Category: writing

The Trick with Multiple Revisions

I’m in the middle of the latest revision of DON’T GO TO SLEEP, and I thought I’d take a minute to discuss how revising a novel is different than the other revision projects I work on. With a normal (non-novel) revision, it’s usually easy for me to keep the entire project in my head. Even when I was working on my 150 page thesis, it was divided into a series of smaller chapters, each of which stood more or less independent from the others. (It also helped that the arguments I was making in the thesis stayed consistent.) Revising a blog post is even easier. You glance over the thing after you’re done, make sure it says what you want it to say, and hit “Publish.”

Revising a book takes a much different approach. For one thing, it’s very hard for me to get the whole of the novel into my head without re-reading it in its entirety. Later on in the process, I just have to have faith that I wrote what I wanted to earlier on, and that the tweaks I’m making now won’t drastically alter anything I did before. (I also have faith the copy editor will catch anything that slips by me.) But when I’m still in the throes of major editing, I have to start out by re-reading the whole novel before I’m ready to start changing any of it.

The biggest problem is that I can’t remember what version of the novel made it into the latest draft. The plot changes with each revision. This is the fourth full draft I’ve done of DON’T GO TO SLEEP. I’ve got different story threads in each of the ones that came before. Maybe a more masterful writer than I would be able to remember exactly what they ended up choosing in their latest draft, but I need to actually go through the whole thing to be sure.

So what happens is my editor sends me an editorial letter detailing the things they think I should change. What didn’t work for them. What was confusing. Where it needs more tension. Where the characters are inconsistent. That sort of thing. I read that over a couple of times, and then I print out the latest draft on paper. I can’t do it on the computer screen, because I don’t know what changes I’ll make until I’ve read through the book, making notes and suggestions to myself as I go. Some of those notes are ways I think of that could potentially do what my editor suggested. Some of them are there for personal things I see that I feel need changing.

Once I’m done with that, I look over all the notes I have and incorporate them into a master list of Things I Want to Change. This is usually a list of bullet points. Some of them might be simple: “change all 7 years to 8 years.” (In my current draft, the main character sometimes says a series of murders happened 7 years ago, and sometimes says they happened 8 years ago. I need to figure that out.) Some of them might be much more complex: “Add more nightmare scenes throughout.” This list of bullets consists of both the things my editor wants changed, and the things I want to change.

With that in place, I can finally start editing. I’ll likely have made some minor edits to wording and grammar when I was reading the book through again, and I’ll put those in as I go generally from the beginning to the end of the novel. I usually end up reading the whole thing again as I go through it making changes, simply because I need to do that to get the context for each of the changes I’m making. Once I’m done with that initial pass, I go through and make other passes that require a consistent approach the whole time. I’ll look at all the nightmare scenes I’ve put in, for example, and decide where new ones should be added. Or I’ll pay attention to the conflict between a couple of characters, making sure the arc works well.

What this means is that by the time I’ve finished a book, I’ve usually read it from beginning to end at least six or seven times. It also means that I often don’t fully remember what the final version of the novel ended up as. In my head, there will be all the different drafts. Did I kill that character in the third version, or did I leave them alive? Where did they end up going for the climax? Darned if I know, but I’ve also worked on the book enough that by that point, I’m not really motivated to read it again.

I’ve got other books to work on. Other drafts to write.

I enjoy the editing process. I like the feeling that I’m improving the book, and I like seeing how far I’ve come as I read through it each time. I’m going through DON’T GO TO SLEEP right now, and I’m really liking it. Good job, past Bryce! And just imagine how much better it’ll be when I get through this next draft!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Writing Update: September 2021

Someone mentioned to me the other day that it’s been a while since I’ve done a writing update on here, so I thought I’d take a minute and correct that oversight. There was a space of about a month where I found myself (for the first time I can remember) pretty much unable to write. I was feeling really overwhelmed, and I was at sort of a pause point in multiple projects, and so it felt like there was too much inertia to overcome. Thankfully I’m through with that for now, it seems. Multiple different irons in the fire. Let me run down them one by one:

  • DON’T GO TO SLEEP–A companion book to THE PERFECT PLACE TO DIE. It’s another historical thriller inspired by real life events. In 1918 New Orleans, someone attacked a series of Italian grocery stores, using an axe to kill and maim residents. Years earlier, a similar series of attacks took place. The murderer’s identity remains a mystery to this day. This is what I’m working on right now. My editor has gotten back to me after reading the draft I sent her, and she liked it for the most part. Just a few kinks I need to work out, so I’m feeling quite good about it. I’m actually re-reading it at the moment, and it’s really encouraging to me to see how much I’m liking it. This is the first book I’ve had my writing group’s input on for the whole thing, and I think the impact of that is very noticeable. It should be published next year, so there’s not too long for you to wait.
  • SILVERADO–Before I was working on the current revision, I was working on the second draft of a steampunk adventure story that I’ve codenamed Silverado. My writing group read the first draft and had some major revision suggestions which caused me to largely go back to the drawing board. I’m leaning into horror more with the book, in an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sort of way. I’m excited to see where it goes, and I think the second draft should be much stronger. It’s a ways out from seeing anything like publication, though.
  • MEMORY THIEF and INKBINDER–We now officially have the rights back to both of these books. (If you’ll recall, my publisher for Memory Thief was sold to a company that wanted nothing to do with books, which essentially tanked the sequel. We’re about to shop these around to different editors to see who would like to pick them up. Inkbinder was fairly close to being done, though if a new editor bites, I imagine they might want to see changes. Still, it would be great to have the sequel out there. I was very happy with it and lots of people enjoyed the original.
  • MAGIC AT 30,000 FEET & OUR LADY OF QUESTIONABLE MORALS–Both of these books have been sent out to editors, and while I had some positive responses, neither of them ended up in sales. My writing group is going through them with me, and I’m hopeful they’ll have some good insights on ways I can improve them. (Yay writing groups!)
  • UTOPIA–It’s out on submission with editors at the moment. No takers yet, though . . .

So really, my writing schedule’s set at the moment. I’m crossing my fingers that after I get through DON’T GO TO SLEEP, there might be some more books I could write for Sourcebooks. I’d love to find a good niche and just start putting out book after book each year, but that hasn’t happened yet. Hope springs eternal, however. The good news is that THE PERFECT PLACE TO DIE continues to sell well, and I think that increases the odds of future books significantly.

I’m not really worried about coming up with new ideas, but I’d love to have some of these books that I’m really proud of finally see the light of day. The good news is that I’m back in my writing groove, and you should see another book of mine out next year.

Thanks for reading!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

“How’s the Book Doing?”

As an author, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that people will periodically ask me how my books are selling. You would think if anyone would know, it would be the author. And yet you’d be surprised to find out how little we actually do know. It feels in many ways like I’m interpreting tea leaves more than having any real idea of what’s going on.

With Vodník, the sales were hard to see at all. Its release failed to make much of a splash, and I would say that ultimately the book underperformed. That said, it was published by a new, small imprint (at the time) that was still getting its feet under it, and it was a first book, so it already had a number of obstacles it would have needed to overcome. I’m proud of the book, and I always hope that people will come back around to it, but no one would argue it was a glowing success.

With The Memory Thief, things were murky for a different reason. The book was exclusive to Barnes & Noble for the first 6 months, and B&N basically bought a slew of copies in one fell swoop, and they weren’t allowed to return them. This meant there were tons of copies in B&N, but I never found out how well they sold. (On the plus side, I got royalties on all of them, so . . . win?)

Which brings us to The Perfect Place to Die. It’s from a larger house, it has no B&N exclusive, and so I should be able to have a better idea how it’s doing. Right? Well, sort of. I can see Bookscan numbers week by week. They capture roughly 50% of sales. (They’re the sales figures from many, but not all, bookstores. For example, many indy stores are left out, as well as all library sales.) But knowing they’re roughly 50% of sales, I can roughly figure out the total number of books sold.

However, “success” vs. “failure” for a book is heavily dependent on how many books the publisher expected to sell. Say a book sells 1,000 copies its first week. If the publisher expected the book to sell 500 copies that first week, then it’s a home run. If they expected it to sell 10,000 copies, then it’s a dismal failure. (Say I give something 3 stars. That only has meaning if you know how many stars the maximum is. 3/5 is much better than 3/10 . . .)

The good news for Perfect Place is that’s available for purchase in many different places. Walmart put in a significant order, so it’s available in many (most?) Walmarts. That’s actually a pretty big deal. People generally don’t buy what they don’t know about. While some people think the cover is disturbing, it’s definitely eye catching. To have the book sitting on shelves across the country where so many people shop inevitably helps sales. The more copies a book sells, the more it’s read. The more it’s read, the better the odds are of people recommending it to others.

There are other metrics I can look at to see (kind of) how the book is doing. What’s its’ Amazon sales rank? How many libraries have a copy of the book? How many people have reviewed it on Goodreads? 152 libraries have added a copy so far (a number I can see through Worldcat.) For a comparison, 162 libraries have a copy of Vodnik (9 years after publication) and 177 have a copy of Memory Thief (5 years after publication). On Goodreads, it has 87 ratings. Vodnik has 297 and Memory Thief has 101.

Add it all together, and I’m feeling pretty good right now. The first week of Bookscan numbers (the only number I know so far) look very promising. It feels like many people are discovering the book and (by and large) having a good time reading it. So I suppose the short answer to “How’s the book doing” would be “great.” That’s a good feeling.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Signed Copies of THE PERFECT PLACE TO DIE

I’m off to another library meeting today and tomorrow, but I wanted to pop in quickly before I leave to let people know that if they’d like to have a signed copy of THE PERFECT PLACE TO DIE, I’ve arranged with my local bookstore (Devaney, Doak & Garrett) to let people order one from them and ask for a signed copy. If you’d like it addressed to someone, or to have me write a message in it as well, you can let them know that when you order it. They’ll then let me know they need my John Hancock, and I’ll head over on a lunch break to sign the book. They’ll then ship it out to you (or of course you can just pick it up at the store, if you’re local.)

You can order it at this link.

I realize this information comes a bit late for many of you, and rest assured I’m happy to sign copies when I’m out and about across the country, but I wanted the procrastinators out there to know about the option. Supporting local bookstores is really the best way to go. They have a tailored collection just for your area, the money you give them stays in your area, and that helps a community be stronger. I won’t hold it against you for buying at Walmart or Amazon (as I said yesterday: buy it where you like to buy books), but I did want to put in a special plug for those local bookstores out there.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Support an Author

Folks, The Perfect Place to Die comes out TOMORROW. I am, needless to say, very excited. AndI keep having people ask me what’s the best way for them to support me. (Thanks, all!) I appreciate the question and the sentiment, though of course I also tell them to just go and buy the book (or borrow it from your library!). But beyond that, there are a few items I could highlight.

First and foremost, the best way to support an author you like (or a book you like) is to tell other people about it. Not in an annoying way, where you go around telling everyone they need to buy the book to the point that all your friends begin to avoid you. Rather, share a link to it on social media. Write a review of the book on your Facebook wall, or on your blog, or over at Amazon or Goodreads. Once you’ve written those reviews, share them online. One person buying the book is great, but for a book to really have legs, the word has to get out there about it. Reviews and word of mouth really make a difference.

As far as where to buy the book goes: it doesn’t make that much of a difference to an author. We get the same cut, no matter where you get it. I personally would recommend buying it from your local independent bookstore, simply because by supporting those stores, you support a wider variety of places to buy books. More places to buy books = more books being sold. But really, you don’t have to do anything special to support an author in terms of where you buy. (Though if you are going to buy on Amazon, if you buy at this link, then I get a cut of that sale above and beyond my royalties, because Amazon.)

One thing to note: it DOES matter when you buy the book. Books are often judged by how well they do in their first week. The more people who buy it then, the better for the book. So if you’ve already decided you want to buy the book, then buy it right away, rather than procrastinating. 🙂

With all of that out of the way, I’m really looking forward to you all having the chance to read the book this week. I hope you enjoy it. It’s been a long time in development, and I’m proud of how it turned out. Thanks for reading!

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