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Posts Tagged ‘manuscript’

I finally ordered my proof copy of Simply Prayer, formerly Prayerfully Yours. While I’m happy with the file I uploaded to CreateSpace, I’m left wondering if I was my own worst enemy in getting the entire project done to begin with.

I had originally planned on having the book out before the season of Advent, but missed that deadline by a good two months. I reset my deadline to have it ready for Lent 2011 and I’ve just made it. Why all the deadline problems? I tried to cut too many corners. Instead of going the normal route of writing, editing, designing and fixing the details of the design I tried to write and design simultaneously.

Bad idea. Very bad idea.

What I had hoped would shorten the amount of time from the planning stage to the finished product bred headaches and nightmares too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say I won’t be trying that again. And so I want to leave you all with a bit of advice. Follow these four steps and you’ll reduce the irritations and frustrations of the DIY Independent Author.

  1. Write until the story is completely told, or for non-fiction until you begin repeating yourself. Don’t worry about page count and design elements like fonts, pictures or pulled quotes.

  2. Edit your manuscript completely before you even begin to think about what it should look like on the page. Once the design process begins it’ll make it more difficult to add new material, move passages around or delete entire sections.

  3. Design your book with an eye toward more than one media. Ebooks are growing in popularity and soon will become the majority when it comes to purchases, but that doesn’t mean no one will want a well-designed print edition. Yours may become a collector’s edition. If you’re not already proficient in designing print and/or ebooks, then either hire someone to do it for you or find some really good resources like The Book Designer or Elizabeth Castro’s book EPUB Straight to the Point.

  4. Fix the little details of your design, like making sure chapters begin on the right of a print book and new sections/chapters are new pages in ebooks.

What short-cuts have you tried that didn’t end up as you had planned?

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One thing I never really considered until recently was who I expected to read what I’ve written.  It didn’t cross my mind even when I was doing the Problogger Challenge last year.  I always wrote stories and articles I thought I would like to read.  That’s not a horrible way to write, but it makes marketing a bit more difficult.  After all, you wrote it so of course you’d like it.  The problem with that is that you are one person.  Not everyone is like you.  This is why it’s important to create reader profiles.

I found the simplest way to do this in the article “Make Writing Fun: Methods Monitoring Student Writing,” which is written for high school teachers, but I think it’s a great way for anyone to start profiling potential readers.  Think of someone you enjoy telling stories to.  Write down specifics about this person from reasons you enjoy telling your stories to them to reasons they enjoy listening to or reading them.  This gives you a very personal idea of who your potential audience is.

From there you can begin to imagine others who might enjoy your works.  I highly recommend Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone to help develop a rounded out profile of your general readership.  If you’d like to get just a little more creative by doing several individualized profiles you could try Darren Rowse’s style of telling a little story about each imagined reader and including a picture.

Some basic information to consider including in your reader profiles, however you choose to put them together, include:

  • Demographics
  • Financial situation
  • Needs and challenges
  • How they use the web
  • Motivations for reading your work
  • Experience with topic (especially needed for non-fiction)
  • Hopes and dreams

Knowing who you’re writing for can help refine your manuscript as well as make marketing to them simpler on The Road to Writing.


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You’ve been asked to read a friend’s manuscript. After dutifully plowing through 100 pages of less-than-perfect, sometimes entertaining, but often difficult to understand prose you’re left with one question: how do you tell your friend her manuscript needs a lot of work?

Unless you really don’t care about hurting your friend’s feelings and possibly losing a friend, this can be a very tricky situation. I know several writers who refuse to read other people’s unpublished works for just that reason. Yet, it seems crueler to me to let a friend send an unpolished manuscript out knowing you could have helped.

Enter the sandwich method. I don’t know who first came up with the idea, but I say, “God bless ’em,” because it makes giving (and receiving) constructive criticism a lot easier on the old ego. Simply put, the sandwich method gives the criticism “sandwiched” between bits of praise.

I can hear my husband saying, “So I can say ‘I like your hair. Your characters stink, but those jeans are really slimming on you.'”

Uh, no. The praise has to come from something in the manuscript.

“But, Virginia,” you may be whining, “it’s nothing but sentimental drivel and inane cliches!”

That may be; however, as Brenda Ueland says in If You Want to Write, even in the worst writing there is something of value. You may have to look hard, but it is there.

As for the actual criticism, it’s always best to be specific. Telling someone their story didn’t hold your attention doesn’t cut it. Why didn’t it “hold your attention?” Was there too much description? Were the characters two-dimensional and uninteresting? Perhaps the sentences were too long and rambling. Be specific.

Last of all, be sure to end with some more praise. I like to point out something good in the work I didn’t mention before. Sometimes all you can do, though, is reiterate the praise (using different words, of course) that you already gave. Either way, I tell the manuscript’s author that it has potential because I honestly believe everything has potential. Some things just need a lot (and I’m talking about a whole overhaul) of work.

It’s the process of growing one’s work from potential to published through the use of helpful constructive criticism that makes it worthwhile to travel The Road to Writing.

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