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.

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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 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 9, 2009

Tell Me What You Think (Poll!)

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:37 pm
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I’m still waiting for the proof copy of my novel to arrive, and as I wait, I continue to second-guess my design for the back cover. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m worried that the image on the back will be obviously pixelated, and while I like the idea of a large detail of the front cover painting on the back, too much pixelation will make the cover look really, really amateurish.

But I’ve also felt uncertain about the design in general. Even if the picture is not over-pixelated, I’m not sure if it’s the best design. With that in mind, the other day I started designing a new back cover, one with a smaller, crisper image and a quote from the novel.

So I want to know from you, kind visitor, which design do you think is better (that is, which looks more professional and/or aesthetically pleasing)? Click on the images below to see a larger image, and then participate in the poll at the end of this post. And maybe leave a comment if you have suggestions to make. I’m eager to know what people think.

Option One

Option One

Option Two

Option Two

Option One is what I have right now. Pros: the image fills the entire back cover, an idea that I rather like. Minimal text. Cons: Too much pixelation. I’m not a fan of the shape of the blurb; it’s triangular because I’m trying to avoid letting the text get tangled in the girl’s hair, but it’s not a perfect triangle and that kind of bugs me.

Option Two is the possible new design. Pros: It looks clean and simple. It’s hard to tell, perhaps, but the font color here is dark green. I thought that would look better than a lot of black text on a white background. I like how the detail image is focused on the book the girl is holding. Cons: That’s a lot of text! (The quote at the top of the cover is, in fact, an edited, shortened version of what appears in the manuscript, but it’s still really long.)

January 1, 2009

Publishing Through Lulu: Uploading

Well, today is the day. At long last I get the publishing process for Leah rolling. Here’s a review of the steps I took (with screenshots!).

1. Sign In

I already have a Lulu account, of course, so I logged in and started a new project. I clicked the “Publish” tab, then clicked “Paperback books”, and then “Get Started”.

2. Start Tab

Here, I simply provided the title and author’s name. I also selected the “Make It Public” option because I want to be able to offer the book to readers later on. Clicked Save & Continue.

(Click For Larger Image)

(Click For Larger Image)

3. Options Tab

Next, I had to determine what kind of format I wanted my book to take. I chose the usual options for a novel: Standard paper (not Publisher Grade); book size: US Trade; perfect binding; and black & white color.

Choose the Physical Properties of Your Book

Choose the Physical Properties of Your Book

4. Files Tab

Now we upload, and this is where the preparations that I described in my earlier posts (here and here) paid off. I upload two of the three PDF documents that I had prepared: the manuscript and the title/copyright page. Once they’re uploaded, I arranged the files in the right order (the title page document goes first), and then Lulu automatically merged the two documents together and allowed me the chance to review that merged file.

Upload Files

Upload Files

5. Cover Tab

The next step takes care of the other PDF file that I had prepared: the one with the cover of the book. If you haven’t designed a cover or don’t care about the cover design (although you should) this is the stage where Lulu can assist in creating a generic cover. I’ve designed my own cover, though, so I clicked on the “Upload One-Piece Cover” button and uploaded my document.

Pay No Attention to That Green Fringe

Pay No Attention To That Green Fringe

A year ago, when I was publishing The Spring, this screen confused me. I knew that I was supposed to create a “bleed” zone around my cover, which I did. But the weird green border that you see in the image above confused me and made me second guess what I had done. I actually went back and tinkered with the size of the cover, which proved to be a mistake when my proof copy arrived and I saw that I had made the border around the cover image too large. This time, I played it cool and just clicked “Save & Continue”. If there is a problem when I get the proof copy, then I’ll make adjustments later, but I think the cover is going to turn out fine.

6. Description Tab

Here, I filled in the basic info for the content of the book. All of the fields were filled in except for the ISBN number because at this stage in the process, I hadn’t been assigned a number yet. As you can see, I placed the novel in the “Teens” category as opposed to the “Fiction & Literature” category (I would have preferred to place it in both). I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I can change it later if I need to.

Everything But the ISBN

Everything But the ISBN

7. Price Tab

I hope you like to wrestle, because this is one of those screens which will resist everything you try to do. You can see in the screenshot that there are two open fields in the “Retail Print” section. Don’t try to enter anything in the “Price” field — only tinker with the “My Revenue” field and let the values that you insert there adjust the “Price” field for you.

Just Adjust the My Revenue Box

Just Adjust the My Revenue Box

I wanted to make sure that I set the price for Leah to be less than the price I set for The Spring, just because Leah is a bit shorter than The Spring. You can see in the screenshot that the author’s cut of the money, especially when selling through retailers like Amazon, is very small. (This is where Lulu authors get greedy and why some 200-page novels published through Lulu cost upwards of $30.) Whether publishing the old-fashioned way or through POD, the sad fact is that authors just don’t earn much from each individual sale. It’s a good thing that creative writing isn’t my day job!

And I will, of course, make the novel available as a free download.

8. Review and Order

After that, I am asked to review everything, make sure it’s OK, and then I order a proof copy. I do have to pay for a proof copy, but since I’m the author of the project, I don’t have to pay the full price that I set for the novel back in the Price Tab. Instead, I only pay for the for the cost of manufacturing a copy and shipping it to me. I added my book to my virtual shopping cart, but I didn’t check out just yet because I still have one more thing to do.

9. “Purchase” a Distribution Package

“Purchase” is in quotation marks because I didn’t actually have to purchase anything here. If you publish your novel through Lulu (as opposed to choosing the “Published by You” option) you don’t have to pay anything. This is apparently a new development for Lulu because I remember a year ago, when I published The Spring, I did have to pay about $100 for the distribution package.

The most important part of the package is the assignment of an ISBN number. You need this if you want to sell your book either online or in a bookstore. If I could change one thing about Lulu’s publishing process it would be that I would like to get my ISBN number before I uploaded the PDF files for the Title/Copyright document and the book cover so that the proof copy that I ordered would be sent to me complete. Instead, I’ll have to add the ISBN number to the copyright page and insert the ISBN bar code to my cover after I’ve reviewed the proof copy. Perhaps Lulu wants to make sure that authors take that step of reviewing the proof copy before approving the book for publication and making it available to everyone.

The whole process took about 90 minutes to complete. That’s perhaps longer than usual since I was taking screenshots of my progress and writing notes in WordPress.

So now I wait for the proof copy of my book to be manufactured and sent to me. That, unfortunately, will probably take at least a week.

Questions? Comments?

December 19, 2008

Blurb: Version 2.7.3

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:40 pm
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So far, in the epic struggle between author and blurb, the blurb has been kicking the author’s butt. Blurbs are such tricky things to write. They’re poems, really, where every word must be chosen with care and arranged in just the right order to achieve the desired effect in the reader (in this case, to generate interest in my novel).

But I think I might have finally reached a turning point. Last night, before bed, I worked on the blurb some more. At last, I might have found my blurb. Before I get to that, though, let’s recap the string of misses that I’ve written since Thanksgiving:

  • Alone and shy, 14-year-old Leah Nells has lived her life in isolation, with only books to keep her company. But when she begins ninth grade, she finds herself thrust into the complicated and confusing world of high school. And when she falls in love with a boy from her class, she must choose between¬† the girl the world expects her to be and the girl she is.

  • Introverted and shy, 14-year-old Leah Nells has lived her life in isolation, with only books to keep her company. But when she begins ninth grade, she finds herself thrust into the complicated and confusing world of high school. And when she falls in love with a boy from her class, she must choose between the girl the world expects her to be and the girl she is.

  • Introverted and shy, 14-year-old Leah Nells has lived her life alone, with only books to keep her company. As she starts high school, she finds herself lost in the complicated and confusing world of high school. And when she falls in love with a boy from her class, can she find a way to fit in yet stay true to herself?

  • Introverted and shy, 14-year-old Leah Nells has lived her life alone, with only books to keep her company. As she starts high school, she finds herself lost in the complicated and confusing world of high school-especially when she falls in love with a boy from her class. Can she learn to overcome her shyness and be the girl that her classmates and her parents expect her to be?

  • Introverted and shy, 14-year-old Leah Nells has lived her life alone, with only books to keep her company. As she starts high school, she finds herself lost in the complicated and confusing world of high school-especially when she falls in love with a boy from her class. Can she learn to overcome her shyness and be the girl that the whole world expects her to be?

As you can see, I have an idea of what I want to say and how I want to say it, but I’m struggling to find just the right words and phrases. (Story of my life, actually.) One strategy that I’ve been using for these blurbs is to talk out loud. I’ve found that while revising the novel, when I came upon a sentence that sounded strange or confusing but didn’t offer an obvious solution, talking out loud — attempting to describe to myself what I mean to say — helped me find a solution to the problem. I’ve used that technique as I’ve worked on this blurb. Here’s the current version, written late last night:

Introverted and shy, 14-year-old Leah Nells has lived her life alone, with only books to keep her company. As she starts 9th grade, she finds herself lost and confused within the perplexing social universe of high school — especially when she falls in love with a boy from her class. Under pressure from her parents, her classmates, and the whole noisy world, can she become the girl she wants to be?

Today, when I look at this version of the blurb with fresh, rested eyes, I’m still happy with the first and third sentences, but the second sentence, specifically the phrase “the perplexing social universe of high school,” rubs me the wrong way (I think I need to do something about the word “social”, which sounds too formal to me — and “perplexing” might not be the best word either). I still have work to do, but, for the most part, this version of the blurb passes the same test that I use for all of my writing: can I read it without cringing or rolling my eyes? For this blurb, I can.

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.

December 13, 2008

The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:45 pm
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ev0002Another one of the books that Leah Nells reads over the course of the novel arrived on my doorstep the other day. It’s The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and here’s how I described it in the novel:

Sitting on top of the notebook was one of the books Mrs. Nells had bought for her daughter at the garage sale the week before. It was titled The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and it was just that — a little book, not even 200 pages, that would be easy for her to carry on her first day of school, but it was still long enough that it would provide several days’ worth of reading. Leah didn’t know whether she would find time to read her book today since she didn’t know how busy her classes would be, but knowing that the book would be with her was a comfort. It represented a link to her home: a reminder of the security of her bedroom — something familiar in an unfamiliar place. For now, though, the book sat idle on top of her notebook.

The book is even shorter than I expected — barely 150 pages (Amazon’s website claims that it is 192 pages long, but I don’t know where that number is coming from. The last page of the book is page 156.). It’s just as small as I suggested in the novel, and it is also exactly the kind of book that Leah would read.

This book illustrates something about how I sometimes use Leah’s choice of reading of material to symbolize the mental/emotional states that she is in at different points in the novel. The earthquakes book is perfect for her to read on the first day of school because the first day of school is always a cataclysmic event and because Leah spends much of the day rocked by her own bodily earthquakes: the nervous trembling that grips her from time to time. Indeed, the first sentence of the book could be a metaphor for Leah herself:

However still the Earth’s surface may seem at times, it is actually seething with activity, much of it driven by the intense heat of the inner layers of the Earth.

Leah Nells may seem quiet and dull and uninteresting on the outside, but beneath the surface she’s just as complex and deep as anyone.

Of course, it’s dangerous to interpret too much into my choice of books for Leah to read. Some of them offer more commentary on her character than others, but they’re one of those little details that are easy to miss but which, I think, add a lot to the story.

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