Use E-book Technology as an Editing Tool

fast_N_easy

fast_N_easy

All authors are unique and have developed various ways of producing and editing their work. As a long-time e-book fanatic, I have developed a method of using e-books and e-book readers as an editing tool which speeds up and enhances my editing process.  It only takes minutes to set up, saves a ton of time, and allows me to edit virtually anywhere. It breaks up the process into “identifying issues” and then “fixing issues.” Waiting at the dentist’s office is now an opportunity to edit. Waiting for an oil change is another chance to make progress on my story. Downtime is now productive time, whether I’m in an airport or my easy chair.

I’m sure I’m not the only author who uses this method, although I haven’t heard of anyone else who uses it. I’ll share it with you, and you can decide if this method may yield benefits for the way you work.

I am currently editing the sequel to “Ripper’s Row,” which has a working title of “Ripper’s Revenge.” I just got the manuscript back from my co-author, Shawn Weaver, who has already applied his suggestions and edits. Now it’s my turn to read the story again and smooth it out even further before we send it to our editor, Magnolia Belle, and let her work her magic on it. Some of the Screen shots used are from my horror story, “The Hotel California.”

The story is in pretty decent shape at this point, and what I’m looking for are any inconsistencies, awkward sentences or dialog, spelloids, (my name for proper words used in the wrong context that spell-check won’t catch, like “from” instead of “form,”) and other mistakes that still exist in the manuscript.

The first thing I’m going to do, is quickly create an e-book from the Word document that Shawn sent me. It will take me about three minutes to convert the Word doc to an HTML doc, and using Mobipocket Creator, or Calibre (both free programs) I can turn it into a Kindle e-book and have it on my reading device in short order.

Once on my device, I can start reading and marking up the manuscript. At this point, my goal is NOT to fully edit the story on the reading device, but to make notes and highlights that will call attention to areas in the story that need my attention. Later, I will call these notes and highlights up on my PC where the real editing will take place, only much faster and better now that they have been identified and noted.

Android Touch Screen

Android Touch Screen

As I read the story and find flaws that need work, I have a couple of options. I can either use the “highlight” feature or the “note” feature built into the Kindle app for the reading device. I have also worked out a little system for making my marks on the manuscript that will benefit me later on. For instance, if I run across a comma that should not be there, or a missing comma, I highlight the word before and after where the comma should or should not be. Later, when I see two words highlighted together it means I have a misplaced or missing comma. If I run across an awkward sentence, I highlight the entire sentence. I know that sentence needs further attention. If I run across a “spelloid” I will highlight that single word.

If I find a flaw that requires a creative change, I will make a “note” in the e-book using that built-in feature. For instance, I may run across an inconsistency where I need to make a note like “Change POV,” or “Change Tense.” I will make that note at the beginning of the sentence or paragraph it pertains to. Notes can be short and simple, or can be more involved as in writing out an idea that would improve the story.

Using this method allows me to quickly identify problems and make a quick note if necessary, without breaking my stride in reading the story. This allows me to get a better perspective on how the story “flows” as well as identifying issues. After I have completed my reading and have made all my marks, it’s time to really edit, only faster and easier using e-book technology once again.

When I have finished my reading pass, I now have an e-book that is all marked up. There is now a file on my reading device that holds all of my notes and highlights. I connect my reading device to my laptop, and find all the files related to my e-book, and copy them to the “Kindle Content” folder on my PC.

Here is where my efforts will pay dividends. Now I open my marked-up e-book using the “Kindle for PC” application on my laptop. I open the e-book as if I am going to read it, and all of my notes and highlights are still intact.  With my e-book open, I can go to View on the menu, and click on “Show Notes and Marks.” This will open a pane on the right side of my screen, with a complete list of my notes and marks, and their location within the e-book! Clicking on any of these notes or marks will jump you directly to the e-book page they pertain to.

Kindle App

Kindle App

Now I will open my unedited document in Word, where I will make my changes while keeping the Kindle app open and running as well.

I’m lucky that I have two screens on my computer, so I will open Word on one screen, and the Kindle app on the other. On the Kindle app screen, I will click on a note or mark and identify the change that needs to be made. Using the “search” feature in Word, I will then type in a few words that appear near the note, and use them to find the same location in my Word document.  For instance, if the sentence that needs attention starts with “William ran across…”  then I will type those words into the “search” window and click “find.” Unless I use those same words over and over in my document, Word will take me right where I need to apply my edit. That’s when I make the required change, and then move on to the next note or mark, and then repeat the process. I type in just enough words to find the location in Word, which only takes a second or two.

If you don’t have the luxury of two screens, you can have both apps open and simply re-size the windows so that both apps are visible at the same time. However, I love having two screens, so consider doing that if you can. It really makes a difference in how I work and my productivity.

Dual Screens

Dual Screens

I have described how this process works for me using the Kindle app on my Android touch-screen phone and on my PC, but it should be adaptable to about any reading platform and device.

I have found this method to be very useful for the way I work. It allows me to escape from my “writing chair” for some portion of my work, while allowing me to concentrate on identifying issues in one step, then quickly finding and fixing them in another. Perhaps it will work for you as well.

So, that’s my process. If you happen to see me in an airport messing with my phone, don’t assume I’m playing “Angry Birds.” I might just be editing my next novel.

Ripper’s Row is Coming Soon!

Ripper’s Row  is a novella that I have co-written with author Shawn Weaver (Sense of Honor and Dragon’s Chest).  Shawn and I met last spring at a local book signing, and shortly thereafter had dinner together.  We discussed writing, publishing and marketing, and then hit on the idea of co-writing a short story.  Our intention was to write a short story and give it away as an ebook just to generate a little buzz and introduce us both to new readers.

We then kicked around some ideas through email, and eventually came up with a storyline that we both liked.  We got started, and within a short time, we were both in love with the story and realized it was going well beyond the short-story range in word count.

A couple of months later, we had a first draft of a novella that we titled “Ripper’s Row.”
Since that first draft was finished, we have both been working on editing and refining the story.  I’m happy to say that the final polish is being done now, and the novella is expected to be released around Halloween of 2010!  Just a few days away as of this writing.

I’m very excited about Ripper’s Row, and hope you will take a minute to click the links and check it out. If you like fast-paced scary thrillers – especially ones with unlikely heroes – the Ripper’s Row should be right up your alley.

Discovering New Authors

Joe and Donnie

J.A. Konrath reacts to Dark Justice by Donnie Light

I was reading a blog post yesterday about the “positive aspects” of being rejected by agents and editors. This blogger was touting the “growth” that can be experienced by an author by being rejected by the traditional publishing establishment.
The basic idea was that when an author gets rejected, the rejected author should take that as a signal that his/her writing is just not good enough yet, and therefore try even harder to hone their skills as a writer and produce a better book next time.
This blogger did mention that almost every successful book out there has been rejected, and that rejection is just part of the process. Of course there are countless stories about agents and publishers who passed on a book, only to find that book eventually becomes a bestseller.
My take is that this current system of submitting to agents and publishers, allowing your book to dwindle on the slush pile with little hope of getting a decent look from a qualified reader, is just totally messed up and inefficient.
My own book, Dark Justice, has been down this road. I gathered nearly 100 rejections before just letting the book sit on my shelf for a few years gathering dust.
Then, along came ebooks.  I had been reading ebooks myself, so it finally dawned on me that maybe Dark Justice could find an audience among ebook readers.
Since then, Dark Justice has sold a couple of hundred copies in both ebook formats and as a POD printed paperback. It’s getting an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 on Amazon. I’m getting reader feedback, all of it positive. I’m even getting e-mail from readers who bought the book or borrowed it from their libraries, telling me that they are looking forward to reading my next book.
That is music to an author’s ears, and I love it that people are enjoying my work.
By no measure is Dark Justice a bestseller. I don’t have the power of a national sales campaign behind me, nor any big corporations out there pushing my book. But I have some readers, and they seem to be very hapy readers, which is the best incentive for me to finish my next book and find yet more readers willing to take a chance on an unknown author.
My experience with publishing Dark Justice myself has yielded far more in terms of feedback and building my writing skills than all of rejections from the publishing establishment.
I would love to get a traditional publishing contract for my next book.  But this time, I will not submit for years and adhere to each agent and publisher’s personalized requirements.  I’ll give it my best shot, and once again move to self-publishing if a traditional deal cannot be reached in a few months.
There is a change coming that is going to turn the existing model on its head.  I hope to be there, front and center, when that happens.

Shelfari

Shelfari

Shelfari

I visited and then joined a new book-lover’s website today.  Shelfari.com.  Described as a “social networking site for book lovers.”  Have to say, I was impressed with Shelfari from the first moment I got there.  I have not had much time to spend there yet, but what I have sen I really like.
You can build your online profile, add your favorite books to your virtual bookshelf, write reviews and other content about the books, make friends,  – well, you get the idea.
First impression is that the site is very well done.  I added my book, Dark Justice, to my virtual bookshelf, along with the book I’m currently reading, “Alter of Eden” by James Rollins.
Shelfari looks like one of those sites you could spend a lot of time on – if you have that kind of time.  I will definitely be getting on this one more often, and I’ll update here when I learn more.

‘Tis the Season…

Hi All,
It’s Christmas Eve, and I am getting prepared for my first family holiday event. Leaving shortly on this day where all of the trees are coated in about a quarter-inch of ice.
Even though it makes holiday travel more difficult for many trying to get together with friends and family, it’s actually quite beautiful outside.
In the spirit of this holiday, I would like to thank all of you who have made this year so special for me.  To all of you other authors I’ve met in this past year, to all of you kind readers who have read my book, and all of you who have come to my events – a heartfelt thank-you is in order.  So, thank you all and I hope you have a bountiful holiday season filled with good friends and family.
Please travel safe and have a glorious and prosperous New Year!

60’s and 70’s Characters…

I have recently asked many of you to help me come up with a list of fictional characters from sixties and seventies pop music. Many of you have come through with a good list that I had not yet thought of – so thanks to you all!
I have satellite radio in my Jeep, so I listen to the 70’s channel a lot. When a Disco song comes on I switch to the 60’s! So those are my two favorite music channels. One day, while driving home from a weekend at the lake with my wife, I heard a song – I think it was “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night. Of course that song starts out with the lyrics; “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was a good friend of mine… you know the rest (and if you don’t, you probably aren’t interested in the rest of this story!)
So I was thinking of how anyone ever came up with those lyrics, and if they made any sense at all beyond the literal meaning. I personally figured they were drug-induced.
So then I heard a lates 60’s song – “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann. In this song, everyone’s waiting for “Quinn the Eskimo” and when he gets here, “everybody’s gonna jump for joy.”
That got my mind going, and trying to think of other 60’s and 70’s music-generated fictional characters. My wife and I thought of quite a list by the time we got home.
While we were thinking and listening, I came up with a story idea that I’d like to try out. That’s the reason I was asking contributions to the list – to come up with characters who when you mention their name, you immediately know where that name (character) came from. Below is a list of the names we have all come up with so far…

Little Willy, Elvira, Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo), Lady MaDonna, Bobby McGee, Junk Food Junkie, Black Betty, Cracklin’ Rosie, Polk Salad Annie, Black Water Hattie, Mustang Sally, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sweet Caroline, Billy Joe McAllister, A dog named “Boo”, The Candyman, The Eggman, The Walrus, Seargent Pepper, Rubber-Band man, Superfly, Shaft, The Streak, Lucy in the Sky, Rocketman, Major Tom, Soul Man, Jazzman, Venus, Proud Mary, Maggie May, Mr. Bojangles, Layla, Rockin’ Robin, Brandy, Johnny B. Good, Honky Cat, Jean Genie, Delta Dawn, Guitar Man, Guitarzan, Me and Julio, Levon, Ramblin Man
Cisco Kid, Brother Louie, Long Tall Sally (1950’s), Hey Jude, Sloopy (my girl Sloopy),Sister Golden Hair, Willie and the Poor Boys, Jackie Blue, Lola, Midnight Rider, Wolfman, Rikki (don’t lose that number), Jolene, Lady Marmalade, Killer Queen, Bertha Butt, Poetry Man, Fernando, Mamma Mia, Magic Man, Disco Duck (Ahem…) Kid Charlemagne, Lorelei, Dancing Queen, Sir Duke, Handy Man, Lucille, Christine Sixteen, Dr. Love .

If anyone can add to this, I would appreciate it. Just leave a comment on this page, or e-mail me at donnie(dot)light(at)gmail.com. Or you can tweet or comment on FB!

Read Ebooks!

DJFRONTPAGE_mediumWelcome!  I am a writer, the author of one novel titled “Dark Justice.”  I have two other novels in the works right now, and hope to finish them soon. 

While it’s sometimes difficult to find time to write, I can always find time to read.  And when I read, I prefer to read ebooks as opposed to paper books.

I have not found too many downsides to reading ebooks.  I read on my Dell Axim Pocket PC.  I can hold it with one hand, turn the page with a tiny flick of one finger, and I can read it in the dark (more of a benefit to my sleeping wife).
I can also store dozens of books on my device, and it always remembers where I left off and brings me back to the right place.  I can also just tap the screen to look up a word, or to highlight a section of text, or to make notes in the virtual margins!  What’s not to like?

I have even bought an oversized battery pack for my device, so I can read for about two weeks on one charge. 
I can read various ebook formats on my device, like PDF, Mobi-Pocket, and MS Reader.  I can create my own ebooks, which allows me to read my own work so that I can make notes and edit without my computer.

The only downside I have noticed is in trying to read my device outdoors on bright days.  The screen is very reflective, and it is difficult to read in certain situations.  The only other downside is that I cannot always find the book I want to read in electronic format.  But that is also true in the reverse. 

All in all, about 75% of the books I read are ebooks.  I love the format and the benefits.  I would like to hear from you concerning your thoughts on ebooks, and why you do or do not read them.