Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Facing an Overdone Manuscript

I'm a day late on this... erm... sorry about that.

I am facing an edit on something that has been edited too many times already... there are things I wish I'd never done than need undoing, but also things I did that desperately NEED doing, so going through side by side copies is a little rough. Not only that, but there are a few NEW things I really feel like I need to work in (query sent last Friday notwithstanding).

So what are the BIG things?

Point of View

I wrote this originally in 3rd person (3 points of view) then for the ABNA changed ONE of those to first person (my main character, the ghost, Helen). Then my agent thought I should just stick to ONE PoV.

On rereading... I don't like it in first person. This rose out of a debate I ran into on a NaNoWriMo discussion thread on Facebook... and my OWN freaking answer of all the dumb things:
“Depends: is this a character who would narrate their own story?”

Look at that. Aren't I smart?

The trouble is HELEN IS NOT. She is timid like crazy—disoriented when she has to face the world as it is in 2012 compared to the one she died in in1962... She would not be TELLING her story in so direct away. Never mind that most YA is first person. It doesn't work for Helen.

Everyone has a different part of the story
The OTHER Points of View

Allan is a teacher. I GET why I was advised to drop him, though I am going to have to read carefully because I think there is a lot of information that is much clunkier, but no less necessary to the story, if HE isn't there to learn stuff.

Serena on the other hand... she is arguable the best part of my ABNA version... dropping her was a mistake. I am NOT going to stick to one PoV. So there. I will have to think about Allan. But Serena is in... and I'm thinking I may add the PoV of one of the bad guys. A lot of work, but I think getting some scenes from a bully would be interesting. Also... when Serena was in the first time, she could SEE Helen... later versions she could NOT... I think THIS change was good, so I can't just add her scenes back in. I will need to rewrite.

Big Subplot Clarity

I have some illegal clinical trials going on here... but I think the book needs another iteration of me clarifying this for YA language, rather than “works in research” language. I think it may go over some heads. Though this was on an earlier list, so maybe I got it... I haven't faced this book since 2012.

My BIGGEST Thing though...

I really need to give Helen a bit more spark, and unlike MOST of my MCs, humor is a pretty small part of it. She is dead, timid, and living in a home for juvenile delinquents... The humor a tougher or more cynical character might find in the situation is not hers. But timid, on its own, isn't all that compelling. I need to find her point of connection. I think maybe it's her humanity, in spite of being dead and all... but how do I make the reader feel that?

How about you guys? You ever face a book after YEARS? One that had had MANY iterations? (the latest on this says 12). Any tricks you want to share? Successes? Lessons learned?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Teary Good-bye: RIP ABNA

So Monday afternoon I got news that for me was very very sad.

I've entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest five times. I expected it to be an annual event for a very long time, but sadly, Amazon has another bright shiny idea that they are allowing to take its place.

And it is not UN-shiny... they have something called Kindle Scout where readers get to nominate and vote on pre-published books based on their descriptions... Winners get a small advance ($1,500) and the full power of Amazon's promoting arm...


You knew there was a but, eh? And not a butt, sadly...

They only want COPYEDITED, PROFESSIONAL COVER-WEARING books... which means those significant expenses are on the author... [I mean someone who has already decided to self-publish has nothing to lose, as these should be done anyway, but it DOES dim them compared to other reputable publishers, other than that marketing arm, I mean]. For ABNA, if you won, then they helped you with those things...

And it is on a rolling system... sure they are doing more of them, but there are no giant “8000 cut at pitch” bonding moments among writers. The common journey is 90% of the beauty of ABNA... a pilgrimage in a writer's life, if you will...

And my final issue? No deadline. This is a rolling thing, so there is no urgency. How am I EVER going to get something publication-ready with no deadline!?

So For My ABNA Wake...

The BOOKS (and how I did)

2010: Confluence (the first I ever did and one that will need to be split in two if I ever decide to visit it again. Kicked out at pitch.

2011: Kahlotus Disposal Site (6th book written—this has been repped and subbed and is now back in my lap): This was a semi-finalist in the first year they split General Fiction from Young Adult, so top 50 of 5000 YA.

2012: Legacy (2nd book finished): Quarter-finalist and harshest review at that point—the reviewer found it unnecessarily comlicated, which it may have been. I would also split this in two if I revisit it.

2013: Medium Wrong (11th book): Kicked out at pitch. Of note, this was the year they went from two categories to five, so YA dropped from 1000 passed along to 400. This is the YA after Kahlotus in mind for polishing.

2014: A Shot in the Light: Parts I-IV (13th book, self published serially one part at a time): This book was a semi-finalist in the mystery/thriller category (you can get the full bundled set for $5.99 if you want, or it is for sale as a trilogy if you have already read part of it). Semi-finalist meant top 5—there were only 25 total semi-finalists (instead of the 100 there were when there were only 2 categories)

Now I'm not saying doing well in this contest has been great for my career, but it HAS been great for my confidence. I can write. (my marketing skills on the other hand, are sorely deficient)

But By FAR the BEST part of ABNA has been the solid friendships I've formed. The people I met first on ABNA and then have reinforced either HERE or on Facebook are probably those writer relationships that are strongest (other than my Harry Potter peeps who've been with me since before I was “out” as a writer). I couldn't possibly list them all, but there have been some wonderful successes and some hardships and a whole lotta fun.

On the ABNA site there is a place called the Manse (the origin of the picture below... our little fantasy world) where the most silliness occurs, but there are facebook groups, and over the years I've met people THROUGH ABNA friends who have ALSO been involved.

I really wanted to list all my buddies, but then realized the impossibility of such a task. I will, though, give a shout to the couple who have blogs I read regularly, since blogging is what we are about around here...

Megan Bosnic: Creative Chaos
Allison DeLuca: A Fresh Pot of Tea
Michael DiGesu: In Time
Johanna Garth: Losing Sanity
Jenny Milchman: Suspense Your Disbelief
Erica Olson and Christy Hintz: Erica and Christy
Gae Polisner: Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Word
Helena Soister: Becoming Layla

I'm sure I've missed some, so PLEASE don't be offended. Some others just don't blog very much or I am misremembering and feel like I knew them before we went through ABNA, so no disrespect intended if I met you there and am remembering wrong.

In any case, there are MANY MANY more people who've become good friends from this contest and I will sorely miss it. Though I will have the writer friends with me forever.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Teaching an Old Dog New Twits...

Or something.

So this weekend I made a decision that where I really fall down is on the social media. My marketing has been ineffective, and while I am CLUELESS what would be most effective, I've decided to make Twitter my first domain to conquer.


Followers. Followees. I spent a couple HOURS Saturday cleaning these up. One of the reasons Twitter fell off my list of things to do was it was overwhelming. I dived in too fast and without thought. I hit the limit on how much I was allowed to follow, so I couldn't 'follow back'... which was discouraging. And my FEED was too full to really see what was going on with anyone.

Well the good thing about disappearing is people drop out. Both followers and followees... those lists plummeted and I felt a little liberating in having the flexibility to clean house.

With followees... I went through the entire thing... 1900 or so... and I DROPPED anyone who did not fall into any of the following:

Following me (stayed there except a very few I really saw as distractions)
Industry people (I kept the agents and publishers)
KNOWN to me on another format—here or Facebook

I DID end up dropping several authors, but like I said, nobody I knew and they weren't following me either (I left a few that had common genres with me... but hey... Children's books? Erotic romance? I need to know you).

My list went down to about 1500.

Then I went to my followers and FOLLOWED anyone who I wasn't that was following me (except a few oddball cases that looked like they were shopping for followers—the social marketer “experts” and music or movie sites that usually didn't look relevant)

So now I am at about 1650—room to follow back and closer to manageable.

So How About This Checking It Out?

I found it relatively overwhelming.

My impulse was to ignore... A LOT. Anything with links? I was NOT going there. I was committing a half hour twice a day to learning this and I was NOT going to go read.... really much. One or two things enticed me, but mostly I just cruised past. I ALSO ignored ALL “look at my book”. I believe had they come from people I KNEW that I would have looked—retweeted. But NOT unfamiliar names.

What DID catch my eye? Statements to which I could make a pithy response. (I responded). Good news (I favorited).

I probably would have tried to console bad news...

There were a few pictures I liked (that is new since last time I was there regularly).

I don't know how typical I am, but I think I may not be that unusual, so I offer up this advice, which I plan to follow:

And look. An Oscar Wilde quote illustrating my point...
Keep it a little personal. Let people see YOU. Not your requote of Oscar Wilde, much as I love Oscar Wilde quotes.

I think I am going to try to be a bit like I am on FB with my time available... just lay low and respond to people... retweet their good news, give friendly (humorous when possible) responses when I see personal stuff... I am going to try to make friends. Maybe then I won't feel like it is just a black hole of narcissists.

So... does anyone have good LISTS of agents/industry folks that could help me do this friendly thing with people who I NEED to be connected to? (do they do lists anymore?)

Any tricks you want to share with using Twitter that won't make me hate it? (I do NOT want to approach this as a marketer--it is incompatible with my personality--I want to PLAY, but in a way that is effective)

If you are on Twitter and want to find me I am @hartjohnson

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Bit of Escapism

I probably could have been really productive this weekend, except for a couple of things.

The first is a couple really bad things happened last week. One had to do with my day job and I'm sure there are some rules about me venting too much, at least if I want to keep my job, but I will say it was both sad and infuriating. I was truly angry for a few days, most of which has subsided, but the sad part will last a good long while. Also in the bad week category, my little bitty hometown had a tragedy in the form of somebody I suspect had mental health issues who also, tragically, got his hands on a gun. He killed three long-time residents, one of them the father of friends of mine. I feel horrible my town was so touched and that people I care about have been hurt so badly from it. If anyone wants more details, they are here.

Mostly what I'd like to know is what the gun enthusiasts plans are for helping all the mentally ill people, since gun control seems to be off the table. It's too much.

So I opted for a bit of escapism this weekend and X-finity kindly obliged.

On Demand was offering free Showtime... So instead of writing or immersing myself in negative feelings, I've been having a Homeland marathon.

I have mixed feelings about Homeland but my neighbor buddies I watch a couple shows with both watch it, so I wanted to catch up. I'd borrowed the first two seasons from the Library, but that still left seasons 3 and 4: 24 episodes... I've almost made it... by the time Showtime goes back to normal on Tuesday, I will have.

So what do I like and not?

I love spy stuff. Always have, always will. I like the investigatey, trickery stuff that needs to be done to learn stuff and I like the double-back change ups... that good guys and bad guys don't tend to keep those hats on.

This show moves pretty quickly and has several components to keep us on our toes.

But... First, this is petty, but the jazz music really makes me nuts. I hate the opening and closing music. I don't hate all jazz, but I don't like that disorganized, unpredictable stuff. It's just noise.

Next, I think they've overdone Claire losing it. I get she has mental health issues, and the first time she ran up against it, I loved it. Gave a personal battle angle I really could get behind, but she is hard to watch when she is irrational. And I think her diving into relationships, whether real or 'useful' are hard to buy when she doesn't actually make friends—a person who usually gives nothing, can't so suddenly give everything and be credible. I'm having trouble with season 4, as Brody was my favorite part and he is now gone.

But the show HAS given me a lot of food for thought—ways people can commit crimes against each other or rescue people that seem to have potential for future stories, tricks for communicating, ideas about what is possible surveillance-wise... and I have to admit, it's sucked me in pretty good for a show I really only think is decent, not great.

That said, I am probably 60% done with this editing round. I need to find a couple readers (contemporary YA) before the last pre-ABNA edit... And as I read and edit, I find I mostly really like it, which is not a given when I am editing....

How are all of you doing? On track? Or needing a bit of down time for some reason? Any shows YOU have mixed feelings about that you feel compelled to watch anyway?

And finally, don't forget... if you are interested in reading in a way that supports your buddies, I have a Blog Buddy Book Resolution going (read and review a book a month by a blog buddy). I'd love people to join!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

When is it MY Turn?

(This whiny baby pouty post brought to you by... )

Wait! Hold it! Start over!

Halo fine people! (and bumpy people, too). It is first Wednesday and time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Via the Facebook group, we were asked to give a brief intro of ourselves for newbies (or new-to-us-bes) today, so here goes:

I am Hart Johnson and have published an indie thriller trilogy under that name. I also have a traditionally published cozy mystery series (by Alyse Carlson) and I blog as the Watery Tart. By day I'm a social scientist and around here there are often silly shenanigans.

If you want to know more, the tab “Three Faced Tart” will fill you in and also describes my books (both pre and post published).


As to the Topic

I'm usually pretty upbeat, and I really thrill in the success of my writer friends, but every once in a while it just hits me, When is that going to happen to ME? I know my books don't suck. I think it's my marketing that sucks. But I am stuck with a day job, so I feel like I don't have the TIME to learn to do everything that needs to be done marketing wise, let alone staying on top of the NEXT big thing I need to learn. I am feeling a little left in the dust...

To be clear, I know I'm whining... I published traditionally in '12, '13, and '14 and then published a trilogy in '13 and '14 on my own... I am not FLOUNDERING. But neither are my books flying off shelves and it's giving me a complex. I'd like to at least fantasize that this writing gig will eventually support me, but at the moment, it is just about supporting my writing habit... end of statement...

The insecurity will pass. I know it, but I wish it would pass NOW.

So what are YOU feeling insecure about? And be sure to go visit some other folks in the Insecure Writer Support Group!

Monday, January 5, 2015

And So My Break is Ended

I had two glorious weeks off. And now all that's over...

It's funny. I am normally a person who really loves beginnings. And there are THINGS I like about starting a new year... mostly the resolutions and plans, but ending something I like (break) to start something I don't (the daily grind—which come to think of it would be much better if there were more grinding involved) doesn't quite qualify. January is my least favorite month.

I think this is Michigan's fault. I used to hate February most because “come on already spring”, but January's average high in Michigan is 14. It is just the merciless cold. That simple. That at the inevitable diet, but that is my own darn fault. I think I'll like January a lot when I finally retire, as I plan to spend it somewhere warm, and will start the diet when I get home... But as it it, yesterday (Saturday) was freezing rain and today (Sunday) it is snowing and if I have to go outside I need to wear a lot of clothes... You KNOW my opinion on clothes...

But since it can't be avoided, maybe it is time to just embrace the fabulous...

My Oregon Ducks Won the Rose Bowl!

This means Saturday they play in the National Championship game against Ohio State who I have A LOT of practice hating from living in Ann Arbor and having the Wolverines be my #2 team (Go Blue!).

My cleanse and diet:

You want to hear all the details about this, don't you? You are dying to dig into the calorie and sit-up minutiae that is my life... No? Okay, won't bore you... well maybe once a month, but it is too soon. Suffice it to say I think this was the sort of kick in the butt I needed. Hopefully in due course there will be less butt to kick.

Downton Abbey is Back!!!

I finally managed to find the Christmas Special in parts on YouTube. Frustrating that On Demand doesn't have it, but I'm sure there was some decision behind that... But the Sunday night show watching with my Couch to Keg peeps is one of the things I really look forward to. Downton Abbey, and then when that ends, the wait for Game of Thrones isn't too long (and we will start Outlander about that same time—that was our fall one this year, but the season continues in April)

Speaking of Game of Thrones

It is finally near enough (a mere 3 months) that I can start freaking out there, too. If you are a book reader, I've discovered a YouTube channel that does a lot of 'predicting from text': Radio Westeros. I think they do a great job and I think they've uncovered several likely things, mostly identities of people who seem to be bit players at the moment. It is too spoilery (or possibly irrelevant) for show watchers, but I recommend it if you've read the books twice or once but want huge surprises (I don't think one read of these books can possibly be remembered well enough to have all this be “AHA!”--it would be more “wait, what?”

But my writing, as predicted with my need for fitness obsession, is in the back seat... I will meet my ABNA goal, but I am not sure how much else... Ah well... baby steps, eh?

So how is YOUR beginning going? Productive? Spinning your wheels? Or a bit of a mix?