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Sue Archer

Wordsmith | Editor

Fortune’s Shadow Out in Paperback

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all staying healthy and safe. What a year 2020 is turning out to be! I know I’ve found it difficult on many days to concentrate on reading, never mind writing. And yet both of these things are still helping me manage the challenges of this year.

So even though it feels odd to be promoting my work at this time, I thought I should let you know that my urban fantasy novel Fortune’s Shadow is finally available in paperback from Amazon. (It was a true joy to finally hold the proof copy in my hands!)

Paperback links:

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Or if you prefer an ebook from Kindle, Kobo, Apple, or other sources, you can find it here. (You can also request it from your library if they use Overdrive or CloudLibrary apps.)

Fortune’s Shadow ebook

Thank you to everyone who has already purchased it, read it, and left ratings and reviews. I’m honoured you put me on your reading list, and I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it.

Work is slow on the sequel, but it’s going! I’ll be updating my progress here when I can and writing occasional blog posts.

How have you all been holding up? Do you have any books that that have been great reads for you during this time? I’d love to hear from you.

Take care,

Sue

Fortune’s Shadow Releasing Today!

Hi everyone,

Today’s the day, hurrah! My debut urban fantasy novel is finally out into the world and ready to be read. 🙂 It’s available at several major ebook retailers and is also being published on library catalogues if you’d prefer to request it through your local library (under ISBN 9781777085629).

Is my book for you? If you like the idea of reading about

  • An indie musician trying to make it big
  • A magical wish gone sideways
  • A secret from the past
  • A small town full of fun characters
  • A supernatural showdown

then I’d be honoured if you chose to spend time with Jocelyn and all the other characters I have grown to love.

For those of you who may be wondering, since this is the first book in the Nexus Chronicles: it is a standalone story, and I’ve been told it has a satisfying ending. 🙂 However the threads are there for future tales from the town of Bridgepoint, and I’m working towards writing and publishing at least two more. So if you read my book and enjoy it, I would be very grateful if you could leave a rating or review or share the news with friends.

This has been such a long time coming—I’ve been wanting to publish a fantasy novel since forever. Thank you to everyone who helped me get here!

And thank you, readers, for taking a chance on a new author. I hope you enjoy my book as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

All the best,

Sue

Fortune’s Shadow: Seven Lessons Learned from Self-Publishing

Last year, I wrote a post about my goal to publish my first novel by May 2020. I am happy to be able to say I have achieved that goal. I’m even slightly ahead of schedule! Fortune’s Shadow, my debut urban/paranormal fantasy novel, is now available for preorder at multiple ebook retailers (including Kobo, Apple, and Amazon) and will be released into the world on April 26th!Fortune's Shadow by Sue Archer

With exactly one week to go until launch day, I thought I’d share seven lessons I’ve learned from going through the process of self-publishing my first novel. (I hope that this will help any of you who may be thinking about doing the same!)

1) Don’t worry if you can’t write every day. You’ll still get there.

One of the things that initially stopped me from fulfilling my dream of publishing my first novel was my stubborn belief that I just didn’t have the time. And when I did have the time, I felt pressured, which made it difficult to have the mental energy to be creative. I was surrounded by all this advice implying that you had to write every day. But by the time I was finished my work day, there was no way I was in the mood to sit down at a computer (again!) and write.

So I made a deal with myself: Every Saturday morning, I would sit down and write a scene. One scene. Sometimes I could finish it that morning. Sometimes it took more time throughout the weekend. But the ability to start and finish a chunk of writing every week made me feel positive about my progress and allowed me to set things aside during my work week without having to feel like I was leaving loose threads lying around. The next week, I’d look over what I’d done the week before, make a few edits, and then write the next scene. It took months to get through it. But every week was progress.

2) Have at least some idea of an outline as you write.

I know some people are pantsers and prefer to just write and write until all of their ideas are down, without worrying too much about where it’s going. That is perfectly fine, but frankly, the thought of having to spend time rewriting my story multiple times based on a messy first draft was overwhelming to me. I barely had enough time to write as it was! So I bought Scrivener, which is a useful tool for mapping out an overall rough plot structure (although you can do the same thing in Word), and created some plot milestones based on the wonderful writing resource Save the Cat.

At first those plot milestones were simply words on a virtual card with no content. When I started, I only had a clear idea of the first four chapters and the midpoint. But as I wrote each scene, I was able to gradually fill out the rest of the details, and being able to write from Point A to Point B made finishing an entire novel achievable.

3) Don’t be afraid of feedback.

Self-published books are sometimes perceived as having lower quality than traditionally published books because they haven’t been through the “official” gatekeepers of publishing. But you don’t need your book to go through a gatekeeper to know if it’s any good. What you need to know is that your book will be enjoyed by the ultimate judges of your work—the people who will buy your book. I was determined to make sure I wrote something that stood up to the level of traditionally published books purchased by my intended audience.

Was I afraid of sending my words out to multiple people for judgment ahead of publication? Of course. But I did it anyway, because I wanted to know the truth before I published it, not after. I sent my draft to several people for beta reading. When I reviewed all the feedback, I found that some people commented on the same big things (plot refinement ahead!), while others found different smaller things to improve based on their individual experiences. In the end, almost all of the feedback I received was useful and positive, and it energized me as I updated my draft to make it an even better story. It is truly thanks to those beta readers that my story shines.

4) Line up your publication team well ahead of your release date.

When you’re self-publishing, you’re not just the writer—you’re the publisher. That involves a lot of steps, and I had many things to keep track of as I pulled together my project plan. I did this while I was still writing my first draft, so I could figure out how I was going to get my book out by my release date. The timing of some of the activities was flexible because I could handle the details myself (getting my ISBNs, drafting my author blurb, formatting my ebook), but there were other things where I would need to bring in experts: my editor, my cover designer, my proofreader, and my interior designer for the print version (which will be out in the summer—stay tuned!).

The average time I had to book people ahead? Four months. Why? Because the people I wanted to work with are excellent professionals who are in demand.

Because I planned ahead, I was able to get a fabulous cover from the amazing Ravven, truly insightful line and copy editing comments from fiction editor Maggie Morris, a thorough final proofread from Jess Shulman and a beautiful interior design from Krista Walsh.

5) Use your opportunity to learn new skills.

Self-publishing your novel can be a test of your confidence. I knew there were things I would be absolutely hopeless at—like designing a professional cover—so I made a deliberate decision to go with someone else. But what about other things? Could I really format my own ebook, when I knew nothing about epub coding?

I decided this would be a great time to find out. I took an excellent seminar series on ebook production by Editors Canada that helped take the anxiety out of understanding ebook coding and publishing. And although I ended up submitting my Word document through Draft2Digital’s epub conversion tool, this was only the first step, and I was able to then use my training to fix formatting issues and make my book look perfectly presentable. (When I do this again, I may even get fancier!)

6) Consider going wide.

I know some self-publishing folks go exclusively with Amazon and that works for them. I wanted to publish more broadly (especially during this time, when book publishing in general is being challenged), but I wasn’t sure if this would affect my sales. Then I read something interesting from a fellow Canadian author, who mentioned that they consistently get more sales from Kobo than they do from Amazon, because Kobo (through Indigo) is a big component of the Canadian ebook market.

Makes sense, I thought.

In the end, I set myself up with both Kobo and Amazon under their direct royalty structure and then distributed my ebook to other retailers and libraries through the Draft2Digital platform, which takes a 15% cut of my royalties but manages everything for all the other platforms.

My book isn’t out yet, but based on preorders alone, I am getting more sales through Kobo than I am through Amazon. I’m also higher up on the listings of their Contemporary Fantasy category because the market is smaller, and there are more chances that someone browsing will spot my book. I’m getting sales through Apple, too!

Obviously you need to find a strategy that works for you, but so far I’m really happy about how this is turning out.

7) Enjoy your moment in the sun!

This is such a weird time to be publishing a book. I can’t release the print version yet because proofs of physical books are being delayed. Everyone is going through personal (and often financial) challenges. Book retailers are struggling. Publishers are delaying launches. I almost didn’t go ahead.

But when I mentioned this to my friends on Twitter, they told me how much they appreciated seeing my excitement about my book during this time. They felt this was exactly the right time for an entertaining escape read. And since my book is going to be available for library distribution, anyone who wants to read it but can’t buy it can ask for it at their library instead, which I love, since the library is my happy place.

So I decided to go for it, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My dream is coming true, and nothing can stop it!

I believe it’s more important than ever to enjoy our creative achievements right now. So don’t be afraid to share your good news and market your work.

And if you’re writing that novel, and you’re just not there yet, please know that I’m cheering you on all the way. 🙂

 

Sue

Coming Full Circle

I haven’t posted here for a while. At first, it was because I was taking on a lot of editing work—which was a wonderful reason not to have time to write! It’s been such an incredible experience collaborating with my indie clients to help them craft their stories, whether through the big-picture view of manuscript assessments or the nuts and bolts of stylistic and copy editing. I also had the opportunity to work on multiple series, and it was so much fun celebrating along with my authors whenever each new book was published.

Then something happened. As I experienced my authors’ passions for writing tales about kick-butt swords-for-hire or snarky urban sorceresses or courageous vampires or assassins with a fear of blood, it rekindled something in me—my desire to write my own urban fantasy novel. But I knew I was never going to get around to it if I didn’t even have the time to write blog posts!

So I made a conscious decision to only take on manuscript assessments going forward, and I set to work at seriously writing a draft of my own first novel after many years of starts and stops.

The indie authors I work with are the most generous people I have ever met. Now that I am the one jumping into the fray, they have been so supportive, offering advice and cheering me on. I have been so inspired by them, and I am thrilled to be working towards self-publishing my own story.

In Ottawa at the Byward Market with the talented Krista Walsh! (That's Krista on the left and me on the right.)
In Ottawa at the Byward Market with the talented Krista Walsh! (That’s Krista on the left and me on the right.)

Recently, I saw a Twitter post from an editor who was advertising her services by calling herself “100% editor”—someone who wasn’t a writer, and therefore would be a better choice as an editor because she was solely focusing on her clients.

As you might guess, I am viewing things a different way. I feel that by coming full circle, through experiencing the same challenges that my clients have faced in trying to bring their best stories to their readers, it can only make me a better editor.

I’m continuing to enjoy doing manuscript assessments, since I love working with structure and looking at how all of the aspects of a story can be reassembled to make it even stronger.

At the same time, I am writing, and I am so pleased to be able to say I have completed a full draft of my novel, which I am hoping to publish in May 2020!

I’m also going to do my best to write the occasional blog post again and share my thoughts on editing, writing, and self-publishing as I go through this new challenge.

Thank you to everyone reading this. I hope to post again soon! (Or at least, sooner than before!)

All the best,

Sue

 

 

Describing Setting Through Your Character’s Eyes

Think about one of your favourite fictional stories. Why did you like it so much?

I’ll bet a key reason you liked it is that the story had a character you cared about. Someone who felt real to you. Someone who drew you into their adventures and kept you captivated right to the very end of the plot.

It’s not easy to create a character who is consistently three-dimensional throughout a story. That’s why there are so many articles out there on strengthening the main character’s point of view.

woman's eyes
Source: Wikimedia Commons

One item that is sometimes overlooked, though, is the relationship between character and setting. This is particularly important in stories that are intended to have a narrow narrative distance between the reader and the character.

When I edit scenes involving setting descriptions, a common piece of advice I give is to think about the scene from the character’s point of view. I have run across descriptions of living rooms and castle halls and even parking garages that are brilliant on their own, but they don’t work for the story, because the descriptions are coming from the writer’s point of view, rather than the character’s. The painstaking research that the author has done to make the scene feel more “real” has been lovingly added to the page, but the reader ends up feeling more distant from the story instead of closer to it.

Why? Because if the setting was being described by the character, they would be presenting it in a different way. And the reader has now been reminded that there is an author behind the story, one who is adding in details that the character would not perceive or missing ones that the character would care about.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you make your setting descriptions more character-focused:

  1. What would your character notice first? Is this the first thing that is mentioned in the description?
  2. Is there someone or something that your character needs to notice in more detail (such as the new love interest)? Is the appropriate emphasis given to this part of the scene?
  3. How would your character visually look at this particular setting? Would the character notice the wide view and then look at specific details? Or would the character hone in on a particular part of the setting? Would they see things in a certain directional order, such as from left to right, front to back (down a hallway), bottom to top (looking up a castle staircase), or from top to bottom (scanning someone from head to toe)? Is anything in the setting being described out of order?
  4. Would your character know or care about the details you’re including? Maybe they are a car enthusiast, and so they would know the exact model of that sports car in the parking garage. Or maybe they would only notice it’s red and has four wheels. Maybe they’re staring at it because they can’t afford such a fancy car, and they’re envious of the owner. Or maybe they wouldn’t even see it because they’re too busy looking at something else.
  5. What emotional state is your character in? Are they focused, happy, sad, angry, afraid? This could affect how they describe things, how well they are taking in the details, and which pieces of the setting they dwell on.
  6. How busy is your character right now? If your character is in the middle of a fight or running away from the villain, chances are they won’t have the time to describe much without inadvertently slowing down the action.
  7. Is your character visually oriented, or are they more likely to notice details through other senses? If your character is a musician, maybe they notice sound a lot, for example. Or maybe your character focuses a lot on other senses, such as smell (especially if they are a werewolf!).

By taking the time to think about how your character might react to their particular surroundings, you will both strengthen the description and reinforce the integrity of your character’s point of view. And your reader will feel rewarded when they read your character’s story.

I encourage you to try taking a setting and describing it from the perspective of multiple characters in the scene. You might be surprised by the differences that come out.

***

Do you like writing about settings, or do you find it challenging? Do you have any tips for describing setting that you’d like to share? Please share your thoughts below!

What Qualifications Do You Look For in an Editor?

I recently wrote an article for the Editors’ Weekly where I posed the following question:

Writers are often told to “write what they know.” But what about editors? Should we only take on projects that are squarely in our comfort zones?

I discussed this question with a number of my editing colleagues, who came back with varying opinions on the matter. I decided to post the article here because I felt it would be an interesting discussion point for those of you who work with editors.

ChecklistHow do you determine whether an editor is qualified to take on your project?

I believe it’s critical that the writer and the editor are a good fit for each other, but I also believe “a good fit” can mean different things to different people. Writers who are looking for knowledgeable advice relevant to their genre should definitely hire someone who has experience in that genre. But writers who are looking for an “outside eye” may specifically want an editor who is unfamiliar with the topic at hand.

Regardless of the specific types of experience they are looking for, I feel writers should confirm that a prospective editor has both editing training and good references. And writers should always ask for a sample edit, so they can see if the style of editing suits their needs.

Speaking from an editor’s perspective, I have posted the genres I typically edit on my site because I want prospective clients to know my background before they hire me. Does that mean I would never edit anything outside of those genres? No. I love a great many types of stories, and I have editing experience in other areas, such as business and technical topics. It just happens to be that my current focus is on the types of fiction that I enjoy reading the most. And I feel that having enthusiasm about projects (in addition to having the required expertise) makes me a much better editor.

 

What do you look for when hiring an editor? Would you consider hiring an editor who wasn’t familiar with your genre if you liked their editing style? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image source

Monumental Mistake or Matter of Style?

All the recent discussions around Amazon’s updated policy on error flagging have made me think about what truly constitutes an “error.” Language is fluid, and its rules of usage continue to evolve over time. What our teachers told us to do in elementary school is not always the right way to approach things today.

So how do you know whether you’re on the right track when you’re writing? When you receive your edited manuscript and it’s full of markups, is it time for you to panic? I’m sure many of us have experienced that gut-wrenching feeling of failure when we encounter all those red marks. I know I have!

This is why I like to write detailed comments as I edit — so I can explain why I’ve made a change. When I perform a stylistic/copy edit, there are a number of reasons why I mark up a manuscript, and only one of these reasons is to identify an error. Here are six other common things that can happen, which are definitely not signs that you’ve made some kind of horrendous mistake:

  1. The writing isn’t following an agreed-upon style. I’ve talked in a previous post about the value of using a style sheet, so that you and your editor can agree on various preferences around punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. The style guide that your editor follows helps them to identify and flag inconsistencies. But you shouldn’t think of these edits as corrections – you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s okay to use a serial comma, and it’s okay not to use a serial comma. But it’s best to have consistency throughout the manuscript, so that your reader doesn’t notice any variations.
  2. Unusual terms or phrases are being used. Maybe you know what that saying means, but your reader might not have heard of it. You don’t want to make your reader have to look something up or (even worse) think that you’ve made some kind of mistake. Which you haven’t – you’ve just used some words that some of your readers may not be familiar with.
  3. Your meaning is unclear. When we’re in the middle of writing, we know exactly what we are trying to convey, and we think that other people will see it the same way. But there are lots of cases where something can be interpreted in different ways. When this happens, it’s better to change the wording to make the meaning absolutely clear. What you’ve written isn’t wrong – it just happens to be representing a particular view that may not be shared.
  4. The style doesn’t suit your genre or audience. You may love using semi-colons and writing long, elaborate sentences that evoke the Victorian era. But if you’re writing a romance for a general audience, then it’s probably not the way to go, even if it’s a perfectly valid writing style.
  5. The style doesn’t suit your characters. In dialogue in particular, characters speak in ways that may or may not be “correct” based on common writing standards. This is a case where an editor may change your writing to make it grammatically incorrect on purpose — isn’t that a fun thought?
  6. You’ve used too many words. This is a very common challenge among writers. What you’ve written is perfectly fine, but it could be said in a more succinct way that captures the true essence of what you are communicating.

And here’s one final reason for marking up a manuscript that I try with all my might to avoid:

Your editor just plain doesn’t like it.

If I can’t explain the reason why I want to make a change, then I don’t make it. Like all human beings, I have my own personal stylistic preferences that influence my taste in books. But it’s my job as editor to set those preferences aside and work with the style of my author. In fact, one of the things I love about my job is that I get to experience stories being told in different and exciting ways. What a sad place the world would be if all books sounded the same because they were edited to some kind of common standard.

So before you start to feel bad about that feedback from your editor, remember:

  1. Those markups are mostly suggestions, not corrections. It’s your book – and your choice about whether to make those changes.
  2. If you’re not sure why a change was made, don’t be afraid to ask. Editors are human, too.
  3. Your style is unique to you and should be celebrated!

How do you feel when you receive a marked-up manuscript? Have you ever disagreed with someone over an “error”? Please feel free to share your thoughts below, or ask any questions about my services. I’d love to hear from you!

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DBW Review: Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle

Today on my Doorway Between Worlds blog, I have posted a review of writing resource Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle. If you’re looking for help with description in your writing, you may want to come on by!

Doorway Between Worlds

Description and SettingI have a confession to make: I’m one of those readers who has been known to skip over passages full of description to get to the “good stuff.” I love the story of The Lord of the Rings, for example, but my attention wanes during those meandering sections sandwiched between poignant character moments and violent epic battles. With my avoidance of excessive elaboration (and my admittedly poor visual observation skills), I sometimes find it challenging to imbue my own writing with the right level of descriptive pizzazz.

And I know I’m not the only one. So I thought it was time to read through the book Description & Setting by author and creative writing teacher Ron Rozelle. His book is part of the Write Great Fiction series by Writer’s Digest, which features some helpful books on a variety of writing topics. I hadn’t read this one yet, and I…

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How Can I Afford Professional Editing?

Today I have a guest post on Andrew Knighton’s wonderful writing blog. I am sharing some tips on how to minimize the costs of professional editing. If you’re thinking about publishing a book but have been daunted by the thought of overwhelming editing expenses, I encourage you to take a look!

Editing
Picture by Joanna Penn via Flickr Creative Commons

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