Monday, July 23, 2012
I promise this is not going to be a blog just about writing, books, self-publishing, copyediting, etc. Those blogs are prevalent enough. And I do promise that the next Musing will not relate to the above, but will be on a different subject that most all adult Americans should understand better.
However, I had so many comments about the last Musing showing great interest in some of the nitty-gritty of self publishing that I thought a follow-up was in order. To that end I received a brilliant dissertation on the subject from an old friend, also an author, who writes under the pen name of Philip Michaels, and who recently self-published a novel, No Fortunate Son. His book delves deeply into the turmoil of the 1960s, as does mine, and it has received numerous 5-Star reviews. Since he can describe it better than I, he has been invited to be a guest blogger on the Musings for this week. So take it away Phil:
Thank you Val; it’s an honor to be included in your blog. Writing and publishing No Fortunate Son was definitely a journey and a learning experience. I’m often asked why I self published. The answer is fairly simple: It’s a Catch-22. Until you’ve been published, no literary agent, much less a publisher, will want to get involved with the task of selling a novelist’s first work. So, one must sell in order to get the attention of agents and publishers. This, of course, means self-publishing.
Writing a novel is harder work than I originally thought it would be. First and foremost, one needs a story to tell. It needs a beginning fascinating enough to captivate the reader early on, and it needs to keep the reader’s attention throughout. Then, it needs a satisfactory ending. Thus, plot, pace, believable characters with whom the reader can identify, and a suitable ending are essential. Once that has been accomplished, the author must undertake the tedious and nearly impossible task of self editing. No matter how many times I read and re-read by novel, I always found errors. Even now in printed form, and after a professional editor went over it with the Chicago Manual of Style (the bible for novelists, editors, and publishers) and a fine-tooth comb, I’ve found six errors in its 400 some-odd pages.
I used a professional editor because after trying to edit it myself several times, I realized there were many rules of grammar and punctuation I was either not familiar with or had never been taught, despite having gone to colleges and grad schools for seven years of my life. For example, how many of us know about compound adjectives needing to be hyphenated? I don’t see too many hands raised. It’s the old saw—is it an “old furniture salesman” or is it an “old-furniture salesman”? It, of course, depends on the meaning. With no hyphen, the old bugger sells furniture; with a hyphen, the salesman is selling old stuff. Then there are issues of when to use “on to” instead of “onto”, “which” instead of “that”, and where the proper placements of commas belong. These are the types of things that make self editing a challenge.
In a nutshell, it took me six years to think through the story, invent the characters, refine their dialogue so each has a unique “voice”, and to have it edited and published. What I learned is making my next novel, The Enigma Code, a WWII thriller, much easier to write.