Wake Up, Writers!

Brace yourself, gentle reader, because I am about to do something I do not generally do. I am going to ask you to drop everything and do something.

In this case, read something. And it isn’t on this blog. It isn’t even something I wrote.

But I strongly believe it is one of the most important things you can read right now, especially if you want to be a writer, or already are a writer, whether you self publish or publish through New York.

I know many self-publishers have been gleefully predicting the demise of Big Publishing for months, sometimes years. I am skeptical of this, simply because their pockets are so very deep. We will lose some smaller publishers, and some big ones will morph into something quite different than what we knew in the before-time.

But with backing from the prodigious bankrolls of their parent corporations, I think a lot of publishers will stumble through and continue. They will feel the crunch of this sudden change, and they will respond to it by tying writers up in bad contracts.

And writers will sign them.

Not every New York deal is a bad deal. I have said before, the only important thing is to make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting & giving when you sign any contract. Make sure you have reasons for accepting the deal; reasons will be fulfilled by the contract you sign.

But be aware that many contracts harbor hidden demons–rights in perpetuity, rights of first refusal that sound harmless but may keep you from sending out anything until the current work hits bookstores, at least, non-compete clauses that may seal off your created universe to you forever, should your publisher decide to drop you. And ebook royalites.  Horrible, horrible ebook royalities–perhaps the only light in the darkness for publishers right now.

Paperback sales are tanking, Borders is gone, traditional book sales are circling the drain with reduced shelf space at every available outlet, the midlist is defecting to self-publishing–and publishers are still making money.

How?  Kris Rusch lays it all out:
http://kriswrites.com/2011/11/16/the-business-rusch-how-traditional-publishers-are-making-money/

Read it, pay careful attention, and remember what you learn. Common wisdom is that publishers were blind-sided by the ebook revolution. I don’t know, learning that tradition publishers began negotiating ebook royalties separately–and negotiating them down to a pittance through brute force–ten years ago makes me look at that differently. They are huge, lumbering mammoths who take a long time to change direction–perhaps that is why they start planning ten years in advance, when everyone else thinks what they are arguing is unimportant.

I’m not saying run away from any deal that comes your way. I’m saying be careful. These increased profits these publishers are so proud of are made up of money that would have gone to the writer in the past. We are swimming in a big, rough, open ocean, and these guys are more than willing to push you underwater to save themselves from drowning. Do you really want to swim with a buddy like that? Be certain before you sign.

The wolf may not be at the door. He may be in your living room, and he may be holding a contract.

It’s Here!

I have to admit, it was actually here October 27th.  I have been pretty sick since then, and am just now getting back into the swing of things.

But I’m going to celebrate anyway, because The Lost Concerto is available now in paperback, hardback, Kindle, Nook and other eBook formats!

If you enjoy fast-reading, tightly-plotted suspense with a gripping story, you may find that the Alexis Brooks series is for you.

You can find out more about The Lost Concerto here:

http://pgtc.com/~slmiller/lostconcerto.htm

And more about the Alexis Brooks Series in general here:

http://pgtc.com/~slmiller/AlexisBrooks/

I’ll return you now to your regularly-scheduled day, but if you find a free moment, do a happy dance for me and the new novel!

Announcing a Giveaway!

I know I’ve been quiet for awhile–I’ve been head down and working on final edits for The Lost Concerto.

The Good News: Lost Concerto, Book Two in the Alexis Brooks Series, is coming in October!

The Great News: We’re having a giveaway to celebrate!

Come enter at

http://pgtc.com/~slmiller/AlexisBrooks/BookTwo.htm

Concerto is also being featured in a giveaway at Free Book Friday–come check it out!

http://indie.freebookfriday.com/2011/10/concerto-by-sandra-miller.html

Outline as Insurance -or- How I Saved My Own Skin

Thursday morning, I had a car accident.

The Good: my vehicle was the only one involved, and both my and my two year old who were in the car are okay.

The Not So Good: The accident was a rollover.  In a minivan.

I carry a Vaultz locking storage case as a purse, with my manuscript and all my supplemental notes inside.  In this case, I had a bunch of newly written material clipped to the front as well.  Almost all of the glass broke out of the van, so the storage case got smushed around in the mud and the rain.  Still, it did its job and the manuscript & other materials were safe.  Even the pages clipped on the front are legible, if not very pretty.

Here’s the thing–since the accident writing anything at all has been difficult.  Usually when I write it’s not so much like work, but more like plugging into a source and downloading.  Words come as fast as I can write them.

Now, not so much.  I’m slogging now–having a hard time coming up with words and making them sound right.  I don’t know if it’s because of the emotional upset (which honestly sounds kind of lame to me) or if it’s because I had a mild concussion (I’m having uncharacteristic trouble finding words when I speak, reading and doing math as well, so there may be something to that) but it is not much fun.  My memory is shot as well, my short-term memory anyway.  What sounds like a great idea now will be out of my head and gone in thirty seconds, as if it never existed at all.

This book is close to the end, but I wouldn’t be able to finish it in this state if my manuscript was all I had.

Fortunately for me, I had weeks ago composed a scene outline to the end of the book.  And in my notes I have summaries of those scenes, some very detailed with dialogue and lines of text that are meant to be included in the final scene.

So, instead of having to create all of this material from nothing–which I don’t think I could do right now, maybe in a few weeks–all I have to do is follow my map to the end.  I can focus on the writing itself, which is difficult enough right now.

So what’s my point here?  Just this–as you all know, stuff happens.  And when it does it almost never has the decency to phone ahead so you know it’s coming.  Contingency plans are a good thing.  Backup files, hardcopy printouts put somewhere safe…you never know when you’re going to need a safety net.  Most of the time it’s just extra caution that isn’t really needed in the end.

But when it is needed, you’ll be mighty thankful to have it.

Concerto is the Frugal Find of the Day

Come see Concerto, the Frugal Find of the Day over at the Frugal eReader.  If you haven’t been to this site before and you have an eBook reader, you are missing out!  I’ve found quite a few great books through this site that I never would have discovered otherwise.

http://thefrugalereader.com/2011/08/08/the-frugal-find-of-the-day-concerto-the-alexis-brooks-series-sandra-miller-2-99/

Can writers be editors?

Or perhaps more importantly, can writers self-edit?

If you hang around in places where self-published authors talk, you know the hard-and-fast wisdom handed around right now is that a self-publishing writer MUST hire an editor.  You are strongly advised to hire a cover designer, and sometimes even an interior formatting designer, but the one thing everyone is in agreement on is the absolute necessity of an editor.  It is unquestionable–a writer cannot edit their own work.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and voice an unpopular opinion.  I think that writers can be their own editors.  Or at least, writers can learn to be their own editors.

I think the heart of the problem here is that so many writers never really learn about story mechanics.  Writing classes, from secondary school to college and on, all seem to focus on either the very low level–parts of speech, sentence construction–or the low level–this is foreshadowing, this is allegory.  Most classes do not teach, or even attempt to teach, basic story mechanics.  Concepts like setting stakes and escalating them, building tension, pace, how multiple story threads are worked together so that the reader doesn’t lose sight of any of them…these things are usually not discussed in writing classes.  Or maybe I just took the wrong classes!

Editing requires a different view of your work.  You have to stop looking at your story as this precious thing you created, take a step back, and really examine what is there on the page, not what was in your head as you wrote it.  Does the story on the page work?  If not, how can it be fixed?

These are questions most writers are ill-equipped to answer.  But that does not mean they can’t learn.  Personally, I think an excellent place to start is Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course.  She teaches various methods of taking that step back and evaluating the bones of your story, which is what developmental editing is all about.  If you’ve done the course, you’ll remember the index cards–to me, that is a great example of getting away from the story in your head to the story on your page, and showing you in simple terms what is not working.

I’ve heard the argument tossed around that writers can’t edit their own work because they are too close to it.  I don’t know.  I wonder, doesn’t that make the writer the *most* qualified person to edit that work, assuming they can achieve that necessary distance?  Nobody knows better than the writer what they were trying to do with a given piece.

I’m not talking so much about line editing and things like grammar checking, spelling, etc.  Those things are pretty objective.  But developmental editing is very subjective–no two editors are going to suggest the same changes to a manuscript.  An editor needs a firm understanding of what makes a story work, and how to fix it when it is broken.

These skills are not black voodoo magic.  They are not handed down from on high to a chosen few.  They are learned skills.

Most writers aren’t going to have these skills out of the box, as they say.  But I do believe that most writers can learn them.  What do you think?

Dorrin’s End–Free on Amazon

I’m pleased to announce that starting yesterday evening, my fantasy short Dorrin’s End is a free download on Amazon.com

It also includes excerpts from The Crystal Cave, The Enemy in the Mirror, and Concerto, all of my other currently available works.

I hope you’ll drop by and pick up a copy!  You can order it free and have it delivered right to your Kindle or computer here:

http://www.amazon.com/Dorrins-End-ebook/dp/B0054RHNHW