The days fly past and we've now got less than one week for our stay in Australia. It's been an amazing experience and no doubt we'll be back. Next time I'd really like to try some of the more serious outback of the Northern territories and Queensland. Until then we'll make the most of North South Wales and ACT.
Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been interested enough to download Children of the Plantation, my second mystery murder novels which has been free for two days. The response has been phenomenal and many readers have taken the opportunity to look at my other books - a huge thank you!
Now on to my main subject today and it is of course on writing matters. I am delighted to introduce C J Ellisson as my featured guest author and I will let her explain how she comes to sit down, plan and write a new novel. C J is a fabulous author and I as well as many other authors can learn a lot from her. Over to you CJ...!
Weaving the Magic by C J Ellisson
If we’ve done our job right, when a reader sits down to read our polished novel they should be swept away by the story and finish it in a few sittings. Our work may not appeal to everyone, but when it does, the reader will know it and want to devour the book as quick as they can.
But how do we weave that magic? It appears effortless to the reader and they often expect that we’ll be able to whip up the next story in a matter of weeks. Every author will approach the spell differently, but I’ve found a recipe that works well for me so far.
First, I outline the book with three to five sentences per chapter. The story plan is loose and allows me to have direction on where the book is going, and the ending, while leaving room for the story to happen spontaneously as I’m writing it. Some scenes are much more vivid than others and I’m visualizing the action as I’m creating it.
With my previously published works I had severe memory issues, often having to reread several chapters and my outline before ever being able to start writing for the day. It became a habit to edit the previous day’s work before starting new pages. Now, my memory is better and I’m able to recall the story and action easier, pushing my editing to one or two afternoons a week instead.
Some people like to plow through the whole first draft before editing, but every writer has to find what works for them. I’ve found that by editing as I go I don’t insert plot holes, or leave sub-plots dangling at the end. It also helps me keep small details prominent in my mind so I can slip them in when needed.
I’m writing on a tight deadline right now so every week my editor is getting a three to five chapter chunk of work from me. I’ve gone over the chapter several times before she gets it, but I know I’ll always have mistakes another set of eyes needs to catch. She points out phrases that need clarification, questions dialogue credibility, tightens up some passages with line edits, and catches my punctuation and grammar errors.
I used to read the edited chapters immediately upon receipt, now, I’m too busy trying to churn the story out, so the editing and revising will wait until this initial pass is done. Since I’ve gone over each chapter three times or more already, there aren’t normally big gapping plot holes, or scenes that have no purpose and need to be cut.
By the end of the manuscript, I may decide I need to punch up a scene or add more detail—so far out of four books, I’ve never had to do extensive rewrites like change an ending or alter a subplot. Once the full novel is complete and my editor has returned all chapter chunks to me, I’ll incorporate her suggestions and go over the entire novel again.
She’ll get the manuscript back, in its entirety, and hopefully any issues will have been cleared up, but if not, this will be the pass where any glaring errors stand out. After I make her suggested revisions, I’ll send the MS to over a dozen beta readers. My first book had over 270 betas, and my last one had less than ten. I’m thinking with book three I’ll go somewhere in between.
Once I get feedback from the betas I’ll make final adjustments and edit the entire thing again. If the book needs it, which it usually does, I’ll send it for a copy edit at this point. Previously, I thought my line and content editors could do copy edits—I found out the hard way that they missed things. In a 90k word novel the best editor can find 99.9% of all errors and that would still leave ninety mistakes in the book.
Ninety is too many for my tastes! My first two books each had at least three professional editors on them. Yes, it cost me a lot of money, but I think having the best book I can produce is worth it in the end.
The editing is one of the few things I never see complaints about in my reviews. Either they don’t like present tense or the book contains too much graphic sex, but rarely do I get bashed for poor editing. In the end, what I create will be subjective to the reader’s tastes. Producing anything less than the most professional product would reflect poorly on me, not the editors.
It’s your work, make sure to tell an engaging story and relay it as best you can, because never doubt, you will be judged by the quality you produce.
How do you weave your spell?
C.J. Ellisson is the author of the bestselling contemporary fantasy series The V V Inn. Right now there are two of the projected five books published, with the third releasing in early 2012. She also writes erotica with eleven other authors for the Kindle Blog sensation, Everything Erotic.
C.J. lives near Washington DC with her husband, two children aged eleven and nine, two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a young cat she's newly allergic to. After spending most of her working life dealing with real estate - either as a sales manager, corporate trainer, Realtor, or as a property manager - she's now writing full time and happy for the first time in years. Writing has become her passion and to find people want to read her stories feels like a dream come true.
You can visit C.J. at her website (http://www.cjellisson.com) or search for her on Facebook and visit her author page.
Thanks CJ ~ a riveting insight into how you plan your writing. Many thanks to everyone for dropping by to read this post.