Plot Stitching and Seam Rippers

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I made it through Home Ec without doing myself bodily harm.

seam ripper

Considering that the girl at the table next to me ran the needle of her electric Singer sewing machine right through her finger (and broke the damn needle off IN her finger), I figured that I dodged a bullet.

One of the tools we used in that class was a seam ripper. It was a pointy little sharp hooked thing that slid under stitches and cut through thread so you could take out a crooked seam. Part of sewing is ripping out your mistakes and putting the pieces back together again. And while I haven’t sewed anything since that long-ago class, years later, I’m thinking about seam rippers, and how sometimes you have to tear things apart to re-stitch them. It happens when you’re sewing a shirt, and it happens when you’re stitching a plot together.

I’m working on the new epically-epic epic fantasy that still must not be named (seriously, we don’t have a final title yet, and I’m not allowed to tell you about the world yet). I finished the draft, read it through, and decided that while I liked parts of it, there were other sections that weren’t working, or that needed to get moved around, condensed and smashed together with other parts, or expanded. So I took a mental seam ripper to it and took it apart, then stitched it back together.

Sew it up, rip it out. Move the pieces around, sew it up again. Rip out different parts. Repeat until it’s right.

One of the benefits of experience is spotting things that need to be ripped out and stitched up differently on your own, before they get to an editor. If you’ve been called out on something on a previous book, you add it to your mental list of things to watch for on future manuscripts.  Then when you read over your draft, you’re going through your checklist, looking for places to use your seam ripper, places where you need to go back and take the manuscript apart so you can put it back together better this time. The more ‘missed stitches’ you can find on your own to fix before the book goes to the editor, the cleaner the manuscript and the less the editor has to send back with comments. I’d rather find and fix my own mistakes before anyone else sees them; somehow, that’s less intimidating than having them pointed out by someone else.

At the same time, it’s incredibly valuable to have other people find the dropped stitches you can’t see. That’s where having a good editor and good beta readers comes in handy. They’ll add to your mental checklist for the next book, so you can watch for those issues the next time. And even with all of that help, there will still be a comment in a review that strikes true, that makes you realize you could do something better, and now you know to watch for yet another thing to make the next book even stronger.

It’s part of the craft. It’s humbling and exhausting, frustrating and exciting, and it stokes all your writerly insecurities, but then at the end, once you’ve done all the restitching, you read through the draft and go, ‘Yes! This is what I had in mind!’ And it’s all worth it.

The April Survey results are in! This month was all about writing reviews. Here’s what our awesome survey respondents told me.

Question 1: How often do you leave a review? 58% said ‘sometimes if I’m not too busy’, 17% each said ‘always/only if I like the book’, 4% said ‘never/only for authors I actually know’

Question 2: What motivates you to leave reviews? 75% said ‘I know they help authors’ while 70% said ‘I loved the book’. 62% said ‘to help others discover the book’ and 37% said ‘I like to comment on the author’s work’ while 33% review when they hate a book.

Question 3: The top reason by far for not leaving a review was ‘too much of a hassle’.

Question 4: Over 86% knew that reviews are considered by potential book buyers, while 65% understand that the number and quality of reviews influence both the Amazon algorithm for visibility and for the ‘also read’ suggestions. 52% recognize that the good reviews lead to more visibility on Goodreads, and over 35% know that plenty of good reviews help on sites like Bookbub and Promocave.

Question 5: What encourages you to leave a review? Over 70% said getting a free review copy from NetGalley, 63% said knowing that reviews help authors, 37% said being personally asked by the author/helping other readers discover an author, and 29% said having an author thank them on social media/meeting an author at a convention.

Thank you for participating! I’ll get the free ebook prize out to our drawing winner!

The May survey is all about how you like to interact with an author at a convention. Here’s the link. I’ll do a drawing for one person to win 4 ebook short stories, one from each of my series, at the end of the month from survey respondents!

G&GRed-Gold LeafDo you like a little Steampunk with your fairy tales? Check out Gaslight and Grimm, with our story The Patented Troll, a clockwork riff on The Billy Goats Gruff.

The first three Blaine McFadden Adventures novellas are now together in one collection, King’s Convicts–find out what the Velant Prison years were really like, and how Blaine, Piran, Verran, Dawe and Kestel came to have each other’s backs. Kings Convicts Draft 1

 

 

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