The best thing I ever discovered about editing a novel

Assuming you survive the heart-wrenching, glorious process of writing a book, now you just need to destroy it.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a touch dramatic.

If you’ve gone through a developmental edit or you’re self-revising with a magenta marker, you know how hard it gets. Trying to look objectively at your lovely book feels like being forced to torture your loved ones with a rusty pitchfork.

Every change spawned additional changes, so I couldn’t get myself out of the maze. “But if this happens in chapter 2, then chapter 10 is all wrong and chapter 15 will break…” I was paralyzed by indecision and worry that I was ruining my book.

How I stopped losing my mind…

Make one change at a time. Make that change throughout the entire book. Resist the urge to fix everything at once.

When I changed my protagonist’s backstory, it meant she shouldn’t respond the same way in some situations. But the most important thing was to fix the actual backstory scenes first. Once that was done, then I could do a pass making sure her interactions with the killer were consistent. Then her interactions with the inspector, and so on.

How do you edit? Are you able to edit all the things at the same time as you move through the manuscript?

 

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The true cost of self-publishing

Reedsy is a London-based marketplace for book services – everything from editing to cover design to marketing. What makes Reedsy stand out is that they diligently screen everyone who wants to offer services. They take only around 10-15% of the professionals who apply.

Based on their 15 months of usage, they’ve put together a truly comprehensive infographic of self-publishing costs. It’s nice to see a real budget and explanation of what you’re paying for.

Even though I’m going through the agent route and will be pitching again at a conference, I’m using Reedsy for editing. The consistent feedback is that my book has a strong premise and writing, but there are a few major threads that need to be fixed.

I just started the process with an editor who has years of mystery editing experience – fingers crossed!

Why traditionally published writers go self-published

Elizabeth S. Craig is my kind of hero in the writing world, she was successful through one of the Big 5 publishers but she eventually went her own way. Her blog is a gold mine of resources from other writers and her own articles.

In this post, she explains her reasons for going with self-publishing. Things like releasing when you want, price control and making more money are excellent reasons.

But my favourite reason is how her idea of validation changed:

“Originally, it did feel good to be validated by a gatekeeper…I was a newer writer and I needed that. Now, I prefer reader validation. It’s ultimately more valuable.”

Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd

deathfair.jpgAn ancient grudge turns to murder in a quiet English village, 1817.

Book 4 in the Regency series finds the spirited rector’s daughter Lucy Harrington and her protective fiance Major Kurland preparing to marry. While judging vegetables at the local fair, Lucy warns him to be diplomatic in his choice of winners. His refusal leads to a storm of outrage among the villagers, who are furious when the verger at the rectory wins.

It isn’t long before Lucy literally trips over the verger’s dead body in a tragic accident. Lucy grows suspicious when they discover a cursed charm by the body and they soon realize that the death was actually murder. While trying to uncover the killer, Lucy must deal with the unpleasant cook who shares her father’s bed, and the frustrating delay in her nuptials. The village’s darker side begin to surface and the couple themselves are placed in grave danger as another body is found.

The murderer’s reasoning is somewhat weak and the couple lose a little of their previous fire, but it’s a light, enjoyable read.

Thanks to NetGalley for the 30-day ebook loan.

Rejection #2: Moments of Concentration

Another kind set of words that the book is engaging but not right for them. Because I did a lot of research into the agents and editors, I know that they have chosen a lot of books like mine.

This is telling me I need to make the story more unique, my protagonist’s voice stronger. While I wait to hear back from all the agents and editors, I’m focusing on creating moments of concentration.

Haruki Murakami said: 

“The great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn’t write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated.

I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower.”

 

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

perilous.jpgThe second book in Deanna Raybourn’s new series is a romantic suspense with elements of mystery. Her prose and story-telling is excellent, very beautifully rendered, so that even if you’re not a big fan of the smoldering chemistry between the protagonists, you’ll stick around for the writing.

Set in England in 1887, Veronica Speedwell is a butterfly collector with a secret past and a passion for observing. She’s a cross between Flavia de Luce, Sherlock Holmes and a romance heroine. She habours a not-yet-consummated longing for the handsome Stoker, who may look like ruffian but acts not at all like one.

Veronica is asked to do the impossible – clear an artist convicted of murdering his pregnant mistress in one week before he hangs. Caught between the royalty and attractive but morally questionable artists, Veronica and Stoker have their work cut out for them.

If you’re a mystery lover, then the murderer will likely be obvious in the first few chapters. There are certain things you just know how to look for. But how Veronica and Stoker discover and trap the killer remains an interesting and satisfying read.

(Review of book #1, A Curious Beginning)

30-day ebook loan courtesy of NetGalley.

Behind the Lines by WF Morris

behindlines.jpg“Her eyes were shining like stars – stars in the mist.”

A moving account of a kindly, decent soldier who accidentally kills a cowardly senior officer. Instead of trying to explain, he makes a run for it, leaving behind friends and his ambulance-driving fiancee.

He ends up living among the deserters. Not unlike the military, the deserts have their own code and pecking orders. Rawley goes from a decent officer to an unkempt but decent deserter, filthy and ragged.

Between scavenging and run-ins with the military, the casual moments of horror are made all the more stark. When Rawley runs into his financee again, she wants to have the honeymoon before they are drawn apart. But Rawley is “clinging to decency” by the barest thread in refusing. She says “two weeks of happiness out of – perhaps a whole lifetime. It seems such a little to ask of life.”

But the ending, so poignant, is well worth the read.

Thanks to NetGalley for the 30-day ebook loan.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

flaviaIf you like snarky protagonists in Gothic mansions with a passion for crime solving, you will love Flavia de Luce. This is the 8th book she features in, complete with beautiful phrases and lovely title. You don’t need to read the earlier books, but you’ll miss out on a depth of character if you don’t.

Flavia is a precocious 12 year old girl living with her cold British father, resentful elder sisters and brooding loyal manservant. She’s a passionate chemist and believer in science. She loves her bicycle Gladys and her chicken Esmerelda more than she loves her family, but occasional hints of sentiment poke through.

“The de Luce blood is stronger, after all, than sentiment.”

The mystery in this installment is the death of an old woodworker, which Flavia solves while trying to cope with her father’s desperate illness, the death of Esmerelda and overly enthusiastic newcomer Carla. A light mystery compared to some of her others, but the book has plenty of action and a sad ending.

Thanks to NetGalley for the 30-day ebook loan.

A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

todieforA Proposal to Die For is a combined romance and mystery with the winning Lady Alkmene Callender. It goes quickly and is easy to read, with Lady Callender proving to be an enjoyable narrator. I like that she’s bored and this inspires her investigation, rather than thinking herself special.

From the book’s description: ‘With her father away in India, Lady Alkmene Callender finds being left to her own devices in London intolerably dull, until the glamorous Broadway star Evelyn Steinbeck arrives in town! Gossip abounds about the New York socialite, but when Ms Steinbeck’s wealthy uncle, Silas Norwhich, is found dead Lady Alkmene finds her interest is piqued. Because this death sounds a lot to her like murder…’

It should include the romance angle, since this features quite heavily in the book. There’s a mysterious reporter in the tall, dark and intriguing category. Lots of flashing looks and sizzling arguments.

The mystery of Mr. Norwhich’s death is a prominent part of the story. I love the setup for the crime and the host of suspects. The murder proves to be fairly straightforward and has few twists, but I enjoyed the book and would give the next one a try.

30-day ebook loan courtesy of NetGalley.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Sherlock.jpg

A Study in Scarlet Women is a compelling take on Sherlock Holmes, probably quite distant from what Doyle would ever have imagined for his detective. Especially since he didn’t even want to keep writing Sherlock Holmes and was forced by public demand to revive him from an early death.

I intended to read only a chapter or two, but polished off the book in one sitting. There’s so much to love about the book, especially the feminine, food-loving Charlotte Holmes with a brilliant mind who gives herself the name Sherlock. The book’s concise characters, rapid pace and innumerable twisted threads gathered expertly together make this an excellent read. The mystery’s ending is rather dark, though handled with discretion.

Personally I was disappointed by her passion for Lord Ingram, though it is well written. I was hoping for Charlotte to prove as unusual in her love affairs as she is in habits. There’s something winning about the juxtaposition of a brilliant, daring mind with a fondness for baked goods, love of ruffles and a quotient of chins she allows herself.

I look forward to reading the next installment in the series. This is a NetGalley read that I decided I needed to purchase at my local bookstore!