Go Away Home – Book Cover & Release Date

World War One-era historical fiction on track for July launch.

It’s been a long journey writing my first novel – somewhere in the four to five-year range – but I’m excited to tell you the writing part of the journey is at an end. The manuscript for my first novel – Go Away Home – is complete. And now so is the cover.Go Away Home Revised Ebook Final Cover Large

The design is the work of Jenny Toney Quinlan of Historical Editorial who also worked with me as copy editor and proofreader. Every cover tells a story, and that is one of the many things I like about about this cover. To me, the curtains, geraniums, and view convey the rural setting of the novel, while the window draws us to look out, hinting at more. The overall golden tone suggests the past without being heavy handed.

I like the cover, but readers will be the real judge. So what do you think? Would this cover encourage you to pick it up?

With the cover and manuscript completed, I’ve chosen July 7, 2014 as the release date. That may seem like a long way off, but I know the days will pass quickly. I’m already knee deep in ramping up marketing for the launch, and I’ll share that journey as we go.
 
Now that I have teased you with the cover, I hope you’ll want more. You can read the first chapter of GO AWAY HOME here.

I’ve added Go Away Home pages here on my website and on Goodreads. If you participate in Goodreads, you can mark Go Away Home in the “want to read” category.

I’d love to hear from you. What story does this cover tell you?

Are you using some words too often?

Software helps find repetition.

Kayla Curry shared software to help writers find what I’ve called “crutch” words and what Sharla Rae calls “echo” words. Here’s the start and link to her post.

Kayla Curry

Kayla Curry

How to tell if you are using one word too much.

My upcoming novel, Where the Carnies Are is in the editing stage right now and I just ran it through a little test that helps me determine what words I used the most when I wrote it. I’m going to tell you exactly how to do that (for free!) in just a minute.

First, let’s talk about WHY it is important to do this to your manuscripts.  When writing, you will often use the words you are most comfortable with. That isn’t a huge problem, but it might make you sound repetitive and boring. Let me give you an example….

Read more …

How committed are you?

Many indie authors choose not to shell out for an editor. But the right relationship can make writing soar.

Not the tiniest piece of crap eluded her. She invariably landed squarely on what was wrong and left me to face it down, if I could.”Author Philip Roth speaking about his editor Veronica Geng

Authors who sign with a publishing house work with an editor. Beyond the requirement to work with an editor, they know they need an editor. Even authors like Philip Roth who is, according to a recent article in The New Yorker, “ruthlessly self-critical while he is writing.”

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Offering the best chance to take off and soar.

A good editor can see flaws the author can’t and has a relationship with the author that allows for honest feedback and discussion. The result? A book worthy of the reader’s time and money.

From the beginning of my journey into writing historical fiction, I anticipated working with a professional editor. But, unlike authors who work with a publishing house, we indie authors go into our own pockets to hire editorial services.

More than once along the way, I wondered if it was worth the investment. After all, I had worked through my manuscript with my writing partner, two groups of beta readers, other historical fiction authors, and finally my own writing skills honed by years in the editor chair myself. Did I really need yet another set of eyes looking at things?

Whenever I wavered, I returned to my goal in writing my upcoming novel “Go Away Home” — to tell the best story I can and write it as well as I can. In my heart, I knew that included an editor.

As I prepared to choose an editor, serendipity lead me to Jenny Q, an editor who specializes in historical fiction. When all other things are equal, it made sense to have an editor attuned to questioning anachronisms and historical facts.

I hired Jenny Q  for copy editing and she delivered that. She smoothed out choppy and disjointed places, suggested more appropriate word choices, questioned and clarified when my meaning grew hazy. She also did more. While I had not hired her for a developmental edit, she pointed out several places where the story would benefit from slowing down and building more emotional depth into my main character. We talked through those places, batting ideas back and forth.

Instead of being discouraged to find I need to write several more scenes, Jenny’s willingness to talk through her thoughts and my reactions, plus her encouraging feedback, has me eager to get back to the keyboard to make my story soar. As I write these new sections, Jenny will continue as my partner, copy editing to ensure each new scene fits smoothly into the whole.

After working with the same editor for ten years, author Amy Tan‘s longtime reader, editor and friend died. For twelve years, she was without an editorial partner. When her new book “The Valley of Amazement” was an idea, she was ready for a new editor. “I don’t care what the money is, I want an editor. I want the best editor for myself,” she says in a Wall Street Journal article.

Now that I’ve worked with a good editor, I understand the value authors like Philip Roth and Amy Tan find in these relationships. Professional copy editing gives me confidence my book will be what I set out to write. Now I can’t imagine publishing a book without it.

How about it indie authors? What has your experience been with editors? Have you used one? Why or why not?

Five steps to editor ready

The editing, one’s own editing, before the editor sees it, is the most important – Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou‘s quote resonated with me when I first read it. But I didn’t really get her point until I edited my own manuscript.

After receiving supportive feedback from beta readers and encouraging ‘get it done’ advice at an advanced novel workshop, I set out to edit my WWI-era novel. A little spit. A little polish. I thought I’d be done in a couple of weeks.

Lucky for me my editor couldn’t get me into her schedule for a couple of months. Editing was not a one-time tweaking of spelling and grammar. The more I edited, the more I found there was to do. Here are the five steps I took to get my manuscript editor ready.Editing

  1. Absorbed and acted on beta reader feedback. The honest feedback of readers with fresh eyes sent me back in to add character details, deepen historical threads, and eliminate moments that caused readers to scream, Enough. Editing wasn’t just about commas, capitals and cutting. I also re-wrote, cut, and added.
  2. Searched and eliminated overused words. Using Sharla Rae’s list of echo words, I went through my manuscript front to back, over and over. In the process of finding the words on her list, I spotted other over-used words in my story. This was an insanely tedious task. Even using the Word search & replace function, I could only stomach searching a dozen words a day.
  3. Printed it out. Seeing the words on paper is different than reading them on a computer screen. I actually printed everything out twice. Once as a double-spaced Word document. The second time, I formatted the document as though it was an actual book, in a different type face, with justified, single-spaced lines. Both versions yielded dramatically different editing points.
  4. Read the entire manuscript out loud. We hear things differently than we see them. Reading out loud forced me to slow down and listen. Awkward phrases, poor word choices and duplication stood out when I heard the words. I found it was easy to read so long that I no longer heard. I could only read about 50 pages a day before I wore out.
  5. Remained open to making it better, until …  I venture to guess I went through my entire manuscript start to finish 40-50 times. As late as the afternoon of the day I hit ‘send’ to get the manuscript to my editor, I was questioning, making changes, improving. Asked when she knew she was done writing, Anne Lamott said, “You just sort of realize at some point your OCD has begun to hurt the work.” I was there. I knew I had to let it go.

Recently, I blogged about what I learned about editing during a walk in the prairie with my granddaughter. One of those learnings was: Trust your gut. This is your story. It’s your name on the cover. If you haven’t put everything in it, an editor can’t get it there. I believe that’s what Dr. Angelou meant.

My writing goal has always been to tell the best story I can, as well as I can. When I launched my manuscript into my editor’s hands, I was proud of the work.

What steps have you found helpful in editing? Please share. I know there are always ways I can make my editing process better!

How much honesty can you take before you break?

I love my beta readers. Every last one. And I love their honest reactions. You’ll never get me to say anything else. At least not on the record.

My WWI-era novel has had the benefit of two rounds of beta readers. And it’s infinitely better because my readers were honest and I was willing to act on their comments.

But when I read this post by Logan Keys, I couldn’t stop laughing. Logan makes the point perfectly. We authors think we’re done. We think we’ve written our story perfectly. Then we find get feedback from those who are reading it fresh and we are hauled up short. We may not be wise to act on our initial reactions.

Read on:

How to kill a Beta…

Drew Barrymore in Wes Craven's "Scream"

B,

Seems as though you and I need to have a little talk. This likely will be an uncomfortable conversation— well mostly for you, but listen to what I say very closely… And please don’t interrupt.

What’s that? I can’t hear you? You want me to remove the tape from your mouth?

All in good time, my sweet, all in good time.

You remember not too long ago when I was all about the finishing of my book? Oh how I toiled. And then one day! Start. Middle. Ending. It was finished! Done. Finito. Termine. Getan. Acabado. Fin. I typed the end…

Forging paths in the prairie and in writing

Hannah Prairie 3Since my granddaughters were born, I’ve taken them to the prairie every time they visit us. As little ones, they were carried in. As they grew older, I led the way.

 

On her last visit, I encouraged my oldest granddaughter, now four and a half years old, to take the lead. She hesitated. “You’re an adventurer,” I said. “I know you can find a way. You go ahead. I’ll follow.”  With that encouragement, she pushed ahead.

 

Her experiences in the prairie that day reminded me of my own journey in editing my novel. After an advanced novel workshop this summer, I got serious about editing my 118,000-word historical novel. Here’s what she learned about prairie exploration and what I’ve learned about editing.

 

Don’t be afraid. Just start. Seven-foot-tall prairie grasses and four-foot-tall flowers can be mighty intimidating to someone three-foot tall. The unknown can be scary, but once she got going, she thrived on the adventure. Having never edited a novel, I was hesitant about how it would go. But, really, there was nothing to do but start. Every day do something. The more I did, the easier it became to do more.

 

Accept help from someone who’s been this way before. When my granddaughter hit a wall of foliage, she looked back to me. I could point her in a new direction, just as other editors pointed me. While blogging about my “crutch words,” I learned about Sharla Rae’s list of “echo words.” Going word by word down her list, I was able to cut literally thousands of words from my manuscript. The result is infinitely better.

 

Trust your gut and affirm your own actions. My granddaughter might be blocked by the dense foliage, taking advantage of the paths made by other prairie visitors. or finding her own way, but the more she explored, the more excited she became. “I’m an adventurer,” she said with delight, happy to claim her title. As I launched into editing, another writer made an off hand comment: “It all comes back to the author to decide what she wants.” I’ve recalled that comment repeatedly as I learn to trust and act on what my gut tells me. I know these characters. I know the story I want to tell. I know when an entire scene needs to go. No one knows that better than I do. The editing experience affirmed me as a writer and as an editor.

 

Hannah Prairie 2Take joy in the moment. The prairie is a joy-filled place for my granddaughter, heat, bugs, scratchy plants and all. Editing can be tedious but there are joys to discover. Finding a really right word or phrase to replace the easy one I’d started with. Recognizing that letting one character use a word repeatedly creates a character trait; letting several characters use that word is lazy and the word loses its power. Discovering that fewer words can have infinitely more power.

 

Once isn’t enough. Each time my granddaughter emerged from the prairie, she was ecstatic. Then, she’d look for a way back in.When I finished one form of editing, like my granddaughter, I jumped back in with another approach. I searched out crutch/echo words. One at a time through the entire manuscript. After doing a word-by-word edit, I  read the whole manuscript through to see what had happened to the sense of it. More words and parts of scenes hit the cutting room floor. Then back to the beginning for a read-aloud edit. 

 

The editing journey has built my confidence, just as adventuring in the prairie build my granddaughter’s confidence. In the process, I cut 15,000 words no one will miss.

 

How about you? When you’ve taken on new tasks, whether they be editing or otherwise, what have you learned from the experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Tips & Tools for cutting “Crutch” or “Echo” words

Recently, I blogged about finding and eliminating “crutch” words in my writing. Sharla Rae calls these “Echo” words. In her blog post today at Writers In The Storm, she lists the most common Echo words along with tips for finding and getting rid of them. She’s found a couple of useful websites for finding the problems in your own writing.  

Here’s the intro to her blog. Hop on over and read the rest.

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What is an “Echo?” Tips To Axe These Repeat Offenders

By Sharla Rae

One of the things we’ve discussed in our critique meetings is the tendency all writers have to repeat certain words and phrases. “Echoes” is a term I’ve heard applied to frequently repeated words.

Read your chapter out loud, and that’s exactly what they sound like.

Common Causes of Echoes:

  • Using lame and boring “to be” verbs. When used, they often produce not only echoes but also wordy constructions.
  • Many echoes are subject oriented. For example, let’s say that in one chapter a wagon plays a big part in the action. Echoing “wagon” may be your repeated offense. Subject oriented words are sneaky. At first, they seem absolutely necessary. A closer inspection proves otherwise.

Helpful Echo-Zapping Sites

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What are your crutch words?

Crutch

What words do you lean on?

I’m deep into editing my novel this month. Searching for the best words to create people and places readers will see and remember. Eliminating cliches. Working for copy that is fresh and tight. In the process, I discovered I have two crutch words – words I use without realizing it. Words I lean on, I fear, because they’re so easy.

Look at these sentences from my manuscript. Can you guess the words I mean?

  • Sometimes Liddie just wanted to shout, “Get on with it!”
  • She imagined that women who lived in cities did not spend their days hoeing weeds, gathering eggs or milking cows.
  • I just know if I stay on the farm, Mama and Papa will insist I marry a farmer.
  • Papa said that when Fred left like that, it just proved his point.
  • I really thought after Illinois got the ball rolling with their vote last year that we’d see more progress in Iowa.
  • Thank heaven and the suffrage movement for the fact that girls have choices these days.
  • It was just the heat.
  • Mrs. Carter hopes that Mr. Roosevelt’s enthusiasm will convince others.
  • Neither reacted and she guessed that she was just over sensitive.
  • She watched from just inside the doorway.
  • Amelia’s voice sounded so oddly hopeful that Liddie looked up.
  • I was just joshing. Can’t she take a joke?
  • Kate’s gaze told Liddie just how naive her comment had been.

Readers at the workshop I attended last month pointed out the “that” problem. “That” is technically accurate as I’ve used it but it’s unnecessary. I began to look more closely for other such words. It turns out “Just” is a word I use so frequently in my own conversation that I just don’t realize when it creeps into my writing.

In the 160 words above, there are 15 unnecessary uses of “Just” and “That.” Nearly 10% of the words. Eliminating all 15 results in copy that is crisper, more precise, and stronger.

Of course, there are legitimate uses of just and that, so it’s not as easy as just eliminating them all.  But yesterday, I cut nearly 100 words by searching out these two crutch words. My writing is stronger as a result.

The “Find” function in Word Edit is terrific for locating words I’m so used to that I don’t even see them.

If your manuscript is light on words, these words could be useful padding. Having seen the impact of eliminating them from my own manuscript, however; I’d argue that using them results in weaker copy. My challenge is quite the opposite. I’m looking for 16,000 words to cut.

Have you found crutch words in your writing? Would you care to share what they are? I still have 15,000 words to go.

photo credit: chez_sugi via photopin cc

Can I cut 30,000 words?

The editing task in front of me is daunting. The average novel runs about 350 pages and 85,000 words. The first draft of my manuscript weighed in at a scale-busting 130,000 words. Even though there are authors who get away with tomes of that length – Wally Lamb and J.K. Rowling come to mind – I’m not them.

I’ve never done this before, but I know one does not cut 30,000 words by eliminating ‘and’ and ‘the.’  I need to be brutal. So, I’ve waded in each day, one finger poised over the delete key, asking myself a number of questions.

Is this back story necessary? As I wrote, I built the scenes fully. I needed to know, for instance, that my main character’s father was a second generation American whose grandparents came from Cambridgeshire, England. That he insisted all his children graduate from the 8th grade. That he was well read and active in civic organizations. All that went into my manuscript. Now, most of it is coming out. While the information contributes to who my characters are, readers probably don’t care. Plus, it slows the story down.

If back story is necessary, can I include it as part of dialogue or as action rather than exposition? I’ve found that a few well chosen details gleaned from the back story and slipped into a scene are far more interesting to read than paragraphs of prose.

Have I used two words when one will do? My tendency is to write long, to explain situations in detail. People tell me they like the richness of my writing. But I know that one good example or a single word can be more powerful. I’m looking for the one word.

Is this info someplace else in the manuscript? Since I wrote the original manuscript over two years, making up much of the story line and developing the characters as I went, I didn’t realize until I read the whole story start to finish that there were bits of information I included multiple times. Finding those duplications is like finding editing gold. I only need the info once and sometimes not at all.

Does a scene move the story along? As I developed the story, I wrote lots of scenes. All of them beautiful. To me. But now that I have a firm grasp of my characters and point of view, I realize some scenes aren’t all that helpful. I take them out. But I love them, so I put them in an outtakes file. Just in case.

On this go round, my goal is to cut at least 10% from every section. Preferably 15%. Today, I started on a section with 13,700 words and have already cut 1,254. I’m getting there.

Recently someone commented that editing is like weeding a garden. An apt metaphor since I garden as well as write. I know that when I step into my garden, I have to be careful what I pull out, but generally I can pull a lot. That’s where I am as I edit. Pulling out a LOT!

Are there special techniques you use when you edit? Let me know. I can use all the help I can get!