Writing, editing, and beta readers, "Oh, my!" Can a manuscript ever be perfect? #AmWriting


Before I start this post, allow me to preface by saying that by no means am I an authority on writing and editing. However, I've learned many tricks of the trade in the last few years, so since aspiring and new authors always ask, I decided to write a blog post about my process.

Before I wrote my first novel, I used to be a proofreader for several publishing companies. So when I sat down to pen the next great American novel—insert laughter—I thought, "I got this!"

I mean, I did this for a living. I had edited theses for graduate students, dissertations for doctorate students, blog posts for highly-respected speakers, and proofread nonfiction books for authors who held PhD's, and of course, hundreds of fiction books.

But, man, was I wrong! The problem is...like looking over my girlfriend’s shoulder while she plays chess or Scrabble, it's easy for me to spot her next move, whereas she’s so wound up in the overall game, she might not see the issue right in front of her.

As the writer of our manuscripts, we will read right over our mistakes, because we are the ones who made them. We know what we meant to say. But give me someone else's novels--yes, even those NYT best sellers--and I assure you, I will find their errors, as most authors can. 

That said, when my first novel was published, even though there was an editor from the publishing company, even she missed many little things.

So, I went back to the drawing board, wondering why I couldn't edit my own writing and decided—as I do with everything—to come up with a process and a plan, and then stick to it. Before we begin, let me step back a tad. This post isn't about grammar and punctuation rules. If you don't understand the basic writing rules, this post won't help you. I'm simply offering you the process of how I've managed to ferret out snafus that pop up in all writing: missing words, incorrect words, run-on sentences, and such. 

First check...

As I would guess every writer does, I run my first spell-check via Word. Please note, this only works if you go into the proofreading mode and recheck the document, which will recheck previously ignored words.

Next stop, Grammarly.

Grammarly doesn't just check for misspelled words, it checks syntax, recognizes common mistakes such as its versus it's, incorrect usage of articles, and one of my favorites, it even recognizes overuse of the same word within a paragraph. Grammarly has many other benefits; I'm just pointing out a few.

And then, Ginger.

While Ginger does many of the same things that Grammarly does, it still seems to catch different issues. For some reason, Ginger seems to catch a missing word and a greater range of homophones.

It may seem like overkill to pay for two spellchecker apps, but believe me, the first one-star review you receive, and you'll wish you would have purchased them. The good news, both of them have trial periods, and Ginger even has a free mode. (Quick note: a well-written novel will not save you from a few one-star reviews. No one can please everyone, but hopefully, at least an unhappy reader won't ding you for grammar mistakes.)

Nope...not finished! This is my favorite step!

This method beats all editing software and even hiring a professional editor, unless she uses this method, which most don't, because it's time-consuming. I'm here to tell you, my friends, nothing beats good old-fashioned listening to root out errors. Reading aloud is great. But even when I tried that method, I'd get tired and would find myself reading over words. But when someone is reading to me, my ear can immediately pick up an error. No matter how many spell-checkers and line edits I use, once I do my final read through when I actually listen to it, I always find at least twenty or so errors. In fact, recently, I was a beta reader for a friend of mine who’d paid a top-notch editor from a respectable editing company eight hundred dollars to edit her manuscript. All I did was listen to the novel while I drove around town running errands, and I found close to one hundred errors. Nothmmshould there be a comma here errors, but real errors. And my friend is an award-winning, best-selling writer. But it doesn’t matter how well you write, you simply need a third eyeor four. J

The app I love is Voice Dream. I've spoken with the creator, and last I heard, he was working on an online app, but right now, it's only available on iPhone and iPad. And before you ask, I'm not an affiliate for any of the companies I've mentioned, the reason I didn't post links. Matter of fact, Grammarly has offered--along with offering many authors, I assume--to proofread one of my blog posts in exchange for a gift card. Well, I didn't want it, because I wanted to offer my honest opinion on all products, without my readers wondering if I was receiving compensation.

Now...I know some of you are asking, "What about hiring an editor?"

Of course, you should hire an editor, especially if you've never written a novel. If you want the best product you can get, though, you should have your manuscript as clean as possible before it goes to the editor. It is not an editor's job to rewrite your novel. An editor can do a much better job if she's not stopping to insert a comma every sentence, rewriting passive sentences, and constantly tripping over silly errors like their versus there, and other novice mistakes. An editor should be able to spend her time looking at the big picture, catching plot errors, wordy and unnecessary content, and removing the fluff that the author thinks has to be there. She should have the time to take your okay novel and make it a great story!

Oh...you thought we were finished? Not so fast, tiger!

One more step, and it's probably the most important step. After all, I don't care if anyone disagrees with me on this point, as I truly believe that a great story can save a few grammar mistakes, but a well-written novel won't save a boring story. You must have a beta reader! Preferably several, but at least one. Some of my stories, I've only had one or two, but one of them, I actually had TEN! And I swear, every one of them saw something different. Of course, that's why I had so many. I loved the story, but the content was a little questionable, so I wanted to make sure I made it believable and tasteful. 

Well, thank you for reading. I won't keep you from your writing any longer. I hope you found at least one thing you could use. Remember, though, these are just my opinions and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer.

I love talking about all things books, so if you want more posts on writing, marketing books, new releases, and giveaways, please leave your email address here. I only send out a post once or twice a week at the most. :) If you're curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages. I'll even give you a free book, just for stopping by. Oh, and if you find an error, please feel free to come back here and tell me about it. I'm not proud.  

Until next time, happy reading and writing, my friends!

Carmen



If it isn’t available free in your area, use…


Readers, did you know you can download TEN books at a time with Kindle Unlimited? #AmReading


Amazon sent the book-loving world into a tailspin with its announcement of Kindle Unlimited. This service isn't the first of its kind, but this is Amazon, so you know it's gonna be awesome. That's my opinion, of course, but I'm very happy with the benefits and service I receive from Amazon. I've had several Kindles, and they just keep getting better and better. 

And now...they have Kindle Unlimited, which gives me an unlimited supply of books for $9.99 a month! Considering that I read three or more books a week, with a price tag up to $9.99 (I don't pay more than $10 for an eBook), this is an awesome deal for someone like me. Oh, and I listen to another two to three books a month on Audible, so that's AWESOME! I didn't even have to do anything special. After I borrowed a book, the audio book popped into my Audible app. So, I'm reading one book at night...I'm listening to another book while I run errands. AND, if I want, I open my Kindle, and it'll sync to where I stopped listening. 


It's as though I have a valet. Imagine that...
Me: "Oh, sir...would you find where I left off?"
Book Valet: "Of course, madam."
Me: :)


I've heard some readers say, "But there are a lot of FREE books on Amazon..." Sure...but, there aren't a lot of FREE second, third, and fourth books in a series free. Now, if you love a first book, especially those evil authors who leave you with a cliffhanger ending--I only have one of those, but I warn readers--you have a chance to read them all! For example, you could read my entire Creatus Series, which even if you got the first one for $0.99, it would cost $11.97 if you purchased the next three. Or my southern romantic-suspense collection would cost $15.96 after the first one. I'd discount them all if I could, believe me, but it would be a disservice to readers... I wrote about that here.

I've also heard, "But I want to own my books." Well, me too! But, not all of them. Yes, there are a select number of books that I've read over and over, but mostly, eh...once is enough. Just like Netflix, if I want to re-watch a movie, I can. If I watch it and love it, I can still buy it.

Now...onto my last note. I LOVE short stories! Just like a movie, sometimes I don't have a lot of time. I just want a quick snack before I go to bed at night or during lunch. BUT, I'm not too keen on paying $2.99 for them. Oooh...with Kindle Unlimited, I can check out TEN BOOKS A MONTH! So, just like the library, I don't have to worry about a book being too short or if I don't like it. I can go shopping on Amazon, find a few reads, and have them all waiting on my Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or other devices that I can download the Amazon App. If you don't know how to do this click here: Amazon.com - Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices 

So, if you like reading as much as I do, why not check it out? Kindle Unlimited is FREE for thirty days, so you have nothing to lose. 


And yes, my books are there...TEN right now! So whether you like romantic-suspense or paranormal-romance, hop on the FREE introductory wagon for at least a month...and read until your heart's content.

New Release Quick Snack:
Christmas with Jacky Waterman

Southern Romantic-Suspense Collection:
Split Decisions
Land of the Noonday Sun
Entangled Dreams
When Noonday Ends

Paranormal Romance Series:



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Why I CAN'T discount anything but the first books in my series...even though I'd love to.

It's not that I wouldn't love to put ALL of my books on promotion, I WOULD, believe me. Funny thing that many readers may not know...most authors actually make more money on books when they offer a book FREE or $0.99 (for a limited time) than when they sell them for $2.99 - $4.99.

Offering a book FREE or $0.99 creates a buzz, reaches new readers, and qualifies for great advertising through book blogs such as eReader News Today and Book Bub.

But the reason I can't--or don't--is because it does a disservice to many readers. Many readers may not have read the first book in the series...and sadly, even putting that the book is part of a series on the cover or in the book description, many readers don't read the description when they find the books on a book site...or they get upset because they have to pay full price for the first book in order to enjoy the book special. This is particularly important when a book is offered FREE. Often, readers simply don't read the description when a book is free, especially when it's advertised on a site they trust...like Book Bub or eReader News Today.

I know many authors still offer their second, third, and fourth books on special, but...as much as I'd love to make the extra money, it just isn't worth it to me to upset my avid-reading friends, which leads to poor reviews, which no author can afford. I made that mistake once before--I have the poor reviews to prove it--so I'll never do it again. I do, however, ALWAYS offer the rest of my books for 'less than a latte' each, some permanently priced as low as $0.99. And...here's the GREAT news. If you're like me, and love series, Kindle Unlimited only costs $9.95 a month, less than the price of some other eBooks. And then, you can read TEN of my stories FREE. I hope that's an awesome compromise. :)


For more information on my writing and available books, visit...


Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember these are just my opinions and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer. I love talking about all things books, so if you want more posts on writing, marketing books, and new releases, and giveaways, please leave your email address here. I usually only send out a post once or twice a week at the most. :)

Until next time, happy reading and writing, my friends.


Carmen

FREE and Bargain eBooks are like Big Macs… Really... Find out how they compare. #AmWriting #AmReading

McDonalds.com
As I wrote that line, not only was I reminded of Joe Fox’s comment in You’ve Got Mail about vats of olive oil, but I also realized—and this is fitting to the post—not everyone like’s Big Macs. Me, ehnot really, I'd rather have a plain burger, so I pull everything off it. But...I LOVE their french fries and coffee. I digress…

The M in McDonald’s is probably the most commonly known trademark throughout the world, and yet, McDonald's advertises... EVERYWHERE! Radio, TV, Twitter, Facebook, your mailbox… Yes, even though there’s a good chance that you’ll go to McDonald’s in the near future—ummfor coffee—they still pay millions of dollars to bring you into their lair. And one of their most popular draws is the freebie or discount, often called a 'loss leader'.

Yes, that lure of a free or bargain sandwich is what gets you in the door. Sure, you could just order the Big Mac, but ohhhhthose fries smell so good, and then you know you’ll want a nice refreshing soda—Diet Coke, of course—to wash it all down. Yep! They gotcha! They know if you come in for the sandwich, more than likely, you’ll go away with moreand there's a good chance, you’ll bring a friendor two.

Well, that’s what a free or $0.99 eBook is like. Authors offer a free or $0.99 eBook, hoping you’ll order the follow-up novel, and maybe even a third. I’m not particularly fond of cliffhangers in booksI always like to end the current situation, and then dangle another situation in front of the reader, but even a cliffhanger is like a Big Mac. Sure, you could just have waterbut authors hope that once you finish the book, your mouth is watering for something more. Waterlove it. But some things, like burgers and pizza, just taste better with a Coke. Wasn’t that a campaign too?

So, go aheadas an author, don’t be afraid to offer readers a snack. And readers, I always offer a snack, usually in the form of a short story, but today… I have a completeno cliffhanger—110k-word novel for $0.99, a novella (which does have a tiny cliffhanger) for $0.99, and a FREE short story These are all the first books in my three series. 

If your mouth doesn’t water for another course, that’s okay. I just hope you enjoy a little escapism on me.

Until next time, happy reading and writing, friends!


Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember these are just my opinions and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer. I love talking about all things books, so if you want more posts on writing, marketing books, and new releases, and giveaways, please leave your email address here. I only send out a post once or twice a week at the most. :)