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Monday, July 25 2011

I've finished the first draft of my latest book. Now comes the hard part - the revisions. Like my last book, I wrote pell-mell, with very little editing and never slowing down. My focus was to finish the book and worry about the details later. When I was stumped for a word, I put an XX in its place. When I felt a scene dragging, I wrote "Finish this scene later." So while I have a solid story and the entire plot framework is in place, the writing is far from over.

Which is a good thing, because the book is too short, by a good ten to fifteen thousand words. At first, I panicked. How could I possibly add that much more? But then I looked up how long my last book was at this point, and oddly enough, it was only about five hundred words longer. Apparently I like to wrap up a story around the sixty-five thousand word mark. But after revisions and edits and tinkering, the last book ended up being over eighty thousand words, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this book follows suit.

The first step is to fill in all those XXs. And there are a lot. Every time I couldn't remember a tidbit from the first book (what's the name of the gas station outside town?), I'd mark it to look up later. Any time I wanted to focus on dialogue and not worry about physical actions, I'd mark it for later. And now later is here. Once I've filled in the missing words and information, then I'll need to read the book from start to finish and edit it as a whole.

I've already dug out my list of revisions from the last book, many of which apply to this one, and I've got my Don't Murder Your Manuscript at the ready. The book was invaluable the last go-round, so I'm planning to read it again to remind myself of everything I need to keep an eye on during the editing phase. Why are so many people nodding, smiling, and frowning in the book? Why do I use the words "just" and "very" so much? How can I perk up the dialogue?

I'll spend the next couple of weeks fixing up the first few chapters, then I'll submit that work to my writing group for even more suggestions and revisions. Let the fun begin!

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 06:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 05 2011

Last weekend, I went to the second annual mini-conference for the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I missed the first annual conference, and all the monthly meetings in between, so this was my first MWA experience. Glad I finally went. I've been missing out on some fun stuff.

The focus of the conference was the business aspect of writing, the things you have to worry about once you've actually finished that manuscript. Several veteran writers, including Penny Warner, Camille Minichino, and Simon Wood, held court in different conference rooms, offering advice on a particular topic for fifteen minutes. After those fifteen minutes, the audience members would rotate to a different conference room and listen to the next presenter.

The discussions were insightful and informative, though I could have easily spent more than fifteen minutes on the ebook and marketing topics. Ebooks are such a pivotal topic right now, with debates raging about whether print books are fading faster than CDs or whether ebooks would fizzle after a few years, that you could fill a couple of hours talking about them. But that wasn't the point of the conference. The point there was to give tips about publishing and promoting your ebooks. Simon Wood talked about the benefits of Smashwords for self-publishers, how authors should consider keeping the ebook rights when dealing with traditional publishers, and how Amazon forums aren't the marketing tool they once were due to oversaturation.

Speaking of marketing, other presenters offered up suggestions on promoting your work, such as finding a side market to tap into. If your book focuses on a main character who works in a Harley shop, then contact local Harley shops and ask to sell your books there. If your main character practices yoga in between sleuthing, contact yoga studios and organizations.

As for the issue of whether it's worth the money to hire a publicist to promote your work, which is something I hadn't given any thought to, the conclusion was that it's only worthwhile if you have a considerable sum of money to spend. Otherwise, the publicist will essentially be doing the same things you could be doing on your own.

The conference was great fun, and it gave me some ideas avenues to explore whenever I need to promote my first book. I'm ready to sign up for next year!

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 09:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email