Looking Back on 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

 I have to say that this has been one of the better years in my life. On the whole, more good things than bad happened. I've been caught up in the holiday rush, stressed over getting things done, and came down with a cold, so, when I first started thinking about 2012, the bad things popped to the top of my mind. I'm a half-empty kind of person at heart, struggling to see that glass as half-full--kind of like that optical illusion where some people first see a goblet and others see a couple.

The highlight of my year had to be the arrival of my first grandchild, my mother's first great grandchild. No, this picture is not my grandchild. Unfortunately, there are those who would use a real picture to try to locate me or the child, not because I'm anyone famous or my grandchild is someone special (well, other than to me and my family), but because they are evil. I don't have to elaborate on that so close to the Newtown shooting, do I?

It's amazing the amount of joy one child can bring to a family. It's been a long time since we've had a baby to fuss over, cuddle, and buy Christmas presents for. It makes you realize what life is all about.

A happy surprise for me was that my employer offered a transition to retirement program for those of a certain age. While I was debating a retirement date and whether to do it sooner so I could write more or do it later so I could have affordable health insurance and a bigger income, this third possibility presented itself. So, for half the year, I've been going to the paying job only three days a week. It's amazing how much I've gotten done with those two extra days off.

More importantly, I had a change in mindset. Before July (when I started the program), I was an office drone, unhappy in my job, and tired of computers-as-profession. After July, I was a writer who happened to have a day job three days a week. I was able to set a schedule for my writing with a somewhat realistic expectation of keeping to it.

A major breakthrough for me was taking several of Margie Lawson's classes. I've been working on craft for years. I've taken dozens of classes on plotting, characterization, grammar, you name it. I've got more than two shelves full of craft books, most of which I've read. I've drafted five or six novels, revised a couple, but still there was something missing. The problem was, I couldn't figure out what it was. Margie showed me.

When I took Empowering Character Emotions last February, I was bowled over by the things I learned. First of all, I realized that my characters were missing a lot of the emotional hits I enjoyed in the books I read. I was maintaining an emotional distance from my characters. Not only did Margie show me what was missing, she taught me how to fix it. With her EDITS system, I could look at the colors on a page and see what elements were there and what elements were not. In Deep Editing, she showed me a ton of rhetorical devices to make my writing stronger.

I fully intend on taking her body language and advanced EDITS classes in 2013. If I can work it out, I'm going to go to one of her immersion master classes later in 2013.

The Tucson Sisters in Crime chapter was reborn and I've become heavily involved in that. While RWA has provided me contact with other writers in Tucson, I'm more of a mystery writer than a romance writer. It's good to have a SinC chapter to call home.

I am very close to publishing my first mystery. I spent most of 2012 applying what I'd learned in Margie's classes, revising based on first reader feedback, then editing again after my copyeditor went over the manuscript. I know the book could be better. Heck, I could totally revise the main character and plot based on what I've learned this year. However, it's time to let it go and move on to the next book. Next week should see the announcement of the publication.

As I said, 2012 was a good year. I'm hoping 2013 will be even better.

Image Credits:
Glass Half Full By S nova (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Laughing Baby By D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Eberle (woman golfer) S nova (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012
I know I kind of just disappeared this month. I've noticed lots of bloggers posting hiatus notices for the month of December, but I didn't even get around to writing one of those. So, a little late, I'm posting a hiatus notice along with my holiday greetings. I'm going to take a couple of more weeks off from writing this blog while I celebrate the holidays and finish up my tasks for 2012.

One of those tasks is to publish the ebook editions of my edgy Christian mystery, Faith, Hope, and Murder. Since this is the first time I'm doing this, I've had to learn a lot of new skills. I'm in the home stretch now, but formatting is going to take a wee bit more time.

I'll be back in 2013 with an update.

In Praise of Copy Editors

Sunday, December 02, 2012
My self-imposed deadline for publishing my first novel came and went yesterday. I'm a little disappointed, but I'd rather publish a good book a little bit late than an okay book on time. One of the reasons it's going to be late is because of my copy editor, Christina Miller. Oh, not because of her computer problems, although that contributed a few days. It was what she did with my manuscript. I suppose it's really not her fault I'm late. But I'll get back to that later.

When I decided to self-publish my book, I realized that I could spend anywhere from zero to several thousand dollars. It all depends on how much money you have available and how much work you want to do yourself. You can whip up a cover in PowerPoint or you can pay a cover designer anywhere from fifty to a thousand dollars. You can learn how to format your book to upload or hire a book formatter to do it for you. And you can trust that what you remember from eighth grade English class will be sufficient to produce professional prose, or you can hire an editor to go over your work.

I'm old. Eighth grade was a long time ago. So, even though I thought I was fairly expert at grammar and usage, I decided to invest a not-insignificant amount of money to hire a professional editor.

It was with fear and trepidation that I opened the Word document Christy returned to me. I had no idea what kinds of things she would find. Oh, I had a few areas I was uncertain about, like when to italicize internal thoughts and how to format the combination of dialogue and action mixed in a paragraph, which is why I wanted an editor to begin with. Would she fix these things for me or would I still be confused when she was done? What other things would she change or question?

What she did was totally awesome!

 This was definitely a case of I didn't know what I didn't know. I know I have a tendency to over-use the word "that." I didn't realize "just" and "so" and "really" were also some of my favorite "weasel words." I regularly use "like" when I should use "as if."

She added lots of commas and took some out. This sent me to my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style and searching the Internet for why she put a comma before "and." (Not the serial or Oxford comma, although I missed a few of those, too. I'd forgotten that when "and" links two independent clauses, it requires a comma, like "but.")

She highlighted repeated words, which sent me to my two thesauri looking for alternatives.

She caught at least two misplaced modifiers which read perfectly fine to me when I wrote and edited them, but were howlers after she pointed them out.

Based on her changes, I researched "toward" versus "towards," "sneaked" versus "snuck," and "health care" versus "healthcare." Time for the dictionary.

I even used The Christian Writer's Manual of Style to figure out when to capitalize pronouns referring to God and Jesus based on Christy's editing.

That pile of books at the top of this page? It's mine. As you can see, I had to take them off the shelf to use them in the process of going through this copy edit. (Or should that be copyedit? Another word where the research results are ambiguous.)

I haven't always accepted her changes. A few times, based on my research, she was wrong. (Not often.) Sometimes, even though she changed a sentence to be technically correct, I felt the original, weasel words and all, fit better. Sometimes she changed the wording of a sentence and I didn't like it, but it pointed out the weakness in what I originally wrote. I've tossed both versions and rewritten the sentence so it sounds better to me.

She frequently explains the reasons for her changes in the mark-up. Between that and my reference books, I've learned a lot in the past couple of weeks.

However, doing this edit is taking a lot longer than I imagined it would. I'm only about half-way through the manuscript and it's taken twice as long as I estimated it would take to edit the whole thing.

I'm not complaining. I feel confident my book will be a whole lot better than it would have been without my editor. My prose is stronger thanks to her. She's been worth every penny I've paid her. And will I use her for my next book?

Heck, yes!

PS: I also hired a cover designer, since I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, but you'll have to wait to hear about that until the book comes out.

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Elise's bookshelf: currently-reading

A Clash of Kings
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