Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Editing Strategies for Indie Writers (or any writer, for that matter)

While the stigma of being self-published is slowly dissipating, there are still plenty of people out there who avoid Indie authors because they fear their stories have holes, or are underdeveloped, or are poorly edited. Why is this? Because some writers upload their novels before they're ready, and they are rampant with plot holes and typos.

The most obvious way to combat this is to hire an editor. It's not as expensive as you might think, and the end result (putting out a polished product) is worth it. Also, you may want to enlist the help of beta readers. These readers can consist of friends, family members, writer friends, etc., who aren't afraid to offer constructive criticism.

It hurts, I know, but no one ever improved by being told: "Great job. Keep it up." 

Still, before outside editors and beta readers are called in, it's important to develop your own editing and proofreading skills. 

First, you'll want to make sure you have a solid (updated) grammar handbook. If you aren't sure of a rule, look it up. Apply it. Soon, it will become second nature. I've heard the publishing industry follows grammar rules outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style. (If this has changed, let me know.)

In the meantime, here are a few methods I use when editing my writing.

1. Read through the entire manuscript (ms) once, searching for plot or character inconsistencies. Instead of editing as you go, use MS Word "Track Changes" to flag places that need work. If you can read through your entire ms in one sitting, you're more likely to find those holes or irregularities in your writing. 

2. Go line by line, sentence by sentence, making sure each one is phrased the best way possible. When I do this, I bounce around the ms. (It helps me focus on that particular sentence). I just use the highlight tool to keep track of the places that I've covered.

3. Read your work backwards (start with the last sentence and work your way to the beginning). This will help you find sentences that may run on, or comma splices (two independent clauses that are connected with a comma). This also forces you to slow down and read what's really on the screen as opposed to what your mind thinks you've written.

4. Read your ms out loud. This helps with voice issues; you can also determine if your dialogue sounds natural. It's easier to focus on the pacing and flow when you read your own work aloud.

5. I also use the MS Word "Find" feature to check for inconsistencies. I search for characters' names to verify spelling, I search for descriptions (blue eyes) to make sure the character descriptions are consistent, and I search for linking and "being" verbs, to see if any can be eliminated (among other things). 

6. Print your ms out. Proofread. Rinse. Repeat.

7. One of the last rounds of proofreading should be someone (or something) else reading the ms back to you. I know the Kindle has a feature that reads your script for you. I downloaded a free program (Speakonia) that lets me copy and paste my text into the box, and reads it back to me. You don't know how many "a's," "the's," or "to's" I've missed in proofreading (even after several rounds), but caught when the computer didn't "read" what I thought was there back to me.

These strategies are all beneficial in their own ways, but it's not up to the writer to pick "one" that works and rely solely on it. I use each of these strategies multiple times. Yes, it takes me longer to edit a novel than it does to write it. It's time-consuming, but WARNING: skip this important part of the writing process at your own risk.

Readers can pick up on grammatical errors and typos in the sample of your work they download. If there are more errors than can be overlooked, you've lost a sale. Thousands of new ebooks are being uploaded every day. Now, more than ever, you want your work to attract attention, to be as polished as possible, to stand out.

If you have any proofreading tips/tricks, feel free to leave them in the comments!


Friday, May 27, 2011

YA Indie Spotlight: Amanda Brice

Hi Everyone!

Today Amanda Brice is on the blog! Amanda is promoting her YA novel, Codename: Dancer.

Aspiring ballerina Dani Spevak is thrilled when hit TV show Teen Celebrity Dance Off comes to the campus of her performing arts boarding school. She trades the barre for the ballroom and gets set to cha-cha-cha to stardom with Hollywood wonderboy Nick Galliano.

At first their partnership is awkward, because Dani is in awe of her longtime teen idol crush. But soon their chemistry is heating up the dance floor and the attraction moves into real life.

Her excitement is short-lived, because someone wants her off the show. Bombs, poisoning, arson… Will Dani’s 15 minutes of fame be over before she reaches age 15? Dani and her friends are suddenly at the center of some serious sabotage. And if she doesn’t find out who is behind it, her next pirouette could be her last.

It’s like Nancy Drew in toe shoes in this light-hearted mystery, a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart

As a little girl, Amanda Brice dreamed of being either a ballerina or the author of a mystery series featuring a cool crime-solving chick named Nancy Flew, but her father urged her to "do something practical," so she went to law school and spent her days writing briefs and pleadings instead of fiction.

But dance and writing have remained a part of her life. Amanda was a member of the ballroom dance team at Duke University, and continues this interest by her obsession with Dancing with the Stars, so it was only natural for her to set a teen mystery series at a dance school.

Amanda is the Vice President of Washington Romance Writers, and is a two-time finalist for Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart® Award. She blogs every other Wednesday with the Fictionistas and every other Friday with Killer Fiction. She is also a popular conference presenter, speaking on basic copyright and trademark law for writers. You can learn more about Amanda at
her website.

“Fans of Pretty Little Liars and Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls will love Codename: Dancer. Sparks fly, tutus twirl, and a clever mystery unravels in what is sure to become a favorite among teens and tweens everywhere. Amanda Brice’s debut is a must read for every girl who ever danced – or ever wanted to!”
~ Gemma Halliday, National Readers Choice award-winning author of SPYING IN HIGH HEELS and the upcoming DEADLY COOL

"Amanda Brice's debut novel has something that will appeal to everyone, especially ballet enthusiasts, mystery lovers and fans of reality TV competitions. Even if you don't know a thing about dance, you'll be easily drawn into this quick-paced story with authentic characters and big stakes. I adored Dani and found myself rooting for this spunky heroine. Can't wait for the sequel!"
~ Rhonda Stapleton, author of the STUPID CUPID trilogy

“Codename Dancer is a mystery-filled romance that will twirl its way into your heart. Dani is a heroine every girl (and woman) will root for. This is a stand-out debut novel for Amanda Brice!”
~ Melissa Francis, author of BITE ME! and LOVE SUCKS!

Codename: Dancer is available for

and through Smashwords 

It's priced at $2.99 and the reviews look stellar. Unfortunately, she's a Duke fan, but I'm willing to overlook this if you are. :)


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

YA Indie Spotlight: Neesha Meminger

Hi Everyone!

Today I'm thrilled to be featuring the lovely Neesha Meminger. Neesha is the author of Shine Coconut Moon, which made the Smithsonian's Notable Books for Children list and was selected as one of the Top 100 Books of 2009 by the New York Public Library's Stuff for the Teen Age. It was also nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association as well as the online CYBILS award.

Neesha decided to go indie with her second novel, Jazz in Love, which is now available in both print and ebook formats.

Jasbir, otherwise known as Jazz, has always been a stellar student and obedient, albeit wise-cracking, daughter. Everything has gone along just fine - she has good friends in the "genius" program she's been in since kindergarten, her teachers and principal adore her, and her parents dote on her. But now, in her junior year of high school, her mother hears that Jazz was seen hugging a boy on the street, and goes ballistic. Mom immediately implements the Guided Dating Plan, which includes setting up blind dates with "suitable," pre-screened Indian candidates. There's only one problem: Jazz has her sights set on the very UNsuitable new hottie at school. When Jazz makes a few out-of-the-ordinary decisions, everything explodes, and she realizes she'll need a lot more than her genius education to get out of the huge mess she's created. Can Jazz find a way to follow her own heart and still stay in the good graces of her parents?

Neesha was born in Punjab, India, where she lived until she was almost five. For the next twenty years, she was in Toronto, Canada until she moved to the US. As a teenager, Neesha began writing her own stories. In the next decade or so, her writing would appear in various anthologies, journals, and magazines.

Neesha holds a BA in Film and Media Arts from Ryerson University in Toronto, and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School For Social Research in New York City.

Her independent films have screened at international film festivals, she has taught literature and creative writing courses to undergraduate freshmen in New York, served as a board member for many arts and cultural organizations, and counseled women and youth in crisis.

"Romantic and humorous, with a great teen voice, this novel has a balance of light and serious elements. It's a fun and fast-paced read."

"Meminger found a beautiful balance with Jazz in Love. She keeps its light yet still manages to incorporate themes worth discussing from what's Indian enough to asserting independence. Many readers will be able to relate to Jazz, her worries are universal."

"Jazz in Love is refreshing. It's contemporary YA with color, and lots of it. I loved how easy it is to relate to Jazz even if we're different in terms of culture and religion."

"Meminger does an excellent job with the complications of family life, the clashes of culture, and the clashes between individuals of whatever generation. The characters are complex, and the handling of super-powered attraction and how it skews the world was beautifully handled."

Jazz in Love is available for

The ebook is priced at $3.99, and there is a print version available.

You can find Neesha on the web and keep up with the latest on Twitter by following @NeeshaMem.

Check her out, you guys!


Friday, May 20, 2011

YA Indie Spotlight: Megg Jensen

Hi Everyone!

Today's YA Indie Spotlight features Megg Jensen. Megg is one of the authors writing under the DarkSide Publishing label, which is a group of indie authors working together to put out amazing YA literature. This is such a unique concept, and I plan to feature all of the DarkSide writers in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Megg co-runs DarkSide publishing, and is the author of the YA novel, Anathema.

Reychel is a slave girl surrounded by magic, lies and manipulation. Her best friend disappears in the middle of the night leaving Reychel to face her fifteenth birthday, the day her master burns his brand into the back of her bald head, alone. She's sheltered from the outside world and doesn't have any hope for escape, but when people desperate for freedom ask for her help can Reychel learn to believe in herself?

RATING: A mild PG for violence and kissing.

Megg Jensen has been a freelance parenting journalist since 2003 and began writing YA novels in 2009. She co-runs DarkSide Publishing, is a member of SCBWI, and blogs about writing while juggling freelancing, volunteering, and family life. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, two kids, and their miniature schnauzer, Ace.

For more information on Megg, please visit her website.

Anathema is available for

at Smashwords, and through the iBookstore.

What are people saying about Anathema?

"A fun read that left me wanting more."

"If you love urban fantasies, you're going to love this one. It's NEVER dull, and the descriptive writing pulls you right inside the book, into the world of these characters. I absolutely LOVED it."

"A promising start to a great new trilogy."

Anathema is currently priced at $2.99, and the second book in the Cloud Prophet Trilogy, Oubliette, will release in June.

Interesting cover? Check. Enticing Summary? Check. Good reviews? Check. Now, go download her sample.  :)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

YA Indie Spotlight: Barbara Bartholomew

Hi Everyone!

Today I have Barbara Bartholomew on the blog. Barbara is promoting her latest YA historical fantasy novel Princess Alice. 

Rina of Endymion, the princess who lost her magic abilities during a childhood illness, is sent by a powerful mage to change places with an alternate world Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the soon to be president of the United States. Both strong-minded young women fight a threat to their lives from an insane witch, and try to make their way back to their own worlds while Rina finds the significance of a long-time love and Alice discovers a new and magical lover.


Barbara Bartholomew has published over a dozen books for young people, including The Time Keeper Trilogy and Julie's Magic Moment, a Romance Writers of America winner for best young adult novel.

Princess Alice is a sequel to Finding Endymion. Both are available for Kindle and are priced at $.99.


Monday, May 16, 2011

My TBR Pile Runneth Over

I can't tell you how so very excited I am that Sarah Dessen's newest, What Happened to Goodbye, will arrive on my doorstep at some point today. If you've never read Sarah Dessen's books you should run, not walk, to your local book store and pick up The Truth About Forever and Just Listen immediately. Really, it's not fair that she makes us wait two years between books. I've typically found they're worth waiting for, though.  :)

Among the other YA novels in my TBR pile that I plan to tackle this summer:

I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler, which I've heard the most amazing things about.

And Bitter End by Jennifer Brown. I *loved* Hate List, and can't wait to see how she handles abusive relationships.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, you must read Sarah Ockler's response to the NYT book review of Bitter End and Deb Caletti's Stay

Bottom line? YA authors write to tell stories. Message optional.

What's in your TBR pile? 


Friday, May 13, 2011

YA Indie Spotlight: Melissa Webb

Hi Everyone!

Today I have Melissa Webb on the blog! Melissa is promoting her YA horror/paranormal novel Weaver of Darkness. 

Creepy cover, right? :)

When evil comes for the ones you love, who will you choose to be?

Liss Taylor always suspected she was a little different than other people, between the nightmares of desolate wastelands and the tattoo of an arrow she was born with; but when one of Liss' friends dies at the teeth of a Raggedy Ann doll as a warning to her, she knows she is anything but normal. 

Armed with knowledge instilled from the past, Liss pushes forward with the aid of her high school friends, two five-hundred year old Druids and a heroic shape shifter. As an old god stirs, Liss realizes she has faced its summoner before.

Can Liss release her powers from within and stop this evil before it claims humanity as it own? 

RATING: PG-13 for scary situations

Melissa L. Webb is a writer of dark words. She spends her days creating new nightmares in Northern California. 

Weaver of Darkness can be purchased for Kindle and is priced at $.99. Melissa has several other $.99 titles available as well, so you may want to check out her Amazon author page.