"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Art of the Rewrite

Dear Fellow Writer,

2015 has well and truly begun. Where are you on your journey toward success this year?

Hopefully you've started to work on your goals already.

How many books do you intend to complete this year? One, two, twelve? Whatever your answer, you'd better get down to it!

This week we look at rewriting - the activity that ensures you create work of quality.

Keep writing!


The Art of the Rewrite
Art of the Rewrite

The novelist John Irving says, on average, he spends a third of his time writing and two thirds rewriting

Irving regards his talent as average but thinks that his determination to perfect his work after the first draft is probably what has made him a successful writer.   

In the publishing industry, the author Ken Follett is famous for his ability to rewrite his manuscripts to target the needs of his audience. 

He has a habit of showing his early drafts to anyone who will read them because he believes everyone's opinion has merit - especially when he's creating a book that's meant to be a bestseller. 

Follett He has been known to rewrite novels extensively – almost completely - based on feedback: developing character relationships, removing plot threads and tightening up the story over and again, prior to the final publication of the work.

As a wannabe fulltime writer, you should be inspired by these examples. 

Way back in time, F. Scott-Fitzgerald was apparently once found hunched over the printer's block of one of his novels, rearranging the letters, just before the book went to print.

Perfectionism is a healthy trait in writers - as long as it doesn't stop you from finally letting go when the time comes. 

When conducting your own rewriting, consciously be aware of your target audience and make any changes you believe will improve your reader's experience of your book.

They'll love you for it! 

Plus, you’ll no doubt know you’ve done a much better job, and you’ll be more pleased with the final product if you really care about what you’ve written – and thought carefully about the words, the structure and, most importantly, how you believe your reader will feel about your writing.

Self-indulgence must be ruthlessly erased from the final manuscript. 

You might say you don't know when you're being self-indulgent. 

I don't believe it. 

When you look back over your work, you do know, deep down, what has to go. 

Trust your instincts. 

Fact is, and this may hurt to know, that there never was a book or piece of writing that didn't benefit from being shorter.

Plus, don't think that just because you've completed a second or third draft of your magnum opus - and that you've perhaps read it a thousand times - that it doesn't need editing again - by yourself and perhaps, at some point, by another writer. 

I currently have only two people in my life that I trust to edit my work.

One, my wife, Robyn, herself a successful children's writer and a person obsessed with clarity in writing and a stickler for grammar, tense, and sense. 

Two, my friend and fellow writer, Chris Ryall. He's a budding thriller writer with an inbuilt radar for what's right and wrong when it comes to logic, flow, and impact.

Chris has done many first edit passes on my work and I value every comment and/or adjustment he makes to my manuscripts.

In the past I've done Google searches to find good editors. I’ve worked with a few – and I credit them in my books when I use them. 

If you're struggling to find an editor yourself, I think the best way to go is to seek out people you think might be able to help you BUT consciously work on improving your editing skills yourself, all the time.

You eventually want to reach the stage that all you really want is someone to proof your material. 

If your work still needs a good edit by your second or third novel, you're probably not learning all that you could. 

And learning how to edit your own material is indicative of caring about what you do. 

Some legacy publishing editors do a lot more than proof your books. 

Often in-house editors are also ruthless book doctors who may rip your manuscripts to shreds during the editing process – especially if they believe you have a bestseller in there somewhere.

If you're one of those people who believe that editors are there to fix your writing, then you probably don't care enough about your writing - and perhaps you shouldn't be doing it! 

But that's just me. There's no excuse for being sloppy and then relying on others to fix your work for you.

Because the fact is, if your manuscripts don't work before an editor gets to work on them, then generally no amount of work will make them any better. 

Give your work the attention to detail it requires.

Think through everything: every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every section and every chapter, all the way through the book. 

Always do your best. And resolve to get better with each new project.

It’s the only way to stay ahead – and to stay fulfilled.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell



    Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Publishing Strategy for Independent Authors

Dear Fellow Writer,

Thanks for being a subscriber. I know it's sometimes hard to stay focused when there's so much information coming at you all the time these days.

I'm glad you still like hearing from me!

Being a full time writer is great - as long as you're committed and totally believe that what you do makes a difference.

Getting lost in the creative flow is what it's all about. But often we have other considerations when we let our work go to see how it fares in the marketplace.

In today's article we look at how you might stay ahead of the competition (including those signed to legacy publishers) as an independent author in the new millennium.

Keep writing!


Publishing Strategy for Indie Authors

Publishing Strategy for Indie Authors

One great way of preparing yourself for the release of your next book as an independent author is to have a pretend strategy meeting with yourself every two or three months.

 If you had a legacy publishing deal and an agent, you'd most likely have regular meetings to discuss your ongoing books.

 You would meet to discuss you progress, possible release dates, and how your newest book might fit in with the growth of your career and the needs of the publishing company's marketing department.

 If you're an independent online author, you'll likely need to conduct an imaginary meeting with yourself to iron out some of the same issues.

 Okay, so the meeting is an intellectual exercise - but no less valid for that. 

Hold the meeting with your partner if he or she is interested. 

Engage the help of a fellow author to bounce ideas off, or, if all else fails, conduct the meeting with yourself. 

Any such meeting will stand you in good stead for your future career.

 Write up an agenda for the meeting - listing the points up for discussion.

             1. How's the writing going? (Because you're probably not done yet!)

            2. How commercial is the project? (And can you make it more so.)

            3. What issues need 'fixing'? (Characters, Plot, Structure, etc.)

            4. How long will that take?

            5. Thoughts on cover design. 

            6. Scheduling a release date.

            7. Marketing ideas.

            8. Beta readers.

            9. Possible reviewers.

            10. And so on.

 In the publishing world it's not unusual for these meetings to be long and complex. It's also not rare that they are conducted without the author present.

 Count yourself lucky you can attend your own meeting!

 In the publishing world, I've known these meetings to happen three to six monthly - until the author finally makes the changes the agent, publisher, and most importantly, the marketing people, want.

 One (now popular) author I know went through TEN YEARS of these meetings until she finally presented all the interested parties with a manuscript they thought was worth publishing and promoting.

 She described those ten years to me as a thoroughly hellish experience. That is, until the book became a bestseller - thereby proving to everyone involved that it was worth all that work and effort to get it just right.

As an independent author you can of course circumvent the need to please an army of people that have little to do with the writing of the book, but it's worth bearing in mind that publishers often take great care over releasing a new book simply because a perfectly-honed manuscript and book-package with the right cover that hits the marketplace at exactly the right time can create a bestseller in a way that is very hard for an indie author to emulate.

 In your own, imaginary, meeting you need to honestly appraise your place in the market.

 Is your manuscript, in its current incarnation, up to competing with what's out there?

 If not, why not?

Does it have the right title?

Is the subject matter compelling/different?

Do the characters/concepts work?

Does the idea/premise/story make sense?

Is it a big enough concept with an easily identifiable hook?

Is the book good enough to compete?

What more does it need?

Does it need paring back?

What can go?

What kind of cover should the book have to compete in the right genre?

What kind of promotion does the book need?

How will it reach its target audience?

 These and more questions of your own making are all on the table during your faux meeting.

 Now, don't worry too much about this pretend meeting. 

Don't fret that perhaps you haven't thought of everything or that maybe, after your initial analysis, you don't think you have a book worth promoting.

 That's to misunderstand the process and purpose of the meeting.

 Remember that publishers conduct these meetings every day and still find it hard to create bestsellers!

 But the fact that you have even considered your own book in a professional light will put you streets ahead of the dozens of other authors who will release their books onto Amazon and Kindle at the same time as you - without any real thought to what they're doing.

 Actually caring about where you stand in relation to the marketplace, and writing quality books that will stand the test of time, is at least half the battle when it comes to selling books to new readers.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell


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