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Archive for editing

Open your wheelhouse: submit your requests

You might have been fortunate enough to have an agent request pages for your book. You may have taken a lot of time to make them better first. For example, if you’re writing crime fiction (a mystery) you may say

1. My book is too long today
2. I don’t want my mystery to be obvious.

Also

3. My plot is intricate, so I’m wary of severing the links throughout.

Those are all related. Your book is probably running as long as it does so it will contain everything to keep the plot bolted together. The complexity of the plot makes a mystery deeper, for example. If it’s longer for any other reason, it becomes a bit easier to cut. If it was a piece of seasoned beef, it might be overseasoned with characterization or scenes that run long.

That effect of “goes on too long” is a matter of taste and talent. Even when you’re writing well, you don’t get as many extra pages as you think. You get more pages, but you have to keep readers turning those pages.

If you want to be double sure that your plot is durable, you will need a second check. That’s a set of outside eyes. I’m talking development editing, not copy editing or line editing.

Letting your story loose into the world is the solution to these problems.

“I want a book that holds together and keeps the reader wondering what’s going to happen.” That’s noble. It can be a road sign toward complexity, of course, depending on how many subjects are in play. Your book should have a primary story mission, and that mission had better fulfill the protagonist’s desire.

Just because a book’s structure has come together over years of work, like it does for most of us, doesn’t mean it can’t get streamlined. I think here about the rivets in the planes that Howard Hughes built for competition. Always streamlining. He set records, his accomplishments you can see in The Aviator.

I once edited a book from 140,000 words to 75,000. The author went too deep in many passages and her protagonist was inside internal monologue at great length.

I edited my novel Viral Times down from 144,000 to 98,000 words. To do this, I discovered Scrivener and used it to identify what was in the book and what could go. It helped that I’d already worked 30 years as a copyeditor. Cutting isn’t easy, but it feels good after you face it down. At some point every creator has to have some compassion for readers who, frankly, would like to get to the next book, either in the series or from another author. Savoring a big novel is a delicious thing, of course.

It also helped that I performed in and watched many hours of theatre — where the dramatic arc includes nothing but scenes, and they each must have good work to do to serve the narrative.
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The ways that readers find their next book

Readers tend to choose what they already know when reaching for the next book. That’s what BookBub, one of the leading advertising hubs for books, said in a report from a recent newsletter. The ad site’s studies of book buyers showed that readers most often got their next book because they liked the author. At No. 2, and a close second, was buying the next book in a series.

The results about book choices included some surprises. Way down on the list, just 17 percent of buyers said they picked their next book because of the cover. Right underneath author and series familiarity? Plot. At the bottom of the reasons books were purchased was critical reviews.

Some of these results fly in the face of accepted wisdom. “Produce a great cover” is among that advice, along with “Go all out to get great reviews.” There’s a caveat here, in that the readers are looking for another book and will give an author who they already know the first shot — so long as they like the plot, or the previous book in the series.

The takeaway advice for an author starting their career is to have plans for more than one book. If not a series, at least multiple titles. You could always carve up that 500-page opus into two books, tying them together with a great plot. Have the same artist do both covers. If you can afford it for awhile, offer the first book for free.

This is the kind of advice a publisher should give you, should you choose to take the traditional route and give away 90 percent of your cover price in exchange for writing, rewriting after an edit, and marketing. Yes, you’ll do that last one in the list. You’re always the CEO of your books, and nobody wakes up every single day thinking about selling your book except you. Authors, start your platforms, and think about multiple books.