On editing

I’m editing. And it’s hell. I don’t think I’m alone when I curse and grumble about it. But, really, let’s just say it. Editing sucks.

All those wonderful chapters that seemed written by Shakespeare only days ago, have magically turned into a mess. I blame my brain. Back when I wrote them, I had my Creative Brain on and I thought the stuff was pretty good. Now, with my critical Editorial Cap on, it’s just awful. 

I have to re-read it, change words, then ask myself what the sweet heavens I was trying to say in that convoluted, unending, tongue-twister of a paragraph. Somehow, I have to transform that soup of words into actual English so people will want to read it and not burst into tears. I curse, grumble, pray for inspiration and write away. I cut things, add words, change adverbs and add plurals when needed until I can read it. Until it flows and it says what it was supposed to say. With pizzaz.

Then, I go to the next one.

Today I chomped my way through an entire chapter. But most days it’s one scene at a time. The worst is coming though. I know I’ll have to go through this process a couple of times before the book is remotely to my standards. Perfectionism sucks.

Then I had a thought: What would it be like to write perfectly? What if we could write without having to edit? Do the Greats manage that? Does Nora Roberts type flawlessly on her computer in one endless, grammatically-perfect, flowing example of immaculate fiction? Wouldn’t it be wonderful? Just imagine…no editing…Ahhh.

Positive thinking: You’re an awesome writer!

That post by Jeff Moore is still with me. I was looking for reviewers yesterday and their warnings sent me to a sad place. I started to wonder what I was doing fooling myself writing. So, today, I went and found some sites that have positive messages for beginning writers. I certainly needed to hear what they said. Here’s hoping some of you will find these helpful.

Justine Musk wrote 11 things writers should know here. I really liked that post.

I needed to hear that the first draft will not be perfect and that I should give myself permission to write badly. I always try to get that scene right. Not just the dialogue but the ambiance, the foreshadowing, the goal of the scene and the character quirks…not to mention the editing. With all that critique in my head, I just feel a lot of pressure. I loved hearing that the first draft should be rough!

I also related to her first item. “If you have a calling to write, it won’t go away.” I believe that. I’ve lived in different countries, learning different languages and I managed to write and read. It was in me and it certainly didn’t go away.

And I loved when she said: “Reading is the inhale, writing is the exhale.” Isn’t that so very true?

But I’m not done! Kelly Leiter has this awesome blog where you can find all kinds of goodies for writers (see her side menu). Here’s the link:


In particular, here is a post on self-doubt. I particularly liked the article by Susan Mary Malone, “Writing’s Four-Letter Word: Fear”. And the one by Michael Wallace, “On the Importance of Persistence.” I really liked when he said he could ‘wallpaper a room with rejection letters’. If he’s so good and got that many rejections, maybe there’s hope.

Finally, Kelly Leiter has these helpful quotes to get you started wherever you are in the writing process.


So, like Natalie Goldberg says: “Just write. Just write. Just write…”

One little image, just for a smile.



Formatting ups and downs.

I’m deep inside the world of formatting. The idea is to somehow meet the rules of the Smashwords Premium Catalogue and hopefully get the book on other publishers free. Excellent theory…the application is somewhat more turbulent.

I should explain that I’m not a computer genius. I would describe myself as mildly competent. For example, I don’t try to fix a type-o on my computer with white out, but I don’t know how to fix any real issues on my computer. And that includes formatting issues on my documents.

The Guide that Smashwords has for formatting is actually really helpful, friendly even. But trying this out by myself is pretty daunting. There are times when I stare at the screen and wonder what on earth they mean and the only one at my side is my faithful akita. She’s good in the snow but not so great with computers.

Simple things become monumental tasks in Formatting World. For example, you can’t change something as easy as the font by clicking on the font button. In fact, according to the Guide, this is a mistake you should never, ever do (never is in capital letters, then bolded and then repeated just in case you missed it the first few times). Basically, if you use the button provided by Word for that exact purpose, your manuscript will warp itself into something illegible for ebooks, it’ll never be admitted into the Premium Catalogue (the reason for this entire Formatting Nightmare) and all your worse fears will materialize.

Now that wouldn’t be an issue, if the Guide told me how to change the font properly. But there’s no second choice. Just a warning in dire letters of horrid consequences if you should risk touching the clearly labelled font button.

In spite of all this moaning on my part, I think I’m making some sort of progress. I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m certainly not close enough to even start making a table of contents, but I think I might have an idea on how to create a ‘style’. No, in our fun, Formatting World, style doesn’t mean clothing style or hip-style, it means writing style as in indents and bullets and so on. Don’t laugh but I had to figure that out too.

It’s a steep learning curve but, I figure, in a week or so, either I’ll have a perfectly formatted document so clean it’ll shine brighter than the Empire State Building or I’ll be talking to Ocean in doggie language.

Oh and I will definitely pass on anything worthwhile that I learn along the way…like how on earth to change that dratted font.



Heroes that are too nice.

I like realistic characters. I don’t like it when they’re perfect. When I read, I’m pretty oblivious to the perfection of other characters unless its so over the top that my teeth start rotting because of the sugar content of the book. But, when I write, I’m Critical. My heroines can’t be too nice and I can’t stand it if my heroes are perfect. Who is? What man have I ever dated that had perfect teeth, gorgeous hair, blemish-free skin, worked out, had a great job, body and personality to match? Ah, none. Men aren’t perfect the same way women aren’t perfect.

I read somewhere that to write good romance, the heroine had to be less than perfect but the hero couldn’t have a single defect. The writer claimed a heroine who had faults was a someone women could relate to and I agree. But they added that women liked romance because they liked to imagine the perfect man sweeping them off their feet. They even went on to add that no amount of perfection no the side of the hero was too much.

I disagree. I think that less than perfect heroes are not just more realistic, they’re more attractive. The same way less than perfect heroines are more attractive.

I like to read about a woman who’s struggling in some aspect of her life because that makes her likeable and someone I’d laugh with and share my own struggles with. The same way, the guy in the story needs to have some sort of issue.

Now, I don’t mean that psychopaths would make a good character. Hannibal the Cannibal scared the bananas out of me when I read his biography (though he is a great hero in  Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal). I just mean that perfection is…well, too perfect.

I read a book where the hero was Perfection Incarnate. This guy walked around all day with a halo on his head. He couldn’t let a little old woman stand for more than two seconds without offering her a seat and he did everything perfectly from cook to sing. Even his body was perfect, from teeth to toes, to nails and hairs in between. It was almost ridiculous. He could heal better than the town doctor, could resolve a disagreement better than the cops, and out shone the local haircutter. When he rescued the heroine’s lost dog, I almost gagged.

I like the hero to have a journey in the book. To me, it’s interesting when he has a hurdle to overcome. If he hates outspoken women because his mother never let him say a word as a child and our heroine doesn’t shut up? Could he love her anyway? How would that work? To me, he’s more interesting if he has quirks than if he doesn’t. Those issues don’t turn me away, on the contrary, I want to know how he works them out. It makes me curious. Perfection is boring and really, no man is ever perfect (certainly my lovely hubby isn’t as I can attest when I hear him sing).

Men aren’t perfect and we love them anyway. Maybe more so because they’re flawed.



Formatting nightmares

Formatting is something self-published authors know about…and dread. Traditionally published authors get to skip this entire ordeal because they simply send their manuscript off to the agent and presto, it magically appears already formatted and on paper. At least, I that’s what I think happens.

Poor self-published authors like myself don’t have that luxury. I can ask someone to do it for me but that’s risky and expensive. Last time I tried that, they botched it up and would only fix the issues if I paid more money. So now, I do it myself.

Formatting changes the lovely book you’ve written into something an ereader can process. Without formatting you get lines that fall off the edge of the page, breaks where there shouldn’t be breaks and other nightmares. In other words, you have to format the thing or not even your aunt Matilda, who loves you, will read your ebook.

I use Scrivener. It has an innocent little button that says: collate. Collate means formatting. I looked at it and wished the entire process would be as simple as pressing that button. Alas…it’s not.

Press collate and you open up a new window FULL of buttons that open other windows FULL of buttons. Everything from the table of contents to the size of font to the space between the lines, to indents, to how you take your coffee in the morning…everything is in there for you to change and organize. If you want an epub file, you get a set of different choices that match that file’s needs. If you want a mobi file, you get another set. And so on.The problem is some of those buttons are written in codes and you have to fill in information with even more codes.

Figuring out how to collate took me a good five hours (during which I only answered in angry grunts). Scrivener helpfully provides some tutorials online in a microscopic window. After five hours of squinting, I finally got rid of the thing and started simply guessing. Incredibly, I did manage to collate the thing because it’s on Amazon now (I blame it on dumb luck).

In spite of all this, Scrivener is a great option, simply because it’s better than the alternative: Doing it By Hand. Formatting a document a la hand means you have to do manually what each of those little buttons did on Scrivener. For each paragraph, for each chapter, for the entire manuscript. It’s much, much worse than Scrivener’s collating.

Why am I rambling on about formatting? Well, the thing is I’m trying to publish Olivia’s Choice on Smashwords so that I can list my book for free (Amazon won’t do it unless they’re price matching). That means I have to re-format the entire thing.

By hand.

I estimate it’s going to take me a year and a half to get this done.



New tab

I have only been an author a very short time. During those months, I’ve managed to bungle things pretty royally. Thank the good karma in the universe that there are sites and blogs and communities online to help newbies like myself. Every time I found something new, I posted it on this blog. I figure, I need all the good karma I can get.

But this morning, with a fresh cup of coffee not making a dent on the horrid headache raging away in my head, I decided to clean house. I got all the posts that have hints or tips for authors and put them under a new tab at the top of the blog, for easy access.

Just click on Resources. Easy, peasy. Oh, and if you have any gems, pass them my way and I’ll post them there too (with your permission).

Groucho the tree…

Groucho is an indoor tree. In fact, he’s a Ficus…a very touchy Ficus. We knew he was sensitive from the moment we got him and we’ve been babying him ever since. When we moved, he moved ahead of time and spent time in the house and get acclimatized before the chaos started. Since then, he’s been in one spot, not moving because Ficus trees will drop their leaves if you move them across a room. Ours, Groucho, will drop his leaves if you so much as look at him the wrong way. Touchy.

So, it was with great horror that I saw he had worms. Big, fat, brown things that crawled over and around the top of his pot. I stirred the earth only to discover that these worms had friends…numerous friends.

We searched for a gentle worm-killer. One that wouldn’t hurt our sensitive tree (or our doggie) but strong enough to hurt the worms. We paid a ridiculous amount of money for the stuff and added it in to the dirt as per the instructions.

A week later, and the worms not only hadn’t diminished, they appeared to have multiplied. Back to the Green house we went and got something less delicate. Another week later and, while Groucho remained the same, the worms had tripled. They were so numerous some were crawling out of the pot and trekking across our floor in search of fresh pastures.

When I almost stepped on one, I reached my breaking point and told my hubby to throw the tree out. He told me not worry and said he’d ‘fix’ it. A day later, Groucho was back in our living room with new soil and a few less leaves. There wasn’t a worm in sight.

I was mystified. Yes, I was also delighted but I was mystified. What had he done?

Turns out my resourceful husband had taken Groucho, the ever sensitive tree, yanked it free of its pot, then dunked it in the frozen river that runs through our property to loosen the dirt. Once that was accomplished, he had grabbed it by its trunk and repeatedly smacked the roots against the snow-covered driveway to get rid of any remaining worms. Finally, he had emptied the pot, cleaned it, added fresh earth and repotted the stunned Groucho.

I heard this horror tale and I braced myself to see the tree die. But, the shocker was that, three weeks later, Groucho stood proudly in our living room, not a leaf out of place.

“I don’t know why you’re shocked,” my husband told me. “My careful treatment saved that tree.”

Mr. Green Thumb.

(credit: headingfortheexits.com)

(credit: headingfortheexits.com)

I need a new book

I’ve been surviving on re-reading the entire Guild series by Nalini Singh but I’ve finished it again. And the weekend is coming…I need a new book. The only problem is I’ve already read my usual automatic-buy authors. I have nothing new left until December…And the weekend is coming…I need a new book.

Hm…any ideas? Any recommendations? I’ll take just about anything at this point…especially if its romance. I love romance. Sigh!



Stephen King terrifies me

I don’t read Stephen King. Ever.

See, the thing is I did read him. Back a thousand years ago (possibly longer), I read a couple of his books. I read Carrie, Thinner and Fire Starter. They scared me, but the writing was good and easy to get into. So, I continued to look for his books.

Big mistake.

I found a big book by him titled ‘It’. I thought since it was thicker, I would enjoy the book that much longer…Good theory but, as it turned out, not so good in practice.

Saying that ‘It’ is scary is like saying the sky is blue, winter is cold and water is wet. It doesn’t do it justice or explain the sheer, unadulterated terror those pages evoked. I was terrified doesn’t do it either. I was beyond scared, beyond terrified. I was so horrified that the mere mention of Stephen King still causes goosebumps on my arms today and the hairs on my neck to stand up.

His work is that scary. My brain simply can’t handle Stephen King. I can barely tolerate typing his name. So I don’t read him. Ever.

I heard him say once that he “had the heart of a boy…Kept in a jar in his basement.” That sums him up for me. He’s so obviously talented at horror, a mere mortal like myself can never hope to cope. So, I stay away.

It’s cheaper than therapy.

(credit: grimmreviewz.blogspot.com)

(credit: grimmreviewz.blogspot.com)

How not to brush a dog’s coat

So I’m reading about akitas because, as a good doggie mom, I’m interested in keeping up with the needs and issues of my pooch. And I read I should be brushing her hair on a weekly basis. Apparently, not only do dogs enjoy it, the ritual is an opportunity for a beautiful bonding session between the dog and myself.

Hereto we have been spoiled because our dogs have all been of the short-haired variety and required minimal grooming. Akitas have longer fur. Ours is a mix of black and white with one fluffy, ridiculously white tail that she waves like a flag in delight. Every bit of dirt shows on white, so her tail and her paws (also white) are usually a disgrace.

After four dogs you’d think I’d know better, but I approached the brushing task with single-minded determination, not thinking that the dog might have something to say about it all. That fur was mangled and dirty and it had to be brushed. Right? Right.

First problem, direction of brush. Okay, so brushing might work better if you go with the hair. That’s from the head to the tail of the dog. Don’t try parting it or teasing it or braiding it. Go with the hair. Oops.

Second problem, don’t try to brush a sleeping dog. Turns out sneaking up on a sleeping akita is a great way to lose an eye. Note to self: akitas don’t like to be woken up by a brush yanking on their fur.

Tip: explaining the procedure to the dog will not aid their comprehension in the least. I tried. Exhaustively. I’m pretty sure all she got out of my verbal diarrhea was her name. Note to self (2): Akitas aren’t mental giants in the doggie world. Use. Small. Words.

Finally, do not try to hold the dog down while you brush her fur. She will either squirm and curl until she looks like a hairy version of a macaroni or shove at you with her four paws. Note to self (3): four paws will always out do two arms.

Oh, and you can’t sneak in a brush faster than she can stop you. No matter how quickly you move, she’ll always be faster.

I did manage to brush some of her fur but, at the end, I was the one covered in dog hair and in desperate need of a shower and a cup of tea. Ocean was energized and still pawing at me. When she realized the activity was over, she bounced off, waving that almost-white tail in triumph.

Apparently she didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be a beautiful bonding session.