Posts Tagged ‘editor’

A pitifully short update

October 27, 2012

My procrastination skills—always formidable—have experienced a recent surge in power. Thus, it has been an entire month since I’ve chronicled progress on Kiss and Tell for you. Which is crazy, because I actually have a boatload of stuff to report.

I have a very minor amount of revision work left (maybe a few hours), and then the finished manuscript is ready to go out to a couple of beta readers, a term I just learned from my copy editor’s website. Beta readers provide a preview for an author of what the public might say about the book, pointing out things that are confusing, repetitive or even missing. Since the book is about 450 pages, agreeing to be a beta reader is no small task.

Fortunately, as I say to anyone who’ll listen, I have the best and most supportive friends anyone could hope to accumulate, and two of them have agreed to the “beta” task. One is an editor and the other a writer (though both can do both), so I’ll be fortunate indeed to see the book from their perspectives.

While they are reading, I’ll turn my attention to creating type for the book’s cover, which includes soliciting cover blurbs from authors I’ve met over the years. Dr. Whelihan and I met last week to discuss hiring a book designer and together we interviewed two candidates on the phone. I’ve since had additional calls with several online organizations who specialize in helping self-published authors bring their books to market. It’s a complicated field: not rocket science or anything, but there are multiple paths you can choose and we want to explore all the options before jumping in.

Although December is a huge month for selling books, it would be a rush for us to pull everything together in time to make a holiday release feasible. And let’s face it, sexual desire is understandably not at the forefront of women’s minds when they’re trying to buy and wrap gifts, arrange holiday dinners and parties, send cards and trim trees. Enough already! As we learned during interviews, sex can feel like one more thing on a to-do list if a woman is feeling overwhelmed by the requirements of daily life.

So right now we’re aiming for a lead-up of Kiss and Tell marketing to dovetail with Valentine’s Day. We’ll get advice from more experts along the way on how to make sure the campaign effectively builds momentum, and though I’m sure we’ll hit some bumps along the way, I’m hopeful we can generate some strategically-timed media excitement to help things along.

Fortunately, I have friends who have been down this road and are willing to lend their advice and expertise. Though the process seems a bit scary to me, they give me confidence that it can be done! Books do get published. It’s not impossible. Even for little old me!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got just a few more revisions to make.

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A matter of motivation

September 25, 2012

Whenever I get like this, blogging is the last thing I want to do.

I hate fessing up to my drag-ass spells and it doesn’t matter at all that I realize they are part of the process for any big project—especially one that expects to have a book pop out at the end. I just want to be above them, okay? I want to be such a skilled, motivated, energetic and passionate craftsman that such mundane matters are powerless to trip me up. Is that too much to ask?

Actually, this was worse than just an ordinary drag-ass spell. It was two weeks of nasty self-doubt and an unbidden journey into the whole “what does this all mean?” territory. Since the timeline correlated pretty closely to the completion of my first draft, it was interesting that a girlfriend married to a successful biographer told me he always experiences a dark couple of weeks after he’s done with a book—and before editing and revisions. She likened it to post-partum depression.

Perhaps that’s what I experienced, and I use the past tense because one day last week I woke up and I just felt better. For no good reason. Things just kind of shifted back into a glass-half-full mentality, and I’ve maintained an upswing ever since.

Isn’t it weird how being in that negative spin cycle just feeds on itself? And it’s so crippling. When I’m in the midst of such a spell, I know I should reach out and call a friend or make a run to the grocery store or attend a yoga class, but I’m unable to locate a single molecule of energy to make it happen. I’m lucky to go check the mailbox, much less fix a good, healthy meal. The routines of my normal life suddenly appear impossible to sustain.

Not surprisingly, feeling inadequate in my simple daily routines makes me insecure, and that in turn complicates all the relationships in my life. If a friend forgets to call back, I obsess over all our recent exchanges to discern what I said to make her angry. If an editor doesn’t return an email, I decide I’m the worst freelancer they’ve ever had to deal with. Every event is reflected through this ridiculous prism of negativity. And though my rational mind sees the absurdity of what I’m doing, I can’t figure out how to get back to a better frame of mind. I have no tools to help me crawl out of the abyss—perhaps partly because I don’t often fall in.

Anyway, as I said, my trip to Crap Land is thankfully past. I’m gradually regaining my enthusiasm for various activities, from exercise and cooking to writing and maintaining friendships. I told one friend that perhaps two weeks is my limit for focusing on my shallow, first-world problems and feeling sorry for myself.

This week I’ve completed a package of stories for my former newspaper about women’s friendships that begin in mid-life and I’ve also done all the phone interviews for another piece that will run in October. Today I spent an hour going over editor Tiffany’s notes on the Kiss and Tell manuscript, and that was good medicine. I can see I need to get together with Dr. Mo for a session so we can discuss some of Tiffany’s recommendations and how to best incorporate them into the book.

I’m still trudging to the gym twice a week; I managed to do that even while depressed. But now I’m back in yoga and also actively trying to get back in a regular riding pattern with my biking pals. South Florida’s weather pattern is ridiculously wet right now, however. Multiple rain-outs have occurred and it’s getting annoying. My tires are aired up, the headlight battery is charged and I’m ready to go.

Or not.

I’ve written a book

August 17, 2012

For more than two years now, “I’m writing a book” has been my job title, my obsession and my reason for being.

On Monday I sent 474 pages of words—95,800 of them actually—to an experienced book editor to see what a professional person thinks of all this research on women’s sexual desire.

While I recognize that revisions—perhaps major ones—are part of the process, I’m naturally thrilled to be done. There’s undoubtedly a line I’ve stepped across; the book is whole now, a complete work. It’s permissible for me to shift over and say “I’ve written a book.”

Though I’m elated and proud and even incredulous about this achievement, I’m a little surprised at how quickly I’ve moved on. The self-congratulatory period was frankly shorter than I think I deserved. I thought I’d linger awhile in the fog of self-satisfaction once I hit that SEND button.

Instead, I immediately began thinking “OK, what’s next?”

First off, I’m way behind on day-to-day tasks and appointments, so I’m scrambling there. More importantly, I have several freelance writing assignments due before the end of the month, so no dilly-dallying in that arena either. In addition, I want to spend some time on marketing and social media (for example: do better at blogging!). And I definitely need to perform major research on the next phase of self publishing. I’ve collected numerous articles about the process and must absorb them in order to determine the best way to go about hiring a designer to pull the book together for publication.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Whelihan wrote a very nice letter to Victoria, our New York agent, and terminated our relationship with her. We received seven rejections (from Perseus Books, U.S. Penguin Group and others), which didn’t discourage us that much. We believe women’s sexual desire is a subject that needs to be addressed in all age groups; New York publishers seem to think we need to narrow the focus of the book and only appeal to smaller slices of the population.

We respectfully disagree. And since Dr. Whelihan is the expert (and after my research, I’m getting there!), we decided to trust ourselves and publish the book that our heads and hearts tell us is what readers want.

At this point, if a publishing house in New York suddenly offered us a contract, we’d say no. It would be 12-15 months before the book was for sale if that happened. With self-publishing, we hope to have copies of Kiss and Tell in hand by Thanksgiving.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to download the book. You will, of course. And we’re even hoping to make individual chapters available online, in case you truly just want to read about sexual desire for women in one decade only. (That’s another perk of self-publishing; you get to do what you want!)

It feels like everything is moving much faster now. Hopefully the momentum will continue and we’ll see our dreams realized of a book to sell by the holidays. Such a brave new world. Scary, but exciting.

Just look what happens when you hit the finish line … when you can truthfully say “I’ve written a book.”

Good news and bad news

July 29, 2012

The good news is that my surge to finish the book and deliver the manuscript to the editor by Aug. 13 is on track. I allowed myself a bit of padding when I chose the deadline, hoping I wouldn’t panic too much (which I did anyway for a couple days).

The bad news is that I’m using up a lot of the padding with a complete rewrite of the chapter on the 70s ladies. Up until this chapter, the editing process has been a matter of reading along and feeling pretty OK about the work. I occasionally find bumps and even places where I think, “what the heck happened here?” Which means I stop and rewrite, fix the transitions and modify whatever requires it.

But the 70s chapter was the fifth chapter I wrote and I’ve realized my form changed right after that. This was the final chapter where I told the women’s stories more individually, allowing their voice to proceed more or less uninterrupted as they discussed desire throughout their lifetime. The latter chapters, which I like better, interweave the women’s observations and feature several subjects commenting on the same topic, rather than being isolated in their own life story.

I’m editing the book in order, even though I didn’t write it in order. I figure it’s imperative to read the book sequentially at least once. The fact that I made it to the 70s without any chapter screaming for a rewrite constitutes additional good news. And since the 80s chapter was included in my book proposal as “sample pages,” I know it’s going to require very little editing. The 90s chapter is short, so while it may need sprucing up, the work will be mercifully brief.

Meanwhile, I remain bogged in the 70s. The intro to the column wasn’t engaging at all; just dry statistics and overall percentages of what women told us in the general survey. So I went back and read my raw notes for the chapter and found these women imparted surprising and even shocking things about their sex lives.

One woman said she experienced so much pain with sex (right from the start) that it took two years before she and her boyfriend got all the way to full penetration. She delivered this information with no sign of how dismaying a listener might find this. Another 70s lady had several trysts with a 27-year-old lover just weeks after she was widowed and then began a tempestuous affair with a man three decades her junior. During her 48-year marriage, she took an unknown number of affairs or lovers, likely between 75-100. This information was also delivered absent dramatics; the speaker showed no expectation of her words creating surprise.

Another woman in her 70s had gone for marital counseling in her 50s and was able to speak very eloquently to the things which keep intimacy alive in a relationship when sex is no longer possible. (Her husband’s health issues are the culprit.) Yet another subject says, “I guess I got holy,” when describing how her attendance at a new church has made her disinclined to engage in the affairs of her youth. But the thrice-married woman still struggles with her sexuality: She doesn’t understand why she still has passion if she’s not supposed to do something about it. And she feels trapped by the church’s admonition against sex before marriage, since she has no desire to remarry after her third husband’s death.

Given the exceedingly rich material the 70s ladies shared with me, my chapter just didn’t do them justice. Yesterday I wrote 6 new pages of juicier stuff as a fresh introduction. Then I went through the interviews once more with my trusty colored highlighters, using them to mark comments on common topics. This afternoon it’s back to the grindstone, with the goal of more integration of the women’s stories. I’ll still let them speak at length in places, but the group as a whole needs cohesion. I can see that now.

The clunkiness of this unedited 70s chapter is reassuring in one other way: It means my skills and expertise sharpened as I worked my way further into the book, and I can now bring them to bear on my less polished work. My voice naturally became more sure as I increased my familiarity with the material and came to rely less on recitations of numbers and more on the truths I’ve found at the core of women’s desire.

This was exciting to realize—and it’s what made me sure I had to rewrite the chapter. Before I turn the manuscript over to editor Tiffany, I’m determined it will be the best I can offer.

But dang. Having to redo a whole chapter is the pits. Mumble, mumble, grumble, grumble.

And now I shall STOP procrastinating and get back to it.

A little help here, please

May 27, 2012

The solitariness required to write a book is a given, and I’ve learned to be content with the alone time necessary to make that happen. But as I embark on the final chapter, I find myself looking forward to a point in the near future when I can begin working with an editor to make this exciting book the best it can be.

I’m eager to dig into the structure, find the flaws, rearrange whole chunks of content if need be, polish the prose, make my voice consistent. I have both specific questions and more general concerns I’m ready to discuss with an editor, someone who’s really passionate about this material like Dr. Mo and I are. Someone I trust.

I actually have someone in mind and I’ll of course name her if our relationship becomes official. Meantime, you might be wondering why we’re looking to hire our own editor instead of waiting for a publishing house to assign one. If you read about the process of signing with an agent, you know we contracted with someone in New York who’s been sending out the ‘Kiss and Tell’ proposal for a couple of months now.

But we’ve had a snag and a bit of disinterest, so rather than stewing in any disappointment, we’ve decided to push ahead on a couple of self-publishing fronts, in case that turns out to be the path we take. So at last week’s work meeting, (after which I polished off the health chapter!!) we split up tasks to accomplish in the next couple of weeks. Dr. Mo is researching a loan to cover the cost of self-publishing while I gather exact estimates for what those costs will be.

Fortunately, I know people who’ve written books, and early on I got a recommendation for a very experienced editor who has worked with both fiction and non-fiction. I like her flexibility because, although the book is non-fiction, it’s written in story fashion and utilizes many fiction-like touches to increase its appeal.

I emailed the editor and she got back to me quickly (despite being out of her office), which I took as a good sign. She had heard about ‘Kiss and Tell’ from a mutual friend and finds the concept intriguing. Woo hoo! First hurdle overcome; no prudes need apply.

Like some others I saw online, this editor offers a free edit of 1,000 words of your book, so you can see how she works and whether you’re a good fit. I think this is an excellent practice, because anyone will tell you that finding a person who gets what you want to do and helps you say it in the best possible way is a writer’s dream. Serious writers all long for the partnership of a caring editor.

I perused my decades chapters and decided to submit the first 1,000 words of my chapter on the 80s Ladies. Remember them? I adored those gals and also felt they brought out some of my best writing, so I’m curious to see how much this editor wants to change up what I’ve done. Good editors don’t rewrite everything a writer creates in a bid to insert their own voice; instead they make the writer’s voice truer and stronger.

That’s what I’m holding out for.

Naturally we wouldn’t move definitively to hire an editor until we formally sever ties with our agent. And it may not come to that. In the world of publishing, something unexpected can always happen.

We’re just trying to stay smart, stay flexible and make the best decisions possible for ‘Kiss and Tell’s’ success. Fingers and toes crossed!