Updates…

Galley CopyMy galley copy of ‘The Tattered Banner’ arrived today, bringing with it the delightful requirement of a proofread (another one). It’s exciting to be so close to the end of the journey with this book though, or at least bringing one part of that journey to a close.

For anyone curious, Createspace are responsible for this physical incarnation. I’m incredibly impressed by the quality of what they’ve produced; it has easily surpassed both my expectations and hopes. They took care of the cover art and the interior formatting and if all goes to plan, I will be using their services again.

And yes, before anyone points it out, I know I need to use coasters, but I think the coffee mug rings give my desk character. *cough*

The Mighty Scrivener

On an impulse I bought Scrivener a little while back, before I’d really read any reviews on it or knew anything about it. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a word processor and organiser aimed at writers. I took a quick look at it when I bought it and then forgot about it; I was quite busy at the time and really didn’t want to have to learn how to use something new, which at first glance I thought would take a while. This was an incorrect assumption, as I shall outline below.

Since then I’ve seen more and more talk online about how good a tool it is for writing novels. Long story short, I decided to give it another look. I started off with the included tutorial. It took me about 2 hours to go through, although I was dithering and distracted a couple of times, so this might not be a good guide as to how long it will take someone else.

As I worked through the tutorial, there were a lot of features that immediately jumped out as being very attractive to the way I work. With Word (I’m on a Mac by the way), I always write in focus view, which is great for eliminating distractions. Scrivener has this feature also (compose mode), so in making the switch I wasn’t losing it.

My current (now former) work practice is (was) to have my main manuscript in a word document, and all my notes, character details and what not in a separate notebook document. This meant quite a bit of jumping between my manuscript in focus view and my other documents which annoyed me a bit but I couldn’t work out a better way to deal with the situation (that’s certainly not to say there isn’t one!).

Scrivener allows all the information relating to my work to be contained within the one document, which I really like. It has a section for the manuscript, research, and templates, which can be modified to taste for describing and recording character information and locations, or anything else really. Very handy. What’s more, all this information can be accessed by a non-intrusive, disappearing menu bar while in Scrivener’s version of focus mode, compose, without having to exit it and go to another window, which I find  incredibly useful.

Manuscript handling is also very clever, with each scene, chapter and part being contained within individual files which can later be very easily compiled into a single document in a great many different formats. For me this isn’t such an earth shattering thing in the first draft writing process, but where it really comes into its own is when you are reviewing and editing. Having just come out of this process in the last couple of months with The Tattered Banner, there are a great many features here that I wish I had when doing that. The ability to move individual scenes about with minimum effort is great, as is the ability to append notes to each individual scene, outlining what happens, what is meant to happen etc and being able to display this information in an overview. All very useful stuff when working on an existing manuscript.

I’m not even gong to start on the ability to add keywords and tags for easy navigating, as I haven’t really gotten that far into this myself, but the usefulness of this is pretty obvious and I’m just starting to avail of it to make it easier to keep track of sub plots.

There’s plenty more that I could mention even after such a short time using it, but to sum up, after 2 hours going through the tutorial and about the same amount of time mucking about with a manuscript I imported into it, I’m completely sold. There are features in it that I can’t understand how I ever did without. Needless to say I’m going to be using it for the foreseeable future!

Back cover blurb…

Ok, back cover blurb has been settled on, so here it is!

Unique talent always attracts attention…

In a world where magic is outlawed, ability with a sword is prized above all else. For Soren this means the chance to live out his dreams.

Plucked from a life of privation, he is given a coveted place at Ostenheim’s Academy of Swordsmanship, an opportunity beyond belief.

Opportunity is not always what it seems however, and gifts rarely come without conditions. Soren becomes an unwitting pawn in a game of intrigue and treachery that could cost him not just his dreams, but also his life.

I hope to have the final version of the cover settled before Christmas as it is very close to where it needs to be. Interior layout is finalised, so happily one more thing crossed off the list!

Back cover blurb and updates.

Changes to cover and interior format have been submitted; it will be interesting to see what comes back from that.

The next step is to write a blurb for the back cover. My approach to this has been just to sit down and write about ten different versions. In a day or two I’ll have a read over them, see which I like, which I think are garbage, try to narrow them down to a few strong contenders and edit accordingly. I might write some more if anything new comes to me, but I think I’m on the right track with what I have so far.

I think that the important elements to get across to the reader in the blurb are a sense where the story is set, a sense of who the story is about, and an idea of what the story is about. And let’s not forget an overwhelming and irresistible desire to buy the book…

Cover design and internal layout

I got the first proofs back today for the cover design and internal layout of ‘The Tattered Banner’, which made it feel a little bit like Christmas!

The internal layout is pretty much exactly how I want it, which I’m pleased about; one or two minor alterations will have it perfect.

The cover design is always going to be the big thing, judging books by covers and all. Of the two alternatives suggested, one was really not what I’m after, while the other is pretty close to what I want. Again, a couple of what I hope will be only minor changes will be enough to get it where I want it. I really don’t have a clue when it comes to graphic design and artwork, I started to fall behind the curve in this regard shortly after we progressed beyond finger painting so I’m pretty reliant on others for this type of thing. It’s always interesting to see what someone else comes up with in terms of visual presentation, based on what must have been pretty confusing and jumbled directions supplied by me!

Happily, as evidenced by the second of the two options provided, I must have conveyed my ideas clearly enough to get close to the mark! It’s definitely one of those things that I don’t want to let out of the bag until it is finalised though, so I’m afraid it will be another ten days or so before I’ll be able to post a cover preview!

Incidentally, I’m still aiming for a mid January 2013 release…

Updates

Cover design has been in motion for a little while now, and I am expecting some initial designs very soon. Needless to say I’m quite eager to see what the designer has come up with.

I’m nearing the end of another proof read myself, and also awaiting another batch of feedback from the very kind individuals who beta read for me, who are also ruthlessly blunt when it comes to their criticism! This is something that I really wasn’t sure how I’d feel about. In a sense I suppose it’s like having someone tell you they think your kids are ugly, but I found that I really wasn’t bothered by any of the criticisms levelled at my work.

The only reason I can come up with for this is in two parts. First, I was extremely keen to make my book as good as it possibly could be, so I was open to hearing about things that others felt could be improved upon. Secondly, all of the feedback that was given was extremely constructive. When they said they thought something didn’t work, they said (in one case at great length!) why they thought it didn’t work.

While it is still my book and I have no intention of changing every single thing that anyone raises a query over, what was particularly useful was that it made me really think about different aspects of what I had written. I may not have changed the things in the way they  suggested, but I certainly spent quite a bit of time thinking about each of the areas that they flagged, and this allowed me to tweak things in a way that I felt improved the overall book. They raised thought points, and also questions that I had to answer, and this was of enormous assistance in making my final edit as polished as I can.

New beginnings

It’s off to the beta readers with the latest (and hopefully last) draft. All being well, the heavy reviewing/editing is done with. I’m happy with it and feel that it’s better than the previous draft, which I was also pretty happy with!

Now its back to the new book that I started working on while waiting for my last batch of feedback. While I find the reviewing process does get a little tedious at times, it is enjoyable in that it reacquaints you with your work and imbues you with an in depth familiarity with it. For me though, it does not come to close to the enjoyment I get from writing something entirely new.

With editing, when you get up from your desk at the end of the day, you haven’t really created anything new, just something a little bit different. With a new work, each evening when you quit, there are new stories and characters that just didn’t exist before and that is thing that I love so much about writing. You get to breath life into a new world and everything in it, which is a dream come true for someone with an overactive imagination!

And so that brings me to my next book. I’ve been so eager to get back to this story that I didn’t take the break I had planned after the last edit and I’m really enjoying where its going. I feel pretty much the same way about the next book in the queue though, and the one after that…