Revising Leah

February 5, 2009

The End

This blog has been an act of redemption.

In the months and years following the publication of the first edition of Leah back in 1996, I found myself increasingly unhappy with the book and the quality of the story I had written. My unhappiness loomed over all of my other writing, eventually paralyzing to me to the point where I stopped writing creatively altogether for a few years. It became a goal of mine to revisit and rewrite the novel someday. I needed to redeem myself as a writer, because I knew I am a better writer than the fool who published that poorly written book in 1996.

And, perhaps more importantly, I wanted to redeem Leah Nells, one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever created. She deserved so much better than to languish in the flawed fictional universe where I abandoned her over a decade ago. This project has been for her as much as it’s been for me.

The project is complete now. The novel has been revised and republished, my sense of myself as a writer has been redeemed, and Leah Nells is at last in the story that I imagined for her so many years ago. With nothing left to do and nothing left to revise, I’m bringing this blog to a close. This will be my last post.

I want to thank everyone who visited this blog, everyone who left comments, and everyone who linked to me from their own blogs. It’s been fun meeting so many different people.

I’ll be starting a new writing project — and a new blog — soon. The new book and the new blog will both be titled Juvenilia (there’s a link in the sidebar). Both the book and the blog will be an ambitious project in which I’ll be collaborating with the two main characters in the creation of the novel. It should be a lot of fun, and I hope everyone who followed this blog will join me for my next one. It will probably launch sometime around the first of March. Until then, I’m going to take a little time off, try to drum up some publicity for the new edition of Leah, and continue to proselytize over at Publishing Renaissance.

Endings are often awkward, but at least this is a happy ending.

February 2, 2009

Revised!

My finished novel arrived today. It looks good, so I’ve approved the book for sale through Lulu and elsewhere. Paperback copies may be purchased here.

I’m also making the ebook version of the novel available for free. The PDF download at Lulu will be free, of course, but I’ll also be offering downloads through my website.  Right now, I only have PDF and ePub versions of Leah available, but I’ll be adding PRC and PDB formatted versions, too, soon.

I hope everyone who stops by this page will check the book out. I’m very happy with it.

January 21, 2009

How Can You Finish a Piece of Writing That Can Never Be Finished?

An update: Last week, I received the proof copy of Leah and I read through it, proofreading and making last minute corrections. I thought that I’d be able to submit the corrected manuscript back to Lulu on Sunday, thus beginning the final phase of this publishing process. However, Sunday evening, I was reading passages of my book at random (a couple pages here, a couple pages there), and stumbled upon a sentence in chapter eight in which I had accidentally italicized half of a sentence that should not have been italicized at all.

The discovery freaked me out because it was an error so glaringly obvious that I should have spotted it last week when I was reading through the novel. I started to wonder, then, Well if I missed that, what other errors have I missed?!

So I decided to delay submitting the supposedly “corrected” manuscript for a couple of days. Since Sunday, I’ve continued to just browse through the book randomly. I have spotted a few more errors, but they’ve all been very minor typos.

But Sunday’s freak-out has rekindled has my obsession with perfection and the idea that whatever I write and publish must be perfect, even though I fully realize that no piece of writing can ever be perfect — something can always be done to improve a written work. I have the urge to hold on to my book and not submit it until I have made every single change that I can. But I could work on my manuscript for another hundred years and it will still not be perfect.

I’ll keep browsing through the text this afternoon and this evening, but unless I find another startling error like I found on Sunday, I think I’ll submit the corrected draft of my manuscript to Lulu before I go to bed tonight. Hopefully, I’ll be able to sleep.

January 16, 2009

Almost

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:36 pm
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Well, I finished reading through the proof copy of my novel today. I had thought that I would today be ready to submit the revised manuscript and book cover back to Lulu, but I’ve decided to sit on the book for the weekend and think about it some more. In the second half of the novel, I noticed a couple of potential continuity errors, so I want to make sure those are taken care of. Plus, I feel like I read through the novel so quickly (40-50 pages a day) that I just want to pause and catch my breath. Hopefully, on Monday, everything will be ready to go, and I’ll submit the revised documents then.

January 13, 2009

The Final Edits

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 5:23 pm
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As I read through the proof copy of the novel, making the final set of changes and edits, I find myself reading through the book rapidly — I’ve been reading at least fifty pages a day. That’s good, because it means I’m finding few mistakes. Each sentence and each idea is flowing smoothly into the next. When I feel tripped up, when I have to stop and re-read a sentence or a paragraph, that’s usually an occasion to fix something, but I haven’t experienced very many of those moments.

The biggest change that I’ve made to the text so far is to delete an entire paragraph from chapter two. The paragraph just seemed superfluous, and when I read the passage without the paragraph, it sounds better.

But most of the edits that I’ve made have been little changes. As I thought I might, I have found some lines of dialogue that aren’t punctuated just right. Many of the edits, though, have been the usual word choice errors that always plague me. For example, in chapter six, I wrote this sentence:

Instead, her eyes darted to each of the boys’ laughing faces, and then they took a quick glance out the window at her table on the patio.

The problem here is the pronoun “they”. It isn’t clear what its antecedent is. It is supposed to refer to “her eyes,” but given this sentence construction, it appears to refer to “the boys”. I fixed this problem simply by changing “they” to “she”.

I’ve also found a couple of continuity errors. In chapter ten, I write,

David handed the piece of paper to Heather and said, as he sat down . . .

but then a few lines later, I write,

“And they lived in Egypt,” David laughed as he sat down.

So here I have a character performing the incredible act of sitting down twice in the same desk. That’s gotta break some law of physics or another! In this case, I decided that the first time David sat down was sufficient, and deleted his second occasion of sitting.

I don’t expect that I’ll ever be able to change every single thing that I might want to fix, but I know that every correction I make brings the novel just a little bit closer to a state of perfection. Overall, though, I’ve been quite happy with the book.

January 8, 2009

Twiddling My Thumbs

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:33 pm
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Earlier this week, I got the message that the proof copy for Leah had shipped, so right now I’m just waiting for it to arrive. If I’m lucky, it will come by Saturday. I’m anxious to hold the book in my hands and see the revised story “in the flesh” instead of just on a computer screen.

As I wait, I’m trying to plan my strategy for what will be the final round of editing. Obviously, the first concern that I’ll have will be to check the cover and the formatting of the text. On the cover, I’ll be looking to see that the pictures and text are all lined up where they should be, and I’ll especially be looking to see how bad the pixellation is on the back cover. I expect some pixellation, but the question will be how obvious is it? If it’s really obvious, I’ll either have to blur the image a little more or I’ll have to design something different. Yesterday, I got inspired after thinking about my use of quotes on the front page of my new website, and I think I might be able to come up with a better design.

But the real editing work will be with the text of the novel. I’m going to try, as hard as I can, not to make too many unnecessary edits. I know that if I give myself freedom to do whatever I want I’ll be rewriting sentences and replacing some words with other words til the cows come home. But I really just want to limit myself to fixing errors.

One kind of error that I know I commit has to do with my dialogue. I tend to commit two common errors in my dialogue: I misplace or omit capital letters, or I insert periods where commas should go (or vice-versa). For example, I might accidentally write a line of dialogue like this:

“Yes, he was lost,” Joe said, “He didn’t know where to go.”

or like this:

“I liked the movie,” she said, “it was really good.”

So after I’ve read a chapter with dialogue in it, I’m going to revisit each line of dialogue and make sure I haven’t left any typos in my text. Little things like that probably won’t be noticed by someone reading my book for the first time, but they’ll bug the heck out of me if I see them in the final product.

Beyond those concerns, I’ll just have to stay on the alert for surprises. I won’t be too worried if I catch a lot of little errors in this final read-through. It’s a fact that reading a hard copy of text is a very different physiological and psychological experience than reading it on the screen, and since this is the first time that I’ll be reading a hard copy of the entire revised text, it’s possible that I’ve missed a few things in my previous revision cycles.

January 5, 2009

I’ve Got a Website

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 5:04 pm
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As I wait for the proof copy of Leah to arrive, I took the opportunity over the weekend to set up a website for myself. You can check it out here.

It’s only been up for barely 24 hours, so it’s still a work in progress, but I think it looks good so far. The website template that I chose is a minimalist design. I’m not sure if minimalism attracts me because I find it aesthetically pleasing or because I’m not talented enough to do more.

One function of the website will be to serve as a one-stop shop for ebook copies of my novels. I’ve set up a section just for that purpose, and so far I’ve got three different ebook versions of The Spring available for free.

December 26, 2008

Publishing Through Lulu: Preparations, Part 1

In this final series of posts for Revising Leah, I’m going to document and comment upon how I am publishing my novel through Lulu. If you’ve ever wondered whether self-publishing is right for you, I hope you’ll follow along and learn out what it’s all about.

Lulu.com, and services like it, have become a force for the democratization of publishing. Now, anyone with a story to tell can publish one’s work. With this freedom, however, comes great responsibility. While it’s true that publishing through Lulu is easy and relatively inexpensive, if you want to do it right — if you want to produce a book that you can be proud of, that will sell — then there is a lot of work that you must do.

Revise and Edit! (Have you learned nothing from this blog?)

Obviously, the most important preparation involves carefully revising, editing, and proofreading your text so that you don’t give your readers the impression that you are barely literate. Even if the book you publish is for your eyes only, you don’t want it to be littered with errors and passages that you wish you had revised. If you do want your book to be read by others, then certainly you want it to look as professional as possible. If this means “beta testing” your manuscript with other readers or hiring an editor, then do it. Moriah Jovan had a nice rant on this subject over at Publishing Renaissance recently.

I’ve been working on my novel since April (and, of course, I have documented that process in this blog). My manuscript has reached a point where I am satisfied with it. I’m able to read through a chapter without seeing anything that needs to be changed or corrected. When I receive the galley proofs next month, I’ll probably find a few last minute errors that I ought to fix, but for now, I feel like the book is ready to go.

Formatting

So once the manuscript is the best it can be, it’s ready to be formatted. This may not sound like a big deal, but this is a step that you can expect will take a few days, at least.

The first step: page size and orientation. Lulu allows for several different possibilities for the size of a book, but the usual size for a novel published through Lulu is 9″x6″ — that’s a little bit larger than most novels published, but it’s not freakishly large or anything; it’s still easy to carry and hold in your hands and read.

You’ll need to format the pages so that they mirror each other. In other words, you have to imagine that page 1 of the novel will be on the right, page 2 on the left, page 3 on the right, etc. This can easily be set up within your word processor, usually in the same dialogue box that you used to set up the size of the page.

Lulu has specific requirements for the size of the margins. Basically, you’re setting up a half inch all around except for the inner margin (where the pages join at the book’s spine) which is a 3/4 inch margin.

Pretty easy so far? Well, now things get interesting. The next choice you have to make is the font style and size. Unless you are doing something wacky, you’ll probably want to stick to a size 12 or 13 font. The font style is up to you, though. Lulu has a list of font styles that they prefer you use, but it is possible to use others. I like to use Garamond because I think it looks really nice when the book is printed, but this is a subjective choice. There will be a lot more of these kinds of subjective choices as the process goes on. It can seem a little overwhelming, but this is what I like about self-publishing: the opportunity to direct all of the little details of the publishing process. I find it very satisfying. Satisfying, ultimately, but not always easy. . .

The Ninth Circle of Formatting Hell: Page Numbers

Nothing will frustrate you more than wrestling with the page numbers. Although I like to use OpenOffice for most of my word processing needs, the biggest beef that I have with the program is that it makes formatting up page numbers very, very difficult. In Microsoft’s Word, the process is  much more simpler — in fact, it is so much easier that when I need to insert page numbers I often just open the file in Word, do my business there, and save it.

Depending on where you want the page numbers to go (top or bottom of the page), you might need to format breaks between the chapters. (I found this page online which helped explain how to do this in Word.) The purpose of creating a break between chapters is that it allows you to format the page numbers so that, if you choose, the page number won’t appear on the first page of the chapter. Depending on what the first page of each chapter looks like, you might not want the page number in the same place as the other numbers on the other pages. For example, if all of the page numbers for the rest of the text are in the top corners, maybe you want the page number on the first page of each chapter at the bottom of the page. Personally, I prefer not to include the page number on the first page of each chapter, but that’s just me. Whatever you decide to do, establishing formatting breaks between chapters makes this process easier.

At the same time that you are setting up the page numbers, you have to make a decision about whether you want your name and/or the title of your novel at the top of each page. And here is where you can literally do whatever you want. When I was setting up my page numbers, I sought inspiration and guidance by browsing through a dozen different books by as many different publishers. Almost every book had set up its page numbers and top margin material differently. Some put the numbers near the outer margin, some put them near the inner margin. Some books put the page number at the top of the page, others put the numbers on the bottom. Some books only used the title of the book, others used only the author’s name, others used the chapter title, others had a combination of some of these. Some books centered the material, others placed it near the page numbers. Apparently the only rule with page numbers and margin material is that there are no rules. You can do whatever you want.

So this has been a glimpse at some of the work you have to do when preparing the manuscript for Lulu’s publishing process. I thought you might want an example of what I’ve done, so take a look at this file:

Chapter One

It’s the first chapter of my novel, formatted more or less the way it will look when it is published. Look at my font, my spacing, the page numbers and headings, the first page of the chapter, etc. Again, you don’t have to format your manuscript exactly as I have formatted mine, but hopefully it will reinforce the idea that your text should look clean, neat, and organized — in other words, professional.

Next time: Preparing the title page and the book cover.

December 18, 2008

Oh! A Review!

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:45 am
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I was visiting my Lulu page for The Spring this morning because I needed to copy the book’s ISBN number, and I discovered that a reader had left an unsolicited — and positive — review. Cool!

See it for yourself here (scroll to the bottom of the page): Link.

December 16, 2008

Authonomy

As I suspected I might, I’ve posted the full text of The Spring to HarperCollins’ website, Authonomy (I’ll post Leah after I’ve corrected the galleys next month). The purpose of the website is for aspiring writers to post their work, collect votes from readers, and hopefully have their work read by HC publishing execs and published by HC or one of their imprints. Every month, 5 lucky winners are chosen.

I doubt I’ll win the grand prize. From what I’ve been able to tell, there is a lot of horse trading involved, a lot of “I’ll vote for your book if you’ll vote for mine,” and a lot of people trying to game the system. (HC claims they’re looking for the best writers, but what they end up with are the people who are best at assembling a network of voters.) I’m not interested in that sort of politicking, so I doubt my novel will get very far in the rankings.

What I am using the site for is simply another online platform where I can post my work. If I can get even a few people to read my stories, then that’s a success for me.

You have to be registered and logged in to vote for a book, but everyone can read The Spring by following this link.

P.S.: I did NOT submit this post to AlphaInventions. I’m playing it straight.

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