Write to Pub Wednesday: Traditional Publish or Self Publish?


That moment of self realization has come; you are ready to begin the publishing process. So self pub or traditional? Holymoly, this is a huge subject, and lately all over the news and the Net. How is a writer on the verge of discovery to choose which route to follow?

Let me begin by saying that my coming release is traditionally pubbed. That said, I’d still very much like to try my hand at self pubbing, too, just to have that experience. It is not whether one is better than another; it is more which one works for the present situation. It is about achieving the balance between life as an author and commitment outside a writing career. Choose the one that  suits your current position best, keeping in mind that the other stepping stone awaits should you decide to walk that path at a later date.

So why did I decide on traditional over self-pub for my book even though the traditional process takes longer? Chalk it up to inexperience. I can write, am a decent fact finder and edit with some success; but technology? Not my strong-suit. I decided to learn from the experience of going the traditional route and hone skills already present. Now, I have that knowledge to build on for self-pubbing later. Going initially with my strongest skill-set; learning and perfecting those before delving into self-pub is akin to an athlete changing their ultimate competitive sport. Could a swimmer make the transition to competitive rowing? Probably. Will the skills I’ve learned and perfected from traditional publishing transfer to self pubbing? Absolutely.

Balancing a day-job along with family needs left  little time to commit to another venture–but commit I did. While researching traditional and self-pubbed authors, the importance of scheduling time to write vs other needs cropped up time and again, mirroring my own situation. Having elements ready to go is like having a pre-made lunch packed for a long haul; very convenient and ultimately saves time and money.

Mastering the technology of self-pub appeared daunting for this newbie; I can barely program a cell-phone, let alone design cover art, format a manuscript into shape for an eBook or printrun, not to mention self-editing vs other people’s eyes making a huge difference in quality of the final product. The traditional publishing house was golden because they provided technical items such as no fee in-house editing, free cover artist, access to house-only master classes taught by seasoned professionals to better perfect writing and marketing skills, guides for style and content, a built in network of editors, and other authors for mutual support. All this leaves an author free to decipher the wonders of social media and set up a marketing platform for the book release. Did I mention that my publisher helps with that, too? The big picture here is getting a book to publication takes a commitment of time no matter which way you go. A traditional publisher can help free up your valuable time by providing a variety of services.

There exists the option of paying for most items listed, but funds were dear, and time to explore providers was being sucked up by my research for how to craft a better story, setting up and sending in a manuscript and to whom, learning about submitting to a big house vs a smaller house, and avoidance of predators within the business. Are you becoming aware that the true price of getting your work published involves a dogged perseverance and an Iditarod Musher’s drive? Good! Then we’re on to the next leg of our trip: Self Publishing.

You have some tech skills, are comfortable enough in the social media-sphere that set up comes easily, have a manuscript that looks like it is ready to go, and possess some knowledge about photo-shop. Sounds to me like you are a candidate for self-pub road-trip. There is a whole host of information about self-pub how to sites on the web,  in books, and even indie groups to help in setting it up. As with traditional publishing, there can be a lot of footwork involved in tracking down the right elements needed for your self-pubbed book, but there are plenty of authors who boast great success at it. Self published books are a hot ticket, if you do the research and put in the time to do it right, you can have your work in your readers hands the second you hit send. But wait! Before you hit that golden button, lets time out from the publication race to discuss proper execution of form.

What are the drawbacks of self Pub? The foremost gripe about self pubbing is the number of mistakes that appear in the final copy. Self pubbers need to allot plenty of time for rewriting. Run that manuscript by a handful of friends for critiquing, maybe join a writing group, hit up an old teacher for advice; anything to whip your manuscript into shape and catch errors. The downside of these books is that they have a reputation for poor content. I say rubbish to that. It isn’t a lack of good content; more it’s a lack of proper editing. The value of an outside editor is that they aren’t in your head.Your work comes across to them in an entirely new perspective because it is seen through different eyes. If your invited beta reader doesn’t get it, neither will your future audience. Time to chop sections that don’t work and rewrite until the meaning is clear.

Which brings us to the finished product–or does it? You have created your cover art, edited and polished your manuscript until it shines, consulted with indie groups for content and formatting, chosen where you are going to upload it for release day–what did you miss?

Marketing. Second to editing, for a self pubbed author, the trail of a social media platform through keen distribution plan is key to hitting a home run. In this arena, self pub is no different from traditional pub. Your name is your brand as much as your product, so getting it out there is what will make you visible to future customers.

So, which path is the best for you? If you research, train, and map out a good plan, there are multiple ways to reach the summit. Consider both types of publishing as valuable components in building your road. The short  answer is; each writer is unique; so their paths in publishing will differ too, but both have the same goal on the journey from writer to published author.

Submitting without submitting: Becoming the Hunter to Get Published and Avoid Predators


Howdy readers.  So, the time has finally come.  I’m shopping my short story around for publication, checking out various sites for submission into the hallowed grounds of first time Publication.  I’d like to say that I found a whole bunch of opportunities for legitimate submission, great gobs of contests, and publishers just aching to grasp my tiny tale and get it into print at first bite.

The truth is, it wasn’t very hard to find the welcoming trail bread crumbs. However, the more I looked into things the more confused and wary I became of the offers. If it sounds too good to be true, is it really? Are those sharp teeth and claws I spy on those happy websites with their clutching hands?

To wit: I saw calls for submissions and contests where the fee to enter is $15.00 (US) and the awarded prize is $20.00 to $60.00, but only if yours is pick of the litter. I also saw publications that were foreign, inviting submissions for free, but with no information to be found, and several US companies already on the watchdog sites of Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write, and Writer Beware lists as badguys.

It is typical for Indie Publications to charge an entry fee for their contest, but they trend toward the manageable, which is good news.  Some journals and magazines indicate calls for submission with no fees involved, at least not that I saw outright. To clarify whether these would be a good start for a noob, I headed over to Writer Beware (WB), that great website like an eye in the sky keeping new Writers and Authors out of  the clutches of the Damned Unscrupulous Malicious Publishing Scammers (DUMPS) for any advice. (yes, I just coined that acronym this evening!)

I learned to research EVERY SITE because the Dumps monsters will bite the unwary and uneducated, and received advice to not click on any links within sites, but instead do a direct Google search (http://www.blahblah.com) to confirm information on a prospective publisher.  I learned that publication of a short story could be equally good or a nil sort of venture, depending on the publication.  Here’s the link to the page where I questioned WB, and their responses: 2011-Writer Beware Retrospective  Under 2011 WB Retrospective discussion, scroll down to comments to C.K. Garner (se Moi!) asking a question, and read Victoria Strauss, Author and Co-Founder of Writer Beware and Grace Peterson of WB Blogs, answers and advice.

Once in their website, I highly recommend clicking around. The advice contained in Writer Beware is an invaluable resource for you. Just in case you are skeptical, these fine folk are part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  They do this as a community for free, to aid other Authors and Writers. So check them out, you can lose the monster DUMPS and get some sound footing to navigate the path out of  the woods!

We must, do the assignment of protecting ourselves by asking the questions and then following through to find the answers, and using the proper resources before submitting to any contest, or Journal, or publishing entity.

So, how well do you know your intended publishing company?  When you are ready to send in a submission, have you done research on the Publishing company? Did you check with Writer Beware first?  Did you run them by Preditors and Editors, or check with Absolute Write? Did you Google the company to see how much you could find out about them, and find other Authors who have used them?

I need to sign off now.  I’ve got a lot of work to do before I send off my short story for submission.  Good luck to you, and have fun researching those prospective publishers! Here Goes…

C.K. Garner

Can you take the Heat?


A good Critique hammers out the bumps in your manuscript!

If someone asks for a critique, or for you to go over their writing, should you?  Would you be kind or let ‘er rip and tell them what’s  not working for you? On the receiving end, how do you handle being Critiqued? Today, I read a  manuscript from an acquaintance, then related what I felt worked and what didn’t. Instantly I became public enemy #1.

In nicer words than those here, I pointed out a lack of tension causing the story to flag and my interest to wane. I tried for constructive criticism— because I want very much for my fellow writers to keep working at it and not give up– applauded parts that flowed to the concept of the tale; but mentioned disconnects between actions of the characters and the reader trying to comprehend the flow of the story. The key here is, what I took in was what the writer conveyed in their manuscript.

The writer decided I am too much of a novice to critique them and could not see the picture they conveyed. Au contraire; I was picturing Giovanni Ribisi, one of my favorite actors, in the Protagonist role, and I tried to see scenes in full realization as they stuttered past in my mind, Giovanni looking for direction. I presented a few suggestions that might improve the MS, but the writer rejected any alterations, fearing tidier segues would change it too much; if they introduced more  feeling of the place, tried to build a bit more on the characters, then it wouldn’t be their story anymore. Topping off the list of backpedaling the writer expressed they shouldn’t have to personally explain each scene for a reader to get it.

On the last gripe I agree. The writing itself should speak to me. Setting, conflict and resolution should convey to me, the Reader, what is happening in the story. Tension should keep me wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next, and each scene should ease into the next instead of me flipping back and forth to find a connection; bringing to mind Giovanni: all apologetic, his character says, “I’m sorry, but can you point me to the nearest segue?”

I have come to the conclusion that some folks don’t really want a critique.  They want you to read their work and tell them it has points so well-formed they stab you in the eye while perusing the brilliance of their  DARLING bit of fluff, and now you must wear an eye patch and become a pirate, you are so blown by the wave of their stature.

Give me an effing break.  Better still, don’t ask for a critique if you can’t take the heat.

Here is my take on how to handle a Beta Reader‘s POV: Welcome the harsher voices, the gulls of Criticism if you will; their opinion is as valuable, perhaps more so, than the sweet voiced variety of Critique.

The best Authors and Writers, or at least my favorites, are happy to have people read and share their thoughts of the characters and settings and how these work with each scene.  Equally, they welcome the point where you fell asleep reading their  tale. This is because they want to kill that bit of needless fluff  to make it read better, and take their writing to the next level.  They crave, I crave (!) to know what interferes with the flow of the story, where the bogs are that suck away the action, when it is too candy coated and needs added complexity, or where the story has too much description and wants a good conversation between the prime characters, or even the comic relief to ease darkness, just a little, see?  A good Critique gives you possibilities.  

The best thing about encouraging your friends and acquaintances to read your work, to critique it, is that they are your first audience!  *applauds beloved Beta Readers* If you pay attention, really take their constructive criticisms to heart, you will discover that their eyes are invaluable, because they are not in your head. They are Joe Reader. If they get it, chances are your future audience will, too. If they are struggling to wrap their heads around a passage, perhaps you should revisit and make that concept clearer.

It is human nature to balk at criticism, but if we unplug from our initial negative reaction, we open ourselves to the Reader, gleaning that pearl of wisdom that makes our story have luster. So, leap into that boiling cauldron with a smile. Find some Readers to critique your work, then tell them to please, turn up the heat, you can take it. Your work will be better for it, and your naysayers will at the very least respect you for being able to swim in the deep end of the pool of magma.

Well folks, my manuscript calls…a great friend of mine red-inked the heck out of it…for which I thank her!  I’ll take the advice and change what needs tending, toss the rest…that, too is valuable. 🙂

Keep writing!

See You Around,

C.K. Garner

Get into Character!


What a Character!

Do you start your story with all of your characters already written out?  Do you know how they will act, what they might say?

I am a person who sucks at dialogue; but now, because I’m dabbling in character creation, I feel like I’m learning, or they are teaching me… it is as if the characters, once created are speaking for themselves, each with a distinct voice to suit his actions.

The fun part of writing is pushing the situations just little bit, or a whole shove from the norm, at the same time as  trying to keep it real.  The characters can help you along, or you can create a character grid, and make sure to follow closely.  What might a character do?  How far should you push them?

For Example, if I think a character is vain, I really get silly with that vanity, i.e., I try to take it way beyond what a normal person might do.   I’ll have them missing conversation, irritating people, and losing weight because they are so engaged in their reflection in the dinner plates they forget to eat!  If a person is clumsy, I have them tripping all over the place.

Are they an evildoer?  They are going to take a shot at your baby sister’s baby bunnies, drag the key down the side of someone’s car, blow up pigeons for fun and chuckles, and generally wreak havoc.

Same goes for nice.  Made of sugar, but sometimes spice is the answer there.  As for the middling ones, it helps to shove them over either edge to see how they will handle the drop.  Sometimes a character will grow if you push them, this is especially true if you shove each into the other!  The characters will tell you what they will and won’t do along the way once you start getting them down on the page.

I like to take them to extremes because it makes the story better, even if I tone them down later.  It’s just fun to have a character go beyond the bounds of what is the accepted “norm”.  The lengths to which you can manipulate your characters into a twisted tale are endless, and even impossibilities are, well, possible if you decide they are real enough to write them down!

For the rest of the month I’ll be catching up on all of the possible goofs I have missed in adding the new characters.  I want a seamless blending where I have added them in, which means line by line editing.  I take the time when doing this to catch dropped punctuation, spelling errors, grammatical no-no’s, etc..

It is also a good time to check and see that your characters are showing, speaking, and acting it out rather than you telling the story.

Believe me, no matter how many times I go over it, I catch a couple more errors, and kill them off, hiding the evidence, so that by the time I get to the end, I will be ready for the next batch of revisions from Friends, Beta Readers, Agents and Editors.

I recommend you  try adding a couple of characters and see what happens with your story.  I’ll bet it grows in ways you didn’t expect.  Have fun playing in your world, the company is great!

C.K. Garner

Ode to a Brainstorm


storm cell #9

Brainstorm!

A couple of Blogs back I promised that this week would be add a few new characters week for my manuscript.  I played with a few ideas in my head, none of them bearing real fruit until I had a waking vision.  I was munching my dinner in my car when suddenly my mind opened up with a great picture of  a creature; a scary, but beautiful night creature.  Yeah, yeah, I know you’re all thinking Vampire, right?  Nope.

I have been re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which I mention last Blog.  Ala J.K Rowling‘s experience on a train, no pen or paper handy with the idea for Harry Potter in her head, there I was with no pen or paper available, only my mind for a page.  To make matters worse, my dinner break was ten minutes from finished.  What to do?

I brainstormed that new character in my head for that ten minutes until she looked completely fleshed out and real.  I drove my car back to the job, thinking hard about those ideas of her made whole, got out and locked the car, walking a little blinded by the vision in my head. I was so desperate to hold onto her.  I could see her eyes becoming more and more real.  They haunted me until I was through the doors of my work.

So, my vision stayed with me.   My lovely one grew taller.  She gained hair and skin and a lithe physique.  Her eyes were her best feature, but all of her, well, I think I’m in love, like a parent of a new daughter I just wrote into being…except I hadn’t written her down, yet.

By the time I left work, headed home in a happy, calm mixture of thought, she gained personality traits, had a way of moving about, something of her very essence was captured.  She now existed.

So, after a start with no paper or pen, last night I finally wrote her character into my manuscript.

I added this character so readers could connect with my protagonist better, see her through the eyes of her newly created friend.  I went further to decided how she looks, speaks, acts, and interacts with my main character and the others thus far introduced.

She worked like a charm but for one thing; I love the new character so well I’m afraid she’ll take over the story!  But, if J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter could function well with such appealing characters as Hermione and Ron Weasley, okay, Ron was comic relief, perfect foil for serious Hermione, maybe I’ll be okay with this new creature just as she is.  And perhaps later on she’ll get her own story.  Could happen…

Manana I’m adding one more character to the mix, a villainous type, and perhaps two other minor characters for this book, that will grow into their own in this and the next book.  Yes, Virginia, there is a sequel to the manuscript I haven’t finished…yet!  I realized that to tell the story I have brewing, I will need more than one book unless I want it to be two thousand pages long.  Thus I’m splitting the tale as I write it into two sections.

I have yet again, through close reading of Harry Potter and a bit of knowledge about J.K. Rowling, moved ahead in my manuscript.  J.K. Rowling really does have a touch of magic…if you look into her first Harry Potter Book long enough, you will find everything you love about a good tale…and then you get to keep it and apply that magic hand to your own writing.  I could find it and keep it, and even apply it, you can, too.  Tag, you’re it.

Well, gotta add more characters, and work on catching them all up into the tale.  Cheers!

C.K. Garner

>Back to the Reason for the Blog: The Writing!


On Writing

Stephen King advises, "Kill your darlings" for better editing.

>Now that I’ve finished for the most part with creating a Blog and then transferring that Blog to WordPress Blog, I can get back to the parts I like!  Writing and Editing and Research for my manuscript. Yay!  That is today’s plan.  So, lets focus on tips for writing and editing.

I have a magic wand for you, Dear Reader, to use when editing! It is Stephen King’s formula for writing, then cutting out the clutter. This was good advice that he received from an agent after one of his manuscripts was, yet again, rejected.

Here is the formula King uses:   Second Draft = First Draft -10%

I read about the formula in Stephen King’s book, “On Writing “ recommended to me by Tone Milazzo, Author of Picking Up the Ghost , and Batton Lash, Author and Artist of  Supernatural Law . Thanks guys!

Much of  King’s book is a humorous tale of his background, and his life as a constant Writer before getting well published. But once you get to a chapter he calls “Tools the book really takes off!

The “Tools” chapter and beyond are some great, solid bites of getting your words on the page, and then editing, and to quote King, “Kill your darlings “.  What this means is, after you have decided you have edited out all you possibly could from your manuscript, after you think it is finished, do it again.  You do not have your final draft until you have killed the passages you think are “Darling”, i.e. your “keepers”, etc.  When you have rewritten your best scenes, then you are on your way to a better manuscript.

If you think it sounds nit-picky, try it.  Are there any adverbs you left in play?  Get rid of them and rewrite those sentences that contain them.  Do your Beta Readers (Also called Betas, people who read your manuscript before editor or agent) yawn each time they hit a certain passage?  Kill it!  Got a long tirade that really doesn’t move the story forward, or back story that doesn’t clearly have a reason for being there?  “Kill those Darlings!”  I’ll chat at you later after I’ve revamped my favorite passages.

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