Back in December I wrote, in super dramatic terms, about bringing my first book into the world and how it was way more like being a first-time mom than I ever expected. Looking back, I agree with every word.
It’s been almost six months since the release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal and the roller coaster of emotion is now more like a carousel. There are still ups and downs, but they don’t make me scream and I only get motion sick if I close my eyes for too long. Each turn is predictable with each next step already planned. Each tiny up has its own tiny down.
It’s all very manageable and to be honest – a little boring. It’s work. Plain and simple. I create goals to complete. Some are big, like finishing 2000 minutes of editing each month to finish Stonebearer’s #2. Some are tiny, like making sure my email stays under control. Some can be tedious, like ensuring my social media presence stays solid. (By the way, my Instagram is fabulous.) Some are fun, like attending conferences and signings.
I find myself hoarding time like a miser. Each minute I can work in peace while the kids are at school is measured and optimized. The hours of the day are sliced and diced into focused chunks, 45 minutes here to write today’s blog post, 10 minutes there to fold the laundry, 15 minutes here to answer an email, another hour there to edit another scene.
Right in the beginning, when the world of possibilities was wide open, I lost focus on my big goal, to earn my success by creating great novels, and instead spent way too much time chasing micro opportunities down rabbit holes. Whole days were eaten in the search for podcasts and book review sites willing to even look at me. I didn’t write or edit a word of fiction for months.
I turned into a crazy person. I collected every bit of data and studied each analytic hoping to see an upturn that said I’d won the author lottery and the mainstream market had noticed my little book. After months of working and watching, I realized the only way to continue growing my fan base would be to keep writing more books for people to enjoy.
So here I am. Working. Hard. Everyday.
I don’t regret my weeks and months spent being a little crazy and obsessive – it comes with the whole becoming an author package and needs to be experienced to be understood.
I’m all better now. Here, have a smiling potato.
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.
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For readers and authors alike words have a special power to transport, inspire, and inform. Today, I’m thrilled to share an article from my dear friend and amazing editor Annie Oortman that is her ode to the power and beauty of words.
Annie and I met as a result of her generosity and kindness. I needed someone to come teach at my League of Utah Writers chapter meeting and Annie volunteered to share her method that helps authors through the process of self-editing, a skill that many of us struggle with. We’ve been friends ever since.
Enjoy the article!
by Annie Oortman
I love words. All of them.
Good ones (wonderful) and bad ones (heck)… small ones (wee) and big ones (considerable). Simple ones (plain) and complex ones (labyrinthine)… charming ones (glamorous) and nasty ones (scatological). Trashy ones (sleazy) and high-brow ones (fastidious)… clever ones (crackerjack) and stupid ones (huh). Moral ones (principled) and… Oops.
Sorry, I got carried away. Why? Because I love words!
Ensure You’re Understood
Words are the means to clear and expressive communication. Whether posting on social media about a movie you saw, talking to your friends about work, or explaining your feelings to your significant other, your choice of words can make the difference between getting your point across and vacuous effective purpose unmitigatedly (missing the mark totally).
Confusion occurs because words have shades or nuances of meanings, just like those addictive paint chip cards that beckon you at the front of your favorite home-improvement store. That’s not just a bunch of reds. Meet Bolero, Rave Red, Red Tomato, Coral Reef, Charisma, Youthful Coral, and Oleander.
Don’t believe me? Here’s what’s on the disappointed chip card: baffled, dumbfounded, puzzled, frustrated, thwarted, and failed. The problem chip card: issue, obstacle, trouble, quandary, dilemma, uncertainty, and difficulty.
One more for kicks and giggles: Pretend: deceive, simulate, masquerade, feign, dupe, bluff, and fool.
Paint Chips? Really?
Still not buying my schtick? No problem. Let’s talk context…
“Sorry about that.” Sorry is used so often in apologies ranging from spilling cereal on the floor to totaling Dad’s car that its connotation stands neutral. However, shades of sorry can zero in on real feelings behind the apology
“I’m distressed about that.” Tayson can’t be believe he forgot his wife’s birthday and won’t feel better until she forgives him.
“I regret the incident.” Margo doesn’t think blowing off a staff meeting should cost her her quarter bonus, but making nice with her boss might fix the problem.
“I sympathize with you.” Mrs. Hutzell’s delay in emailing West Point a teacher recommendation letter caused Caroline’s application to be denied.
“I apologize for my outburst.” Carter’s blunt assessment of his five-year-old sister’s clay ashtray made Betsy cry.
“I’m so embarrassed by my actions.” Bob’s profanity-laced tirade on the tennis court will be remembered for years and he knows it.
“I’m full of remorse.” Carrie knows her ongoing affairs damage her marriage but can’t seem to stop herself.
“Please forgive me.” Adam didn’t mean to rush out of the meeting, but lunch wasn’t sitting well.
Don’t Start Carrying a Thesaurus
Having fun with the thesaurus on the shelf, on your phone, and/or on your computer is one way to learn to communicate clearly and concisely. Others include:
Reading every day. The more you read and the more variety of options your read, the more words you’re exposed to. See how some famous authors suggest you get started.
Making friends with your dictionary of choice. If you stumble across a word you don’t know, look it up and then insert it within a conversation or email when appropriate. The easiest one to find? Dictionary.com!
Learning a word a day. Buy a word-a-day calendar or have a word-a-day website email you. Challenge yourself to incorporate the daily selection into conversation, email, social media posts, etc. at least three times before bedtime. Get started now!
Having fun with etymology. The study of word origins is fascinating. (Seriously, it is.) Did you know i.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, which means that is? Or that the French word for a woman’s bedroom or private sitting room—boudoir—comes from bouder, meaning to pout, sulk? Check out The Etymology Nerd’s daily take on the fun.
Playing word games. Challenge yourself and discover new words via crossword puzzles, word jumbles, Scrabble variations, etc. while waiting in line or stuck on hold. My favorites include the classic Scrabble, Daily Crossword, and Word Trip.
Okay, my friend. Time to expand your mind (and your vocabulary). Go forth and prosper… blossom… flourish… catch on… thrive… advance…
About Annie Oortman
Faster than a speeding deadline, more powerful than
a period, and able to leap a rough first-draft in a single bound… Super Annie
fights a never-ending battle for readability, enjoyment, and clear, compelling
writing for all!*
Deciphering the written word by age three,
performing readings to family and friends from her front porch at eight, and
finishing every book in her small hometown library by 12, Annie knew her
uncanny ability to not only read, interpret, edit, and improve a writer’s
message but teach them to do it themselves must be used for good not evil.
As the mild-mannered Annie
Oortman, she travels the world sharing her superpower with fiction and
non-fiction authors alike, hoping one day to rid the publishing world of simple
subjects, puzzling plots, and wretched writing.
I believe I’ve said it here before, but creating a book is a lot like having a baby, morning sickness and all.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had several people want to hear about my journey of what it’s been like to publish a book. Last year, I wrote a post about my experience with querying and finding a publisher. Ironically, that post was immediately preceded by one talking about rejection and accepting yourself as you are, proving that this industry is indeed a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
What a year it’s been!
If my book “pregnancy” officially began the day I signed the contract, then the morning sickness set in when I started work with my editor. Women suffering from morning sickness will tell themselves it will all be worth it in the end as a way to cope with the misery. During the editing process, I kept telling myself that the nauseating discomfort of learning about all the weak parts of my book had to be a good thing as well. My editor at one point in the process may, or may not, have compared my main character to Bella Swan from Twilight. Ouch.
Editing is hard work. Each chapter, sometimes each page, takes long hours of intense focused thought to bring it to the next level. When I’ve done my own rounds of polishing and editing it’s taken months to work from cover to cover. Under contract, I’m given thirty days to complete an editing pass. Fun fact – if I spend one hour per page, editing the book would take over 300 hours. That’s THIRTY ten hour work days back-to-back with no breaks. Which is why it really wasn’t fair for my kids to be off-track during the first crucial editing pass as I transformed my main character Katira away from being a passive Bella and into a strong, capable protagonist.
Deadlines are aptly named. If you aren’t feeling half-dead with exhaustion as you slide your edited manuscript back, you probably have better time management practices in place than I do. In the first pass, we cut away almost 15,000 words of dead weight and replaced them with hundreds of small additions sprinkled through the book like salt. I learned quickly that one of my writing weaknesses (besides poor Bella) was not tagging dialogue in a way that added motion and life into a scene. After spending days of work inserting more action into my dialogue sequences, I think I’ve learned my lesson.
This process is repeated until both editor and author agree the book is as good as it can get, or can’t stand to look at it again. I’m still not sure which. Morning sickness fades into a period of waiting, preparation, and sheer terror contemplating the vastness of all that should be done. There’s waiting for the proofreader to finish, waiting for the cover artist, waiting for formatting, waiting for proofs, waiting for digital copies, waiting for early reviewers – so much waiting.
At this point self-publishing starts to look good. While I’ve loved having the support of a company to help me through this process, especially since it’s my first time, the waiting and not knowing what’s happening – or if anything is happening – can drive anyone a little nuts.
Just like a first-time mom, a first-time author (despite all their research, and best efforts, and fellow author friends who try to show them the way) experiences so much uncertainty with the whole process that the stress is unbelievable. Looking back, I could have done so much more with this waiting period to prepare for the books release, but I was naive. Now I’ve been through it I know what really needs to be done, and when I go through this again I’ll have a much better plan.
Launch day is literally a book’s birthday. It is pushed out into the world and is on display for all to see, warts and all. All the early teasers, quotes, articles, and efforts that happen before the launch are the same as showing people ultrasounds. As the author, I can see the cute little nose and the tiny precious fingers, and all that amazing potential inside because I’ve studied it – but to everyone else it’s just another static filled picture.
There’s no way to feel truly prepared for launch day. Some authors do hundreds of hours of prep and set up and marketing and a blog tour – the options are dizzying. Some moms fill their freezer with weeks’ worth of meals and create and fill a schedule for people to come help them.
The results are the same. The book still comes, the baby is born. The family and friends that planned on supporting and helping the author still show up. Sometimes friends of friends are dragged in as well.
Unlike a baby who demands care, feeding, and endless love and attention, a book won’t demand anything and immediately starts fading into obscurity unless the author continues to push and work to keep it in the public eye.
This is where I am now. My book has entered its infancy where it still doesn’t know its place in the world. I’m working everyday, trying hard just to keep it alive until it can start building momentum on its own. Just like a real infant, the work keeps me awake at night and requires a steady stream of care and feeding for it to thrive.
It’s exhausting, but worth it.
My family will tell you that this process has changed me. I believe it. I’m a stronger more confident person than I was before. I’ve learned how to squeeze the most out of short periods of time, and utilize every moment – especially when I’m under a deadline. These skills have transferred into home life as well. Putting off doing something I don’t like doing, like creating a meal plan, only serves to prolong stress. Get it over with. Having a messy house won’t kill me, but it doesn’t help me find peace either. It’s important to seek out ways to feel centered, even when lots of crazy is going on.
While I wrote the book because it was one of my life goals, it has helped my kids see that they can reach hard goals as well and that anything worth doing takes real work. I love hearing the pride in their voices as they tell their teachers and friends that their mom is an author.
Hopefully they don’t mind too much that this book baby might be expecting a little brother in 2020…!
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!)
As expected, July turned out to be hot and busy. Between plenty of family activities and long days home with kids, it was hard to consistently find time to work on my book. Even with these challenges the word count rose from around 57,500 words to 72,000 words – a net increase of 14,500 words or about 60 pages, and that deserves a happy dance all around. A good part of these words were salvaged from an earlier draft and edited to fit the new needs of the current draft. The rest are new scenes written to round out the story.
These pages contain both the action climax and the emotional climax of the book, and have been a bear to work on. I owe my family an apology for the days I was mentally withdrawn as I worked through some of the emotions myself. Part of me feels bad about what happens to my characters, I have put them through the wringer and there’s not much I’ve given them as a reward. During future editing I’m going to have to make sure that the payout for completing their quest is enough or my readers might end up throwing the book against a wall.
I’m excited to have reached this point in writing Stonebearer’s Betrayal. At this pace, I should finish this draft during the month of August and be that much closer to publication. After this, I’ll begin the more detailed and painstaking work of filing down the rough edges and filling in gaps and holes, of which I already know there are many.
Between this draft and the next, I’m looking forward to taking a break for a few weeks and working on some short fiction to submit to magazines and contests. I’ve collected a few fun ideas that I hope will turn into some great fiction.