Hunt the Stars Edits

Edits for Hunt the Stars landed on Wednesday, which means I’ll be quieter than usual as I work on polishing the book. Or maybe I’ll be less quiet as I work on procrastinating. Could go either way, lol.

Selling a book on proposal is an interesting experience. The first book I sold, Polaris Rising, was completely finished, and editors read it before deciding whether they wanted it or not. They knew exactly what they were getting.

Once you are a little established and your books are doing okay, your editor no longer expects you to write a whole book before they buy it because publishing works on very long timelines, typically more than a year.

So authors write a proposal. It’s an overview of the next book, and the series, if applicable, that gives the editor a general idea of where the book is going and if they’ll be interested in acquiring it. Some proposals are super in-depth.

Mine was not.

Since I’m not a plotter by nature, my proposal involved some general ideas, a high-level blurb, and part of the first chapter. So my editor sort of knew what she was getting, but only very generally, which made turning in the finished book a bit nerve-racking. AB and CR were a little of the same, but at least they had an established world to build on. A new book series is a blank slate.

But luckily, my editor loved it, and didn’t ask for her money back, so we’re all good. 🎉😂 Now I just have to shine it up and then get back to writing book two. Happy Friday!

P.S. I’m still planning on sending out the newsletter I promised last post, I’m just waiting on Bookshop to update with HtS, so it’ll probably be Monday. Most of the other stores have both paper and e-books available for preorder now. Come on, Bookshop, you can do it!

New Shiny/Hunted is now Hunt the Stars!

Say hello to Hunt the Stars! The preorder links are still populating (Amazon and Barnes & Noble seem to be first, though BN is kind of broken for me), but the cover copy is up and I couldn’t wait to share. :)

This is the copy for the sales catalog and sometimes the wording gets tweaked a little before it goes on the back of the book, but the essence won’t change. :)

Voyager placeholder cover for HUNT THE STARS. Official cover to come.

The critically acclaimed author of Polaris Rising takes readers on an exciting journey with the start of her brand-new series about a female bounty hunter and the man who is her sworn enemy.

Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.

With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.

But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.

Preorder now!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play | Kobo | More to come!

Edit: Paper books and audiobooks will be available (as far as I know), but because it doesn’t come out until next February, all of the preorders aren’t up yet. Don’t worry, they will be eventually. :)

Even though writing last year was a bit of a slog, I had so much fun with this story, and I absolutely can’t wait for you to meet Tavi and Torran! It’s a slow burn, enemies-to-lovers between two people who have no reason to trust each other, but even less reason to trust the powers that be. Plus there might be a little bit of science-y magic… in spaaaaace! ;)

Edits are supposed to land soon, and my editor said she was ADORING it, so yay for that! I will update the post and the book page with all of the preorder links once they’re available.

And, in a first, I already have the (tentative) titles for the next two books. If you’d like a peek at them, head over to my author newsletter and get yourself signed up. Once all of the preorder links are live, I’ll send out an update with the top-secret info. :)

Drafting with Scrivener

The previous blog post generated the following comment:

Quick question if you’re busy putting off book two … Do you use any particular software for your first draft?


Since I am still putting off book two (though I hit my word count goal every day last week! 🎉), I thought I’d get into a little more detail than a comment would support. The short answer is that I use Scrivener for all of my drafting, including edits, but if you’d like a peek behind the curtain, read on!

I’m going to use my actual Scrivener file for Polaris Rising, so if you haven’t read the book yet, you may want to do that first. There shouldn’t be too many spoilers, but why wouldn’t you want to read about a badass space princess and an outlaw soldier? ;)

Scrivener has a default project type for novels, which is what my custom template is based on. My template evolves a little bit over time as I find ways to tweak it just so for my writing style, but the basics remain the same as the default template. All of my new projects start out looking like this:

A freshly created empty Scrivener project based on my custom template.
Click to enlarge

One of the things I really like about Scrivener is that text is broken down into scenes. A scene is technically just an arbitrary piece of text—it could be anything—but thinking about them as actual scenes of a book is useful for me, especially for pacing. And scenes can be moved around, split, reordered, and dragged from one chapter to another with ease, which helps when the pacing isn’t quite there and things need to be adjusted.

This is what the first nine-ish chapters of PR look like in Scrivener:

The Scrivener project file for Polaris Rising.
Click to enlarge

There’s a lot going on here, so let’s break it down. On the left (called the binder) is a list of the chapters and their various scenes. I give mine short descriptions so I remember what’s in them without having to open each one.

In the middle is the main editor. This is where I spend most of my time, because it’s where the words actually happen. You can see that I’m one of the ancients who still uses two spaces after a period while drafting (but weirdly, only while drafting). Scrivener handily strips them out for me when I export, another perk.

On the right is the inspector which has all of the meta info about the selected scene. Here it’s showing snapshots of the scene’s history. This is another big benefit of Scrivener: version history. Just like git for code, Scrivener can keep a history of your documents, so if you make a big change and decide you hate it, you have the original. You have to set it up (mine snapshots changes on every manual save), but it’s a nice feature. Before I do any edits, I make a titled snapshot of the whole manuscript so I can roll back if I need to.

Scrivener can also hold all of the information about a project, not just the manuscript itself. So all of my notes and research can go right in the file, keeping everything together. Here is part of the research and notes section for PR:

The character and notes section of Polaris Rising's Scrivener file, with Marcus Loch's character sheet open.
Click to enlarge

Here you can see I keep character sheets for my main characters, as well as place descriptions and tons and tons of notes. Mostly my character sheets are just places I dump description as I write it, so I don’t accidentally change their hair or eye color, but it also keeps some personality info and other things important to keeping their progression consistent throughout the book.

The research section is where everything else goes. I keep a list of minor characters so everyone doesn’t share the same name, or the same starting letter. Apparently I love some letters more than others, so I have to watch it.

When I start the second book in a series, I’ll copy over all of my character sheets, location details, and research from the first book, then keep adding to it. This helps with continuity and means I don’t have to keep pulling up the first book to check minor details.

The last thing Scrivener really shines at is exporting your text into various formats. Publishing runs on Microsoft Word, so I export to Word in the standard manuscript format (Times New Roman 12, double-spaced) before sending the draft off to my editor. As I said before, Scrivener strips out all of my extra spaces as part of the export, saving me a find and replace step.

When edits arrive, I keep Word open with my editor’s feedback and make the changes directly in Scrivener, then do a clean export of the edited draft. Copyedits are a little trickier, because all of the changes have to be made directly in the Word file, but I duplicate the changes in Scrivener, so my saved draft matches the copyedited text. Same for changes made to the galley pages. When I’m done, my Scrivener project exactly matches the final text in the book.

Scrivener can also export directly to the various ebook formats, which is great for getting the book into the hands of my early readers, as well as output in a HTML format that is compatible with the blog, so I don’t lose italics when I post snippets. And you can set up custom formats that are shared across projects, so the output is always formatted exactly how you want.

All of this flexibility is one of the reasons Scrivener tends to have a very high learning curve. I didn’t even get into a fraction of the features, but I don’t use a lot of them because I usually draft from start to finish, so I don’t need to see my outline or corkboard or any of the other million little things Scrivener supports. Finding the way that works for you is one of the biggest challenges of using Scrivener.

I’ve been using it since 2008, have written seven published (or to-be-published) books, one trunked novel, and countless partials with it, and I still find things I didn’t know about. But if you have any questions, drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. :)

Happy writing!

The Shitty First Draft

A blue outlined book with a blue question mark hovering over it.

I’m procrastinating on writing book two, which got me thinking about how I draft books, so I thought I’d talk about it a little bit. As with all writing advice, use what works for you and ignore the rest. :)

There are as many schools of thought on writing as there are writers, but first drafts generally fall into two broad categories: just get it done (aka the “shitty first draft,” as expressed by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird) and …not that.

Many, many, many advice articles advocate for the shitty first draft, and they aren’t wrong, exactly, because once you get the words down, you can fix them later. Editing (for me) is far easier than initial drafting, so I can see the appeal.

And much to my eternal regret, I am completely unable to do it.

I can occasionally write fast, if I’m up against a deadline and force myself to—especially toward the end of a book when I have a better grasp of the characters and plot—but generally my writing moves at the speed tectonic plates shift.

The shitty first draft is supposed to fix this glacial dribble of words, but my writing has a rhythm to it, an ebb and flow that I just can’t get right when I try to draft fast, without editing or stopping, and it completely derails me. Instead of a shitty first draft, I end up writing no first draft and that isn’t an improvement.

I am completely, unbelievably envious of the writers who can crank out a first draft in a week or two or four. That’s basically magic as far as I’m concerned.

But everything always looks greener on the other side of the fence, and my way of drafting has its own benefits, because while I write at the speed mountains grow, I do tend to turn out solid first drafts.

My first drafts aren’t perfect by any means, no writing is, but they generally only need a single editing pass before I feel comfortable sending them off to my editor. Shitty first drafts often go through two or three editing passes before the editor sees the work, and those edits tend to be a lot more intense.

So which is better?

Neither. Both. It depends on the writer, and sometimes, the project. For me, slow and steady drafts get me to the end. For someone else, my style of drafting would kill them dead and they just want to get words on the page and fix them later. Figuring out which style works for you is part of the process of learning how you write.

Now go make some words happen—fast or slow, it doesn’t matter, just write. Because one thing always remains true: words won’t write themselves.

Unfortunately. :)

The Weird World of Traditional Royalties

A blue outlined book with a blue question mark hovering over it.

Last week, I got my very first (post-advance) payment of royalties for Polaris Rising! 🎉🎉🎉 Thank you all so much for your support because this means the book “earned out,” a publishing term that means I’ve earned enough royalties to cover the advance the publisher paid me.

Traditional publishing accounting is interesting, so let’s talk about it!

First, having an agent who will explain your contract and answer questions is an enormous help, if not a requirement. I usually don’t lay down laws because everyone’s situation is different, but personally, I would not sign a publishing contract without an agent (hi, Ms. Sarah, I love you!). But that’s a whole other post, and today we’re talking about getting paid.

If your eyes glaze over at numbers and you’re not an aspiring author, you may want to skip this one. :)

When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher, the publisher generally pays an advance. They calculate the advance based on how well they think the book will do, and where it fits in their lineup, and what phase the moon is in (okay, maybe not that last one, but there’s a lot of things involved I don’t know about). This advance is an advance payment on future royalties—hence the term advance.

Advances range from almost nothing to millions, depending on the author, their audience, the number of books contracted, and the author’s previous publishing history. Publishers Marketplace even has a coy little key for deal news so everyone can tell where the deal fell in the range without actually coming out and saying it:

“nice deal”:$1 – $49,000
“very nice deal”:$50,000 – $99,000
“good deal”:$100,000 – $250,000
“significant deal”:$251,000 – $499,000
“major deal”:$500,000 and up

So someone who got a “good deal” made an advance between $100k – $250k, which is a pretty big range.

Once the number is nailed down by your agent and the publisher, then you get paid—yay! But you don’t get the whole thing at once.