Editing is hard. This is nothing new to me. So then why am I having such a difficult time slogging through my second book. Everything is written. All I have to do is apply the editing techniques I learned editing my first book.
Easy. Right? RIGHT!?
No. I'm about 50k words into editing now, but it hasn't gotten any easier, in fact, it might be getting harder.
Point of View
An invaluable lesson I learned during my first book's editing phase came directly from my editor. While most of my story was told from Darr's point of view, I had more than a few other characters' POV peppered throughout. My editor reminded me that I'm telling a story, and in this case, I'm telling Darr's story.
That wasn't to say I couldn't switch POVs if I had to, but I found many that were unnecessary, specifically they merely told a side to the story that Darr couldn't see or hear. But that good, right? In my case, and you could argue in all cases of POV change, that you lose the reader when you do this. That's fine if what you have to say is monumental to the story, but if you're just filling in more details, you risk slowing the story to a crawl.
Book two has these same problems. Makes sense since the entire series comes from the same draft. What's really slowing me down in the sheer frequency of POV switches. Book two deals with a war taking place on multiple fronts, shifting from one POV to the next. I'm currently finding my focus and figuring out the story I want to tell, cutting free the detail that will only slow the story. It's tricky work, but an invaluable lesson on writing and storytelling.
Time and Effort
Editing take a lot of time and effort. If I merely had to scan through the pages looking for missing punctuation or words, I could've been done months ago. But the kind of editing I'm doing, much like my first book, involves a lot of rewriting and scrutiny. Do I leave something out? Do I put something in? Do I really have to rewrite this entire chapter?
These types of edits don't flow easily, at least not for me. This isn't the kind of writing where I have a story I want to tell and I can simply make the words appear. I've already written the story. I just have to tell it differently. Between blog posts, marketing, work, family, and editing, I can't remember the last time I wrote "just to tell a story".
My latest hurdle is one of my own making. Many of the decisions I've had to make concerning POV and balancing my time have resulted in paralyzing stress. Some nights I'll stare at the screen, trying to get my bearing while thoughts pour through my head about how I should arrange a chapter or eliminate a paragraph.
But I'm continuing to learn. I'm moving forward (as a certain little boy taught me recently). The stress, I'm sure , is natural. The lesson is to manage it, rather than give in to it.
A few weeks ago, another Wild Child author announced he was looking for fellow authors to do some hosting on his website. Always one to jump onto anything marketing related, I emailed Chad back, anxious to get in line. But, who is C.M. Michaels? I had no idea at the time, but after doing some investigating, I found an author who has an impressive piece of fiction and equal drive to make it match his vision. So after he interviewed me a couple weeks ago, I offered to interview him right back. New and aspiring authors, take heed. There's some great advice here!
What does your writing process look like?
A typical day for me starts at a bright and early 5:30 AM. After getting ready for work I spend about twenty minutes caring for my elderly spaniel, giving her a shot of insulin with her breakfast and a series of eye drops. With a pop tart in hand, I then fire up my computer to catch up on email and triage the posts on my various social networks. Once I’ve said goodbye to my girls I join the rest of the morning commuters on the congested highways as we battle our way downtown, jamming out to my iPod the entire time.
My day job as a project manager in the health insurance industry consumes the next 11 hours or so, with me returning home sometime around 7 PM. By the time dinner is taken care of—which thanks to my wife isn’t always pizza—along with the laundry, dishes and other daily chores, even on a good night it’s closing in on 8:00.
At that point I have 3-4 hours before its time for bed. Is one of our favorite shows on? Am I at a super-exciting part in the book I’m reading? This is where hard choices need to be made. After a mentally exhausting day at work often times my brain is longing to just check out for a while, and vegging out on the couch sounds so, so tempting, but those are the only 3-4 hours I have to work on my current novel, market Dangerous Waters and interact with fans on my social media sites. So more often than not, the rest of the night is spent typing away on my computer with my spaniel sleeping on my feet. As hectic as it all sounds, the sense of accomplishment I get from a good night of writing puts a spring in my step the entire next day. Being a published author is a dream come true, and I am loving every minute of it.
As for my writing process itself, I guess I fall somewhere between the seat of your pants contingent and the micro-planners, leaning more toward the former. When I get a new idea for a series I first kick it around in my head for a while, thinking about where I’d take the story, what some interesting sub plots might be, and adding some detail to the central characters. If I find that I’m still obsessed with the idea several days later then I know there’s enough interest on my part to warrant moving forward.
Ideas that make it past the daydreaming stage are captured in a catch-all word document covering everything from a skeleton plot arc, to explanations of the supernatural powers that come into play and details on the central characters. This document is continuously updated throughout the writing process, and serves as an invaluable reference as the cast grows and elements are further refined.
From there it’s on to initial research, focusing on the location the book is set in and the defining characteristics of my protagonist. Is she on the swim team? Does she write poetry? Does she work as a barista? Are there pantheons or other mystical lore involved? These defining elements will be referenced throughout the book, and in order to sound at all credible I need to educate myself up front.
Once I have a good feel for the protagonist, the defining elements of the story and the high level plot arc, it’s time to start writing. I start each chapter by putting together a one page bulleted summary outlining the key events that occur, the chapter’s purpose in advancing the overall plot, and important character interactions. This is still very high level, along the lines of knowing I want to get from Detroit to Buffalo and stop at Niagara Falls along the way. I’ve found that I write far more impactful scenes if I let the story—how I get from Detroit to Buffalo—come naturally, allowing my characters to take me in totally unexpected and wonderful directions.
As for the environment, most authors cherish the freedom that their laptop provides, allowing them to practice their craft from that quaint little coffee shop down the street, while sipping a Pina Colada on the beach, or even just perched on the couch, effortlessly ignoring the show their significant other is caught up in so they can finish off another chapter. For me, writing under such conditions would be painstaking at best, as these type of environments fail to provide the key elements I find essential for productive, efficient writing:
· Quiet… but not too quiet – Sounds like a contradiction, I know, but being in an environment to either extreme bothers me. Absolute silence makes me feel isolated, almost as if I’m being punished while the rest of the family is having a ball without me. But make the noise too direct and my muse bails on me completely. Having my wife watching TV in the living room while I am tucked away in my office provides just the right level of background noise.
· The day the music died - Sometimes I’ll listen to mood appropriate music for the scene I am working on to help set my frame of mind, but once the words start flowing the music is turned off. I generally find it distracting, as it pulls me out of the scenes that are running through my head.
· I’ll take a PC, please – An oversized monitor, regular keyboard and mouse, and easy access to a printer are vital. Laptop keyboards aren’t as ergonomically designed as their full sized counterparts, and messing around with the touchpad mouse to navigate just doesn’t cut it for me. As for the printer, I love to print out chapters and scenes as I write them to do final read throughs.
· Home field advantage – My office is home base for my writing. All of my research is close at hand, my reference books (Chicago journal of style, etc.) are within reach, I’ve got a desk to write on, my character and storyline notes are organized into folders, and my daily to-do list is front and center, helping me stay organized with all of the marketing and writing activities. Writing at home also gives me easy access to food, my favorite drinks and restroom facilities, allowing me to spend less time addressing my basic needs than if I was writing outdoors or in a place of business.
· Hail the almighty executive chair – When you plan to be stationary for hours on end you had better have a comfortable place to park your rear. My executive padded chair is heavenly, and is yet another reason why I struggle when trying to write away from home.
· Hold the snacks – While a tall glass of flavored water is a must, I cannot keep candy bars or other junk food in my writing area. Between my total lack of will power to resist such food, and the easy distraction eating provides versus having to think about a difficult line, etc., I end up inhaling these items non-stop until they are gone.
· Access to a test reader – Having my wife available to bounce lines off of and read draft scenes allows me to get real time, collaborative input rather than writing entire chapters that end up requiring major revisions. Hearing her voice once in a while also makes me feel more connected.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Jocelyn Elyssa is an up and coming actress and has done an amazing job portraying Emily on the cover and in the trailer, so I would love to cast her for the lead. I’ve always thought of Matthew Mcconaughey as Ruby’s husband, Kelly. Melissa Archer (Natalie from One life to Life) would be great as Sienna. Emma Watson (from Harry Potter) would make a cute Sandy, and Josh Hartnett is a dead ringer for Daniel. Scarlett Johansson could totally pull off Raven, and Anna Kendrick would be perfect as Emily’s best friend Britney. Selena Gomez could round out the cast as Ruby.
Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?
I have always enjoyed writing, mainly due to the outlet it provides for my incredibly overactive imagination. When I was nine or ten I used to exchange letters with my oldest brother each week while he was away at college. Our fantasy creatures were mortal enemies, and battled each other in our imaginary world. The first book I shared with anyone outside of friends and family was a children’s novella originally written for a class assignment called The Bat Boy. My teacher was very impressed and recommended that I enter it in my school’s writing contest. I was one of five lucky students selected to read our short stories to local grade school children. Of course at the time I felt anything but lucky—I was so nervous reading in front of forty or so people that I could barely keep track of what page I was on.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
The best advice I could give anyone thinking about writing a book is to not worry about getting published up front. Let yourself enjoy the unbound creativity that comes with crafting your very own world. Invest time up front to put together a plot arc and a rough story outline. Think about each of your main characters. What’s different about them? How do they dress, talk, act? What role do they play in the central plot arc? What challenges will they face? What are their personal shortcomings? What mistakes will they make along the way? The better you understand your characters, and the more clearly you can define your storyline, the easier the entire process will be. Above all else, commit to finishing what you start and making time to write each day.
Getting input along the way from test readers (especially those who read a lot of books in your genre) is another great tool. It’s much easier to make major storyline changes before the entire draft is written, and input on dialogue, narrative voice, syntax and character development received for one chapter can be leveraged as you work on future chapters. When the initial draft is finally pulled together the long and tedious revision process begins. At a minimum, I’d recommend two complete rounds of revisions: One focused on word repetition, action beats, speaker connotations, syntax and grammar, and another geared more toward content, flow and readability.
Once you’ve honed your manuscript, it’s time to craft the all important query letter, where you get to boil your entire novel down into two paragraphs. No pressure, you just need to make your cherished creation stand out from the tens of thousands of other unsolicited queries that are flooding your chosen agents slush piles. Speaking of choosing agents, there are great online tools like querytracker.net and Agentquery.com that can help you search for agents to query and track your submissions. Spend the time to visit each of their sites and follow their submission guidelines. Customizing your query with information found on their site, addressing it to the agent most suited to your genre by name and complying with their guidelines is critical for making it past the initial pre-screen.
Two things to keep in mind on this step:
1) Have patience. It generally takes between 4-6 weeks to get a reply (except for the lovely “Not right for us at this time” canned response rejections, where you didn’t make it past the initial screening). You will be sending out queries for several months or even years, and you will get TONS of rejections / no responses. Keep pushing forward.
2) Don’t query your target 100 agents all at once with the same query letter. Send out 5-10 and gauge what kind of response you receive. Any nibbles? Did you get all canned rejections back? You may want to tweak your query letter a bit before sending out more. Once you get a version that is getting a decent hit rate then you can start increasing the volume, but remember to customize each and every one and follow the agencies guidelines. I can’t stress that enough.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Let’s face it, none of us enjoy having our cherished creations picked apart, even by those whose opinion we value. Our natural reaction is to get defensive and lash out at those ignorant fools who have failed to comprehend our brilliance. But if you want to be successful as a writer you need to check yourself. Receiving candid input from test readers / critique groups is one of the most helpful writing tools at your disposal. These groups are typically made up of close friends and relatives, so convincing them it’s okay to call you out rather than just blowing smoke up your rear is hard enough to begin with. If their first attempts are met with belligerence they will immediately clam up, and you will have lost out on receiving helpful feedback. That doesn’t mean that you are always going to agree, or make every change they suggest, but you should hear them out and ask enough questions to fully understand where they are coming from. And before you decide to agree to disagree, you may want to solicit some additional opinions. That is why it is great to have a critique group rather than just one person.
Then there is the feedback you receive post launch via online reviews. This can be even harder to take, as it is often the first time you are receiving totally unbiased feedback, and their opinions by the very nature of being a review are more judgmental rather than helpful. Think you won’t receive any 2 star or 1 star reviews? Think again. Pick out your five favorite authors and look up the reviews for some of their titles. Now search for their lowest rated reviews. See what I mean? If the authors who you dream of emulating get more than their share of less than flattering appraisals, it’s a safe bet that you will too. So what do you do when the inevitable happens? Nothing. I mean, you can read the review if you’d like, but regardless of how much it infuriates you do not ever engage the reader in a debate. Other readers give little credence to an individual negative review (they tend to look at reviews as a whole), but if they see an author going off on someone that does not sit well with them. Hold your chin up and move on.
In my opinion, the ability to get real-time feedback from people knowledgeable about your genre that you trust explicitly—but who are still willing to offer constructive criticism—is the most helpful tool in a writer’s arsenal.
For a critique group to be successful, each of the conditions summarized above needs to be met.
What is your biggest failure?
My biggest regret is life is not being more adventurous when I was in my twenties. I would have loved to spend summers working in Yellowstone National Park and Alaska.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Oh, man. There are so many cool superpowers to choose from! I guess I’d go with the ability to time travel. Being able to change the past and see the future would pretty much make you a god. But the coolest part would be seeing what the earth was like during the age of the dinosaurs and what it will evolve to five or ten thousand years from now rather than being limited to experiences that occur during your own life span.
What secret talents do you have?
Let’s see… I make a mean homemade apple pie and lasagna, I have an information technology background as both a developer and project manager, and I enjoy taking pictures of wildlife while hiking with my wife.
Thank you, Chad! You can read more about Chad and his work below.
C.M Michaels grew up in a small town in northern Michigan as the youngest child of a close-knit family of seven. He met his wife, Teresa, while attending Saginaw Valley State University. Together they’ve provided a loving home for several four-legged “kids”, including Sophie, their eternally young at heart, hopelessly spoiled Spaniel.
He has always enjoyed writing, and still has fond memories of reading his first book, a children’s novella, to local grade schools when he was 14. Dangerous Waters, the first book in the Sisters in Blood series, was published by Freya’s Bower on September 5th, 2013. C.M. is currently working on the second book in the Sisters in Blood series along with a Fantasy romance.
When he’s not writing, C.M. can be found curled up with a good book, watching movies or hitting the hiking trails with his wife. An avid reader since discovering Jim Kjelgaard novels in early childhood, his favorite authors include Kelley Armstrong, Peter V. Brett, Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine, Cassandra Claire, J.R. Ward, Laini Taylor and Tessa Dawn.
C.M. currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dangerous Waters by C.M. Michaels
For Emily Waters, a nature-loving, small-town girl with an overprotective father, heading off to Boston University to study conservation biology is a dream come true—until a chance encounter catapults her into a mythical world she’d do anything to escape.
The latest victim in a rash of abductions near campus, Emily is brutally attacked before being rescued by a powerful new friend. She survives the ordeal, only to find herself held captive and presented with an impossible choice.
While preparing for the unimaginable life she must now embrace clues soon emerge that Emily may not be entirely human, and her physical transformation awakens goddess-like powers that her new family cannot begin to explain.
Dealing with her human first love, the not-so-platonic relationship with her coven “sister,” and her new vampire sort-of-boyfriend further complicates matters, not to mention being secretly hunted by the psychopaths who attacked her. And as the only known offspring of a once all-powerful race, the climactic battle is only the beginning of her journey.
Social Media links:
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/UFAuthorCMMichaels
Twitter - https://twitter.com/UFAuthor
Website - http://cmmichaels.com/
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/authorcmmichaels
Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7Q7m0MrwlQ
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Waters-C-M-Michaels/dp/1617981044/ref=sr_1_27_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378349287&sr=1-27&keywords=dangerous+waters
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Waters-Sisters-Blood-ebook/dp/B00EZY2046/ref=sr_1_28_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378511032&sr=1-28&keywords=dangerous+waters
Barnes & Noble (Paperback): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-waters-c-m-michaels/1116827370?ean=9781617981043
Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-waters-c-m-michaels/1116827370?ean=2940148669821
Freya’s Bower (Paperback): http://www.freyasbower.com/books-c-3/dangerous-waters-p-290.html
Freya’s Bower (eBook): http://www.freyasbower.com/urban-fantasy-c-46/dangerous-waters-p-289.html
All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-dangerouswaters-1280168-349.html
Excerpt included. Please click "Read More"!