Busy Month

Busy Month

BlackbirdHello Everyone,

Well, we are about at the end of another Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made the hat trick of three NaNos three wins. This month’s word count goal was 75,000 words of book 2 in my series. The working title is Golden Seas but that is going to change thanks to my sister who thinks it’s too similar to golden shower (eww gross!). I completed book 2, plotted books 3, 4, and 5, started plotting two series set in the same world, and revised book 1. All of that made a total of slightly over 250,000 words this month.

I approved the cover for Golden Opportunity yesterday, it is perfect! Marushka at Deranged Doctor Design did an amazing job on the cover and I can’t wait to share it. I may delay the release of Golden Opportunity temporarily while I focus on the story, I want that book to be perfect so that anyone who reads it will fall in love with my girl the way I have.

I set out to write a book with a female main character who is flawed, both physically and emotionally. I wanted a character that women could relate to, one who represents a subset of the population that is often overlooked in the media. Those women who are in their forties, who are single by choice or divorced, who have no children, and who have physical flaws. They may carry extra weight, they may be a little emotionally immature, they may have spent years with a man who didn’t appreciate them and threw them out like trash. These are the women, like myself, that society ignores and it bothers me. You don’t have to have children, be married, or physically perfect to make a difference in someone’s life and that is where this series comes from.

I am really looking forward to the upcoming months. I can’t wait to see whether or not people like my work, my characters, and my world. You are all amazing.

V. L. Cooke

 

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To Review or Not to Review…

To Review or Not to Review…

On Wednesday evening, I joined @StorySocialChat’s weekly chat about writing on Twitter. The weekly event, co-hosted by Kristen Kleffer (@shesnovel) and Jenny Bravo (@jennybravobooks) known by the hashtag #StorySocial. If you’ve never gone to #StorySocial I highly recommend it for the chance to meet other authors in real time and share insights with each other. This week’s topic was how we authors deal with setbacks, frustration, and fears that make writing difficult. The typical format is @StorySocialChat asks questions and we respond to the questions with the hashtag that I’ve already mentioned twice. Anyway, the last question of the night was “What’s the one thing that we—the writing community—can do to help support + encourage you in your writing?” (@StorySocialChat, 2016, July 27). This was my two-part answer: 1.) “Besides telling me I’m a Goddess? Just tell me to quit doubting. Better to write something than nothing” 2.) “One thing that I think we could all do for each other is remember to review our fellow authors’ work” (@VLCookeAuthor, 2016, July 27). Yeah, now you all know that when I’m at StorySocialChat, I suffer from drunken delusions of grandeur. The thought of reviewing fellow authors’ work got me to wondering about the ethics of it all. I have lots of friends who write, including those I beta read for, should I write a review about their work on sites like Amazon? I also believe that if I spend my money to buy a book and read it, I should be allowed to share my opinion of my purchase. So how do I combine these two into an effective review strategy?

After careful consideration, I have come up with a plan, which  I’d like your input on. If I buy a book, I am not an author at that point, I am a reader. So how do I draw a figurative line in the sand between critiquing as a writer or reader? This is what I came up with:

  1. Should I Review-I never review anything that I haven’t read completely – While this may seem like a no-brainer, I spent several hours today on Amazon and you’d be surprised at the number of reviews saying how the reader couldn’t get past the first chapter. I’ve found several books started really slow in the first 1 – 5 chapters that turned out to be amazing. Therefore, I do not review a book I give up on (George R. R. Martin, you’re lucky I feel this way, because I still haven’t finished A Storm of Swords. Although, it’s the best sleeping pill I’ve ever had). Before, if I had a book that was a one-star review, I wouldn’t post a review at all out of fear for hurting someone’s feelings. I decided my past rule is no longer valid. As an author I would take bad reviews as a learning opportunity, as I feel all authors should, therefore I will no longer refuse to leave a one-star review if the work is only deserving of a one-star review.
  2. All my reviews begin at three stars – Yes, I know everyone wants to be a five-star author, but hear me out. I pick the middle of the road for a reason, if your writing isn’t superlative, or your characters are just meh, why would I give you more than three stars? If your book is abysmal, full of grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and continuity errors then it’s not a three-star book and I will deduct based on my perception. The reverse is also true, if you amaze me I’m going to tell the world or the buyers at Amazon that you are the most creative highly skilled author ever put on the planet. This rule hasn’t changed today, I still start at three stars and work my way up or down depending on the work.
  3. I don’t do spoilers – Again this should be a no-brainer, yet everyone does it. If the story is amazing, why ruin it for others who are going to buy it or considering buying it? I will talk about the descriptions, the pacing, the character development, etc., but I do it without ruining the book for everyone else. My reviews always have been, and always will be, spoiler free.
  4. I don’t “trade” reviews to pad a rating – Don’t believe me? Go check out my short story, it has NO REVIEWS. I refuse to trade reviews with my fellow authors, I refuse to ask my betas to review, and I refuse pay for reviews, it destroys the process in my opinion. In fact, I believe that any of the previously mentioned items should be avoided by all authors at all costs. I won’t allow my close friends or family to review my work either. I feel it is dishonest. In theory, I can’t really stop them, but I ask them politely not to review my work.
  5. If I leave a “bad” review, I do everything I can to point out what works – New rule for me, before I would never leave a one-star review, it was a very difficult decision to change my policy. I finally based it on how I would feel. We’ve all read books that are awful, as many a self-published author can attest, it damages the industry as a whole when a book is not edited, not proofread, etc., I hate it. I’m sure I am not alone feeling this way. The only way an author can learn from their errors is to know what works and what doesn’t for the reader. If you don’t tell us, we can’t work to improve, leaving us to make the same mistakes over and over and over.
  6. I refuse to leave a bad review just because the writer may be my competitor, just like I refuse to leave a good review because the author may be my friend – I’ve heard the story of the authors who were caught sockpuppeting on Amazon and other sites. While I don’t know if any were permanently banned from reviewing on Amazon, rumor is that Amazon won’t let authors review within their genre(s). If anyone knows whether or not this is true, please let me know.

I guess it all boils down to what we as authors and readers feel comfortable doing to benefit our fellow authors and readers. If we feel that any review is a learning experience for both the creator and the reader of a work, then we should leave a honest, heart-felt review. If, however, you feel that the only reviews you should leave are the glowing four and five-star reviews then I ask you to take a step back to consider what you are doing before you hit send. If the book isn’t worthy of four or five stars, yet you give them a high review anyway, you’re lying to the potential audience. If you refuse to give a review because it will be a bad one, then you’re lying to a fellow author. Which type of person do you want to be? One who’s honest, or one who wants to be everyone’s friend by giving them reviews they don’t deserve? I would prefer honesty myself, even if it hurts, that’s why I created my plan. Please don’t think I’m saying you should go out and destroy a fellow author’s ego by posting rant-filled diatribes on why their characters are juvenile, why they will never be better than (put your favorite author’s name here), etc. I’m just asking you to treat authors with respect, treat readers with respect, and treat yourself with respect. Review those books you’ve purchased and read, share your love of the written word through a well-written, insightful review, just don’t forget that at some point you will be on the receiving end of a critical review so try to write the review you would want someone to write for you (yes, even the bad ones).

There is one step I forgot to mention above and I think it will fit nicely here. Help each other by building a relationship not only with your fellow authors, but your readers. Writing can be a singularly solitary process and we need these relationships to thrive. Try to be open to criticism, both positive and negative. Don’t argue with someone when you don’t like their review, accept it as a differing opinion. Don’t get butt hurt because people don’t understand your book, instead listen to what they are saying then strive to improve the next one you release. If you are unwilling to accept not every person will like your work, believing everything should be beautiful all the time, then perhaps you should reconsider writing as a vocation. Try interior decorating or floral arranging instead. Please remember that everything written here is just my opinion, and you are free to disagree with everything. Feel free to leave comments, I love them and I will respond as quickly as possible.

V. L. Cooke

What is Editing?

What is Editing?

I’ve been dreading this post for a while now, mostly because we authors get confused about the different types of editing and we’re over protective of our work. However, as self-published authors we need to be aware not only the different types of editing, but the process, the potential costs, and whether or not we should trust someone with our proverbial baby (translation: manuscript). I have been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people, it is because of them that I write this post.

The job of editor is a thankless task. I cannot say that often enough. Editors take our hard work and rip it to shreds. They don’t do this because they are frustrated authors, although I know many editors who are authors, they do this because they love reading. To an editor there is nothing worse than reading a book that has not been edited, in any form, it makes them cry. Well maybe not really cry, but emotionally it tears them apart. Even worse, they fight with an author to make them see reason with regards to their critiques (yes, I am guilty on this count).

Types of Editing:

Types of EditingDevelopmental Edit – This is the edit that looks for developmental issues in the whole story (makes sense right?). It is not about correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. It is the edit that looks for continuity errors, POV issues, character development, showing vs. telling, dialogue issues, flow, and other problems. This is the edit that helps an author smooth out trouble spots to create a coherent, readable work. The cost for this type of edit will vary greatly from editor to editor. According to the EFA it should run between $45 to $55 per hour. Do an online search and you’ll find that the cost is typically $.03 to $.04 cents per word ($2820 to $3760 for a 94,000-word manuscript like Golden Opportunity).

Substantive Edit – Some editors use this type of editing as a synonym for developmental editing. However, they are actually two very different things. This type of edit is for a work that may have some scene or plot issues, but is actually fairly well-polished. This type of edit will focus on tweaking, reordering, cutting, and rewriting areas that are not working as well as they should. Costs should be between $40 to $60 per hour, or $.02 to $.04 cents per word ($1880 to $3760 for a 94,000-word novel).

Line Edit/Style Edit – The editor goes through the manuscript line by line finding weak language, passive voice, repetition, overused words, etc. This edit focuses on paragraph structure, sentence flow, and word usage, but not grammar and punctuation. It is used to improve paragraphs and sentences. Typical costs for line edits vary but should run between $40 to $60 per hour, or $.01 to $.03 cents per word ($940 to $2820 for 94,000 words).

Copy Edit – Spelling, grammar, word usage, style, syntax, and structure are all fair game during this type of edit. This edit will look for consistency issues, like a character’s physical description changing, making sure there are no obvious errors such as dialogue taking place one place and then having it shift mid-stream to another. Rates are similar to a line edit; in fact, many editors use both interchangeably when discussing the services provided. Cost should run $30 to $50 per hour, or $.01 to $.03 cents per word ($940 to $2820 for 94,000 words).

Proofreading – This is the final run through of a completely revised manuscript and is usually done after final editing. This will catch any mistakes in spelling or punctuation that slipped past the author and the editor and is done prior to publication. Costs will run $30 to $35 per hour, or $.005 to $.015 per word ($470 to $1410 for 94,000 words).

Scary isn’t it? If you think you need all those edits and you have a 94,000-word novel (like me), you’re going to look at a minimum cost of $7050 ($2820 + $1880 + $940 + $940 + $470), but you don’t need all of those edits at the same time. If you have a good group of beta readers and you trust their judgement you’ve taken care of developmental edit if you actually make the suggested changes. That’s a $2820 savings, if you trust your beta reader crew like I do. As for the rest. At the very minimum, you need copy/line edits if you have a limited budget. As for proofreading, no manuscript should ever be published without it! Spend the extra money and have it proofread before you publish.

I know a few editors that I trust implicitly with my work. The first is Candace Kuhn, she’s an excellent editor and brutally honest, something that I respect greatly. The other is a novice editor, who is in school and trying to expand her portfolio. You can contact her via twitter because she does not have a professional website yet. I let her have a crack at Golden Opportunity and I did not regret it. Her name is Rachel Lapidow, tell her I sent you (she knows me as Vicki), her twitter handle is @RachelLapidow.

I hope you found this little post interesting. If you guys happen to have any editors that you feel deserve recognition, let me know and I’ll add them. Make sure to include a website so I can link to it.

V. L. Cooke

Introducing Four of the Characters from Golden Opportunity

Introducing Four of the Characters from Golden Opportunity

By nature, I have a very visual mind. I need to see things to fully understand them. This can be a bit of a problem when it comes to my main characters. I know all their flaws, likes, dislikes, etc. Why they are the way they are; but I don’t feel truly connected until I can see them. This little dilemma has been solved through an online character generator at Autodesk. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to my version of Siobhan Flannery the MC of Golden Opportunity.

Siobhan

That’s right, my MC is curvy and older (44 when the book opens). She looks pretty good for a slightly past middle age woman doesn’t she?

Now on to Siobhan’s best friend from childhood. Charlie is her Witchy BFF. They’ve been through a lot over the years and remain best friends.Charlie

It’s the boys’ turn. First up, the Dragon in human form, Siobhan’s grumpy, mostly mono-syllabic partner, Donal. I think he looks really good at his advanced age of one thousand years.Donal

Last, but certainly not least, is my favorite subject to torture with suburban nightmares. He accuses Siobhan of being a racist at least once a day. He’s the eighteen inch tall ladies man of the supernatural world … Norman.Norman

My sister and I though he looked a little like a California surfer type. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my characters for the first time, let me know what you think.

V. L. Cooke

P.S. No, I don’t know where Norman buys his clothes. He keeps that tidbit of information really close to his vest.