Tag Archives: publishing

Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Update and Cover Art (Aug. 2017)

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Recap: I sold my New Adult alternate-history fantasy series late last year to Glass House Press. Since then, I’ve been detailing my journey of what goes on behind the scenes. Now, my publishing story is going to be (probably markedly) different than someone else’s, but you might take some inspiration or advice with my tale.

If you’re interested, here is:

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If you’re caught up, you know that I’ve been working on a whole ‘nother book before the original series I sold to Glass House Press. My editor, in considering how gigantic my world is and how much backstory I have to get there, was nervous that there was too much information to pack into the beginning of the series. Thus, a prequel.

Well, it’s turned into 64k words with the latest revision, so I guess it’s real-book sized! I thought it was going to be a novella but since it’s basically impossible for me to write anything short… yeah.

Anyway, August consisted of me working with the first letter of feedback. Mainly, fleshing out my ending, and putting more world details and MC voice in the beginning. This last month was a big of a whirlwind, in learning more about my world than I have before. (The last blog post goes into more detail about this)

I’m a pantser character writer, which means that my world building comes in fits and starts as my characters explore it. It’s got it’s disadvantages; meaning, I tend to have to re-write everything once I get to the end as I figure out Oh Yeah I Need To Know How That Works. Because there’s nothing more irritating to a reader than going along thinking one thing and then having to jar yourself into another world-space because of oh yeah this important detail of my world right here that I’m suddenly bringing in to create conflict hahahahaaaa… 

Okay I’m sure there are other things that are more irritating but that’s probably one of the top ones. At least for me as a reader.

Anyway, I ended up fleshing out/discovering things about my world beyond what I expected. I thought I had it mostly figured out; in delving deeper, into things I thought weren’t important because they weren’t important to the character necessarily, I discovered/created a lot that made my world a lot more interesting. Even though I still feel meh about this prequel coming out before Book One, the exercise of going through all of this has been immensely helpful (and important, to be honest). I already have a boat-load of new information that Book One needs to have. It’s really rather exciting.

I’m starting to think that going forward as a writer, I need to write a ‘history book’ involving whatever world I’m working on. Nothing I ever publish or even make interesting in any sense of the word, but something that makes me walk through and flesh out the environment that my characters are living in. I plot it out in my head, but there’s just something about writing it all out. Because I vastly underestimate how much detail I need to build certain world elements.

(You world-building first types are probably like DUH, but hey I’m getting there)

So that’s the update involving the writing portion of what’s going on behind the scenes.

IN OTHER NEWS.

The publisher and I have started talking cover designs and concepts. For a fun and awesome twist, I get a lot of input on what is going into my cover(s). So last month I had a meeting with my publisher and we worked out concept ideas, themes, and what we wanted to portray for my series. Like, the covers are all going to be made in the same style with similar designs in order to link them together.

The color and certain elements will be different for each one (I’m not sure how much I can talk about details since it’s not quite set in stone this is killing me!!), but we have a basic concept, theme, and vision going forward.

An AMAZING designer (I’m not sure I’m allowed to really say who yet but omg I’m so excited!!?!) has been booked to create my first cover in November. She’s slotted for the first three for sure (first three including prequel and book one and two), and I’m not sure what happens after that, but considering it’ll be like a year or two before I have to think about it I’m sure we’re fine.

Guys I’m so excited about the designer. I didn’t really connect who she was at first, but as soon as I went to check her out and I was like WAIT I KNOW THIS I’VE SEEN THESE COVERS ON SOME OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS. She does gorgeous work, and I think the theme that the publisher and I worked out is going to be very striking and unique. *Cue flailing*

So there’s that.

I’m going to do my darnest to get the latest revision of the prequel back to my editor today. I’ve walked through all the changes she suggested (and some changes I felt it needed), and I can feel my focus on the story flagging; I’m not really seeing it anymore. I’ve done a LOT of work on it (12k words of addition plus whatever I’ve subtracted!), and need a break to come back with it with fresh eyes.

The next step is going to be another round of hard core development edits focused on what I’ve written (the last round of devs utilized a very detailed outline for a big-picture set of edits). It will be very interesting to see what my editor thinks walking through the story, versus just hearing about what the story will be about…

I’m pretty nervous, but also really looking forward to it. I’ve been craving this kind of in-depth, er, teaching, for lack of a better word. I read a lot of writing advice and such, but it’s easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to your own writing and not quite see how to apply the advice. Developmental edits are not my strong suit, and I sincerely want to learn!

And on that note…. happy Monday everyone! May your week be filled with inspiration and writing.

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Published: Behind the Scenes (March 2017 edition)

Published- Behind The Scenes.pngIn October of last year I signed a contract with Glass House Press for my alternate-history fantasy series to debut in 2018. For fun and for the benefit of anyone interested, I started up this blog series chronicling monthly updates of the behind-the-scenes in being published. Read the introductory post here! A list of all the other posts I’ve written so far can also be found at the end.

In my previous post, I got in-depth about developmental editing and progress with that. This post, I’m going to have a little less to talk about, because as mentioned before, I’m writing a prequel to my series. So what’s primarily happening behind the scenes? Lots of writing. Which, hey, we’re all doing, that isn’t anything new. This entry is going to end up a little diary-like.

The basic reason for the need of this prequel is that my world is very complex, and a lot to jam into a first chapter. Additionally, my first book arguably starts out too far into my character’s arc. My editor thinks there too much for the reader to catch up on and takes away from getting the reader into the story. It can easily be too confusing, with all the cultural terms along with hints about character and world history I’m throwing about.

I personally think it’s fun to have a bit of mystery about the character and world to drive the story… but I can’t be sure I’ve created enough of a reason for the reader to care about Fairian and hang around for getting answers.

(So we’ll see how that all works out when we get to the editing of the actual writing and how the story works out bit, but meanwhile — )

I’ve been assigned to writing the prequel. Which is unfortunately slow going, as I haven’t really written anything (fiction) on ‘contract’ before, so I’m discovering the jarring difference between writing for oneself and writing for someone else. There are many author-ly laments on all platforms of social media about this problem, so I don’t feel like I need to go into it here. Needless to say the experience will be good practice.

Despite the reasons for actually making the prequel happen, I am discovering my love for the story. The events in the prequel I’ve always treated as past history, as influencing ‘current’ events and seen through the lens of the present. Writing the prequel as present, in the eyes of my main character that’s 5 years younger… well, that’s pretty interesting. And hard. A lot of the characteristics that make up Fairian (my main character) have developed in part because of The Events in the prequel, so they’re not in place in her personality yet. But I can’t have her a completely different person. So I have to plant the seeds of her later personality, then have The Events, and then show the start of her personality change.

This is surprisingly hard. Mostly in the sense that Fairian is kind of a spoiled, naive brat at this point in time, and I’m kind of wondering how to make her even likable. I read an article the other day that mentioned something like this, but emphasized that (in the beginning of a story at least) you need to make your characters interesting before likable, worry about likability later. That, I’m pretty sure I can do.

One of my editors suggestions for clarifying my giant world for readers while still keeping mystery for my characters was to write from another point of view. I struggled with this for a little while because this is really Fairian’s story, and I have a weird complex with keeping things mysterious and throwing questions around like confetti. But, I found a happy medium. Inter-spliced between chapters from Fairian’s perspective are reports from … basically this world’s version of the magical CIA.

So in essence, I get to write Incident Reports and Correspondence of global magical clandestine operations in an alternate reality.

Just reading that I get excited.

(Now just to make sure they end up being exciting as they sound, ha!)

Camp NaNoWriMo hit just in time to help complete this thing. It’s going to be a novella (I think anyway…) so less words to write, but unfortunately I’m being so nitpicky about the craft and details it’s getting in the way of getting words down. I’m re-remembering to just get the words down and worry about editing later. Thus, Camp NaNoWriMo is helpful as the kick in the pants I need. I want to have this thing done by the end of April. I’ve written 50k in NaNoWriMo several times before; getting out 30k more should be just fine as long as I stay focused.

Speaking of focused. I need to turn my attention to writing all those words! This whole weekend ended up being “manual labor weekend” with barn cleaning and house building, and before that I was flat on my back as a migraine reminded me I’ve been messing with my sleep schedule a little too much (excuses, excuses). I need to get back at it. I still don’t feel fully recovered, but maybe the fuzzy-headedness will help just get the words out and not have a complex over all the details…

Thanks for reading, friends! Stay tuned for April’s update in a few weeks; this post ended up being a little late for a variety of reasons, next time’s should be on time. Let me know what you think, share experiences, feel free to commiserate …

Happy writing!


Published: Behind the Scenes (Jan 2017)

 

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Yeesh, writing “2017” is still weird. But anyway. Welcome to the first segment of my new series, where I talk about the behind-the-scenes action of being published!

So in October 2016 I signed the contract to sell my Initium series to Glass House Press. Pretty much the very first thing that happened:

“Let’s look at your author platform!”

How did I know this was going to happen? Oh right, the entire writing world tells you about it. So, things started happening, like social media calendars, starting up a FaceBook author page (which I don’t hate as much as I thought — hey, if you want to like it and follow my updates more in detail, here it is), and discussing how many pictures of my freaking goats I post on Instagram (heheh).

The past couple months have been about setting goals and thinking about branding as a whole. The holidays took up a lot of time and headspace, so that was mostly easy, fun stuff. When 2017 hit, it was time to get serious (<– I almost wrote that ‘series’, ha!). Anyway. *cracks knuckles*

The part I’m struggling with the most is finding and actually utilizing my ‘keywords’ in a natural way. The whole point of social media as an author is to be able to connect with potential readers, to find them and make connections before the actual book comes out. So if you want the right people to connect with you, who are interested in the concepts/themes in your story… you have to effectively find/attract them through keywords.

So while I can tweet/post indefinitely like #fantasy #alternatehistory #strongwomen #solarpunk etc etc etc — I definitely feel that it’s the bare minimum of what to do, and there has to be a better way to do it. It needs to feel natural, not like I’m awkwardly waving off in the corner and nobody really knows what I’m doing there.

Do I know the answer to that yet? Not really.

(Though I am having a lot of fun finding really cool pictures to post on Instagram. Seriously, I feel like a image hoarder right now.)

Another aspect of it — as you probably know — is that you want people to make connections to you as a writer. They’ll hopefully want to buy your book when it arrives, but that’s not the point. You’re supposed to make connections and build relationships as your primary goal.

So there’s this balance between ‘keywords my book is about’ (AKA finding the right people) and ‘being naturally you’ (being genuine so people don’t think you’re a robot). I’d like to say I’m pretty good at that last part, and am working to incorporate the first part… but we’ll see.

 

As for what’s happening with the actual manuscript… the first thing to tackle is developmental editing. Basically, my editor wants to make sure that the whole series fits together and is pushed to it’s best possible potential. Big picture stuff. Does-what-happens-in-book-four-make-sense-with-what-happens-in-book-two. Etc.

I haven’t gotten the letter with developmental edits yet, because my editor has been slammed getting authors ready with books coming out here shortly. But we have been talking informally about basics.

Liiiiiiike — big reveals that happen in book four must be foreshadowed in the previous books if it’s a big freaking plot hole. If it’s a plot hole that’s supposed to be there, you’ve got to let the reader know YOU know it’s supposed to be there.

Which, apparently, I did well with Fairian’s whole obsession with finding secrets. I reveal to there readers that HEY LOOK THERE’S SOMETHING REALLY WRONG WITH GEOGRAPHY I KNOW IT’S WRONG JUST BEAR WITH ME without giving them answers. And then drag out allllll the secrets for several books…

Eh-hem. It’s good to know I did that part right, because the waiting in strangling anticipation for the edits letter is only killing me slowly. I am so ready to tackle to this thing and turn it into an even better beauteous creation of awesome.

So. Moral of the story: publishing really does take a long time, for various reasons. Use the time to beef up your author platform. And meanwhile, write more books!

I feel like there should be a lot more to tell, but that’s all I can think of for now. It ought to get more exciting as things progress; stayed tuned for the end of February update!

 

Happy writing,

R. K. Brainerd


The #PubLaw Twitter Talks

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Twitter is a marvelous thing, and holds many opportunities for us writers. Whether it’s connection with fellow writers, support, or reaching a broader audience, it’s a great resource for writers of all walks of life.

I particularly like the ‘talks’ that are held to spread knowledge and general writer love all throughout the online writing community. One of my recent favorites happens to be the #PubLaw twitter talks. #PubLaw was started by Susan Spann, a mystery writer and publishing attorney — which means she specializes in that scary, scary contract thing. She tweets about everything from short-form contracts to information about small publishers to the law surrounding pseudonyms.

She says she started the #PubLaw hashtag to fill the void in Twitter’s writing community. Information about contracts and publishing law can be a little thin, and are questions best answered by an attorney — a role she fits well, or obvious reasons. And now she generously spends time hosting talks to educate the Twitter-writer sphere about publishing and contracts, one subject at a time.

She also writes about publishing law more in-depth on her blog, which has a wealth of additional information.

I’m sure you’ve heard about scams and writers getting hurt because they didn’t completely understand their contract. We all think this won’t happen to us, but educating yourself can go a long way to keeping you safe (second to getting an agent or lawyer, of course).

All of which means you should check out Susan Spann and #PubLaw. Don’t be the next cautionary tale.

What resources do you use to help navigate publishing? And what are your stories of dealing with publishing contracts? 


Staying True To Your Story: A #FicFest Update

When revising your manuscript with an editor, how do you handle all of the changes when it can feel like the story isn’t yours anymore?

Well, first you have to look at that sentence and realize it’s misleading. If you’re making a change (based on advice, your own realizations, or aliens controlling your brain), it’s still YOU making the change. It’ll be your words, your expression, your ideas on how to implement it.

A while ago I read that you can’t copyright ideas in fiction. The only thing that is truly ‘yours’ is how you use your words. Which, if you think about it, really makes sense. Because if only one person had the copyright on dark mysterious vampires I’m pretty sure the paranormal romance market wouldn’t exist.

Kidding! Kidding. Seriously, there’s a lot of other neat stuff in the genre, but you see what I mean.

But I’ve found myself thinking about how ideas are formed and implemented during this wonderful/stressful/crazy revision part of FicFest. Ideas are just a mixture of the things I’m working out in my own life and what I ‘feed’ myself based on what I’ve read, but they become so close to our hearts. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to ‘own’ that part — not to mention the fact that the publishing process is going to rip my manuscript apart, anyway.

It’s easy to become enthralled and hyper-focused on your manuscript. And when you have an idea of what revising is going to look like in your head, and then it’s totally different, it can really put you off balance. Especially when you look at it all at once, like I said in my previous post.

However, the past few weeks I’ve taken my own advice, and carefully looked at each suggestion individually, and only one at a time, and made changes as I saw fit.

Honestly, I ended up implementing almost all of her suggestions. Because when looking at them individually and not letting my ego interfere, they made sense. And oftentimes I found that, bizarrely, when I made one change, it made her next suggestion divinely ‘fit.’

For example: It was suggested that I move a scene to earlier in the story. It was a simple move, not one that sent me down ‘ohmygodifImovethiswhatwillhappen’ street. In the scene, the magical version of the CIA approaches my MC with a job offer. Originally, I had it later in the story, alongside a bunch of other scenes to create a sense of ‘oh crap all these people know about the connection to xyz event she’s stuck now.’ Moving that scene made sense, not only because it made more sense for the CIA-like character (they approach her more covertly), but because it spiced up another section.

But because of it’s new placement, a new theme just magically fell into place: Blackmail.

All of sudden, from neither my mentor’s suggestion nor my own pre-planning, there was this new tension. The ‘job offer’ took on a life of it’s own and started changing the rest of my story, shifting character motivations, creating issues that were both good and bad. It changed a trust dynamic with two individuals completely.

At first I kinda freaked. ‘What? No! That’s not how I want my story to go! Crap! I’m going to have to take out the blackmail part and –‘ and, and, and.

Incidentally, as I was talking about above, this change magically fit into another suggestion by my mentor: I needed more tension in the second half. There wasn’t a direct obstacle to my character’s goals.

Originally, that’s kind of what I wanted. Look my character is finally succeeding with this thing she’s been obstinately fighting for for half the book — WHAM, climax, look at this creepy bad guy you knew was coming but hoped wouldn’t, MWAHAHAHAH!

Weeeeell. Yes. But.

I stuck to my plan at the beginning of this thing, that I was going to try on everything my mentor said, and I could always change it back if it really wasn’t right. I continued on with this new ‘blackmail’ element and wrote it out for the rest of the book.

Oh look at all the new delicious tension that my MC has to deal with!

Probably manifesting my own opinion on the matter, my MC frantically ignores the whole thing. LALALLALA it doesn’t exist hahaha I’m so kidding myself. Then, in a moment of vulnerability, she screws up.

Cue ‘all is lost moment’ — (which my mentor also said needed to be a bit more punchy, so, HELLO, two things fixed with just one scene change, wtf?). MC thinks she’s lost what she’s been fighting for this whole thing. Evil bad dude comes out of nowhere to ruin the day (okay, week). I added in a bit threatening what she values most in the world — independence — and voila!

Much heavier all is lost moment.

Am I freaking out that my story has changed A LOT and is this still my story oh my god I had to change so much around I suck as a writer?

Abso-freaking-lutely!

I found myself struggling with my writing identity: I must suck at this, to have so much change.

Now reread what I just wrote up above with the scene change. What did I say? Oh yeah, the whole thing that followed was all my work. My mentor didn’t specifically suggest blackmailing my MC. She gave suggestions that, considering marketability and the structure that keeps readers interested, could improve my manuscript.

My original scene move (which I completely agreed needed to happen and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself) didn’t leave me nervously not knowing the balance between keeping true to oneself and taking good advice.

Everything that followed, followed naturally. I wrote it. Did it fit into a whole bunch of her other suggestions that I felt nervous about implementing? Magically, yes.

Was it because my mentor said so, or because it just ‘fit’? Does this mean that there’s just a divine formula for book structure that happens naturally? Was I influenced by my mentors suggestions when I was rewriting?

Does it matter? The real question is: Is this still my story?

You bet your cute butt!

So my advice to you is this: Own those revisions! No matter the source. They are yours. And if they don’t feel like it, make them your own.

Do you have any crazy revising stories to share? What writer-y lesson have you stumbled across lately? 


Rambling Advice on Editing: #FicFest Update

I have zero desire to write this blog post, but I’m doing it anyway. I skipped/missed last week’s post, somewhere between laziness, picking up my (almost) mother-in-law for her month long stay, and furiously editing my manuscript for FicFest. So as I write this week’s, and I figure as long as I keep rambling, something will come out.

That’s what they say about writing habits every day, right? Just start writing anything, and the flow will come.

But anyway. Let’s talk about FicFest updates.

I received my edit letter almost a week ago… wow, has it been only a week? Yikes. It feels like it’s been longer. Anyway, I got the edit letter, and it’s been a little bit like having free access to crack ever since. It’s impossible to pull away. I’m definitely editing on the sly at work. I’ll find myself reading over her edits and making changes for hours and don’t even remember how I got there. It helps that she’s so freaking smart and spot on about everything.

I’ve run into my first problem, however: knowing the difference between a good change that improves my craft and story, and knowing when a change will alter the ‘heart’ of my story too much. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of comments by a mentor, an editor, a beta reader — whatever you’re happening to read over in that moment.

I don’t really know the answer to this yet, but I have gotten some great tips from writer friends and family.

My first piece of advice, coming directly from me, is this:

Read through all the advice and suggestions. Then, take a step back. Take each edit one at a time, and only that one at a time. Take the one suggestion and work only on that until it’s done (and maybe give yourself a time limit if you’re a super-perfectionist). Don’t try to do everything at once as you’re moving through your manuscript.

 

I started with finishing the line edits, and have just moved onto the overall suggestions; right now I’m working on making my setting more vivid (and ONLY on the setting). Once that’s done, I’m moving onto making a particular character from the past have a little more influence on the future, to not be quite so shrouded. Then I’ll be working on this one character quirk that needs to be further explained.

Do you see what I mean? Focusing on one aspect makes it a lot easier to digest and implement. I’m finding I’m not nearly so overwhelmed, and I can see each comment more clearly as what it is: advice, and intelligent suggestion.

Another piece of advice that really rung true for me was this:

Take each suggestion at face value (again: only one at a time) and look at it through the lens of what story YOU are trying to tell (you’ve probably heard this advice a hundred times, but for some reason this really hit me as helpful).

Be open to all suggestions and improvements. Consider everything carefully, after a few days to digest the comments you’ve received. Come at your story after a deep breath and a step back. Determine what kind of story comes across to the reader, and if it’s the story YOU want to tell. Some suggestions may change the story to feel like something else, or the characters to be like other people. It could be good. It could be great. Or it may change something too much.

Don’t cut off your nose in spite of your face, but keep true to the story you are trying to tell.

 

Does anyone else struggle with finding this balance? What’s your method to work it out? How about my FicFest friends, how are you all doing?


Rethinking Debut Novels

Over the end of last week and this weekend I participated in Pitch to Publication, another semi-twitter competition involving editors, query letters, and the first five pages of my manuscript. Nothing overtly exciting happened to me, though I did get a little feedback (and will be getting more soon here).

But the most helpful part so far seems to be the conversations that occurred with other writers, and the editors.

I won’t go into all the details, but one conversation stuck out to me. It involved what exactly would be your ‘debut’ novel.

For example:

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And it went from there. It’s not exactly a new concept — most of us should write one or two books before thinking about publishing anyway. The book I’m trying to publish isn’t my first.

But I wanted to talk about it for a minute, because it’s interesting to me — and because of a lot of disappointment I saw on the Pitch to Publication feed (including mine).

Just because it seems hopeless to publish your book, because you’re told the plot is too cliche or the characters unlikeable or the themes too obvious (or boring), doesn’t mean the book will NEVER be published. Hell, it probably just needs a massive rewrite and a good editor. But if that’s not the case and you’ve been trying to publish for 5 years and it seems like a completely hopeless endeavor and you should just give up —

Relax. You’re a writer: this isn’t going to be the only thing you write. Something else may meant to be as your debut novel — and this manuscript you have right now, wonderful news: it can be published later, after you achieve success. Moving on to another project, one that is (annoyingly) more market-conscious and aimed to sell, does not mean you are abandoning your heart and soul.

I feel weird saying it. For me, and probably for you, writing is about the heart, and thinking of it in regards to ‘markets’ and ‘sell-ableness’ makes me cringe inside. Well, there’s a certain amount of get over it that needs to happen. Being an author is a career. You’re selling things. You need to be aware of the market and the whole capitalism thing.

This doesn’t mean that you should force yourself into writing something you don’t want to write. Or that you need to turn yourself into a only-business minded person (ew).

It just means pay attention. And try to be conscious of it as you write. Be weird. Be different than the trend. Think of a new way to do things. Push boundaries. Read and read and read and read things you don’t normally read. Be creative in your creativity.

Okay. Minor preachy-lesson over with.

Thank god I have a lot of story ideas. I just need to make them unique if my current one doesn’t work out… because now I’m uncertain it’s different enough.

What do you think? Did you participate in Pitch to Publication? How many ideas do YOU have running around in your head?