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If there is anything in this world that I hate to do, it's to come across as being overly preachy and saying, "You must do this, this, and this in order to succeed" when my publishing career is barely three years old. (Portal to Gaming turned three on August 14. Woohoo!!) Plenty of authors will give you a recipe for success, either based on how they managed their success or on what they've learned from others on how to achieve success. It's all one huge experiment in the end, anyway, because what works well for me may not work well for someone else.

While I have yet to achieve my New York Times Bestseller status, there is one thing I have found to be quite true in the three years I've been publishing my own works.

Every author needs to self-edit.

Why, one might ask? Editing and revising can be amongst some of the most painful things an author has to do, yet it's something we do in order to make sure our stories are where we want them to be. (Well, most of us. I'm getting there.)

Some authors are fortunate enough to have someone to help them edit their works. For me, it's my best friend and the people over at Scribophile. Others, well, as almost every indie author can attest to, there are a lot of people out there who don't even bother to edit or hire an editor or even self-edit before they're uploading their stories to Amazon and hitting publish. It happens, and, as long as Amazon allows people to do this, there will continue to be plenty of material most readers don't want to slug through to find the gems. I can't say as I blame them. Years of slugging through poorly written fanfiction (by native English speakers and writers, no less - I cut the non-native English speakers and writers more slack) has left me in the same predicament. "I just don't want to do it!"

A few weeks ago, a fellow reader in one of my many facebook groups posted a rather thoughtless and mindless rant to the group about indie authors. It was her first go-round with indie authors, she picked three books by three different authors, and claimed to be traumatized by the experiences. The first was poorly edited, and she'd stopped by chapter four. The next was okay, but the author seemed to stop caring by the end of the book. She might have said the same thing about the third book - I don't recall, but that's because of the stance I took and how I actually viewed the next part of her story when I read it.

"Indie authors, do yourself a favor and hire an editor and beta-readers" is basically what she said. I was mildly upset by such a remark because 1 - she presumed that all indie authors were like the three that she'd purchased, much like presuming all romance novels are the same by reading only one author. (Again, not a fan of romance, but I gave it a try beyond the usual smutty Harlequin romance books. Summaries and book blurbs are actually the best way to catch any reader's attention. Anyway . . .) and, 2 - she presumed that every indie author can actually afford to hire an editor and seek out beta-readers (proofreaders).

Now what followed is what I'm finding to be quite typical of the indie author response to such a statement. "I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. I know I don't do that!" All from people who know they don't simply hit "submit" after writing a first draft, from people who are doing more than just trying to earn what they believe to be a quick buck by writing a story.

I actually took the opposite stance here, not to be contrary for the sake of being contrary, but because I know what my situation has been, and I know I'm not alone in my situation. I asked a rather rhetorical question about the authors who cannot afford to hire an editor. I'm in a position where I cannot afford to hire an editor or to even pay my best friend for her editing skills (which I would love to do, by the way).

I won't get into all of the responses. I'll sum it up with I received a lot of "helpful" but overall useless advice. Find a local critique group (because everyone has access to writers in their area in the middle of NOWHERE, USA, or NOWHERE, EUROPE, etc . . .) and to just save up and wait.

I  . . . want to encourage everyone who reads this to find the best editing path that will work for them. I want it to be known right now. If you feel you can save up for an editor who can help you and not destroy your work, do it. If you know of a writer's group in your area that can help you improve your work and not destroy it, do it. If you find yourself lacking in money and local writers, find an online group like Scribophile or Critique Circle, and get your work edited, reviewed, and revised. Then decide whether you're going to self-publish or submit to a traditional publishing house. If you get that contract based on how polished your prose is, excellent! Great job! I, for sure, am proud of you for doing so.

But, above all else, SELF-EDIT YOUR WORK. Make sure your editor hasn't added any extra typos in the manuscript. (I've noted at least once where it happened to Robert Jordan in his Wheel of Time series. The word was supposed to be "quiet" and was written as "quite".) Make sure your editor hasn't butchered your prose to suit their writing styles and how they think your story should go.

Self-edit to make sure your story reads the way you have envisioned it. If you have to give yourself three months to do that, great. But always, always, always double-check your work. This is your story, your baby. The absolute last thing you want is someone else's grammatical errors mucking up your story.

And don't let anyone tell you that you can't self-edit your own work, that you need to trust someone else with the final revision of your work. I have gone over my own manuscripts after I've already published them and found missing words and misspelled words that my critiquers at Scribophile missed. It is not uncommon for an editor or a beta-reader to get caught up in the story and miss a few things. An extra set of eyes or two or five are always helpful, but, in the end, the final revision gets its stamp of approval from you.

I say this to every author embarking on a publishing career, be it traditional, self-publishing, or hybrid publishing. Trust your instincts. Self-edit.

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Self-Analysis: I am Fayt Leingod

When it comes to characters, we're always looking for something about them that we can identify with, be it in our books, our T.V. shows, movies, video games, and so on. If you're watching a show like The Big Bang Theory, and you're watching Sheldon Cooper (or even Raj, Howard, and Leonard) behave the way that he does, and you're simply calling him an idiot despite his actual intelligence, then chances are education was never your strong suit nor were you particularly interested in actually learning. (I say this because, when I lived with my grandmother two years ago, we would watch The Big Bang Theory, and she never really liked the show, called it stupid, and called the characters whatever she believed them to be; ie, in the case of Sheldon, an idiot. Let's face it. Not everyone will ever get a nerdy or geeky character, except the nerds and the geeks.)

It's rather natural, in my opinion, to want to see ourselves in a beloved character from a book. I've often cited J.R.R. Tolkien as my inspiration for wanting to become a writer, for actually considering a career as an author, even though I'd known deep down that I would and that I'd been writing since I was nine.

But there's one character that, in everything I've read, everything I've watched, and everything I've played in games, that has always resonated with me the most. And that character has been around less time for me than Generation One Transformers and The Lord of the Rings yet he's still quite beloved by me.

Fayt Leingod from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.

Fayt doesn't resonate with me because he's this unlikely hero able to save the universe or even that he's charismatic and draws even former enemies to him.

Please note: What follows will be some spoilers for the game for those who haven't ever played it.

I see myself as Fayt because I don't always see myself as someone special. One thing Fayt asks another character, his so-called kidnapper/soon-to-be-bodyguard, Cliff Fittir, is this: Why does Quark's leader want to meet with me? I'm just a college student from Earth.

Then the same, or at least a similar, question pops up again when the Vendeeni appear on Elicoor II and start shooting up the place, he's told to run, and he's demanding to know why they're after him. He's completely oblivious to his own power. Mind you, I cannot destroy a battleship just by getting angry enough at the wanton destruction going on around me, but I also know I've never been truly angry enough to find out what I am capable of in a fit of rage.

I see myself as Fayt because he's written as being forgiving, even when it's not expected of him. I tend to forgive easily, almost blindly at times, and Fayt does the same thing. He doesn't hate the Vendeeni for destroying countless lives. He doesn't hate his parents for the experiments they conducted on him. He doesn't even hate Albel Nox, a former enemy (though, in fairness, this can work however the player wants where Albel is concerned as this comes up in a private action, and the response Fayt gives to Albel upon asking of a particular question is up to the player).

I see myself as Fayt because he's compassionate. His sadness resonates with me, as does his strength to persevere and to succeed. He's stubborn, refuses to let anyone coddle him when he needs to take it easy (that's me), and, if he barely manages to win a fight, he acknowledges he's got a lot more work to do. And that echoes a good portion of my own life.

I see myself as Fayt Leingod more than any other character ever created because I see myself as a flawed human being, happy and cheerful, despite all of the things life has thrown at me. Despite his family's wealth, Fayt's life is far from perfect, far from ideal, but he's made the best out of it, and, to me, that says a lot. He's capable of change and growth, and he's just overall fascinating to try and dissect.

And I realize that, yes, I am a woman here, and Fayt is a very decidedly male character, but I find gender hardly matters when it comes to resonance. If there's resonance, there's power in what the author has created.

That is truly beautiful.

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Surrender - Musings

Lately, I've been fielding a lot of frustrations over things happening in my life, areas where I have either a little control or no control. I recently had to trade in my first Escape, Sigyn, for a newer vehicle, another Escape, a 2017 I've affectionately named Idunna. I was facing with Sigyn transmission or torque converter issues that, even with a second job, I would not have been able to afford to make. Sales for my books are down, the only thing people are currently downloading is  the free ebook for Sigyn's Flowers, and days have become rather slow at work. It's more than frustrating, it's been downright worrying. I still have to pay for the registration, title, and taxes for my new car, and I had to let go of that worry. Still don't have all of that money right now, but I'm trusting that, when the time comes, I'll have the funds needed for the first new payment and everything else that Oklahoma requires.

Anyway . . .

As most everyone should know by now, I follow a Pagan/Wiccan/Heathen path in terms of religion and spirituality. I won't go into the reasons for my conversion from Christianity to Norse Heathenry (I stared with Wicca, just a little). It isn't because it's an easier, more comfortable path to take - anyone wants to say otherwise is, in my opinion, being disrespectful to my choices in the same way they probably accuse others of being towards them.

The path scares me at time. All Gods, all spiritual paths require surrender. And I'm not very good at surrendering. The lines of when and where to surrender get blurred. Surrender to the Divine but never to your enemies, and it can be confusing. Sometimes surrender can mean death. And death can be quite scary, too. As much as I know death is inevitable, is just the next step on my spirit's journey, letting go of the dead things is . . . impossible, and I'm not even sure why. We talk about dropping dead weight. Dead weight is something none of us ever needs. It takes up space that could be used for something brighter, newer, and more invigorating. We are meant to serve our gods, our guides, not the other way around.

And it's aggravating because surrender has very negative connotations. If we look it up in the dictionary, we get the implication that bad things will happen to us if we do. We are not guaranteed kindness by our fellow humans if we surrender.

Wow . . . that's so . . . wow . . .

I love my deities. I love them very, very much, and I aim to serve them in every way possible. And I love that my Gods have always been Gods of action. They walked amongst their followers. They took action when their followers needed them. I even respect Jesus for taking action for his followers. Why would I ever think or feel that they would hurt me? All deities request that we surrender to them . . . doesn't matter what faith we belong to, our gods want to take care of us, to nurture us.

Wow . . . it's a weird concept to think that surrendering can be a good thing yet it is possible.

Surrendering to them, however, has not been easy for me. I've put my faith in people who have promised one thing but failed to deliver, didn't even care to deliver. I've been pushed into corners, had to defend myself when others turned away or didn't even bother to defend me when I took up a position I held high in my heart. I've felt like I've always had to carry my burdens alone, and it's not been a fun experience. If someone tries to tell me what's best for me, not even really knowing me all that well, it's aggravating.

And I treat my Gods like this, like they're strangers when they're not, when they've been with me the longest.

Surrendering control of my life to them? It's like this huge dirty word yet . . . at the same time I know I'm being directed to bigger, better things by my Gods. I have all of these dreams for the future, things I want to do, that I try to force my way into doing, and it doesn't always work out the way I want.

I know. Weird of me talking about surrender as a writer yet I surrender myself to the ideas of my stories, I allow them to flow the way they want to flow.

I have a major project in the works. I'm struggling with it a little as I also try to get Ravensrealm out for the November 4 publication.

Surrender isn't easy. But I'm writing it out now. I have faith that I'm being guided to better things. It sounds strange, but it's true. I know, I have faith I am cared for and loved by my Gods.

We don't always get what we want. We get what we need.

Peace and love to everyone who reads this.

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  • Mon, 17:19: I wish I would have started doing word sprints sooner after participating in my first actual write-in earlier this year. These are fun!

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