The Timekeepers’ War: Publishing Update

Hello everyone, and thank you for your patience! I have a quick update on the release of The Timekeepers’ War. What was originally supposed to be a June release has been bumped to a July release. But we’re almost there! Everything is ready to print, but I am still waiting on some legal documents that need signing before everything can proceed. The Editor in Chief at my publishing house had an unexpected hospital stay a couple of weeks ago and, although he is in recovery now, it has put a little bit of damper on our initial momentum. Please send some “Get Better Soon!” vibes to Dave Barnett at Bedlam Press 🙂 We can’t do it without you, Dave!

I’ve waited my whole life for this moment, so a few more weeks is not the end of the world (I know you’ve all been waiting a long time too!) What is important right now is that Dave can focus on his recovery; then we can worry about signing papers. But I want you all to know that I haven’t disappeared 🙂 In the meantime, please come check out my Facebook Page. I’m having a giveaway contest right now for people who “Like” and “Share” my page. At 100 likes, I will be giving away a trade paperback copy of The Timekeepers’ War, and at 150 likes I will be giving away a package of The Timekeepers’ War and my novella, Cold Metal War. Please help me to promote my page!

Thank you!

The Timekeepers’ War: Anti-Update

Hi Everyone!

As you may have guessed by the absence of a celebratory post on Tuesday, we are still waiting for Release Day. We are at the hands of the postal system now, for better or for worse 🙂 So I will let you know as soon as I know something. I just wanted to keep you all posted in case you’ve got an online shopping cart full of goodies awaiting that one final purchase! Thank you for reading!

One more week!

Hi everyone!

I’m trying not to post an update every time we get something finalized, but things are wrapping up now 🙂 We’re looking at a tentative online release of June 17th provided there are no issues with printing (which I am told is fairly common, so we’ll keep things tentative for now). We’re just wrapping up the tail end stuff: documents to be signed, financial stuff settled, final documents approved and sent to print. It’s not glamorous, but it’s extremely  exciting for me!

Just to give an idea of the scale of editing we’ve gone through, I’ll give you the final word count. 115,058! If you’ve been following, you know my original MS was over 146K words. So we were able to trim over 31K words from my first “final” draft, haha. Goes to show exactly how final the editing process is. So, if you’re looking to translate that into actual published pages, you will be interested to learn that The Timkeepers’ War weighs in at 312 pages in Trade Paperback format.

What? That’s not actually that interesting? If you’re a writer, final page count is something you obsess over. I don’t know how many times I’ve picked up a book, checked the page count, and tried to imagine how mine will compare. Too big? Too small? Just right? Don’t tell me you don’t have a page count sweet spot! Some books are too big to hold comfortably for binge reading sessions. Some are flimsy and insubstantial feeling. I think I hit my sweet spot 😉

Anyway. Expect another update in the next week, give or take a few days. And hopefully that update will be “Buy now, at your favorite online bookseller!” Stay tuned 🙂

Where are the blood, sweat, and tears? This can’t be editing!

Things are finally wrapping up on The Timekeepers’ War. I’ve just gone through my editor Amy’s final changes and suggestions, and am greatly relieved to find that we are on exactly the same page. I had the very difficult task of hitting the “accept” button on her edits, and hardly had to do any actual work myself this time (This is what I was missing out on before finding a publisher!?!) I can hardly believe it.

The last time I did an edit, I was pretty much in tears over the pages and pages of “lost” material.

But I guess if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here. So there you go.

So, we’ve got to do one more run for all the little stuff–typos, missed/punctuation, final formatting. And then we’re done! Still right on schedule for a June/July release date. I’m starting to count down the days to when I hold a copy of my very first (hopefully of many) novel in my hands.

Time to get cracking on the sequel, I guess 😉 The Children of Bathora is up next!

The Timekeepers’ War: Official Cover!

Final cover art for The Timekeepers' War. Look for it this summer!!
Final cover art for The Timekeepers’ War. Look for it this summer!!
It’s official! The cover art for The Timekeepers’ War has been finalized! I feel very fortunate to be working with such a great team at Bedlam Press. They have been nothing but supportive and cooperative throughout this exciting experience. I just hope there are no scary surprises when Amy gets back to me with the final edits… She’s a little later than expected, which can only mean more work for me, haha. I’ll have to mentally prepare myself for the overhaul 😉 Thank you for sticking with me during this slow time in the publishing process. It seems to come in spurts and lulls. In the mean time I’m trying to finish up some other writing projects I’ve got on the side. The less-fun, more-money journalistic kind, rather than the more-fun, (so far)less-money fictional kind! But I’m fortunate to be able to scrape together a living from writing, no matter what kind it is! Hope I’ll be back soon with an edits update!

The Edits Continue

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Editing. I think I’m actually starting to enjoy the process. Although, by the time The Timekeepers’ War is actually released, I’m going to be so sick of it that I will never actually read the final version cover to cover. Well, maybe in a few years. You guys will have to do it for me. And please don’t tell me if you find any errors at this point, because I may do something drastic!

No, I’m not at that point yet.

But I’m continually amazed at how much a manuscript can change and still come out essentially the same story. It is incredible. I barely recognize my first draft anymore. Who is this flighty, overly descriptive show off? It’s embarrassing! At least no one else will have to read that version every again. Unless I post some before and after paragraphs…

The last time I wrote about editing (read the post here) I explained how I had received a sample of the kind of revisions I will be going through with my editor. Having already gone through the process once before (read about that experience here) I expected that this would be a fairly superficial once-over to make sure there were no hidden typos or formatting errors.

Ha! That was just my conceited writer’s brain talking. I don’t know about you, but when my writer’s brain is not telling me how terrible I am and that I will never make it, it’s telling me I’m amazing and can basically sit on my behind and wait for the accolades to come pouring in. It’s a little bi-polar.

Here’s the thing. No matter how many times you edit something, there is more to fix. Always. Part of that is because everyone’s style is different; some people prefer brevity and some detail, some focus on pace and others on world-building. The important thing about working with an editor is to make sure you both have a similar vision for what the end product will look like. Because you can edit a manuscript back and forth indefinitely if you are not working towards a common goal.

Luckily, my editor and I are on the same page. And that she has a much better idea of how to achieve this end goal than I (apparently) do. Amy, my editor, will be going through my manuscript in detail–just like she did with the first three chapters. But first, she had a little project for me…

She did a search for some commonly over-used words. These culprits are (in my case) “then,” “just,” “look,” and “but.” She asked me to go through my manuscript using the Find feature in Microsoft Word, and to look at every instance in which I had used one of these words (which means going through my MS four separate times, focusing on one word at a time) and to delete them when they were unnecessary, and to rework sentences to avoid them when possible.

Not that you should never use them, but I was grossly overusing them. I used the word “then” over 1500 times in a 130,000 word novel. The word “but” was used over 900 times (this number is somewhat inflated, because the count includes words that contain the letters but, like “button” or “butter,” neither of which are words every used in my novel… so I’m not sure why those are my examples, but you get the point). “Look” in it’s various forms (including “looked” and “looking,” etc.) was used over 500 times. And “just” was used about 250 times. And I never noticed, and none of my beta-readers ever noticed. But once she pointed it out it was impossible to ignore.

The thing about these words is that they are largely unnecessary, particularly “then” and “just.” I was able to get my count of “then” down to only 66 legitimate usages. From 1500. That is ridiculous.

The other trims weren’t quite as drastic, but I cut my usage of “look” and “just” by better than half. “Look” now comes in at 216 and “just” at 126. So the fast majority of “then” and “just” I was simply able to delete and the the sentence didn’t miss them. It’s basically the difference between “Then I opened the door” and “I opened the door” or “Just wait a minute!” and “Wait a minute!” These are simplified sentences, obviously, but the idea is the same. I cut every instance of “then” where the sequence of events was not critical, and in most of the places it cropped up in conversations. “Just” usually came up in conversations as well, because we use it often when we speak. But when we are reading a conversation, it usually isn’t necessary to the context.

“Look” I did not often eliminate, but I replaced with synonyms. Look is a very bland, undescriptive word. “I looked at him” does not have the same weight as “I glared at him.” And there are a lot of different ways to “look”: you can glance, peek, peer, glower, regard, survey, scan, etc. I tried to use more appropriate synonyms, which then allowed me to delete qualifying sentences that followed the “look.” There are also the other kinds of looks: expression, mien, air, etc. which I replaced. Not all of them, because sometimes “look” is the most appropriate word. But I really went through and considered if I was saying what I wanted to say in the best way that I could.

I am infinitely more happy with the way it reads right now, and Amy has barely touched it. She’s just guided me. Now she’s got her hands on it, though, and I’m prepared for some serious fat-trimming. Interestingly, I found myself strangely unable to eliminate my usage of the word “but.” So I have left these changes in Amy’s capable hands in hopes that she will guide me further.

Every time I finish a step like this I come out feeling like a better writer. I feel like I’m learning something, and that my novel is evolving into the best writing that I am capable of. It makes me very excited to take what I’ve learned (hopefully I retain some of it) and apply it to the next novel that I write. Much of it will be directly applicable to the sequel to The Timekeepers’ War, Children of Bathora.

So there you have it. Does anyone have similar experiences with their writing? Any weird words that keep popping up without you realizing it? How do you edit? Please share!

Publishing Update: Major Edits Round Three!

The editing begins... again.
The editing begins… again.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I paid to have my first draft of this novel professionally edited. It was a lesson in tough love, for sure. In the end, it was hugely educational and I feel I’m a better writer for the experience. I was able to cut over 20,000 words from my original manuscript, and I completely restructured it with pacing as my main priority. And it worked! I signed my very first (hopefully of many) publishing contract, and my novel The Timekeepers’ War is set to come out this summer.

So, they loved my book. Editing should be a breeze, right? Someone will scour my manuscript for the last few lingering typos and we’re done. Right?

Wrong.

No matter how many times you go through and edit your own work a professional will still be able to tear it down and help you rebuild. I thought that I’d pared down the language as much as was possible and keep my own voice (and my characters’ voices) intact. But I was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

My editor, Amy, has given me a detailed edit of the first three pages. She really dug into it. When I’m looking at my document in Word with the edits turned on, it seems like there is more red than black. It’s intimidating. When I first read her changes, with my own words still visible, I felt a pang of sadness. I felt like Ghost was losing her voice. Becoming someone else.

But you know what? When I turn the mark-up off and just read, I realize that’s just my fragile writer’s ego talking. This is still Ghost’s voice. It is a clearer, more concise voice than I had given her. When I can’t see my original wording, I don’t feel that anything is missing in this clean, crisp version of my writing. And I guess that’s what a good editor can do.

I’m very excited to have just gotten my first taste of what this editing process is going to look like. I will be posting the cleaned up version of my novel on the SNEAK PEEK page as soon as the changes are finalized. I will probably write a post with some side by side comparisons–my first draft, my second draft, and my final draft–just so you can see what the process looks like. It might be interesting to any readers out there who take for granted all the work that goes into a novel. And to any writers who are going through the editing process themselves.

It is staggering to think of how much my novel has changed since I first started putting pen to paper nearly ten years ago (Literally pen to paper; I wrote the first hundred pages in a notebook on my lunch breaks when I worked in retail). How much I have learned and grown as a writer. And it is equally staggering to think how far I have yet to go. It is a truly transformative process.

Women of Sci-Fi: Gina Torres

Gina Torres on Science Fiction
Gina Torres on Science Fiction

I came across this quote by Gina Torres the other day and I thought it described perfectly why I love science fiction so much. Our day to day lives are ruled by social norms and conventions, even when we don’t subscribe to them personally; no one can escape being measured against cultural expectations, even if we define ourselves by our lack of conformity.

Not so in the world of science fiction and fantasy! Good SF pushes and redefines boundaries. I love a book that questions our ideas of normalcy. When reading science fiction I am disappointed when the characters/environment do not defy the confines of current “real life” social/economic/political landscapes. Science fiction becomes the perfect platform to discuss and challenge questions and ideas about gender, sexuality, race, class, spirituality, etc.

Not to say that I expect an author to challenge every convention out there all at once. But please challenge something!

But back to Torres… Can I just say that I love her? She was my inspiration for Mirielle in The Timkeepers’ War (Summer 2014); I harbour a secret fantasy that if any of my novels are ever made into a movie, some brilliant Director will cast Torres to play the feisty barmaid-cum-boxer. Mirielle will be playing a much more integral role in The Children of Bathora (Fall 2015, I hope), so stay tuned.

Any thoughts? What do you expect from a science fiction or fantasy novel? What would you like to see more of in SF&F?

Dilemmas of the Small Press Author: Paying for Reviews

Does your book stand out in a crowd?
Does your book stand out in a crowd?

Another day, another way I realize I don’t know what I’m doing…

One of the (many, I’m sure) perks of signing with a big publishing house is that they have go-to people to write reviews of your novel before it is even released. These reviews can appear on your book jacket and in promotional material months before the first copy is in your hot little hands. It is an aspect of the publishing industry that I completely took for granted as a reader. I often browse the high-sung praises of a book by review agencies, other well-respected authors, magazine/newspaper editors, etc. before I purchase a book. There is no doubt that these reviewers are paid for their time in reading and reviewing the work, and soliciting professional reviews is one of the many jobs that a publisher takes on when they sign an author.

So what is one to do when one chooses to publish through small or independent presses? I knew that signing with a small press publisher would mean that I would be doing a lot of the marketing legwork on my own. But to be honest, I didn’t have a clear plan for what that might actually look like in practice. I was so focused on finding a publisher that I didn’t look too far into the murky future beyond. Now that I’m popping up on the other side I’m beginning to realize that this whole marketing thing is going to be an uphill battle!

One of the concepts that is new to me, but which has been around for decades, is the paid-review. There are companies out there who offer professional review services (here is a good link with some examples), similar to what the big publishing houses have access to, but which are geared towards small press and independent press authors. Now, I’m not talking about the shady business of paying for fake 5 star reviews on amazon.com or Goodreads, though there are certainly those kinds of ethically questionable companies out there. I’m talking about paying for a real objective, balanced review by a professional. Services range from about $150-$500 for a review and various marketing packages.

In theory, it seems like a sound investment, particularly as I am not footing the bill for any publication costs. If I’m going to spend money on my book, it might as well be in advertising, right? But the feedback I’ve come across is inconsistent. Some authors swear by these and similar marketing strategies, and some swear they’re nothing but a waste of money. The advice from my publisher is to avoid the higher priced ones as, in his experience, review services are more expensive than they are effective.

But there is a part of me that wants to believe that, if my book is good enough, a quality professional review or two may make the difference. Is this line of thinking over-simplified and naive? I don’t know. Do any of you have opinions or experiences to share? Please comment! Also, if there are any book bloggers out there who would like to take a stab at The Timekeepers’ War, please email me at sc.jensen[at]outlook[dot]com with a link to your blog. I can’t pay you, but I can promise a free review copy!

See here for a sneak peek of The Timekeepers’ War by S.C. Jensen, coming Summer 2014.