Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Publishing Journey--Part 10

Read Part 9 Here

My Publishing Journey

Part 10

A few months before Abinadi came out, I was sitting around doing nothing (kidding). But I did decide that now that I had 5 books almost out, perhaps I had developed enough of a platform to write on a non-fiction topic: Women of the Book of Mormon.

I often have readers tell me that they are grateful I’ve used women characters in my book since we hear so little about the women in the Book of Mormon. I agreed, but was I the one to do the research? Yes, I’d researched Sariah and a couple of the other women for various presentations I’d given, but was it enough to write an entire book?

Later, when I told my tax accountant that I had a book coming out on Women of the Book of Mormon, he said, “What is it, 5 pages long?”

The book ended up about 75 pages in manuscript form, and it took my nearly a year to write and research it. When I took the first chapter to critique group, they said it was reading rather dry. So I knew I had to make it more into a storytelling style—or essay style and not just a list of facts. So I got to work. I turned in the book the summer of 2009.

While slowly researching and writing “Women”, I worked on Alma. I ran into a snag while writing Alma, which is kind of interesting. Writers call it “writing into a corner” where you don’t know how to get out of it. I finally found a way out, but the plot had to get pretty creative. Originally I had the title for this book as Alma the Elder, but the publisher decided to have it plain “Alma” since he didn’t have any children born yet to make him an “elder”.

Alma was scheduled for a Fall 2009 release, and as soon as I got “Women” turned in, I started the next novel, Alma the Younger.

Alma the Younger was a bit of a different process. Yes, there would be the plot to follow in the book of Alma, but I had to make some character decisions about Alma the Younger. The book would ultimately turn out to be a character-driven book. I knew that some of my regular reviewers wouldn’t like the story angle, and I was right. In fact one reviewer posted on Goodreads why she wouldn’t be reviewing the book in her regular column. Researching Alma the Younger showed that he was a truly wicked and vile man, and I didn’t gloss over any of his wickedness. This book was darker than my other books, and harder to write for that reason. It wasn’t a happy “feel-good” book and covered some very difficult issues. It was writing about an antagonist who was also the protagonist of the story. I had one lady at a book signing say that she didn’t want to read about the redemption of a prophet, but just about the good things he did—not about the struggles it took him to get there. She didn’t want to have any bad thoughts about him.

But I was okay with that. The point of telling about Alma the Younger’s fall into the dark abyss and his eventual rise to become a righteous leader is perhaps a beacon of hope for many of us who might find ourselves in the depths of despair. And I’d already heard the worst on the book from a copyeditor. (A copyeditor is one of the final editors who proofs the manuscript for typos, grammar, and inconsistencies.) Going through the copyedit, I immediately sensed she didn’t care for the story. I discovered I was right when at the very end of the edit she proclaimed, “This book will kill your series.” (Which, by the way, statements like that are NOT in the job description of a professional copyeditor.)

I think it gave my editor pause—she second-guessed herself, wondering with all the work she’d done, she had been missing something. I said to my editor, “What was your first impression when you read the story?” She said, “I loved it.” I said, “Let’s go with that.”

Whatever the struggles I had with Alma the Younger, they were all completely erased when this review (by a non-member, no less), came in.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

As a copyeditor, I am compelled to say that I am sorry that you had to deal with a copyeditor who rudely stepped outside professional boundaries. A copyeditor's job is to help an author's prose be its best self—no more and no less.

Heather B. Moore said...

Katharine, thanks for the note. I'm glad this experience wasn't with my 1st book or it would have thrown me for a loop. Yes, I've worked with many copyeditors and the majority have been great and always helpful.

Annette Lyon said...

That copy editor moment was one of my favorite stories. It was so fun to find readers who really connected with the book and know full well that the copy editor was dead WRONG.

Michael Knudsen said...

I just have to say that in my opinion, Alma the Younger was the best of the series for exactly the reasons that put some people off. What good is fiction if it doesn't take you places (literal and spiritual) you haven't been before? How can we truly admire our prophets and leaders if we don't experience their worst along with their best?

Heather B. Moore said...

Annette was lucky enough to hear about all the details, most of which I've probably blocked out by now :)

Thanks, Michael. I appreciate your comments and agree that characters need depth.

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: Later, when I told my tax accountant that I had a book coming out on Women of the Book of Mormon, he said, “What is it, 5 pages long?”

Smart aleck. LOL.

I've been enthralled with your journey, Heather. You've been an inspiration for me.

Heather B. Moore said...

Maria, thanks. I always appreciate your encouragement :)

NoSurfGirl said...

I have a sort of unrelated question.

My husband is applying for a job in Rexburg and I'm trying to scout around for a writing critique group I could join if we move up there.

Do you have a reference for a yahoo group or a writing league, where I'd be able to find a critique group? The links that I found online were all based in Idaho Falls.

Heather B. Moore said...

nosurfgirl, I' probably attend a chapter meeting with the Idaho Writers League (whichever is closest to you). Or contact the closest chapter president and see if they can give you some contacts. There are probably plenty of critique groups that stem from the main chapter and meet together at various locations. (That's how it is in the League of Utah Writers)