NaNoPubMo: Day -9 and Counting

Probably most of my two dozen semi-regular readers have heard of NaNoWriMo — National Novel-Writing Month. The idea is to encourage anyone and everyone to write a novel. November is NaNoWriMo. If you write 2,000 words a day, at the end of the month you’ll have a 60,000-word manuscript. That’s novel-length. Whether your novel will be any good — well, let’s not be too fussy about that. Getting people to tackle such an ambitious project is a terrific idea, and almost anyone will learn valuable lessons by doing it.

I already have several novels ready to go, so I don’t need to do any writing at the moment. I am therefore declaring November my personal NaNoPubMo. Self-publishing is more of a challenge for me than writing. I suspect that having the incentive of a successful NaNoPubMo dangling before me will be very helpful.

Today I’m proceeding through the final edits in Book II of my four-volume epic fantasy. I’m also continuing to mull over the perplexing business of cover art for the series. I need to make a decision about hiring a cover designer, and soon.

There’s no shortage of professional cover designers. Prices average in the $200-$600 range per cover. That’s not cheap, but I can afford it, and I want something good. (I’m not a graphic designer; doing it myself would be a tragic mistake.) I’ve emailed a couple of them already to ask about discount pricing for a four-book series.

The difficulty is, I don’t actually like any of the cover art that these designers display in their portfolios. Nor do I like the cover art I’m seeing on Amazon. There’s a distressing sameness to it. If you want your book to stand out in a virtual bookstore, to pique the customer’s curiosity, why would you want your book to look like everybody else’s?

My series is certainly fantasy, and it’s certainly an epic, but it’s not epic fantasy, if you see what I mean. There are no knights in chain mail hacking at one another. The covers for fantasy novels are typically dark. They typically have one human figure, either large and facing forward, or smaller and facing away from the viewer. The background behind the figure is usually ominous or turbulent. The images are always full-bleed, a technical term that means they run straight out to the edge. And the cover type (the title and author name) is almost always centered.

The conventional wisdom in cover-design circles seems to be that that’s what works. But does it really work? If everybody is doing it the same way, where would we get statistics on how well it works compared to other possibilities?

So that’s one process. On channel two, the editing is going well. Aspiring writers are urged to hire a professional editor, and that’s very good advice! I’m ignoring it. I spent 30 years as a professional editor. Of nonfiction, it’s true, and my typing is sloppier than it was when I was younger, so a few odd mistakes may creep in — but honestly, I don’t see the need to shell out $5,000 or more for an edit of an entire four-volume epic. Grammar, punctuation, and word usage I’ve got nailed down cold.

As I go along, I’m taking notes of possible continuity problems. In Book I, Dahilio Rundel (the chief villain) refers to the Lady Siallon as “my associate.” But I’m pretty sure in Book IV it turns out she’s his aunt. My memory is good, but rather than flip back and forth across 1,200 pages, I’m taking notes. When I get to the end, I’ll go back and tidy up a few things of this sort.

In Book II Spindler loses his pistol, but in Book III he definitely has a pistol. I need to know where he got a new one. [Spoiler alert.] At the end of Book I Kyura (my main heroine) is heroically galloping off bareback on a white horse, but a post in the SFWA forum yesterday pointed out that horses are not vehicles. Riding a horse is a skill. What’s worse, I had Kyura jump from the back of the horse onto a moving train. In thinking over her serious lack of skill at riding, it occurred to me that you can’t jump from the back of a horse unless there are stirrups! All you can do is slide off. So I had to change the details of the scene.

That’s how NaNoPubMo is going today. Join me tomorrow for a fresh bulletin!

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