The Boomerang Effect

When I finished my first draft of Heart Search and the initial euphoria had worn off a little, I gave my raw manuscript to my editor, Maria Johnson, to smooth out the rough edges. At that time, I had no real idea of what was involved and the true ‘boomerang effect’ (as I affectionately call it) my novel would be involved in.

Maria skilfully and professionally guided me through the process, giving explanations, good constructive criticism and recommendations along the way. By the time Heart Search: Lost was ready for submission, I’d learnt so much about the process, how hard a good editor has to work and the importance of building a good working relationship between author and editor.

Now, one of my nicknames is ‘Hawkeye’, mainly because if something is lost on a carpet or furniture, no matter how small, I’d be the one to find it. So where is this leading? Be patient, I’m getting there! Lol.

I was reading a book on Kindle and began to notice various grammatical errors, words missing and the like. The author was a contact of mine on Twitter and I sent her a polite Direct Message mentioning I’d found errors in her book. She sent me her email address and asked if I would tell her what I’d found, which I did. This was the start of a lovely friendship between Alison DeLuca and me.

After she’d written her third novel, she asked me to beta read and line edit it for her. I not only did that, but also gave her feedback and suggestions for structural changes. Alison and I worked well together and our friendship has grown as a result. Alison was very happy with the work I’d done for her and has recommended me to some of her author friends.

Now I’m editing the third novel of Connie J Jasperson (on Alison’s recommendation). This time I’m doing more than just line editing. Connie warned me her manuscript was, in her words, “very raw” and needed a lot of work.

When you edit you have to look at so many things; attention to detail, as well as a good grasp of grammar is a must. These are the sorts of things an editor must look for, apart from the obvious spelling mistakes:

  • Repetition of words and phrases within a sentence and/or paragraph
  • Over-use of words – ‘that’ being the most common
  • Sentence structure – does the sentence flow? How does it sound when read aloud? If it doesn’t flow then it need changing and then you make recommendations of how to improve it
  • Extraneous words
  • Grammar – this is more than just having commas in the right places. It also involves looking at over-use of exclamation marks, seeing where two short sentences could be joined and what punctuation is required to do it successfully
  • Dialogue – has it been written too formally (as in the ‘Queen’s English’) or is it realistic?

These are just a few examples of what a good editor will do for you, but in each case there should be an explanation for the author as to why something isn’t working as well as suggestions for improving it. I can’t stress how important this bit is. How can a writer learn and grow if they don’t know why something they’ve written is wrong or why it doesn’t flow? And as for the suggestions to improve a particular section, this gives the author ideas of how they can correct it in their own words.

Some authors think an editor should just go ahead and make the changes for them, rewriting sections as necessary, but what they fail to understand is no one can imitate an author’s voice. Of course I could make changes to Connie’s manuscript, but would it read differently to the rest of the novel? Of course it would! Connie has her ‘voice’ and I have mine.

Anyway, having finished the first round of edits (I’ve been sending them to Connie a chapter at a time); along with an overall feedback on the novel, we are now starting Round Two. And this is where the Boomerang Effect comes into play.

No editor is infallible and whilst they will try their very best to capture everything first time around, there are the occasional holes in the net and bits do slip through. Now Connie has made the changes based on my first set of comments, I’m now going through it again to check there’s nothing I’ve missed and this time to look at any sections within the story that slow it down or aren’t really needed. I will make my recommendations and it’s then up to Connie whether she accepts them or not. At the end of the day, it’s the author’s choice to accept or reject suggestions an editor makes. It’s their baby and they’ve poured their heart and soul onto the pages so it has to be their decision.

Again, we have the Boomerang Effect. After this second round, I will have a final check over before Connie sends it to someone she trusts to beta read it and ask them for constructive criticism and feedback on the overall story. At this point, the author can take it upon themselves to make changes suggested by the beta reader or discuss them with her editor before making the changes – again her choice. However, it’s very important for the author to save each version of the manuscript under a different name so if something doesn’t work, they have a reference point to go back to and, if necessary, restore an original phrase/sentence/paragraph.

So what happens next? Yep, you’ve guessed it – the manuscript Boomerang’s its way back to the editor for final checking before it goes to the publisher. [I can’t wait for this to be published – it’s an AMAZING novel!!]

I’m happy to say Connie and I have built a lovely friendship as well as a great working relationship. She can see by the way I’ve managed the first round of edits, the loving care with which I’ve treated her ‘baby’, and appreciates the way I’ve handled the constructive criticism with kindness. Connie is a joy to work with, as Alison was; they are both consummate professionals when it comes to their writing and it shows in the way they’ve responded to the editing I’ve done for them.

Most of what I’m able to do with editing, I learned from my own editor and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, one I may never be able to repay.

One final word of caution, to those considering undertaking an editing job for someone, be prepared to spend humungous amounts of time and maybe even put your own projects on hold. Editing is a time consuming job if done with the loving care each manuscript deserves and you can’t duck when that Boomerang comes flying back!

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Book Review: The Lamplighter’s Special by Alison DeLuca

Before you moan at me – yes I know I’ve done 2 book reviews in a row, but both books are so worthy that I just had to pass on my thoughts to you all. So forgive me, enjoy my comments and then go and get the books – you won’t be disappointed!

The Lamplighter’s Special

 

I have been eagerly awaiting this third book in the Crown Phoenix series, having read and immensely enjoyed The Night Watchman Express and Devil’s Kitchen, and I’m overjoyed to report, it was well worth the wait.

This book centres primarily around Ninna and Lizzie and how they become embroiled in the magic surrounding the Crown Phoenix.

This story starts a little slower as the author sets the scene for what ultimately culminates in an unexpected and somewhat explosive ending.

Despite the slower pace at the beginning, Ms DeLuca intricately weaves an amazing tale which connects to the previous two books in unforeseen ways, making it all the more exciting.

Once again, she has given her characters great depth and the reader can truly relate to them. I found myself connecting with Lizzie and Ninna on many levels; some of the more emotional scenes tugged on my heartstrings, especially their concern and worry about their parents and younger sister.

Her fantastic world-building is as believable as it is imaginable, and that to me is one of her great strengths. She describes her settings with such skill that you can picture yourself there whilst still leaving enough to the imagination to make it enchanting.

The fantastical and magical elements are totally unique and have been devised with great ingenuity. What’s more, they have been written with great skill whilst still not revealing all the secrets. She definitely leaves you with unanswered questions, but not to the extent where it spoils the unfolding tale.

The gripping twists in the story are fabulous tie-ins with book 2 of the series and even though The Lamplighter’s Special was only released yesterday, I’m already chomping at the bit for book 4!

Alison DeLuca is a master storyteller who deserves much more recognition than she gets. I would not hesitate to recommend not only this book, but the entire series. This is Steampunk adventure at its best!

Available from Amazon.com  http://amzn.to/K2W9q3  or Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/J4EWn2

A Writer’s Journey

I’ve loved to read as far back as I can remember. I had a lonely childhood and immersed myself in the wonderful tales spun like magic on the pages in my hands. The characters became my playmates when I was unable to see my friends for whatever reason.

It’s funny though – I never once stopped to think about the authors or the process they go through to get that wonderful gift into my hands. Obviously I knew someone had sat down and lovingly created the story, but in my ignorance I didn’t stop to think about them as people.

I would go into the library in school or town or into my local bookshop and see row upon row of hardback and paperback capsules of knowledge, wonderful worlds and people and pure escapism. I would pick books off the shelves and consume the synopsis on the back, letting my imagination ride over green fields ringed with trees that spoke and animals that were almost human, when seeing words like ‘magic’, ‘castle’, ‘witches’, ‘fairies’ etc.

Even when writing my own short stories I still never considered all the hard work each and every author does in order to get their fabulous stories onto those library and bookshop shelves. In my naiveté, I guess I thought they wrote the stories, took them to a printer and voila, out pops a book.

You know, it wasn’t until I wrote Heart Search: Lost that I finally understood.

It took me 9-months to write the first draft, most of that while holding down a full-time job, teaching two nights a week and looking after a home and my daughter. It took my editor about 2-months to get through it (she was working on other things at the time as well), then I had the first round of revisions to do. I then edited the manuscript myself to check all my revisions worked before sending it out to an alpha reader.

My alpha reader doesn’t normally read novels in the Fantasy genre, so perhaps I was taking a bit of a gamble . . . but then again, maybe not . . . SHE LOVED IT!! She gave me some very useful feedback, which was great, but the fact that she loved what I’d written gave me a tremendous boost. It gave me hope that maybe I was quite good at this, that my writing had some value and was entertaining.

Taking the feedback I received, I revised and edited again before sending it to a beta reader. This lady is a friend who is also a senior editor at a US publishing company. I trusted her, not only with my manuscript, but also impartial and honest feedback. That was exactly what I got! She suggested structural changes for some of the chapters and a few other things that I hadn’t really thought too much about. She was (and still is) incredibly supportive of me and my work and what makes it even more amazing – Alison and I have never met in person! (This is a whole other story for another blog post – maybe . . .).

So back I went again and revised for the third, or was it fourth time, implementing Alison’s insightful suggestions. I then gave it to my editor again and whip in hand, told her I needed it back within two weeks. She gave me one of her ‘looks’ (you know the one – peering over the top of her specs, eyebrows raised and lips slightly pursed in disapproval – I can see you picturing it now!), and said she’d do her best. Bless her heart, Maria (my editor) pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and got it done within the two weeks. Thankfully I only had minimal changes to make and then it was done.

Then the hard work really started. Oh, please don’t get me wrong; writing the novel, doing revision after revision after revision, edits etc., is hard work, but because you have so much of yourself invested in the plotlines and characters, it’s more a labour of love. What I’m talking about is the next phase of the process – trying to get published.

The first thing to do is decide which route is right for you and the research in itself is quite time consuming. There’s traditional publishing with an agent; traditional publishing without an agent (very tricky to get a deal, especially these days); independent publishers – printed books; independent publishers – ebooks; or self-publishing.

Having decided which route you want to take, you then need to research the submission guidelines for each agent/publisher you want to submit to and ensure that you stick rigidly to their guidelines. Each one is a little different so you have to tailor the next stages to their precise requirements.

The next stage is to write a synopsis of your book. This is not a chapter by chapter account, more a page or two giving the main story line, highlights, and most importantly, the ending. This document has to grab the publisher or agent’s interest so needs to be written, revised, revised again and edited to ensure excellent grammar and spelling.

Then comes the query letter which includes a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel. Again grammar and spelling is of the utmost importance, but more than this, the letter has to be professional, succinct and powerful enough for the agent/publisher to want to read your entire novel (you only normally send the first couple of chapters at this stage). More revisions and editing until this is the best it can possibly be.

Finally, you need to write a short biography. They don’t want your life history so a short paragraph about you will do.

Having done all the above it’s time to bite the bullet and submit your work to your chosen agent/publisher. And wait. And wait. And wait.

This is the stage I’m currently at. I decided to try the traditional publishing route through an agent. I picked the agent carefully, followed their submission guidelines and sent everything off on Friday 13th April (Friday 13th??? I know – crazy right?!). I’m now waiting in a densely populated place called Hope. I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll get picked up by the first agent I approach, but who knows? Maybe I’ve done everything right. Maybe they will like what I’ve sent them enough to want to see my entire manuscript (all 152,000 words of it). And maybe they won’t.

It’s all a learning curve and I’m strong enough to face rejection if that’s what comes my way. I have other options and a plan in place should they not accept me. Whatever happens, I’m not giving up. I’ve already started writing book 2 and have plans for a third novel to round off the story. I’m going to keep trying to get my work out there and hope that my writing will give another person the same level of enjoyment and entertainment that I’ve taken for granted for too many years.

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the three people who got me this far.

My alpha reader and best friend, Jakki

My wonderful editor, Maria http://twitter.com/Maria7627

 

My dear friend and beta reader, Alison DeLuca (author of The Night Watchman Express & Devil’s Kitchen and senior editor at Fantasy Island Book Publishing)

http://twitter.com/AlisonDeLuca

Voyage of Discovery

A couple of months ago, I was honoured to be asked to write a guest post for my dear friend, Alison DeLuca. When I asked her what I should write about, she suggested I write about how I felt when I finished my novel, Heart Search. So I did and now I’d like to share it with you.

I have made a real voyage of discovery. It took me nine months, three hundred and twenty nine pages, one hundred and fifty thousand four hundred and forty one words and at the end of it was my first completed novel!

“Heart Search : Lost”, the first book in the “Heart Search” trilogy was nothing short of a labour of love. It was my first real attempt at a full-length novel and like a lot of writers starting out, I really wasn’t sure I had the ability/imagination/skill to write more than short stories. In addition, I had doubts that anything I wrote would be worth another person’s time and effort to read.

I’d had the idea for the novel (it was only going to be one at the start) buzzing around in my head for a couple of months before I committed to trying to write anything. The more I thought about the possible plots, the more the characters began to grow in my mind and in my heart. I knew I had to tell their tale – it was too important to them not to – and so I began creating it in September 2010.

After planning my characters and story synopsis, I plotted the first twelve chapters and began the story. As I started tapping away on my keyboard, something strange happened – the story took on a life all its own. It was like I was a channel for the words that just appeared as if from nowhere. The chapter plot went out the window and I had no option but to just flow with the current. The story took me in directions I hadn’t considered and it all seemed to work, even though I had two stories running parallel to each other; one written in first person, the other in third.

My daughter kept nicking my laptop every time I put it down,  reading what I’d written then pestering me endlessly to write the next bit. She was hooked and it was then I realised that maybe I was good at this and other people might like it too.

As the story progressed, I was surprised to find how connected I became to my two main characters, how inextricably linked we were and I shared their emotions; when they laughed, I laughed, when they cried, I cried too. They were part of me. So, when I had to take a three-month break to move house, Remy and Joshua (my two protagonists) were screaming at me on a daily basis to get back to writing. When I did, there was no stopping me and at precisely 1.40am on Tuesday 26th October 2011, I finished typing the final sentence.

I sat there, stunned. I had done it – I’d completed my first novel! Then the euphoria hit. I punched the air and shouted “YES!!!” waking my daughter in the process (oops). I had a smile that wouldn’t quit for days afterwards and I felt like I was walking on fluffy white clouds. It was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment and, dammit, I was proud of myself! I was so hyped that night, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep for ages, but apart from posting my glorious news on Twitter and Facebook, I honestly can’t remember what else I did. Even though this was nearly four months ago and I’ve competed in NaNoWriMo since then (and won), the electric tingly buzz of pure joy hasn’t left me. The only time in my life I’ve ever felt joy of a similar magnitude, was the day I gave birth to my wonderful daughter!

I’m so happy and proud of my achievement, I would like to share an excerpt from “Heart Search : Lost” with you. I hope you like it.

“His hiding place was perfect; darkness surrounded and comforted him and he became one with it. He had chosen well. The ancient ruins were totally hidden by overgrown shrubs and trees. From this place, he could venture out before dusk, completely obscured by the dense canopy of the ancient trees; the sun struggled to break through even at midday.

He was close, closer than ever before, so close that the flavour of the human’s essence coated his sensitive tongue. The one sought was nearby – he could sense him. He had searched for a very long time to find someone this special. Sure he’d found talent along the way, but this one, this human was something else entirely.

The excitement was building inside like a volcano preparing to erupt. His tongue ran over his teeth; venom pooled in his mouth and he savoured the flavour. There would be a new flavour to add to it soon. Very soon.

 

He first detected the scent two days ago. Unfortunately, an opportunity had not presented itself and he had become frustrated to the point of anger as strategy after strategy was thwarted by the most stupid and pointless of reasons. He was tenacious when there was something he desired and right now there was nothing he desired more than this human. There was a plentiful supply around to quench his thirst – that was not his aim.

His reverie was interrupted – a familiar scent wafted on the air that permeated the shelter. It was the human – the one he sought – and so near, too near to be allowed to escape again. Once more venom collected in his mouth.

He moved swiftly through the darkness with perfect vision towards the exit hidden amongst the foliage. The closer he got to the outside, the stronger the scent, and the more eager he became.

It was time.”

I’ve been through the long process of revising and editing and to be honest I wasn’t fazed by it at all. I know that my manuscript has become stronger, more polished and I have given my characters even more depth. My novel is now in the hands of a beta reader; she is senior editor at a publishing company in the USA so I really trust her judgement (she has told me already that she loves the story, so that’s a real boost to my confidence!). I can’t wait to get her critique to see how I can improve it even further and to find out if she takes to my two main characters. After all, if it wasn’t for Remy and Joshua taking up residence in my head and heart, this story might not have been written at all.

I’d love to read your comments on the excerpt of Heart Search and my Voyage of Discovery, so please tell me what you think!

Book Review: Devil’s Kitchen by Alison DeLuca

Having devoured The Night Watchman Express, the first in the Crown Phoenix series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Devil’s Kitchen (book 2). I purchased it the very day I finished the first book and can honestly say I’m glad I did!

Devil’s Kitchen is more involved than The Night Watchman Express yet the story flows from one book to the next seamlessly. There is more drama, greater subplots and increased intrigue in Devil’s Kitchen and is so well written, I found myself completely immersed in it.

This book is a little darker than book 1; all the main characters experience trauma of varying degrees and I found myself sympathising with their predicaments and willing them on in their attempts to escape them. They each have great morals, genuinely care about others and still have the backbone to stand up for themselves.

The author demonstrates great skill crafting her characters; they have real depth. The antagonists are manipulative, cruel and remorseless and these traits jump off the page.

Devil’s Kitchen itself is depicted as a wicked place run by nasty people. Again Ms DeLuca’s superior world-building and descriptive flair creates believable settings that are tangible and interesting.

Again, this Steampunk adventure will appeal to young and older adults alike. The gripping story keeps you hooked to the very end and I, for one, eagerly await publication of the next book in the series, The Lamplighter’s Special.

I would strongly recommend this book and again, would give it more than 5 stars! Alison DeLuca is an incredibly talented author and I wish her every success.

Book Review: The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca

I’d never read a Steampunk novel until The Night Watchman Express crossed my path and I wasn’t sure if it would be ‘my thing’, but I’d read a few of the 5-star reviews on Amazon and decided to give it a try.

By the end of the first chapter I was hooked! The characters are larger than life: Miriam, Simon and Neil are loveable and you find yourself really caring about them and the twists and turns in their young lives. Mana is enigmatic yet extremely likeable and the Marchpanes are foul creatures that you take an instant dislike to.

The story is fast-paced; the plot and subplots have so many cliffhangers and hooks, you just have to keep reading. The world-building is superior with superb description – you can so easily picture the places in your mind, and that, to me, is the mark of a very skilled writer.

This book would appeal to adults as well as children. It is entertaining, suspenseful and is so well written, it draws you in. Now, I HAVE to buy the sequel, Devil’s Kitchen, just to find out what happens next. That again is the mark of a consummate author if they leave you breathlessly needing to buy the next book in the series!

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book and would give it more than 5/5-stars if I could! Alison DeLuca has an enormous talent and deserves every bit of success that comes her way.

Alison DeLuca

To find out more about Alison DeLuca and her novels, visit her blog http://alisondeluca.blogspot.com