Tag Archives: writing

Another thought on “perfection”

I should have a “perfection” category on my blog. I’ve had a lot of posts related to those. The reason is that I want things to be perfect in my writing, but I know I can’t have that.

I go to a monthly writer’s group where we often will write a short piece and share it with the group, get feedback on it, etc. We keep the writing under 2,000 words, so it’s a nice easy writing exercise, at least for me. I love short pieces. But in the month between when we decide what we’re going to write, and when I actually share it with the group, I probably read and edit it at least three or four times. I go to the group and share it, hoping to get lots of good feedback and suggestions on how to improve it and most often what I get is this kind of stunned silence and a general, “That’s really good” comment. It sometimes frustrates me because I look at it and see all the problems. That’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to publishing stories. I keep reworking them because I never feel like they’re perfect.

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I recently had an incredible experience in regards to this. One of my writing friends, Julia Ward, just published her first book. Every writer talks about how their novel is their baby. Well if Julia’s novel was her baby, I was the novel’s Auntie. I was there through the writing stage of the book, the editing stage of the book, the “why did I write this? It’s awful!” stage of the book, the “Oh wait, there are a few funny parts. Actually, this is pretty good,” stage of the book and finally the, “Holy crap, I’m just about to hit the publish button!” stage of the book. Through the whole thing, I saw that endless struggle for perfection, that endless self-doubt that she would ever be able to reach it. It was the same kind of feeling I had when working on my first novel, the same kind of doubt that it would be any good.

When the novel came out, I picked up my copy and started reading. It was cute, it was fun, it was funny. It wasn’t perfect, but I really didn’t care. I enjoyed it, and I was glad I had it to read. And it made me realize that, yes, I strive to make my novel the best it can be, and that struggle makes it such a much more enjoyable read to someone else, but I will never get it perfect, and I don’t need to, because people want to be transported to some other world, some other life, and as long as the imperfections aren’t extremely distracting, they’re happy to read what has been written.

If you’re interested in Julia’s debut novel, go check it out It really is a great read. (And I’m not biased, being the novel’s Auntie.)

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

Inside “It Gets Darker”

Guest Blog Post

Today is kind of a special day. I get to post my first guest blog post! My post last month was all about how I designed the cover for It Gets Darker. This month, Lorna M. Hartman is talking about how she laid out the book interior. It’s a great post, and I definitely learned a thing or two just from reading it. Here are a couple pictures I took of the interior layout of the book. (I was not at all biased in which story I decided to post a picture of… hint, hint, L.P. Masters is the best.)

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Front page of a story

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Author Bio of one story, and front page of another

So now that you know what the inside looks like, and without further distractions from me, I’ll let you get to Lorna’s post.


Inside It Gets Darker: Laying Out the Book Interior

Lorna M. Hartman (www.LornaHartman.com)

To lay out the interior of a book appears straightforward. Drop in the text, some page numbers, add chapter titles and a table of contents. Piece of cake.

Here’s where I (obviously) say it’s not as easy as it looks. This shortened version of the process gives you a bird’s-eye view of a book layout project.

To prepare for It Gets Darker’s print layout, I read the entire book. There’s no other way to get the feel and flavor of the book, and the layout must reflect that as well as harmonize with the book’s cover. Emails flew back and forth as the group decided on their story order and sent me their author bios.

I’d originally received the chapters in separate Word files from the members of Spokane Fiction Writers Group who wrote for this anthology, but It Gets Darker author Erik Schubach (www.ErikSchubach.com) later sent me a single long text file he’d created to use in his design of the e-book.

Since e-books start with a fully stripped-down file, this was helpful. When starting the print book layout with this file, I didn’t have to deal with variations in font sizes, random indents, and other surprises.

While the others worked on their parts of the book, I laid out a single chapter in Adobe InDesign and tried out different fonts and artwork. I chose to use spiky artwork to go with the book cover font, which is called Dark11 (find it at UrbanFonts). The spiky circular swirl art at the beginning of each chapter worked better than any other option.

After I landed on a good visual look for the chapter, I used the pieces of that chapter to set up Styles for the whole book. A single Style is a set of formatting details used for a specific recurring piece of the book, such as a chapter title: the font, font size, alignment, and so on.

For example, the Body Text style for It Gets Darker is 12-point Minion Pro, left-aligned, with a first-line indent of 1p6, and so on. Readers of the book will remember that there are sections of radio commentary in one chapter, and the Radio Dialogue style was 12-point Corbel with indents on both left and right to set it off visually from the body text.

Want to know what’s fun? Getting your drop cap (that big first letter) at the beginning of each chapter to left-align, which ignores your first-line indent—but keeping the indent for the rest of the chapter. I’ve long ago learned this trick, but I haven’t forgotten the entertaining experience of figuring it out for the first time. Good thing no one was around to overhear that.

Even a straightforward book like It Gets Darker, with no footnotes, illustrations, or index, took well over a dozen styles to lay out.

I also created Master Pages. Each chapter’s first page contains the chapter title plus the swirl art, the author’s name, and the beginning of the body text for that chapter. To make sure each such page was laid out identically, I created a Master Page with alignment guides. These guides show up in the on-screen layout but don’t print.

Chapter titles and automatic page numbers can also be added to Master Pages, which saves considerable wear and tear on the layout editor.

(“Wear and tear” is a technical term. “Wear” refers to the way the seat of the pants wears thin over a long project; and “tear,” of course, refers to the customary tearing out of hair as part of the layout process. Possibly “tear” also refers to the tearing of clothes in frustration, but I couldn’t verify that. It is lost to history.)

I applied this Master Page to each chapter’s first page so the guides would show up on that page. I used a different Master Page with different guides for each different type of page.

I also added the spiky swirl art to my Library tab in InDesign because it appears in two different sizes in each chapter. With both sizes available in the Library, I was able to easily drop the right swirl in the right place.

InDesign has a Table of Contents tool that uses Styles to pull out chapter titles and whatever else is to be included in the TOC. It’s not the easiest tool in the toolbox, and it doesn’t cover all the bases, but once you learn it, it does save time for straightforward TOCs.

After completing the full book layout I sent it to several sharp-eyed editor types. They sent their feedback and I incorporated it into the book–there’s no such thing as too many eyes on a book when it comes to proofreading.

Finally, I saved the file in the proper format for the publisher and submitted it. The publisher ran it through an analysis to make sure it would print properly, checking for common layout problems. Last, it went to print, and now you can buy it in paperback as well as e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.

To keep in touch with Spokane Fiction Writers Group, follow @It_Gets_Darker on Twitter, check us out on Meetup, or visit the It Gets Darker landing page. We’ve got someone working on a new website right now, and we’re in process of setting up a new Facebook Page.

Our Twitter account is active, so if you would like to be notified when the Facebook Page is up, message us there.

Most importantly, if you write or want to write, we welcome you to a monthly Meetup group meeting. We don’t just talk about writing—we write. Thanks for your interest.


What a great post from Lorna M. Hartman.

Here’s a little more about Lorna, she writes fiction from the scenic Pacific Northwest. She’s two-thirds done writing a feature-length action/adventure screenplay. See more of her varied careers at http://www.LornaHartman.com and connect with her on Twitter (@Maro_Virino).

LornaHartman

Lorna M. Hartman

 

Sometimes… You just have to do it your way.

I think there’s a saying in the bible I need to use.

“I shall repent myself.”

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post all about staying focused as an author. I went on and on about how the difference between being a writer and an author was about caring enough about getting stuff finished that you actually worked on something until… it was finished. And just one something.

I was guilty of the opposite a lot before that blog post. In fact, as a kid I used to open five or six documents and work on multiple stories at one time.

The post I wrote was timely for me, and an important step in my progress as a writer. The truth is, I really hadn’t been focusing. I had wanted for a long time to be able to get something published, but I’d work on something for a while, get bored, then go do something else and never come back to the first thing.

Lately I’ve been letting myself feel guilty. As most of you know, I was part of this “It Gets Darker As You Go” anthology. So I focused on writing and editing the short story for that. And then thanks to that I remembered what fun it is to write short stories, so I crafted one titled “The Life of Miranda Chance” and edited one called “An Acceptable Future,” both of which will be coming out shortly. Then I started thinking about “Slavery’s Circle,” the first novel in my next trilogy that I’ll be releasing when I’m done with the Afterdeath series.

But with all of this focus going in all these different directions, I wasn’t working on Turning Point, which is book two in my Afterdeath series. There was kind of a dual reason why my attention wasn’t on the novel. The first was because I just don’t really know where to take it. I’ve written the entire novel already, and the revisions are going hard and slow. The second was because it was just fun to slip back into my old routine of multiple projects at once.

It was last night that I had a moment of genius, and I realized that even though picking one work and focusing on it is a good tactic, and it was certainly a great thing for me to do when I wrote Love is Death, that it’s not necessarily “required” of being an author.

Last night I opened up two documents. I opened Turning Point, and I opened Slavery’s Circle. I got one chapter revised on the Turning Point, and three chapters done on Slavery’s Circle. Now I realize, there’s a greater focus on the book that I’m not planning to put out right away, but it was time well spent, because otherwise I would have been surfing the internet or wasting my time creating a cover for some book I probably won’t publish for a few more months. Last night, though, when my mind hit its usual brick wall on Turning Point, I simply turned to my other novel. My productivity skyrocketed. Even if not all my time was spent on the one I’m supposed to “focus” on, I spent all my time writing, and the other book I was focusing on was one that will need to be finished eventually.

It’s great to pick one thing and focus, and there is definitely a time when that’s appropriate. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is great for doing this. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with doing it your own way, doing what you’re most comfortable with. Even if that means writing two books at one time. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up in July, I actually plan to work on both novels. I’ll be setting word count goals that I want to achieve for both Turning Point and Slavery’s Circle. I’ll be focusing. I’ll just be focusing on two things at once. Which, honestly, is something I do really well.

Have fun. And enjoy the writing.

It Gets Darker As You Go

I’m excited to announce that the Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group Paranormal Anthology is just about to hit the shelves (Virtually, and literally.)

Let me tell you a little about it, then we’ll come back to that.

A woman walks in the forest at night with a lantern.

It Gets Darker As You Go Cover

There’s nothing to fear…

This anthology features paranormal stories by the award-winning authors of the Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group.

Erik Schubach
O.C. Calhoun
L.P. Masters
Lorna M. Hartman
David Jewett
Jerry Schellhammer
Patti L. Dikes
Charles R. Oliver
and R.N. Vick

As you journey into the new realities held within this anthology, you will encounter the snaggle-toothed monster under the bed. Meet a sweet, cookie-baking grandma, and discover a ghost who may not be as scary as he seems.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking there is nothing to fear because…

It gets darker as you go.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The stories are incredible. Some of them fun and lighthearted, and some of them extremely dark. That’s what I love about the layout, though, is that if you’re a scaredy-cat like me, you can decide when it’s getting too scary. (I’m probably the only one scared enough to stop partway through an anthology.)

I did swallow my fear and read the last few stories, though, and I can attest that they really are wonderful, albeit frightening.

Now, about those virtual and literal shelves…

Find the print version here, or get an ebook and read it anywhere.

But those are both virtual shelves. Didn’t I say something about literal shelves?

The Barnes and Noble at Northtown Mall in Spokane will be hosting a signing for It Gets Darker on Saturday, June 3 from 1 to 5 PM. They’ll have a big box of the books there, so come support us, come watch me at my very first signing, and come learn a little more about the anthology. UPDATE: The signing is currently up in the air and sounds like it may be pushed back a little. I’ll keep everyone posted on the date.

Okay. Plug your ears now cause I’m about to scream.

I’M SOOO EXCITED!

Whew. Thanks. I needed to let that out!

Have fun and enjoy the writing.

Afterdeaths, Audios, and Anthologies

All right. It’s alliteration time already. Although all I want is to advise you about the amazing events approaching in my author life, I also want to attempt to do a little exercise in alliteration.

As you know, the Afterdeath series has an audience that is aching for another novel.  Believe the author when she says she’s addressing that very need. Turning Point, with its alternating point of view chapters, has afforded itself the admirable station of being over halfway done with edits. Anyone who is following my publishing tendencies may already have noticed a lack of publication in February. Let me assure you, this was not an accident. I decided to focus my actions on accomplishing a fully edited Afterdeath Book 2 before attempting another short story for publication. And not to fret. An audiobook is in the near future.

Audiobooks are amazing. Anyone can sit and listen, and they don’t have to stress their eyes at all. Now, Weights is almost finished as an audiobook format, and will be available sometime in early march! I’ll be sure to announce its arrival on my blog and all other social media I attend to. And if you want an email sent straight to you when it’s available, by all means, sign up for my email list. You’ll attain my short story, “See You Tomorrow” for free when you do.

And don’t think Afterdeath and audiobooks are my only accomplishments. An anthology is in the near future as well. Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group is planning to publish a collection of paranormal short stories. I’ve already read 5 of them, and have heard about all of them, and all I can say is the stories are astounding!

As a final note, I have to bring this up now, simply because I attempted this, (probably annoying) tactic of alliteration today. Another short story that I am announcing soon is titled, “An Acceptable Future.” This story is exciting because it’s the first in a series of Adult Scifi “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories and novellas. Although “An Acceptable Future” doesn’t allow readers to “choose” yet, it is actually based in the same universe as other soon to be written “Dark Tales” are in, a great many of which shall have a choice associated with them.

And with all that, I’ll at last let you free from my mind-numbing yet–yes–amazing alliterating blog post.

Have adventures. And appreciate all authors.

The Museum

Well, I figure it’s late enough in January that none of you are going to assume I put down “post on my blog” as one of my new year’s resolutions. What I did make as a new year’s resolution was to try and improve my writing, and right now I’d like to share a metaphor and tell you about a writing exercise I’m working on. Metaphors are great in writing, but the other day I came up with a metaphor… for writing.

The Museum.

Imagine you’re the curator of a museum, filled with beautiful and brilliant pieces of art. Every day you wander the halls, enraptured in the fantastic works of artists throughout the ages. You not only see the beauty in the workmanship, but every piece of art seems to tell you a story, one that touches you deep in your heart. One afternoon a group of students comes in for a tour. They’re from a school for the blind. As you begin your tour, you realize that the only vision of these works of art that the children will get must come from you and only you. The words you choose will determine if the children will be able to appreciate the art or not.

What are you going to do? You could tell them what a painting looks like, but is that really what the painting is about? You have spent a lifetime admiring this work. You know how it makes you feel, what stories it brings to your mind. How will you ever be able to translate that to your students?

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In this metaphor of mine, the curator is the writer, the blind students are the readers. They are coming to you to be enlightened, edified, educated. It’s your responsibility to find all the words that are going to paint the picture, not in someone’s physical eyes, but in their mental eye.

So there’s my metaphor. And not only is it a metaphor, but it could even be a very interesting exercise. I’ve got two ideas for this exercise, either,

  1. Write as if you are the museum curator, describing any painting you wish, from the Mona Lisa to Starry, Starry Night. Tell the story that you see in the picture, don’t just describe the way it looks.
  2. Write as if a scene from your novel has been turned into a painting by a famous artist. Who is the artist? How has he set the scene? What is happening, and how do the people look? Has the artist succeeded in capturing the emotions of the scene?

Feel free to post your exercises in the comments if you’d like. I’m excited to see what you all come up with! Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

Publishing Update

We are just days away from a new short story out on the market. But (shh!) don’t tell. You can get it right now, for free by signing up for my email list. “See You Tomorrow” will be up for sale by the end of next week at the latest. The cover is currently with the cover designer, the ebook is formatted and ready to go. It’s just sitting. Waiting. Itching for people to read it.

I have mentioned a few times that I write in several genres. “See You Tomorrow” is in my adult Science Fiction genre, and it’s a Romance to boot. It’s a sweet story about Tammi, a Texas girl who runs into the handsome, blue-skinned, sharp-toothed alien Domino Sim in the off-limits part of a National Forest. They spend the entire summer together, but when his assignment on earth is unexpectedly cut short, Tammi spends the next fifteen years trying to prove to his people that mankind is worth their attentions. If she can’t get manned missions out of the solar system, she’ll never see Domino again.

I’m very excited for this short story, and while I’m here I might as well update you on how things are going with my other projects. I’m only a few thousand words from finishing up “Turning Point” which is Book 2 in the Afterdeath series. Sorry, Afterdeath lovers, you’ll have to wait a little longer. “Turning Point” won’t be out until early spring 2017, because as soon as I finish the rough draft I get to focus my mind on revisions of “Last Breath,” which should hit the shelves early next year. “Last Breath” is an Adult Scifi novel about a man stuck outside on a planet with an extremely deadly atmosphere. It’s a page-turner, filled with unexpected twists and turns, and plenty, (I mean plenty) of villains.

Be sure to sign up for my email list so you can get updates anytime a new book comes out. And you can smile a few days from now when everyone else is scrambling to buy their copy of “See You Tomorrow” and you already know how it ends. 😀

Have fun. And enjoy the writing.

My Turn to Rave

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, but here’s why.

I just edited a 56,000 word novel in 10 days. Not to mention having to take care of children and do all the other amazing things I do.

I’m not saying the following things to brag about myself, more to brag about my editor. My editor had a lot of really nice things to say about my novel, Love is Death. You know, it’s great to have your family and friends read your work and tell you it’s good, but there’s just something different about having a professional look at your work and tell you this was a great story and she really enjoyed it.

And speaking of professional, that’s what my editor is. She had a chance to rave about my book in her comments and emails to me, and now it’s my turn to rave about her.

Let me tell you a little more. The “Edited By” acknowledgement of my novel will proudly hold the name Miranda Miller of Editing Realm. Their “tagline” at Editing Realm is “High-quality editing services at affordable prices!” and that’s the truth. I had been looking for an editor for a few weeks before I found Editing Realm, and I was seeing quotes of $2,000, $3,000, sometimes even $5,000 for my novel. It was simply unattainable. I have to be honest, when I stumbled upon Editing Realm’s services I was a little leery of how cheap the prices were, but I desperately wanted an editor, and I figured if I made a mistake picking them, then at least it wasn’t an extremely expensive mistake.

Now that I’m done with my edits, I can assure you it wasn’t a mistake at all.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that an editor should improve your work, but not change your voice. Miranda was brilliant at exactly that. She immediately identified several of my weaknesses: My characters looked a lot. (look, people gotta look at things worth looking at, right?) Using repetitive phrases repetitively, (see previous parenthetical.) Passive voice, (Although the passive voice was trying to be fixed by me as the author as I was doing my own edits.) Oh… And overuse of ellipses… but, I mean… they’re just so dramatic when you have ten of them in one sentence… aren’t they?

Sorry if that previous sentence was painful to read. It was a bit painful to write, and I totally got off track with it. Miranda was probably twitching as she read it.

Not only did she find my weaknesses, but she strengthened my word choice. She was like a magician. I brought in this beat up old parrot of a word, she put it in a box, waved her magic wand and out came a shinning, glorious new dove of a word. I mean, I use the thesaurus sometimes and end up pulling out a pterodactyl, but pretty much every word change she suggested I looked at and thought, That’s a perfect word for that. Why didn’t I think of that word?

As I started out this post saying, Miranda had a lot of great things to say about the story as it went on. As authors, we don’t get to hear our readers’ gasps when that love interest gets hurt or see their eye rolls when that antagonist does something stupid. Miranda put those gasps and eye rolls in the comments, as well as a lot of really great suggestions on how to improve the characters and flow.

I had a few questions and several scenes that I had changed heavily in the edits. I sent them to her and she was always quick to respond, and clear in her answers.

My point is that I want to tell the world, (or at least, anyone who reads my blog) all about Miranda Miller of Editing Realm. I will definitely be using her for my future novels, and have already recommended her to a friend who is planning to publish soon as well. She has erased one of the major concerns I had about self-publishing, and that was having a book that I didn’t feel was truly “polished.” It’s less than a month until my novel hits the virtual shelves, and I couldn’t be more excited.

So have fun, and enjoy the writing, (or editing as the case may be.)

Publish this, Publish that.

I’ve been writing this blog for a few months now, and as you may have noticed one of the themes that comes up in my posts quite often is perfection, (or the lack thereof.) Mostly I’ve been writing about perfection because I need to come to terms with my realization that I’m not, and I won’t be perfect, and that’s okay.

So a lot of my posts have helped prepare me for publishing my upcoming novel by letting me work out the thoughts and worries I have about publishing, but they’ve also helped in a much more practical way.

They’ve helped because I’ve been publishing them.

I write my posts. I read them, (probably two or three…or eight times) and then I click on the little blue button that says “Publish.”

I love that it says publish, because it’s giving me practice for that moment when I click my own “Publish” button on my novel. Just like my blog posts, it will not be perfect. it won’t be interesting to everyone. Some people might read the first few paragraphs. Some might get halfway through and then get struck with an acute case of boredom. While yet others might get all the way through and rave about how wonderful it was. (By the way, if you’d like to rave about how wonderful this post is in the comments, I wouldn’t mind. 😉

The fact is, though, that I’m publishing it. I’m putting it out there for others to see. I’m talking about it and sharing it, and giving other people the opportunity to like it or to hate it. Because writing is meant to be read. Ideas are meant to be shared, be they the small ideas expressed in a few hundred-word blog post, or the big ideas expressed in a 60,000 word novel.

So now that I’ve finished writing this blog post, I’m going to read through it a few times, and then I’m going to push that pretty blue “Publish” button. And in one month and eight days, I will click the Publish button on a different website, the one that will make my debut novel available to anyone who wants to read it.

I love it.

So have fun. And enjoy the writing.

 

Love Is Death-Blurb Reveal

It’s like dreams are coming true all over the place.

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(I wanted a picture to put in the post, and what better than a dog dreaming? Perfectly adorable.)

I’ve been working with my designer the last few days to get my cover just right. We’re not quite ready for a cover reveal yet, but it’s getting close.

Today I splurged, and spent a whopping seventy-five cents to get my cover printed. I had some running around to do this evening, and I spent some time with friends as well. I carried that piece of paper around with me everywhere.

I showed it to my friends who were all excited, and already fighting over who gets to buy the first book. They kept asking me if I knew the girl who posed for it. (I do. She’s my friend’s daughter.) and one woman tonight said, “Everyone keeps asking if you know her because she’s just so pretty.” I’ll have to pass that message on.

At one point I went to get back in my car and I saw the cover in the dim light from a street lamp and thought, “That’s a nice looking cover. What book is that?”

“Oh right. It’s mine!”

I’m not trying to brag, (although, really, any bragging I would do would be all about my cover designer because he’s incredible.) All I’m trying to say is, that dreams are coming true. The count down is on to November 16th when my novel will be released. And although we’re not quite ready for that cover reveal just yet, I decided I would give you all a break and do a blurb reveal. So here it is.

Rest in Peace?

What a joke. Ghosts rarely rest, and when we do, it’s never in peace.

Gina’s plan for her afterlife is simple: survive as long as possible. The afterlife is a ghost-kill-ghost kind of place. When she meets newly-dead Alec, she can’t help her desire to protect him. Before she knows it, she finds herself falling for him, despite the little voice in her head telling her it’s a bad idea.

Alec’s goals don’t mesh well with Gina’s plans. Determined to save his living sister from a murderer, he’s willing to disobey the laws of a well-established cult in the afterlife. If the cult finds out, they’ll kill him. Again. He’s hesitant to accept Gina’s help and threaten her afterlife, but he’s guaranteed to fail without her.

Together they embark on a perilous mission, but the most dangerous aspect of all is the threat of falling in love. Because in the afterlife…love is death.

Cover reveal coming soon. Be sure to check back, or to make life easier on you, follow my blog. (Just click one of the options to the right…)

So have fun. And enjoy the writing. (And have some dreams come true.)