter how hard he fights it or denies it, he is felled by one woman. In my opinion, the romance of such a story is unrivalled.

Great Alpha Males take many forms. Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno has the tortured, sinful academic, Gabriel. {shivers} Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series has the primal Barrons. {sighs} I could go on… and on…

There is one place and time on earth, however, where Great Alpha Males were born and bred. Unique among great warriors across the globe and through time, geography, circumstance, and lore shaped them.

The quintessential Great Alpha Male?

The Highlander.

The landscape had a great hand in shaping the warriors forged in the Highlands of Scotland. Unforgiving. Rugged. Harsh. Cold.

Agendas of other warfaring nations played a role. Centuries of Viking and English invasions bred strong warriors to defend home and land.

Men that lived hard? Played hard.

And, those kind of men? … Loved hard.

Nothing instigates my imagination more than envisioning a man who dedicated his life training and fighting to protect those he loves, until one true love takes him by surprise, and…

Knocks him down with a feather.

Destroys him with a whisper.

But first, the beast needs to be tamed. And don’t you want to be the one who breaks him?

Wouldn’t you love to be dropped into medieval Scotland, a damsel in distress, but feisty as hell at having been dumped there in the first place? (No coffee, internet, or movies, of course.)

In a dress with bindings too tight around your ribs and a neckline too low for modesty, you stand in the center of a castle’s Great Hall downing a goblet of ale, trying to make sense of why you’re there. Women eye you with barely restrained hostility. At that moment, the feeling is mutual.

The heavy oak door creaks open on iron hinges. A dozen men enter, arguing over a clan dispute. Their footfalls echo into the room. Massive chests and bared arms glisten in the firelight. For some inexplicable reason, one stands out from the others.

The air crackles with electricity like a charge before the storm. Power emanates from him.

A pulse of heat spears through you, catching you by surprise. You gasp.

His dark gaze locks onto you.

No one needs to tell you he’s master there. You feel it.

Did he just growl?

Your heartbeat accelerates.

He stalks forward.

Hungry eyes paralyze you.

You swallow hard.

A slow smile tells you he’s going to devour you whole, and it has nothing to do with food.

The cup falls from your hand.

Lightning reflexes catch it.

Your eyes close as you inhale the scent of earth and woods.

He is hunter.

You are prey.

Hot breath caresses your neck.

You sigh as heat travels down, warming more intimate places.

Fragments of thoughts fall out of your head…

Where has he been? What makes him tick? Who has his heart? Why has he locked onto you?

Wouldn’t you like to know?

{smiles slowly}

I know of a girl from California who found herself lost in the past. Stay tuned as I tease you all incessantly until I can tell you all about it… {smirks} 

For a tiny excerpt, please see my website Contest Excerpt and see what has the judges raving.  Here are some of the Awards & Comments.

Meanwhile, share your favorite Highlander in a movie or a book.

Me? I fell in love with Brodick in Julie Garwood’s Ransom. {sighs}

 

Your Favorite Shoe,

Kat

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

The Lure of the Great Alpha Male

The Lure of the Great Alpha Male

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

We all want him.  Not just any alpha male.  
We all want the Great Alpha Male.

The Alpha Male…

An alpha doesn’t walk into a room.  He commands it.  Without effort, he could defeat every male there.  The intangible vibe pouring off those broad shoulders announces the danger louder than a bull horn.  Every other wise man in the room heeds the warning.

Every single woman responds to the dominant presence.  Instinctually.

Something primal takes over.

Our hair gets fluffed without thought.

Perfectly glossed lips get licked.

Shirts are pulled down lower, chests stuck out further, hips swayed another degree right and left in an unconscious effort to gain the spectacular male’s notice.

The mating dance has begun. 
He surveys the group of potential females. 

Each woman hopes for a chance to be the one…
The female above all others that he has chosen.

We’ve already chosen him, even if our stubborn mind puts up a valiant fight.  Our body overrides reason.  We are biologically programmed to choose virility.  We seek protection from the one most able to provide. 

Sound animalistic? {smiles slowly}
Oh, yes.  Most definitely.

A glance comes our way… devastating.

The voice… deep and soul-penetrating.

Those eyes… demanding.

Our breath quickens. 

Our pulse races.

We swallow hard, our throat suddenly Sahara dry.

Logic steps in, creating a tug-of-war with our bodies and minds.  We shake our heads, clearing lustful thoughts.  Will-power soon falters, our gaze traveling back to the object of desire.

Every action is geared toward the heart-pounding hunt.  It’s one thing to find him.  Quite another to ensnare the specimen alpha male.

The alpha male, may dally with many females, but chooses only one as his mate.  Someone worthy of everything he has to offer.  A powerful woman… is his counterpart.

When the two meet, it is in every way, a collision.
The dance continues, and, yet, has only just begun.

Fighting. 

Resisting. 

Overpowering. 

Submitting.

No matter the strength of his female…
the alpha male must overpower her to have her. 

By choosing him, she agrees to be owned by him…
whether she realizes it or not.

The Great Alpha Male…

If we’re lucky, we haven’t found just any alpha male.
The rare few capture the Great Alpha Male. 
The one that is innately alpha… and so much more.

When the larger than life man falls to his knees…

When the man who can conquer legions yields to a woman…

When he rips his chest wide open, handing her his very heart…

That incredibly lucky woman has found…

… the Great Alpha Male.

Romance is filled with larger than life Great Alpha Males. 
The Highlands are filled with them… in reality and our fictional worlds. 
Hence, my unending love for Highlanders. 

Who is my favorite Great Alpha Male?
So far, it would have to be Jericho Barrons. 
He may not be a Highlander, but damn, what a Great Alpha Male.
And… he was part Pict, after all.

Who is your favorite Great Alpha Male?

Your Favorite Shoe,

Kat

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

Seducing Your Story ~ The Magic of Editing

Seducing Your Story ~ The Magic of Editing

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

Everyone seems to be afraid of… or utterly dread… editing. Going back into work you’ve slaved over and doing the mechanical “stuff.” (highly technical term)

For me? Editing is the most amazing part. Now’s the time I get to shine—weave magic into an already stellar piece of art…or…not…depending on whatever I was thinking when my fingers flew across the keyboard at Mach 13. (which is 9,896 mph, in case you were wondering) … {fogs my nails and buffs them on my shirt}

Why all the anxiety?

Well, by the time you’ve finished. You’re a little bug-eyed. You feel like your head is about to explode. You’ve been so long in the forest you’d forgotten there were trees. With leaves. That are green. Usually.

Like fine wine, some things need to breathe.

Give it a rest.  Let that beauty sit there long enough for the oxygen to enhance your creation… and recharge your brain cells.

So now what?

First, you have to prepare yourself.  Put your sweats on, tie your hair in a high, fluffy ponytail, and keep a dose of dark chocolate close at hand. Put on those sexy librarian glasses that make your man think you’re imminently do-able, but force him to take pause because he knows there’s a whole lot of something else going on over there.

Now, you sit down and break it down—Chapter by chapter; Scene by scene; Paragraph by paragraph… Down to the very last sentence.

  • Is there a goal at the beginning?
  • Was it achieved at the end?
  • Did the world I create pull me in? Can I see it, feel it… smell it?
  • When the tension built, did his inner turmoil come across?
  • Does my plot move forward at just the right pace?
  • Am I using an active or passive verb in that sentence?
  • Did I use the best possible words to convey feelings and action?
  • Are my scene and chapter breaks in places that make sense?

Now. Usually all that analysis, and the weaving of those magical elements, comes in waves for me.  I am a pantster, after all. But the point is, I know what to look for. I know where my weaknesses lie in my drafts. I know how to fix them.

Use “Find” in your word processing program.

Are there repetitive words? Especially unique words that will pull your reader out of the story when they notice. Like… bristled… or askance. Do you really want your readers to stop and think to themselves, “Damn. There’s a whole lot of bristling going on.”? No? Me either.

I’ll never forget, as I looked up synonyms for enormous. I decided to do a word find. I found: 8 enormous, 4 vast, 7 massive, 1 huge, 2 gigantic, 2 giant, 1 mammoth, and 1 gargantuan. I got excited. I had yet to use oversize, colossal, and substantial.

How do I remember that? I’m looking at the yellow sticky pasted to editing notes. 

Okay, Kat. We get it. Everything is massive. {smirks}

Learn your craft.

Trust me, I didn’t always love editing. But, mentor’s words and techniques ring into my head when I’m elbows deep in reworking my rough draft into a polished diamond.

  • J.R. Ward ~ “Finish a book….” … from The Black Dagger Brotherhood, An Insider’s Guide
  • Karen Marie Moning ~ In an introduction to JZB’s POV last year, said she often writes difficult scenes from more than one perspective until she feels it’s perfect.
  • Donald Maass ~ “Rewrite the page… Rewrite this page again… Rewrite this page again…” … from The Fire In Fiction.

What did I take away from those greats? Finish what you started. Make it better. Everyone has to work hard to get results… it isn’t through the wrinkle of a nose like in Bewitched.

What’s the secret to editing?

Perspective is huge. How you go about doing something always impacts the result. Like I always say… about everything… if you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I make it fun, with the sweats and the ponytail and the chocolate. 

As I work through my paper-pushing day job, I can’t wait to finish, so I can tweak that scene. Add the idea that’s rattled around in my head. Polish that rough spot.

For me, the magic truly begins with the editing. The story I’ve written comes to three-dimensional life as the world mists off the pages and surrounds me.

Editing is seducing your story—teasing her slowly with grace and care until the best part of her shines through.

Can you tell I’m in the middle of editing? {laughs}
I’m having a blast with rewrites, revisions, and editing. Oh. My.

I hope you join me… and have fun with seducing your story, too.

Please comment and share your favorite techniques of editing, your challenges, and the pet-peeves you’ve seen in writing that you wish would have been edited.

Your Favorite Shoe,

Kat

© 2012 by Kat Bastion