Monthly Archives: September 2011

That Tricky Revision Process

Posted by September 22nd, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (Sept. 8, 2011)

New York Times bestselling author and editor team Rachel Caine and Anne Sowards talk about how to take a good book and make it great.

 twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteYou’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your first draft, and it’s finally ready. Well, kinda sorta. Now, you just have to revise. Whether you’re a writer getting feedback from a community like Book Country or from a beta reader, a contracted author getting notes from his/her editor, or the editor in question, it’s a tricky process.

Not only is it a complex process, but everyone approaches revisions differently. That’s why we decided to chat with a New York Times bestselling duo–author Rachel Caine (@RachelCaine) and her Ace/Roc editor Anne Sowards (@AnneSowards) to get their take.

Rachel Caine is the New York Times bestselling author of 14 adult urban fantasy novels, including the “Weather Warden” and “Outcast Season” series, as well as 11 young adult novels in her beloved “Morganville Vampires” series (and more!).

Anne Sowards is the executive editor of Penguin’s Ace/Roc imprint and has helped grow some of the most well-known bestselling SF/F authors today like Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Ilona Andrews (in addition to Rachel!). With 15 years of experience at Ace/Roc, Anne certainly knows her stuff.

With the tips and experiences they have to share, you might figure out what kind of reviser you are! Check out these gems from the chat:

@AnneSowards: If you feel the first draft is perfect, sit on it for a while and then look at it again.

@rachelcaine: If I feel strongly about keeping something, I am suspicious of why I do. Often, that’s what needs cutting.

@mbrucebarton: A good self-editing technique: reread & write down what you learn about your own plot/characters on each page

@mer_barnes: Read aloud!! Esp works with dialogue.

@Chumplet: I get rather excited to see edits. It gives my book an anchor. I’m no longer alone, playing a guessing game.

@AnneSowards: An author doesn’t have to fix the book my way. They can say, Anne, your idea stinks. How about this?

@rachelcaine: As a writer, you fear seeing the editorial notes, but the trick is take things one comment at a time, fix, move on.

@mbrucebarton: Sometimes small issues are symptoms of the larger issues so I recommend starting with the BIG ones

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!


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The Importance of Connecting with Readers

Posted by September 14th, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (August 25, 2011)

Crime fiction author Lawrence Block and publicity maven Erin Mitchell chat about why–and how!–writers should interact with their fans. 

twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteGiveaways. Email. Book signings. Twitter. Newsletters. Facebook. Skype.

There are myriad ways for writers to connect with readers these days, but some tactics seem to work better than others. But no matter what track you take, one thing is for sure: interacting with your readers is key. When writers are genuinely involved, when they interact with fans, readers’ dedication always seems to grow.

So what can you do to reach your audience? How can you interact most effectively? On August 25th, we asked experts Erin Mitchell(@ErinFaye) and Lawrence Block (@LawrenceBlock) to enlighten us.

Erin Mitchell has worked as a book publicity specialist for 25 years, helping authors connect to their readers. She also connects on a personal level through her own blog, as well as participating in the group mystery blog, “Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room.” She also takes part in the growing #FridayReads trend on Twitter.

Lawrence Block is the bestselling crime fiction author of the beloved Matthew Scudder series. His most recent release, A Drop of the Hard Stuff, hit shelves in May 2011. Lawrence has taken to Twitter and e-mail like a fish to water, building his relationships with readers through social media and other online venues.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the chat:

@ErinFaye: Remember why people subscribe to newsletters: because they love your writing. And want insight into characters, too

@LawrenceBlock: Point to remember: what matters is the writing. if the other gets in the way, maybe it’s not such a Good Idea.

@BrendaCopeland: Readers are the best advocates for authors. Much better than marketing departments. And it all starts with what’s on the page.

@lilysea: I’ve been known to sneakily reposition a twitter acquaintance’s book at the bookstore for better exposure. Feel it’s a “friend”

@ErinFaye: Start with one venue, whether that’s twitter, fb or a blog. Trying to do all at once can be overwhelming

@LawrenceBlock: I answer every email, unless its from a certified PITA.

@zbarnes: I liked how @swierczy wrote post cards to reader who won a contest. Great way to connect!

@Chumplet: My one bookstore signing garnered sales & great conversation. Not easy to set up but I loved it!

If you missed the chat, you can view or download the entire transcript as a PDF here. It will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start reading on the last page and work your way up to the first page.

Thanks to all who took the time to share their experiences and ask questions.

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

Follow us on Twitter for more: @Book_Country


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Taking the Plunge into Revisions

Posted by September 14th, 2011

The Trials of an Editorial Role Reversal

“I hadn’t asked myself any of the ‘important’ questions. But now, I wasrevising; I couldn’t hide anymore.”

 jumping into lakeIt’s always been second nature to me to pinpoint the problem areas of a novel—or even of a newspaper article, brochure, or even a dinner menu. As a child, I would sit on the couch, red pen in hand, and read, noting comments in the margins and line editing sentences. I loved being able to take something good and make it great. Writing was harder for me, but I did it anyway–poems, plays, short stories, you name it. To this day I still have a strange bump on my right ring finger from gripping my pencil so tight and scribbling for hours.

Given my childhood proclivities, it felt appropriate for me to move into a career in editorial. Pointing authors in the right direction isn’t always an easy thing but it’s rewarding, empowering, and for whatever reason makes me happy. It also often inspires me to work on my own writing, a process I struggle with as the imagination and creativity required to sprout something from nothing is a horse of a completely different color than the skills necessary to be a thorough and helpful editor.

When Book Country was about to launch into private beta, though, I decided to give the “creation” thing a try again. But really, the “creation” I speak of was me taking the easy way out and writing down, line-by-line and scene-by-scene a dream I had a couple years ago. It was a great beginning to a paranormal romance or urban fantasy so why not take it right from my head to the page? But, of course, I don’t dream in print so character development, plot structure, motivation, etc. wasn’t a factor. After I posted my piece on the site and got hoards of feedback, I had a lot of work to do.

It wasn’t until this past month that I actually had time to sit down and consider a revision. Plus, the concept of actually doing the revising myself is semi-foreign to me—I’ve always been on the other side of the process!—and it was difficult to take the plunge. All of the feelings many of my authors had experienced over the years—the over-thinking, the sensitivity, the mind blocks, the insecurity—rushed at me at once and, terrified, I would step away from my computer every time I felt even a twinge of motivation. It was a tiny bit pathetic, I’ll admit, to be so afraid of something I’m so familiar with just because I’m coming at it from a new and different angle.

Then one day I did it. I printed out all the feedback from my fellow Book Country members and read it through again and again, highlighting the most useful points and suggestions, circling the recurring issues, jotting down a mini-outline of scenes. It took another several days for me to get up the courage to write it.

Pulling it apart was awkward and uncomfortable: What do I do with this sentence? I like the sentiment but it’s not working. And what about this character? Who is he really? Where is this story even going? What is this world? Gah! My brain felt like it was going to explode against the walls of my tiny New York City apartment.

None of these questions were ones I had asked myself previously. I had just written what I saw in my head during that one crazy night of sleep. But now, I was revising; I couldn’t hide anymore. I didn’t know how to even begin nailing down all the things I knew I needed to at least have a slight grasp on before I could improve the piece. The creative part was never up to me before—at least not when writing genre fiction, where there are conventions and expectations. And tossing in a paranormal element, something I’d never ever done in my writing? Oh man. Forget it. No idea where to start.

So, I took to a friend and fellow Book Country member, talking it over and throwing around ideas to get a sense of what I wanted and didn’t want to do. The encouragement and support he offered were invaluable and got me to start thinking outside of my past experience and wading into unknown waters. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. To me, the entire shape of the pages changed, even though I only added about 4,000 words. It was a different story, a stronger story, a story with a direction. It still needs work, of course, and I have to gather the courage to write a *gasp* brand new chapter to move it forward, but it’s now a morphed version of its original self.

The experience was an enlightening one for me. Scary, obviously, but enlightening. A lot of you are braver than I, revising on a regular basis while also powering through toward your story’s ending. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with seeing your own work objectively so you can trim the fat and enhance the meat of the story. It is not an easy thing, even when you can do it no problem with someone else’s writing. I encourage you all to try though—or even just post that book you have marked as Private—you may surprise yourself.  I know I did.

Photo by balinto, uploaded by Mrszantogabor ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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