These stories nail it. The last one is mercifully different, which is the only reason the book isn’t completely devastating. It will be a while before I have the balls to pick up another one by this author; I’m filing her under Emotional Arson and Favorites.
Letters from the Editor
Two full months after my website was hit with malware and Google blacklisted me, tanking my online searchability and making my summer marketing efforts null and void, I’m finally done fine-tuning.
This recovery process has been the equivalent of rewiring and replumbing a house, then cleaning the carpets, painting the walls, and rearranging all the furniture. But hey, I did it mostly myself, so it was almost free.
I understand now why it costs $1-3,000 to build — or even rebuild — a website. Even a basic one like mine that uses a prefab theme. Even when all the copy and content have already been created.
I tracked my time from start to finish:
80 mind-numbing, infuriating hours
I started out logging individual tasks: “Test website for sneaky redirects,” “Try to figure out if sneaky redirects have stopped,” “Try to get email working,” and so forth. Finally, I just filed everything under “Deal with website bullshit.” That came out to 50 full hours, not counting the time the good people at Wordfence spent scrubbing the site of bugs or my very indulgent friend spent unbotching my amateur attempts at coding.
The last 30 hours were spent writing and rewriting content.
This is all time I was not spending editing, which is what actually pays my bills. But without a website and Google’s benediction, I was dead in the water. If I could have paid someone to take this nightmare off my hands, I would have done it in a heartbeat, but like most freelancers, I had more time than money. I just took it out of my sleep.
I could not explain to you how I spent all that time. There’s no way to account for it, because it sounds insane to tell you that I spent four hours trying to fix the font on my site header. Four. Full. Hours. All I wanted was to get rid of the small caps and make the words stop breaking across lines, like this:
Four hours later, I got this far:
But I still couldn’t figure out how to change the small caps to lowercase.
I Googled everything, I did a CSS tutorial, I dug around in Themify forums and started tweaking the parent theme (against all advice). I declared that this would be my job in hell.
And of course I ended up deleting an important line of code. I had to send up an SOS and ask my friend to install my backup again. Which lost me another six hours or so of work that I hadn’t backed up yet, but redoing that didn’t take as long as figuring out how to do it in the first place.
(Note to self: Back up site today.)
(Note to reader: Duplicator is a good WordPress backup plugin.)
I don’t know how long it took my friend to fix the title; I knew better than to ask. But he fixed it, and I finally got the lowercase letters I’d been shooting for for ages:
Guess I’ll have to mess with the centering later.
Anyway, check out my new About page if you want to know what I’m actually good at. Working on that took forever, too, but it wasn’t anywhere near as painful. Later, writers.
We have a busy season ahead of us. Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones — we hope you’re among them!
October 20-22 in Los Angeles
Matthew Arkin and I will be leading workshops at the Digital Author/Indie Publishing and Boot Camp Extreme Creative Writing Conferences, as well as meeting with authors for one-on-one critique sessions. I’m beyond excited about these events — I missed last year’s conferences & am making up for lost time with two excellent classes.
Publishing Paths 101: Indie, Traditional, and Hybrid Options for Authors
Meghan Pinson and Matthew Arkin
A concise, author-centered exploration of publishing options for authors who are at the outset or on the fence. Covers pros, cons, costs, and timelines for traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing and marketing paths.
Workshop: A facilitated round-table discussion of the pros and cons of the publishing options.
Critique: Participants can submit publishing plans for critique that focuses on the author’s stated goals, desired timelines, and preferred budgets.
Circumstance and Desire: The Primary Elements of Story
Learn how mastering the elements of circumstance and desire can make your storytelling more believable and compelling. In this lecture and workshop, Matthew Arkin will teach you to ask questions of your characters that reveal their motivations and to construct circumstances that will push them to their limits. When motivation and circumstance collide, the story you are telling will be compelling and seamless.
Workshop: A series of writing exercises will guide writers through an exploration of desire and circumstance through mechanisms of action, dialogue, and exposition.
Critique: Writers may submit scenes for critique that focuses on circumstance, desire, and how they drive the storytelling.
Editing Master Class: Exposition Exposed
Lecture: Learn about the different types of exposition and how it can either serve or sever your connection with your readers.
Workshop: We’ll workshop a scene or two together, identifying exposition and determining whether it’s helping or hurting. If the class is large, we’ll do this in small groups; if it’s small, we’ll do it together.
Critique: Participants can submit scenes from their WIP for critique that focuses on exposition and explains what’s working and what’s not.
Book Description Blast
Lecture: Learn the elements of an effective book description and how to tweak them for back cover copy, Amazon descriptions, and author websites.
Workshop: We’ll draft or revise book descriptions, workshop them in small groups or as a class, then revise and repeat.
Critique: Participants can submit book descriptions for critique that focuses on what’s working, what’s not, and whether they would lead to sales.
October 28-29 in Columbia, MO
This is the second year for this conference and my first year attending — I’m thrilled and honored to be included as a mentor. I’ll be meeting with individual authors throughout the weekend to discuss their submissions and ambitions. Should be a lot of fun!
Let us all take a deep, long breath and step away from our screens for a spell before we fry our brains and reach for the hammer. I’ll go first.
I just wrapped up forty hours fixing my broken website from the bottom up and the only visible proof is a few new fonts. (THEY ARE EXCELLENT FONTS. It is decidedly so.)
I have renewed sympathy for those of you who spend days, months, years fixing one part of your book only to find that the rest goes off the rails while your back is turned. Editing is often thankless work, whether it’s on a story, a Cascading Style Sheet, or a chin full of stubble. Wild things like words and webs and whiskers want to wave and sprout and stumble over all the rules we try to set for them.
I’m writing tonight to transition back from editing my website, which is the worst kind of hell for me, to editing the stories that are patiently waiting on my hard drive, which is a proven kind of bliss. Even a hard day of editing for an author who chose me is a very, very good day in my book.
I hope you’re writing and reading and getting outside. Keep up the good work and stay in touch.
P.S. I took the photo above at Castor River Shut-Ins near Fredericktown, Missouri, a couple weeks ago. Get there if you can–it’s a very special place.
I got a great note from a new client after an intro edit this week. That always makes me feel amazing!
“Wow, I really like what you did with the manuscript, especially identifying all the exposition. During my first read through I thought, ‘But I need some of the magenta text….don’t I?’ and then I saw how the text would read without all of that exposition – it was so clean and tight and polished! Anyway, this is my long way of saying that I’m now interested in doing a comprehensive critique with you. I think the manuscript would really benefit from that kind of close reading and markup.”