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Archive for January, 2010

This blog is not profound or life-changing. It’s not even particularly provocative. To be in such impressive company with the Thomas Nelson editors, staff and authors and try to pen a blog about writing was simply too overwhelming for me. So, I decided to go with my strengths.
Ask anyone who knows me well. They will tell you I am very organized. And that is true—my closet is arranged by color, as is my sock drawer; my books are arranged alphabetically by author; my spices are arranged alphabetically, as are my canned goods. (I know, I know – disgusting!)
However, when I started writing and working out of my home, my penchant for organization seemed to fly out the window. I found myself drowning in paper work. Since most authors work out of home offices, I thought it might be helpful to offer some organizational tips that I have found helpful:
1.) Don’t put it down, put it up. As an author of historical fiction, I print out volumes of material nearly every day. I use several books a day for research. I found myself stacking things on the floor instead of putting them away. I have started making myself re-shelve my books, file what needs to be filed and throw away what needs to be thrown away as I go.
2.) Keep your email whittled down to 20 or under a day.
I get probably 100-120 emails a day. Most of them I can go through quickly and delete, but if I don’t take care of it daily, it takes on a life of its own. It lurks in the back of my mind and nips away at my creativity. So, find your delete button and clear out the pesky ones, and send a quick reply to fan mail and inquiries every day.
3.) Use a computer filing system to cut down on paper files.
On one of our author discussions Colleen Coble mentioned the Microsoft Word One Note online filing system. Thank you, Colleen! This is a computer filing system where one can organize research, notes, expenses, etc. I have probably cut my paper filing in half. (Other systems have similar programs, I understand.) I file research, all my blog interviews, images from research that I want to preserve, etc. Just be sure you have good backup.
4.) Utilize your walls.
I have the luxury of a room that I can use exclusively for my office. You may be using a corner of your bedroom, or your dining room table, but whatever the case may be, I have found that making use of wall space for something other than pictures has offered more options than I previously realized. Hot files – For files that you are working on currently and need to reach quickly, use hot files within reach instead of having to search through file cabinets. I have one for current projects I’m working on and all the correspondence concerning those, and one for speaking engagements. It’s easy to find them and add to them. Cork board – This is one of my favorite new things. I’ve covered one wall with cork board and am posting things like the covers of my books, pictures of costumes, my storyboard. Calendar – After I double-booked myself last fall, I put an erasable 120-day planner on one wall where I can see it every day! Every engagement goes on that calendar now – speaking engagements, doctor’s appointments, deadlines. Everything! Flat-backed baskets – These handy little items can hold everything from mailing supplies to cds and ink cartridges.
5.) Take five. – At the end of every work day take 5 or 10 minutes to clear the clutter. You don’t have to vacuum and wash the windows, just clear the main clutter. That way it doesn’t build up to where it is a daily adventure to find your computer amid the paper work and coffee cups.
I hope these few little tips will prove helpful. I always learn something when I read organizational tips. Now, I need to go update my calendar.

Happy Writing!
Golden Keyes Parsons

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Your fans can’t get enough of your protagonists. And while an author is understandably ready to move on and try something new in their future works, readers usually wrap up a well-written novel wanting to spend more time with that protagonist.

So am I encouraging you to keep writing the same series or character over and over? Not at all.

But I am encouraging you – if this speaks to your creativity – to free your lead characters to roam a bit more.

There are limitless ways to do this.

When you write additional novels in the same time period, let a past popular character weave into the story in a secondary way. Long-time fans will love this. And you have to have secondary characters in new novels anyway – so why not invite some of your past favorites you already know well. If a current reader never read the older novel that this character appeared in – that’s ok. They’ll never know what they’re missing. But those that have will know what they’re gaining…and appreciate the gift.

Here’s a way to free them even further. Let a past character roam in another author’s novel. Again – the genre and the time period need to make sense. But if you’re friends with another author (whether at Thomas Nelson or elsewhere) – and you’re both game – have fun with it. Then cross-promote it on both your websites, blogs, twitters and in the book’s back-matter ads.

And – you can keep your most popular characters active via their own Facebook page. Or on your website, offer an original short stories featuring them or perhaps a Q&A with you interviewing them.

When you invest time in these ways, don’t forget to let us know and let your fans know.

As Southwest Airlines says – the seatbelt light is off. Your characters are now free to roam about the cabin.

~ Allen Arnold

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There is one thing that editors and authors always have in common: Editors want to love the manuscript that was just submitted to them. And authors want their manuscript, their baby, to be loved by their editor. So we as an editorial team have put together a list of seven things that you can do to help it be love at first sight.

1. Don’t View Deadlines as Suggestions. When due dates are established for you to turn your manuscript in to your editor, to complete your revisions, etc., it is crucial that you meet—or beat!—those dates. Your editor has lots of projects on her plate. If you miss the space that she has reserved in her schedule for you, then your manuscript has to be crammed in somewhere else and she can’t take the time to savor it and enjoy it as she would like to. Beyond your editor’s time, though, that schedule was not set arbitrarily. We need manuscripts ready at defined points prior to the release. If it’s not ready, your editor doesn’t know specific things about the story that will make it stand out when it is presented at sales conference, our sales team doesn’t have the sample chapters or ARCs they need to sell your novel to retailers, and our publicity team doesn’t have the opportunity to seek reviews and create advance buzz. Hitting your deadlines is the first step in being able to take advantage of every potential opportunity for your novel to succeed.

2. Surprise-Me-Not. It’s helpful to me, as your in-house advocate, to know what you’re going to submit well before it comes in. We probably agreed at the contract stage what you’d be writing, but that may have morphed some. Please keep me informed. What’s your story arc and who are your characters? And don’t worry: Unlike your average reader, we editors don’t mind knowing how the story ends before we begin reading. For us, the journey is the thing!

3. Help Me Help You. Sharing your goals for a given manuscript with me will help us realize those goals together. If you perceive an existing area of weakness in your manuscript—as you likely have if you’re still breathing—communicate this to me; I’ll do my best to help you overcome it. My real desire is to help you tell the story that’s on your heart in the most readable, accessible way possible.

4. Self-Editing Is Okay. As your editor, I won’t be offended if you finish your manuscript ahead of your deadline and then go back through it to self-edit. In fact, I suggest it if at all possible. You may be surprised by how many areas you can improve and strengthen. And then I’ll be able to help you focus on taking an A-level manuscript and making it an A+ rather than focusing on making a B into an A.

5. Create a Timeline. As you are writing, it may help to have a blank calendar in front of you to track the sequence of events in your novel. Sometimes the action happens all in one day, in which case an hourly timeline may be best, but when it is spread out over days, weeks, or years, it is easy to get lost in a time-tangle that has to be unraveled during the editorial process. If you keep careful watch over the timing, you free us up to go deeper into the meat of the novel.

6. Spring Clean Your File. Take the time to make sure you’ve done the following clean-ups on the manuscript:

a. Double-space the text.

b. Have each chapter start on a new page.

c. Include page numbers.

d. Run spell check and grammar check (while all grammar certainly doesn’t have to be correct, this will flag many places where you need to work on your sentence structure).

e. If you’ve used a Bible verse in the text, make a note on the style sheet of what version you used.

f. If you want to quote something, reference your author guide for what is and is not permissible. If it’s not in the public domain, you’ll need to replace it or start working on getting permission.

g. Dedications and Acknowledgements can come later, but include them now if you have them. Same goes with Reading Group Guides. If you’d rather we provide Reading Group Guide questions for your book, that’s no problem. Just let us know.

h. Make sure there are no comments still noted in track changes. All questions and comments should be resolved. Delete, rather than hide then. Same goes for highlighted text.

i. Tell us if you’ve gone over or under your word count. You won’t get in trouble, but we’d rather know so we can start the edit with the understanding that we’ll want to try to cut or expand in certain areas.

7. Review Your Manuscript After It Is Typeset. As the letter you receive with the manuscript states, your freshly typeset book is being proofread by two proofreaders at the same time you are reading it, so there are bound to be typos. No need to worry about those, but feel free to mark them if you feel inspired to do so. Know, though, that those proofreaders will be carefully watching out for errors as well. Rather, the best way to use this opportunity is to make sure that the story itself flows and makes sense. It has probably been some time since you sent the manuscript in, and with some distance, you may see parts that could benefit from tweaking or errors that are more obvious after a separation time. It is much easier to change something or correct an error on this side of the book process than waiting until after a book has released. If you are writing a series, this is also a good time to make sure everything flows between this manuscript and the one you are most likely working on now.

What would you add to this list? How do you help your editor fall in love with your novels?

Amanda Bostic, on behalf of the Editorial Team

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