Editing your novel: A baseball metaphor

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Editing a novel is like baseball. It’s a long season. It’s never perfect. And theoretically, like an extra inning game where no one ever scores, it could go on forever. I’m in deep right now, but I’m not even to the All-Star Break. I know the first 1/3 of my book needs the most work (based on the opinion of me and one other person.) That illusion may be shattered as I get more feedback from other beta-readers (one of whom keeps taking island vacations.)

I’m on my second sweep of my book. Let’s call the first sweep Spring Training (if you’re okay with me beating this metaphor into the ground.) After round two I’ll be bringing in my hired help: a woman who will make me question my ability for form complete sentences, much less put together 80,000 words. I’ll fold into the fetal position like Bill Buckner after Game 6 and just cry.

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Give the guy a break. He was playing on two sprained ankles.

Wait. There’s no crying in baseball!

My editor will coax me into an upright position with a refreshing local IPA and we’ll begin to analyze my book with a depth usually reserved for Steinbeck or Faulkner. I guess that makes her my “closer.” My Goose Gossage. My baseball references are showing my age. Fortunately, my conversation about editing in this week’s Creative Loafing is void of bad baseball references. Check it out HERE.

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That book isn’t going to edit itself!

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My name is Jonathan Kile and I have a book to edit. For a while I was content to let it sit in the hands of my beta-readers and pretend that there was nothing to do until I started to get their notes. Ahhh, Procrastination. The Greek God of – Oh Look, Something Else To Do! Procrastination is actually one of the more powerful gods and has probably saved us from many bad books. But in it’s fiery swath, it has likely taken a few masterpieces down too.

So yeah, I’ve been procrastinating, and I have a damned good excuse which I wrote about in Creative Loafing this week. But if The Napoleon Bloom with it’s “flowery” title is going to make it out this spring (technically by June 20) I must get back to work.

“Excuse me, Mr. Kile, isn’t writing a blog just another form of procrastination.” (Yes, a blog written by a novelist is by definition their public form of time wasting.)

So, RIGHT NOW, I’m going to spice up my first five chapters because my first beta-reader said they were a “little slow” (and by “a little slow,” she meant she “might not have finished it it she hadn’t promised” – ouch!). When I don’t finish a book, I use a more literary phrase, “It sucked.” I can’t ask my volunteers to use such technical terms all of the time.

So, what I thought was deep character building – nay a character’s dark introspective journey –  was zzzzzzz sleepy. Another beta-reader said it wasn’t slow, but then she said she was on Chapter 2. I’m just going to drop a clown and car chase in there and be done.

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I believe it was Stephen King who said, “If your story isn’t taking off, toss in a clown.” Photo Credit: Speeder1 via Compfight cc

Don’t forget, I’m writing more frequently at Creative Loafing. With the sequel coming out in a couple of months, now is a great time to read The Grandfather ClockIt costs a measly 99 cents. You’ll be mad when I go “bestseller” raise my price to $12.99 for the eBook and forget who my friends were.

Thanks for cruising by.

Jonathan Kile / jkilewrites@gmail.com

Offensive Language and the Great Comic Sans

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Hot controversy on my column for Creative Loafing this week.  I took umbrage with renowned philosopher, neuroscientist, NYT Best Selling opiner Sam Harris mass emailing his list of subscribers for donations to support his blog. My wife said, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Sam Harris makes a living debating people in front of Ivy League audiences, so I’m pretty sure he could drink two bottles of grain alcohol and still crush me in a debate about anything. I just think – nay HOPE – that when you’ve had 5 or 6 best sellers, the days of blasting your list for donations might end. Where’s the publisher who supports their chart-topping author? The man’s blog is his lifeline to his readers.

So my issue wasn’t much with Sam Harris, whose writing I enjoy, even if I often disagree with him. And my initial draft was pretty soft on him. Unfortunately, the editor at Creative Loafing, we’ll call her Cathy because that’s her name, is not one to avoid controversy. She hates dolphins and Publix – which should get her kicked out of Florida. She declared the first draft to be “milquetoast,” which is about the most offensive thing you could say about someone’s writing. So I edited the piece, turned up the snark a little, and she published it. I assume it fell somewhere between milquetoast and inflammatorily offensive.

I did not get hate mail from the Sam Harris fan club. (Probably because they read “Waking Up” and instead of getting mad, they crossed their legs and did 20 minutes of mindful meditation.) But I did get a very, very, very, very long comment from a reader who declared, “I want to puke when I see or hear the term ‘indie writer’ being used.” He then rattled off a rant that consisted mostly of inspirational quotes he deemed to be “words of wisdom” that should resonate “big time.” The commenter, Ernie, is a bit of authority as he has been self publishing since 1989, and has sold WAY more books than I have. His titles include, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free (score one for the Oxford Comma), Career Success Without a Real JobLife’s Secret Handbook For Having Great Friends, and The Joy of Not Being Married. The man is also a lover of the Comic Sans family of typefaces and using as many as possible in one book cover. But who am I to judge? I’m just a struggling novelist who is married, not retired, with tons of useless friends.

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An inordinate amount of my time was spent enjoying hundreds of memes on the subject of Comic Sans.

Who knew that it would be the use of the word “indie” that would get me in trouble? I’ve used the term “indie publishing” as a way to differentiate between the old days of self publishing with vanity presses and authors stockpiling boxes of books in their garage. To be clear, I’m still learning the ropes and that’s precisely why I’m writing about it. I’m not a best seller yet, despite my day in the Amazon top 20 that bought me a decent lunch. I’m hoping people can learn from my successes and mistakes. What did we learn this week?

Stay off Ernie’s lawn.

If you like, or hate what you read here, drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com or leave a comment below. Sign up for updates on the left and I’ll never ask you for a donation.

My Blog is Loafing, Creatively

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If you’re wondering where all my wit and wisdom has gone, my energy has been siphoned over to my bi-weekly column on Creative Loafing, the Tampa area’s preeminent entertainment magazine. My intention has been to post here weekly, but my intention was also to publish 2 books in 2015, paint the upstairs of my house, and re-stain my deck.

In the next few weeks the sequel to The Grandfather Clocktitled The Napoleon Bloom, will leave the hands of beta readers. I will sit with each of them over beverages and take in their very critical reviews. Then it will go to my editor, we’ll call her Shelly because that’s her name and we only protect the innocent on this blog. To give you an idea of what happens when Shelly gets her hands on my manuscript, look only to the changes in The Grandfather Clock. 

In its first draft my main character, Michael Chance, made a lot of mistakes and said stupid things. When this happened, Shelly would tactfully write something like, “IDIOT,” or “MORON,” in the margin in order to subtly point out when Michael behaved questionably. Sometimes she would expound upon these comments with words that would make Michael openly weep. The end result was a (somewhat) smarter, more likable, more sympathetic protagonist people would pull for. The book also got shorter (when I thought it would get longer).

I encourage you to read my other blog, The Self Publishing Notebook, and take advantage of my book’s 99 CENT Kindle price. Don’t have a Kindle. Yes, you do. Kindle is available for every platform of phone, laptop and tablet (even Blackberry.) It’s not available on Nook, because Nook was murdered by Amazon, as I’m sure I predicted.

My next post hits next Tuesday and I’m considering setting my critical sights on a bigger fish than my page’s editor, and taking (kind and respectful) umbrage with a bestselling author.

Thanks!  – JK

 

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Crawl before you walk… Pub Crawl, that is

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A quick update… my last two blog posts for Creative Loafing are HERE and HERE. I talk about the arranged marriage that self publishers must enter into with Amazon.com and the latest data that suggests… nay, proves… that self publishing is a better investment of your time and resources than sending query letters and waiting for someone to ask you to prom. Find out why Hugh Howey says, “Self-publishing is simply a more viable path to earning a living and reaching readers than sending query letters to agents, and it isn’t even close.”

Also, for my St. Pete area readers, tomorrow I’ll be joining my infamous neighbor, Nathan Van Coops for part of the SunLit Festival Pub Crawl. We’ll be reading a fictitious (?) piece about the increasingly tense rivalry between two self published authors living across the street from each other. Nathan recently hit #1 on the Sci Fi charts on Amazon UK with his second book, The ChronothonThen he hit #1 in Australia for good measure. I’ll be inviting Nate to share his wisdom here, but only when I’m ready to promote my new book along with said wisdom. Come see us at Bodega on Central at 7:00 on Wednesday, March 9. We will either be funny enough to make you laugh, or so unfunny, you’ll laugh harder.

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No designers were harmed in the making of this logo.

My beta readers are still reading my first draft, so I don’t have any feedback yet. When I do, I promise to post a play-by-play of the emotional stages that follow these discussions. It’ll be fun.

Thanks for reading!

By day I am a peddler of petroleum products, navigating a Glengarry Glen Ross landscape of cutthroat sales. By night I assume the identity of novelist and child-wrangler. My first published novel The Grandfather Clock is available on amazon.com. I am currently writing my second and third novels, blogging here and at Creative Loafing and cursing my editor.

 

 

Beta Readers on Deck AND More Talk About Chai

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First draft manuscripts of The Napoleon Bloom are currently being printed and will be delivered to my beta-readers within days. Who are my beta readers? One is a local journalist who specializes in the deep investigative journalism of a bizarre small town (Who is stealing the ducks from the pond?) and she’s also arts editor of a big local magazine and writes romances and travel books and apparently has way more time than I do.

Beta reader #2 is an architect with an IQ of 428 and one of the most deadpanned honest people you’ll run in to. She’s incapable of sugar-coating her thoughts, but in a way that doesn’t (typically) leave me in tears.

Beta reader #3 is a local attorney who I met via Facebook (and a pediatrician’s waiting room) – with a sense of humor that rivals only my own (humbly speaking, of course.)

Jon Talk Chai. Jon Talk Chai Very Well

I have to correct a wrong. Last month I was unfair to chai tea. First, that sentence is redundant because “chai” means tea in Hindi. I had just finished reading Gregory David Roberts’ brilliant The Mountain Shadow (the follow-up to his even more brilliant Shantaram), and I commented on how the characters were constantly drinking chai. It’s set in India, so it’s basically the equivalent of having coffee in New York, but it stood out to me and I had to find out what the fuss was all about. I’m not talking about old ladies having tea. These were gangsters, drug runners, murderers and gun dealers, taking their chai very seriously. So I bought some really cheap “Chai Green Tea” from the supermarket shelf, next to the Earl Grays and chamomiles. This was the chai equivalent of calling Miller High Life “craft beer.”

As luck would have it, a meeting of local literary minds was called to be held in a new tea shop in St. Petersburg called The Station House, featuring tea from a locally successful tea empire called TeBella. (Locals, even if you don’t drink tea, grab a cup of coffee in what has to be the nicest tea/coffee lounge within a thousand miles. It’s Versailles.) In my original blog post, I decided that an adequately tattooed and pierced barista would need to prepare a proper chai tea. Well this one came with dreadlocks too, and she guided me perfectly through the ordering process.

We’ve Created a Chai Drinking Monster

Now my wife is tired of hearing me talk about chai. Afternoon coffee no more – I go for the less caffeinated, nerve soothing, soul purifying, and oxford comma loving chai latte. Not too sweet. Thank you, lovely barista, for the life-altering cup of goodness. Since that maiden cup of chai, I’ve tested a few other versions. Kawah coffee – good – also uses TeBella tea. Starbucks, very tasty – but a bit sweet, and I learned that it has as much sugar as a Snickers bar, which sort of destroys the Zen aspect of the experience.

At home, things have improved in my chai brewing skills. I found a better brand of black tea chai. I learned to heat the milk and quickly give it a little whip while the water boils, and I sweeten it with a little honey. Before my friends start calling into question my masculinity, I saw that peppermint-gingerbread-bliss K-Cup in your Keurig rack (you know who you are – and you drank it.) If it’s good enough for a fictional money laundering Australian escaped convict and his Mujahideen friends, it’s good enough for me.

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Not stock photography. This is my actual home brewed chai latte from Sunday afternoon. I now understand the function of a doily.

The book I’m reading now also has quite a bit of tea drinking going on. I’m sinking my teeth into Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. So far, the main character is served lots of tea that has been brewed from already steeped-once tea leaves and he has a tendency to run around the streets of (that other) St. Petersburg in a state of delirium, barking insanely at people. It’s a change of pace and I’m enjoying it.

Thanks for reading. Check out my other online locales at Facebook, Twitter, and my every-other-week blog at Creative Loafing Tampa.

 

 

Check Out My Guest Post on “Amid The Imaginary”

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Just a quick note to let you know that I have a guest post on a blog called Amid the Imaginary this week. Amid the Imaginary is devoted to reviewing Self Published books exclusively. Anela, who writes the blog, asked me to talk about how I persevere as a writer with all of life’s distractions. I told her to stop distracting me (no I didn’t.)

I’ve been looking over the the reviews Anela has posted and let me tell you, she does not hand out stars easily. I don’t know if she plans to review The Grandfather Clock, but if she does, I know it will be an honest one. She’ll drop 2 stars on a book and let you know why. Her commentary is thoughtful and she reviews a LOT of books. Be sure to check it out regularly.

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Amid the Imaginary: Reviews of Indie Published books.

 

Tomorrow you can also check out my next Self Publishing Notebook column for Creative Loafing, where I invent a new term: The Mess-U-Script. You learn a little more about the novel I spent over a year on, and then put it out of it’s misery like Ol’ Yeller.

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I’ve been getting lots of mail at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Join the wave and send me your comments. Sign up on the left to get updates, or drop a comment below.

-Jonathan