Guest Blog Post on J.A. Konrath’s site by Silas Payton:


Today is a special day for me. Joe Konrath has posted a guest post by me on his site. What makes this special for me, as some of you may already know, is that Joe Konrath holds a special place in my heart. I started following his blog in 2011 once I read a number of his books, and was hooked from day one. I have since read almost every word the man has published. The inspiration and motivation from him on his blog and from the comments generated by his followers, led me to give this fiction writing a try. He and his wife were the first people to read my writing after my wife and oldest son, after which he offered me a chance to collaborate with him…seriously! On my first book! His life became too busy, and that book turned into White Lady, in his Kindle Worlds.

It is very fitting that this blog post is on writers working together to cross-promote. I owe Joe Konrath so much for introducing me to this wonderful world of writing. To him, and his wife, I say… Thank-you.

Here’s the beginning of the post. Please click over to Joe’s blog to read the rest.

The F-word Authors Should Learn from Rap Music

Hip hop or rap has done extremely well in the past twenty years and I would argue it is largely because of the F-word. Fans want the F-word, plain and simple, and I’m willing to bet this holds true with writing just as much as with rap music. I would argue one of the factors in the success of rap is the F-word… Featuring. It’s seen after the title of many, many hip hop songs, used to highlight a guest performer. Many music artists have worked together in the past, but no other music genre has done it so effectively. Writers would do well to learn from this strategy. In this post I highlight some rap examples of this success and discuss ways we can apply this technique to writing.

When someone starts listening to a particular rapper, it’s not long before they have a list of other rappers they also want to check out. Fans quickly become aware of other artists similar to, or liked by, their new star. When they are looking for something else to listen to, guess where they are going to turn.

Rappers seem to enjoy promoting each other. Not only do rappers collaborate on songs and show up to each other’s concerts, but often other performers will be mentioned in a song without even being featured in it. The only benefit is to raise awareness. Perhaps it’s from the roots or history of rap, I’m not sure. What I do know is rappers take cross-promotion to a whole new level.

Find the rest here:


Here is a guest post from a friend and fellow author, Melanie Smith.

Mount Haven Code

***NEW RELEASE*** Romantic Suspense…Action Packed ***
I’m excited to announce the release my new Romantic Suspense novel, MOUNT HAVEN. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Go get your copy today!
When Rowdy Cooper’s life is turned upside down he & his family must find a way to go on. Will the move to Mount Haven prove therapeutic or lethal? Bailey’s on the run. For years she’s been able to keep her secrets and fly under the radar. Will that all change now that there’s a new sheriff in town? Not to mention his sexy, too observant brother. She loves Mount Haven but maybe it’s time to move on before her past proves lethal for everyone.
I hope you will take a minute to check it out. I’m already getting great reviews!
–Melanie P. Smith

Watch the eBook trailer on YouTube

Get to know Author Melanie P. Smith

Like Paranormal Romance? Check out the Warrior Series Brochure by Melanie P. Smith

Warrior Banner_ Series

Brochure contains information, buy links and eBook Trailers.

Writers Woes: I Love Buts

I must apologize to all that know me and who I may have offended. I didn’t even realize until today…I have a serious fascination with buts. It seems to be relatively subconscious, as I wasn’t aware of my problem. On reflection though, I do like them, and it’s not only mine I like. I admit it, I like them all. I’ve had to stop the presses on my soon to be released, 14 Gable Lane, to deal with my personal issues. I need an intervention.

I know there is a certain usefulness to buts, however, I’ve gone too far…I’ll use them for anything. Generally speaking, they’re best used to make things flow better, but why stop there. If I get thinking about them, I can make things bigger, and sometimes when I’m done with them, I can even make things smaller. I like to play with them…try different things. However, this is not considered proper behaviour by most, at least not in public. Buts should be used only in some environments, not just pulled out anywhere, anytime, for indiscriminate flaunting.

I’ve been made aware of my problem, not by a friend, not by anyone who cares, and not by self-awareness, but from a mindless, heartless computer program simply analyzing my words. Who would have guessed our technology would come to this…a machine highlighting my flaws, calling me out, luckily before anyone who knows me gets hurt.

So to deal with my issues, I’m starting a twelve step program, the first of which is to admit my problem…a severe obsession with buts. The second is to apologize to anyone who I’ve offended by sticking my buts all over the place, often where they don’t belong. I will soon be going back, looking over my recent past, 14 Gable Lane, pulling out my buts.

I have many things to be thankful about, but right now, I’m thankful for a wonderful team of beta readers who have graciously agreed to help in the near future when I’m finally ready to let go. Ready to open myself criticism, to share something I’m proud of…a piece of myself. Thankfully…without my buts.

Silas Payton

Freaky-dream Friday


Yes, I know it’s not Friday, but it’s sounds cool and I had hoped to write this Friday.

Followers of my blog would know I’m a night owl. I like to stay up late writing or editing while the house sleeps. When I finally pack it in, I often fall asleep thinking about my characters or a story I’m working in. Like most, I occasionally wake with bizarre half distorted memories of dreams that, and some when I remember, make it into my “must write about this” list. A couple days ago I woke to one of the most vivid dreams I remember having and thought I’d share.

First I have to give you a little background. We live about 6km from the airport and are just off one of the the flight paths. It’s a small airport…20 seat planes max with the occasional Hercules landing and taking off for training. When the planes take off in our direction, they fly over about half a block from our house. We hear them but don’t take much notice.

Within a few blocks radius is a our home, our office, the primary school and high school. This has been our community for almost twenty years and we know the area well. The airport is on the shore of Lake Ontario and a road drives almost straight from there inland to our subdivision. It courses up a hill and once over the hill flattens out to out neighbourhood.

In the dream I had, my wife and I were driving along this road near the airport, as a small plane took off…nothing unusual. But in this case, as the plane took off, the noise became louder. Much louder. It was so loud we pulled over and looked out the side window to see a large jumbo jet attempting to land but way over shooting the airport. We sat and watched as the plane flew straight toward our area of town, barely making it over the crest of the hill and out of site. Seconds later, there was a tremendous explosion followed by multiple smaller ones, presumably from the gas we all heat our houses with. Black smoke was raising into the air above the trees, soon followed by the orangey red glow of the flames. There was no question of what happened, and the devastation, left us stunned and speechless, watching and wondering…what, and who was left.

In my dream, I wasn’t aware if our kids were in the car or not, and luckily I woke before considering the consequences of them being at home. I must say this was the most vivid dream I recall having. Not sure what it means. I don’t fear flying although it’s been many years, and I don’t have any foreseeable plans to. The airport is in the beginning of a two year expansion project but the idea of that has never bothered me.

Since this dream, there have been a number of times that I’ve heard a plane flying by and thought back to my dream. Doesn’t really freak me out but I do find dreams fascinating. My kids are all teens and it won’t be long before they’re moving on. The thought of that does freak me out. Who knows? Maybe thoughts of my life changing wove themselves into the dream. Perhaps the dream was pure chance, I’ll never know. I’m sure somehow, but part of this will make its way into a story.

If any of you have ever worked a dream into a story or book tell us about it in the comments and leave a link to the book. If you don’t have a book out, link to a dream related story on your blog. What was your most vivid dream?

If you wish to see where some of my dreams have led me, check out my books on the side panel.

Silas Payton

Music and Writing: Write with Passion


I’ve been in business for almost twenty years now, and in that time, I’ve seen many small businesses come and go. One of the biggest predictors I’ve noticed in the success of a business is the passion of the business owner. Are they driven to put in the extra work? To do what it takes to make it succeed? I believe the same holds true for writing.

As a fiction writer, you have to be driven to keep going. Driven to make it the best you can. Writing a book is a huge project, way too big to be guilted into finishing it, or to do it so you can make some money. It has to be for you. You have to want to write it so bad you regularly stay up half the night because you have to finish a thought. So bad that the next day as you’re a walking zombie, trying to do what ever you do to pay your bills, you’re semi-functioning brain continues to think about your book, looking forward to writing again. So bad, you’ll keep writing, even standing out in the snow, waiting for your dog to pee. Writers who are driven by the passion to write will find the time, will find the help needed, will find ways to improve their craft, will find a way to make it happen.

I’ve also wondered how many finished books are out there…books where the writer lost steam before getting it published. When a writer finishes ‘writing’ a book, they still have to make it into an actual book, and whether paper or digital, it takes a lot of work to finish it off. Even when that’s all done, there’s self-publishing and marketing, or approaching publishers.

Music has a way of turning up emotions. Much like a book, it can allow us to escape the world around us, to forget our problems, and give in to the writer and follow down the path they are leading us. Here are a few great examples passion in music. The first is, When your Mind’s Made Up, by Glen Hansard. When I used to play guitar at open mics a few years ago, this was a favourite for me. It’s hard to listen to it without really getting the feeling of what was written. I’ve ripped more thumbnails on this song than any other. I’d get so into the song, when I was done and out of breath, I’d have blood splatters on my guitar from catching a nail on a string…even while playing with a pic.

The second and third pieces I’d like to share are from one of my favourite performers, Jesse Cook. Although totally different from the first song, Jesse brings forward a feel from his music that makes it hard to sit still. I’ve seen him twice now and his shows are phenomenal. Usually by the halfway mark everyone is on their feet moving to the music. If you ever get the chance to see him, go. In the first one, Dance of Spring, he’s sporting his custom hand made William Laskin guitar. The second one, Tempest, is just seriously cool to watch.

If we strive to put as much into our writing as these two do while writing and playing their music, it will most definitely be evident to our readers.

If you have any other examples of passion in music please share in the comments.

Silas Payton

Writing and the Influence of Music: a Tribute


I’ve long thought of writing a series of blog posts on the topic of music inspiring writing, highlighting a few songs at a time. There are few things that have the power to drive thought and emotions like music does. I love listening to music while I run and just letting my mind wander. A song can come on, stimulating a thought process and suddenly I’ve got a new book idea, or I’ve figured out a difficult scene. I’ve intended to share some of the great music that has stimulated some of my writing for a while, but today was a special kind of run and I thought it’d be a perfect day to start.

As some of you might know, we lost our family dog and companion of 18 years earlier this week. It has been difficult and emotional week and as writers do, I put up walls and barricaded myself away with my WIP editing and re-writing, just trying to get through the week. Emotions can bring out creativity and that it has. As my Facebook followers would know, the creative juices have been flowing since Monday. I’ve done skeleton outlines for seven book ideas, and dove into a book that I wrote last year trying to get through my first editing pass. The prose has been flowing like crazy. I’m in the last 8k of the book and it’s all coming together to the climax. Conveniently, it has been all I can think about.

I took a break after getting through another 1000 words this morning and went for a run. I grabbed an old MP3 player I hadn’t used in likely 8 years and hit random. A few songs in, one came on that was a perfect representation for the end of the book. The beat, the mood, the feel were perfect. So much so, I listened to it 4 times. I couldn’t wait to get home. Today would be the first day of my blog series on writing being inspired by music, although in this case it was more a representation of the writing.

When I decided to move on, I heard a few cool tracts then one came on that changed the topic of this post. It was a piano instrumental that immediately brought back a slew of memories of my dog in his prime, which would have been the last time I heard it. Hearing this one song brought down the walls. In the middle of nowhere, as the song played on, so did my memories of my good friend.

To start this series on music inspiring writing I’ll start with this one song. Oltremare by Ludovico Einaudi. Music will bring out different feelings and memories in all of us, and I don’t recall if I used to run with my dog listening to this, but it does bring back memories of his playfulness, his love of play, a little of his mischievous character, and his love of life. You can find it here.

I hope you join me with my love of both music and writing in these blog posts, as I share what I enjoy from almost all varieties of music. I plan to usually highlight a few songs with each post, but to start, I share just this one. A special song from me to you.

For those who are curious about the song that represents my upcoming book, 14 Gable Lane, a supernatural thriller, it’ll be coming in a future post.

Thanks for your continued support,

Silas Payton

Why do a Free Giveaway of Your Book

Why do a Free Giveaway of Your Book.

I’m in the midst of running a promotion on my book Going Under (free June 25-29). There is some debate on whether or not authors should give their work away for free. I’ve analyzed both sides of the argument and in the end, decided to go ahead. I don’t know if it’s the best way to go, but this is an experiment. In fact, marketing of any kind is an experiment.

There’s enough work that goes into writing a book, I can see why some might not think it’s a good idea. We devote financial resources as well as hours and hours of our time into writing, editing, cover design, formatting and publishing. It’s quite understandable that some authors would say I’m crazy to give it away. Here’s some background going into my decision.

I’ve been keenly watching the self-publishing revolution since 2010 when I was given my first eReader. I embraced Ebooks and once I saw the benefits of digital books, I watched with fascination as the paper book industry started decline while Ebook distributors such as Amazon, Apple, Kobo and the Nook(B&N) took off. I devoured books like I’d never done before and was thrilled that I could find new, interesting authors, whose books were cheaper than traditionally published authors.

It wasn’t long until I found Smashwords and Amazon, and started seeing books listed for free. At this point they had to be permanently free to be on Amazon, which meant they were usually short stories or somewhat unpolished books, although I did find a number of great reads. Then, in 2011, Amazon started KDP Select, a program whereby, if you signed on to be exclusive, you could run a free giveaway for five days, every three months while in the program. I could be argue that this was the single biggest pivotal point in the EBook revolution. Once KDP Select launched, we started seeing higher quality books being offered for free, because it was only for a short time. This was a boost for writers and a financial break for readers.

Authors in Select quickly realized a huge benefit to running giveaways, which became known as “the bounce.” To step back a bit, Amazon has many Best Seller lists based on different categories. Each category has both a paid and free list. There are many people who peruse these lists often, looking for deals, new authors, and good books, with the idea that the cream will rise to the top. What authors found was that if they could get onto one of these lists while free, the book would “bounce” over to the paid Best Sellers list once their giveaway was done, hence the newly sought after “good bounce.” There are many reports of paid sales jumping once a book hits one of these lists. Of course, none of this is guaranteed. It’s a strategic gamble.

I’ve watched many new authors who have moved from being relatively unheard of, to doing quite well, if not amazing, using this technique. Brett Battles, J.A. Konrath, Joanna Penn, Jude Hardin, Russell Blake, Iain Rob Wright and Tracy Sharp are just a few that come to mind. Here are a couple articles from Joanna Penn and J.A. Konrath, on their experiences. There has been some talk that this bounce isn’t quite what it was in the beginning, but it still occurs. Amazon explains that a book will drop in ranking because of sales that occur while it is being switched over. Only Amazon knows what goes into redistributing the lists, but it may be an effective way to gain sales. Here’s a more recent article as well.

Even if there is no significant bounce and no increase in paid sales, there are a number of other reasons to consider giving your book away. The biggest is getting your name out there…name recognition. Marketing is about getting people thinking about you and your books. With a giveaway, this may happen as people see your book, as they click on it to download, as a book cover sitting on their device, from reading your book, or even from interacting with you during the giveaway itself. I’m convinced there are many people who are more than willing to connect and to pass your name along. These are all people who may recognize your name and be just a little more likely to click on something with your name on it, whether it be a blog post, another promo, or a new book announcement. I’ve connected with countless this weekend in the process of the giveaway and have no doubt I’ll stay connected with some if not many of them.

Giveaways may help increase sales of your other books. If you have any other books, a fan of your giveaway book might purchase one of those. There are many authors I’ve seen on the free lists that I’ve followed and watched, purchasing future books. One of my first ebooks was a permafree by J.A. Konrath and Blake Crouch. I’ve since read roughly 31 of Konrath’s and 16 of Crouch’s, purchasing most of them.

Another reason to giveaway a book is to increase reviews. All authors want reviews. Reviews help drive sales, at least in theory. In addition, some marketing sites require a minimum number of reviews, before you can use them. It’s a slow tedious process waiting for reviews and your hands are tied waiting. Why not speed up the process by getting more people reading your work.

As arguments against giveaways, I’ve heard a number. The most common usually has something to do the work involved and the idea that the author should get compensated for it. Although I agree there is a tremendous amount of work involved, nothing has financial value (to anyone else) if nobody is willing to pay for it. Obscurity is a writer’s enemy. Do what ever you can to get you work in front of eyes. A short term giveaway is like paying for advertising, only in a different way. Marketing is an investment. A giveaway is no different.

Another argument is that free books lower the playing field for everyone. This might be true but free books are here to stay. I don’t think we’ll ever see a day where people aren’t willing to pay for books they want to read. If someone likes your books, they will pay for them, even if they can get more free books than they could ever read in their lifetime. How do I know this? Because it’s happening right now. I’m a prime example. After years of watching the free Best Sellers lists, I’ve accumulated hundreds of books, but if there’s an author I want to read, I keep buying.

I don’t know whether you should do a giveaway or not. I don’t even know if I should have…but, I’m currently on day four of a five day giveaway. So far, the giving part has been far more successful than I thought it would be. Only time will tell if it pays off, but for now, I’m calling it a success. I’ll be doing a follow up post on the results.

Silas Payton

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at my Thriller Going Under (available FREE June 25-29)

Going Under: A Bill Roberts Thriller

Going Under: A Bill Roberts Thriller

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at my Thriller Going Under (available FREE June 25-29)

To coincide with the Free Giveaway of my thriller Going Under, which runs June 25-29, 2015, I thought I’d put down a few points about the book that nobody knows. Think of this as an extra, or author’s behind-the-scenes look at how this story came about. There are no spoilers.

Going Under is a thriller about a Police Inspector in Toronto named Bill Roberts. It is the first of three Bill Roberts books I’ve written, although the other two are in the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World of J.A. Konrath and can be found on my author page. They are all thrillers laced with humour and a light hearted edge.

I’ve been asked before if the character Bill was written about myself. Although, Bill was not written as a vision of me, I think we all have some traits in common with our main characters. In particular, Bill’s sarcasm and dry humour come from me. I also know a number of police officers, and have heard a lot about the joking and behind-the-scenes humour that goes on as a way of coping with stressful situations. I tried to bring this out in the book, in a tasteful, and realistic way.

I’ve heard it said that you have to be careful what you do and say around writers, as it may end up in a book. There is a scene in this book, about Bill working out in a gym that was so unbelievable and funny, readers may find to a little far fetched. I can’t possibly take credit for making this scene up. It is taken directly from a close friend who did this very thing. I almost died choking when I heard the story. You have to read it to believe it.

I originally wrote this book in the midst of the media frenzy surrounding the Mayor of Toronto at the time. Unfortunately for him, his real life story went from bad to much worse with a diagnosis of cancer. Although I never mentioned him by name, I sure poked fun at him in the book. Out of respect to him and his family, I took a lot out and toned it down during the editing process. Regardless of his politic mistakes, my heart goes out to him as he goes through this battle.

It’s funny how books come about. Although Going Under was my first book published and time-wise, happens before the other two, it was actually my second to write. My original book idea was to write a Young Adult story involving Bill’s kids. I got about six chapters in when J.A. Konrath put out an offer to collaborate. To see the writing quality and style, he wanted a short story involving a mix of his characters and ours and I didn’t quite feel my YA characters would work with his thriller stories. Instead, I took the small supporting role of their father and created Bill Roberts, the main character for my three books, with more to come. The short story was accepted, and although other projects have gotten in the way, I put it into Konrath’s Kindle Worlds. I still hope to collaborate with him someday down the road. Unfortunately, Kindle Worlds books are only available on at present. My two YA characters, Sam and Patrick, do make a small appearance in the book. I hope to revisit their YA stories soon.

The ending is my favourite part of this book. I don’t want to give anything away, but I put a lot of thought into how I wanted this story to end. In fact, I didn’t know how it would end until I was almost done. In the book writing world, we have what’s been called Plotters, those who plan and outline everything, and Pantsers, those who freestyle it. I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to plan ahead a little, to help flow and organization, but I don’t plan the ending until I’m almost through. Once I get to know the characters, the story, and get a feel of the emotions of a story, the ending comes together. You will love the ending of Going Under. There is a small hint somewhere early in the book.

If you’ve downloaded this book because of the giveaway, I hope you crack it open (digitally, anyway) and enjoy the read. I’d love to hear from you with any feedback, and if you’d be so kind as to post a review, I’d appreciate it greatly.

Silas Payton

I would appreciate any sharing.

What Reader Feedback Means to Self-Published Authors


What Reader Feedback Means to Self-Published Authors

Authors have always enjoyed hearing from their fans, but now, they appreciate feedback more than readers may realize. I regularly encounter both readers and new writers who haven’t heard of self-publishing. In the last six years there has been a massive shift in the publishing world. Modern technology, the easy availability of knowledge, and the platforms to sell directly to customers, have allowed an alternative for people who want to write a book but are overwhelmed by the hurdles of traditional publishing. This alternative is self-publishing. There are many advantages to self-publishing, but one that is seldom mentioned has totally changed the author’s appreciation of reader feedback. This advantage is the ability of an author to almost instantly make changes to their book.

Publishing your own work has a number of perks, the biggest being that the author retains all rights to the work. In addition, the author calls all the shots. Cover design, picking a title, back cover, editing, marketing, promotion and price are all under the control of the author. The price, in fact, is one of the easiest ways to tell if the author is self-published. Most self-published fiction ebooks are under $5.00, whereas, most traditionally published ebooks are over $8.00. With the pay structure for self-publishing, the royalties can be much better, paying the author more per book, even selling it at a lower cost…a win-win for both readers and authors.

One of the best advantages of self-publishing is the ease of fixing mistakes. We all make mistakes, whether traditional or self-published. It happens. Even with editors, beta readers and professional proofreaders, the occasional mistake can still make it through to the final copy. With the traditional publishing route, once a book has been sent to printing, it’s too late. The same mistake will appear in every copy printed (unless there is a future reprinting).

Most self-published authors who sell in paper, do so using a service called print-on-demand or POD. With this technology, when an order is placed, the book is printed, bound, and shipped, arriving within days, looking just like a store-bought book. The beauty of POD is an author using it, can easily fix an error. Once the book is corrected and uploaded, any future purchases, either paperback or Ebook, will have the updated version. To make the situation even better, if the author felt strongly enough, they could request that previous Ebook purchasers be notified that a free updated copy is available.

Self-published authors, especially enjoy feedback

I think it’s fair to say, most authors enjoy getting feedback, particularly in the way of good reviews. They also like hearing from fans directly. Because of the ease of making changes, self-published authors now enjoy reader feedback even more. Words of encouragement from readers, listing what was liked, and asking when the next book is due out, are all great, but if there is a mistake, whether it is a typo, a misused word, a double word, or something worse, most writers would want to know about it. All the reader has to do is copy or type out the line, or any distinguishing part of the error, and email it to the author. Most self-published authors have a contact me tab on their website. Once the email is received, the author can easily use their word processor to search for the sentence or phrase, finding it in minutes or less, and make the correction.

As you’re reading your next book, keep in mind, the author would likely really appreciate hearing from you, even if it is to point out a mistake…especially, if they are a self-published author. If you are an author and you get feedback from a reader, be sure to thank them for their time and effort. We should all strive for perfection…any mistakes that are found just bring our work closer.

I once had one of my favourite authors offer to send me a bunch of his books for pointing out a few errors before he did a big giveaway-promo of it. Do you have any stories of helping an author or being helped as an author?

Silas Payton

Please share this article.

10 Steps to Editing with Focus


10 Steps to Editing With Focus

It’s not easy editing our own work. We can be over-critical, but at the same time, miss glaring errors that would stand right out to anyone else reading our work. What we write makes sense to us because we’ve often spent weeks, months, or years thinking about it, but to a new reader, a lagging plot, grammatical errors, or typos, can alienate them in the first page. Whether you are using professional help in editing or not, I’ve put together a step-by-step process that will help prepare your work for publication.

Before I get to the steps, I’d like to share three important principles to editing:
1. Do each step in a timely manner, remaining as focused as you can on the goals you set.
2. Take as long a break as possible between key steps, getting your mind on something else.
3. Trick your brain by changing your focus with each step.

For the purposes of this guide, I’m assuming you are working with a completed first draft. You may want to involve a professional editor at a number of stages up to this point, or moving ahead to publication, but either way, if you are looking to clean up your work, these steps will help.

Before you start, I recommend setting up a reference document (RD) to track information. I discuss this in a previous article I wrote on making your first draft better. I’ll refer to this throughout these steps.

One of my suggestions is to creat a supporting document that has all the reference material of your book. During the first draft, pop over to it every time you hit some detail you will want to remember. Details about characters, their names, what they do, their appearance, ages, and connections. Record details like make, model and colour of vehicles, details of places in the book, and important details about the order of things.

Step 1: Your First Read
Hopefully you’ve allowed some time to pass since completing your first draft…ideally, enough time to forget some of the details of your story. A couple months would be great, which can also be time spent marketing your existing work, or tackling your next project, either outlining, or writing.

On your first read, don’t worry about the spelling, typos, or correct word usage. Ignore as much as you can and focus on the story…the plot, any subplots, the characters, the flow. There are certain elements that should be present in any story. Review recommendations on story development such as three act story structure. Alexandra Sokoloff’s website and writing books are great resources, but here is her checklist of the basics.

On your first read-through, list the main plot points and story elements in your RD as you hit them, making sure you’re satisfied.

The main goals or points to analyze on this pass are:
1. Plot and Subplots: Are they doing what you want them to?
2. Story Structure: Do have the key elements recommended for a story? If not, are you okay with that?
3. Character Development: Do you give the reader a sense of who the key characters are, and are they portrayed correctly for your book?

This will be the step with the most cuts. If something doesn’t fit or move the story along, cut it out. Paste any cuts into your RD so can refer back to them if needed. You likely won’t, but it will make the cutting easier. Don’t rework any sections you want to keep (unless they’re very simple), instead, make a bolded comment at the spot. When you’ve finished each chapter, return to the beginning of that chapter and make a bolded note of any thoughts you have, things to add, any consistency problems you want to watch for, or any fact checking you want to confirm. If you know your query involves a different area of the book, quickly add a copy of the comment in the rough location, to remind you when you go through again. This will help you remember your query on the next pass.

The idea is to not get sidetracked from your main goals with small details. Focus on the goals of this read-through, moving as quickly as possible.

Step 2: Regrouping your book
You’ve cut out the unwanted and unneeded, now it’s time to address the concerns you identified at the beginning of each chapter. It is ideal to do this second pass as soon as you can after step one…go right into it if possible. You may be able to answer some of the questions you had, because you just finished reading it later in the book. This step of the editing process will likely take the longest.

The main goals of this step are:
1. Massage your book into powerful chapters
2. Analyze paragraphs
3. Review sentence structure

In your first draft and step one, you’ve ensured you have the key elements of a story, and you’ll be adding any missed points on this pass. In this step I suggest grouping your work into sections…compartmentalizing with a purpose. Consider the chapters. Do they achieve what you want them to? Do they start with a hook or something that will keep the reader going? Do they end with purpose…a cliff hanger, a resolution, or a twist?

Look at each paragraph. Do the sentences in each paragraph stay on topic? Within the paragraphs, are there word repeats or name repeats? Are all the his, hers, it’s and they’s linked to, and clearly relating to, a noun? Will the reader know who (or whom) or what you’re referring to?

Are your sentences proper and the right length, or do they run on? Does each sentence need be there or can you say more with less? Watch for proper sentence structure and grammar. Here’s an article on sentence structure you might find helpful. There are a lot of resources about grammar on the Internet. I’ve used Grammar Girl a number of times.

Most of your bolded notes should be resolved by the end of this step, leaving a fairly clean manuscript. If not, I cut the comments out and paste them in my RD for referring to later.

Take a break
From this point on, it is beneficial to take breaks between the steps, unless I note otherwise. Distance yourself. Take some time off editing. Let your brain forget all the details. Our brains are trained to be efficient. They do this by automatically filling in what it thinks should be there…not a good editing quality. Time is your best friend while editing.

Step 3: Dialog
Read through your work again, this time focusing on what’s being said. Examine the dialog. I suggest coming at it from two angles…voicing, and technical. You can work on both at once.

By voicing, I mean, is the dialog appropriate? Is the voicing correct for each character? Can you really imaging your character saying that, or is it an info dump? Or, is it too real? Leave out all the ums, ahs, and likes. Ensure each section of dialog is an appropriate length…imagine the person they’re talking to. Would they listen to a monolog, or would they interject to be a part of the conversation? When you’re going through each chapter, read the dialog as someone who doesn’t know the story.

This is also a great time to focus on the technical writing concerns with dialog. Watch the dialog tags, trying to cut out as many as possible, while still keeping it clear who is speaking. Ensure it is the correct character being attributed to the specific dialog. Check for beginning and ending quotation marks. Make sure you are punctuating your dialog correctly. This is a study in itself. For a nice summary guide, read Ellen Brock’s post on punctuating dialog.

The main focus of this step:
1. Ensure the dialog is doing what you want, and represents the characters well.
2. Check that the dialog has been punctuated correctly.
3. Address any further comments you’ve left for yourself.

Step 4: Targeted Upgrades
You can go straight into this step…your brain is looking for something different. At this stage don’t re-read your whole book, instead, think of it as jumping to key areas. Before you start, think about your book as a whole. Are there any areas you feel might need some work? What are the weakest parts? Are there any scenes you said “good enough” to at the time, but you know could be improved? This is the time to give them a little more attention.

Think about your characters. Are they memorable? Can the reader visualize them or should you add more to their descriptive appearance? How about their personalities? Is a character as mean or nice as they should be? Do any characters have a special connection to someone else, and is this clear enough? If there is a fight or action scene, and is it descriptive enough, or, does it drag out too much? Do any areas need more humour or suspense? If you can think of any specific part of your book that could use improvement, go straight there and rework it.

Step 5: The Polish
Make sure you check your RD for any remaining comments, questions, or fact checking notes you made yourself. Most of them should be resolved, but if not, address them on this pass.

This is the editing step that will take your book to the next level. Are you seeing any overused words? Look closely at words such as: that, just, but, however, because, things, stuff, was, and got. Consider removing adverbs (-ly words)…for the most part, they’re not needed. You’ve been analyzing your writing in all the steps so far, but this time focus on the words.

Before doing this edit, you might consider running some Macros on your manuscript if you’re using Word. Here is a great 20 minute course on using Macros, and here is a blog post listing useful Macros for Writers.

Re-read and analyze your work with the Macros. Also take a close look for typos, incorrect word use, and synonyms. Keep in mind that you are getting closer to a finished project. With any changes you make, re-read them in context, to ensure they fit with the text before and after. Most of the errors I find near the end of my editing are from where I made last minute changes, messing something else up. For example, using a word in an edited sentence, where the same word is used in the next sentence.

Step 6: Tense and Point of View (POV)
Take as much time off between this and the last step as you can. You know the story well enough by now…this time slow down and focus on the details. Read each word. If you are in a time crunch, this could be your final full read-through before sharing your work, so fine tune your eyes. Focus on consistency in tense, either present or past, as well as POV. Errors here will stand out and possibly confuse your readers.

Things to consider during this step:
1. Reading out loud helps find errors.
2. Run your book through apps that read it for you. Listening will also help find errors. Here are a few program options, although I personally haven’t tried them:

A list of the best free text-to-speech software…Free.

Step 7: Search and Replace
Most word processors have a search and replace feature. Search for double spaces and replace with single spaces. Run this a few times in case you have any spots where extra spaces are hiding. If you had any name changes of people or places, search for the old ones. If you use any space fillers (I use xxxxxx in first drafts when I want to go back to something later), search for those. Search the word “Chapter” and run through them all to ensure the heading numbers are in order and no numbers were missed.

Based on your writing habits, try and think of other uses specific to your needs…perhaps, words you commonly interchange, or misuse.

Step 8: Grammar Checker – The final step before sharing
I know you’ve been editing for grammar in all these steps, but think of this as a final check in the system. Grammar checkers are not perfect, but they will most definitely catch a few errors. Most word processing programs come with a grammar check included, but there are more powerful programs available as well. I use the free version of Ginger, but there a number other as well. Do not blindly accept all the suggestions! Use this as a tool to catch grammar and spelling issues your eyes and brain missed. Think each recommendation through carefully, as there will be some suggestions that are wrong.

Step 9: Beta Readers
Once you’ve finished, it’s time to share your work with Beta readers. Have someone else read your work…family, friends, fans…someone who will give you an honest opinion but will also look for errors, plot holes, typos, inconsistencies, or any of the many other things that can go wrong. Try and find someone who reads a lot, preferably in your genre. Also consider joining an author’s group and getting to know other writers who might read it for you. Consider any recommendations, but make any changes very carefully. Any major changes may require a repeat of some or all of these steps. Minor changes should be okay without re-editing

As you can see, I wait until I think my work is as close to perfect as possible before I ask someone to read it. Doing this will save frustration for them and you. You might want to share your outline with some trusted friends, or involve an editor anywhere along the way…but beta readers…show them your best work.

Step 10: Professional Proofreading
The final step in editing is professional proofreading. This is one step you should have done professionally. Ask around for a good one. I’ve found most self-published authors are more than willing to share information. Find someone who writes in your genre and ask for recommendations.

A word on Kindle Worlds. In Kindle Worlds you can write in the the “Worlds” created by many different authors. I recommend you contact any of the main authors who’s worlds you’ve written in, and ask if you can use someone familiar with their work. Their proofreaders may be able to find inconsistencies between your story and their world. I’ve had this happen twice even when I thought I knew their World very well.

In Conclusion
There may be more re-reads you want to do and almost every one will bring about some improvements or changes. Feel free to do as many as you need, but don’t let lack of confidence keep you editing forever.

We all have our own process. Hopefully, this helps you create your own, or at least, add a few tricks to improve your quality and/or efficiency. If you have any other tricks you’ve found useful, leave them in the comments below. I’d be interested to know your thoughts…do you think editing should be left to editors, or are authors capable of editing their own work?

Silas Payton
I have a blog where I post articles on writing, happiness and other areas of thought stimulation. Click here if you wish to visit.
If you’re interested in purchasing my thrillers, they are available here.

Image from Award Photography on Flickr

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