Thursday, October 10, 2013

What it sounds like in my head during "official" edits

Quick update: we just finished content, or "overview" edits of the Moonlit sequel, which is currently called "Windswept." That means the plot for the sequel is pretty much set in stone (sqquueee!!!) and that we're moving on to inline edits, where my editor comes after my sentence structure and word choices like they owe her something. And, in fact, they do. She makes sure every word, every sentence, deserves a place on the page once they're finally printed.

In my head, the whole content editing process sounds something like this:

1. Right after I've submitted the manuscript to my editor: I can't wait to see what she says! I can't wait to get started and tear it apart and make it better better better!! (then, this tiny voice says: what if she LOVES it and there's nothing to do? Bwahahahahaha. Hilarious.)

2. Once I've received the edits, I typically glare at the screen - not at my editor's notes, but my own words. How could I have thought this was any good? Why in the WORLD did my publisher accept this novel? There is EVERYTHING to do. Then I dig in and rearrange, shore up holes, apply pressure to the bleeders. Things get better, but aren't sewn up just yet, the fact of which really ticks me off.

3. I submit the first round, and then I avoid my laptop at all costs for fear I'll delete the whole manuscript on a whim and attempt to pick up a new hobby. True story: A week ago I got a puppy because I couldn't handle the down time of two weeks (fyi - that's like super insano lightspeed in the publishing world) between round one and round two. I am an idiot, a busy idiot who is now training a very energetic 4 month old dog.

4. I received the second round of content/overview edits. While the second round is usually lighter, I have found that with Moonlit and Windswept, they make me dig deeper. The first round merely made incisions in the body. The second round probes for the source of the bleed. And boy howdy does it bleed. Everywhere. You'd think by the second round of edits the major cuts were over. Nope.

5. And then, the best feeling on earth: Here it is! This is the giant traffic jam/plot hole to nowhere/personality disorder my manuscript is suffering from. And this is my favorite part, because now that I've identified the offender, I can seek and destroy it faster than that very energetic puppy can rip up a pair of undies. In Windswept, Tanzy opens the sequel with an axe to grind and a very large chip on her shoulder. That big heart of hers was nowhere in sight. The original opening not only made Tanzy practically unlikeable, but also foiled her emotional development in the rest of the story. Tanzy's journey in Windswept has a lot in store for her, and if she's already burned up inside by page 10, we have no where to go. Once I realized I'd plugged the wound in Tanzy's bleeding heart with my own southern-born, grudge-holding, short-fused temper, it was an easy (and lengthy) fix. The story is so much better now that I've taken myself out of the equation

When my editor - who I adore, okay worship... possibly stalk... anyways, when she suggested I soften Tanzy I thought: had she forgotten how Moonlit ended? Wouldn't she be royally brassed off if someone had pulled the pin on the grenade of her life and walked away? In truth, I have no idea how my awesome editor would handle the situation in reality, but I'd also forgotten how Tanzy would handle it, and put too much of myself in the opening chapters. There's a reason I'm not a heroine in a book somewhere.

We still have work to do. In truth, I was a little intimidated by the sequel as a whole. I have fans - actual, legitimate, they-don't-know-me-outside-of-this-book fans. What if Windswept doesn't deliver? What if I'm not good, I was just... lucky? The story line is so different, the pace so blinding... Then I think back to the state Moonlit was in pre-edits, the holes, the weak places, the choppy sections, and I realize we're right on track with Windswept. We still have work to do, and I'm sure I'll stumble around a few times and eat my way out of a writer's block or two. But I'm finally learning all of those steps and feelings and frustrations and breakthroughs are just par for the course.

Sharing is caring: what tips do you have for an author in the editing stage? Tell us about what you're up to, too!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Author Interview with Paul Anthony Shortt

I am so excited to welcome fellow WiDo author, Paul Anthony Shortt, who just released "Silent Oath," book two in the Locked Within Series. I've admired Paul from across the pond, and have thoroughly enjoyed watching his writing career take off. Today, we're talking all about his series, including the new release and a recently released short story for the series.
Thank you so much for visiting with me today. To start, tell me about your main character. What/who inspired him? How did his identity evolve as you learned more about him? Nathan Shepherd is a reborn, someone who can remember past lives and draw strength and knowledge from them. He’s based off the first real hero I came up with when I first decided I wanted to be a writer. I was about 13 years old when I came up with him. I suppose what really inspired him was seeing so many horror movies where the experienced, knowledgeable monster-hunter dies, and the rookie hero has to stop the villain in the end. Initially he was nothing more than a mess of ideas, all the elements I thought a hero needed. Over time, he’s become his own person, with his own wants and desires. There’s still a lot of me in him, but he’s much more rash than I am, prone to leaping before he looks, and he’s quite secretive even around people he trusts. In the end, Nathan is someone who tries to take everyone else’s burdens onto his own shoulders, even when it damages him. That’s a trait he and I share, though I’ve learned that you have to work out a balance when helping others, or else you burn yourself out.
Of course, it takes two to tango. Tell me the same about your villain. Some people will expect me to talk about Dorian here, but I’m not. Silent Oath introduces Nathan’s true nemesis, a renegade reborn who goes by the name Athamar. Reborn typically choose a “soul name”, a name they can go by from lifetime to lifetime so they can be easily identified when reuniting with past associates. Athamar casts aside the name he was born with in this life, and has a major grudge against Nathan. If he was inspired by anything, picture a combination of The Joker and the evil Angelus from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He’s savage and remorseless, and also a little bit insane. Part of the puzzle Nathan must solve is to figure out exactly who Athamar is, and why he hates Nathan and his lost love Elena so much that he has hunted them throughout their previous lifetimes.

You and I are kindred spirits there, Paul. The Buffy series essentially shaped my adolescence, and made me lean away from the damsel-in-distress type entertainment and more towards the can-do-chick. You recently release a short story for the Locked Within series, which features a leading lady. What made you decide to showcase this aspect of the story in its own feature? Do you plan on releasing more short stories in the future? Cynthia’s one of my favourite characters in the series. She’s strong-willed, intelligent, and won’t let Nathan get away with any self-sacrificing nonsense when she’s around. He needs her. Their friendship is a major part of the series, and I think we could do with seeing more platonic relationships between men and women in fiction. Unfortunately for Cynthia, she spent much of Locked Within in a hospital bed after Eli savagely beat her. I wanted to give her some additional exposure, but also give readers a glimpse into how she coped with her ordeal. By the time Silent Oath begins, Cynthia is a practiced marksman and even coming into her own reborn abilities. I wanted to take some time to show how she regained her strength. I have another short story in mind, yes. This one will be set around Christmas time, between Silent Oath and the final book.

You've had a busy year - and I understand it's about to get even busier. How do you balance writing and family? Yeah, it’s been busy, all right. Our twin girls arrived just in time for Christmas, and we’re expecting another addition to the family in January. It’s all down to communication, to be honest. My wife has been my strongest supporter in my writing career. Since the day we met, she knew this was what I wanted to do with my life, so she understands if I need to spend an extra hour or two at the computer. I’m lucky enough to work in admin for my day-job, so I can spend my lunch hour writing solidly, and I get some extra writing time during the girls’ nap time at the weekend. If I’m on a deadline, I’ll also use a netbook in the evenings after the girls are in bed, so I can still relax on the couch with my wife while I work. I probably have more demands on my time than most people I know. I believe all things come down to priorities. You have to decide what are the most important things to you and budget your time for them, just like you might budget your finances. My top two things are my children and my writing. Once I set down time for those, everything else can fall into place.
Which character do you find easiest/most natural to write? Do you see any bits of yourself or your life in your writing? Probably Nathan. He’s been in my head, in one form or another, for 20 years at this stage. I try not to write literal people and events from my life in my books. I’d be too afraid someone might recognize themselves and take offence. However, experiences which have deep emotional effects on me do inspire my work. I draw on emotions for appropriate scenes and try to evoke those same feelings in the reader. One of the pivotal moments in Locked Within, for example, is Nathan and Laura’s breakup. That whole scene brings to mind several events in my life where I’ve been betrayed or cast aside by others. So when writing it, I dredged up all those feelings and let them fuel the words on the page.
What makes your series stand out? Well, at face value, it bucks the trend by being an urban fantasy with a male protagonist instead of female, but that’s hardly anything special. I think the first thing that makes Nathan’s story different from other urban fantasy series’ is that reincarnation is a fairly regular fact of life. In most fantasy novels, reincarnation is the special purview of the Chosen One, a sign of their heroic destiny. When I set out to write this series, I knew I wanted reincarnation to be a common occurrence. Secondly, despite his eidetic memory and being able to temporarily boost his strength by using his past-life memories, Nathan Shepherd is just a regular man. Yes, he has lifetimes of knowledge and experience, but he’s mortal. He has no super powers, no magic tricks. He can’t throw a fireball or regenerate injuries. He has to succeed by outwitting his opponents, or just by being too stubborn to stay down when he gets hit.
I understand you have already drafted the third and final book in the series. Did you always know how it would end? Most definitely. I tend to come up with the end of stories before any other part, and while some of the precise details have changed over time, I always knew that the series was going to come down to one final confrontation between Nathan and Athamar. I promise, it’ll be epic.

That sounds like quite a finale. I know it's hard to say goodbye to characters you've grown so close with and then introduce yourself to a whole new hero/villain. What's next for you? I’d like to say I’m going to go have a glass of wine and take the rest of the year off. But truthfully, I’d get bored within a week. I can’t stand not writing at least a little every day. Once I get confirmation, one way or another, on the third book in this trilogy, I’ll be getting ready to work on that, and looking ahead to next year’s release. In addition to that, I’m working on a new YA steampunk series which I’ll be self-publishing next year. More about that on my blog in a few weeks, actually. But I’ll still be traditionally publishing as well. I’ve always said my goal is to eventually be releasing up to 4 books a year, and the best way to do that is by using every opportunity available to me. I have some ideas for new series’. The only tricky part is choosing which to concentrate on! So stay tuned, because I have plenty more stories to tell!

Now then, let's check out the sultry, lovely cover of Paul's newest release:

Cover Copy
Hope has returned to New York City. Nathan Shepherd leads a small band of dedicated fighters against the Council of Chains and the city's supernatural masters. But it's not enough. Because from the shadows of Nathan's former lives comes an old enemy, one who knows terrible secrets that Nathan has not yet remembered, secrets that could undo everything he has fought for.
Nathan's only chance to uncover the memories of his previous existence, and to conquer these new forces of evil, lies in Elena DeSantis. A woman he has fought beside in past lifetimes. A woman he has loved.
Together, Nathan and Elena are the only future the city has.
About Paul Anthony Shortt: 

A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life. Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

Paul lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica, and is now expecting their fourth child.
Paul's first novel, Locked Within, was released on November 6th, 2012, by WiDo Publishing. Silent Oath is the second book in this urban fantasy trilogy.

Twitter: @PAShortt