Tag Archives: Writing and Editing

Now the pace quickens

In my last blog post I reported on completing the changes to the third edit version of my manuscript. Believe it or not, I listened and read the manuscript one last time before submitting it for the next stage of the process, the editorial review board. This is important, because this is the group that decides if the book merits their seal of approval. I’m feeling pretty good about the project at the moment.

This last review, reading along with the text-to-voice app generated a few minor changes to improve the flow of language. The advantage of doing so many reviews of the work arises from a familiarity with the text that cannot be achieved in any other way. Now, small glitches in rhythm, language flow and word choice stand out from the now familiar background of the text. This review process takes about six hours to complete when the text is read back at 180 words a minute for a 66000 word manuscript.

The next task is to set up my files for transfer to the person who sets the book into its final form. I will also be working with someone to set up the book cover. As usual, I’m relying on the people the publisher employs to do this. It seems that I can expect to see a completed book ready for release in two to three months.

I had a long conversation with a representative of the publisher re: planning for marketing my book. You cannot sell books without marketing them. Marketing involves a range of activity from developing a web presence, to press releases and possible speaking engagements. It takes an effort to sell a book when the author has no public profile. Ken Follett might sell many copies of an average book just because he is Ken Follett. An unknown author may only sell a few copies of a great book without recognition.

My next adventure is to develop a marketing plan. I’ll keep you up to date as this and other processes unfold

Until the next post

Larry (L Alan Weiss), soon to be author of. . .

Through a Lens of Emptiness

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing a book

Conference Day – October 4, 2013

Today was conference day. When you work with an e-publishing house, a number of individuals contact you from time to time. I finally had a contact from the editorial office rather than anyone in a sales capacity. I enjoyed this conference more than any in the past months, because I received affirmation that I was on track re: following up on the suggestions and critique of the developmental edit. Since beginning the rewrite process, every attempt has been made to take the editors comments to heart and follow the guidance they offered.

Since I am a novice writer (author wannabe), my first draft suffered from a number of rooky errors, all of which emerged in the DE (developmental edit). My writing style was dry, dry, dry.  My first draft was full of redundancies, superfluities, and content sequence problems. The thread of my theme disappeared from time to time, only to reappear later out of context. Although sections of the text were well and intelligently written, the impact of my words was lost in convolutions, contortions and cognitive machinations. I even ranted from time to time offering opinions on material that did not contribute to the essence of the book in any way. From my title to my terminal section, the silk purse containing gems of ideas I had hoped to create was still a sows ear attached to a pigs breakfast of a manuscript. Instead of getting angry, I decided to get even with myself by working smarter, not harder. It turns out that smarter was also harder.

Since I was rewarded with encouragement from someone who is actually in the editorial office at the publisher, I think it appropriate to share how I handled the DE comments and what I did to get myself back on track. Here are a few basic preliminaries re: the mindset required to take full advantage of the DE.

1. Chuck your ego out the door, shut the door, and keep away from it with deliberation. A good healthy dose of old fashion Buddhist selflessness is in order here. An ego just gets in the way of the reality of the task ahead.

2. Keep this thought firmly in mind; the developmental editor is just doing their job and the DE is not a kick in the pants, it is an honest and thoughtful critique. Think of the DE as a push from behind to help you write better than ever and reach new heights of written expression.

Now that you have the correct mindset, you can begin the task of preparing to rewrite. Yes, I said preparing. Like setting up to do any task, be it writing or painting a wall, good preparation is half the job.

3. The next step is to read your DE carefully and critically, not as a critic, but as an empty vessel awaiting to be filled with precious elixir. That’s a bit of Taoist philosophy for you in case you missed it. Taoists believe, and I have come to believe,  that the usefulness of anything is marked by its emptiness, so that it can be filled appropriately when needed.

4. As you read the DE, keep a record of the number and types of comments made. Such a record will give a clear picture of weaknesses in writing style and inconsistencies in logic within the content.

5. Make a careful list of all the major flaws in your writing and make a sacred vow to yourself never to write another sentence, paragraph, section or chapter that contains any of them.

6. Never write too much prose without checking to make sure that what you wrote: (a) is consistent with your main purpose, (b) follows from what you wrote just before those words, (c) leads from where your have been to where you are going, (d) contributes to, and does not detract from your writing, (e) holds your reader and not turn them off, (f) makes your point without being offensive (of course you cannot please everyone), (g) is not a rant, (h) expresses an opinion without being opinionated, (I) uses plan words written in as grammatically correct prose as possible, (j) is an exercise in clarity not confusion  , (k) supresses negative aspects of ego, (l) and finally avoids all the issues identified in your DE.

I do not profess to have the magic formula for rewriting a first draft, only that this is what works for me. I hope it will be helpful to my readers and followers.

PS – An open note to my editorial contact re: today’s conference.

Thank you for being so generous with your time today. It was our first contact and it was important for me to let you know what I was doing re: my rewrite. I have been working in less of a vacuum since the DE, but I still had a sense of uncertainty about the direction I had taken with my writing. You listened patiently, reassured me that I had taken the developmental editors comments to heart and revised my work accordingly, and most importantly gave me a sense of being listened to. You also gave me some supportive responses directly and indirectly, for which I am very thankful. It was a great conference.

My intent is to share the process of working with an e-publishing house as well as sharing my reactions and feeling about the process in general. I will reveal which organization I am working with only after my book is officially released. Until then, I can only wish that others have an equally good experience working with an e- publisher.

Until my next post . . .

L

Leave a comment

Filed under Working with an E-Publisher

Yin and Yang Cycle – A useful tool

It has been nearly one week since I posted thanks to a mire of major and minor technical problems. The Yin of Windows 8 is excellent. The Yang of it sometimes causes problems. It is 4:15 AM and I have finally re-established contact with the Internet.

This post is about how to apply a Yin/Yang cycle to enhance the writing process. Essentially the idea is to let the Yang (expansive, creative, and sometimes less than substantial) dominate the process for a while, then let the Yin (focused, well edited, and substantial) take over before the essence of an idea is lost or gets off track.

I have been applying this practice to my own writing and it works well with one caveat. Just before the creative burst gets out of hand and the editing process begins, make a brief note of where the thought was going. I found that sometimes it was difficult to restart a line of thought without some form of prompt. The editing process is cold and unfeeling, requiring the objective application of the rules of grammar and a critical focus on word choice, can have a dampening effect on the heat of the creative process.

Generating a prompt to assist to support generative process requires one to ask two critical questions; the first relates to the material to be edited and the second relates to the relevance of the next generative burst. The principal idea that dominates this process is relevance, which demands what has been generated remains relevant to theme of the overall piece and at the same time is relevant to the target audience. Given that the test of relevance has been passed, the written lines must pass the test of completeness of thought. When the Yang of the process is complete another Yin phase can begin. This cyclic, iterative process continues to role along like a rolling Yin/Yang symbol. process
So far, this approach to writing has been keeping the end product tightly written and strongly creative.

Until next time . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing a book

What to inlude, what to cut, and what comes next?

I tried writing this post on a Blackberry Z10. It is possible, but only when no other technology is available. I’m back to the tactile keyboard for now.

I just finished a copy-edit (to the best of my ability and with the help of grammarly.com) on the fist completed sect of my rewrite. As I stated in a previous post, my intention is to follow the suggestions of the developmental editor closely. If material is considered superfluous, it is cut. Whenever the editor suggests that an idea needs more support or requires clarification it is done. The most time-consuming aspects of the rewrite process is keeping the content sequenced correctly and copy editing.

One has to give serious thought about how to begin a section of the book and what needs to be included. I’m discovering that some of the supporting content suggested by the editor, actually shows up in sections of the book other than the one I am working on at the moment. I looked back on my planning sheets prior to writing and discovered that many of my problems resulted from deviating from the plan and not asking myself the correct questions.  Reflecting on those planning sheets suggests a different approach might have been useful.

The next time I generate a plan for writing a work of non-fiction, I will include the following processes:

1. Establish a content development line, analogous to a plot development line in a novel.

2. Each time an idea or topic is included on the development line, the following questions should be posed:

a. Is this the next logical idea or topic that should appear in the book?

b. What do I need to know to write about this topic or express the idea?

c. What do I want the reader to understand from what is written?

d. What information or clarification do I need to provide to the reader?

e. Have I considered my audience as I am writing a section?

f, Am I leading my reader painlessly from paragraph to paragraph and sub-section to sub-section?

g. Have I included all that is necessary and cut out all that is superfluous?

3. Keep referring back to my plan and keep track of where I am.

4. Be consistent in following my plan, but don’t be married to it.

I think this checklist of questions would have been useful in the preparation of my first draft. If anyone reading this blog has a comment on the list of guiding questions provided, or anything they would like to add, please comment.

Until the next post . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing a book

Serching for my voice – a major search and rescue mission

My Voice as a Writer

Writing comes naturally to some, and writing  may also be fun

But when you are new at it and may have to stew a bit, writing can make someone glum.

My voice is somewhere in here for sure, but buried so deep, I hope I don’t bore

My words and ideas in sentences and paragraphs galore, require a map and a guided tour.

As my fingers fly across the keys, and my words spill onto the screen with ease

The voice in my head is clear as can be, but emerges in the text, muted not free.

Will I ever find my voice?

I began the task of rewriting that which I have already written. As I read my words, the only voice I heard, was that of a boring lecturer. I seem to have been writing without the presence of an audience in mind. I seemed to be writing to hear my self write, like someone who talks to hear themselves talk. Perhaps I am being a bit hard on myself, but we are often our most severe critic.

To find your voice as a writer, I think you have to know yourself. What makes you an interesting person to talk with? What makes you an interesting person to listen to? I have often been told that I am a good speaker, and indeed I find it easy to speak on a subject in a clear and orderly manner. As a speaker I have a voice (not just the physical voice) that holds the listeners attention and can at times even be humorous.

All my communication skills seem to break down when I write, except perhaps when I blog. Blogging is more like speaking to my audience. I find it interesting that speaking to an unknown, unseen, and indeterminate audience is easier than writing text to be read by an audience I have defined. The developmental edit and editor’s comments have pointed the way that may actually lead to developing a voice as a writer. Editorial direction is forcing me to clarify ideas that are vague, to elaborate on material that is thin, to cluster ideas and concepts that belong together, to sequence my content more carefully and finally to cut out the fat.

My voice is trapped amidst the debris of extraneous words, repetitive ideas, redundant material and the vagaries of many weakly formed sentences and paragraphs. My voice is somewhere here in the regions of great writing that are entrapped in regions of poor prose. I feel like I am on a search and rescue mission looking for the survivors of a disaster with the hope of restoring them to a state of health and wellness. I follow the advice of Rene Descartes with vigour as I figuratively remove all the strong sections of writing and put them back into the piece in the most orderly way possible. In the process, I plan to let those same qualities that make me a strong speaker, allow the strong voice of the writer to shine.

More on struggling with a rewrite in my next post. Until then . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing a book

The Developmental Editing Process – Stage One Begins Today

Over the next few weeks, a free-lance editor from a pool of talent that edits  manuscripts under contract to the publisher, will work through my manuscript. By the end of this week, my manuscript file will be somewhere on the hard drive of one of these contractors. In the old days, I might have said, “in their hot little hands”, but that was then and this is now. Even though this is just one more stage in the process of shaping a manuscript into a published work, there is a sense of finality in the air today.

After another conversation with the publishing consultant marshalling me through this stage of the process I committed to the developmental package proposed (more $$$$ on the table) by the publishing house. Remember that self publishing means self financing too, so shop carefully.  Be prepared to lose your bankroll, based on the chance that sales of the final product will never cover your expenditures. Neither time nor money can ever be replaced, once spent. Writing a book will take your time, and financing the process will consume some of your money.

The reader may be puzzled at the phrase “a sense of finality in the air” being used to describe an ongoing process. While this may seem like an erroneous comparative descriptor, in my mind, it makes complete sense. Let me explain.

* First, when ever you put money on the table without knowing if you will ever see any of it again, images of a croupier racking in the chips comes to mind, and a sense of finality enters your soul.

* Second, I invested some more time in applying changes to my manuscript suggested by way of a copy-edit, done by a friend at no cost to me. This enabled me to forward a revised manuscript to the editorial office with some important correction already made to the text. Every time a writer completes an edit of their work, there is a sense of finality that comes with completing anything.

* Third, I received an email from the editorial office that my manuscript had  been launched on the first stage of the editing process that would take a few weeks to complete, so for a while, what happened to my manuscript was in the hands of others and out of my control. There is a sense of finality that comes when we say goodbye to the product of many hours of work, even if it only for a short while.

My publishing consultant left me with some sage advice at the end of yesterdays conversation. He advised, that once I submitted my manuscript to the first stage of the process, I should put my work away for the time being. He advised, that responding to the results of the first stage of editing would be much easier if I distanced myself from the text for a while.  The goal of this creativity abstinence regimen is to free my mind from the content of my work. At the same time, I could free up my creativity, so I could be my most productive self during the next phase of the manuscript development process. I have done exactly as he has suggested.

While I await completion of the first stage of the process that started today, I intend to write about the struggle to get outside oneself in order to be objective about your own writing. It should be interesting to see if I can develop the ability to be intimately involved with my work and remain remotely objective at the same time. Until the next post………..

2 Comments

Filed under Working with an E-Publisher

Starting at the Bottom of the Mountain – Engaging in the Developmental Process

The developmental editing process is about to begin. I do not mind saying that I enter into this arrangement with high hopes and a bit of skepticism, the hopeful me outweighing the skeptical me. My interaction with the individual who will advise and lead me through the development process has given me reason to be hopeful.

After receiving my first evaluation, I received an email from a consultant who would review the content of the evaluation report. He invested more than an hour in our conversation, which surprised the skeptical me. During our conversation I received encouragement and support for my efforts so far. His suggestions were insightful, practical, and sensible. The quality of our conversation suggested there would be a benefit to working through the development process with this individual.

I followed up our conversation with an email, in which I suggested some modification to the working title of the manuscript and the guiding concepts of my book to be. His response exceeded my expectations yet again. Not only was there evidence of significant reflection on my suggestions, but he went so far as make some useful suggestions, and impart a small but meaningful lesson on style. He may not perceive his comment as a mini lesson, but it caused me to look at my writing from a different perspective. Keep in mind, that I have not committed to paying for services related to developmental editing at this point, so there is no expectation of a commitment on my part. If his manner and depth of response to my suggestions are any indication of type of person he is to work with, then the relationship of writer to editor is certain to be a fruitful one.

In my next post, I plan to outline the development process as I understand it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing a book

Starting Out – When Ten Plus Five Equals One

Until the spring of 2012, my writing portfolio (if I had one) was composed of short scientific papers, academic research, a myriad of reports and report card comments over 27 years of teaching, and the rare false start attempt at creative writing. To say this writing portfolio marked the work of an aspiring writer would require a vivid imagination. T he dream of publishing a book seemed farther away than ever until I read about self publishing. After investigating the idea of self publishing through an internet search, and some inquiries through the “contact us” invite of a number of self publishing services, I finally selected a publisher and a publishing package  that looked like the right fit to reach my goal.

Once I paid the required fee and completed the required documents I was off to the races, and the struggles began. My struggles had nothing to do with the publisher, they were all inherently my own. Moderate dyslexia would complicate the process as usual. A look back at some few items of written work that from my elementary, middle, and high school years, had me wondering how I was permitted to graduate. The content in everything I had written was complete, and ideas were abundant, but spelling and grammar in my work were an embarrassment. In university, my written work in the humanities tended toward mediocrity but the content always pulled me through.

By the time I reached graduate school, I’d had enough of mediocrity, and took to the habit of writing and rewriting papers as many times as necessary. I rehearsed and practiced writing answers to possible exam questions so I would waste as little time as possible thinking of spelling and sentence structure. It became a matter of survival. I began producing better written work with respect to spelling, syntax, and grammar, and the content and ideas were presented in a more beautiful frames. Ironically, the disabled learner is doubly handicapped; they must cope their learning disability in  daily life, and have to work much harder to get a descent result for their efforts. With this background information my readers can well imagine what lie ahead for this novice writer.

After five major reads and revisions, I finally had a manuscript completed to the point of submitting it for a first evaluation. In addition to the publisher, I imposed on several others to act as readers and provide feed back. One of the chosen few was a retired English teacher and high school principal, who kindly took his time to do some copy editing. The publisher and all the readers gave me feedback on the content, clarity, and logic in presentation. As usual, content, ideas, and research were all very strong, but there were many weaknesses reflected in there comments. There were problems with the sequence of topics and some content that did not seem to fit in the context of the manuscript. In addition, there were pronoun use errors, some agreement errors, some incorrect word choice errors, and many others small but significant flaws.

There was much work left to do. After ten months of hard work, and five drafts of the original manuscript, I was determined to finish what I started. I had the opportunity to review the feedback from the publisher with a consultant and developmental editor, and was advised of some services that were available to me at a reasonable cost. I’ll write about the debrief experience in about 48 hours after a short period of R and R. Until then……

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing a book