Editing… Tweaking… And Romantic Comedies…

So, a lot has happened recently. Just to recap, I now have had feedback from three people about Not Famous, and I’m currently in the process of editing and tweaking the manuscript to incorporate their suggestions. It’s been a slow process, mostly because I’ve been allowing myself extra time between editing sessions to help see it from fresh eyes each time.

There’s also something else. I shared my book description with author Jon Rance to see what he thought. He sent back some suggestions, which were great. (I’ll reveal the next iteration of the book description later, btw.)  The last line which he wrote did get me thinking though…

Not Famous is a funny and full of heart romantic comedy about finding true love against all the odds.

“Romantic comedy” is not a genre I had been thinking about because I didn’t really think of my novel as a comedy. I see it as a serious story with some humor in it. Anyway, I decided to look into this “romantic comedy” genre a bit more. So, I went to Wikipedia, where it defined romantic comedy as “a genre with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles.”

The basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two characters meet, part ways due to an argument or other obstacle, then ultimately realize their love for one another and reunite. Sometimes the two leads meet and become involved initially, then must confront challenges to their union. Sometimes they are hesitant to become romantically involved because they believe that they do not like each other, because one of them already has a partner, or because of social pressures. However, the screenwriters leave clues that suggest that the characters are, in fact, attracted to each other and that they would be a good love match. The protagonists often separate or seek time apart to sort out their feelings or deal with the external obstacles to their being together, only to later come back together.

Now, this doesn’t describe the plot of my novel by far, but it definitely still fits the basic tone and some key elements. I’ve been hung up on the word comedy a bit too much, I think. Further down I read a subsection discussing more serious-toned romantic comedies, something called a “meet cute” situation, and I’m starting to think this is actually the genre the book belongs in.

Of course, while I’ve written several lines of dialogue and situations meant to be humorous, I do think that to earn its rightful place in the “romantic comedy”  genre it might need to amp up the humor a bit. Of course, it might more accurately be considered a “romantic comedy-drama” (yeah, that’s a thing, see the entry for Silver Linings Playbook) but I think by putting in a touch more humor might make me comfortable with labeling Not Famous a romantic comedy-drama.

So, yeah… Jon Rance, you were even more helpful than you realized!


Beta-Reader Update #6

When Jon Rance reviewed a few sample chapters of Not Famous for me a while back he told me, “One of the first things I was told by my publishers is that most of your readers are women. You need to appeal to women as well as men.”

So, I decided to find another female beta-reader. It took a while to find one, but I did, and she is currently reading the manuscript and has already given me some great feedback.

After reading the prologue and first chapter she said she was “intrigued,” which I considered a great sign.

After reading more, she told me, “You are really spot on with dialogue. It reads as people speak. So hard but important.” She also commended my descriptions of the characters.

She did recommend cutting/changing an interior monologue by the main character she felt disrupted the flow and recommended using that time to have the main character focus more on his waiting for his love interest to show up at Starbucks where she works.

The prologue of the novel goes into the main character Nick’s failed marriage proposal to his longtime girlfriend, but, my new beta-reader told me “I know that he isn’t happy with the outcome of his proposal, but I haven’t gotten a sense of the depth of that disappointment. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, we should have an idea. I know you have completed it, but I want more from him.” I will have to address that.

One thing I’m glad I haven’t heard is any complaints that the main character wasn’t likeable enough. Both my first beta-reader and Jon Rance felt that was something I needed to work on, so much of the changes in this current draft addressed his unlikeability. I am hoping this means I was successful in achieving that.

Beta-Reader Update #5

So, my second beta-reader has given me some quick, general feedback. The most significant one being that I need to axe some adverbs. It appears that I’ve overused several and need to cut a bunch out.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Adverbs like clearly, obviously, actually were frequent and numerous, and I’ve cut out probably 90 percent of them. It’s crazy to use the Find function in Microsoft Word and see just how many instances of these offending words are.

This is what’s great about beta-readers… They catch things you don’t see, and different readers find different things. Keep in mind I still haven’t given my manuscript to the person who will actually be editing.

Writing My Book Blurb…

My novel is now in the hands of my second beta-reader. While I’m taking another step away from the manuscript I’ve decided it’s time to start working on the book blurb/description.

Which has been a lot harder than I thought.

I started a couple weeks ago, and my first attempt was shared with a private Facebook group for feedback. I got a lot of construtive criticism and suggestions. I’ve been tweaking quite a bit since, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Nick Forrester thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with his longtime girlfriend—until he proposes. Instead of engaged, he winds up humiliated and alone. He only realizes he’s ready to stop licking his wounds and start dating again when he meets Alli Conwell, a socially awkward 19-year-old Starbucks barista who might just be the next Taylor Swift.

Alli moved to Boston to make a name for herself on the local music scene. She’s ambitious, talented and determined to succeed on her own terms. But Nick soon learns that Alli has a mysterious side as well, and she’s strangely secretive about her life before moving to the city. As their relationship blossoms, so do tensions created by the past she’s trying to hide and the past he’s trying to forget. Will their secrets bring them closer together or tear them apart?

So, what do you think?

[NOTE: Blurb has been updated to reflect suggestions my from my first beta-reader and other tweaks.]

A Little Advice From Jon Rance

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been posting regular updates of the writing and editing process of my novel Not Famous. I’ve recently had a beta-reader give me her thoughts, and following her comments and input, I made some tweaks and trimmed out more than 10,000 words from the manuscript to tighten things up and address certain issues.

Bestselling author Jon Rance, who follows me on Twitter, has noticed my updates and kindly offered to check out the first few chapters.

After some recent tweaking (I moved some backstory from Chapter 2 to a new prologue) I sent him a sample last night, and this morning he sent me back some comments and a marked up Word doc.  His comments and insight were great, and I’ve begun taking his advice into improving the first few chapters, and will be spending the next week revisiting the rest of the manuscript.

Like my beta-reader, he found that I hadn’t made the main character likeable enough. I had made a point to put him in a pretty bad place in order to give him a starting point for significant growth, but apparently went too far in that I made him someone readers couldn’t root for. Obviously that is still something I have to work on before I send the manuscript off to the next beta-reader.

Rance was sure to clarify that despite the extensive markups, he told me he liked what he had seen. “You can write and it’s clear you have a story to tell.”

So, I’ve got work ahead me in the next round of edits. Hopefully I’ll be done within a week.

Thanks again to Jon Rance for taking the time to not only read the first few chapters of my novel, but to mark them up and write a detailed review for me.  I look forward to making this novel worthy of publication!

Post-Beta-Reader Editing Part 2

A few days ago I reported that I was editing my novel with the goal of reducing the nearly 109,000 word manuscript down to  less than 100,000.

Today I can report that I succeeded in that goal.

After two passes of edits, the manuscript went from 108,952 words to 98,727 — a reduction of 10,225 words!

I have to say I’m amazed that I could do it. I actually found the process much easier than I expected—even fun. I knew that by cutting out redundancies and extraneous details and dialogue that I was making the manuscript stronger. I was also able to fix various issues I discovered, such an inconsistencies and minor errors. Of course, I also implemented some suggestions from my beta reader to make the main character more likable.

I still have some editorial revisions to make, some suggestions to review, and I’ve decided to restructure the first three chapter to help create a better hook for readers.  But, I have to say, I’m excited about the progress that has been made, and, as corny as this sounds, I’m proud of myself for succeeding cutting as much as I have.

Post-Beta-Reader Editing Part 1

Well, I’ve been keeping busy since getting all the feedback from my beta-reader on my novel Not Famous. As I mentioned before, I got some great feedback, and I’ve already started going through the comments in the manuscript, making suggested changes.

In addition to some editorial tweaks suggested by the beta-reader, I was advised to go through the manuscript, clean up redundancies and tighten things up a bit. My plan is to reduce the word count of my manuscript as much as possible by making passages more efficient and cutting things that just aren’t necessary. The manuscript as it was when I got it back from my beta-reader was just under 109,000 words. My goal in this editing phase is to bring it down as close to 100,000 words as I can. At the end of today I got it down to about 106,600 words. So, I’ve managed to trim about 2,400 words in a day. Not bad. There’s more work to be done though.

I know a target word count of 100,000 is still considered pretty high.  Best-selling author Jon Rance saw my recent blog post via Twitter and told me the following:

Can I get my manuscript down to 90,000 words or less? I’m thinking probably not. Okay, I know it’s possible because even though I tried to make every scene matter, I know some scenes, if I was writing for a publisher would likely be recommended for the chopping block. I even thought my beta-reader would call some out. She didn’t, but after telling her a few scenes I thought she might have suggested be cut she agreed that a couple scenes featuring a minor character were, in her opinion “extraneous.”  I can see why she said so, but I still feel at this time this minor character is still necessary and I’m hoping I can reach my target word count without cutting those scenes.

Anyway, if I can get the manuscript down to 100,000 words I’ll be happy. I’m not cutting stuff just to cut it either. Reading through the manuscript again after a break has given me the opportunity to see it with fresh eyes, and I’m definitely finding it easier to pick out parts that were unnecessary and negatively affecting the pace of the story. I’m tightening dialogue, trimming scenes… anything to improve the efficiency of the writing.