Writing about Writing

Archive for May, 2014


Now that I’ve received feedback from as many beta readers as I believe I’m going to hear from (Less than half got back to me, something to note in the future), it’s time to start editing.

I tend to edit as I write.  I’ve been known to spend over an hour working over a single paragraph, trying to get it to flow just right.  The good news is, extra effort while writing my first draft should leave me with less work to do when it comes time to do a full-on edit.  If we take into account the amount of time I spent going back and fixing things as I went, then I’m probably on my second or third draft by now.

That being said, I’m certainly not immune to making a boatload of mistakes.  It’s the nature of the craft, when you’re so close to it you see things as you want them to be, not necessarily as they are.  I still need to do a good, thorough edit just as much as anyone.

For a lot of writers, editing tends to be the most dreaded stage of writing, because it doesn’t feel creative. In fact, it almost feels the opposite, because you end up spending a lot of time deleting sections of writing that you put so much of yourself into.

In an early section of my book, one of my characters reads over a suicide note he’d been writing for two years.  When I put his note together, I was structuring it off a few real-life ones I’d read online, while also using it as a tool to provide some backstory on the character.  However, the note became a point of contention for a number of my readers, who pointed out that it was too long, too this, or not enough of that.

So, with that in mind, I spent the day re-writing the note to try and take into account any criticisms while also maintaining the original purpose.  The interesting thing about re-writing is it takes a lot longer than writing the original.  Here I am going back and forth between tabs, making sure I keep the really important points, deleting the less important ones, and restructuring the sentences with a slight change in voice.  By the time I’d finished producing a second, and then third note, I’d spent three or four times longer than when I’d written it the first time.

It felt like hacking at a wooden statue with an axe, and then slowly gluing it back together in a different pose.  But at the end of the day, if I’ve done my job correctly, the new pose should look better than the old one.

I’m thankful there aren’t a lot of sections that need to be totally re-worked like this, because I fear if there was I might get bored and frustrated, and not do the best job possible.

How do you, my readers feel about editing?  Is it a strong or weak point for you?  Do you dread it like I do?



Managing Expectations

At the recommendation of a fellow writer (Can I say “fellow writer” when I haven’t even published anything yet?), I’ve taken some time away from my draft of What Dark Passages.  This way, when I get back to it I’ll be refreshed and, hopefully, be able to edit it with a clear mind and fresh eyes.  This also nicely coincides with the period where I’m waiting for my various beta readers to get back to me.

I have, though, had plenty of time to consider my expectations for this book.

As a Psychological Literary Fiction (PLF), What Dark Passages is a niche book.  By nature of its content, there just isn’t a huge audience for it.  There are 2,059 PLF novels currently listed on Amazon.com. In comparison, there are 178,436 Romance novels. On one hand, I have less competition to get noticed, but on the other, supply tends to come from demand.

Another knock would be the fact that this is a standalone novel.  The story is self-contained.  There never was, and never will be, a planned sequel.  The reason this becomes a problem for sales is that there is nothing to generate interest in the future.  With a series, every time you release a book down the line you generate interest in the previous installments.  With a standalone book, it is a lot harder to maintain interest/sales over time.  I’m not saying it is impossible, look at Stephen King.  But he is an exception, not a norm.

Where does this leave me with regards to What Dark Passages?  I would like to think it is a good, quality read that people will enjoy.  I would like to think it says something meaningful, and will make people stop and think about how they, and people around them, are affected by traumatic events.  In my wilder dreams, I would even like to think that a bold individual will take the plunge on my book, like it as much as I do, then tell his or her friends about it, then they tell their friends, and so on until it becomes a bestseller.

If any of these things came true, I think it would be amazing.  But at the same time I need to base my expectations in reality.  And the reality is that the odds of me becoming a bestselling author that sleeps on a bed of money are bad.  Really bad.  Consider: Print-On-Demand (POD) services are all the rage amongst self-publishers.  POD services produce millions of books a year for thousands of authors. But what does that actually equate to?  >200.  The average author sells less than 200 printed copies of his/her book.  And considering the slim profit margin on a physical copy, that’s not very good.

How about e-books?  Profit margins are a heck of a lot higher and e-book sales continue to go through the roof.  A cursory search on the internet, however, indicates that an average e-book generates less than $300 in profit per year.  And because it is an average, that number is nicely buoyed by the few very successful authors out there.  Meaning most authors will make much less.

What does this all mean?  It means I was delusional, or woefully misinformed, if I got into this thinking I was going to get rich.  But that was never the plan.  As fun as it is to imagine getting rich, I know how unrealistic and incredibly unlikely that is.  Even making back the cost of an editor tips towards the unlikely side of the scale.

So I’ve banished thoughts of money and profit.  Truth is, it doesn’t really belong here.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to do everything I can to share and promote the book as much as possible, but I won’t be doing it because of some vague expectation of getting wealthy.  I’ll be doing it because I’m proud of what I wrote and want to share it with the world.

The money, if it comes, is just a bonus.