My Editing Dilemma

I cannot stress this to myself enough: don’t stress too much about errors.

As an independent writer, it is a daunting task to get a work edited. Either it takes time (a whole lot of precious time), patience (it takes patience and time), and/or lot’s of money (to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it riiiight!) in order to properly edit a book.

I don’t have any of the three.

However, even if all three align all at the same time there is absolutely no guarantee that a story will be error free in any sense of the word. There are just too many variables. And the more complicated the story (like my sci-fi saga Gravity) the more opportunity there is for something to be wrong.

Think of it in numbers. At a 0.1% failure rate, a 50,000 word book would have 50 errors in an error to word ratio. This calculation is strictly a wrong word, misspelling, etc basically stating that there can be 50 words in error and the book will only have a 0.1% failure rate. That sounds fantastic. But those errors can stick out like sore thumbs.

We as writers expect ZERO. And we believe that our readers expect the same.

It is a tall order. Most first drafts are riddled with errors. Everything from misspellings to wrong comma uses are there. That isn’t even counting continuity and character development. I’ve made the mistake of noting a character’s eye color and then forgetting that I did only later to choose a different color… and never correcting the mistake. I caught that particular one in my very-long-and-drawn-out-yet-extremely-flawed editing session, but more like that can go to print.

Unless the reader is a grammar stickler, most errors actually will go unnoticed to the average reader. Put a comma in the wrong place and Marysue from Wichita, Kansas probably won’t bat an eye. A grammar-nazi might want you (the writer) hung from the rafters for such an oversight.

Even a few “major publishing house” novels I have recently read had errors that made me do a few double-takes. But what was most important in this lesson to myself is that although I spotted the errors, they didn’t suck me out of the story or make me just say “to hell with this book.” I still enjoyed the stories.

And I certainly do not write for the grammar aficionados anyway. I write for myself and those who would be touched in some positive way by my stories. Besides, even Grammar Girl has mentioned on multiple occasions that often the “hard-and-fast” rules aren’t really “hard-and-fast” depending on which grammar nut you talk to. That means that grammar is often as subjective as the enjoyment of the book itself.

But I digress.

As a writer I have copious amounts of anxiety about my stories. No matter how good I might feel that they might be, I just know there are too many errors to let go into the world. (Even if I can’t find them). It is the plight of the perfectionist: we stymie our forward progression because we get so damn caught up in our need for perfection that we actually trip ourselves up and ruin progress.

I tell myself this all of the time: it isn’t about perfection; it is about the movement towards perfection.

None of the 5 pieces of work that I have out now (click up to “books” up in the menu to see them, or over to the left… yeah, you see them now… buy them… buy ALL of them) will be quite as good as books I write 10 years from now. In fact I will likely cringe when I look back at them later. All I can ask is that they be as good as I can make them now knowing what I do now.

But that doesn’t stop me from holding up 3 stories that are almost ready to go so that I can keep on tearing them apart.

My recently published book “The Good Teacher” is a loud example of a book that I spent too long trying to perfect. Only recently did I give it one more quick read and then closed my eyes to push it out the door hoping it would fly. (It has yet to fly, but that has more to do with my being unknown to this point. I cannot get the feedback to challenge otherwise.)

To this point though, no matter how much editing one can apply to a book, there are only a few items that really matter:

  1. Your readers enjoy the story
  2. You enjoy the story
  3. What can you do better next time, or what can you learn for next time.

Reading is about the experience, so beyond those three things I don’t think anything else matters.

The Best Piece of Writing Advice I’ve Found

(pic links to source)
(pic links to source)

It was from Ernest Hemingway. At the time that I read it, I admittedly sneered at it. Regardless, it stuck in my mind. Now I understand what it meant and why it is so important.

“I have learned already never to empty the well of my writing.”

Never leave yourself empty.

Monday this past week I did just that. And it has been difficult as hell to get it back. It threw off everything. The problem has been NaNoWriMo; although, I cannot blame the activity itself, I can only blame myself.

Prior to the month I was working on getting myself back up to writing every day. Word count wasn’t important. What was important was just the activity of writing. In that activity I found that if I left myself with at least one idea, just a little bit of fuel, for the next day, the next day’s writing went considerably smoother. It was a conservation of energy of sorts.

Before I started applying that advice, I would attempt to write until I just couldn’t write anymore. That meant either I couldn’t think of a damn word to write, or I would just pass-out through exhaustion and my last sentence would look like weq wet44 krewgkrgq 3rrgg3rrth.

During a 10 day sprint with my last completed yet to be published project “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle, I wrote over 22,000 words and without fully realizing, it was heavily due to my following that advice.

Sure, there were other factors at play, but every day I had something still in the tank for the next day. It stopped when that well began to run dry.

NaNoWriMo is like a sprint. Everyday a participant would try to write upwards of 1667 words or more. To me that isn’t very difficult except to keep it up for more than a week. Anyway, Monday I went to a write-in for NaNoWriMo. It was an interesting experience, but one that I don’t think that I will repeat. The crux of it was that we all were helping each other to write and write fast. Well and above my normal pace, I was able to pound out 559 words in 18 minutes. It cost me a lot of energy though. Plus I am fairly certain that the writing itself was sub-par.

I exhausted myself though. At first I thought that was a great feeling, like coming out of an intense workout at the gym (I am a gym rat so this reference works for me). Unlike my body that I can just refuel with protein shakes and food, the creative mind isn’t so forgiving. I burned myself out. Now I have spent the last 4 days (as of writing this on Friday) trying to get it back.

It is getting there, but now I will have to be much more careful in these activities so I don’t ruin tomorrow in favor of today’s word count.

Of Earth and Ice – On Hold

This will be quick:

I am putting Of Earth and Ice on hold until early 2016. My reasoning is that I let my eye off of the ball and missed my posting for episode 8 on November 1st. Furthermore, I realize that it isn’t ready anyway. But now I am eyeballs-deep in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and cannot afford the additional distraction. Also, once the month is over (and provided I actually finish this particular project) I will then have 3 projects in need for editing, 2 novels (Mazzy and The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle) and 1 novella (Gravity 3). I cannot keep holding onto projects waiting to get them prepped and ready. Both Gravity and Agnes will need sequels written next as well.

Of Earth and Ice is a fun project for me, but one that I cannot let get in the way of the other things I am trying to do. For the very few of you who read it so far, be patient. I do have a plan and I know where I am going to go, I just need the time for other things right now.

And if you haven’t read it yet, now’s your chance to catch up.

Rethinking a Cover

My last book is a problem.

When I published “The Good Teacher,” the cover I designed was about 95% of how I envisioned it. That’s near perfection coming from a guy still learning to photoshop and trying to revive his former artistic self. But it wasn’t good enough.

When I published it, my wife immediately commented that she didn’t like it. To tell you the truth, that angered me quite a bit and for some time, I virtually dumped off that book and pretended that I hadn’t even published it trying to ignore what my wife had told me.

It meant no marketing, no acknowledgment beyond just having my name on it.

My wife was right. (Don’t tell her. She doesn’t need more evidence to support her cause.) There was something wrong with the cover. I was too caught up with my own happiness that I was even able to come so close to what I have envisioned in the first place that I didn’t want to realize that my original vision was wrong.

I put the wrong cover on the book.

Looking at it now, it just doesn’t fit the story.

Not to mention that since I no longer am bound by my own stubbornness, I see that the cover simply doesn’t draw you in. It’s a problem with a) doing it yourself and b) doing it yourself. All of my vetting was done via me. Those who knew the story and who have read it weren’t consulted on the cover short of a verbal description… which simply does not hold up to seeing a picture and finding out whether or not it draws you in or suits the story.

In the end, my cover just doesn’t work.

So now what?

Here’s an advantage of being indie: I can re-do it with little issue. And I plan to. No committee. No financial cost (unless I choose to pay someone). No departmental bureaucracy to push through.

I have another two images in mind. While I am steadily working through my other stories, I will design a few drafts of the new cover and vett it. Then maybe by 2016, I will have a new cover. One that fits the story a little better.

The Right Tools

This particular post has nothing to do with writing, but rather I want to talk about another hobby that I’ve been increasing my activity in: weightlifting.

I’ve been working out  seriously for just under a year. I’ve been a gym rat before, but not until I turned 35 did I finally return after nearly a decade of being a lazy slacker. Apart from time (as I only really have up to an hour a day to devote to fitness 5 days a week), there hasn’t been a whole lot that has impeded my progress… except if you count my deadlifts.

Now one thing you should know is that I have messed up hands. (See pictures.) They are a birth defect. In most cases, they don’t really stop me unless you count one’s ability to give another the finger.

Because of this though, I have trouble holding onto heavier weights. In my deadlift in particular, I maxed out at around 245-lbs for 3 almost-full sets. My grip would simply give-out. Have me do it on a wide-grip bar and it might be a half set if I am lucky, so they were off-limits to begin with.

My partner in crime, a fellow writer and lifter who is impeded by a pinched nerve in his back has been trying to get me to wear a belt while lifting so I don’t throw out my back as my sets get upwards of 300-lbs on squats and over 200-lbs on deadlifts. Finally this week I picked up a belt.

Squats are easy for me though (not easy since pushing up 300-lbs is damn difficult, but rather for my hands as I rest the bar across my upper back and shoulders to do the exercise). Wearing the belt here was great for me as it helped me focus on the right muscles for the workout and lessened any (compression) strain I have on my back. But it isn’t the belt that I am most happy with.

When I picked up the belt I also picked up another tool that I have only recently discovered for myself: weightlifting straps. Let me just say: I love these things. Thursday morning when I had my 2nd leg day for the week scheduled and when I perform deadlifts I tried them out for the first time. With them I was able to work the 3 full sets plus extra reps (as I go to fail in most cases) with no problem. Then I was able to get 3 more lifts at 325-lbs. All this was done with the dreaded wide-grip bar. My grip held. Almost a year ago I struggled to lift 135-lbs and now I lifted a bar weighing 325-lbs without issue. I could have gone heavier for the single lift.

Like with anything else, selective the right tool impacted my abilities in ways I hadn’t anticipated. And now that I have them, I hope to push myself even farther than I had thought possible.

What Is This Obsession With Word Count?

Hi. My name is Jeremy, and I am obsessed with word count.

This shouldn’t surprise most writers, because every writer that I have ever met has (to some level) been obsessed with word-count.

And why not? It is a measurable and quantifiable statistic that can allow a writer to gauge how well (*cough*) how much they are writing. It also tells how much they have left to write on a given project provided they set a target. It is easy. And did I say it’s measurable? Yes, I see that I did.

I have gone in-and-out of tracking it on a daily basis trying to figure out where I was. Mostly it was a way to force myself to write by having a goal and trying to stick to it. Also it got me to be competitive by trying to beat out my best days. But alas, it seems to go too far sometimes. Where I might write junk on the side just to get my creative juices warmed up and flowing, I would start writing junk within my stories just to increase my count.

But with regards to stories, do we really need to strive for these huge word counts?

I have one friend that said that he had to reach 80K words in his manuscript. I asked him why that goal was important and the response I received: editors want to see at least 80K words before they’ll even consider it. They want a large enough story that has room to chop off a large portion.


How I read that was that there is crap being intentionally written into the story in order to satisfy a) an imaginary target word count and b) to satisfy some editor’s jolly word chopping fetish. As novels technically range 45K words and up (an arbitrary figure in my mind), that could mean that 35K words of the story my friend is writing could be cut out and it will still satisfy the classification of ‘a novel.’ Extreme, I know. Realistically I see it ending up only losing 10K to 15K, but still. Even that means that 12% or more of what was written is assumed to be expendable… while it’s being written!

I am not sure of anyone else, but my goal is to have as lean a cut as possible. I don’t write thinking that 1 out of every 8 words I write will be trimmed. If I could get away with not losing one word, I will target that. I never like writing thinking that ‘oh, this will be good to cut out later.’ If I knew that an editor for a major publisher would want to cut 5% out of my book right off the bat (because he or she has some strange need to do so), my challenge would be writing so that it makes the job of deciding what 5% to cut impossible.

Knowing these goals of mine, why would I then still care about word count? Why would anyone worry about word count?

From my own research into word count I have found that many publishers and writers are virtually expecting that novels be at least 80K words, but preferably closer to 100K. YA novels expect to be 65K words. This could be off-base, but there is not a whole lot to debunk this. Even this week I read a post by Rebecca Rogers Maher titled “I write short books on purpose.” where she spoke right on point with how I feel about this. She tries to keep her stories around 50K where it seems everyone else in her genre (contemporary romance) strives for 90K words. As a reader she laments books that have large sections ripe for skimming rather than reading. I couldn’t agree with her more. Why do I want to read in-depth details that have no true bearing on either the character’s growth or the plot in general? Maybe in some genres it can be soothing to the reader, but I just don’t get it.

An argument that she puts forth is that larger books sell more, meaning that larger books are what readers want. I would argue that it is false. I would love a large book that is engrossing from the beginning, but even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (a book I wanted to be at ungodly lengths) had unbearably large sections that just went on and on and on boring me to tears. I want a large book, but I want the whole of it to be great. If it isn’t, I find it tough to push myself through.

The longest book that I have written so far is an as-yet-to-be-released YA adventure that peaked at 75K words. That was a struggle. If I was going after 100K, I would have ended up writing 25K words of dribble. Who knows where the story will end up after editing, but it will not be 66K words (a 12% trim) I am sure. There will be sections to cut, but the first pass made by an editor friend was that I needed more in sections to slow the pacing down. So it might grow, albeit likely not by much. It certainly will not swell to 100K.

Using word count as just a tool to measure daily writing goals for practice or to help pace one’s writing is a great use of it. Once the story is complete, it is useful to also see what format the story will be presented in. Will be be a vignette (less than 1,000 words), a short story, a novelette, a novella, or a novel? But no matter what, if we allow word count to be one of the primary measures of a story, than we begin to allow the urge to make the story fit the length rather than letting the length fit the story. I don’t know about most people, but I would take a short, tightly written book over a large book any day. That is what I am trying to write anyway.

But maybe that’s just me.

Couldn’t They Just Smile?

I like celebrity gossip. It’s a once-in-a-while guilty pleasure I indulge in. I do not have any misnomers that these are people any different than you or I, only that they have a lifestyle that begs of them to be seen and heard no matter the circumstances. And many of them have jobs that I would rather have than my own (until I become a full career writer that is).

While perusing over some of the latest gossip I clicked upon an article discussing the new “fish gape” look on the red carpet. Not too long ago it was the “duck face,” that pursed lipped attempt at creating a sexy, smoldering look.

What ever happened to just smiling?

Seriously… someone takes your picture, smile! Why do we have to continually contort our faces into these ridiculous looks for all of these photos? Why can’t we smile?

In my opinion, no matter the confidence level, smiling trumps the “fish gape” or the “duck face” or any other weird named lip thing no matter what.

Just smile. Please.

Of Earth and Ice – Episode 7

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

7: Fresh Wounds

The water stung as it washed over Evie’s wounds.  She winced, but she tried letting the feeling soothe her.  After some time the stinging subsided and gave way to a dull throbbing.

Gerald dipped the sponge into the basin of water and drew it out shaking off the excess back into the tub each time before trying to soothe her lover’s wounds.  She had to sneak the water in from her own stores, and although she had plenty to spare, if she was caught it would not mean well for her.

Evie was naked sitting on the cold, wet floor.  Her wounds weren’t too deep, but the bruises on her back and head were terrible.  The one on her head accompanied a large, uncomfortable welt.

“Why didn’t you notify me?” Gerald asked. “I’d’ve dropped everything to help you.”

Those were the first words either had said since Gerald had arrived at her quarters. When she first saw the injuries, she cried and held Evie. Evie remained stoic, still unsure of how to respond to the attack.

“It’s getting too dangerous, Gerry,” Evie said meekly.  “I can’t have you thinking you can keep saving me.  I can fight this myself.”

“How?  Why are you trying to fight this?” Evie quietly sobbed as the words left her lover’s lips.  She felt rudderless where only a day before she felt headstrong and certain of her path. Only one certainty remained steady in Evie’s mind: she needed to relearn how to fight.

Gerald continued, “I want you to stay alive.  I can’t let you fight this if it means that I am going to lose you.”

Evie didn’t reply. She sat quietly trying to push back the emotions that were swelling inside her.

Gerald continued bathing Evie and her wounds before bandaging them with some of the leftover gauze from Evie’s prior wounds.  Her fingers then ran gently along the scars carved into Evie’s back.  Though terrifying in appearance, Gerald found the scars oddly intriguing.  They spoke of Evie’s perseverance, of her strength.  It was something that though Gerald had always been noted as having by her peers, she felt that she knew nothing about.

Embarrassed by the feeling, she quietly draped a towel over Evie giving her a kiss on the shoulder before covering it up.  She didn’t want Evie to recognize that there was anything wrong. Evie however felt that it was all very wrong.

Evie’s mind continued to race from thought to thought, from pain to fear. Nothing in the world made any sense to her in the moment. She knew always that there was bad blood between the castes that her appointment had brought on, but now she felt threatened by it. But the threats only emboldened her resolve.

The matter only left Gerald in the mists of her fears. Evie loved her so very much. They had enjoyed years of comfortably lying together without notice. It felt so very wrong now, as if it were a limb crushed by a force and no longer able to function properly. Evie wanted to cut it off, but more than being beaten alive, it frightened her.

“I don’t want you to fight for me anymore, Gerry,” Evie said. She gripped the edges of the towel with her remaining fingers and pulled it tighter around her.

Gerald stood abruptly and stepped back. “What are you talking about?  Why not?” She knew why her lover said it, she knew it was right, but the words still struck her the same.

“This is not your fight now. I have to prove myself. I can’t let you risk your position, your life, for me.”

“That’s my choice.”

Evie stood up, pulling herself away from Gerald.  “No, it’s my choice. You have to give me this. I cannot possibly do this with you. I cannot have you in my head.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Evie took a deep breath trying to muster the strength to say the words that she was trying to eject from her. They were words that she didn’t want to say. “I don’t want to be thinking about you when I am trying to do this. You distract me.”

“I love you, Evie,” Gerald retorted angrily. “How is that a distraction?! I want to help you!”

Evie shook her head. A single tear

Gerald stepped back. Though her face remained steady, unwielding, her eyes began to glisten showing what the words meant to her. She said nothing more.

Feeling ashamed as she realized the meaning of what she said, Evie turned away. “I think you should go,” she found herself saying aloud.

Silence was all that followed. Gerald quietly made her way out of Evie’s quarters.

After a few moments Evie turned to witness the now empty living space before her. Regret immediately took hold.

She knew that it was the right thing to do for right now, but it felt so wrong.

Evie wept.


Previous Episode – 6: The Run | Next Episode coming early 2016

The Question is: Do I Even Care?

Last week I released a new book, my first printed novel, “The Good Teacher.” As expected, I’ve sold 0 copies so far. But what do I expect. I posted only two or three notices about it and otherwise I have been quiet.

While I am tempted to blame everyone around me, I found myself asked Do I even care? Apparently I do not.

Simply put: books do not get discovered purely on chance. There are many that have had strange meteoric rising, but I would be shocked to be shown an example of a book that sells 0 copies to suddenly millions without a single peep. The point is, as a writer, I need to get people to read what I write. This doesn’t happen through osmosis. Once a book is on the market some ratio of people don’t suddenly flock to it and read it.

What keeps people away from reading? It is simple: knowledge. If someone doesn’t even know about the existence of the book there would be no chance of choice being put into the equation.

That is why I ask the question of whether or not I even care. How can anyone else care if I show no effort into showing that I have something for people to read?

The cover makes no difference.

The blurb makes no difference.

Nothing makes a difference if there is no one that even knows that it is available to read. It is the deathstroke to a new writer: not speaking about the book.

Everything else after that can be argued down to aesthetics such as is the cover catchy? Does the blurb pique interest? Is the title good?

I need to prove my question wrong and talk about my books. I need to show I care. Once that happens… well then I can figure out why I am still selling 0 copies.

Now Batting…

Now Batting…

a short story by Jeremy C Kester

All of the noise appeared to simply disappear as his foot first kicked the dirt in front of him.  For so many years, Lucas developed the ability to adhere his focus to the pitcher when he was at the plate.  This time was no different.  This time would be his last.  His brow furrowed.  His teeth clenched. Around the bat, his fingers tightened against the weight of it.  A few slow, deliberate swings adjusted all of his muscles into place.

Surrounding him, the roars of the crowds deafened the ballpark.  A feeling of excitement grew within them.  It was the final inning of the game and he was the first up to the plate.  A legend was before them for the last time.

The pitcher nodded as he received the sign from the catcher.  Lucas expected a fastball low and inside.  It was the pitch that tempted him most, but often he only felt air against the end of his bat.

“I’m ready,” Lucas muttered under his breath.

“You ready, old timer?” the catcher taunted.

Lucas ignored it.  The pitcher reared back.  Lucas caught a glimpse of the arm’s speed and angle.  Fastball.  He swung.

Change-up, low and outside.

“FOUL BALL!” the umpire yelled.

Lucas adjusted his helmet.  It hadn’t been what he expected.  Cheering wildly, the crowd recovered quickly from the brief letdown of a foul.  He glanced around allowing the energy to breathe into his lungs.  He stepped back into the box and performed the few slow, deliberate swings again.

Change-up again, high and outside.  Swinging again, only air met the bat.

“STRIKE!” the umpire yelled.

Two strikes.  Fading into his own mind, he closed his eyes again.  The crowd had gone silent once more in his mind.  Years of the game collected into a single dream before him.  When he opened his eyes, he saw her.

Somehow, through the sea of unrecognizable faces, her’s stood out. All that he was thinking disappeared as he forgot for the moment where he even was.  Her hands rested right below her chin with the look of worry, of hope directed at him.

When had been the last time he saw her?  When had she talked to him last?

“You playing, son? C’mon,” urged the umpire somewhat impatiently.  The catcher said something snide, but Lucas couldn’t hear it.  He shook his head and looked again, not believing for a moment that she would have been watching, that she would be there.  Indeed, she stood there, her eyes now closed appearing as though she was praying.

Repeating his usual swings, he found that there was nothing suddenly routine.  Memories flooded his mind and he couldn’t shake it.  All that he saw was her face.

Leaning forward at the ready, the pitcher nodded once more to the catcher.  He went from the stretch…

Fastball.  Low and inside.

All that Lucas saw was her as he swung.

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Now Batting… by Jeremy C Kester is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at