Online Courses Now Available at Professional Author Academy

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn more about writing, finish your book or maybe even to self-publish, you’re in luck. I’m now offering online courses on writing, business and publishing for authors of all experience levels, from aspiring to multi-published, at Professional Author Academy.

Here’s a look at the courses:

Business Courses 

Audio Books for Indie Authors
Audio books are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry and are a relatively easy way to make money on books you’ve already written. The process may seem overwhelming, but Nicole Evelina will guide you through a few of the ways of getting your book from page to earbuds. She’ll help you understand your options for production, the cost involved, how to audition narrators and guide them once you’ve selected your talent, what the recording and editing process entail, and how to get your books out to your audience.

Basic Branding for Authors
When we hear the word “branding,” most of us automatically think “logo.” While that is one part of it, branding is actually so much more. It includes the way people feel when they interact with you, your “voice” both in your writing and online, and the image you project online and in person. In addition, branding encompasses your logo, author and book taglines and the fonts and colors you choose for your web site and marketing materials. Drawing on 15 years of professional experience in marketing and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole will help you understand branding through case studies of authors who do it successfully, as well as offer tips and exercises you can employ to discover your own brand.

Business Plans for Authors
A business plan is a roadmap to success. Whether you’re published or not, indie or traditional, a good business plan helps you in defining your goals as well as action steps you can take to reach them. In this course, you’ll learn an 11-step process for writing yours that will take only an hour or two to complete. Plus, you’ll get to see a real-life example of a business plan from your instructor. You’ll also learn how to set your budget and think through your long-term and short-term goals, uncover additional merchandising opportunities that could lead to income, and plan for your next year’s worth of book releases.

Legal Issues for Indie Authors
Being an indie author is more than just writing and publishing a book. Regardless of whether or not you choose to formally start your own publishing imprint, as soon as you make your first sale you are a business in the eyes of the law. This means you’ll have to pay taxes and make sure you follow local, state and Federal laws. In this course,* award-winning author and owner of Lawson Gartner Publishing, Nicole Evelina will walk you through the ins and outs of copyright, PCIP information and Library of Congress numbers, things to consider when starting your own publishing imprint, taxes and proper business record keeping. *This course should not be taken as legal advice. Please consult an attorney and/or tax expert before taking any action.

Marketing Plans for Authors
In today’s publishing world, it’s not only indie authors who have to handle the lion’s share of marketing their book. Increasingly, traditionally published authors are being asked to shoulder the burden. So where do you start? Drawing on 15 years of professional experience and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole Evelina will lead you through creating your own marketing plan. You’ll learn how to:

  • Get an idea of the market for your genre
  • Research competitive and comparative books
  • Identify your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats
  • Identify your target audience
  • Develop key messages about your book and yourself as an author
  • Plan what tactics you will use before launch, during your launch and after to gain and sustain sales:
    • Distribution – online and physical stores
    • Getting endorsements
    • Paid advertising
    • Social media
    • Your web site content
    • Guest posts/writing articles
    • Events/speaking engagements
    • Media relations
    • Tapping into online and real-life organizations
    • Using giveaways and ARCs to build buzz
    • Getting reviews
    • Supplemental materials you’ll want to have on hand
  • Measure for success and evaluation of ROi

Nicole will share her own marketing plans with you, so you can see how one looks when complete, as well as provide handouts you can use as templates to create your own plan. Nicole has won international communications awards for her marketing plans and regularly writes them for her day job.

Self-Publishing 101
Self-published authors are more than just writers. We’re our own business managers, sales force, distribution team, marketers and more. This course will teach you everything you need to know to self-publish as a professional and produce books of equal or greater quality than traditional publishing houses.

This course is actually several courses in one, as I offer many of these modules separately. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of self-publishing
  • How to write a business plan
  • Budgeting
  • How to handle editing/proofreading
  • How to get a great cover design
  • Options for interior book formatting
  • Distribution: Ebooks, print and audio
  • How to sell your book to libraries and bookstores
  • Legal issues for indie authors: copyright, Library of Congress, forming your own imprint, taxes, recording keeping and expenses
  • Marketing and PR basics
  • Your digital media strategy: website, social media and branding

Steps to Self-Publishing
Self-publishing a book is more than uploading it to Createspace and clicking “publish.” There are several steps necessary in order to produce a book that is equal to or better than those from traditional publishing houses. In this course, award-winning self-published author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to know about professional editing, cover design, interior formatting, production​, sales and marketing in order to make your book as professional as possible. She’ll also teach you how to budget for the expenses involved and cover the advantages and disadvantages to choosing to publish independently.

Web Sites and Social Media for Authors
By now we all know that web sites are a must for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in any field. This is especially true for authors whose sites function as not only as virtual calling cards, but as portals for sales and interaction with fans. In this course, award-winning author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to do to set up a site of your own, from choosing a hosting company and buying a URL to deciding what information to include and how to organize your pages. She will also show you how to incorporate branding and marketing best practices into your social media. In addition to using her own site and social media examples, Nicole will offer best practices from famous authors and show you how to emulate them.

Writing Courses

Editing. That one little word conjures a range of emotions in writers. Some love it. Some hate it. No matter how you feel about it, it’s a necessary step to get your novel ready for publication. Nicole Evelina will teach you some tips and tricks she’s learned over the last several years that will make self-editing a much easier step. Highlights include how to:

  • Break your editing into rounds so that you don’t have to tackle everything at once.
  • Examine dialog, description, characterization and action.
  • Use a beat sheet to check pacing and balance of power.
  • Make every word count without having to agonize over every sing word.
  • Use advice from beta readers and contests to strengthen your novel.

Setting and Description in Fiction
Setting and description are key to immersing your reader in the world of your novel. But how do you accomplish this without overwhelming your readers with pages of flowery prose? Nicole Evelina shares her tips for writing description that will leave your readers wanting to live in the world of your book without sacrificing pace.

Writing Historical Fiction
Ever wanted to try your hand at historical fiction but didn’t know where to start? Award-winning historical fiction author Nicole Evelina will show you it’s not as intimidating as it may seem, even if you’re not a fan of research (though it helps if you are). She’ll cover research methods and sources, how research informs plot, how to handle characterization in other time periods, how to bring the past to life, mistakes to avoid, and more. Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the historical waters or have already published in this genre, you’re sure to learn something new.

Convenient and Reasonably Priced
I know what it’s like to try to fit learning into a life already filled with work, family, writing and other responsibilities. That’s why these courses don’t require any homework and can be taken at your own pace. All courses include a welcome video and narrated Powerpoint slides. Many also include a recommended reading list and other handouts for reference or use as a worksheet or template.

Plus, they are cheaper than your average college course, which runs about $1,500/course (at $500/credit hour), or even many Writer’s Digest Online Workshops, which average between $200-$600+. I offer a tiered pricing structure based on the amount of information in each course. You can pay all at once or installments.

Basic – $100/course

  • Legal Issues for Indie Authors
  • Writing Setting and Description

Standard – $200/course

  • Audio Books for Indie Authors
  • Business Plans for Authors
  • Self-Editing

Advanced – $300/course

  • Branding for Authors
  • Website and Social Media for Authors
  • Steps to Self Publishing

Premium – $500/course

  • Marketing Plans for Authors
  • Writing Historical Fiction

Premier – $1,000/course

  • Self Publishing 101 (This course is several courses in one, including Steps to Self Publishing, Business Plans, Marketing Plans, Legal Issues, Web and Social Media. If you bought the classes separately, you’d pay $1,400.)

To register, just head over to Professional Author Academy.

Stay Up to Date
I’m planning to add new courses several times a year, so if you’d like to be notified when there is a new course or a current course goes on sale, please sign up for my course newsletter.

Future Planned Courses

  • Advanced Author Branding
  • How to Use Pinterest to Develop Your Story and Career
  • How Acting Can Make Your a Better Writer
  • Public Speaking for Authors
  • Starting Strong: Tips for Honing Your Novel’s First Chapter, Page and Line
  • Resources for Self Published and Hybrid Authors
  • Working with a Publicity Company: What You Need to Know
  • Building Strong Characters
  • How to Write a Query Letter That Goes You Noticed

If you have any suggestions for future courses, please email me at nicole[dot]evelina[at]att[dot]net. I’d love to know what you want to learn about!

And please spread the word about this new resource to all the writers in your life.

Quick Book Updates

In the summer, this is what editing looks like. This is me trying to figure out what needs to change in Mistress of Legend.

I’m thankful to finally be back to writing on a regular basis. I seem to have fits and starts this year, which I guess is normal, given that I write in between conferences and day job.

Speaking of conferences, don’t forget that I’ll be at Gateway Con June 16-17 in St. Louis and the Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland, Oregon, June 23-24. I’m speaking and signing/selling books at both, so please come and say hello! I’ve just been added to a third panel at the HNS conference, “Putting the Her in History,” with two of my favorites, Patricia Bracewell and Mary Sharratt! Here’s the full information: (Make sure you look at both the reader and writer sections of the page.)

I’ve had some new projects pop up, so I wanted to give you a rundown of where everything stands:

The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend (non-fiction)
I spent the early part of this year researching for my first non-fiction book, which traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere from her Celtic roots to today. I started writing on it in April, but then other things came up. But I’m back at it at a steady clip now. I was hoping for a summer release, but now it’s looking more like end of the year.

Mistress of Legend (Guinevere’s Tale Book 3) (historical fantasy)
I know all of you are eagerly awaiting this book, and frankly, so am I. Guinevere and Morgan have been talking to me a bit, but not as much as I want them to, so things are going slower than I would like. I have re-read my first draft and while it’s not as bad as I thought it was, it still needs work. I have a revision outline and am doing some additional research, which should be finished in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to start writing in earnest on it over the long Fourth of July weekend. I was hoping to have this out by the end of the year, but now I think it will likely be early 2018.

But the book does have a cover! Members of the Guardians of Endangered Stories (my street team) have seen it, so if you can’t wait, please join! Everyone else will get to see it when we get closer to the book’s release.

Untitled Non-Fiction 
Ever since I started researching Victoria Woodhull, I have come to realize how much feminism means to me. There are so many great stories of women who have gone against the grain of their society and fought for our rights. I am considering writing a biographical historical fiction of another of them, but I also want to examine what feminism has meant in the United States since the birth of our nation and where the movement might be going, especially in our current political climate.

We know for sure there have been three waves in the movement, each with their own inciting event, primary cause, public figures and cultural shifts. The first was in the 19th and early 20th centuries when women fought for the right to vote. The second was from the 1960s – 1980s, when women fought for equal rights, equal pay, an end to sexual harassment and other causes. The third began in the 1990s and encompasses a variety of topics from slut shaming to contraception and more. Just in a little bit of reading, I’ve learned that the waves are more similar than one might think at first glance. I would also argue that we are currently in the beginning of a fourth wave, spurred on by the 2016 presidential election and its fallout.

This is a passion project that I am just beginning to outline and research. I know it is going to take several years and it won’t take the place of my fiction writing. I need something to work on when the characters aren’t talking, so this is my ongoing project.

Mea Culpa! My Top 5 Common Writing Mistakes

Quick Writing Update
I’m busy working away on my non-fiction book on Guinevere – three research books away from writing. I’m going to try to do my own cover and format that myself. Right now I’m thinking a summer release. I’m also researching for Mistress of Legend. I already have some great new ideas on how to improve the draft I have. I’ll probably be writing on that one in late February. I’ll get back to more book-related blog posts around that time.

I’ve also decided to take a break from social media (Facebook and Twitter) for a while. It’s just not fun right now with all the political stuff. I’ll still be on my FB author page, Instagram and Pinterest, if you want to interact. If nothing else, this will give me more time to read/write.

On to the Blog
This week’s blog challenge is “Sorry, Editor! My Common Writing Mistakes.” No one is perfect (even though I like to think I am). No matter how hard I try, there are some mistakes that I make over and over again. My poor editor and proofreader are probably so sick of them. To compile this list, I went back and looked at previous edits to see what they pointed out.

  1. Comma splice – This is by far my most frequent offense. My proofreader is probably sick of writing “Comma splice. Em dash or ellipsis recommended if you want to pause for effect.” Here’s an example of a line I did wrong: “We didn’t have much experience seeking out the spirits; usually they came to us, and privately at that.” It should be “usually they came to us – and privately at that.” I seem to think commas are enough of a pause when they don’t really function the way I think they do in these cases.
  2. “Was” phrases – Because I write in past tense, I have a tendency to say things like “I was walking to the door when it suddenly opened from the other side.” Many times that can be better phrased as “I walked to the door…” The “was” makes the sentence more passive. I have to break myself of that habit.
  3. Forgetting “had” – Again, because I write in past tense, I sometimes forget that when you are talking about the past in a past-tense book, you need to use “had” to indicate the action took place in the past. For example: “My suggestion of a theme had come at the end of a long brainstorming session…” My tendency is to want to write “My suggestion for a theme came at the end…”
  4. Redundant phrases – I think a lot of people have problems with this, partly because of the way we speak. It’s common now to say things like “she was just a tiny little thing.” You really don’t need both “tiny” and “little” since they both mean the same thing. My most common mistake here is “sit down on the chair.” Where else are you going to sit, but down? You can sit up, but when you’re talking about being seated, down is the only way you can go, so you don’t really need that word.
  5. Typos/misspellings – I used to be an okay speller, but as I’ve gotten older and learned to rely on spell check, I’ve gotten bad at it. Part of it is because we don’t always say words the same way they are spelled. Plus, there are some words I have a mental block against, like “convenient.” Typos are more of an early draft thing, but sometimes they make it into the published book. (Eeeeek!) Missing words tend to be most prevalent, I guess because I’ve read it so many times I see it as it is supposed to be rather than how it is. Also, my brain moves faster than my fingers so sometimes not all the words make the transition from mind to keyboard. I seriously love readers who point out the typos they see so I can get them fixed.

Plus, every writer has tics that show up in a book. In Madame Presidentesss, everyone smiled and nodded a lot. In Been Searching for You, people pointed with things a lot – pens, forks, etc. In Daughter of Destiny, I kept emphasising Morgan’s red hair to the point that my editor commented something like, “OMG, she has red hair. We get it.” Whoopsie.

 We all write in some form or another, whether it’s in email, social media, blogs, for our jobs or for books. What are some of your bad habits? Please tell me I’m not alone!

Working with Professional Editors and Beta Readers

editingA few weeks ago, I was asked by the St. Louis Writer’s Guild to teach a workshop on “Querying, and getting an Agent.” So I decided to turn my presentation into a series of blog posts for everyone who couldn’t attend. (Before you non-writers run away screaming, take a second to consider this your backstage pass into what goes into getting your favorite books published. Okay, now you can hit delete if you want.)

In case you just want the Cliff’s Notes version, here’s the handout that I gave to all attendees.

Are You Ready to Query?
Finishing your manuscript is a huge deal, something most people never accomplish and you should be proud. Make sure to celebrate!

Once you’ve done all your self-editing, and maybe had your mom, spouse and/or a few friends read it, you’re ready to submit it to agents, right? Maybe not. It’s a tough call. You may not know for sure until you’ve sent out a few query letters and seen what the response is. I queried my first book too soon. I thought it was as good as I could make it, so I hit a list of agents of my favorite authors. I got a few nibbles here and there, but no major enthusiasm.

Working with a Professional Editor
This made me step back and take a hard look at my book. I realized I needed experienced help if I was going to make it better. I really didn’t want to spend the money on a professional editor, but I did. I wanted to make sure I was working with a real professional, someone legitimate, so I went through Writer’s Digest Second Draft Critique service. (They are only one of many, many options. Do some research and you’ll find many more reputable people/companies.) They match you based on genre. I was matched with historical romance writer Terri Valentine. I learned more from her than I could have in any class. And using my own manuscript as a textbook made it personal and much easier to understand than a generic example.

Some editors offer only content editing, which is the big picture stuff like suggestions on plot, pacing, continuity, character development, chapter breaks, etc. Others offer line editing, which goes into the little things like spelling, grammar, and proper dialogue formatting (which I still have problems with). I chose to do both, which meant an extra fee. That’s totally up to you.

A good editor will tell you where you need to change things and possibly give a suggestion for how, but will leave the writing up to you. So while he or she will point out areas for improvement, you’ll still be the one doing the work. Have no fear that it won’t end up as your product. You are free to agree or disagree as you see fit.

Beta Readers/Critique Partners
An alternative to a professional editor is to work with critique partners or beta readers. I consider beta readers and critique partners pretty much the same thing. Some people make the distinction that critique partners tend to be other writers, and so focus more strongly on the craft of writing, whereas beta readers are non-writer people who give you gut feedback.

No matter how you define it, I recommend a mix of writers and other people so that you get feedback from both the mindset of the writer and the typical reader. Because I work in marketing, I know a lot of writers, so that was easy for me. But if you’re wondering where to look, try members of professional writing organizations you’re a part of, a writer’s group or even people you trust from social media. I usually have about five to seven people read and comment on my books before they go to my agent. I always make sure at least one is an excellent proofreader (that would be you, Nancy!) to catch those errant typos that somehow manage to multiply in the editing process no matter how many people read the book.

What do kind of feedback do you ask them for? That’s really up to you. But I always ask for general impressions of the book, if there were any places they stumbled on or didn’t make sense, if they caught any inconsistencies, who their favorite/least favorite characters were and what scene(s) stuck with them. Chances are good you’ll know specific chapters/scenes that may be weak or have a piece of writing that you’re not entirely happy with. Ask them about it. This is your chance to get an honest opinion on anything that doesn’t sit right with you. I also find it’s great at revealing information that I thought made it into the book, but was really only in my head. That’s something you can’t catch without outside help.

I’ve also been a beta reader for other people, which has taught me a lot. I’ve gotten to see different writing styles, pick up tips from others and pass on the ones I’ve learned. Plus, who doesn’t want to be the very first person other than the author to read a new book?

Whichever route you choose, getting professional feedback before you query is great practice for working with agents and editors, because no matter how good your story is, you’ll have to make several rounds of changes before publication. It helps you to get over the fear/hatred of critiques. When I got my first round of edits back from Terri, I sobbed. Seriously. But I took a few days to think about what she said and realized she was right. I would recommend doing that with any feedback you get. Then get to work and make the edits. If it makes the story better, it’s worth putting in the time for.

What about you? Have you used a professional editor, critique partners or beta readers? What’s your experience been like? What tips do you have? What questions do you have?

Revisions Are Your Friend

editing-2Some of you may know I completed the first draft of book 2 on New Years Eve. Like all first drafts, it needs serious help. It’s about 50,000 words too long and has just about every problem a first draft could have. There are some nuggets of gold in there, though, and I know with all my heart it will turn out to be a great book. I plan to start revising on Imbolc (February 2)  because that’s the feast of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of inspiration (and also smithery and healing/midwifery).

I’m nearing the end of my “put it away for a month” distancing period. That means it’s time to get serious. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I had no revising plan with the first book. It was a completely green author flying blind and I learned as I went along. As a result, it took me years to do it. This time around, I’ve come up with a plan that I think will work, or at least can be revised to work, long into the future. It better, because I plan on writing many more books after this.

Today I want to tell you a little about one of my favorite revision tools, courtesy of Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris (If you’re a writer, read it. You’ll thank yourself.). It’s called the Beat Sheet. I’m not going to give you all the details because that would cheat wonderful Roz out of book sales, but here’s an overview. It’s a tool developed by screenwriters to make sure that their movies have appropriate pacing and emotional arcs. You list out every single scene in your book and chart for each one the purpose of the scene, the dominant emotion, the pacing, who holds the power, character motivation and other items. You end up with a very long, very colorful roadmap of your book when you’re done. I used it for book 1 and it was by far the most effective thing I did. Roz advises using it before you begin to revise your first draft, but my first drafts are so messy that I prefer to use it later in the process, once the book stops looking like a three-year-old wrote it. Although I may have to change my mind on this one. It may provide just the unbiased distance I need when undertaking what feels like an overwhelming task.

I may whine about it along the way, but I know from experience that revising is the only way to turn a good book into a great one, and I can’t wait to get started.

So, writers, what does your revision process look like? What works for you? I’d love it if we could learn from each other.

Love/Hate: Ramblings About Research & Editing

So I was going to write another educational post this week, when the new issue of Writer’s Digest showed up in my mailbox. It contains an article on research by Charles J. Shields, and, like research itself, I’m finding I have a love/hate relationship with it.

Didn’t You Learn That in School?
When I first saw the headline “Research Like a Pro: New Techniques,” I thought, “It’s pretty sad that we have to explain to writers how to research.” I don’t know if I was just lucky that as an English major, and again to get my master’s in public relations, I had to write lengthy, well-researched thesis papers. That’s when I learned about research databases (although this article introduced me to several I hadn’t heard about), interlibrary loans (a godsend!) and the importance of getting to know subject matter experts. I’m not a historian – yet (getting my Ph.D. is in my 10-15 year plan) – but these experiences have given me a solid understanding of research.

But then again, I went to school primarily before the Internet took over. For my undergraduate thesis, we weren’t allowed to use online resources at all. Maybe that’s why I’m still more fond and trusting of information I find in books, as opposed to on the Internet. The article in question focuses mainly on online research, which is nice, but I’m old-fashioned. In general, books have to pass quality standards to be published; anything can be put on the Web. I’m not saying I don’t use online research, but I mainly keep it for minor fact checking or on the spot information. It was a lifesaver when I was writing the battle of Mount Badon. I can’t tell you how many times I used Google Maps to look at Little Solisbury Hill or how many sites I visited to learn about Anglo Saxon warfare in the late 5th century (which my books were oddly silent about). I do like Google Books, but that’s really just a searchable database of books, so I’m not really going too far out on a limb with that site. 

Oh Wait, Maybe I Was Wrong
The more I thought about it, I realized it’s actually wonderful that we’re teaching people how to research. In an age when the Web runs our lives, Shields’ article has some great tips on how to contact experts and how to use virtual tours to get to know places you can’t actually visit. He also made some great points about “folding in your research,” so that your readers can’t tell what you had to look up or what your sources were.

I can say from personal experience that there’s nothing more annoying to a reader than to be enjoying a book and what the author writes about starts looking really familiar and then all of a sudden, you know what book they used. The whole point of research is to make it look effortless, like you knew that information all along. In my opinion, that happens when you really internalize your subject and begin to live it. If you can get lost in it, your characters, and hence your readers, will too.

Editing: Blessing or Bane?
The other aspect of writing I have a love/hate relationship with is editing. I’m working my way through what I hope is my second to last round of edits before I query again. Sometimes, I’d rather poke my eye out than make a suggested change and other times I change one tiny thing and the whole story is suddenly a million times better.

The other day it hit me: editing is a beautiful process. It’s like getting multiple second chances. It’s very freeing to realize you don’t have to get everything right the first time around. Stories evolve as we write them, so it’s nearly impossible to get everything in the right order or shown the right way in your first few drafts. Editing allows you to not only change things that aren’t working, but foreshadow things you didn’t even know were going to happen when you originally wrote the lead up to them. If you’ll forgive the comparison, it gives you an almost god-like power, because you can go back and redo things until they turn out to where the plot appears seemless. If only reality worked that way. Wouldn’t it be great if we could edit our own lives? Oh wait, that lack of control is one reason we write – to be able to control the lives of our characters.

So, talk to me. How do you do your research? Are you an online junkie or a bookworm or a little of both? Does editing make you rejoice or just cringe?

In Defense of Editing

“Make no mistake, a rewrite is always a corrective measure. Nothing to brag about,” writes Larry Brooks in an otherwise extremely insightful article on structuring the end of your novel in the latest issue of Writer’s Digest.

I had to read this line several times. My first reaction was, “Really? Seriously? Of course rewrites are corrective measures, that’s kind of the point.” But then I got to thinking, what kind of message do those two sentences send? Nothing to brag about? I agree, but rewrites are necessary. To imply they aren’t is to set up expectations of inhuman perfection in writing that will only result in despair. I’ve seen this attitude in “how to” writing books before and all it does is make me think that I (and every author I’ve ever read) should pack it in and never write anything again, even our grocery lists. And I refuse to buy in to that kind of thinking.

The whole point of rewrites/revisions/editing is to make your work better. To expect that perfection will pour out of your fingertips on the first try is just ludicrous. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes in early drafts; that’s the only way to actually get where you want to go. Hemingway famously said that all first drafts are terrible. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott extolls the virtues of “shitty first drafts” because that is where you’re just trying to get the ideas down. Drafts are great because no one has to see them unless you want them to. They are you’re chance to play and work things out in your own head. Change your mind a million times and no one has to know. I have personally chopped 15,000 words out of a story, only to try again. I know of succesful authors who have thrown away entire drafts and started over. Sometimes rewrites are just necessary.

I’ve also learned by experience that if you don’t give yourself permission to write a big ol’ mess from which you can later mine the good stuff, you’ll get so mired in details and perfectionism that you won’t get anywhere. And sometimes the plot changes as you go, so you have to go back and make changes. I’ve edited more drafts of Book 1 than I care to think about, but each one has taught me something and I’ve walked away as a better writer with a richer story for it. I’m not saying that I enjoy editing. I don’t know anyone who does. Whether it’s for work or fiction, it’s my least favorite part of the process and is sometimes physically and/or mentally painful. But once you’ve gotten through it, the rewards are sweet.

So no, needing to correct your work is nothing to brag about, but it’s also not something to fear. Like death and taxes, rewrites make you human, and you can’t escape them. You may never savor them, but edits are what transform your work from something you write for fun to something others will pay to read.

Remind me I wrote this next time I complain about having to edit something…