Ben Monroe has spent most of his life in Northern California, where he lives in the East Bay Area with his wife and two children. He is the author of In the Belly of the Beast and Other Tales of Cthulhu Wars, the Seething, the graphic novel Planet Apocalypse, and short stories in several anthologies.
You can find more information about him and his work at www.benmonroe.com
As many of you know I am in the midst of editing and revising two projects. Yes, I’m mad! The first is the prequel to my fantasy series, Malgraf’s Dawning. It is currently being beta-read and revisions are coming back to me chapter by chapter. The other is a western romance manuscript, Willow Tree Tears, that until recently, had languished in my ‘to do’ folder for quite some time.
As authors and writers, we have to refine, revise and rewrite our manuscripts to ensure they are ready to submit. As we all know though, some will slip through the cracks – we have all read books and noticed slip-ups in every book we read. So let’s look at the editing process:
Editing encompasses several elements in order to achieve a well-polished manuscript for submission. Editing includes among other things, continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming.
Where should you start?
Instead of plunging directly back into a first draft, let it sit for a while. Start another project, take a rest, whatever you need to tear yourself away from the world and the characters you created. Ideally, leave it for three to six months, depending on any deadlines you have, of course. This will allow you to ‘see; it with fresh eyes.
When you go back to re-read there will be new insights. Rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to ‘correct’ all the editing elements mentioned above, concentrate on one item at a time.
Limit each read through to a specific task.
When you have completed these tasks let either trusted friends, or members of your local writing group read it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. Remember, no matter how many times you or your beta readers go through a manuscript, there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt, or a continuity slip up. Once this is done it is time to consider handing over the manuscript to a professional. A professional editor is a good investment, if you can afford one. A badly edited book reflects on you the author and no-one else.
Here are a couple of tricks that can help you edit more effectively:
Read the book from back to front page by page. This stops your brain putting in words that are not there.
Read it out aloud to yourself or an understanding friend. A missed word is very obvious with this technique.
Go through the manuscript correcting one area at a time, instead of everything, which can become overwhelming. Such as spelling, or continuity.
When editing there may be sentences, or even whole paragraphs, that you know need to be revised, or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line, or scene. Deleting these can be hard. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions, but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. A writer’s jetsam so to speak. These ejected words from our narratives may dwell in our hard drives or document folders for months, sometimes years. They may even be useful if at some point in the future you decide to use them in a sequel!
Without correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.
We have all seen, read or subscribed to another author’s newsletter in one form or another. When making the decision to create our own there are a few decisions to make first.
Firstly, why do you want to produce a newsletter?
How often will you publish it?
What content will you share?
And probably most importantly – do you have the time for it?
Stick to a Schedule
Newsletters take time to create and format, so decide on a schedule that works for you and your other commitments, whether that is writing time or your personal life. Don’t make it a too frequent chore – you will quickly discard it altogether. (Or run out of content, which is disastrous). Once you have a workable schedule – stick to it! A newsletter a week is a great deal of work, so I would suggest once a month. Make sure you are not mailing out your newsletter too frequently, or it will become a chore. I send mine monthly (most of the time!) If you have a specific promotion, then you can send ‘special’ newsletters.
Create a Catchy Titleand Imageryto Make Your Newsletter Unique
To attract attention, decide on a unique and personalized title. Then create a banner or typeface that will catch your reader’s eye. Once you have it – stay with it. The more often it is seen the more people will realize this is your newsletter and become familiar with it.
Go for Quality
Always proofread and edit
Add relevant images when necessary
Make It Easy to Read
Using bullet points
Highlight (bold or italicize) vital information
Use short sentences and paragraphs
Every now and then, offer a reward to your current and potential subscribers. The prize need not be worth a fortune but relevant to your book’s topic or theme (or somehow related to the story).
What do you put in an author newsletter?
When it came to my author newsletter, I asked my subscribers what they wanted to hear from me. I also looked at other newsletters for ideas. It is a great way to formulate how you want your newsletter to look and to give you ideas on your content and frequency of transmitting it.
Tip: You can pre-write your newsletter and schedule it. I find this gives me the ability to drop content into the draft throughout the month, so I don’t forget something.
My newsletter is Musings from Mandy Eve-Barnett – to distinguish each newsletter I add the month and a sub-title – Sneek Peeks & Glimpses.
Here is a list of possible content you can include: (it is by no means all-inclusive though).
Personal anecdotes and photos of your everyday life. You can include your writing space.
Behind the scenes peeks – what you are currently writing, ideas formulating etc.
Exclusive content like a cover reveal or a sneak peek at your next title
Excerpts from upcoming books and free bonus chapters from past books.
Launch dates of your new book
Events you are attending, whether in person or virtually.
Your writing processes.
Report writing progress on novels.
Request feedback on a current manuscript/project
Interviews you have participated in with links
Spotlights/interviews of guest authors
What you are reading
Your book reviews
Include book research and photos.
Tell what sparked book locations, plots, or characters.
Interview an author in your genre.
Recount your experiences at book events.
Recount personal experiences that appeared in a book in some form.
Include a photo of your writing space.
Share writing milestones: signing an agent, book contracts, book releases, book awards.
Display book trailers.
Hold character interviews
Offer installments of short stories
Create a contest.
Remember the goal of any newsletter is to promote, so make sure to include:
Your author bio Insert links to blog, website, Amazon and other sales sites and your Goodreads author page, and reviews.
Tip: Even unpublished authors can create an author newsletter. The sooner you start to grow your subscription list, the bigger your platform will be when you have something to sell.
1. How did the idea for the Thyrein’s Galactic Wall Series come about?
Thyrein’s Galactic Wall was born in my classroom. I taught 6th grade English language arts and social studies for 15 years. The curriculum in social studies was the study of world cultures, which presented me with a great way to thematically connect all my subjects. We learned about the influences of geographic features on the developments of people in social studies, and then created our own planets building in geographic features that would influence the stories we would write in language arts, while reading about survival adventure stories in book clubs for reading and exploring man v nature. Across the school year, we drafted myths and legends and all manner of stories that happened on our planets. Thus the intergalactic alliance of planets was born as I modeled in my own writing for the students.
2. What were your influences in creating these stories?
My biggest influence as a world builder is Tolkein, who created a vast world with so many people and cultures. I also love the world building in Star Wars and in Star Trek. I love the way that CS Lewis built in moral and allegorical elements into his stories and I love the way that fiction can bring us the exploration of so many themes about life, the human experience, cultures and diversity, socio and economic issues, and so much more. Fiction allows us to explore our own beliefs and those of others in nonthreatening spaces with make believe peoples. As an avid reader, I’ve enjoyed the influence of George R Martin, as well as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and even the great Agatha Christie. Jane Austen also influenced my writing as I build the plot around the relationships of the characters and the societies they inhabit.
3. Do you write in other genres or forms – if so which ones?
I have written some dystopian short stories, as well as erotic romances. I write poetry as well and have several poems published. I like to work with illustrators to do some picture books around cute short stories, mostly about my dogs. However, my main writing passion is science fantasy as I love to blend elements of what could become scientifically possible with the fantastical creatures of my imagination… and dragons. Always dragons.
4. Have your life experiences affected your writing topics and themes?
I would say most definitely. There is a little of me in every story I write. Every character, even the darkest villains, hold seeds of parts of my own personality and life. Of course, some are modeled after people I’ve met and plot elements that mirror my own experiences appear here and there. I also love to integrate my view of what the world is right now, what it could be if everything turned out well, and what it could be if things don’t work out for the best. That last is probably the most fun to hypothesize in terms of creating compelling stories, but not so fun in terms of real life possibilities. Still, as a writer, I think we are in a way prophets, shedding light on what is and what could be for those who have the will to hear and see and to act.
5. How does writing graphic novels compare to novel writing?
When you are working on a collaborative project like a graphic novel, it is important to write the story keeping in mind that it is intended to be illustrated. On the one hand, you want to give your illustrator plenty of clues and descriptions, so the artist can visualize and capture your vision. On the other hand, you also need to give them space to bring in their own flavor to the work. In many ways, it is as much their story as it is yours. I love working with Rosamaria Garza on the Mr. Landen Series and I hope to have a second installment of it out soon, perhaps even later this year if everything works out.
6. You have many writing organizations you are part of – what benefits are there for you and other writers with these memberships?
I think writers should be part of the community as much as possible. For me, an organization like the Houston Writers Guild is a great first step and that was my first step in becoming a serious working author. They offer critique groups which help hone your skills as well as conferences and seminars, which allow you to learn about the industry. Too many authors jump into self publishing or get sucked into spending a ton of money with a vanity press because they don’t take the time to join organizations and attend conferences. You have to learn about the industry before you dive in to the deep end of the pool.
Organizations like Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, or Women in the Visual and Literary Arts are all wonderful because they focus more on specific genres and so you can glean about the more niche sections of the industry, as well as connect to authors that write within your own genres. There are Science Fiction and Fantasy organizations as well as, those for children’s book authors and illustrators.
More than anything else, the one thing that matters is to learn before just doing. Really understand the industry, what the standards are, and how to do things right. You get one chance to capture a reader and you have to make it count by putting forth a quality product.
7. Can you tell us a little about your latest release Love’s Call?
Love’s Call is set in the world of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall. It happens on planet Gelderant several years before the events of my first novel. President Nichamir is fighting to hold on to power while at the same time winning the heart of the woman he knows is destined to be his mate. Because they come from opposing nations, Denipia is reluctant to let her attraction and burgeoning feelings for Nichamir lead her into a relationship with him. Yet, it is their destiny. The question becomes, will their love be able to overcome all that stands between them?
Nichamir has a small moment of appearance in the opening chapters of United Vidden. As the story of Verena and Amiel on planet Jorn unfolds in the coming novels, Nichamir will have a key part to play. In order for readers to really understand the choices he makes in the main line series, I decided to give him his own series. Thus, Love’s Call is book one of The Dragon and His Kitten series.
8. Do you believe exploring all aspects and genres of writing is beneficial for writers?
Generally, I think it is a good thing for all artists to stretch their skill sets by delving into a variety of different genres and modalities. However, ultimately, each artist has the medium through which they speak. So it is with writers. Some are poets and it is the language of poetry that brings forth their voice. Others are fiction writers with specific genres that call to them and which flow more intuitively from their hands. I like to explore and push my comfort zones. I’m currently taking a poetry lab course with Max Regan of Hollowdeck Press. He is a great writing teacher and coach. I dabble in poetry and the skills and techniques of the genre show up in my fiction. But ultimately, I’m a science fantasy romance writer. World building comes as naturally to me as breathing.
9. Describe your writing space.
Oh my… well… messy. Haha. I am a discovery writer and tend to have just a general idea in my head of what the story will be when it begins. I don’t do a lot of plotting or diagramming or note taking in advance. BUT when it comes time to revise, then I like to get physical with my story. I like to use note cards or post its and put the story up on the wall to see what is already there and find what is missing… the pieces that need to be added. I like to print out chapters and cut them up and rearrange things to see if they work better. And I like to color code text with highlighters to show me where themes are already weaved in and where they need to be added. This is how I process my revisions so that the full flavors of the story, all its nuances, can be integrated fully.
Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She holds multiple Masters degrees and several certifications. She began her professional life as a foreign correspondent, and taught for 15 years in Alief ISD. She has published numerous short stories, two children’s picture books, and a couple of poems. Her debut novel, United Vidden,which is book one in her Thyrein’s Galactic Wall Series, was given a glowing review by Dr. Who Online, the official site of the fandom. Also available for purchase is volume one of her graphic novel/novella hybrid project, New Beginning. She has returned to the leadership of the Houston Writers Guild, with whom she served as CEO for four years previously. She co-hosts two podcasts – Author Talk and The Hot Mess Express. Besides being Municipal Liaison for Nanowrimo Houston, she is also a member of Blood Over Texas, Romance Writers of America, and American Booksellers Association. Fern lives in Houston TX with her parents and her talkative husky, Arya. Follow Fern’s writing at: www.fernbrady.com
Once you have set up your blog and identified your target audience and know what theme/topics you will cover, now you need to maintain it.
One of the most important tasks is to ensure you have a regular schedule, so your readers know when to expect a post from you. Set days and times that are manageable for your lifestyle and time constraints. Be realistic about how much time you can give to your blog, do not overwhelm yourself with unrealistic goals. Posts can be weekly, monthly or quarterly – as long as the schedule is recurring.
Remember having a schedule allows you to write posts in advance and schedule them. Make use of this option by dropping a quick sentence into a draft post of an ideas you have for a post. We all know we won’t remember the idea later!
So why do you need to blog consistently?
In short it establishes author credibility. Readers become familiar with your work and it attracts new readers to your site. Consistent blogging means you are continually attracting a stream of potential new readers to your site with fresh, updated content. Readers love to get an intimate view into the life of their favorite authors along with any upcoming events and book launches. The more you share the more they will want to come back.
Remember to keep your author information, pages, books and events current. It doesn’t take a lot of time to ensure any changes are corrected or updated. This includes the copyright statement for your blog content to ensure it is not pirated. This is essential for the safety of your content should you need to take action on unauthorized copying. Unfortunately, this does happen.
Make Connections to Grow
You want your blog’s reach and popularity to grow so connect with authors in similar genres and also readers of your specific genre(s). This should be a constant work in progress in the maintaining of your blog. Don’t let it become static. The more you connect the larger your reach. To attain growth here are a few tips.
Research similar authors, who have blogs and offer to guest post on each other’s websites.
Run regular interviews with people who fascinate you.
If you have a specific genre connect with other writers in the same genre as well as their following. See what they are posting.
Visit forums and post your blogs there.
Link your blogs to your social media platforms to gain exposure.
Encourage your established readers to post your blog links on their social media to spread the news to as many new sets of eyes as possible.
Utilize hashtags when you post to your social media sites. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks always offer—as part of your static profile—an opportunity to link to your homepage.
Create a special introduction for people who visit your website from your Twitter profile, Facebook fan page, Goodreads page, etc.
Remember your SEO (search engine optimization) and include your ‘top’ search words in every post.
When creating the link from your website offer an intriguing question, lead in, excerpt, or explanation of why the post might be interesting to people on your social networks.
Write book reviews and use the author name and book titles as keywords. This will draw their readers to your site.
Additional Maintenance and Updating Tips
Create a dedicated page on your website for each and every book title.
For each book page, make the page title identical to the book title.
Use a full or extended description for each book.
Link previous blog posts related to each book to tell the story of its inception and launch.
Include links to your social media and other book related sites onto your front page.
Create a newsletter sign up form.
Include videos and/or podcasts you are featured on or host.