Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last Chance to Get it Right!

It is the most anticipated event of the ton: the annual holiday ball at Hartwell House. The music is elegant, the food exquisite, and the guest list absolutely exclusive. Some come looking for love. Some will do almost anything to avoid it. But everyone wants to be there. No matter what their desires, amid the swirling gowns and soft glow of candlelight, magic tends to happen. And one dance, one kiss, one night can shape a new destiny….

The manuscript for my Christmas novella is due March 1st. I'm doing my self-edits now. This is my last chance to get it right before my editor takes her licks at it.

I start with the beginning. I want to make sure my opening sentence raises a question in my reader's mind. (For instance, the first sentence in VEXING THE VISCOUNT is "I wonder if that's life size.")

Then I check my first chapter to see if I've bogged it down with too much back-story. If I have, I slash it now. I want to hit the ground running and not look back. I need to know what's come before. My readers only need the barest hint--only what's absolutely necessary for them to continue. (I'm giving away my secrets here!) Keeping my reader slightly off balance, wondering why something is happening or why a character is acting in an unusual manner is a good way to keep the pages turning. And that is my goal.

My DH married a hooker. (Relax. I'm talking about writing hooks.) These are tantalizing bits of information that create a path for my readers. If I work it right, I can literally pull my reader forward through the story. (This is what keeps readers up nights.)
I check my prose. Am I using passive voice? Hope not. Lots of helping verbs? Weak. I circle every word ending in "ly" and cut till there's no more than one or two per page. I replace adjectives and adverbs with descriptive verbs and specific nouns.

I read my story aloud. (Often to my long-suffering DH!) I hear the echoes of over-used words my eyes miss. Any sentence I have to take a breath to finish is too long. I cut it in half.    

How much white space is there on each page? Am I too heavy on narrative and too light on dialogue? Does my dialogue need tags or can I tell who's speaking based on their speech patterns?

Can I smell my scenes? I want to help my reader walk in the heroine's shoes. I need to give her enough sensory details to know where she is and how to feel about it.

When I've polished my story till I'm sick of it, I turn it over to someone whose judgment I trust for a first read. (This is generally not a relative or someone like my DH, who wants to continue sleeping with me!) Then I prepare myself for suggested changes. I can't be defensive. I listen and consider carefully. I didn't come down the mountain with the story carved in stone. I'll revise if I decide I agree with my first reader.

Then I turn my manuscript over to my editor and the whole process starts again!

The Christmas anthology won't be available till September 29th, but VEXING THE VISCOUNT will be out February 24th! There's still time for you to win a signed copy. Just leave me a comment or question here today!

One of my Blog Touristas wants to know . . .

"When does one want to create a web page? As an aspiring author or after you're published? When is the right time to do this as a writer? We were going to ask this in Bobbi's class (She's talking about the Aspiring Writing Classes April 20-21 before the RT Convention in Orlando!) but some of us are impatient LOL!"~Jane L

I'm glad you asked, Jane. When I was first starting, green and hungry for knowledge, I went to RWA Nationals in NYC. I met another aspiring writer who had a brochure of her work made up. It was slick and glossy. She had a fabulous headshot of herself and mock covers for 5 or 6 books. She was very excited about this marketing piece, but all I could think at the time was--she hasn't sold a single manuscript yet and she's trumpeting the fact that she has several that haven't sold. I've heard editors say until you sell, you don't need a website. I did not have a website prior to selling, but that was in 2005.

Things change.

Then there's the other camp that talks about the importance of building a "platform"--a body of people who will rush out and buy your book when it sells. This is a compelling argument because publishing is a tough, competitive business and authors live or die by the sell-through. (If you wanted it sugar-coated, I'm sorry, but that's the truth.) So I think, economic conditions being what they are, it is becoming increasingly important for aspiring writers to build a platform.

However, I'm not sure a static website is the best way to do it. The whole point is to connect with people so MySpace or Facebook might be a better choice. Or starting a blog like this one.

If you want to do a whole website, make a blog-style portion the hub of it. I have a couple pre-published friends who have terrific sites. Check out Erin Eisenberg and Kelli Estes. Their blogs are personal, fun and invite readers to get to know them better without beating them over the head about their writing. They also look professional. If an editor is looking hard at their manuscript with aquisition in mind and they google these gals, they are going to like what they see.

But here's my note of caution. Building a website is very timeconsuming. So is blogging and hitting the social networks. Whatever you do, don't let building your platform take too much time from your actual writing. (My own page count has suffered of late, but fortunately I'm in the brainstorming phase which allows me to tell myself I'm thinking about my next WIP and that's what I need to do right now.)

Besides, I've had great fun on the blogtour and we should always make room for fun. If a writer doesn't have a life, she has nothing to write about.

Here endeth the lesson . . .

Be sure to leave a comment or question so you'll be entered in my daily drawing!


Dannyfiredragon said...

Hi Emily,

I know many author who switched from the normal website style to blogs, because that way they have a better way to interact with there readers. I think it is a good idea to combine both. A website with all the information about books, excerpt etc and a blog to keep the readers up-to-date.

Anonymous said...

THANKS!! Emily! I think the Marketing Degree in me sees the importance of building a platform right away, but the other side says... WHOAAA baby slow down you have not even had anyone read your MS yet! You might suck! LOL!! My husband always jokes, if I can get someone to read it, I WILL sell it!Thanks for the tips again!

Maureen said...

Mucho kudos for answering Jane's question. We've been debating this in our bulletin board and trying to make sure we do it mostly right from the very beginning. I think both Jane and I will have our sites up before Orlando so we can toot our horn about it.

I do love the confidence Jane's husband shows!

MaureenB aka 2nd Chance

EmilyBryan said...

Danny- I've always had the blog as one of the links from my website. Right now I also have a running ticker of news on the home page. I'm toying with redoing the site and moving the latest news to a separate page so my home page doesn't run into next week. What do you think?

Jane L--A marketing degree! I'm seriously buying you a cup of coffee in Orlando so I can pump you for free advice. I need to know what YOU know. Hug your hubby for me. Supportive spouses make writing possible!

Maureen--Please let your bulletin board buddies know we're talking about this here today. The more the merrier!

Carpathian Queen said...

I agree, blog and website combined, with this remark: new about books (future releases, future heroes etc) should be on the site too... Often authors bring news like that on a blog and forget to update the site. As a reader I can't keep up to date with all the blogs to see when and who will be the next release

Deanna said...

Emily, thanks for the great insights. Appreciate that you are sharing your experience with us.

Maureen said...

Good idea, Emily. I sashayed over there and posted the news. Hopefully some of the Aspiring Authors will make their way here.

Maureen/aka 2nd Chance

Dannyfiredragon said...


the idea with the separate page for the latest news is a good one.

Unknown said...

Hi Emily,

Thank you so much for discussing how you get from the beginning to the end of your manuscripts. It provided me with another way of looking at my own.

Can I ask how long this process usually takes you? How many drafts to you go through before you consider it finished?

I'm going through the editing process now and I often wonder how other writers do it.

EmilyBryan said...

Carpathian Queen--Good point. I try to update the website regularly, but may miss posting things there. What do you think about author's newsletters as a way to keep in touch? I send one out monthly to update readers who've signed up.

Daz--My pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for posting the link on your bulletin board, Maureen!

Danny--I'm never quite sure how to organize my info in a way that makes my site easy for a reader to navigate and enjoy. Thanks for your insights.

EmilyBryan said...

Nicknellasmommy--I try to finish the manuscript about a month before it's due. I lay it aside for a week to give myself a little distance. Then I start through the manuscript with the things in mind I mentioned in my post. I'll make several passes through it. Sometimes, I'll start at the last chapter and move toward the beginning, just to make sure I'm fresh when I'm working on the end.

I work on it until the last possible moment. And even then, it's not done until I've gone through the galley, which comes after my editor's revision requests.

Nynke said...

Hi Emily,

thanks for the interesting insights into your editing process! There's su many details you don't consciously think about as a reader, but which do affect your reading experience a lot...

And I'll miss this blog tour when it's done! Nice to know it spills over into a few other days after the 24th :)


Anonymous said...

Emily! LOL! I would love to trade secrets with you! My husband is a great support, He allows me to be a "PRINCESS", which I have perfected after years of practice. LOL!

Anonymous said...

I loved your blog post today - so much great information for readying that manuscript. I've got it bookmarked.

Several of my writing buddies set up a website pre-pubbed, but that's not something I wanted to contend with yet. Not only the expense, but the time would be best used for my writing. And I didn't want to set up my own blog. That's way too time consuming for me. So, I decided to do a group blog with other aspiring authors, that way I only have to blog twice a month, and I get the benefits of a building a web presence. I'm also on Facebook. For me, that's enough for now. It's easy to caught up in the excitement of it all, but an aspiring author really needs to remember to concentrate on the writing. The rest will come when it's time. Just my two cents. :D

Just a couple more days until VTV is in the stores!!

EmilyBryan said...

Nynke--I will be guesting on a number of sites after VEXING THE VISCOUNT'S release. And anytime you want to visit with me, I'll always be here. :)

Jane L--Princess status is a wonderful thing!

Lara Lee--Sounds like you've managed to find a solution that works for you. Writing time is precious. You're wise to guard it.

Julie Robinson said...

These are excellent tips for critiquing a manuscript!

I agree with all the marketing advice, but do have to watch myself. LIke you said, all the social networking, including having a website and a blog, are extremely time consuming. Since I have been focusing more on this aspect of the writing field these past few months (since I discovered blogging), I tell my dh that I'm studying the 'marketing end' of writing when he asks me how I did in my writing for the day.

BUT no actual writing on a story or article or whatever gets done. Ack! I have to remember that I can't sell what I don't have.


Unknown said...

I enjoy visiting authors websites and blogs, this is how I keep up with everything that going on in the writing world. I am still looking for to reading your new book and the time to release date is just around the corner.

Oh I love a good Christmas Anthology. I can't wait to get it too.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Emily, thank you so much for the kind words regarding me and my site! I don't know if the site and/or blog will give me a leg up once I make that first sale, but I figure it can't hurt, right?

You are absolutely right when you say that keeping a blog (or other networking "stuff") is time-consuming. I have my daily or weekly page goals to achieve and only once they are done do I focus on a new blog entry. As much as I would love to be one who posts a new blog entry daily, it simply does not fit into my life right now. I focus on writing my book first, networking second. As long as I average one new entry per week, I'm happy. I do try to update my Facebook status more regularly, though, because it's fun and easy and keeps my name in people's minds.

Congratulations on your book release tomorrow! I'm so excited to read it!!


EmilyBryan said...

Julie--So true! Nora Roberts may be able to sell an idea, but the rest of us need to be able to deliver something more concrete. I need to get busy and put my 1st chapter and synopsis proposal together for my next project. I've been "thinking" about it long enough!

Kelli--Once or twice a week is a good goal for a blog post. Less often and you'll lose readership. More and you'll cut into writing and family time.

EmilyBryan said...

LARA LEE! You are our winner today! Please contact me through with your contact info!

Please join me today at WritersAtPlay. I'm having a ball at this aptly named ball with my friend NYTimes BestSeller CL Wilson. Hope to see you there soon!

Dannyfiredragon said...

Big congrats Lara Lee!

Carpathian Queen said...


I get many newsletters, but mostly they talk about their new release. A way to remind everyone again that their new book is out.

Though some are dealing with more fact eg Stephanie Laurens. You get an idea about her next novel, but also more news about those after them. Who will be featuring, what she has planned after that...

When I'm making my list with books to be released, I tend to surf the sites. But most of them only mention the upcoming book. I'm perhaps overdoing it ;) but I also like to know what a writer is working on, what releasedates she knows about, what plans she has on future books (esp. when she writes a series.)

And those things are mostly written in blogs. Which I understand of course... An author needs to do some actual writing once in a while ;-)) but it's just something I would love to find easier than searching blogs...

Congrats Lara Lee...!!

Lynnette Baughman said...

Emily, You are so right about the giant TIME problem. I have a website, and it has a blog, but I haven't been able to leap into making the blog into something VIBRANT. I need to be WRITING. Oh well, like they say, "To Be Continued."
If you have room for a guest, I'd love to visit your blog and talk about the book on writing that is my #1 recommendation.