The 10% Solution to Editing Your Books

Yesterday, I was doing a bit of research on editing as it’s a dragon I will soon need to face with pen in hand. While looking for tips I came across references to a book on self editing called The 10% Solution by Ken Rand. Intrigued, I began to look into it and soon found that the secret to the book really can be summed up by the title.

Simply put, his technique is simply to take what you’ve written and cut out 10% of it.

Now, there’s more to it than that, and he apparently goes into fair detail about how to do it in the book, but the basic principle seems pretty sound to me. That 10% isn’t about randomly removing chapters, but trying to tighten up your prose by getting rid of any extra words and working to make your sentences as compact and active as they can possibly be. If you think about it, in the process of doing this you would probably end up fixing a lot of your grammar errors and typos just by virtue of pouring over the document so many time trying to get it to that golden 10% off mark.

When I start my book editing in a month or so I will first be doing a couple revision passes to work on the big stuff, but when I’m ready for the line editing I think I’ll give this technique a whirl. The worst it’s going to do is make the life of my proofreaders easier, and that’s hardly a bad thing!

Rob

Samurai Horses

As someone into Japanese history, I always wondered something- why didn’t the Japanese make more extensive use of horses during their wars? I knew they made some use of them, but nowhere near as much as people from other countries did.

Since there’s a horse element to this week’s part (and the coming parts) of my story “The Inuyama Rebellion” I thought I’d look up something on Japanese horses of the Sengoku (Warring States) period.

What I didn’t expect to find was the reason why Horses weren’t used much in Japan by the Samurai the way they were in many other parts of the world. They used them, but only in fairly small numbers, and I’d always wondered why. Well apparently the answer is that Japanese native horses are actually pretty small.

Text: Thoroughbred/Japanese Horse

This meant that they had a very limited ability to carry a Japanese Samurai (much less one in full armour) for long distances and thus were apparently only used by commanders and messengers in war. The Japanese apparently didn’t even bother to have actual mounted cavalry units per-se.

Here are pictures of Samurai and horses for comparison-

 

The last picture (painting, really) shows a clear-ish view of what a saddle of the period looked like too. (And this is likely the style of saddle Masato would be using in the story.)

Rob

Merry Christmas one and all!

I’d just like to wish all my friends and readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope the year 2012 is a great one for all of you, and brings you good fortune and pleasant surprises. It better be a good one, since the world ends next December after all! ^_-  So party on, and enjoy that holiday cheer!

Rob

Is 50,000 the magic number for e-books?

I was talking with a friend this afternoon who is something of an industry watcher in the publishing industry, and we were discussing e-book length. Now I’ve thought about the length of e-books for a while, so it was a familiar discussion, but he brought some interesting ideas to the table.

His take on things is that thinking of e-books in terms of the conventional publishing market is wrong, because they simply aren’t paper books and don’t follow the same psychological rules as books. Size is a factor in buying books, and people these days like to feel they are getting their money’s worth as books have become more expensive, so longer books are the norm in many parts of the publishing industry. (Not all, which I’ll come to in a moment.)  Therefore, the ideas of long a book should be are based on concepts of thickness and value.

But these concepts don’t apply to e-books, as e-books have no physical form for the reader to judge, and things like word count (and to a degree even page count) are abstract enough to be meaningless to most buyers. This means that in theory an e-book just needs to be long enough to tell the story, and length is irrelevant, right?

Not so fast.

His other thought was that while the physical rules don’t apply anymore, other rules do. He felt that people simply aren’t used to reading long works in electronic format, and that this desire to spend less time staring at a screen (don’t we spend enough time staring at screens in our day already?) would mean that people would tend to read shorter works as opposed to longer ones. In his opinion, he felt that e-books would be better suited to be shorter than print books are on average, and that this is what people would gravitate towards. People would want shorter books they can consume during commutes or on lunch-breaks and the in-between moments of their day.

So, I asked him- Taking all this into account, how long should an e-book novel be?

His answer- 50,000 words, or shorter.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this number bandied about, not only is this the target number for NaNoWriMo, but it turns up a lot of other places as well. This is also the length of choice for most Young Adult novels, and (he pointed out) has been the target length of Harlequin Romance Novels for several decades. (When I think about it, this is also the rough length for most Louis L’Amour westerns, and was also the target for Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels back in the 60’s and 70’s.)

He suggested that for longer works, it would be better to write at this length and then serialize the story over several of these shorter books.

Is he right? I’m still deciding, but he does have some good points, and at least for a forthcoming YA project I will definitely use this as a target length.

 

Thoughts?

Rob

Manga- Liar Game – Who do you trust?

For those who love thrillers with a psychological bent, Liar Game is a unique story along the lines of the manga Death Note. It’s a story about trust, deceit and human nature filled with mind games and twists and turns. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the chance, the creator took a 1.5 year break for his health and has just returned to it, so now is a great time to catch up!

From wikipedia-

At the start of the manga, the lead protagonist – a scrupulously honest college student named Nao Kanzaki – receives a package containing 100 million yen (about 1 million dollars) and a note that she is now a contestant in the Liar Game Tournament. In this fictional tournament, contestants are encouraged to cheat and lie to obtain other contestants’ money; those who lose have to bear a 100-million-yen debt. When Nao’s first opponent – a trusted friend and teacher – steals her money, she seeks assistance from a con man named Shin’ichi Akiyama. Though they manage to defeat the teacher, Nao and Akiyama decide to buy out his debt and advance through different rounds of the Liar Game Tournament against merciless contestants, while at the same time attempting to free their opponents from debt and to defeat the Liar Game organization from within.

Liar Game 1 – Read Liar Game 1 Online – Page 1.

sleepyti.me bedtime calculator

Now here’s a neat idea! sleepyti.me bedtime calculator will calculate the optimal time for you go to bed to wake up at a particular time based on normal human sleep cycles. I think I’ll give it a go and see how it comes out!

Rob

What Price Nobility?

So, I’m thinking over changes I want to make to Twin Stars in the second draft of the story, and it’s mostly little things, but one thing that’s come up is the Nobles. I’ve realized that I haven’t done anything to physically distinguish my race of genetically perfected galactic overlords. They basically just look the same as normal humans, but are much more buff and perhaps a tiny bit taller as they’re currently described.

The problem is that’s not only a little boring, it also lacks a visual tag that the reader can say “ah-ha! that person is a noble” without me having to mention it each time a noble character is introduced. My first instinct is to just make them a lot taller and thinner than normal people, but I’m wondering if I can’t do something more than that. I don’t want to use weird eye colors, and in the setting weird hair-colors would be common anyways, unless they all have the same color(s) for hair. Tattoos are out because they’re so common as to be cliche these days. (I think the genetically upgraded bunch on the TV show Andromeda used tattoos as markers.) Distinctive fashion is a possibility, but I wanted something physically different.

Still thinking.

Rob

Advice on Covers

Speaking of the Dead Robot’s Society writer’s podcast (which I’ve become a fan of recently), among the myriad topics they’ve covered, they did two especially good interviews with Robin J. Sullivan of Ridan Publishing.  Ms. Sullivan is something of an indie book marketing guru and gave great advice in general in the first interview, but the second interview has some especially good thoughts on the importance of book covers. (Hint- they’re the most important piece of marketing material a book has.) She covers what makes for good and bad covers in great detail, so if you’re a writer or artist, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Rob

10,000 words of fiction a day? Is that possible?

According to author Rachel Aaron it is!

While I think my best so far has been around 4,000 (on really really good day) she claimed in a recent interview on the Dead Robots Society podcast that she’s managed as much as 14,000 in a single day. (She says she finished a 75,000 word novel in 12 days as part of a personal challenge, and this was one of the better days.)

How did she do it? Well, as she explains well in the above interview (worth a listen), which was based on this blogpost, it basically comes down to outlining, knowing your personal rhythms, and keeping yourself excited about what you’re writing. It is a bit more detailed than that, so check out the post and see if it can help you.

I know for myself, I do write faster and better with a fairly good outline than I do when I’m just winging it. I discovered the importance of outlines during my audio drama scriptwriting, and it’s transferred over to my prose writing now. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of even detailing who says what before I write, but I’m willing to give it a go! I have so many stories I want to write, and need to get them out as fast as I can!

Rachel is a thoughtful and systematic writer, and I heartily recommend also checking out her posts on How I Plot a Novel in 5 Steps and The Two Bird Minimum. I think I’m going to have to read some of her stuff as well, since it sounds interesting, and I’m curious to see what her techniques have been producing.

At 91,746 words, the first draft of Twin Stars, Book One (the novel) is finished! Can I rest now? #amwriting

Well, tonight after two long months of hard work, I have at long last completed the (very) rough draft of my first Twin Stars science fiction novel- right on schedule! I gave myself two months to complete it, and have done so almost to the day! What a long and gruelling experience this has been, and I now have more respect than ever for those who have completed a book! Two months of avoiding TV, movies, video games, and every other time-sucker I could think of to sit and write-write-write.

More thoughts on the experience later, as right now I need to go collapse into my bed and dream blissful dreams that hopefully won’t involve typing.

Rob