Post-NaNoWriMo Publishing Checklist

So, it’s been a week since the end of NaNoWriMo and participants have gotten a chance to step away from their writing and clear their minds. Many of them are now considering publication. But how will they achieve this goal? You can’t just go from NaNoWriMo to published without a few additional steps. That’s why I want to dedicate a post to a post-NaNoWriMo publishing checklist.

  1. Rewrite

Odds are your NaNoWriMo draft is very rough (that’s the kindest term I use for my own first drafts). After all, NaNoWriMo is all about volume, not quality. That’s why, before you even try publishing your NaNoWriMo book, you first need to revise and rewrite your manuscript. Hopefully you’ve had some time to recover since the event ended, so you can come back to your manuscript with a fresh eye and see what is and is not working. If you can’t read it objectively or you want a second pair of eyes to look it over, seek out a beta reader.

Your initial batch of beta readers can be friends and family. However, the closer you get to a polished manuscript, you’ll want more impartial beta readers (i.e. people who don’t already have some sort of acquaintanceship/relationship with you). That’s where paid beta readers come in. It can be pricey but it’s worth it to have a publishable manuscript. For those on more of a budget, there are plenty of beta readers available on Fiverr and similar websites.

If you deal with a minority or other underrepresented group which you are not a part of, you may want to hire a sensitivity reader as well to make sure that your manuscript is plausible and factually sound. You should also find specialized beta readers for other topics you’re not an expert in, such as surgeries if you’re writing a medical drama, the legal system if you’re writing a crime thriller, etc.


For more help with post-NaNoWriMo revisions, be sure to check out this podcast.

2. Edit/Proofread

This point sounds similar to rewriting but it is slightly different. Rewriting is getting your manuscript to the point that you feel you have a story people would read. Editing and proofreading ensure that the writing behind the story is polished. Rewriting involves closing plot holes and checking consistency; editing and proofreading strengthen the writing and eliminate spelling and grammatical errors.

As with rewriting, you’ll want to recruit friends and family to help with editing and proofreading at first but, as you get closer to your final copy, you will need to recruit outside help. Editors and proofreaders do not come any cheaper than beta readers but, as with beta readers, you can find plenty of affordable options on Fiverr.

3. Writing a Blurb

Whether you’re self-publishing or going down a more traditional route, you will want to write a short blurb describing your manuscript. Writing a blurb will help prepare you for pitching your book to publishers (you might even be able to use your blurb within the pitch), and you need a blurb for the back of your book if you’re self-publishing. As with the other items on this checklist, you can always hire someone from places like Fiverr to help you write this blurb and/or your pitch (beware of scammers). Keep in mind that no one knows your book better than you do, so it’s best to write your own blurb and/or pitch and then recruit someone to help you edit and proofread it before use.

4. Cover Design

For those who want to pursue tradition publication, you won’t need this step as the publisher will help handle this. However, if you are publishing your manuscript yourself, you will want to give this step special attention. We say don’t judge a book by its cover but let’s face it, everyone does. If a cover is unappealing or does not accurately represent the content, people won’t read your book. You could find someone you know who’s a good artist to create something for you. However, it’s always best to have a professional artist/graphic designer help you.

Again, it’s not going to be cheap but it’s crucial to a successful self-published book. You can hire someone from Fiverr, even going to Fiverr Pro if you don’t trust that the Fiverr sellers are professional (visit this page for more information on Fiverr Pro). For the best results, you’ll want to visit websites and online communities for writers and check out the cover designers that they recommend. People in these communities have already gone through the struggle of publishing; let them share their wisdom with you.

None of this is easy and it will take a lot of time to accomplish. It’s worth the time, effort, and money to create a professional, polished product. If you do the work ahead of time, it will save a lot of wasted time and effort from publishing before your manuscript is truly ready.

Have any tips for novice writers looking to be published? Any thoughts on self-publication or continuing after NaNoWriMo? Drop a line in the comments below or e-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com and your wisdom might be featured in a future post.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: The Golden Prayer by Edward Weiss

Warning: The views and opinions expressed in The Golden Prayer by Edward Weiss do not necessarily reflect on the view, opinions, and beliefs of The Writer’s Scrap Bin or its writer. If you have any issues with the discussion of religion, proceed with caution.

Another day, another book review. The book I’m reviewing today is essentially the polar opposite of yesterday’s book, A Killer’s Reflection. Today’s book is The Golden Prayer by Edward Weiss, a book comprised of five non-fiction, religious essays about finding God.

In The Golden Prayer, Weiss argues that we are not separate from our creator—from his perspective, God—and that everything we experience in the physical world is predetermined. Therefore, he claims, in order to be truly free we must realize that we are one with God; we, as individuals, have no real importance and, as a result, do not need to carry the burdens which we pile on ourselves day after day. He says that God already provides that which is most important to us and that anything else is extra; we may not necessarily lose that “extra” stuff—money, family, love, etc.—when we admit and embrace the idea that we are part of God but they are unimportant in the face of the bigger picture.


Image retrieved from Amazon

How can we make the transition from focusing on material desires and our self-importance to loving God, you may ask? Weiss tells the reader to use prayer, but not just any prayer. He claims “There is only one prayer you will need to know and love G—d”, i.e. The Golden Prayer. The Golden Prayer reads, “Let Go, For I Am Here.” This letting go, to Weiss, is key to the freedom of finding God. The “ignorant” or “unlearned”, as he calls people who have not accepted this belief yet, fight against letting go because they desire to continue their happiness, a temporary satisfaction brought on by striving for our desires but, ultimately, does not satisfy or free us. Weiss’s book teaches why it is important to let go, to accept this belief as truth, in order to live a spiritual and blissful existence and begin your “real” life, the one in which you live in God for eternity.

I have established before that I am not religious. I have read and reviewed several religious books because I am open-minded, but none have aligned with my belief systems. Weiss’s has not, either. Still, it raises many questions which anyone with even a shred of a spiritual side should ask: are we, as individuals, really that important in the grand scheme of things? Do we truly have free will or is everything predetermined? Are we actually satisfied in living our short lives on Earth chasing one goal after another, most of them material and/or financial? You may come to different conclusions than Weiss—in fact, I’m betting that at least one of your conclusions will differ from his—but his book has articulated arguments which have been making the rounds to all circles of life for decades, maybe centuries.

The religious nature of the book aside, Weiss’s work is very well-written. I noticed minimal grammatical and spelling errors, so minimal that I can’t think of any off the top of my head. His sentences are also eloquent, structured nicely, and easy enough that more novice readers can understand without talking down to anyone. Nevertheless, I feel the argument is often repetitive. He states, again and again and typically in the same ways, how humans must learn to let go of the ignorant mindset, that we’re all part of the eternal sea, how we really aren’t that important and so shouldn’t force these responsibilities on ourselves, etc. The repetition, at times, lost my attention and could make it hard for me to push on enough to get to the next epiphany.

In particular, one image is recycled for two concepts which, in the end, confused me more than helped. In one breath, Weiss acts as though we should be more childlike because, as very young children, we only know that we exist, we feel that we are a part of this eternal perfection, and have not yet been polluted by the societal ideals regarding responsibility. In the next, he says that the bound (i.e. those focused on the desires of the physical world) are the children and the free (those who know the “truth”) are adults. I found it hard to reconcile those two meanings for the child/adult imagery and, while Weiss admits that much of this process is a paradox, I struggled with thinking that both kinds of people are both child and adult. That imagery coupled with the repetition made it hard for me to trudge through the book at points, but I had to so that I could digest Weiss’s argument about our purpose—or non-existent purpose, as he claims—and determinism.

This book is not for everyone. First of all, it’s entirely based in religion. If I did not have such a curious mind and a desire to see all angles of an argument, I probably would not have read it for that reason. Second, it’s comprised of five essays. I know that many readers are reluctant to dive into essays as they are often dry, impersonal, and remind people too much of school. Nevertheless, I think The Golden Prayer worth reading for those with intellectual/spiritual curiosity. There are parts that can be hard to get past but, once you do, you will find many thought-provoking gems that will get you thinking about the world in new ways. It may not change your worldview, but this book will get you thinking.

You can check out Weiss’s book on Amazon, both to buy as an e-book and through Kindle Unlimited, as well as in paperback.

Do you know of a book that you think I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com or message me on Fiverr and we can get a conversation going.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: A Killer’s Reflection by Cheryl Denise Bannerman

Trigger Warning: The book reviewed in this post, A Killer’s Reflection by Cheryl Denise Bannerman, contains depictions of rape, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, homophobia, violence, and foul language. If any of these subjects trigger you or you otherwise wish to avoid them, proceed with caution.

Happy Monday, everyone—or Tuesday, depending on where you are. I want to start the week with another book review, this time of an erotic thriller. (Yes, I have wandered back into the “erotic” genre!) This book, a brief but compelling psychological thrill ride, is A Killer’s Reflection by Cheryl Denise Bannerman.

A Killer’s Reflection follows Douglass Randall Coleman, Jr., as he grows from a straight-A student in the projects to a soldier in the U.S. military and, finally, a full-grown man with a job and kids. On the outside, he is charming, hardworking, and, well, perfect. At least, that’s what his mother would tell you. Yet everything is not what it seems. Douglass is a party boy with an addiction to alcohol, women, and drugs of all kinds. He also harbors a dangerous secret: the voices, the voices in his mind which won’t shut up, and an unyielding temper and need for control that push him into committing the most heinous acts imaginable.


Image retrieved from Amazon

Bannerman gives readers Douglass’s perspective for most of the novel but, especially during the second half, she also shows us glimpses into other key characters: Tara, a woman in Douglass’s sphere of influence (and danger); Dr. Reed, a female therapist Douglass has been talking with on the phone since his Honorable Discharge from the military; and Rhodes and Kreegan, homicide detectives hell-bent on making certain that Douglass gets what he deserves. But can they prove that this modern-day Casanova has done anything wrong? Or will Douglass Coleman, Jr., get away with murder again?

In 125 pages, Bannerman creates an intricate world of mystery, mayhem, and murder with only Douglass at its center. Unlike many thrillers, the mystery does not lie in who did it as much as why he does it and if he will be caught. Bannerman’s writing made me constantly wonder not if Douglass was going to snap but when. She drops subtle hints as to Douglass’s triggers and the trauma which made him that way, allowing readers to guess at what will happen without spoiling the plot.

Bannerman’s captivating storytelling is due in part to the fact that she thoroughly utilizes the resources available to her and lets the reader know about those resources. In the first chapter from Dr. Reed’s perspective, Bannerman begins by citing her sources for Dr. Reed’s diagnosis of Douglass. These citations give a level of credibility to her work that is often missing in other tales involving mental illness. Still, I feel that the citations would have been best placed at the end of the book rather than accompanying the chapter. The read would have been smoother for this chapter without the resources there, and they would have made more sense along with the childhood abuse statistics and resources.

I loved being shown the killer’s side of the story, the why’s and how’s and childhood issues which made him the man he is by the end of the novel. However, I felt that the structure left something to be desired. For the most part, we follow Douglass from start to end in chronological order. While Douglass’s childhood is key to understanding him, starting the book with his childhood makes the ending somewhat anticlimactic. Had his childhood and years in the military been interwoven into the narrative present—i.e. Douglass’s adulthood—I think the tension would have been that much stronger and the plot that much more compelling.

In addition to feeling anticlimactic, the final chapter feels rushed. The reveal of the big twist—which I will not discuss in detail here due to spoilers—happens rather quickly, as does the explanation behind the twist. More interactions among Douglass and the surprise characters would have made for a slower reveal and, therefore, a more satisfying ending. Douglass’s reaction to it all is also rather mild compared to the development of his temper to that point. In the face of betrayal, I expected him to have a complete mental breakdown, but his anger appears muted compared to his earlier reactions. When he knows he’s doomed, why would he hold back?

I also found many grammatical errors. For those most part, these did not detract from the reading experience. However, one repeating error became tiresome: the narration sometimes slipped from third person to first person. There are moments when this shift made sense, namely when entering Douglass’s thoughts. Yet not all of the shifts are during Douglass’s thoughts; sometimes it occurs for no reason, along with some instances of going from past tense to present tense and back again. These issues are only a matter of more thorough proofreading. If Bannerman releases a newer Kindle version that has been edited/proofread again, I would not hesitate to recommend this book.

Despite these critiques, I think A Killer’s Reflection is an exciting page-turner right for most thriller fans. There are depictions of violence and even more of sex, including rape, but so long as you are not sensitive to or triggered by graphic images, you will really enjoy this novel.

If you want to read Bannerman’s A Killer’s Reflection, you can find it as an e-book on Amazon. To learn more about Cheryl Denise Bannerman and her other works, check out her website at www.bannermanbooks.com.

Do you know of a book I should read? Want me to review your work on this blog? E-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com or message me on Fiverr.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Friday Fun-Day Writing Prompt: Two Truths and a Lie

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve been waiting anxiously for the weekend and not because I’m going out. I’m still sick, my entire household is sick, I started a longer-term freelance job this week on top of other projects, I’ve had to do a lot for school, and I’m just exhausted. I’d say I’m going to use the weekend to rest but, really, I’m going to be catching up on work I’ve let fall to the wayside. Despite all these time restraints, I was able to come up with a writing prompt for this week: two truths and a lie.

In truth, two truths and a lie isn’t a writing prompt by nature. It’s a game, usually used as an icebreaker in classrooms, at conferences or workshops, etc. It’s still fun and I think that writers, particularly fiction writers, could learn something from it.


Image retrieved from Slide Share

In this game, you have to tell to two truths about yourself and a lie. The trick is that the lie has to be so good that it’s almost indistinguishable from the truths. The other people playing the game then try and guess which of your statements is actually a lie.

Here’s why I think fiction writers could benefit from this game/exercise: we are, in essence, telling lies when we write fiction. Even if we base our work on something or someone we know or that actually existed (ex. historic fiction), we embellish quite a bit. In order to be good fiction writers, we have to be able to tell these “lies” convincingly. Even though readers know (or at least assume) that what they’re reading is fiction, they have to feel as though it can happen. Even fantasy, science fiction, and horror have to be convincing enough that the events seem plausible for the world that you have created.

Two truths and a lie helps strengthen this writing skill. If you can fool other players, you’ll be that much better at getting your readers to suspend disbelief.

Obviously you’ll have to play this game with others. That’s the only way to know if your lie is convincing. So, for this exercise, gather up some friends, family, co-workers, fellow writers, and play. The better the players know you, the bigger the challenge and the more your skills will be sharpened.

You can even leave your two truths and a lie in the comments below for people to guess, or on the Facebook group that accompanies The Writer’s Scrap Bin page, The Cork Board.

Do you have any ideas for writing prompts? Leave them in the comments or e-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com for a chance to have them featured in a future Friday Fun-Day post.

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Writer’s Market Freelance Pricing Guide

As a result of Ameel’s comments on my previous post, I have decided to post a link to a source which I think freelance writers and editors will find useful. The resource is a pricing guide for freelancers from Writer’s Market, which you can find here on the Writer’s Digest website.

I discovered this guide after I was gently told by a couple clients that I was far under-pricing my services. I had only experienced the peanut-sized pricing of Fiverr and similar sites at that point–even my experience there was minimal–and so I had no clue what my prices should actually be. I won’t say what any of those original prices were (and you better not either, Ameel!) but I will say that all my book reviews went for only $10 back then.

What can I say? I was new, I was trying to build a client base, and I was naïve enough to jump in blindly without any real research to speak of.

It hasn’t been more than a few months since then but I’ve learned quite a bit, and one of the most important things I’ve learned is to use the Writer’s Market pricing guide.


Image retrieved from Writer’s Digest

The guide is an excerpt from Writer’s Market Companion, 2nd Edition. The excerpt includes calculating your expenses, calculating hourly rates, negotiation, raising your rates, and sample rates.

Did you know that it’s acceptable to charge $1 to $3 per page for proofreading a book? Or that you can get $28 to $150 per hour for writing brochures and fliers? That’s just a sample of what you will find in this pricing guide.

The best part? It’s free to download! You only have to give them your e-mail address. (Don’t worry; Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Market are well-established and reputable, so you don’t have to worry about giving them your e-mail.)

One caveat: this is only a pricing guide, so you shouldn’t take it as the pricing gospel. Each client and each project are different and it might be necessary to keep your rates negotiable until you’re more established as a freelancer. You can afford to be firm on higher prices once you have more experience, but you’ll want to retain some flexibility in order to keep the jobs coming.

Do you know of any guides or other resources which could help freelance writers and editors? Have any good examples or horrible warnings from your personal experience you would like to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or e-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com and your wisdom might appear in a future post.

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011