Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why It's Good to Read a Book Aloud

Most readers aren't aware of everything that goes into a manuscript after it's written but before it can be prepared for publication. But you aren't most readers because you're here and I'm going to share with you all the fun (sort of) ups and downs.

So, I finished writing the manuscript (shorthand: ms) last Wednesday. But before I can print out half a dozen copies and give them to my beta readers (more on that in a moment), it needs a read-through.

Out loud.

What may look good on paper and even sound fine when you're reading silently can be downright nasty when spoken aloud. That's not good. Downright nasty doesn't belong in a published book. I did this with Destined and it was amazing how many things I caught:
  • How many times do characters begin their dialog with "Well,"?
  • Do two or more characters use the same idiosyncratic speech pattern?
  • Is the point-of-view (POV) consistent, or is there "head jumping"?
  • Just how many times do you just use the word "just"?

Oh, there is so much to find, so much to correct. And it doesn't work quite as well when you're reading it aloud to yourself. Because, after all, you wrote it.

So we look for an audient. (I figure if many people in attendance is an audience, then a single person listening is an audient.) In my case, Husby is quite convenient.

Consequently, over the last few days (excepting Shabbat, of course), I've been reading the ms to him out loud. Lemme tell ya, my voice is starting to fade, and we're only to chapter 13. But it is already making a difference in what I'm able to catch both in basic errors and in structure and word choice.

Since Tuesday is a holiday (we did our New Year thing back in September; this one we celebrate pretty much simply by buying a new calendar), on Wednesday, the plan is to print and bind about half a dozen copies of the ms and give them, with a complimentary red pen, to my beta readers.

What are beta readers? They're people I've specifically requested read the ms and mark it up. I trust them to tell me the honest truth. If there's something that needs fixing, I want to know about it so I can fix it! Anything they love, hate, don't understand, anything that needs clarification, isn't accurate, or is a must-keep - they mark it and I use it to do Edit #2.

A few people who were beta readers for Destined have volunteered to read this one. And my favorite, to be honest, was a reader who wrote not only comments to me for purposes of the next edit, but also comments to the characters! I'm looking forward to her comments on this ms.

So that's the latest update. Husby gets to hear a bunch more chapters read aloud to him and then I'll move on to the beta readers. And all this before it gets to my editor, who will I hope, edit it within an inch of its life so that it can be the best book possible.

Hey Hey Haveil Havalim #147

Want to know what's going on the Jewish blogosphere? Go to this week's Haveil Havalim over at Soccer Dad's blog and see who's doing what or to whom.

Really. Go. I'll wait. You can always come back here and read more when you're done there. (Plus there's a link there back here, so you won't forget.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chapter and Terse

88,197 words

2,920 paragraphs

403 pages

33 chapters

20 major characters

6 beta readers

3 book editors

1 novel


Yes, the first major edit of the completed manuscript of the second in the Rabbi David Cohen series is DONE!

Today's assignment is to break it into chapters. I don't write chapters as I'm actively working on the ms so much as I write sections. Later some will become chapters and others will remain sections within a chapter.

I need to look at how the story flows and where a good breaking point for a chapter would be (with an eye always toward cliffhangers and other nefarious means of keeping readers from putting down the book), and then also look at how many pages are in each chapter, to achieve some balance throughout the book.

Next up, making printed copies for my beta readers, who will have something to curl up with and mark up with red pen in January. Then it's on to my primary editor and advance copies to go out to pre-publication reviewers.

In addition to asking for your help with the pitch, you all are also de facto part of my focus group (isn't that cool?) so I'll be asking your opinions on a bunch of stuff, including your votes for the published title (rather than the working title I've had), votes for your favorite cover, and so forth.

You can help determine the future of Jewish literature!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Help Write a Book Pitch! Be Involved from the Very Beginning!

From 12/24/07:
No carolers tonight, but there is a good shot at my finishing the first major edit of As in Days of Old tomorrow. Since there's so much else to do on December 25th. [snicker]

Okay, so I need y'alls help here. I need a good elevator pitch. An astounding one. A 25-words-or-less pitch for the book that will cause everyone who hears it to run to their nearest retail outlet (online or off) and buy it.

I wrote in detail about what a formal elevator pitch (EP) is on the MIPA blog, if you want to know details about it and how to develop your own. For everyone else, let's just say I need to come up with a 10-second (I wasn't kidding about the 25-words-or-less) riveting, compelling, highly provocative sentence to describe the book without giving away the ending.

So... what is the book about? It's the second in the Rabbi David Cohen suspense series, a sequel to Destined to Choose, and, if I may be so bold, much, much better. It takes place six months after Destined ends, during the weeks leading up to and during Chanukah. In it...

"Minneapolis Rabbi David Cohen intervenes to catch a violent stalker while his wife tries to become more involved in his career."

That's what I have so far. There's so much more I could say. That's the problem as the author, you get so caught up in the characters' lives and the story and all the details that it all seems important.

Like, I could tell you that Arik (Israeli-born Minneapolis cop) has a major role in this book, as does Batya (Arik's wife/Reform rabbi).

We get to see the story partly from Batya's point of view, as well as Sara's (David's wife).

Eli, who was briefly introduced in Destined, and his wife come out for a visit during Chanukah, and wind up in the middle of a crime scene.

We meet Shimon, an Orthodox rabbi, for the first time and get a glimpse into his and David's friendship (yes, a Conservative and an Orthodox rabbi can be friends).

And we get to meet members of the larger non-Jewish community as well.

Will you help? I'm thinkin' there might be something in it for you, too (mention in the acknowledgments, a free advance copy...) My publisher's marketing advisor, my editor, and others will have some say, too, but I've been asked for a pitch with the finished manuscript. I'd love your help!

Leave your comments (they get emailed to me so I'll be sure to get them) and we'll continue the dialog. Thanks!

Back tomorrow with updates.

Update 12/25/07: About 20 pages to go and the ms is DONE (with Edit #1) and ready to go to beta readers for their comments, which will result in Edit #2. [Then it goes to my editor for what will result in Edit #3.] I would not be surprised if the ms goes through as many as 5-6 edits all told before publication, but the first three are the big ones.

Already the first chapter has been rewritten and several scenes have been either rearranged or pulled entirely. You know what books need? We need a "special bonus features" thing like on DVDs, where the author can provide commentary during the book and there can be a section for a gag reel and deleted scenes. I wonder if there's a market for that sort of thing...

I am a little sad. It's always sad, finishing and having to say goodbye for now. I expect to be done by tomorrow morning, at which time I will need to - without a pause - write a compelling scene from Book #3, the third in the series (and mostly plotted out already). I really hope to get to the point of writing a book a year. This 4-5 years between books is so not okay. (But then I did give birth to children in the intervening years. That's my excuse and I'm stickin' with it.)

Wish me luck - tomorrow I'm looking forward to posting a DONE post!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Is Carol Coming to My Door?

Received this tucked in the door today:

We cordially invite you to listen to a musical caroling experience (time/date). If interested, please leave a front light on. [Signed by a neighbor]

What to do? What to do?

I want to support the neighborhood. I want to support my neighbors. I love music.


I'm Jewish. I really don't want to hear about the birth of Jesus, sung to me personally, from my doorstep. Already I haven't been able to get "I'm Getting Nuttin' For Christmas" out of my head from a few days ago.

Husby didn't have any vacillation. He made sure the outside motion-sensor lights were turned off.

Update: due to blowing snow and whiteout conditions, caroling has been cancelled (or at least postponed to tomorrow).

I'm a little bit disappointed. I would have loved to have overheard them caroling to someone else who celebrates Christmas. The music is often beautiful, and I can listen to it so long as I know it's not directed at me personally.

And maybe it will replace "I'm Getting Nuttin'" and endless refrains of "I Am A Latke."

Update #2: The tune for the verses in "I Am A Latke" by Debbie Friedman has been buggin' me all evening, bringing memory snippets of Disney videos to mind. I finally put it together. The tune in the verses (not the chorus) is eerily similar to the tune of the verses in "Be Prepared" (Scar's Hitler-esque takeover song) in "The Lion King."


Chinese Food On Christmas

Just how I'm feeling, finishing up Edit #1 on "As in Days of Old," watching the snow blowing outside, and knowing most of the rest of the neighborhood is preparing for the "big day."

Plus, this guy's got talent!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Moving Finger Writes, and Having Writ, Moves On

aka "Yay! No More Rosh Hashana Video!"

I am buried in books, folks. I've got quite a few I'm wading through for reviews (coming soon), an author interview with Tsvi Bisk (coming very soon), and stuff even I wrote (what a novel concept).

Spent Motzei Shabbat last night as the featured/guest author for a synagogue book group. I love audiences like this - warm, generous, genuinely interested. I was a little surprised when they said, "Okay, enough about the book. We're going to buy the book. We want to know more about you!"

My life is just so... well... my life. But some people find it interesting, which I find interesting. Maybe there's a book in there somewhere.

So what IS going on in my life? Some of the usual: kids, Husby, house, pets, vehicular challenges, winter in Minnesota (we're entering a warming trend, they said on the news: temperatures might get [up] close to freezing).

I moved my office from upstairs to dowstairs, which is actually a move up in the figurative sense though down in the literal sense. I have windows now and space. And boxes full of... uh... stuff, yeah, stuff from the former office, which is now a child's bedroom.

As for the writin', As in Days of Old is going through the first major editing and the cover art is starting to take shape. Beta readers ought to be getting their copies within a week or two. I'm hoping for a summer release; we'll see!

Some of you might remember my (very) short story "Saturdays," which was published on Elster's Storytellers blog a [ahem] year ago August. I've decided to give protagonist Coby his own book. Maybe not a series; I'm not sure. But I've got the perfect stand alone novel for him, and yes, folks, this one's a real honest-to-goodness murder mystery. Jewish perspective, yes, but not religiously so. If you've read "Saturdays," it's Coby post-police academy but without the encounter with Mike and Dan. (I have to take some writer's license, right?)

Meanwhile, I've been writing articles and shorter pieces (though obviously not blogging recently. Sorry about that!). One well-researched piece that I'm particularly fond of on the mitzvah of welcoming guests will be published in early January 2008; I should be able to either reprint it here or put in the link as soon as it's out.

I gave a 1-hour multi-media lecture last month on electronic marketing, or as I like to call it, "Book Marketing for Introverts." Due to responses to the lecture, I'm compiling my info along with other resources I've found for a small book. No release date for certain yet, but those who've read my articles on e-marketing (see my many posts on the MIPA blog) have said if the book were out now, they'd buy it sight unseen.

Pretty cool. I like hearing that.

I hope everyone had a meaningful and heroic Chanuka (or at least a nice time), and I'll be back soon. (Bug me if you don't hear from me at least once a week!)