Jenn Johansson is no newbie when it comes to working with editors. For INSOMNIA and PARANOIA (which comes out June 8), she worked with Brian Farrey-Latz at Flux, and is currently finishing up edits on CUT ME FREE with Janine O’Malley at FSG/Macmillan. So tell us all the secrets, Jenn!
BW: How has working with an editor changed your writing?
JJ: Working with an editor has allowed me to focus on different things while I write. I am able to put all my attention on really honing the story and know that all of the other stuff (phrasing, word choice, punctuation, etc) will fall into place as we go through revisions. It has really freed me up to put all of my creative energy into the craft and I love that.
BW: PARANOIA is the second book in The Night Walkers series. Did you approach writing and editing this book differently because it is a sequel?
JJ: I think sequels are an entirely different animal for many reasons. First, I had never written a sequel before and they truly are very different from the first book in a series or a standalone. You are building upon something you’ve already created, but you don’t want to be repetitive. You need to take the stuff from book #1 and amp it up but you don’t want to re-tread the same ground. You need to give your characters new areas in which to grow because they can’t become stagnant. It really is an entirely new challenge JUST because it’s a sequel. In some ways sequels are easier than starting fresh and other ways, they are SO much harder. It’s very difficult to describe until you’ve actually written a sequel. They are a unique beast.
BW: *nods* Beast is totally the perfect descriptor. Sequels are hard and I salute everyone who can pull it off successfully. Do you have a special method for working through your editorial letter?
JJ: I always read through the letter, then I let it sit for a couple of days and don’t work on it (assuming time allows for it). Giving the ideas and suggestions a chance to simmer usually means that when I sit down to start working the solutions I come up with are more developed than they would’ve been if I had jumped right into the letter immediately. I’m sure this isn’t the best for everyone, but for me, it seems to be the best option.
BW: Now that you’re an old pro, is there any secret trick you’ve learned that helps you self-edit before you manuscript crosses your editor’s desk? Or maybe some specific writing ticks or weakness you’ve learned to face or avoid?
JJ: Haha, an old pro? Wow…I feel so official now. 🙂 I think it’s important to remember what got you where you were. If you had a crit group before, continue to work with at least some of them. Find some other authors to beta read for you. Do not rely solely on yourself and your editor. Other authors will find things you might miss. Let them help you, and help them in return!
BW: Can you give us one piece of advice that you think helps editors (and readers, probably!) connect with a book?
JJ: I think it is really important to use all the senses with your description–but use them with impact. Don’t just randomly throw out what it smells like, tell us what it smells like at a moment when that scent also gives us a clue about what is going on in the area where the main character is and use that smell to trigger a thought, memory or emotion for your character. Bring the reader/editor fully into the head of your character so that they are in the moment and feeling/experiencing what the character is. That is the best way to help them feel that connection. Hope that helps!
BW: And if you’ve read INSOMNIA, you’ll know just how visceral Jenn’s writing is! If you haven’t experienced the world of the Night Walkers, the first book, INSOMNIA is available now as an e-book for $1.99. Find out more on her website: http://www.jennjohansson.com/INSOMNIA_Deal.html or directly on Kindle and Nook!
J.R. JOHANSSON is a young adult thriller author. Her books INSOMNIA, PARANOIA (June 2014), and a third untitled book (June 2015) are with Flux Books. CUT ME FREE (Winter 2015) and another untitled book (Winter 2016) will be coming out with FSG/Macmillan. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she’s not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She has two young sons and a wonderful husband. In fact, other than her cat, Cleo, she’s nearly drowning in testosterone.
Jenn’s Links –
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJRJohansson
J.R. Johansson on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5100095.J_R_Johansson
PARANOIA on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12260608-insomnia
Pre-order Links –
The Book Depository – http://www.bookdepository.com/Paranoia-Johansson/9780738740188
Indiebound – http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780738740188
Paranoia Book Cover Info-
Tagline – With Every Night of Blissful Sleep Darkness Grows Inside Him.
In the aftermath of the events that nearly killed him, Parker Chipp is trying to learn to cope better with life as a Watcher. And it seems to be working…until he wakes up in jail with a hangover and 12 hours of missing time. Darkness has somehow taken control and Parker doesn’t have a clue how to stop him. He finds an unlikely ally in Jack, the mysterious guy in the motorcycle jacket who offers to help Parker master his abilities as a Watcher. But even as they practice, the darkness inside Parker is getting more and more powerful, taking over Parker’s body and doing everything he can to destroy Parker’s life. When Jack reveals that there is another kind of Night Walker, known as a Taker, Parker starts to wonder if the strange things happening in Oakville are more than just a coincidence. After all, people are more than just sleepwalking. They’re emptying their savings accounts with no memory of doing so, wandering into strange parts of town and disappearing, they’re even killing other people–all in their sleep. If Parker wants to find out what’s happening or have any hope of seeing his father again, he’ll have to defy Jack and put his own life in danger…because the more he learns about these other Night Walkers, the more certain he becomes that his life isn’t the only one that could be lost.
Blurbs for The Night Walkers Series Books
“The perfect blend of everything I love in a story. I hope a sequel comes soon!”
–James Dashner, New York Times bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER
“Completely unputdownable. I’ve decided to nickname Johansson: Scary McScarypants, because she spooked me in all the best ways.”
–Carrie Harris, author of BAD TASTE IN BOYS
“Cleverly written and dangerously dark, Insomnia will take you to the brink of insanity. A must-read for thriller and romance fans alike.”
—Elana Johnson, author of POSSESSION
“A riveting story of terror and despair that will keep you up long past your bedtime.”
—Jennifer Bosworth, author of STRUCK
I’d like to welcome Rayne Hall, author and editor extraordinaire. She’s written more than forty novels in a variety of genres, under different pen names, and has been published by twelve different houses in six countries. In addition to writing novels and short stories, Rayne has also penned a series of instructional guides to help authors improve their craft. She’s agreed to give us a few tips on how to edit our manuscripts to make them shine.
BW: Please tell us a little about yourself and the stories you write.
RH: I’m a quietly eccentric introvert and I have a black cat named Sulu whom I’ve recently adopted from the cat rescue shelter.
My stories are mostly fantasy and horror. My horror is subtle with a lot of atmosphere – more creepy and unsettling than violent and gory.
BW: I’ve heard it said that authors don’t earn their paychecks until they learn to revise their work. Do you have any secret tricks or tools you use to turn a draft into a fabulous manuscript?
Revision is important, and I enjoy revising. It’s fun to shape those crappy first drafts into something great. There’s nothing secret about my revision techniques, and I’m happy to share them.
Above all, I invite tough, thorough, thoughtful critiques from other writers – the more, the better. I choose which of the suggestions to apply, then I revise, and then I send the story out for new critiques.
Reading aloud helps, and text-to-speech software is even better, because I can hear flaws that my eyes have overlooked.
Unless a publisher has given me a deadline, I like to set each story aside for a while before I tackle he final revision, so I can look at it with fresh eyes.
BW: I feel like writing is something we get better at with practice. Where have you seen your skill as an author grow the most? Or maybe a better question is, where do developing authors tend to fall short?
When I read the stories I wrote years ago, I cringe. The writing is awful! At the time, I thought it was great, but now I see embarrassing flaws. So I have definitely grown as a writer. One of the areas where I’ve grown most is pacing. My early works were long-winded, wordy and waffling. Now my writing is much tighter and more exciting. I’ve also learnt many techniques for making my writing vivid and compelling.
Other authors have their individual weaknesses. Some flaws are common in developing writers’ works, and I see them a lot in slush pile submissions.
First, there’s the overuse of certain words. For some reason, novice writers use certain words a lot (look, turn, could, suddenly, slowly, begin to, start to).
Often, they also overuse certain sentence structures, e.g. starting too many sentences with a present participle: Xxxing, she yyyed. Yyying, he xxxed.
Many developing writers have a limited vocabulary of body language. Their characters always nod, smile, shrug, frown, raise eyebrows and sigh.
BW: I totally make the begin-to and start-to mistakes! *searches for mistakes in ms* How do you avoid writing tics?
RH: Every writer has words or phrases they overuse. Herman Melville applied the word ‘silvery’ whenever he described the sea in Moby-Dick, and J.R.R. Tolkien relied on ‘sudden’, and ‘swift’. Our critique partners can spot these quirks and warn us about them.
In the first draft of one of my novels, the character was constantly biting his lips. I thought that was a memorable character trait, but my critique partners told me it was tedious. They also alerted me that I had too many short sentences, linked too many clauses with ‘but’, and overused the words ‘try’ and ‘velvet’. Seriously – I went through a phase where every chapter contained the word velvet several times, and didn’t realize it until my critique partners pointed it out. The hero had a voice like smooth velvet, the night sky was like dark velvet studded with rhinestones and so on. Then came a phase when I overused ‘hand’ and ‘face’.
Once I’m aware of such a tic, I use the ‘find&replace’ function to highlight every instance, and then I substitute different words where possible.
Actually, my critique partners tell me that in blog posts, I use the word ‘actually’ and ‘hopefully’ too much. Hopefully, I can wean myself of that habit.
BW: Is there one specific lesson you’d like to tell writers that will take their improve their writing?
You want one lesson to fit all writers? Hmm.
Here’s a weakness I see a lot in novice writers’ submissions, so maybe it will be helpful for many of your blogs’ readers.
Check your manuscript for ‘start to’ and ‘begin to’. These words can often be deleted without changing the meaning, and the result is a leaner, more exciting style.
He began to run. > She ran. Rain began to fall. > Rain fell. She started to shiver. > She shivered. His lips started to quiver. > His lips quivered.
BW: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!
ABOUT RAYNE HALL
Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (creepy horror stories), Thirty Scary Tales, Six Historical Tales Vol. 1 and 2 (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), The Colour of Dishonour: Stories from the Storm Dancer World, Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic, Writing Dark Stories, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels and Writing Scary Scenes (practical guides for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance, Dragons: Ten Tales of Fiery Beasts and more.
Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat sanctuary. His name is Sulu and he’s the perfect cat for a writer – except when he claims ownership of her keyboard.
Amazon’s Rayne Hall page: http://www.amazon.com/Rayne-Hall/e/B006BSJ5BK/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Short video: Ten Random Facts About Rayne Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXR4ThBrEFg
Hey folks! Thanks for dropping in today to read about Rori Shay’s experience with editors (yep, it’s plural), and her new book ELECTED. But before we dive into her interview, there’s another part of Rori’s story that is both heartbreaking and motivating.
Rori received an offer on her manuscript, went through the editing process, got a cover, prepared marketing materials, and then BAM! Her publisher shut their doors just a few weeks prior to her release date. (Remember, the heart break I mentioned? I can guarantee that’s what it would feel like). But, Rori was determined her book would go out on schedule and with the help of Silence in the Library, a small independent publisher, ELECTED released on Earth Day (you’ll understand the significance when your read the synopsis below her interview).
Good story, huh?
All right. On to the interview!
BW: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your book.
RS: Sure! I write only part-time and actually wrote the first two books of the ELECTED trilogy on maternity leave. I live in the Washington, D.C. area with my husband, kid, 90 lb black lab Gerry, and long-haired cat, Misch-misch. I love reading fiction–it’s like eating to me. Storytelling has been in my blood since I was young and my parents read me books each night. I made up stories even all the way back to kindergarten, and my mom wrote them down until I could write them all myself.
ELECTED is about a girl who has to masquerade as a boy to take her country’s presidential role in the future. It’s set in Washington, D.C. after a global eco-crisis left the earth pretty destitute. Aloy has to conceal her gender to take her father’s place as the ELECTED and marry a woman to keep the cover. The story has a love triangle, but instead of the typical girl and two guys, it’s a love triangle with both a girl and boy liking Aloy.
BW: When an offer is made on your manuscript, do you get to talk to the editor right away? Do they give you an overall vision for the story or do they wait till the editorial letter?
RS: In my cases (two publishers) I talked to the editor right away. They’re the ones determining if they want to work with the story and selling it to their publishing team, so they talk to the author early on. Yes, you talk about vision for the story right away so you know as the author if you want to sign on with them. If they want to make drastic changes in storyline you might not be up for that. So it’s a discussion right from the beginning.
BW: Do you have a specific method that helps you work through your editorial letter
RS: This question is a complicated one for me. I’ve had so many different editors, and they never exactly used a “letter”. It was more changes made right in the body of the text, and I look at it all once really quickly and then go through item by item.
BW: How have you seen your writing change as you’ve worked with an editor?
RS: Definitely! I’ve learned so much about style and filling gaps in the storyline. My editors have all been fantastic!
BW: Is there any step/trick/secret you learned with your first novel that you will apply to all the others? Any specific mistakes you know now to avoid?
RS: I learned to write for all five senses so that the writing is more rich for a reader. I want the reader to be able to feel, smell, hear, etc. what I’m describing
BW: Can you give us one special piece of wisdom that will help our manuscripts sparkle? Or maybe a hint of what you think editors are looking for?
RS: Hmmm..one piece of wisdom…I think it’s the answer for number 5–writing for all the senses. Not just saying something happened but showing it and letting the reader picture it all in their imagination.
BW: I love visceral writing! The kind that can make you smell the flowers in the air and taste the macaroons (or…whatever). Thank you so much, Rori!
The Kickstarter to this book will be available today here. You will be able to get a copy of ELECTED in hardcover and/or paperback with a free ebook, a lot of special limited-edition items and other free books. Don’t wait, get your copy today!
ELECTED by Rori Shay
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Publisher:Silence in the Library Publishing
Blurb: It’s the year 2185, and in two weeks, Aloy will turn eighteen and take her father’s place as president of the country. But to do so, she must masquerade as a boy to avoid violating the Eco-Accords, four treaties designed to bring the world back from the brink of environmental extinction. Aloy hopes to govern like her father, but she is inheriting a different country. The long concealed Technology Faction is stepping out of the shadows, and as turmoil grows within her country, cryptic threats also arrive from beyond the borders.
As she struggles to lead, Aloy maintains her cover by marrying a woman, mean-while battling feelings for the boy who knows her secret – the boy who is somehow connected to her country’s recent upheaval. When assassination attempts add to the turmoil, Aloy doesn’t know whom to trust. She understood leadership required sacrifice. She just didn’t realize the sacrifice might be her life.
About the Author: Rori Shay is an author living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, daugh-ters, black lab, and cat – just not quite in the same exciting circumstances as ELECTED’s main character, Aloy. She enjoys running, gardening, reading, doing yoga, and volunteering with the Dwelling Place non-profit. Rori is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!
~Kindle ~Items seen in ELECTED such as a marriage binding (temporary tattoo) ~Hemlock soap ~Necklace as seen in ELECTED ~Signed paperback copy of ELECTED ~Optional FaceTime or Skype session with the author for 1/2 an hour (can be used one-on-one or at the winner’s book club, etc.)