Update on a Kindle as a Proofreading Device

My last post was about emailing your manuscript to your Kindle and reading it there for proofreading. I thought I’d share my experiences with this.

The first time I went through the manuscript, I did it by reading it on the Kindle and jotting down in a notebook any corrections or changes I wanted to make. I would later go to the computer to implement those changes. The big advantage of doing it that way was that I could proofread anywhere. I was doing this during the Christmas season and did it in the car (while my husband was driving, of course) while we were heading to various relatives’ houses who live an hour or more away. I also did this while sitting on a bench in a grocery store while my husband escorted his mother while she shopped, and during downtimes at my job. The upside of this was I utilized time that would have otherwise been wasted. The downside was then having to go back to the computer and input the changes. (The other downside was that sometimes I couldn’t read my own notes and had trouble figuring out what I wanted to change or correct; this was in part due to my own awful handwriting, and in part to sometimes writing in a speeding car on pothole-filled roads.)

The second time I read through the manuscript on the Kindle, I did it while sitting in front of my computer and making the changes as I happened upon them. That method has proven far faster although it does lack the flexibility of the first method. One advantage I found of having the manuscript on the Kindle while you’re making changes is that you have the original before you on the Kindle while you change the onscreen manuscript. If you mess up, or as sometimes happens to me, words, or sometimes whole sentences, just mysteriously disappear from the screen (I swear there is a gremlin living in my computer), you still have the original version right there before you on the Kindle.

On the whole I’m happy with the Kindle as a proofreading device. Besides the smaller-sized screen making it easier to see any typos, I’ve also noticed how long a paragraph can appear to be on Kindle vs. on the computer screen. I’m not saying that’s going to change my writing style into one- or two-sentence paragraphs, but on a few occasions I did break up long-appearing paragraphs when I could (these paragraphs would have looked normal sized in a print book, and they did look normal size on the computer screen. But it’s good to know how their appearance is altered on a reading device.) Since Amazon changes your emailed manuscript to mobi, you can also see if you’d made any formatting errors that will make it look wonky, and I figure it’s better to get that squared away now than when it’s uploaded to KDP and seen on the previewer there.

Happy writing, proofing, and MLK Day!

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The Proof is in the Reading (or Proofreading Made Easier)

I was rather surprised to see that it had been over a month since I had last posted. I could say I’m like ‘Mr. Ed,’ in that I do never speak (post), unless I have something to say. That’s partially true but I have in fact simply had my nose to the grindstone trying to get two books ready for publishing. One is still in the midst of editing, and one is in final proofreading. It’s because of that latter one that I’ve raised my head to share something I’ve discovered that potentially makes proofreading easier.

These are not my ideas. I learned one on the Kindle forum and have been using it with what I hope is great success, and the second, which I learned from a KDP writers’ Facebook page, I haven’t tried in depth yet.

The first method:

Did you know you can email documents to your Kindle? A woman on the KDP forums who signs her posts as ‘Hils’ shared that bit of knowledge. I don’t know if it works for all Kindles, but I do know that it works for Paperwhites, as that is what I have. You can get your Kindle email address from your Amazon account online under Manage My Devices, or find it on your Paperwhite by going to Settings, Device Options, Personalize Your Kindle, and under that section there is a sub-section called: Send to Kindle email, which gives your Kindle e-mail address. You can send your manuscript to yourself as a doc file attached to an email and the powers that be at Amazon convert it to a mobi file which then downloads on your Kindle the same as any book you would download. (There was perhaps a 5-to-10-minute wait between sending the email and having it download to my Kindle, so it’s not like uploading a book for publishing and having to wait up to 12 hours – or more – before it’s available.)

The big advantage I have found in using this method for the final proofreading/s is that the smaller screen seems to make it easier to catch mistakes, at least for me. And because it’s been converted to a mobi file, you can also see if there are any formatting errors that make the text look wonky. ‘Hils’ had mentioned making notes on her Kindle for anything she wanted to change, but I went old-school and used a notebook to jot down my changes and then when back to Word and used ‘find’ or ‘find and replace’ to make the corrections.

The second method:

Did you know Word can talk? I didn’t make a note of who revealed this on Facebook so I can’t give credit where credit is due, but there is a text-to-speech feature on Word. I’ve found it’s available on Word 2010 and 2013. I also have a computer which has Word 2003, and that version does have speech but not the text-to-speech feature (and typical of the way things go, the voice on the 2003 version is much more pleasant-sounding than the voices on the later versions). It’s very easy to activate (if I can do it, probably a chimp could do it with their eyes closed), but rather than me trying ineptly to explain how to do it, I’ll direct you to this YouTube video which is far more succinct. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ips3k6UdY7Q (If for some reason that link doesn’t work, just Google Word Text-to-Speech for both written and video links.)

I have no idea how many hours it might take to listen to a book this way. (I listen to a lot of books on CD while I drive, and they usually average 10 hours or more). I’ve only tried this out on short segments, which you have to highlight to have read by the computer. I’ve found there doesn’t seem to be a pause button; if you stop the computer narration to make a correction, you have to re-highlight to continue. It does seem like it would be a wonderful way to find those letter inversions that create a real word so that spellcheck doesn’t catch them, and that the eye tends to skim over (like form for from, or tired for tried).

So there you have it, two tools that may help you with your proofreading.

Write Right, Right Now?

I’ve always written with the thought that getting the story down was the most important thing initially, and that going back later to fix everything up was the right way to do it. I felt vindicated in this belief when I read in Stephen King’s book on writing a similar directive. Paraphrasing from memory, I recall him saying that you shouldn’t stop to check facts or use a dictionary or thesaurus to find just the right word because that could be done later, and to just keep writing, striking while the iron is hot, so to speak. It’s kind of like building a house: you put up the walls, put in the floors, get the basic house put together, and then you take the time to go back and add the paint and wallpaper and whatever else you have to do to make it pretty.

But of late, it seems that I’m spending just as much or more time editing and fixing up as I did writing, and I find myself wondering if there isn’t a better way to go about this.

That made me remember something I’d read long ago that Dean Koontz said back in the day when he was still known as Dean R. Koontz. In fact, he had to have said this way, way back in the day as it involved writing using a typewriter, and I can’t imagine that anyone, let alone a prolific writer like him, would still use a typewriter. He said that he never goes on to the next page until the page he is writing is perfect content-wise. I think he added something cutesy to it about how he wastes a lot of paper but in the long run, he saves a lot of time.

I’m not sure I bought that back when I first read it, and I’m still not sure I’d buy that now. What if, later in the story, you come up with a twist that didn’t occur to you until then; under Koontz’s dictum, would you just say, forget it, or maybe try to use that twist in another book? To me, part of the beauty of word processing on computers is the ability they give the writer to make changes without having to go back and manually retype page after page after page. You can go back and add whatever change or foreshadowing you need to and you’re ready to go again.

In my most recent work, I initially tried doing a review of what I’d written every few chapters in the hopes this would keep me from spending quite so many hours just making basic corrections once I was done with the initial draft. However, I found that distracting from the goal of actually writing, and decided to plow on rather than edit as I went. Now that I’m starting to edit, I’m wondering if I hadn’t given it up too soon. But I have also noticed that the first 50 or so pages I ‘pre-edited’ are still full of things I now want to change. The bottom line seems to be that ‘pre-editing’ didn’t do me any good whatsoever.

Getting your writing right the first time certainly seems to work for Koontz. I googled him but couldn’t find a listing of how many books he’s written in his career, but did see that he’s had 14 hardcover and 14 paperbacks get to the number one spot on best-seller lists. Even if you don’ t like the type of books he writes, that’s a pretty impressive achievement.

Stephen King, who advocates writing now-editing later, has written fifty-five books and over 200 short stories. With that kind of output, editing later hasn’t seemed to slow him down. (For King, I couldn’t find anything that told me how many of his books reached number one, but it has to be more than a few.)

Until or unless I can come up with some alternative method, I’m on Stephen King’s side of the fence, all for getting it done, warts and all, and then dealing with the consequences. I’d be interested in knowing if there are any Koontz-like perfectionists out there who can work on a book and then, when they either actually or metaphorically type ‘The End,’ are actually done with it.

Editing – Argh!

Do you remember those innocent days when you thought the hard part was going to be writing the book? Then you discovered that when the writing was finished, the book really wasn’t, because you still needed to do editing (cue scary music).

[First, let me define my term. I include under the editing umbrella fixing up the plot, making sure the continuity is right, tightening up the writing, making sure the word usage is correct, as well as the grammar, spelling (not so difficult any more now that there’s spell check, but then it’s not perfect in that the word can be spelled right but still be the wrong word, e.g., mean when it should have been meant), and punctuation, and that last huge bugbear, proofreading. There may be more things to it, but those are what come to mind offhand.]

Fixing up the plot isn’t so bad. I think by the time you reach ‘The End,’ you already have a pretty good idea of the places you have to go back to and fix up so that everything is copacetic and cohesive. Continuity problems should stand out when you do a read-through (but apparently they don’t always, not even for best-selling authors with professional editors. Case in point: I recently read a James Patterson-Alex Cross novel in which the Cross family was having their kitchen remodeled and had no access to their stove. The 90-something grandmother was doing all the cooking on a hot plate in the dining room. Yet she managed to make ‘baked’ pork chops for the family. There is no way one can bake on a hot plate. That ‘baked’ should have been ‘fried.’ And who lets their 90-year-old grandmother do all the cooking for the family? Especially since in a prior book she had almost total body failure, heart, lungs, kidneys, and now she’s back slaving over a hot plate? Does that qualify as elder abuse?)

Tightening the writing isn’t too bad once you get over the feeling that every word you wrote is precious and deserves to be in the book. I was very lucky in that I went back to college later in life and had two history teachers who were excellent editors — they even slashed up the essays you wrote during a test — and I got to see first hand how much better writing can be when you get rid of the excesses. Not that it’s always easy, but I have been willing to get rid of a lot more than I used to if it made things move faster and more readable.

Sometimes in the haste of trying to get it all down, you might use a word you think is right, but maybe it isn’t. I’ve been surprised sometimes when I’ve used familiar word and checked its definition and found out its real meaning wasn’t quite what I thought it was. (Another case in point: prodigal. Everyone assumes from the Bible story that it means long lost. Nope. Try wasteful. It’s misused about 99.9% of the time.) If you don’t own a dictionary, use an online version.

But the worst part of all in editing is proofreading. It’s horrible. It should be banned. But it’s absolutely necessary, and unfortunately, at least in my case, has to be done multiple times. Because you know what’s supposed to be there, and whether it’s there or not, your helpful brain lets you see what you expect to see. Like the ‘or’ when it should be ‘of’ or ‘of’ when it should be ‘if.’ And it’s not just the little things. I think I read my most recent work five times before I noticed that in one part the phrase ‘for the’ actually read ‘for the for the.’ Now, how did that happen? I can’t imagine that in my haste to get what I wanted to say down on paper I actually typed the same words twice. It had to be the gremlin that lives in my computer. I have yet to figure out an easier way to proofread, and if somebody knows something, please share it. I’ve tried reading the manuscript out loud which I felt was a surefire way to catch mistakes, but that proved not to be true. I’ve passed it on to friends. In one instant, the first friend found about 25 typos. In the process of correcting what she’d found, I found about 75 more. The friend that read that corrected copy found some more after that. And that was in a manuscript I thought was in excellent shape when I gave it to the first reader.

And bear in mind that editing holds fast to Murphy’s Law: it’s going to take much longer than you think. I had thought I’d have a book ready to publish in early September. I finally published it yesterday. Murphy’s Law in action. I hope I didn’t miss anything, or at least not anything too glaring when editing. But if I did, I’ll remind myself that even professionals screw up some time. In the same James Patterson book mentioned above, there was a word, it might have been ‘lucky’ or something similar, that was written along the lines of l*uc&ky.’ I thought at first it was supposed to be a comic strip type expletive, but no, it was just a normal part of the sentence.

Good luck with your own editing!

(And in a blatant bit of self-promotion, here is a link to my latest book:

SSA-Ver.6A-Glow-Sepia16-24

http://amzn.com/B00OU1AO6U

To Print or Not To Print

It was a number of years ago that I stopped printing out copies of my books, for a couple different reasons. My storage space was, and still is, minimal, and I thought the space I’d need for future manuscripts could best be used otherwise. Ecologically, my print-outs could be viewed as a waste of paper/trees; after all, I had the original documents on computer and if I needed a hard copy, I could always print one at some future time.

This last notion turned out to be a big mistake.

I’ve run into a streak of bad luck with files saved on the computer or flash drives lately. Did you know that flash drives and external hard drives have a life expectancy of about 5 years? An IT person who’d helped me when my digital camera ate all my photos had warned me of that, probably about 5 years ago, but I didn’t listen then, and I’m sorry now. I’m having files go corrupt on me right and left. And then there’s file content that has just disappeared. I’d done a complete edit of a book and was going to take one last look at it before I uploaded it to KDP. I opened the file, and nothing was there. That was okay, I reassured myself, because I save things to more than one place in lieu of printing anything. I had it on a flash (only it had disappeared there), I had it on the hard drive, and I had it on an external hard drive.

Only I didn’t.

All three files were there by name, but were completely blank when I opened them. I ran searches, hoping I’d find the files mis-saved somewhere, but nothing ever showed up. And I didn’t have a hard copy. Fortunately, I had once taken my flash drive to work to use that computer to do something and had saved a copy of the file there. It wasn’t an edited version but at least it was a copy I could use to start over. If I’d had to rewrite that book, I don’t think I could have done it. As it was, it probably took me six weeks to redo the editing/rewriting I’d already done.

I had another file that went corrupt in a strange manner; most of the file is there, but there are big gaps in it just containing computer gobbley-gook. I’ve printed out what text I have, but I haven’t had the heart to see if I can recreate the missing portions.

Then, just this week, I turned on the computer, ready to do my writing for the day. I went to the end of the file of my WIP and something was wrong. I’d had a stellar day the day before and produced far beyond my usual word count.

Only now it wasn’t there. Seventeen pages gone.

I held my breath as I closed that file and opened the file on my external hard drive. The pages were there! Big sigh of relief.

All this has started me rethinking going without printing a manuscript and trusting the computer to have it there and waiting for me. I’m even thinking along the lines of printing my output on a daily basis, because if I have a case of a full or partially disappearing manuscript again, at least I’d have a way to reproduce it. Yes, it would be a pain to have to retype it into the computer, but far less of a pain than having to recreate it from scratch.

There’s got to be a way I can make up that paper use ecologically. Or maybe I already am. E-books don’t use up any trees, after all.

So consider printing to be on the safe side. And keep track of how old your flash drives and external hard drives are. Apparently the IT guy did know what he was talking about.

The Blurb

THE BLURB. Doesn’t that sound like a good name for a horror movie? And having to produce a blurb already strikes terror in the heart of writers. It’s hard enough to write the book itself, but then, after you’ve slogged through writing anything from 80,000 to 200,000 words, you’re supposed to sum it up in a half-dozen sentences? What mental patient came up with that idea? Your book has twists and turns, nuances and insights, and how can it possibly be summarized in a few sentences without losing what makes it so special?

When I would attempt to write a blurb (or its nasty cousin, the query letter), I’d start by first writing a much longer, more detailed synopsis and then pare it down and down and down until it was at the maximum acceptable length. I still didn’t like it, I didn’t think it was a good representation, but that was what was required, so what else was there to do?

A couple years ago, I attended a writers’ conference that gave attendees the opportunity to pitch to an agent. That’s how I learned that a pitch is every bit as bad as a blurb, and possibly even more so because you have to do it out loud to a (usually) disinterested agent who has already heard far too many of them and doesn’t really care if they hear yours. (This was my first time to meet any agents in the flesh. I’m sure there are some who are very nice people – the law of averages would almost assure that, right? – but they weren’t the ones attending this conference.)

Prior to the conference, I’d found a book at my library, Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read by Michael Hauge. I no longer recall what it said to do (and my library no longer has this book so I couldn’t refresh my memory), but I do know I got my pitch down to the allotted time (which was something like 2 minutes for everything – come in, sit down, give your pitch, answer any questions, get out, NEXT!). And whatever it recommended doing may have worked, because the agent did tell me I could send her my manuscript. Only I didn’t, because (a) I thought it was a pro forma invitation probably made to one and all at the behest of the organizers of the conference, and (b) I took an instant dislike to the woman (imagine a fat, nasty spider in the guise of a human) and knew that even if she could sell the hell out of my book, I didn’t want to deal with her. (Was I ever sorry I didn’t send it in? No. I really dislike spiders and if I had to deal with the human version of one regularly, it would have given me endless nightmares.)

A couple weeks ago I began following a blog by the author of the book on increasing your writing output I mentioned in the post Words, Pages, or Time (her blog is called Pretentious Title at http://www.thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com). She posted about a book, Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. I’m not the least bit interested in screenwriting, but apparently pitches/blurbs and screenwriting really seem to go together, as you may have noticed that the aforementioned book also referenced screenwriting. I found a copy at my library, and while I haven’t gotten much past the first chapter, I really did like what it said about ‘loglines’ – the one-sentence description one sees on a movie’s poster. He also implored writers to be able to answer the question, ‘What is it?’ about their book/screenplay, and gives ten genres that most screenplays fall into. These aren’t the usual book-type genres of mystery, romance, Western, etc., but things like ‘monster in the house’ or ‘rites of passage.’ These genres also seemed applicable to novels.

But it was the one-sentence logline idea that resonated with me. I figure if you can come up with one sentence to summarize your book, creating a tight, taut blurb should be a piece of cake after that. Even before I read that part of the book, I had already begun disliking blurbs that run to the maximum wordage allowed on their distributor. Oftentimes they would have so much information in them, I didn’t feel I had to read the book itself. A blurb I read the other day actually gave away the ending – why would the author do that? (It’s bad enough when you get a reviewer who gives away plot points that were supposed to be a surprise to the reader, but now can never be that because there they are, spelled out in detail in the review.)

But I digress. I intend to keep reading Save The Cat and will pass along any additional salient information I find in it. I’m not wholeheartedly sold on the book yet, and especially disliked finding that when I got to the end of Chapter One, there were ‘Exercises’ for the reader to do. Hey, I’m not in fifth grade where I read a lesson and then have to answer questions about it to make sure I had full comprehension. It seems to be a very grade-school thing to put in a book intended for adults (unless 5th graders are screenwriters these days?). Or maybe the author runs a class on screenwriting and this book is based on his lesson plans. Who knows?

What do you think? Would a movie called THE BLURB fall into the ‘monster-in-the-house’ category? And there’s already a built-in sequel: THE BLURB 2: QUERY LETTER!

LUCKY US

A week ago today, the power went out in my neighborhood. This happens far more often than should be warranted and often without any discernible cause. But last Friday, there was a brief but powerful storm that downed countless trees, and thus the power failure resulted. The power company advised repeatedly, since I was calling their automated info line every hour, that the expected restore time was Monday morning.

While our power failures occur year round, they tend to occur with greatest frequency in the summer months. Thus when summer was approaching, I decided it was time to buy a laptop so that when a power failure did occur, I could still be productive in the writing side of my life. I had never used a laptop before and after two months of typing on it, I’m still adjusting to its flat keyboard which just feels wrong to me, although I did become instantly smitten with the laptop’s portability. I could take it to the library to use their internet (I have a really crappy connection at home) and no longer had to sit in the lab with the regulars like Hooty Boy (who hoots constantly), the Giggler (who giggles constantly), Chip Man (who brings in a gigantic bag of potato chips and eats it messily while surfing the web), and more (Crabby Girl, the Sigher, the Pounder — I guess you get the picture as to what they’re like, as well as see I’m not very original in giving names to annoying people). While I liked the portable aspect of the laptop, Windows 8.1 I could live without, and MS Office 2013 is a giant step backwards, if you ask me. (Where’s the Windows Picture Manager? Where’s the draft mode for Word that lets you see the styles on the side of the screen? Really, what were they thinking, deleting some of the best features?)

As these things usually happen, because I bought a laptop, we didn’t have our usual number of power failures this summer. Last week’s power failure was my first test of using the laptop in what turned out to be almost pitch-dark conditions. It wasn’t a resounding failure but it wasn’t that much of a success. I had never noticed when the lights were on that the little bumps on the letters F and J to indicate hand placement were so minute they were almost indistinguishable from the other keys, so I kept putting my fingers on the wrong keys. You can imagine what that looked like when I started typing. Plus I couldn’t find the backspace key in the dark. I had to keep stopping typing to shine a flashlight on the keyboard to find it. When looking at the bright screen in the dark room started to bring on an ocular migraine, I gave up. It looked like I was going to waste two days because of the power failure; I couldn’t even bring my laptop to the library and use it (and recharge it) there, as the library was also closed due to a loss of power.

Fortunately, instead of the power being out for 72+ hours, it came back after only 27 hours. But that’s not why I titled this post ‘Lucky Us.’ It doesn’t refer to my family regaining power sooner than expected, but to the ‘us’ who write in this era.

I briefly considered writing by hand while the power was out. The trouble with that is, by handwriting alone, I could qualify to be a doctor. My handwriting is illegible even to me. Within seconds of having written something down, I can’t tell what it says. I am the Fran Drescher of handwriting. She wrote in one of her memoirs that she can control her nasal, annoying voice only if she speaks extremely slowly. I can write neatly only if I write very slowly, and there’s no way I can keep up with my own thoughts.

Living without power for just over a day made me reflect on what it had been like for people, or more specifically, writers, who lived before electricity. Of course they were better prepared for nightfall than we who are accustomed to having electricity are. They had candles and lanterns and oil-burning lamps so they could see in the darkness. But even with that part of the problem solved, they actually had to write, by hand, not on a computer, not even on a typewriter. A few years ago I was at the British Museum and they had a display of some original manuscript pages from Jane Eyre. First of all, Charlotte Bronte had lovely, legible, handwriting, and hardly any cross-outs or corrections. (Maybe when you had to do all the writing by hand, you were very careful about what you actually put down on the page.) They also had on display a few pages written by Shakespeare. I still have his complete works from a college course many years ago. It’s about two inches thick with microscopic print on tissue-thin paper. I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to simply photocopy all of that, let alone be the one who actually physically wrote it. Just think, he had to dip a pen or a quill in ink and write down all of those words. The prospect is daunting. Did he have time for anything else in his life?

So we are lucky to live now, not just because we have computers that allow us to not only type quickly but to make corrections easily and to print out what we’ve written with just a few clicks or taps on keys. We’re also lucky because with the advent of KDP and other e-publishing ventures, we’re not at the mercy of editors and publishers when we want to release our works into the world and see what happens to them. And, except for occasional power failures, we have light.

Lucky us.

Words, Pages, or Time

Of great interest to me lately has been becoming more productive in my writing life. For years the best advice I felt I ever got (mentioned in the post The Best Advice That I Can’t Give) has been to make sure you write every day, at least a page a day, to complete the first draft of a book in a year. I’ve always treated that as a minimum and did more, but that hasn’t been cutting it for me lately. So I’ve been trying to read everything I can find about ways to up productivity.

A lot of the stuff I found was about writing those very short non-fiction books that abound on Amazon, usually for about 99 cents. But because I am, to date, strictly a fiction writer, I didn’t find much help there. I did buy a book for 99 cents on Amazon (me being one of the last big-time spenders) by a fiction writer, with a title that promised to increase your word count to 10,000 words a day. That sounded good to me. It used to be, in the dark ages when typewriters were used, that the average word count for a page was 250 words for a double-spaced page; 10,000 words would mean 40 pages each day. (Not that I use a typewriter, and it seems unlikely anyone else does either anymore. Well, maybe Herman Wouk still uses one. He’s in his late 90s and still producing books, but then it seems I’ve read he was planning on e-publishing an indie book, so maybe even someone his age has switched to a computer-based word processing program.) I currently use Word set at 1.5 line spacing and that seems to average around 400 words a page, which would make 10,000 words a day yield 25 pages. Not bad.

The book wasn’t bad either, the writing both straightforward and entertaining. But the secret to the 10,000-words-a-day success was basically outlining. If you have everything planned out beforehand, when you sit down to write, you’ll be able to speed your way through your novel. She also suggested keeping track of your writing and notice at what times of the day your writing is most productive, and schedule your writing at those times.

It’s not bad advice but it’s not particularly useful to me. While I am very organized (almost to the point of OCD in some regards) in the rest of my life, I am more of a ‘let’s sit down and see what’s going to happen today’ kind of writer. My ‘outline,’ if you can call it that, for my current WIP consists of about four sentences (or phrases if I’m being honest). When I begin a book, I know where it starts, where it ends, and a couple major events in the middle. The rest — well, doesn’t most of the fun of writing come from those moments when your character does something entirely unexpected, that you didn’t even know he/she was going to do?

I do think I got a good take-away from reading that book, however. It made me examine my m.o. of having a page quota. I never extended it past that, in that I didn’t estimate how long the book would be or how long it would take me to get there. This time I did. I knew the length I wanted it to be, and I knew when I wanted to complete it. Because I’d actually counted (or used Word’s word count tool) to estimate the average number of words per page, I could calculate how many pages I needed to write each day to meet my time goal. Eureka! Doing that was something that had never occurred to me. While the number I came up with was over my standard two-page-a-day minimum, it wasn’t that much over (about 3.5 pages) and so far has been achievable. It’s by no means 10,000 words a day, but it’s certainly more than I was producing before, and on days when both time and inspiration are with me, I try to surpass the minimum.

However, scheduling writing time in general won’t work for me. The author of the book was a full-time writer. I don’t think there are many people who can claim that distinction, and our schedules can’t be worked around our muse. Even on days off that should theoretically give us more time for to write, there are always other obligations too. So I write when I can, and make sure I get my quota in — more happily now that I know there’s a finish date I’m aiming for, and should make.

I will continue to read any helpful articles I come across. There’s no telling what hints I might pick up and tweak to work for me. A combination of words and pages works for me, but time doesn’t. It may be entirely different for you.

I’m happy to be coming to the end of this post. Something about the title I gave it has made Michael Bolton’s old song, Time, Love, and Tenderness, start playing repeatedly in my head, and I can’t wait to send it elsewhere!

Happy writing!

Labor Day Weekend

Is there anything greater than a three-day weekend? (Unless, of course, you have a job that requires you to work on Saturdays or Sundays. Working while almost everyone else is off, which I’ve done a few times, is a bummer.)

But Labor Day, three-day weekend or not, has never been one of my favorite holidays. I grew up in Chicago, and at that time (and possibly still today, I just don’t know), the Chicago Public Schools reopened the Wednesday following Labor Day. So Labor Day meant the end of summer freedom and going back to the grind of school. Where I live now, in a suburb of Chicago, the kids go back to school the week before Labor Day. I’d feel sorry for them except nowadays they go back to air-conditioned schools (unheard of in Chicago schools, where we sweltered if the weather was hot in June or September), and they get out of school at the end of May (the Chicago school year lasted until the end of June).

I realized I really didn’t know much about Labor Day and its origins so I did a little Googling. The first Labor Day, before it was an official holiday, was a celebration held in New York City by the Central Labor Union on September 5, 1882. In 1884, the Central Labor Union chose the first Monday in September for their annual Labor Day celebration. The first law that created an official Labor Day holiday was passed in Oregon on February 21, 1887. (That kind of surprised me. No offense to anyone in or from Oregon, but I don’t tend to think of that state as an industrial area.) In 1894, twenty-three states recognized Labor Day as a holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act which made the first Monday of September a legal holiday in Washington, DC.

Did you know the Sunday before Labor Day is Labor Sunday and is supposed to be “dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement”? Neither did I. (All this ‘fascinating’ Labor Day information is courtesy of the U. S. Department of Labor website: http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm)

This Labor Day I’m not looking forward to seeing a parade (the traditional way to celebrate this holiday), or having a picnic or going to a cookout (there are bugs outside; who wants to drag food out of the house to cook or eat while trying to keep flies off the food and mosquitos off of you?). But I am looking forward to having more hours than usual to devote to writing.

That made me think that I really don’t look at writing as work, not even when, under self-imposed deadlines, I’ve written when there were other things I could have been doing (sleeping comes to mind – can never get enough of that!). Did the advent of KDP, Nook, D2D, Lulu, and whoever else is out there, change what was for the majority of writers an avocation into ‘work’ (whether we chose to view it as that or not)? If it is ‘work,’ then it should rightly be termed a labor of love, because we don’t have to do it, nobody’s making us do it, and we’d be doing it whether anyone ever wanted to read it or not (but it’s so much nicer when they do!).

Whatever it is you consider your writing to be, I hope you do end up with extra time to work on it this holiday weekend,if that’s what want to do, and if it’s not, enjoy what you do instead!

The Irony of Being An Indie Author

I think I first happened upon the idea of becoming a writer when I was in third grade. My reason for wanting to be a writer was probably the usual one: I loved to read. I loved the adventures books could give me without my ever having to leave my house (except maybe to read on the porch). I wanted to do what the authors I read did: create new worlds, new adventures, and new lives too.

Of course things didn’t work out quite as I planned. Tons of rejection letters, and, when I finally had a publisher ready to offer me a contract, that publisher was sold and the new owner decided, in corporate speak, ‘to take things in a different direction’ and no longer wanted my book — none of that was in my life plan. Then I learned about KDP, and since I’m not the most computer literate person in the world, it took me about six months and an e-class on e-publishing to figure out all the ins-and-outs of getting a manuscript ready to publish electronically. I finally managed that in January of this year, and now have four books published, and two more in various stages of preparation for publishing. (And please excuse a little bragging here as I’m so excited over this news: at the time I am writing this – Thursday, 8/21/14, around 10:30 a.m. – one of my books. Secrets in Stone, has reached #14 in its category, Romance-Gothic. I know this ranking won’t last, as it is updated every two hours or so, and I fully realize that it’s not the same as being on Amazon’s best-seller list. But considering the last time I had tried to market that book to an agent, I received an almost instantaneous automated return email rejecting it, even though there hadn’t been time for them to actually read my query. Getting that ranking enables me to say: Ha-ha, agent, I actually do have a book people want to read!)

Back to the irony: As an indie author, you are much more than just the author — you’re your own editor and proofreader; you’re your own publisher; whether you buy a ready-made book cover, hire an artist to produce one, or make it yourself, you’re your own book designer; and you’re your own marketing director. That’s a lot of hats to wear and a never-ending flow of work to get your books out there in front of buyers. I am finding with the time-consumption that wearing all these hats requires, I no longer have much time to actually read. I’m lucky if I can fit in ten minutes a day. There are no more long, lazy weekend afternoons spent on the couch with a good book. The very thing I loved enough to want to make producing books my life’s work is what I’m not able to fit into my life very easily any more. I suspect that other indie authors are having the same experience. I suppose as well that no matter what it is you choose to do with your life, it requires sacrifice in some other area. And I really, truly do love being an indie author.

It’s just that… I miss reading.