Good Bones

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One of the discarded choices for my book cover. I took this photo at a friends wedding.

You may have missed all of the hoopla about the fact that I received my book cover from the graphic designer this week, but I didn’t want you to miss anything else in this publication process. You are all my writer friends, so I can’t leave you out of the writerly aspects of getting this book baby out there. If you want to read my feels about the process, you can head on over to http://www.aseriousseason.com and see those. But today I want to talk about revising my non-fiction book.

My name is Erica Denise Hearns, and I am a perfectionist. I’ve been a perfectionist for years. I would quit for a while but sooner or later, the old each keeps coming back and I give in. It was bad at the beginning of this week when I tweaked almost every element of my book cover, but now that I’m reading the book after a couple weeks’ hiatus, it has become supercharged.

When I opened the Word document a few days ago, I thought I’d just be finishing the sections that weren’t finished. I was convinced that I’d done all the revision/editing I needed to do for what was written. I would go over the most recent additions, then move on to filling in the missing areas. Not so. I’ve notice some major things out of whack in the beginning. It makes me want to throw my laptop because I already gave the book to beta readers to look over. In the first four sections/chapters, I’ve moved one section up, one down, and extensively revised another. About 75% of what I read has been moved or changed. I’ve removed chunks of useless words, large and small. I’ve nipped, tucked and tightened all over the place. I feel like a plastic surgeon on Botched: this manuscript has been disfigured and now I have to fix it.

It’s not all bad, though. Other than one chapter that needed major revisions (the chapter that everything else flows from, so it has to be perfect), the rest has just been finding the flow and deleting unneccesary words. It’s like the hero’s comments about a run down house in a book I’m reading: the house has good bones; most of the work to be done is cosmetic. I’m adding subheadings and cleaning up copy in most sections. I’m checking and adding references. I’m adding quotes. I’m prettying up the place, so to speak.

How is revising non-fiction different from revising fiction? For me, I spot repetition and junk words a lot easier. I’m good at making sure the paragraphs are organized well and paragraphs are broken in the correct places. It’s easier to spot derivations and asides in my non-fiction voice. I have a better grasp on how to tweak my words to wring out the emotions.

On the more difficult side, I have to make sure that my tone is working well. It’s hard to know how someone will read something. I’m trying to season my words while being clear, which can be hard to balance when you’re taking a stance or position that may be unpopular. I have to check that everything I present as a fact is corroborated, and that I clearly state when something is an opinion. I have to balance how much information I am giving all at once and use things like enumeration, bullet points and subsections to break it up into manageable chunks. It’s like writing a really long college essay.

The hardest part about self-publishing this book, to me, remains the marketing. I think I creating a cover that will draw the eye. What else can I do to build interest in the book? What marketing tips do you guys have for non-fiction Christian books?

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Labor Pains

When I was a teenager/in my early twenties, one of my relatives wrote a book and wanted me to read it. Well, actually, I believe she gave it to my aunt to read and because I like to read/proofread, I ended up with it. It was her first book and as far as I read, it was comparing visions to pregnancy. Sometime last year I became acquainted with a youtube video of a keynote at a conference that referenced the same thing. Apparently it’s a really useful analogy with women in the religous world. To be honest, when I was given my cousin’s book, I was befuddled and a little disturbed.

I never finished editing that book. My cousin hired someone to edit it and it was published. As a writer, I feel terrible that someone gave me their book baby and I DNF’d on it. When my usual beta reader was reading my daily output of Delivering Justice, I felt that feeling ramp up in me. It’s especially bad now that I’ve given the marriage book to my minister to beta read.

So, in honor of my late cousin and my regret for not realizing how ahead of her time her book was (possibly), I am going to compare my book journey with the marriage book to a pregnancy and childbirth. (Sigh) OK, here it goes.

The seed for this book (and I’m a little grossed out already) came from a frustration with the fact that people were always pestering me about when I was going to get married, but no one seemed to be willing to share with me any useful information about being married. It was like the number one rule of marriage was you don’t talk about marriage–except to tell people to get married.  As the idea took root, I began to think about a)how I could get people to stop asking me when I was getting married without resorting to rudeness and b)how to get the information I really wanted to know about being married.

After some initial doubts and second guessing, of downplaying and explaining away the symptoms, I realized that I was pregnant with a book (gah! typing “I realized I was pregnant” in any context right now is just…*lays down in the corner for a while*). Once I knew I had a book growing inside of me, there was no way I could abort it.

Boy or girl? There were a couple of ways this book could have turned out. I could: write a book about a subject I’m not all that authorized to talk about (hello! I’m not married); write an intensely personal account of my own journey to marriage (which, since I’m not married, seems a bit premature), or; talk about something I actually do know about–being single. The thing is, I didn’t want to write some book about how it was so great to be single. I’d been content with being single for a long time. I didn’t have much to learn there. The point was that I wanted to know about marriage. It took a while, but I finally found the book I could write: a book that focused on being a content single woman who is also acquiring biblical knowledge about what it would mean to be a wife. I was having that book.

I conducted the first interview (the official start of this book making process) nearly four years ago in August of 2010. Since then, I have conducted many more interviews, study scripture intensely, gone through two different pre-marital counseling courses, attended years of monthly Marriage and Family workshops, wrote in fits and starts, and…stayed single.

I’ve experienced my share of Braxton-Hicks contractions with this book. I thought I was going to get it out into the world many times before now. I thought I had someone to help me with publishing. I thought I knew who would design my cover. I thought the book was finished. In every instance, I was told it was a false alarm. It wasn’t time yet.

I’ve never been in labor  myself, but from what I understand (mostly from TV), labor starts slow and can take a long time. But then, things start happening, and the next thing you know, TA DA! Baby is here! My labor began pretty slowly as well. I began working on the book again after a hiatus writing and subbing romantic fiction. I saw someone who had a book coming out post a picture of their cover and thank their graphic designer. The cover looked really nice, so I looked at the designer’s portfolio. I really liked what I saw, so I asked her for a quote for a cover design and formatting for kindle and physical books.

Then the contractions began to come faster together. I wasn’t sure if I could afford the quote that I was given, so I told her to let me think about it. Soon after, I was asked to do paperwork for someone who promised to pay me well for doing it on short notice. Then my minister agreed to beta read the book for me. Then someone else offered to help pay for the book cover. Then a visiting minister’s wife (who has self-published two books of her own) said she would help me with any part of the publishing process that I needed help with. I did a good chunk of the paperwork and received enough money to pay the downpayment the graphic designer asked for in her quote. A couple of beta readers have my book and I have the downpayment to commission the cover,  all in less than two weeks.

I’ve kept the name of this book baby close for a long time. Once I get that cover, I will reveal the cover and the title. I have a really good feeling that this book is going to be here really soon now.

So, that’s (most) of my journey from aspiring author to (almost) proud book parent. How is your journey going?

XOXO,

Erica

So You Think You Can Write?…I Did!

You guys, sorry for the LONG hiatus, but I’ve been busying doing a few writer things I think you should know about. First, I’ve been writing reviews over at HarlequinJunkie.com. I have loved Harlequin romance novels since I was a teenager, and I jumped at the chance to review their books on a site. I get at least nine books a month to review, which means my plate is always full of exciting new books to read and review. You can find my reviews by looking for reviews with a tag of “Erica.” My latest review is of A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence. I will be establishing a page where I will provide links to my reviews, etc.

Secondly, I did something slightly spur of the moment and submitted my 2011 Camp NaNoWriMo romance to Harlequin Mills Boon’s So You Think You Can Write Competition. There are over six hundred entries, and only 50 full manuscripts will be requested, so I don’t know how far I will get, especially since I didn’t let myself think too much before I wrote the pitch and hit submit on the last possible day, but I really believe in this story. If it doesn’t win and I don’t hear anything back from editors by the time they have followed up after the contest, I will publish it here. If you want to read the pitch and first 5000 words (and leave me some comments!), you can read it here. Stay and check out some other first chapters; I’ve read a few really good ones myself.

Lastly, I have been trying to finish my final edit for the book before I pass it to an editor for the final FINAL edit. It’s hard letting go, but I can see that the parts I’ve finished have been polished as much as they can be before I cross the line into over editing. I am hoping to have it turned over in another week or two.

Between all of this and increased work responsibilities, I’ve been neglecting my blogs, but I wanted to let you all know what’s going on with me and pledge to be a much better blogger. I will return at least once a week for Writer Wednesdays, to share progress, ponder writer issues, and just hear all about what’s going on with all of you. Promise.

XOXO

Erica