Happy July, all! To kick off a hot, summery month that’s known for vacations and voracious reading, Jen Harlow’s here with a guest post on how she wrangled her omnibus edition of VERITY HART VS. THE VAMPYRES into shape. Struggling writers who want to know they’re not alone and readers who love to read about all the stuff we pull our hair out over, read on! (There’s also a great giveaway. Details at the end.) Welcome, Jen!
by Jennifer Harlow
She’s done! The weeks of research, the months of writing, the weeks of typing, the month of editing, it’s all done! She is ready to be read by my wonderful Beta testers who will see how splendiferous she is and confirm I am the genius I always knew I was! Huzzah!
Three Weeks Later…
Oh, @%&^. They hated it. They really hated it. They thought the main character was annoying. The male lead was too perfect (meaning no real man would act like that). I kept switching between too much description and too much telling and not showing. The entire first fifty pages were dull and redundant. And the grammar! Oy!
“Didn’t they teach you anything at the baby Ivy college your father and I took out a second mortgage on our house so you could attend?” my mother asked. (Yes, that watching Frat boys play beer pong is not how I want to spend my Friday nights, thank you very much).
Well, did you like anything? Yes. The chapter titles were funny.
Anything else? <long pause> I liked the character names.
What do you do when what you’ve written the first time around isn’t that great? Me, there was vodka and three Real Housewives marathons involved. (Kidding about the vodka.) It’s hard hearing criticism about something that you spent so much time and effort on. When they’re telling me their constructive criticism, I try to put on a brave face while inside I’m considering skewering them with a fireplace poker. (Once again kidding. It was a machete.) Then I watch more Real Housewives, calm down, and think about what they’ve said and the suggestions they give. Like how to make the hero less of an archetype. Make the heroine have faults instead of her being little miss perfect. See how much of the beginning can be cut away without losing the characterization and world building you presented in those pages to get to the action quicker. Use a thesaurus as much as possible. When in doubt, use a comma. Really ask if you need to describe the leaves on all the trees. Then put on your big girl pants and get back to work. (Unless there’s a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on. Love me some Lisa and Yolanda.) With every word on the page ask if this is the best choice. Sound like fun? About as much fun as Andy Cohen has at the Housewives reunions. (I think I have a problem.)
Writing is @%&^#*! hard work. Most of my books have gone through at least five edits before I even present it to my Beta readers. This soul crushing conversation occurred after the sixth edit of the steampunk book I wrote, Verity Hart Vs. The Vampyres. I cut the first chapter entirely, then worked eight hours on the current first chapter, twelve on the second, and so on. My main character went from Cher Horowitz in Clueless to a pretty version of Jane Eyre. Her father constantly threatens to put her away in an asylum, her only friend in the world is her brother, and everyone looks down at her for being a spinster. My hero now smokes, drinks, cusses, and is rude to everyone, including the woman he’s falling in love with. I did more research into the Victorian and modern world, spending hours conceiving ways they could merge in realistic ways. There is more red ink on the pages than black. As it should be. Nothing comes out of the gate perfect, but if you’re smart enough and trust in your skills and vision, it can certainly get pretty darn close.
Publishers are tough, almost as tough as readers. So though it may hurt, and take for-bloody-ever, editing is probably the most important part of writing. I’ve learned that 80% of the time my Beta testers are right. As long as you have the backbone of the story and halfway decent characters with potential, then all is not lost. Most things can be fixed. And when I got those notes from them, I took some time off, and then revisited Verity and her steampunk world. It took months, and an entire red pen, but I made all the changes and if the early reviews are any indication I succeeded. And after all the hard work and tears, in the end you get this…
More on Verity Hart Vs. The Vampyres
KEEP CALM AND STEAMPUNK ON
The whole of Victorian London knows there is something not quite right about the Lady Verity Hart. She may be the daughter of an MP and the sister of famed inventor Lord David Hart, but she is a spinster whose own father threatens to send her to the madhouse every fortnight. Because Society is correct-Verity Hart is no lady. If they suspected how quick with a quip she is, let alone the majority of her brother’s ingenious machines were her design, the sale of fainting couches would double.
Verity requires one herself when her beloved brother is kidnapped by vampyres in the dead of night. With the aid of an aggravating, rude American bounty hunter with a secret of his own, Verity takes to land, sea, and even air to rescue the only person who could ever love and truly accept her. Or is he?
More on Jennifer Harlow
Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time, she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.
She is the author of the Amazon best-selling F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, Midnight Magic Mystery series and The Galilee Falls Trilogy. For the soundtrack to her books and other goodies visit her at her website or find her here:
So how about you? How do you deal with constructive criticism? Me? I’m more of a fan of wine and BBC shows and/or sf movie marathons than vodka and the Real Housewives, but I’m betting we all have our preferred couch therapies. Here’s hoping no one’s laid up anytime soon clutching a glass and a remote! Thank you, Jen, for guest blogging today!