Editing by a novice

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I know what your all thinking. Editing advice from me? I can hear the guffaws and cackles from the peanut gallery. After my first book I was determined to be a better editor. I know that I am far from a professional but I have learned a great deal these past few months. After I finished writing my first draft of book two, ‘Isle of night’, I really wished there was help out there for a beginner like myself. I did find a few articles but for some reason none of them really resonated with me.

I struggled with this for a few days but I think I finally found a way that makes sense to me. Like I said I’m not a professional editor, in fact, I still find it hard to call myself a writer. I’m hoping to share some of my tips for people like me. I have found hundreds of struggling and novice writers on Twitter. It always makes me feel good in a way to see that there are so many others having the same issues as me. I feel like there is a whole underground society of self published authors who are just trying to make their voices heard out there. It makes me a bit warm and fuzzy to know that I’m in this little circle of authors.

I realize that we are all different. Every one of us has our own way of doing things. I just wanted to share a few of my tips. They may help someone or they may not. I do however feel that we need to stick together. Being a writer and trying to self publish is hard enough. Let’s help each other out. There are a million people in this world that are always prepared to strike and bring you down. I would much rather be the one to help someone up than knock them over.

Now enough with this Dr.Phil crap, let’s get editing.

1) When you are done with your first draft, take some time off! I didn’t follow that when I did my first book and I wished I had. It’s hard distancing yourself from your work but in the end its for the best. Reading what you wrote with fresh eyes will help you with the editing process.

2) Editing sucks no matter which way you slice it. After reading my rough draft of ‘Isle of Skye’, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe how many errors I made. Honestly, it almost took away the pride and sense of accomplishment I felt when I was finished. Book two however, was more enjoyable for me. I think it’s because I’m more relaxed and confident. You have to step back during the process of writing a book otherwise it will consume you and not in a good way.

3)When you’re writing your first draft, make sure to go back over and edit as you write. After each chapter, no matter how tired I was, I still forced myself to read what I had just written several times. My first book, I just kept going and going. I foolishly thought that it was best to strike while the irons hot and keep rolling. Worst advice ever! Read and edit as you go along, it will not only save time but it will also keep you sane when you start editing!

4) OK, so I figured out a way to edit that really works for me. I tested this theory out and was amazed by my findings. I read my first chapter on my computer. I took a few notes and thought to myself ‘Hey, this isn’t too bad’. Then I opened my master file on my kindle and Holy Moley was I shocked. I couldn’t believe how many mistakes I had missed. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to reading on the kindle or if it’s because the screen is smaller and I had to focus more but I was amazed at the difference between reading it on my kindle versus reading it off my computer screen.

5) Grab a notebook and a pen. Instead of trying to fix everything on the kindle I decided to do it the old fashioned way. I pulled out my notebook and wrote down every mistake I saw in each chapter. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pick up on it later when I was on the computer but it really wasn’t a big deal. I made sure to include a few words before and after when I wrote my book punch list.

6) I have a confession to make. I am a comma whore. I fully own this flaw as an author. So when Word tells you to add a semi colon at the end of a word, instead of adding a comma, rewrite and use a period!

7) Don’t get too stressed out. If your feeling overwhelmed, take a break and regroup. The world is not going to end if you chill out for a few days. You’re not being lazy or a procrastinator. You just wrote a freaking book. Make it the best you possibly can and if that means it takes a few weeks longer to publish than so be it. That’s the great thing about being a self publishing author, we don’t have deadlines or people up our ass to finish. We’re not writing one crappy book after another to please our publisher. We’re doing it for all the right reasons and on our terms.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Writing vs. Life

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-Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible
Albert Einstein

I’m not quite sure where to start. I feel as though my life has spun out of control lately. A month ago I was moving along with writing my second book ‘Isle of Night, today I am trying to fit in finishing the book and plan a move eleven hundred miles away. I don’t want to get in to the particulars but due to personal reasons my husband and I are moving back to Charleston, SC where we lived for fifteen years before relocating back to my home state of Maine.

When this discussion first came up I dismissed it. Moving back to Maine and giving my children an idyllic New England upbringing was always my goal. I didn’t want them to grow up in the hustle and bustle of a city. I wanted them to experience all that this amazing region has to offer. I think we did accomplish that dream and while it makes me happy, I am also feeling a sense of loss. I love where I grew up. I love the beauty of the rocky coastline, the crystal clear lakes, and the majestic mountains.

I am looking forward to southern sweet tea and central air conditioning though. Lord, how I have missed that!

So as all of this was unfolding, my thoughts immediately turned to my writing. Could I really finish? Did I have what it takes to lose myself in my writing while I was trying to get things ready for our move?

I am happy to say the answer is yes! I finished the other night. It was the same night my husband drove out of the driveway and started the trip south without us. Even though we knew that he had to leave several weeks before the kids and I, I still wasn’t quite prepared to wave him off down 95. I came in the house, made sure the kids were settled, and sat down at my computer. A few hours later I was done. I know that there is still a tremendous amount of work to do, editing, revising, etc. but that feeling of completion was simply amazing.

I’m sure most people would’ve probably put it the back burner but I just couldn’t do that. I guess it’s because I’m not wired that way. I also insanely set a goal to have the second book edited and published before I leave in six weeks.

Yes, I am not right in the head. I have never claimed to be someone with a lot of common sense. I go with my gut and try to push myself to the edge with everything I do in this world. This time, however, I have a really good reason. You see, I love this book. The first book I wrote furiously. I had to get it out of my head as quickly as possible. It was almost like a demon was chasing me.

I didn’t realize at the time that demon was me.

‘Isle of night’ is a book that I am extremely proud of, not only did I write a second book, but I also enjoyed writing it. Maybe it’s because I have developed more confidence or maybe it’s because I think it’s an awesome book…well, in my humble opinion.

Next month, right before I hit the road on my next adventure, I am going to hit publish and just like the road of the life, I am not going to look back.

New Year Thoughts

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Happy New Year! I feel like it has been forever since I last posted anything on my website. I can only blame the chaos of Christmas that has kept me away from the blogosphere. I was sitting here and thinking about the new year and the whole idea of resolutions. Honestly, I don’t believe in making promises about things that I will probably forget a week later. Instead my mind kept wandering not to resolutions but accomplishments and goals.

Here is what I have learned so far in the past month:

1) Microsoft Word is a truly remarkable creation. I turned my nose up and tried to stick with Google Docs when writing my first book, ‘ Isle of Skye’. My brother actually offered it to me for free and instead of stalking him until he mailed it out, I said to him “Oh whenever.”

I think we all know now, after my horrific start, that was a huge mistake.

2) Do not attempt to write during the Holidays or when your children have a vacation. Every five minutes it was, “Mom, my TV’s not working”, “Mom, what’s for lunch?”, and my favorite at nine o’clock in the morning, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” I literally had to stop myself from flipping my fourteen year old son off. I could feel the finger coming up and I had to force myself to repeat, “You don’t want to be a trashy, scum mom” several times.

3)Stop, take a breath and rewind.

I found myself floundering a bit over the last few weeks. I had totally bypassed my chapter outlines and by the time I got to chapter ten of book two, ‘The Isle of Night’, I was lost. Instead of just charging forward, I stopped myself and sat down to read what I had written so far. I then forced myself to revise my outlines and now I feel so much better.

I also realized something pretty monumental along the way. Not only did I love what I had done up to this point but I also could see a huge difference in my writing. Maybe it’s because I feel more confident or maybe it’s just all in my sick head but there seems to be a better flow to my writing. I’m certainly not going to win a Pulitzer…like ever, but I do feel pretty darn happy about how things are progressing.

4) Stop kicking yourself!

If you knew how many times I had said to myself over the last few months, “Why didn’t I finish what I started twenty years ago? Why didn’t I just go for it? Why didn’t I believe in myself more?” Those phrases kept replaying over and over in my brain. Then I realized something. I wasn’t ready then. Although I don’t think you can ever be prepared enough to write a book I do believe you have to have the right mind set before you start.

This journey for me began because I felt that I was at a stagnant place in my life. All three kids were in school. How much cooking and cleaning could I really do every day? I wanted to finally, after almost fifteen years of being a mother,to do something for me. I wanted to try to achieve my ultimate goal of writing a book.

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, is done. In fact I’m declaring those words so 2013.

The new words for 2014 are: Strive, achieve,and determination.

The Sex Scene

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Why should I be ashamed to describe what nature was not ashamed to create?-Pietro Aretino

When I started writing ‘Isle of Skye’ I made a conscience effort not to cave into the pressure of inserting erotica just because that was the new standard. I didn’t want my character Willa to jump into bed with someone she had just met. I felt that was extremely unrealistic, especially with everything that had been thrown at her. I did write in a few light and steamy scenes but for the most part stayed away from getting too graphic.

When I started the second book in the trilogy a few weeks ago, ‘Isle of Night’, I was almost looking forward to finally adding more intricate sex scenes. I sat down to write out the first one, high on anticipation of creating my two main characters first steps into a more physical union, and I had a horrible thought.

My father was going to read this.

For some reason that was like someone throwing a bucket of ice water over my head. I couldn’t shake these thoughts. I started imagining not only my father but my mother-in-law, my mother’s older friends, all reading my writings on sex. Were they going to think this was really an insight into my husband’s and I bedroom? Or were they going to be embarrassed that I was some freaky, twisted, chick?

For two days I have been struggling with this. I found myself drawn to my favorite painting in the world. ‘The Kiss’ by Gustave Klimt. Ever since I was sixteen this painting has been my muse. I always dreamed that this is what love looked like, this is what a kiss should be. Did Gustave Klimt worry about what people would think? Did he or any other artist have any of these anxieties?

I realized that this was probably something every artist, whether they were a writer, painter, sculptor, or even a baker must go through. When we put so much of our thoughts and desires into our creations, there is bound to be some backlash, not everybody will like it but at the end of the day I’m still going to write what’s real.

I’ve decided not to focus on what everyone else will think, I want to write about things that make me happy. If those things include, some steamy romps between two people that care about each other, than was that wrong?

Bring on the sex I say..

Week in Review

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This week has been full of surprises for me. My new book the ‘Isle of Skye’ is doing really well. I had this goal of, maybe, selling 100 books. I thought that this was pretty realistic thinking for a new, naïve, author. Not only did I sell 100 books this week, I’m now inching my way to selling a 1000 books in my first week.

After my disastrous first few days, which I uploaded the wrong file on Kindle, I am happy to report that I have since calmed down and no longer require a medical intervention. When I received my first review, I cried, not just because it was my first but, because this woman who I don’t even know or am related too, loved my book.

I have, as of tonight, received five reviews and they all have been very complimentary. Yes, the typos were mentioned, but what has struck me the most is that every single person who reviewed it, got it. They understood what I was trying to do with this story and they also seemed to think it is pretty funny and witty.

The big question that not only has my fabulous readers asked but also my family and friends, is when is the second book coming out?!

I do not at this time have a date but I am very hopeful that the second book in the Skye Trilogy, ‘Isle of Night’, will be finished and released by the end of March, beginning of April.

Right now I am so involved in the second book, I literally think about it all the time. Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting here thinking about how I am going to start chapter four. Yes, I have written the first three chapters and I’m so excited.

The first book, ‘Isle of Skye’, is about Willa’s journey to the Isle, as well, as her journey into finding out what she really is in this new life that she has been thrust into. ‘Isle of Night’ will be picking up that theme and expanding on it. There are so many twists and turns that are going to occur it almost makes me nervous.

Nervous because, unlike the first book, the second book is going to have to be a lot more polished and a million times more clever. The book will also have a more sensuous and dark feel to the story. I keep pinching myself. I can’t believe I am really doing this. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would write a book. The fact that there are actually people out there that like it and are excited about it…unbelievable!

Happy Holidays and don’t forget to grab your copy of ‘Isle of Skye’ Book one of the ‘Skye trilogy’.
http://www.amazon.com/Isle-Skye-Trilogy-Shannon-Barczak-ebook/dp/B00H1C3D9K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386897650&sr=8-1&keywords=isle+of+skye+shannon+barczak

Isle of Skye Part One: Creation

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Several people have asked me how I came up with this story idea and I tell them that this was simply a story I thought needed to be told. I was sick and tired of reading the same old, same old. I do believe there has been some excellent books in the past few years that have come out but I wanted a book about a real woman. I wanted a book that people could relate too, a character that was pretty normal but thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

I wanted to portray a real woman. Not some little girl who can’t make up her mind or say “Oh my” every other sentence. I wanted to create a woman that was strong, but vulnerable. A woman who could swear with the best of them and joke around but also understand when a situation calls for seriousness.

I wanted a character that I could root for.

Willa McCormack is feisty, stubborn, funny, and fiercely loyal. She has no baggage, she’s had a pretty normal life, she has a great relationship with her parents, she is just your average girl next door. When she finds out that her parents are not who they say they are, it takes some convincing and explaining, but she deals with it and moves on. She doesn’t wallow around “Oh poor me” the whole book. There is one scene where she does take a few mental health days when she gets to the island though. I wanted to add that because I felt like in the beginning when she was told and shown all these amazing things, she absorbed it but if this was me, once the danger was over, I would need time to acclimate to my new environment.

Willa deals with most things head on. The only two people she holds back a little is with her grandmother and Mathias. Winifred, her grandmother, is very weary of Willa at first and doesn’t want to even acknowledge her existence. Since Willa is the first child ever born from a Gypsy and Fae coupling, this scares Winifred. She, as queen, is immediately worried about the safety of her people and what might come about having Willa around.

I also wanted the readers to realize just how dangerous Willa could become but I didn’t want to get into all the Fae details until book two. Book one is about Willa’s journey both psychically and emotionally to the island. Her grandmother plays a key role later on in helping Willa discover more about herself. Near the end of book one you see their relationship turn more friendly and at the beginning of book two an event that occurs brings them together even closer.

Now on to Mathias. *Sigh*

I knew right away what I wanted in a male lead. I didn’t want some guy who would read poetry and profess his undying love immediately. Mathias is more of a guys ‘guy’. He has spent his whole life as a human and a vampire living up to a certain code. A code that he is determined not to break. He doesn’t talk about his feelings, he doesn’t let Willa push him around, he’s a man.

I struggled with doing the whole ‘true mate’ thing but in the end I wanted Willa and Mathias to have this intense connection. I also wanted it to be a connection that they both try to fight. Mathias is complicated, he jokes around with her but then he pulls back. They have a few spicy encounters but I didn’t want them to jump into bed together. I just felt that was completely unrealistic. Finally at the end of book one, Willa calls him out, and he runs.

I’m not going to say what will happen between Willa and Mathias but I will assure readers that by the middle of book two their relationship will be resolved one way or another.

‘Isle of Night’ will have a lot of answers but it will also propose many more questions. I hope you as excited as I am to find out what they are.

Check out ‘Isle of Skye’ currently on Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=isle%20of%20skye%20shannon%20barczak

Highs and Lows

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I have learned a great deal in the last few days. The amazing joy of seeing for the first time my words in print. The tears that fell from my face are still imprinted on my skin. I have never felt more proud of myself than seeing my book preview. It was, aside from children being born, the greatest moment of my life.

Then of course I sat down and read it. The joy quickly turned to horror when I realized that I downloaded the wrong book file.

Yes, I made a huge mistake. My blood pressure shot up so high I almost admitted myself to the hospital. Every typo, every error was in plain view and I wanted to throw up. I knew that I would find some, anyone that had ever had to edit their own work expects that, but the thought that I would do something so stupid, after all my hard work, never once entered my mind.

After staying up for the past few days with the most agonizing anxiety it has finally been fixed. Unfortunately the Kindle team does not think that my new version is that different so it is not offering an update for those that purchased the book right away. So now I am stuck with the feeling of regret. All of my family and friends who downloaded the original will not get to read what was intended to be the best version of my first book.

I know that everyone makes mistakes, I get that, but to me that means little. I wish I could refund everyone’s money and purchase them new copies but I can’t. So now I just have to focus on the good.

The book that I intended to publish is now up. I can only hope that people love the story and characters as much as I do. I can only pray that people will overlook some of the few typos and realize this is my first book and I can only wish that people will believe in it as much as I do.

Link to book one of the Skye Trilogy, Isle of Skye: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=isle%20of%20skye%20shannon%20barczak

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