Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Musing on Writing: July 2014

Yeah, my work space is a perpetual mess

On my oldest daughter's due date group, I was asked a few questions that ended up with my giving a lengthy response that I thought I'd share here.

I have been wanting to ask you about your books. Do you self-publish? Are you in hard copy form yet? How long does one book take to write, on average?


Yes, I publish through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Lulu. Most traditional publishing houses are getting to the point where they only look for authors who have created a 'brand' for themselves and already attracted readers because of the initial investment that they want to get a return on, so it's actually harder than it's ever been to get into traditional publishing (which has always been difficult, especially when you're unable to do convention crawling and schmoozing, which is the traditional way of acquiring readers).

All of my books are available in paperback. I want to eventually offer in hard cover, too, but I don't want them to cost $30/pop, so I'm still trying to figure that one out. My books aren't short, lol.

How long does it take to write? That's incredibly difficult to say. My first book, I had my husband's full support to get 'protected writing time,' so I was able to write without distractions every day for the 3 weeks it took to write the first draft. That's a little over 100,000 words, or 261 pages (the size of a standard mass market paperback in the genre I write). 

That's my shortest book in the series.

That's just the first draft, though. Then it needs to sit for a couple months, sight unseen to get it out of my head to begin the second draft editing process. Revisions continue until it feels clean enough to go to my editor (who also reads my raw drafts because she's impatient for the story, lol). Then she sends it back, and I go through it again and we discuss edits, suggestions, etc. 

Now that I'm [working on publishing] my 4th book, after my editor, it will be going to two proofreaders after her (because even OCD, anal editors like mine miss things).

I'm looking at date tags to answer draft time length questions on the books following the first (which came out insanely fast -- it was READY to be written, lol!). 

Okay, so my 4th book took 4 months to write at 359,000 (approx) words (897 pages). Yes, that's long. But I polled my readers, and they said they prefer longer books, so... It does mean that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to print as one paperback, though. I'll have to decide if I want to push the font to a smaller size (9pt instead of 11) or if I want to split it in two paperbacks. I know the final book will have to be two paperbacks (this is because I don't have a major publisher backing me to print larger books, which they don't like to do because of shelf space, NOT because of reader interest -- the more space it takes up on a shelf, the less profit they get).

My third book took 3 months and is 300,000 (approx) words (753 pages).

My 4th and 5th books are taking longer to write because I have to take breaks to do continuity sweeps (make sure I'm not contradicting or repeating anything, even though I have about 20 note files to track this stuff -- it still happens) and edits to previous books to prep them for publishing. When editing, I can't write. They're two different processes and interfere with one another, so I have to take writing breaks to do the editing (which actually makes writing flow more smoothly when I catch back up to where I left off).

So there's another window into my life as a writer.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Musing on "Said"

Just a random post about the word "said." The current trend in writer advice is to use the fuck out of "said" and avoid other words for it.

Readers hate that.

Seriously, one of the biggest complaints I see from readers when perusing book reviews is: "It's all he-said, she-said -- they don't vary it."

So why the hell are writers and editors advising new writers to stick to it? I have no idea, and I've read several articles on why. I've read examples where 'said' was used compared to the exact same snippet written with alternatives. The whole point was to show that said was great and should be used.

The 'said' paragraph was flat and boring. I didn't care about it. Once the alternatives were substituted, I felt drawn in and a part of the story. It was an utter failure to defend the word 'said.'

So, I'm sorry, but while 'said' should be used, and used often (and all tags to that effect should also be dropped where possible, such as when an action immediately follows that can identify the speaker), you should also replace it whenever another word better describes how something was said.

From The Huffington Post, this was offered up in an otherwise great article on self-editing:

'A character can't "laugh" something. They can't "snip" "spit" "snarl" "grouse" words.'

Oh, yes they can. While I try to avoid mixing action with expression, you damn well can snarl something (in fact, someone is more likely to snarl a word than make the sound) and grouse. Grouse is a synonym for 'grumble' and indicates the tone with which something is spoken.

Snip? I'll give them snip. You can be snippy, but you can't snip a word... that's for scissors. If you've never had words spat at you, that's great, but it happens. As for laughing, you can laugh words, but I agree that it should be separated if they didn't actually simultaneously speak and laugh (which I do often when I'm amused enough).

'Said' can become invisible, sure. But a book written with nothing but 'said' for a speaking tag is like a coloring book that hasn't been used. A book that relies entirely on synonyms for said is tiring and tedious, too. There has to be a balance. I'm not pretending to have it perfected. As if.

But I felt this needed to be said as a reader of books, as a lover of books, and as a writer of books.