Tag Archives: indie

Drown the Cat: the Rebel Author’s Guide to Writing Beyond the Rules

I have a nonfiction book coming out this summer from Panverse.

Drown the Cat1 is a somewhat contrarian book on writing, and one that encapsulates my understanding of the craft and my core belief that being true to oneself is the single most important thing any writer or artist needs to do.

Drown the Cat is intended for all writers, especially intermediate-level ones, who already have some grasp of craft but want more. My goal is to help authors transcend formulaic, cookie-cutter fiction. If you want to understand the limitations of all the silly rules and dogma endlessly parroted in writing books and blogs all over the web, this book is for you.

Those who believe — as much of the publishing industry does today — that there’s a template and a formula which can be applied to a novel or screenplay to make it a bestseller, and are okay applying that rigorously to their work rather than trying to be unique and different and true to themselves…well, good luck to them: hell, they might even make money. But that method doesn’t suit me, not one bit. 

My own approach, refined over fifteen years of writing, critiquing, editing, publishing, and mentoring newer authors, is to question all conventional wisdom on the subject. Because, frankly, most of it is bullshit. You do need to know the (few, useful) rules when you begin to write: but in order to become a good writer and produce work that goes beyond the ordinary, you have to see beyond the dogma. You have to put the work and the vision first, and not give a damn about the market. As multiple-Grammy winning Jazz great Branford Marsalis put it,

I don’t care who likes it or buys it. Because if you use that criterion, Mozart would never have written don Giovanni, Charlie Parker would never have played anything but swing music. There comes a point at which you have to stand up and say, this is what I have to do.

My purpose in Drown the Cat is to explore every aspect of the craft from character to critique, tone to theme, suspense to subplot, priming the pump to playing with time. I examine all these and much more from different angles and, occasionally, in greater depth than may be common2. In the process I  intend to raise questions and challenge assumptions at every turn. My point is that if you’re good enough and know what you’re about, you can do just about anything in your book. Literally. What matters is the reader experience: they, not your critique group, agent, or anyone else, are whom you should be writing for. And what readers want is very demonstrably different to what agents, publishers, and many writing book authors and writing bloggers think readers want, or every book published would be a bestseller.

So whether your interest lies in genre or literary fiction, my goal with Drown the Cat is to help you tell your story in your voice and place it before your audience; to bring out your unique vision while adhering to the few rules that actually matter. If my book goes even some small way to achieving that, we’ve succeeded.

Interested? To be informed of the release date and perhaps win a free copy (yes, there will be a free draw!) of Drown the Cat, please click here to sign up to my no-spam, guaranteed-privacy mailing list. You will not be deluged by mail, and only receive at most three or four emails a year.

Thanks, as always, for reading, friends. And please do share or link this post!


1 For those unfamiliar with the reference, my title, Drown the Cat is a nod to the near-cult book on screenwriting, Save the Cat, which lays down rules and dogma thick as the ash that buried Pompeii. If you want to write a book with all the uniqueness of a supermarket war-porn thriller or a generic Hollywood summer mega-action movie, you’d better buy that instead of my book.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize my approach; indeed, Drown the Cat draws in part from thinking hard on the topic of questioning conventional wisdom, and includes, along with a great deal of entirely fresh content, some material previously published in different form here and elsewhere.



Filed under Writing

Affordable Editing for Indie Authors

As indie publishing1 matures, the need for new editing approaches has become apparent, with some freelance editors changing their protocols to accommodate indie authors looking for affordable editing and copyediting.

In traditional publishing, the standard process has always involved several steps, with the ms. (manuscript) being returned to the author for revision and corrections between steps; this is one reason a trad pubbed book takes between a year and two from acceptance to release. These stages are typically:

Edit (general); line edit; copyedit; proofread. There may even be a major developmental edit before the general edit.

Since each of these steps requires a careful and complete read of the ms. as well as annotation, the traditional process quickly becomes expensive: a line or copyedit on a novel will easily take forty to fifty hours or more. It’s therefore obvious that the traditional sequence of editing tasks, costing upwards of $5,000 at a minimum, will be beyond the means of all but a very few indie authors and small presses.

And yet, most indie authors of even moderate experience are aware that the success of their book may well depend on it being properly edited and proofread: the days of just completing a novel and uploading it to Amazon full of errors and inconsistencies are (thankfully) long gone. For those who still do it, their book is likely to get awful reviews, if it gets any, and sink like a stone.

Before discussing solutions, let’s make sure we define our terms, because there’s a lot of confusion on what the various stages of editing are:

  • General Editing. Will address macro issues of the draft ms. like plot and character arcs, poor plot logic, passages and scenes that aren’t working well, stylistic issues, etc.  Sometimes referred to as substantive or developmental editing, a general edit is similar to a critique in that it reviews the ms. as a whole; unlike a critique, this edit provides more specific and detailed recommendations, and offers solutions to the problems identified.
  • Line Editing. A more detailed and intensive edit whose aim is to improve the flow, pacing, polish, and overall readability of the work. Line editing addresses, among much else, dialogue, style, grammar, tense, and syntax issues. Will typically include suggestions and examples for revising and rewording sentences paragraphs that need improvement.
  • Copyediting: The pre-final pass through a ms., copyediting looks at the fine detail, including punctuation, consistency, capitalization, formatting, and anything missed at the line editing stage. The copyeditor is also responsible for fact-checking.
  • Proofreading: strictly limited to checking spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, verb tense, and consistency in formatting. Proofreading is usually the final step before a document goes to print.

That’s the process in traditional publishing, and it’s still the way things are done in the big houses, although even they’re starting to cut corners for new and even some midlist authors whose books aren’t expected to become big hits.

As a freelancer, I’ve worked to come up with a solution that offers the best possible value for the indie author on a tight budget. My goal here is to catch and correct as much as possible on a single pass through the ms. as well as providing some remedy for new errors that might be introduced (it happens) when the author implements some of the suggested fixes turned up by my edit.

I call this one-pass edit the Single Edit Solution, and it comprises full line editing plus copyediting (see definitions above) as well as some limited general editing/developmental guidance where needed; examples of this would be a character behaving inconsistently, logical errors, flat scenes, continuity issues, etc.  In the case of novels, I include a provision for post-edit checking of up to 2,000 words of rewritten material at no additional cost. This last is aimed at solving the problem of new errors being introduced post-edit.

If you’re interested in knowing more, simply drop me a line at dariowriter (at-sign) gmail (dot) com. You can find my rates here, as well as references from current clients.

“I’m delighted at each opportunity to work with Dario Ciriello, who vastly improves my story and writing with every editing pass. He works with warmth and compassion to boot, supporting me as a writer and a person as we puzzle out thorny writing issues that would otherwise be demoralizing to tackle on my own. Dario has edited three of my novels so far, and I look forward to a long-term working relationship together.”

William Hertling, author of the highly-acclaimed 2016 tech thriller “Kill Process” and the hit “Avogadro Corp.” series of SF/tech thrillers.   http://www.williamhertling.com


1 For this purposes of this article, I’m using the term “indie” to include self-published authors

Check out my guest post, “Breathe! The Copyeditor has your Back” at Fiction University


Filed under Writing