Category Archives: Writing

Stealing The Caruso Editing Method

Last week, I mentioned that I’m going to try out a new editing method and I hinted that I might take a moment to describe it for you all. It’s nothing new, per say. People have probably been editing using some variation of this method for years, but it’s new for me and it was written out in a way that just clicked, so I wanted to share it with you all, even at the risk that it might not be as groundbreaking to you as it’s felt like to me. But before I get into the glorious details of what this method really is down below, I gotta tell you how I stumbled upon it, first.

You see, this method is from the genius that is author Melissa Caruso.

I’m very, very lucky to be friends with this inspiration, in a set of circumstances that I never would have imagined happening. You see, I interned for a little over a year with her agent, the fantastic and amazing Naomi Davis.

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Sorry, needed to take a moment to fangirl over these two, because THEY ARE INCREDIBLE AND I ADORE THEM and I have no chill about it.

Through Naomi, I met Melissa and even got a chance to become one of her beta readers for her wonderful series, including both The Tethered Mage and The Defiant Heir (which are both out now and if you haven’t read them yet, you should go read those books and then come back and learn how to edit your own books, because hers are not ones to miss).

But I’m seriously the lucky one, here. Since meeting Melissa, she’s been nothing but supportive, encouraging and one of the best cheerleaders out there, whenever we chat. Yet even if I didn’t know her, following her on Twitter is pretty much a no brainer if you’re a writer. Her threads of advice, personal experience and encouragement have gotten me through many a rough writing session or period of doubt.

But one such thread also caused the spark to go off in my brain and go, “Wait a second. If I edit my books like that, perhaps, just perhaps, I might just make it.”

So, ladies and gents, the secret is out. My new editing method, which I’ve dubbed the Caruso Editing Method and is complied in a list below based off of Melissa’s wonderful Twitter thread over that very topic (and being shared with you now thanks to her gracious permission). I’m so stoked to try out this out on Blood Price here in August (or perhaps July, if I clean up Artemis quick enough). Though I’ve gotten better, I’ve really been stuck in the whole “rereading my book and fixing typos and rephrasing sentences totally counts as editing” mindset. Which, I mean, don’t get me wrong, that is editing. It’s just line editing. Which should come last, after you focus on all of the more major issues and put in some serious work. And my books always need the work that should come before line edits. I just never realized what exactly that work looked like or how to break it down.

Until now.


The Caruso Editing Method

  1. Round One: Structural Edits
    1. Main building blocks of the story
    2. Strengthening character arcs
    3. Weak subplots that need to be expanded, merged or cut
    4. Pacing: is it too fast or too slow?
    5. Stakes and Agency: RAISE THEM
    6. Logic Checks: Does each characters’ actions make sense?
    7. Relationships: are they compelling and do they develop?
  2. BETA READER ROUND
  3. Round Two: Digging Deeper
    1. Internality: Get in tune with the characters feelings and make sure we’re not only aware of them, but we’re feeling them, too
    2. Convenience: Remove coincidence and make sure everything happens because of actual reasons driven by the story
    3. Voice: make sure all the voices are solid and distinct from one another
    4. Clarity: what were the beta readers confused about? Clear this up.
    5. Transitions
    6. Page-Level Pacing: tightening rambling and amping up intensity
    7. Setting: making sure it’s immersive and evocative
  4. BETA READER ROUND (if necessary)
  5. Round Three: The Finesse
    1. Line Edits
    2. Polishing Touches
    3. Check Your Typos!

That’s it.

That, ladies and gentleman, is how you edit a novel.

I mean, granted, it’s one way of doing it. There is no one size fits all for writers. And sure, I haven’t tried this out yet, to see if I like it. But I sure believe that I can’t go wrong in trying this out and seeing how it goes, because it highlights all the important elements within a novel that you want to be up to shape, regardless of what stage in your career you’re in: querying, debut or ten books under your belt and counting. I haven’t been this excited to edit in quite some time, even though looking at the amount of work attached to those structural edits in the first round is probably going to feel like a punch to the throat while I’m also getting kicked in the gut simultaneously. But it’s work that needs doing, if I want my story to live amongst the greats on the bookshelves and be read by readers I want to reach.

Greats like Melissa Caruso.

So thank you, Melissa, for teaching the wisdom you’ve acquired over the years to all of us and for me to continue passing it on, through this blog post. I’m so excited to try this out and see how this style helps improve my writing. I hope, my writing family, that by sharing this, you have a little bit of guidance, too, if you’re struggling to find an editing method that works. If you already have an editing method that you love, tell me more about it in the comments! Or if you end up using this method, I’d love to hear about how it works for you and what tweaks you did to make it your own.

Let’s edit great books, fam.

Cheers.

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My Neglected Passions and Pursuits

This writing break has been surprisingly hard.

I’ve finally figured out my writing routine, I think. I mean, it seems to be working, since I’ve written two first drafts this year when last year, I wrote none. There’s a lot that times into that–including being in a better place, mentally, this year, as well as buckling down and choosing, actively, repeatedly, to try and write at least five times a week, i.e., every day I also work my day job, so it’s like I’m working a second job. I’m really excited that I’ve figured this out and I’m no longer nervous, when I take a break, like I have now, that I’m not going to be able to get my momentum back. I totally know I will. I have the tools to do so and I know how to implement them.

Even if it’s going to be a little bit different the second half of the year, with editing.

I’ts definitely a brain switch, between writing first drafts and editing old drafts. Especially because editing every draft is going to be quite different, because there are always different aspects to focus on (I have a new editing method I’m going to try and I might write a post about it next week!). But I’m excited for the mental change, because it’s always nice to switch it up a little bit, yet still be making progress on these stories. Especially because, by writing new drafts during the first half of the year and then editing during the second half, I can start a system of querying (and, after finding an agent, going on submission) while still working on other projects and books. I think this is going to really work for me and I’m super stoked about it.

But, I told myself I wouldn’t start editing until the 9th of July. I wanted to take a couple weeks off, to reward myself for finishing my first draft early. Catch up on blogging, reading, those kinds of things. My neglected pursuits.

Yet I keep finding myself itching to write. To edit. To brainstorm ideas.

This is a great problem to have. To know that my spark isn’t gone and isn’t going anywhere. It’s fantastic to catch up on books I’ve been meaning to read, beta read for fellow writers, get caught up on all my blogs. Sure, I’ve had some moments where I could have been more productive with these things (and not been on social media as much), but it’s also been nice to kind of relax a bit, instead of constantly stressing out over my word count and trying to figure out the rest of the scene.

Though I’m itching to get back to it, I’m embracing this break for what it really is: a break to enjoy other pursuits, passions and hobbies before I switch my brain into editing mode and work my ass off for the rest of the year, editing (if I can really kill it) three novels (one at the third round of editing and two at the first round of editing, which take various degrees of effort). I’m excited to start.

But for now, I think I’m going to get back to reading.

Cheers.


Two Sides to Every Coin

This is what you get for wanting to write a blog post but then waiting a week and a half to write it: you lose the source of your inspiration and thus can’t quote it when you need to. You see, I was reading…something (an article online, perhaps? maybe an interview?) where an author was discussing writing a book and in that discussion (interview, whathaveyou), they wrote about how they were okay taking the risks they took with their book because they had a financially supportive day job, so they didn’t have to worry about their book selling. Instead, they could simply write what they wanted and if it sold well, great. If it didn’t, the bills were still going to get paid, no harm, no foul.

(I know, I know, I really wish I remembered where I read this, too.)

That resonated with me, a lot. As someone who has written a trilogy that didn’t garner agent interest because it featured aspects that were considered saturated and overdone in the market (plus wasn’t up to the best writing quality, let’s be honest here) plus has another book that’s about to go out in the querying world yet also might not do well because the market’s trend is for epic fantasy right now, not urban (but can’t know for certain until you try, right?); well, let’s just say, discouraged is one emotion I’ve certainly felt, because I love these stories and of course I want them told in the world. Making money off of them would also be a bonus–those student loans don’t pay themselves. Yet with my interests apparently aligning with things that don’t sell, there is a temptation–and a desire–to try and write something that’s more marketable, so I can break into the market and make my dream of being a published author come true.

And yet…

do have a good day job, currently. Sure, I wouldn’t mind making a little more money (who wouldn’t?) and the idea of making enough money off my writing to be able to quit and write full time is dangerously appealing. Yet knowing that I have this safeguard, this job that I can count on and choose to stay at, no matter what happens in my writing career, is something I think I need to appreciate more, rather than see as a hindrance. Sure, work at a day job is a time suck. I could probably write more if I didn’t have this job. But it also provides a financial peace of mind that writing full time might not always give and gives me permission to write what I want–which I should give myself regardless, yet sometimes, that is harder said than done.

I mean, sure, while I’ve dallied with the idea of trying to come up with an idea that’s more marketable and instead just wrote whatever story was calling me at the time, the realization that I could always have my day job as my main source of income is comforting. Also, please don’t buy into the misguided societal assumption: it’s really rare for an author to make enough to be able to quit their day job in the first place, so I have no expectation to even do that, when I reach that point in my writing career. It’s just a nice, different way of thinking that I hadn’t considered before: that my day job could not just be a potential burden or additional obstacle for my writing career, but a blessing, too.

Cheers.


First Draft Completed: Blood Price Edition

Something really neat happened last week.

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After almost eight weeks of writing five times a week (some days, 200 words, other days, 4,000), 151 pages and 80,000 words later, the first full draft of Blood Price is complete. I write “full” with extra emphasis because, in case you haven’t stumbled upon this tidbit in previous posts, Blood Price was an idea I originally tried to write last year, getting 50 pages in before starting over from scratch, only to write another, new set of 50 pages before shelving it entirely. Yet it was a novel–an idea–that I couldn’t get out of my head. I really wanted to write this story.

Here’s what it’s about, if you’re curious:

For the Hanoak, the Creators have blessed them with the resources and land they need to survive, yet granted them the free will to live as they see fit, with little intervention from their gods–with one serious exception.

Only a woman may kill.

It is an responsibility, honor and burden that only women have been equipped to handle, for the price of killing creature or beast and absorbing the soul that once lived within them into their own, is high. The price a woman is able to pay is revealed during her first period as a young girl, the amount of blood lost reflecting the type of souls she can steal during a kill—light periods for animals, heavy periods for humans. For the rest of their lives, women are expected to pay the blood price once a month to cleanse their souls from the corrupting poisons within them.

For Natanni, she is the greatest warrior the Hanoak have ever known.
Her blood price is heavy.
Until the Creators take it away.

Suddenly, Natanni’s problems grow beyond understanding her promised betrothed, defending her border from neighboring tribes and worrying if they can survive the winter after a surprise attack leaves them weakened. Instead, she is thrust into a world of confusion and betrayal as she goes through the ultimate test of faith, forced to choose between her people and her soul, embarking on a journey to the heart of the Creators’ Realm: The Peak, seeking answers only they can give before she loses herself entirely.

So, I pulled up the old draft and opened up a blank document and was truly, pleasantly surprised when the first 10,000 words were salvageable. But not only that. I actually enjoyed reading them. The next 10,000, thanks to a change that I made, didn’t make the cut, but the fact that I got a 10K headstart is the reason I was able to finish this book three weeks before my self-imposed deadline.

Honestly, I don’t think Blood Price is my favorite novel I’ve written. Artemis truly does have that place in my heart and I’m not giving up on that story yet. In fact, I’m going to do one more read through of Artemis, starting in July, to try and catch any missed errors and little things, before I go and widely query it. Then, while that is on submission, I’m going to edit Blood Price once through, before I reach out to some awesome betas I’m hopeful will be willing to help me out. After that, I’ll edit the hell out of this manuscript and get it up to top shape by the year’s end, so that if Artemis doesn’t get any bites, I’ll be ready to go back to it with Blood Price.

Even though I just admitted it isn’t my favorite novel, I don’t want that to come across as a novel I don’t love. I do. It’s probably the scariest novel I’ve ever written–not in it’s content, but in it’s risks. It’s the first book I’ve written from a female protagonist’s perspective (I know, I can’t believe it took so many for me to finally do that) and her background is very different from my own, yet she has a strength I only wish I could emulate. Considering the plot centers so directly around periods, as well, I think, if it does get published, there is going to be a lot of discussion around that very fact.I am not shy in my descriptions, as readers will discover from the very first page. That makes me excited–and nervous.

But those are potential problems for a future me.

I know I have a lot to do, editing wise. I definitely want to make the Hanoak’s culture more prominent and amp up the descriptions throughout. I need to also amplify and solidify Natanni’s voice. Wouldn’t hurt to do some character arc checks. The ending scene could be better. The middle definitely needs some work (since it was the hardest bit to write, so I know there is something wrong there; just a matter of figuring out what). There’s a lot of work ahead for this novel, but right now, it isn’t about the work ahead.

It’s about the work that’s been done.

Coming back to a novel I trunked (something that resulted in almost a year long writing drought for me, thanks to a lot of internal demons) is something I’m ridiculously proud of. It’s a new accomplishment for me. Digging deeper into this story and finding the heart of it was a really awesome moment and I do honestly believe this book has a place out there in the world, as controversial as that place might be. I’m excited to work and hone this book so I can fight for that space.

Not only am I excited about this book, but I’m really excited about all the opportunities ahead. I’ve written two books this year: the first draft of Blood Price and the first draft of Artemis Smith and the Steam-Powered Fallacy, the second book in Artemis’s quintet. For the rest of the year, I am going to focus on editing, like I outlined above; editing and querying. And for the first time, if querying doesn’t work out, I’m going to start seriously considering self-publishing, at least for the Artemis series. Because it’s a series I really want to tell and I’d like it to make it out into the world, just to see if people will love it like I do. Then, there’s looking even further beyond, to series I haven’t even considered yet, because I know there are so many stories still inside me, waiting to be discovered. I just haven’t thought too much about them, yet. Yet there is this character, by the name of Echo-451, who has a story I think she wants me to tell…

Cheers.


Doubts and Fears In-Between My Ears

I’m dealing with impostor syndrome really heavy this week, friends (I think).

I don’t like it.

I’m not really sure where it’s coming from. Last week, I had such a stellar writing week and I’ve finally reached the point I wanted to write about the most in this story. This is the climax, this is the end game! Yet I’ve struggled to write the past two days, barely reaching the 600 word count goal required to keep me on track to finishing this book by my self-imposed deadline. I feel like I should be flying through this section, barely having enough time to write and wanting to sneak in more and more words.

Not barely being able to finish a paragraph at all.

I’m really not sure what’s brought this on. I think it’s a combination of things, but mostly? I think I’m just terrified of the idea of both not making it as a writer…but also, making it.

I like using Twitter to connect with other writers and authors. It’s a great community. But it’s also filled with advice from all sides and angles and sometimes, that advice just…causes me to lose momentum, I guess. Even though I know, mentally, that every bit of advice is subjective and what works for others won’t necessarily work for me; if I don’t listen to a piece of advice, doesn’t mean I’m going to fail–or succeed–as a writer.

Even still, I read a piece of advice the other day that I’m completely not following. Basically, it was, “Don’t write the sequel to the novel you’re querying, write something new.” And I can totally see it’s merit and that’s what I’m doing now…sorta. I ended up writing the second book of a quintet while the first book was being considering for it’s first round of queries (so, didn’t follow the advice there), but then, after finishing the first draft of that second book, I’ve now moved along to a standalone (so now I am, in a sense, following that advice). I wanted to do it because I thought it’d be a good change of pace from the other series and after learning that the market for the series I really want to be writing isn’t truly there yet. But I also have every intention of going back and polishing that first book again, before going through and editing the second one. So now I feel like I’m doing something wrong, because I want to work on this series, even though urban fantasy isn’t in right now and, by doing so, I’m not doing myself any favors of actively writing something that will help start my career and help me become published.

And that’s sorta a shitty feeling.

Add on, too, with the book I’m currently writing, I’m just so terrified who I am going to offend by writing it. It’s a book I really want to write–and I know you can’t please everyone–but this book is risky. Really risky, with how the culture is based around periods, talks openly about them and is set in a tribal setting of which I have no cultural connection to. As I near the end of the first draft, I think I’m just scared that, once it’s finished, that means it needs to be edited. Then beta-ed. Repeat as necessary until I’ll finally reach that next step: trying to take it out into the world. And I want it to make it out into the world. I want to tell this story. I’m just terrified of how it’s going to be received and I think that fear is causing me to drag my feet in regards to finishing this draft.

*sighs*

I know this post is all over the place. It’s not very coherent and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Basically, I’m just…I’m so tired of overthinking everything, when it comes to writing. I just want to bloody write, but I keep getting hung up on the politics of it, the desire to be published, questioning if I’m good enough, if these stories deserve to be told. And it’s effecting my writing, more than it usually does. I miss the days where I was a bit more naive about the industry and the politics behind it and, because of that naivety I was always killing it with my writing output. But, on the flip side, I was writing novels that would never get published, because of their quality and their problems. Yet, then again, I was writing with a love and passion that is weighed down by stress and doubt and pressure, now, and I’m not even published yet…

I just want to write, dammit. I want to write stories that I love, characters who I care about and do so to the best of my ability, each and every draft. So brain, can you please just let me bloody do that!?

Cheers.


The Romanticification of Publishing

(Yes, I made up a word for my title. You’ll see another version of it, also made it, later in the post. Moving on…)

I stumbled across an article today, entitled “Who Will Buy Your Book?” by Tom McAllister. The title intrigued me, so I thought I’d check it out, give it a quick read right before my lunch break. I found it…surprisingly sad how much I nodded along with it, even though I’m not a published author, instead a writer who is working her way there.

For those who aren’t in the business or don’t know a lot about publishing, there are quite a few misconceptions commonly believed that, quite frankly, drive someone who wants to break into this business, up the wall. Like the idea that writing a book is easy (oh, how it grinds my gears when someone makes such a claim). Or how, if you get one book published, you’ll be rich. This also drives me nuts, because that is not at all how it works, especially with a debut novel. It’s so rare, yet there is this assumption that one book deal equates to sitting pretty and never worrying about anything financial ever again (I wish). Or how people will be like, “You’ll totally get published one day,” without ever having read my writing. That one is tricky, because I love the support and the belief in me (seriously, it does mean the world), but also, how can you make that claim when you’ve never read anything I’ve written?

McAllister touches on some of these topics, but he also speaks on some things that I haven’t been privy to, yet, but that I totally believe could be my reality, one day, if I’m ever lucky enough to join the ranks of the published.

He discusses how he’s had book events–signings, readings and the like–where hardly anyone showed up or how he had to deal with cancellations at the very last minute from friends who promised to come. He talks about how there is this belief that all of your friends and family will buy your book, once it comes out, yet that isn’t actually the case–even less so that those who do buy it will actually read it. The most poignant section, for me, was when he discussed how, in the months leading up to a book’s publication, you become “a swirling vortex of neediness,” trying to market your book, advertise it, asking for blurbs and reviews, doing promotions, trying to spread awareness, making demands, every day, “for people’s time and money.” He talks about how likes and retweets don’t always transition to sales and how sometimes, you’ll feel desperate enough to sell your book anywhere just to get one (like your mother’s wedding, as his example).

He makes the claim that publishing a book is actually the anticlimax in your career.

Perhaps ignorantly, I think I agree with him, as much as one can without experiencing said experience firsthand.

Because we all have this vision, right? Writers, I mean. Of what publication looks like. We see others do it on social media, talking about The Call, posting contract signing pictures, book tour schedules and Con appearances, gushing over reviews, hinting at movie deals and foreign rights and sequels. It’s appealing and it’s part of the dream I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Of course there is a flip side to it: the late nights dealing with impostor syndrome, having a book fall flat or not get picked up during submission, trunked projects, self-doubt, not making enough to quit your day job, tax season.

I’m not surprised by that at all. That’s how life is; that’s how it works.

I guess this article just reminded me that I do have a certain vision in my head and I do romanticize it a lot, about what my publication journey will look like. It probably won’t live up to that romanticization.

But it other ways, it will.

And that’s the important part.

Sure, I’ll probably have a book signing one day where no one but my Mom shows up. Or I’ll have everyone be really excited about my announcement of my first book deal, only for them to be super annoyed with me by the end, because they are tired of hearing about this book, after I’ve been marketing it for the past year. Sure, I’ll still have bad writing days and self-doubt and fears even after I’ve published a book (or even ten).

But I’ll also have those emails that pop in randomly from a fan who adored X character because of what they did; or they’re livid with me with that ending and JUST NEED BOOK TWO NOW. I’ll have that moment where I get to unbox my ARCs of my own book, see my name on the cover and get to hold it, physically, in my hands, while I’m crying, because I did it. My dream came true. I’ll have old friends I haven’t heard from in years text me a picture of my book in a bookstore and perhaps we’ll get coffee afterwards. I’ll go to my first book Con as an invited guest and my face will be crimson the entire time on the panel, but I might make some people laugh, too, so it’ll be worth the embarrassment and awkwardness that is naturally me.

This article reminded me that not every experience, expectation or hope will come to pass during my publication journey as I’ve always dreamed them to be. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a dream worth chasing or that my stories aren’t worth telling, because friends, there is only one way to find out exactly how that journey is going to go down.

And that is to live it.

Cheers.


A Small, Mental Quandary

Writing this latest book has been….really different, especially from the last one I just finished a few weeks ago. Before, I was hitting every word count goal I made each day and usually surpassing it, averaging between 2,000 and 3,000 words each day. Sure, I had the harrowing experience of knowing exactly what was wrong with the book and exactly what I need to change about it the entire time of writing it, but I still made really good progress and was particularly excited about the ending chapters, giving me hope for the entire book as a whole.

This book, I’m struggling to meet the bare minimum word count every day. I do. I push myself and make sure I make it and sometimes go a couple hundred words over, but it’s not nearly as impressive as how I wrote the second book in the Artemis quintet.

I’m not exactly sure how to read that, if I need to read into it at all.

Part of me fears that this book is just horrible and everything is wrong with it (beyond the usual happenings of a shitty first draft) and that’s why I’m struggling to write it. Another part of me wonders that, because I’ve increased my writing output so much this year, writing five to six times a week on a consistent basis since February, if I’m not potentially burning out (though I really don’t feel that is the case, in my gut).

But mostly, I’m not sure why I’m not cranking out the word count left and right with this one.

Don’t get me wrong: a thousand words a day is nothing short to balk at. And I do think the pace might increase once I get my characters out of this maze and into the next hurdle they have to endure–that one, I know is going to be really fun to write and explore. I recognize that, though I also can’t help but get hung up on the fact that I’m not writing as quickly as I usually do.

Honestly, I’m probably just overthinking the fact that I’m writing less and comparing myself too much to other writers, authors and even my own past works. I don’t want to give up on this novel (again). And I have no intentions to, because I know I can make this story something really special. I think, instead of focusing so much on how much I’m writing or how quickly I’m writing, I just need to be happy that I’m finding time every day to write and I’m making progress on this novel and am still well on pace to finishing a draft by the end of June. Once I get a draft written and can look at all the flaws together, then I can decide if this is a book worth editing or a story I truly need to give up on.

But not before. Not with this book.

Cheers.