The I Gotta Syndrome versus Developmental Edit

With my WIP, I’m processing the edits and recommendations made by Kathryn Craft, who did the developmental edit on my sequel to When Blood Reigns. In short, she recommended replotting. I’m looking at ways I can work her suggestions into what I have. The evaluations and recommendations were extensive, but I’m trying to follow through because I’ve got the I Gotta Syndrome.

Barbara Custer's brand

In 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit, I signed up for Kathryn’s Craft’s Your Novel Year writing class. I’d been working on the book before I took her class and started with Alexis being the lead character in the first two books. This WIP comes with a cast of new characters, and Maddie, the balloon lady with a sickly husband, took over the plot. I began Kathryn’s course resigned to having two protagonists. The story wouldn’t work that way. Because Kathryn had gotten well versed in the new characters, especially Maddie, and the writing class came with a discount on the developmental edit, I hired her for the job.

After reading the evaluations and recommendations, the first thing I did was head to the supermarkets and CVS, for when the going gets tough, the tough buy balloons. After a session of balloon-buying and rereading, I began to understand some of the problems. My main character came across too needy and weak. I thought if she kicked serious zombie ass, people would think she was strong. Wrongies. It’s her handling of day-to-day conflict that defines her as a strong character—or not.

I’d gotten attached to my characters and didn’t want any of them to die. So my current version has all the characters surviving. The trouble is, the mayhem the zombies create never hit home to the reader, says Kathryn, because it reads like statistics. Statistics mean nothing until one of your family dies. So a major character will have to die.

To me, repetition connotes having everyone smile or sigh through their lines or repeatedly using the same adjective. It never crossed my mind until I read the evaluation that whole scenes can be repeated—yes, this happened. Also, character A tells character B something, then B repeats the same information to C, and so on.

I got to feeling bad about this. Before I wrote this blog, I had to fortify myself with two balloon purchases first, but Kathryn advised me to think about why I wrote the story in the first place. Mike died from dementia—there is that, but I also have several close friends caring for spouses with dementia—and therein lies my I gotta. Because Maddie’s goal is to find a cure for her husband, and I’d love for scientists to find a treatment for this insidious disease.

I can’t advise anyone how to work through developmental edits or find the motivation to finish their stories, only how it’s working for me. I will finish this, even if it means I’m pushing 90 by the time it sees print. Kathryn Craft is a great editor, and so is Gemini Wordsmiths. You can’t go wrong sending your work for a developmental edit to either one. And look to the I Gotta Syndrome to find the motivation to finish the story.

So how are you making out with your WIPs? Have you sent any for a developmental edit? I’d like to hear about your experiences. 😊

A random commenter will receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

October Frighs Giveaway: https://storyoriginapp.com/to/Ac7PxRJ.

Book Fair: https://afstewart.ca/october-frights-book-fair

Panel Link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhmMj50CfG8

science fiction tale by Rod Marsden

PWC2019 Days Two and Three.

Barbara Custer loves Mylar balloonsand horror fiction.

When I got on the train on Saturday, the conductor said hello. I smiled and shouted, “Choo choo!” The other passengers burst out laughing; then someone noted that new lines were being painted on the parking lots. I piped up with, “Yes, and they’re also painting Mylar balloons on these lines so that people can see to park between them.” If Mike were here, he’d smile and say, “That’s my Balloon Lady,” but you see, anticipating the second day of PWC2019 had put me in a jolly mood.

The jolliness prevailed because I started the day in Jonathan Maberry’s master class on action scenes. I once believed that martial arts would enable anyone to defend themselves. However, I learned differently in that class. Martial arts have too many rules, said Jonathan, and they don’t teach the physics involved in a fight. Your character can use common items for self-defense weapons, but there’s a way to turn to apply torque to make that weapon more effective. 

Saturday night, Jonathan was the keynote speaker, and he told everyone how he started out with teaching martial arts and writing nonfiction books. He then moved onto fiction, starting with Ghost Road Blues; he described how different writers have influenced him and his writing. In that speech and his Writer’s Business Plan class, he emphasized the importance of professionalism: don’t slam other writers, don’t put people on a pedestal, approach politics with caution on social media, and avoid negativity. As my mom used to say, if you don’t have anything kind to say about a person or organization, don’t say anything at all (at least on social media).  

Sunday morning, I got up, tired, but I greeted everyone with a smile and “Top of the balloon to you,” for I anticipated more good things. And I got them in Brian McKinley’s class. He provided a lot of great material on horror, specifically log lines, elevator pitches, and book blurbs. One formula given: protagonist must do something brave to achieve a goal, with high stakes. There should be a time limit given, for example, a ticking bomb. For a one-sentence plotline, the formula is: in a setting, a protagonist has a (problem) caused by (antagonist) and faces (conflict) as they try to achieve a goal.

I also got plenty of good material from Shirley Hailstock’s class. The most important takeaway: the protagonist must do all the work. I can’t have God working miracles or the cavalry rescuing her. She also gives a tool for managing the ending, something I have difficulty writing. Have the story come full circle. So I’m thinking that if my book starts with a monster wreaking terror, perhaps the book could end with the protag slaying the beast or watching it die.

I owe the Liars Club and the PWC board a 50- balloon thank you for the hard work that went into this writing conference. This had to be one of the best I’ve attended, and I hope to go to many more.

Editors Have Wounds, Too

featuring horror and SF by Barbara Custer

In June 2018, Author Kelly Simmons gave a talk on characterization at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. She listed the traits that a sympathetic character should have: desire, spunk, resilience, foolishness, disbelief, and wounds. That last stuck with me in particular as I worked on my material.

Fast forward six months later, I went through the Night to Dawn submission pile and read someone’s first chapter. His letter reported that he had already gotten rave reviews. However, I couldn’t get beyond the first page. The protag started off by declaring an urge to kill his teammate, who happened to be a class clown, maybe overly talkative, but basically harmless. I got the image of the protag as a bully straightaway, and I said so to the author in no uncertain terms. The author asked why, and I could tell from his letter he was hurt.

Damn, girl! I scolded myself. You’re a balloon lady. Balloon people are sweet, not mean.

psychological horror written by Gerald Browning

Then I realized what had gotten into me. When I was in grade and high school, I was that class clown – and I’d gotten bullied in school. Junior college wasn’t much better. Those memories came to mind as I read, and that’s why I had to stop reading. So in my second response, I encouraged the author to keep submitting. I owned up to having been bullied in school, explaining that this may have biased my opinion, and assured him that another editor may have a different take on his work.

The takeaway? When workshop leaders tell writers to quit taking rejection personally, they’ve got it right. It would help, though, to explain why so here goes. Editors (and agents, for that matter) will arrive at the submission party with wounds of their own, just like your characters. Someone who’s been abused as a child may not appreciate a tale told from the abuser’s point of view. Alas, this type of information isn’t something you’ll find on AgentQuery Connect or the company website. Occasionally, if you’re going to a workshop run by said editor or agent, he or she may admit to a wound or two. Otherwise, if you’re submitting cold, all you can do is send and hope for the best, but have other publishers/agents in mind as well.

Your thoughts?

I will be giving a $10 Amazon gift card to a random commenter.

Self-hosted Site to WordPress.com?

Barbara Custer included lots of zombies in When Blood Reigns.Too often, I read about people buying balloons, dogs biting people, and people migrating from WordPress, BlogSpot, etc. to a self-hosted website. So this year, I’m writing about balloons that chase humans, people who bite dogs, and what it’s like to move from self-hosted to WordPress.

Three years ago I was in a big hurry to go self-hosted, so you must wonder why I’m contemplating going back. In a word, cost. This past summer I racked up steep charges – not just for hosting and SEO, but virus protection, file backup, spam filter, and SQL certificate. I crunched numbers and got the cost at $600 a year. You can get a similar website, same capability using WordPress.com’s business option for $360 a year. I believe that includes a premium website. WordPress does the back-end work for you and they offer options now that were previous available to self-hosted sites.

You can do a heck of a lot of promotion for $240 a year. Now if you have a lot of tech savvy, you can do self-hosted for $300 / year or even less. I grew up with a B&W TV and radio, so anything techy has a steep learning curve. It comes down to knowing where your strength and weaknesses lie. Frankly, I’d rather spend that time writing my next book or running from balloons. Dat’s wight, wabbits, the balloons chase me when I go to the supermarket for food shopping. And they always catch me. 🙂

WordPress leaves you on your own for the most part with the migration process but they provide a step-by-step way to do this. It seemed easy until I realize I had more blogs than I had balloons. So one question loomed: do I upgrade first or do I migrate first? They also talked about domain mapping. To my consideration, a map is what I download from GPS when I’m traveling. I put that down as a question to ask.

I had planned to do this on my vacation, but I chickened out. Then the opportunity to run this promo came about, so I felt the time wasn’t right to make the switch. I’m keeping an option mind in case the option for a cheaper version of wordpress.org comes about.

Oh, by the way, when I mention people who bite the dog, I’m referring to the zombies in When Blood Reigns and Steel Rose. Basically, they’re people whose brains were altered by a chemical which renegade aliens, the Kryszka, concocted. So these folks will bite anything that moves, including dogs and other people.

Has any of you ever from a self-hosted website to WordPress or BlogSpot? What made you migrate, and are you glad you did it? What made you decide to continue with self-hosted? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Commenters are eligible to win a copy of When Blood Reigns.

Anatomy of a Book Sale

This blog is dedicated to the marketing process for books.

Blogs dedicated to the horror genre in keeping with Halloween. Prizes available!

At different writing conferences, the speakers have said that multiple mentions of your book will make it more likely that people will buy. For example, an ad that runs several days instead of one. The marketing experts call this “effective frequency.” I used to consider it bunk because in most cases, I bought a book if I liked the blurb and that was that, but now I’m starting to reconsider.

So I put myself in the reader’s shoes, and the following scenario happened at a writer’s workshop. An author entered, placed his book on the table, and said he hoped everyone would buy his book when it went live. Like other readers, I have a budget. Expenses like food, balloons, doctor visits, house expenses, and more balloons take priority, and the home improvements I’m trying to make cost lots of dimes, too. So I wasn’t buying.

The book went around the room. I opened it and started reading, and continued reading until our speaker called the workshop to order. The author had written a compelling tale about two teenagers who happened upon an injured dog. I enjoy stories involving dogs, and one of the characters in my work, When Blood Reigns, are dogs, too. So the plot wooed me, and by the time our meeting started, I decided to buy the book.

After the meeting, I asked the author when I could find the book. He gave me a postcard and directed me to his website where I could order a pre-release paperback copy. So now you’re probably wondering if I rushed home and ordered a copy. Nope. You see, life got in the way. My balloons needed a refill; it was time to cook dinner. I had a pile of emails, and some of them included bills. Then I had to check my phone to see if my Scrabble partners had made any plays. By the time I’d gotten through all that, I plumb forgot about the book.

Next two days, I had my day job and my Night to Dawn chores at night. Come Wednesday, I had a leisurely day off, and I started thinking about ordering the book. Except that I couldn’t find the postcard. I couldn’t remember where I put it, but the title stayed with me … Taming Chaos. I looked up the title on Google, which was interesting because I didn’t recall the author’s name either.  I finally located the book on Amazon, which announced a Kindle version ready for release. So I ordered a Kindle copy, and I’m reading it now.

Now all of that could have gone more smoothly if I’d seen serial ads about the story.

The article that explains effective frequency is a couple of years old, but it describes how a typical shopper will react to seeing the same ad again and again.  Having walked in the reader’s balloon-shoes, I have to endorse it. So I will be looking at advertising with a new pair of eyes.

Your thoughts?

I’m awarding prizes to random commenters. First prize is a $10 Starbucks gift card. Second prize is a comp copy of Night to Dawn Magazine.

Clarissa Johal

And … There’s Grammarly!

Mylar balloons and zombie fiction is Barbara's chief loves.I first heard about Grammarly a couple of years ago. It sounded like a great editing tool, but I couldn’t afford the fee required to use it. Let’s face it: I like Mylar balloons, and that fee might cut into my balloon fund; I couldn’t have that. I was using Internet Explorer, you see, which means that you can’t use any of Grammarly’s perks unless you’re willing to pay. My siblings use IE and warned me to steer clear of Chrome & Firefox several years ago after my laptop crashed, necessitating repairs over $500.

Trouble is, Night to Dawn requires me to edit, and I need to be able to do it well. Punctuation errors are the hardest things to find, and to be honest, I tend to be generous with commas. Spelling compound words have been an issue for me, too, as folks who’ve edited my manuscripts can attest. Then a few months ago, I read that Grammarly’s services were free if you used Firefox and Chrome. I really needed to use something, but I had tried Chrome and didn’t care for it. So I contacted my writer buddies at Caliburn Press, and no one there used Internet Explorer because it was too slow. The consensus was that Firefox had improved its security, and Chrome was ideal. After speaking with the tech that fixed my computer I went ahead and downloaded Firefox.

Grammarly came next. First up, Firefox is indeed faster than IE, and what’s more, I’m able to open legit attachments and photos easier. Heretofore, I used to complain that I had trouble opening attachments on IE. Sure enough, I was able to use Grammarly for basic editing on my Night to Dawn documents. There’s an add-in that you can download for Word. I couldn’t figure out how to load this add-in into Word, so I copied the contents of my document onto Grammarly directly, and this did the job. As for my online correspondence, Grammarly went ahead and cleaned up my posts afterward, including the ones on Facebook.

Up until now, I’ve been sloppy with my grammar on Facebook. On Facebook and other social media, I’m relaxed. I might daydream about my recent balloon purchase, planning my next, or admiring the Mylar butterflies in my living room. In any case, grammar goes by the wayside. But now Grammarly calls me on these lapses with the offending phrases underlined in red. Caveat: sometimes the grammar you set up is legit when you’re stressing a certain point, or if your story characters speak in dialect. In that case, you do have the option to select “ignore” when Grammarly red-lines you.

Night to Dawn authors reading this might wonder if this means more red ink on their manuscripts. Not necessarily. For one thing, Grammarly won’t work if you’re doing track changes. Too, sometimes I’ll ask for mini-rewrites if I think a scene won’t work. My thinking is that it’s best to use Grammarly for polishing after the author turns in edits. The charge for Grammarly’s still applies for the premium version, in which you get plagiarism detection, tweaking of vocabulary, and other goodies. I may consider using the premium version of Grammarly for editing the next NTD novel, but I have other resources I can use. There is that Mylar balloon fund to think about.

Your thoughts?

Sandy DeLuca's Lupo Mannaro features werewolves and dark fantasy.

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