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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Genetic Bonds & Writing Magic Wands

Hefner Publications

Image via Wikipedia

My father is sending me his second book to edit and format for publication of Smashwords. I’ve read and given him suggestions on a couple of the individual chapters before, so I’m pretty well aware of the topics and subjects he’s covered. However, this will be a completely different book than those first attempts suggested.

My father started out writing a book about relationships with a Christian slant. There were, as in his previous books, Bible passages and examples used to illustrate points and make connections between the idea and the practice or application. But over time, this began to change. Hoping to appeal to a broader audience and better focus his book, my dad began to scale back on the Biblical angle. From a marketing standpoint, this was probably a good move. From a writing standpoint, it pushed his book in a new direction, necessitating rewrites and pushing his release date back from a possibly more profitable Valentine’s Day release.

I don’t know how critically taking out the Biblical emphasis changed my dad’s book (I’ll know when I read it), yet I understand why he did it. It does bring up an interesting question. What am I willing to change about my work to get it published?

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Always two or three steps ahead of myself, I’ve thought about my book being accepted for publication. After listening to many writers in the industry tell their stories, there’s been one step in the process that has always caused me trepidation: the editing stage. Ironically, these are the duties I’m expected to perform for my father’s book.

It’s odd to me that I can labor through writing a book, revising and rewriting my way to a “finished” product, as well as the query process, and then find myself doing further rewriting, quibbling with an editor over proposed changes. It’s hard to imagine having to change my title or switch the order of something. I know that editing is largely beneficial. It’s always good to have another set of eyes go over it. My own experience with having a teacher I respected edit my work led to a far better piece than I had initially had, even though we butted heads a bit at first. But this relationship still makes me a little queasy.

It’s a daunting prospect, editing my father’s book. My father and I have different, distinctive voices in our writing. His organization is different than how I would order things. There are probably going to be structural changes and word choices that I will disagree with. At the same time, I don’t want to translate his work into my voice–which is, I think, what scares me most about editors. This should still be his work, his creation at the end of the process.

I guess, then, that what scares me about the editing process (in the publication realm) is that I will lose the creative power I’ve had over my work up to that point. It’s the fear that I’ll have this beautiful healthy baby, and when they bring it to me after cleaning it up, it will be unrecognizable as mine. It won’t have any of the expected features like my doe in headlights brown eyes or the whimsical upward tilt of the tip of my nose. Whose book is this? Where’s my book? (Ooh, that would be a good story!…sorry, got side tracked)

So far, I haven’t had much contact with my NaNoWriYear buddy, so my issues with sharing work and editing haven’t come up. But now that I have my dad’s book being emailed to me, the question returns. Being a writer myself, I will of course be firm but gentle with his book. I will have the disposition of a parent. I will use the skill of a surgeon. I will be a fairy Godmother with a magic wand, simply allowing the opportunity for this Cinderella book to go to the ball. I can only hope my manuscripts fare as well.