Progress Report! (Or how I learned to love my work again!)

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BABY STEPS!

 

I have been an editor/proof-reader for years and always considered myself reasonably good at my job. I never had any complaints, which is my benchmark for how good you really are. In fact, several Literary Agents complimented me on the quality of our submissions.

English was always my favourite subject and I read a lot of books, but never once considered being a writer. I was far too busy managing Anita’s books, back in the day when manuscripts had to be submitted to agents and publishers in a very particular fashion.

Over the years, we received stacks of very encouraging and favourable letters from both agents and publishers alike, almost leading to publication a couple of times but sadly, despite almost being good enough, Anita was never published.

This might have been why I didn’t think of being a writer, after all, I knew better than most, just how bloody hard it was. But eventually, my muse arrived. This was just after the Kindle phenomena took off. Suddenly, everyone could publish their books on Amazon, and it was supposed to be so easy, anyone could do it.

I have to say, in fairness to all the wonderful writers out there, I did find it very hard to write a full-length book. 70.000 words seemed an impossible target, and I doubted my capabilities every step of the way. That first book taught me so much about plot and dialogue, character arcs and subplots, even though it made my head spin. The day I finished Nine Lives, a sense of achievement crept over me as I realised I had become a writer!

That was in 2014, and I went on to write two more thrillers after that. Most of you will know the fun I have had finding the right covers for my books, but I didn’t worry about the content at all. After all, I checked them for spelling errors and I had my editor head on, so they had to be fine.

Or so I thought.

What happened to make me doubt myself?

I had written a memoir/novella about my fight with breast cancer and published it on Amazon. It received one review that commented on how short it was, and when I took a long hard look at it, I had to agree. Not only was it far too short, it could be a lot better. That was when I knew I would have to check my other books too.

I read Nine Lives again and was shocked at the state of it. Where was all the brilliant writing, the competent editor, the jaw-dropping prose? To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly, I wanted to crawl away and die. For nearly a week, I battled with unpublishing my books and throwing them away, for the thought of rewriting them seemed an impossible task.

Gradually, common sense prevailed. They were my babies, I was an editor, I could fix this.

One thought kept me going. If I can now recognise the faults in my writing, does that mean I have improved over the years? I am pretty sure I have, for I am looking at my work with a totally different mindset. Most of what I see is amateur, almost childish. There were so many repeated and wimpy words and adjectives by the bucket load. It probably would have been easier to start afresh, but I am nothing if not stubborn, so I have tried to improve all three books, or die trying! They might be the only thing I leave this world to remember me by!

 

I’m at it Again!

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I have been noticing that KDP (kindle direct publishing) have been going on about how easy it is to create paperback copies of our books using their new system.  Just upload your files and they will do the rest.

I needed to change the cover image on The Scarlet Ribbon, so I thought I would have a go. I never know when or from where these ideas come, I just can’t seem to help myself!

I hadn’t gone far into the process, before I was informed that they didn’t like the format or the size of my content file and offered me a template to use. My first instinct was to run screaming from the office. But I must have been feeling like a bit of a challenge. (this does happen frequently and gets me into more trouble than enough!)

This turned out to be relatively easy to do, so I moved on to the cover image. This time they insisted it had to be a PDF format. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Not only had I never heard of such a thing, I didn’t have a clue how to change it. This is when I really should have run for the hills!

But determination makes me stupid at times, and I tried to change the format with Adobe. I used the image I used on the kindle copy, but the result was so huge, only a tiny piece was visible on the screen. Again, KDP offered me a template to make the cover, which I learned had to incorporate the front, back and spine. Red flags were now in evidence, and my temper was baying at the door. There was nothing for it, but to abandon KDP.

Two cups of coffee later, my brain was still trying to think of a way.  Up to now, I have always used Lulu for our paperbacks. They have complications too, but I have learned to manage them, so I decided to renew the cover on Scarlet Ribbon with them in an effort to rescue my sanity.

Everything was going well, until I reached the cover wizard. This is definitely the wrong name for this stage, for nothing magical happens when you get there. In fact, you need the stubbornness of a mule, luckily something I do possess, to get through it, as tasks never quite turn out as you intended. Sometimes I can spend an hour just getting the spine print right!

I uploaded the new cover image and placed it on the template. Cue instant groan. The title is too close to the top of the cover and has been cropped off. As my patience was still in attendance, albeit in tatters, I knew that all I had to do was create the cover again and lower the title.  But…

I couldn’t find the source image anywhere. I searched through my picture library several times, my mind spinning with the frustration. That was when I did run screaming from the office…

 

What will happen next?

Will I ever manage to publish the paper back for The Scarlet Ribbon?

PROGRESS REPORT x two

 

We have recently run our third FREE Kindle Promotion on another one of Anita’s books, and again it was nothing much to write home about. The first, for Scarlet Ribbons received 36 downloads. The second, for Bad Moon, received 27. This one, for Simple, received 22. Nothing earth shattering as you can see.

Just about had it now with KDP. We gave it a try, again, but we think we might be going back to Smashwords and all that goes with it as soon as possible. And we’re not the only ones! Read Suzanne Rogerson’s post on the subject here.

Not that we did any better on Smashwords either, but we did get loads of free downloads. Which we thought was the way to get us known!

It could just be about being restricted to one outlet. We just don’t like it.

We are also revamping some of our covers. Basically, all the ones we don’t like any more. For they say that if you’re not getting anywhere, change a few things.

I have also just finished the last book in my murder mystery series, and once the editing is done, I will be running a promotion for them all. Either one at a time, or all together, not sure which would be better.

While book three is resting (this is to get it out of my head prior to the edit) I am reading through book two again, as I want to make a significant change to the ending. I am using the Hemingway system to check for any howlers that might have made it past my beta reader. I am actually using a spare paperback copy of book two for the read through, and it is making the job so much better than using a print out.  Easier to hold, for a start.

Hemingway is a very clever piece of kit. It highlights all your bad habits in different colours. See screenshot.

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I was amazed the first time I used it. I had cut and pasted three chapters of book two into it, and the screen lit up like a Christmas tree. All my hard to read sentences, passive sentences, complicated words and those horrible adverbs, all highlighted for my perusal and subsequent removal or alteration. Well worth the small amount of money it cost, as I seem to be getting either lazy or stupid in my old age!

And don’t all rush to agree with me!

 

 

 

 

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That Way Madness Lies…

This post was partly created as the direct result of reading Eleanor’s post, from realtastypages.wordpress.com and the thought provoking image that accompanied it.

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For the past month, I have been driving myself insane trying to come up with an idea for new covers for my soon to be finished Crime Thriller Series.

This came about, because it struck me that the covers I had already chosen were unsuitable. In my opinion, they didn’t reflect the genre or anything about the storyline, and as the last book was almost ready, time was of the essence.

 

BUT . . . the harder I tried, the harder it became. It was turning into a nightmare, keeping me awake at night and completely ruining my established schedule. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, making ever more ridiculous covers, each one worse than the last.

I think the trouble was that they were for a series. Something had to link them all together. I even looked for ready- made covers, but didn’t like any of them either. I began to realise I was in danger of coming unglued. The family were beginning to avoid me, and I would have avoided me too, if I could.

I scanned Amazon, searching through different genres. I prowled around bookshops, but nothing seemed right. Anita was worrying about my ears, likening me to Van Gogh, expecting the worst.

I knew I had to come up with something, and soon, or my three books were in danger of going nowhere, languishing in a drawer, coverless.

 

No, they deserved good covers, good covers are important. I had to do something. In the end, I resolved to create three covers that looked attractive with a shared theme.  Although the idea that I wanted them to look dramatic and intriguing haunted me, but was proving to be impossible for me to do.

It began to dawn on me that I might never find what I wanted. That it was yet another unattainable thing, like searching for the Holy Grail. The secret, I knew, was in the looking, not the finding. It was then that I stepped away from my obsession, finally recognising it for what it was. A symbol of the futility of everything in my life, that endless search for perfection.

 

That was when I found Eleanor’s post.

 

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Here are the covers I started with . . .

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And here are the final covers . . .

 

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Please don’t be afraid to tell me what you think . . .