Wednesday 9 June 2021

Waiting for beta feedback

I'm trying to be all organised with the current book - one big challenge has been to get beta feedback from people who are not overly invested ("objective") so I can look at the book with fresh eyes. I did send quite a few emails with the current manuscript to a range of people and set the deadline of 19 June.

The idea is to get as much and as varied feedback as possible (I didn't pre-select at all) and then review all feedback and build an action plan to fix those things that are actually problems rather than personal preferences. That's the part in the process where you saw off all the extra limbs and make sure things will be in proportion, and any plot holes are addressed. It's the structure part of the book, and definitely a separate pass. In traditional publishing, it would be called developmental edits - I call it the "bones". I have a few ideas myself, and will make a scene plan and a timeline and make sure it all hangs together logically - or is even possible.

Then I'll do an intermediate stage - looking at individual scenes and chapter structure. Does this chapter have a right to exist or can I collapse it into another one? This looks at tension, pacing, and scene-based conflict. This is also where I make sure that both POV characters have distinctive voices and don't overlap. This is the "muscles" stage of editing. 

There will be another stage where I'm just going to look at language and metaphor and how the words sound when they're actually spoken. This is also where I hope to chase down the last of the Britishisms (I write in an approximate generic American voice as both POV characters are from the US). Let's call this "skin, clothes, and make-up". 

Proofing happens kind of alongside this - obviously I'll fix all the stuff I spot on all of those passes - but there will also be proofreading from friends and I'll do what many indie authors do and try out some computer software to spot repetitive phrases across the whole manuscript. I do think that a computer is better at highlighting repetitive phraseology (which is one of my pet peeves and really difficult to spot for the human eye in a 100,000-word document).

I've also booked a paid editor as a second line of defense, but really 80-90% of the work should hopefully be done by the time I send her the book, so that pass should just be a general tidy-up. 

I'd say the first three stages will probably take 6-7 weeks, and I'm throwing in August as a buffer for further passes and changes.

This laundry list might horrify some people - I see so much talk of "publish now, fix mistakes later or never, publish, publish, PUBLISH, GO GO GO!" in indie circles (I've been reading a lot of samples outside of m/m, mostly het YA stuff and some het romance, spurred on by what I see being discussed in author groups on Facebook). What I see a *lot* is people publishing what are clearly raw drafts. That said, for many of them, this very much works and they make five and six figures per year that way. Of course, every writing making money and putting food on the table is a bloody hero.

I've worked out for myself that I want to publish books I'd pay to read, and I don't buy books for myself that clearly haven't been edited. It's a professional deformation - I just can't ignore poor prose and "just enjoy the story". I often wish I could. Every time I've compromised on this, I wasn't happy with the book and I've regretted cutting corners, and these regrets linger for decades.

So, next steps:

- pull together self-editing action plan based on my own "notes to self" during the writing and the round of beta feedback by 20/21 June

- Big picture/structural edits ("bones")

- Scene edits ("muscles")

- Line/word-level edits ("skin, clothes, make-up")

- Editor stage by end-July

- Proofreading and final clean-up during August

Still aiming for a release in September. Cover by Lady Tiferet has been commissioned, and I'm looking at writing the blurb so at least I can set up a link with the title and cover for pre-orders.

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