Sunday, June 25, 2017

Editing Short Stories

Hello Lovelies!

Today I thought I'd tell you how I edit my short stories. Feel free to use some or all of my techniques, or simply read and move on, happy with your own system. As long as you edit your stories, it's all good! (But, please, no matter how you do it, edit your stories!)

The first thing I do is simply read through the draft. I do this in one sitting, which, let's be honest, with short stories isn't too much of a time-sink. If I find typos, I fix them, but otherwise all I want to do is make sure the story, from front to back, is fresh in my mind. If I find any glaring plot problems during the read-through, or otherwise discover a way to make the story better, I fix it now. Otherwise, if I'm happy with the structure and how it plays out, I continue to my next read-through.

My second read-through is pretty much the same as my third, fourth, fifth, and however many I need before I'm happy with the story. (Usually by my fourth or fifth, I'm ready to move on.) I check word-usage, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and all that good stuff to make sure the prose sparkle. I want my dialogue to sound realistic, the story to not be too passive, and words to not repeat too much, or at all, if possible. If you get to a read-through where you're not finding many things to change, it's probably time to move on to the next stage. If you're not sure, another read-through won't hurt.

One thing to remember, though; you will be able to tinker with a story forever if you want to. You change and grow every day, so you'll find something else in your story with every pass. At some point, you need to say, "It's ready." When I find I'm at that point, I move to the next step.

My next step is a program called SmartEdit. No, it's not free, but I find invaluable. I use the stand-alone version, not the Word plug-in. I copy and paste my manuscript in, and it makes a number of checks for me. Personally, I have it check my adverb usage, possible misused words (ex. accept vs. except), redundant words, and my monitored words, which is a list of many words I know I use far to often (ex. that, was, up). There are other things it can check, as well, and you just need to click on an option for the software to add it to its compiled list. It helps trim up my prose, making it leaner and meaner. The best part is you can get a 10-day free trial, so you can see how well you like it. I'm sure you can also Google other programs, some maybe free, to help clean up your story.

If you don't want to use a program at all, you can make a pass where you focus on only adverbs, one where you check words which you know you know you use too often and eradicate them if you can, and so on and so forth. You can do the same thing as SmartEdit or other programs, but it's going to take a bit longer. If you don't mind that, or are good at focusing on more than one task earlier in the read-throughs, you're all set.

After I use SmartEdit, I give the story one more read-through to make sure I didn't jumble anything while removing words. Also, one more read-through is never a bad thing to make sure everything still flows. I then move onto my final (editing-wise) step. 

This final step is another program, but it's free, and you might already have one downloaded on your devices. I listen to my story with a text-to-speech program. Personally, my favorite is NaturalReader. You can download it at that link for free. Whatever device you edit on (laptop, desktop, iPad, etc.) may have a text-to-speech program built in, but I find the voices on NaturalReader are the easiest for me to listen to. There is a floating bar so you don't need to copy and past anything, simply highlight the text you want read, and push play. Other programs may work just as well, but I love NaturalReader. There is also a paid version, but for my purposes, and likely yours, there's no need to go to it. Every once in a while, the voice will stop so it can offer you a chance to upgrade, but it's an easy two clicks to get back to your work. 

Why do I suggest using a text-to-speech reader? First off, it's the best way to find pesky typos or wrong words. Often the eye skips over typos, but if you're listening at the same time, you'll pick them up. You can also determine if a sentence or passage sounds unnatural to the ear and fix it. It's also easier to tell if dialog sounds natural when you listen rather than simply read it. Basically, I highly suggest you don't skip this step for the hunting down typos reason, but you'll also benefit in other areas.

That's it. Once I finish listening to the story, I'm confident my story is ready to be published. I know it's a lot of steps, and my longer short stories (those running 10k to 15k words) often take a week or longer before they're ready. But, honestly, that's no time at all to make sure a short story is ready for the world to see. When I'm editing a novel, I often spend a couple of months to make sure it's polished to my perfection, but that's a topic for another time.

Once you've finished editing, you need to ready your manuscript for publishing or submitting, depending on what you're doing to it. I will talk about how I ready a story for Amazon in a future post, but for now, you see my editing process. As I said at the beginning, feel free to follow each of my steps, but if you don't, that's fine, too. We all do things differently! (But, for the love of all that is holy, don't finish your first draft and deem it worthy of publishing. Guess what, it's not ready!) 

Feel free to leave a comment if you enjoyed reading about my process, totally agree or disagree with it, want to let me know how you edit, or anything else! Thank you for reading!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Twitter Problems

Hello Lovelies!

There seems to be a bit of a problem with Twitter, and you may be having it, too. (No, I'm not talking about the lost hours after getting sucked in and constantly scrolling for new tweets.) I'm talking about not getting notifications when others RT or otherwise mention you. It's kind of a big problem because you feel like people are ignoring you, and they, likewise, feel like you're ignoring them. 

I first noticed this a few weeks ago when I saw @sexyreads had RT'd me in my timeline, but it didn't show up in my notifications. We talked about it, and thought it was an isolated incident, some sort of strange setting one of us couldn't figure out. But I saw today that he tweeted that he was missing a bunch of people in his notifications, so this is a bigger problem. 

I realized I was being affected this morning, too. For most of the week, I've noticed a few people I normally interact with (even if it's simply sharing RTs), have not been in my notifications. I thought maybe they'd gotten bored with my dog and pony show (and I should clarify that I mean that as the saying, not any sort of bestiality erotica - not my kink), and maybe it's true for some of them, but I discovered not all. Scrolling through my timeline this morning, I found @EADeBoestauthor had mentioned me in a #FF tweet. That put a smile on my face, and I decided to wait and say thank you when I found it in my mentions. (I was already deciding which .gif I wanted to use in that tweet - what can I say? I love that feature!) As I'm sure you can already guess, that tweet was a no-show in my mentions/notifications. When I went to her timeline to find the #FF tweet, I found she had also RT'd me a bunch (thank you, by the way, sweetie!), but none had made it to my notifications. I'm sure this is the case with others, but I haven't figured out who yet. So if you think I'm ignoring you, either not RTing you back, or flat out not responding, I promise I'm not! I simply haven't seen your tweets!

So, to summarize, there seems to be a problem with mentions/notifications in Twitter. I have no idea if it's affecting a select few of us "lucky" users, but if you're missing tweets from people you're used to seeing on a regular basis, they simply could be hidden from you. Twitter just recently (in the last day or so) updated their site, so maybe this problem is one of coding? I tweeted @Twitter with this question, but have not heard back. I'm sure they get far too many tweets for them to even see them all, so I'm not holding my breath (or maybe my tweet didn't make it into their mentions! hehe), but maybe they'll let me know. Or at least fix it soon.

Last thing. I said it earlier, but I want to say it again. If you think I've been ignoring you, I apologize! I haven't been. I simply didn't see your tweet. You may have the same problem, if not with me, than with other users. I still get plenty of mentions/notifications throughout the day, but not from everyone. Hopefully this gets fixed soon, and we can return to our normal social media time-sink.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Free Books

Hello Lovelies!

I've decided to set one of my books as free on Amazon each week, Monday to Friday. It will start next Monday, June 19 with Flag Football Conquest, continue the following week with The Odd Costume Party Fiasco, and every week after with a new book for the foreseeable future. And, yes, I will be including my longer works (His Hard Rockin' Princess, The Dragon's Mate, and Carnival of Sin, plus any new ones I publish) in this freebie fun!

Why am I doing this? Why give anything away for free? Actually, I'm guessing many of you who are reading this, seasoned Indie authors, already know. But for those of you who aren't familiar with the goodness of giving away free books, I have good reasons. 

First off, I'm hoping readers snatch up my book and enjoy it so much that they can't help but pick up more. And follow me on Amazon or Twitter or right here on this blog so they know when more are coming. That, honestly, is the ultimate reason, but there are others.

Second, I'm hoping for more reviews, be them on Amazon (my biggest hope), Goodreads, or anywhere else people like to review. By giving my stories away, I'm hoping for more readers, and maybe some of those extra readers will give a review. 

A third reason is word of mouth. Maybe someone who picks up one of my free stories will recommend it to friends or social media followers. I'm always up for an extra dose of readers!

Those are three big reasons why I'm going to be giving away a different story each week. It's something Indie authors should really keep and use in their magical bag of marketing tricks! It's easy if you're in the Amazon KDP Select program - you have five days to mark your book as free every three months. It's also different from the Kindle Unlimited program, where readers can download your book for free, but they're only borrowing it, even if there is no "due date" like a traditional library. The free book through the promotion means it's the reader's book as if they bought it.

If you use Smashwords, you can easily generate coupons which readers can use, and you can set an expiration date on those. For other retailers (B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc.), you'll have to look into those, as I've never tried to get a free promotion going at any of those. 

So look for my books starting on Monday. This first week, as I said, will be Flag Football Conquest. And if you miss it? Keep an eye on Twitter or my Amazon Author Page to see what the current freebie of the week is! I hope you enjoy the free reads!