2020: Reflecting and Looking Ahead

2020 saw the first National Novel Writing Month since 2008 where I did nothing at all, a final word count of zero for any intended novels. That came and went without regret because I knew the time wasn’t right and November is often the busiest month of production at work, as if I found myself in a career completely antithetical to what I had been doing for fun.

Frankly, the only novel I had written during this 2016-2020 span was “Alathea: Goddess and Empress”. I managed that because this was a familiar character in a setting already created (see “Crown Princess’ Voyage”, where I’ve already established her, the most important people in her life by that point, her history, her home port city, motivations, personality etc.) and I had notes prepared. Also, I had not worked in manufacturing for most of that year; my season started somewhere between late August and early September (right after Labour Day? I forget these minor details quite often, please don’t ask me to remember most birthdays without Facebook telling me when they are), so I had the reserves of strength to write part of a novel (the ending wasn’t written back then, 3/4 of the book hit the word count goal and I finished the rest years later) while still editing and transcribing, handling copy editing and writing duties for Auxiliary Magazine, and plunging myself into a new career that was really challenging and made me emotional quite often.

Every other year from 2017 to 2019, I hit that word count by writing a diary, which doubled as a “dumping ground manuscript”, a place for every wayward thought, confession and silly story that I wanted to write into the void, then delete after validating word count. I didn’t see the point nor feel the need for that this year.

It’s 2020 and so many of us are in a place we didn’t foresee, extra challenges piled on to whatever we were already facing. Times that have really laid me bare and forced me to proper introspection; not necessarily revelations, but in most cases, memories, things known in a prior time but not accepted. If you are where I have been, my only advice is that you might not be protecting yourself by forgetting. Whatever it is, it will return to the surface until you face it properly. That’s some of the work I’ve been doing, and along the lines of lessons I must never forget. I will leave it at that for now.

From out of this, I have somehow felt ready to revamp the next manuscript. I first wanted to say I’m writing a new book, then a “new old book”, because the first draft predates my Lush career. I feel like there should be some record of it preceding 2015, but 2015 mostly doesn’t exist in my memory for reasons I don’t want to get into right now. 2015 involves marching around, poking holes in riverbanks with the screw end of a wooden broom handle, and planting milkweed and other seed bombs. If 2015 is when I wrote this “new old book” draft that’s been in front of me for a few days as I take chapter-by-chapter content notes and write suggestions for how to proceed, then it wasn’t such a write-off year after all. I certainly was planting things in a most hopeful way.

I’m going to write the next draft of this “new old book”. I may pursue editors this go-around. From there, it makes the most sense to publish it the way the others have been published, unless some opportunity arises to revamp them all under an imprint; one can dream. This book fits with the others and even refers to a couple that aren’t written yet. A tiny number of people have read the draft that I wrote at the time, and I don’t believe any of them have truly left me, though we aren’t all in close contact anymore. Hey, it’s a time of social distancing anyway. We can keep close from a distance thanks to the internet. That’s been true for a while, actually.

Today, I’m doing what you would expect the indie writer stereotype to do. I drank coffee, I await breakfast, and I’ve been building a writer playlist, even writing this post, anything but actually doing the work. That’s typical for me, but the four books on the market show that eventually I do what I’m supposed to be doing. Even if I don’t start that today, I know what time I’m setting aside every workday to do this, and what necessary sacrifice needs to happen so I can make time.

Thanks for following this quiet Facebook Page, and anywhere else, my personal feed, Twitter timeline, quiet website blog. Everyone who has crossed paths with me on this journey has had something to add, some lesson to teach me, along my journey. I want to end this post with gratitude for your role, taking time out of your eventful life to do something for mine.

Thank you for everything, and stay safe.

Quantifying Revisions

Today I would like to have a brief chat with you about quantifying revisions. It’s great to say we went through a manuscript from top to bottom and thoroughly scoured it. Generally, we work hard and that’s all anyone needs to know.

But what if we want some numeric measurement of what we did, even if it’s just out of personal curiosity?

Tools like Scrivener might already give you the difference in greater detail, but I’m not experienced with it. I’m relatively lo-fi in comparison, just using Microsoft Word for most of my needs; however, Word has some helpful tools to quantify differences when you keep your drafts in separate documents.

Let’s use The Masked Queen’s Lament as an example, because I zeroed in on one necessary change when I went back and fixed it, but I did much more than that. How much more? Well, according to Word:

A comparison panel suggests 853 revisions between the first release and the re-release.
A comparison panel suggests 853 revisions between the first release and the re-release.

The image shows many more tools for comparing the differences line by line, but I only wanted one figure to summarize it for you. According to Word, that one number is 853 revisions.

There are also online tools to run a “diff”, or a comparison between two text documents. One such tool is diffchecker.com.

It gives a marginally different result in a slightly expanded way:

Diffchecker suggests 419 removals and 457 additions.
Diffchecker suggests 419 removals and 457 additions.

In this case, a different algorithm spotted 419 removals (deletions) and 457 additions. The sum of those is slightly larger than what Word gave us, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Numbers, of course, give us quantity. Quality is something else. These measurement tools aren’t going to replace a human who can tell you how one single change fixed a phrase that had been nonsense due to a word omission or a typo. They don’t describe how things are better. Their sole job is to spot the difference.

Have you ever tracked your manuscript revisions in a quantifiable manner? Have you found it practically useful in a particular context, or were you, like me, just curious? Feel free to leave a comment.

Do you own a first edition? Here’s how to tell

I streamed a YouTube video today to talk about the easiest ways you can tell whether any of your paperback copies of my Gift-Knight trilogy are first editions.

Transcript:

Hello. I’m Dylan Madeley, author of The Gift-Knight’s Quest, The Crown Princess’ Voyage, and The Masked Queen’s Lament.

And I’m here to talk about the unofficial “first editions” of my work compared to books that will be available on Amazon and other platforms going forward.

Now, let’s start chronologically. The [Gift-Knight’s Quest], the first editions were done in a print run via Matador which is an imprint of Troubador Books over in the UK.

So first off you’ll know if you have a first edition of my book because it will have the Matador imprint on the back and it will have the price of the book listed in Pounds Sterling, not US dollars or Canadian dollars or anything like that.
And it will be about what, 10.99p?

And I no longer really have a working business relationship with Matador or Troubador, whatever you’d like to call them, we amicably parted ways as my contract ran out, so therefore they no longer handle ebook versions of this either.

I don’t know how well you’ll be able to tell first edition ebooks or whatnot, let’s keep it to paperbacks.

So, Gift Knight’s Quest is, not only does it have the Matador imprint and the Brit pounds price, it has a full bleed artwork cover. You know what I mean if you’ve compared The Gift-Knight’s Quest to The Crown Princess’ Voyage, where the artwork looks like a box on the cover with a black border around it. That’s a CreateSpace/Amazon/KDP, you know, they didn’t, I didn’t have the same luck doing a full bleed cover on either of my sequels. So the formatting’s entirely different.

So then when The Gift-Knight’s Quest becomes, joins the others as books I have entire control over even the paperback version, there will not be full bleed covers anymore.

Let’s move on to The Crown Princess’ Voyage, because this one has always been done on my own with CreateSpace/KDP, so the differences are rather minimal. The first big difference you will see is actually the finish of the cover.

What I mean by that is, most of these books have a gloss coating, gloss is traditional, for the first edition Crown Princess’ Voyage I went with matte. That probably means that if you have a first edition Crown Princess’ Voyage, there is a scuff mark somewhere on it because, as I realized, the matte was trash. It was just very easily damaged, merely upon transportation. Before I even had all the copies they already had little shiny marks where the matte had been worn off by being in the box with other books, jarred.

So, differences in the text, as well, I mean I skipped that for Gift-Knight’s Quest so I don’t even know if I want to go into that, very miniscule. They’re important, but, the changes are important and they matter but I won’t get into that today.

Now, Masked Queen’s Lament. Because it’s so recently released, it has that gloss cover, it’s on CreateSpace/KDP so it’s not a Matador book at all. But, without even knowing the different things I did with words, you will be able to see on the back of the book whether you have a first edition or not. Okay.

The difference is, if it’s a first edition, the opening quote will be something about how, “Alathea was enjoying the feeling of all her weaponeers watching her and hanging on her every word, and it felt a lot like control.”

And I chose that initially because yes, it encapsulates the character’s big issue: want for control. Control of life, control of absolutely everything, because she didn’t have control as a child.

But, over time, I looked at it and I thought it was a bit hammy, I was already doing edits on the interior having found a bunch of typos upon a casual reread, and some of which were just brutal, so I thought okay, I need to fix these.
So, second edition, if we can even call it that, of The Masked Queen’s Lament, will not have the same rogue’s gallery of typos and errors, but also the back of the cover will instead quote her saying, “Has this been one bitter lifelong lesson of what little love can accomplish?”

And I chose that because it’s a Lament being made by the Masked Queen. So then, it’s the masked queen’s lament. It’s the title of the book, it goes back to that. So it’s very on the nose in making sense.

And so that’s how you will be able to tell if you have one of the rare first edition copies of any of these books, because all of them will be different. I mean, if you ask me, the interior copy’s only gonna be better over time. The ebook edition of Gift-Knight already makes certain better adjective choices when describing characters because I was really really irreverent back then in all that I did, and I kind of cringe at it now like, you know, you don’t need to be like that all the time.

Crown Princess interior words, I mean, I edited the original when I was heavily medicated, and I occasionally encounter a passage where I go, yeah, was I even reading it? So the ebook editions now and the available KDP version now, with its gloss cover, will have better words.

And The Masked Queen’s Lament, it was really important to me that I nail it, I did my best with the second editing run, and the back cover is how you will be able to tell, whether it’s one of the upwards of 40 copies that I printed before realizing I needed to fix the whole thing, which if you bought you likely bought at Ad Astra in 2018 or at Toronto Pagan Pride Day 2018 [Harvest Festival] where I made most of my sales.

So that’s that. I thought it’d be neat to get into the different editions that have sprung up this early on in the game, although in terms of my first book it’s been almost five years now.

See ya next time.

The Masked Queen’s Lament available once again

The Masked Queen's Lament book cover

After a necessary editing run, The Masked Queen’s Lament has returned to Kindle/Kobo ebook retailers and to Amazon in print-on-demand format. I had been casually re-reading through my proof copy and found a critical mass of errors that turned up in the print copy as well, including one puzzling misgendering that ultimately pushed me to decide another editing sweep was warranted; not to catch everything, because self-editing a 128,000+ word document will have its limitations for me, but not to let so much through the editorial sieve.

One major benefit of self-publishing through an easy platform, especially using print-on-demand, is the ability to revise a manuscript and put it up again. Ebook platforms will, as far as I know, let the reader update to the latest ebook edition; it costs nothing to fix the digital reading experience that way.

Things get complicated with print runs and print-on-demand. The “first print run” of The Masked Queen’s Lament consisted of 40 author copies created through Amazon’s print-on-demand service. They print it in the USA, and I live in Canada. Some copies didn’t actually make it across the border without being destroyed, but I got refunds for those, and I believe they were actually the 20 new editions of The Crown Princess’ Voyage I had ordered just in case things sold wildly well at Ad Astra 2018.

Really, that means there is no mass print run here, but the same rule applies: if it’s in print, there’s not much editing I can do. I urged first edition buyers on my FB Author Page and Instagram to turn to page 269 and cross out the simplest yet most offensive error that found its way in, the one that made me decide to yet again sweep the whole manuscript from beginning to end. There are still two spelling errors if you know where to find them, but the most confusing word omissions (i.e. omitting “not” from a sentence that is still grammatically correct without it, yet inverting the intended meaning of the sentence), word inclusions (i.e. artifacts from previous editing runs that should have been erased during a rephrasing but somehow were not), even an outcome in the end of the plot from first draft that I believed I had revised.

All of these things will still be in first-run print copies, but I’ve done my best to get them out of what you can buy from Amazon and Kobo going forward. I am happy to have the book available again.

My will to self-edit future books unassisted is completely broken. Editing has never been one of my favourite activities to begin with, but it is certainly something people paid me to do, to gain a valued role in publications that I value just as much, and to fix some clients’ English in very short documents in return for money that could get me beer or a transit pass. I feel that I did things the way I had to do them, resources being constrained as they are, but I will have to think a lot about how I proceed with future publications.

Anyone who has a paperback copy for the collectability, and also reads Kindle ebooks, should know that this title is subscribed to the Kindle MatchBook program and you should be able to get the Kindle edition free if you own the paperback. You would then get an edited version to read, without paying for another copy, and without me puzzling over the logistics of replacing your already autographed copy. I have never personally used this MatchBook program, so you’ll have to let me know if that’s not how it works.

With much thanks to a friend who assisted in the digital/print-ready PDF formatting of this title, and having to put up with my anxious nagging on Discord and Facebook Messenger, you might know of Athena Wright and can check out her best selling work here.