Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What's Up Wednesday

It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading

I've been reading Heir of Fire! I started rereading the series a while ago, but I've been trying to tackle the never-ending TBR pile on my Kindle. But I loved this book even more than the previous two. And GAH THAT ENDING. *dies for the next book*

Next up: Blue Lily, Lily Blue! I've been waiting a whole YEAR for this one! *collapses in a flailing heap*

What I'm writing

SHINY BOOK 2. Er...  so much for stopping the power-drafting. I literally couldn't stop writing this book! At one point, I was pretty sure my hands were superglued to the keyboard. (Or frozen, which is probably more likely seeing as my house is FREEZING right now...) I wrote 30K in a week! Even I'm not quite sure how that happened...

And I'm finishing up beta edits on Book 1, getting ready for the next stage... *restrains self from dropping hints*

Also, I've been working on a prequel novella-length thing which is emotionally destroying me. I am so very cruel to my characters. *cries*

And I'm working on Darkworld 3 edits, too.

What works for me

Firstly, I still keep getting that question about how in the universe I write so fast, but I probably wouldn't recommend what I do (which is wander around in a story-drugged state and completely neglect the real world, not sleep enough, drink too much diet coke, and type at hyper-speed until my fingers fall off :P). I am working on another blog post with more sensible tips, though! :)

Secondly, I can't actually remember where I learned how to do this, but it's possible to combine documents in Word so several beta readers' notes show up in the same copy of the manuscript. In Word 2013, go to Track Changes and click "compare", then "combine", and then select the two documents you want to combine into one. Simple! :) 

I've done this for my past two manuscripts, and it can be so helpful in contrasting opinions if you're on the fence about changing something. And there can be such polarised opinions sometimes! When I'm editing, I use a notebook to list the general points readers made in their emails, and then I create one of those combined documents so I can look at specific comments if there are any in the manuscript. If you have multiple annotated copies of your manuscript, it can be a tad overwhelming, so this has been really useful!

Also, it's fun when more than one reader comments with a "LOL" on the same line. ;)


What else I've been up to


Not much, aside from work and recovering from the post-Iceland hangover. *sniffles* Also, avoiding the crazy on the Internet... and that's about all I have to say on the matter. o.O

Monday, 20 October 2014

Author Interview - Quanie Miller, author of The New Mrs Collins

Displaying The New Mrs. Collins - Blog Tour Banner.jpg

Tell me three interesting facts about yourself!
1.      I trip getting inside of my own car
2.      I’m probably the only person on the planet who actually failed at taking a selfie
3.      While growing up, one of my aspirations was to be a rapping psychologist.
Summarize your book in one line.  
When Leena Williams suspects that there’s something other worldly about her son’s new stepmother, she goes digging for answers and discovers a little too late that some secrets are better left buried. 

Tell me something cool/crazy/quirky about the book – it can be anything!
When I sat down to write the first draft of The New Mrs. Collins, a funny voice took over and it turned into a comedy! I was going to tell the story from the point of view of a nanny who discovers that her boss’ new wife is a sinister woman with mystic powers. This is how the story was going to go: the nanny, because of a flat tire, would get stranded in an affluent neighborhood without a cellphone, end up knocking on a random door, mistaken for an interviewee, and land the nanny job by mistake. But when I put the character on the page, this humorous voice took over, and the nanny-to-be never made it into the house. That character ended up being Jasmine T. Peacock, the protagonist of my first novel, a romantic comedy called It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy


After that, I had doubts about whether or not I could even write a paranormal novel but then I asked myself: what kind of story do you want to see? I knew I wanted to write about a main character I could relate to, from my neck of the woods (Southwest Louisiana!) who discovers that there is a bit of magic in the world.  So I re-evaluated the The New Mrs. Collins(whole new plot, page one rewrite), set it in a fictional town in Louisiana called “Carolville,” and it was full speed ahead. It took some time, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it because writing it proved to me that if you push through fear and doubt, you can accomplish exactly what you put your mind to.

Why did you decide to write this particular book?
I wanted to explore what would happen when a woman pulls the veil back on the seemingly normal world she lives in. The main character, Leena, has lived her whole life in this small Louisiana town, never once suspecting that there are people in the world with mystic powers, and all of a sudden, not only does one such woman come into her life, but the woman is beautiful, has stolen her fiancé, and is now the stepmother to her son!  In an attempt to solve the mystery of who this woman is, Leena ends up going down the proverbial rabbit hole. I was intrigued by how I might get her out of it.

Best part of the writing process?
I think it’s the feeling you get when the story in your head (finally!) matches what you put on paper.
Share one thing you learned writing this book.
I learned that you don’t know what you’re capable of until you try. I had a lot of doubt while writing this book, wondering if I could even write something paranormal, but I’m glad that I pushed through the doubt and proved to myself that if I put my mind to something, I can do it—even when it looks like it’s not going to be easy.
Tell me about one strange experience you’ve had. Again, it can be anything!
I commissioned someone to do the cover for my first novel and during the process, started to get the feeling that he’d run off with my money since my emails to him went unanswered. One night, I had a dream about a redheaded woman with glasses waving to me from her front porch.
The next day, I googled the cover artist and one of the first links that popped up was a cautionary blog post saying why you shouldn’t hire that particular artist. The strange part? There was a picture of the woman who wrote the post. She had red hair and glasses and looked eerily similar to the woman from my dream. Yikes!

Name one fictional place you’d love to visit.
I’ll just go ahead and say Oz (I would say Wonderland but that Mad Hatter might just be a tad bit too loony for me).

Name one real place you’d love to visit.
Paris.

Share one sentence/mini-excerpt from the book!
It took her twenty minutes to walk back to the house on the lake, and all she could think about was finding something to chop off that bitch’s head. She would do it and God would just have to forgive her. What could she use? She looked at all the trash in front of the house that she’d hauled from the shed. The wheelbarrow. Boxes. Lumber.  The pruning saw. The blade was sharp. And over ten inches long.
She picked it up by the handle and walked into the house.







 Book Info

Displaying collins_promo.jpgTitle: The New Mrs. Collins
Author: Quanie Miller
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: October 13, 2014

Book Blurb
In the small town of Carolville, Louisiana, no one knows that Adira Collins inherited mystic powers from her great grandmother. All they know is that she’s beautiful, poised, graceful, and ruthless—especially when it comes to love. And no one knows that more than Leena Williams, who was all set to marry the man of her dreams until Adira swooped into town and stole the man’s heart.
Being left at the altar is bad enough, but Leena and her ex share custody of their son, so she has to see the new Mrs. Collins on a regular basis.
And it burns every time she does.
But soon, Leena starts to suspect that there is more to Adira Collins than meets the eye. And it’s not because she owns some kinky lingerie shop or allegedly insulted the pastor’s wife—it’s the strange way she can make a door close without touching it, or take one look at something and make it drop dead at her feet.
Leena starts digging for answers and soon discovers that, unlike her public persona, Adira’s true nature is somewhere on the other side of grace. She also learns, a little too late, that some secrets are better left buried.  

Displaying QUANIE MILLER - PHOTO.jpegAuthor Bio

Quanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin). She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. She is the author of
The New Mrs. Collins, a southern paranormal novel, and It Ain't Easy Being Jazzy, a romantic comedy. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel. To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress visit quanietalkswriting.com.

Book Purchase Links


Social Media Links
Twitter: @quaniemiller
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QuanieMillerAuthor
Blog: http://www.quanietalkswriting.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/QuanieMiller
Website: quaniemiller.com 
Email: quanie@quanietalkswriting.com




Fall into Fantasy: Week 9


Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 9: Salvation by James Wymore


 A man wakes on a frozen battlefield when a scavenging couple finds him among the dead. As they nurse him back to health, he is struck with the horrible realization he can’t remember who he is or anything about his past. Taken in by the kind pair, he begins helping with their farm. She even takes him to meet her family, especially her single sister. The ideal life offered in the high mountains of Winigh is shattered when he sees a transport bringing enemy monsters to the shores below. Cut off by high snow on the pass, their fate will soon be the same as the town his company failed to protect in the last battle, if this estranged soldier cannot help them fight off the next wave of invaders. Even worse, the people of the town don’t trust this Selene soldier. He has a strange resistance to their folk magic which some say make him as dangerous as the enemies preparing to destroy them.

Buy it from: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Kobo
Or add it to Goodreads







ABOUT JAMES WYMORE
On a lifelong search for fantastic worlds hiding just out of sight, James Wymore writes to explore. With three books and six short stories in print after just one year, he continues to push the boundaries of imagination. Journey with him at http://jameswymore.wordpress.com

Find James online: 


Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?
  • Don't forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.
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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cover Reveal - Altar of Reality by Mara Valderann


Today is the cover reveal for Altar of Reality, the first book from Shifted Realities--a brand new series by Mara Valderran. This YA dystopian is set to be released January 31st, 2015 by Curiosity Quills Press. Mark your calendars, and be sure to add the book to your Goodreads list! Want to stay up to date on all things Altar of RealitySign up for Mara's newsletter so you don't miss a thing!

And now...the moment Mara's we've all been waiting for...


When sixteen-year-old Madeline suffers her first grand mal seizure, she finds herself in an unfamiliar reality, surrounded by strangers wearing familiar faces. Her best friend, Brandon, tells her that the world has fallen to chaos, the aftermath of World War III ten years ago. Madeline doesn’t remember anything from this life— especially not the explosion four years ago that killed her parents and landed her in a coma, or the Lord Commander; a zealot leader of the Southern Territories now searching for her.

Madeline barely has time to process everything before waking up to the life she’s always known. As soon as she dismisses it all as a strange and vivid dream, she finds herself back there once more. Unsure if she’s truly caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, or teetering on the brink of insanity, she finds herself flipping between the two lives. Her heart becomes torn between two versions of the same boy and the lines between her realities begin to blur as she struggles to save her lives in both worlds.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she's more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online: 

Be sure to check out the Heirs of War, Crown of Flames blog tour going on right now! There are excerpts, interviews, a giveaway, and more. You can find the tour calendar here.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Interview - Mara Valderann, Author of Heir of War and Crown of Flames!


INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MARA VALDERRAN

Emma: Tell me three interesting facts about yourself!

Mara: Hmmm… Questions like these are always the toughest. J One: I’ve never actually seen Star Wars all the way through. Two: I got my license when I was 25. Three: Goats freak me out.

Emma: Summarize your book in one line.

Mara: If I said “Girl power, magic, and crap like that” it probably wouldn’t sell, so I’ll go with: Seventeen year-old Zelene doesn’t give a damn about magic or prophecies—she’s getting her sister back.

Emma: Tell me something cool/crazy/quirky about the book – it can be anything!

Mara: I like to think that it’s cool that I have five female main characters who are all very different. I also make a lot of geek references to stuff I love like Stargate, so judge that how you will. ;)

Emma: Why did you decide to write this particular book?

Mara: These characters and this story had been in my head for the better part of ten years before I sat down and wrote it all out, and I honestly couldn’t tell you what made me sit down that day and start the draft that I’d end up finishing. Something just clicked into place, and before I knew it, I was finished with the first draft I’d restarted a dozen times over the years.

Emma: Best part of the writing process?

Mara: New things. I love sitting down to write something fresh, because there’s always surprises. That’s when I get to have my fun and explore and watch everything play out in my head. Whether I’m learning something new about a character, creating a brand new character, exploring my world more, or starting a brand new story in a brand new world…it’s all thrilling. If I go too long without writing something new, I start to get cranky.

Emma: Share one thing you learned writing this book.

Mara: There’s more to a character than their eyebrows and how said eyebrows move with each line they speak. Lol I’ve learned so much from this book and from my editor during this book. One thing I am trying to strengthen is being descriptive outside of the characters and really exploring the other senses and the settings. I always say I’m a much better story teller than I am writer, and being descriptive is definitely one area where that shows. Luckily, I have a brilliant editor who pushes me to be a better writer, so I’m constantly growing and learning.

Emma: Tell me about one strange experience you’ve had. Again, it can be anything!

Mara: This might sound weird, but I get the strangest and most random deja-vous ever. Like I will have a dream about a bit of conversation before it happens, or finding something random like a pink sock under my bed and what happens when I find it. Usually it is really small, stupid stuff, but I did once freak a boyfriend out by basically telling him exactly how I dreamed a make-up conversation of ours would go, even down to him telling me about a letter he wrote me. I’m pretty sure he might still think I’m psychic (I’m not, but it is weird.).

Emma: Name one fictional place you’d love to visit.

Mara: Hogwarts, hands down. And not just because I love the books. I mean, I love The Hunger Games too, but I think I can do without visiting that world. Ever. But Hogwarts? J.K. Rowling did an amazing job of creating this beautiful, mysterious, magical, and enthralling place that is so big, you are bound to be able to find some corner of it that feels like home. That’s pretty awesome.

Emma: Name one real place you’d love to visit.

Mara: It would be a tie between New York and Los Angeles. Luckily, I’ll be seeing both over the next couple of months, which is really exciting for me! As someone who has always loved the arts and used to dream of becoming an actress (before I discovered that I can have more fun creating characters than playing them hehe), I’ve always been drawn to those two cities.

Emma: Share one sentence/mini-excerpt from the book!

Mara: How about a teaser image that is a mini excerpt from the book? =D

ABOUT THE HEIRS OF WAR SERIES

The NA fantasy series Heirs of War has taken Wattpad by storm with over one million reads, and the second installment has arrived. Catch up on Heirs of War (#1) for just 99 cents now!

Heirs of War #1:


When seventeen year-old Zelene finds herself thrust into a world of magic and prophecy, she discovers fighting destiny might not be the toughest battle she has to face. Now she must join with three other girls, complete strangers linked only by blood relation, to fight a war they know nothing of and rescue the twin sister she's never met.


Add it to Goodreads





The adventure continues with Heirs of War, Crown of Flames...


Heirs of War, Crown of Flames
Heirs of War #2
Mara Valderran
Cover Art by Gretchen Byers

Weeks have passed since Ariana and Alec escaped from Kellen's dungeon, but danger isn't far behind them. The guilt of his past weighs heavily on Alec’s shoulders, and his secrets only push Ariana further away. As they travel through unknown lands and encounter multiple threats, their biggest challenge might be trusting one another.

The world appears to be going on regardless of the risks Ariana faces. The Duillaine insist that they are doing everything they can to find Ariana, but their actions betray that claim. Despite the danger and the war closing in around them, all of Anscombe seems to be more interested in the upcoming Imbolc festival and Terrena’s betrothal than rescuing Ariana.

Well…not everyone.

Tired of waiting for the Duillaine to help her twin, Zelene starts plotting on her own and finds a surprising ally in Rhaya, even as the Cynewards prepare to make a move of their own. But Zelene’s plans go awry when she finds herself with a new ability, a mysterious new friend, and more enemies within the walls of Anscombe than she thought.

Add it to Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she's more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online: 
Website & Blog  Twitter  Facebook  Google+  Goodreads  Wattpad  Amazon Author
Sign up for Mara's newsletter so you don't miss news on new releases and fun contests!


Want to follow this blog tour? Check out the calendar below!



Monday 10/13
Krystal WadeMargo Bond CollinsHere is What I Read Book Blog
Vicki TraskJessa RussoLorraine Harvey
Priya KanapartiNerd Girl OfficialTerry's Book Addiction
Ali DeanShooting Star Book Reviews
Tuesday 10/14Wednesday 10/15Thursday 10/16
Ali Dean (Review)Jan Farnworth (Review)James Wymore (Guest Post)
Terry's Book Addiction (Review)Jamie Ayres (Promo)
Friday 10/17Saturday 10/19Monday 10/20
Emma Adams (Interview)Laveda Kasch (Excerpt #1)Eliza Tilton (Excerpt #2)
Elsie Elmore (Interview)Jessa Russo (Excerpt #3)
Cait Spivey (Guest Post)Shooting Star Book Reviews (Excerpt #4)
Here is What I Read (Interview)
Tuesday 10/21Wednesday 10/22Thursday 10/23
Michael Panush (Review)Book Lover Blog (Review)Ayden Morgen (Guest Post)
Friday 10/24Monday 10/27Tuesday 10/28
K. L. Schwengel (Guest Post)Katie Teller (Interview)Priya Kanaparti (Guest Post)
Charity Bradford (Excerpt #5)Sharon Bayliss (Review)
Vicki Trask (Review)
Sarah Anderson (Interview)

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My editing process!


As every writer knows, the first draft is only the beginning. Once you have a complete draft, it's time for... revisions. If you’ve written straight through without going back and revising (which I try to do unless something really isn't working) then the draft is bound to be in pretty rough shape, unless you’re one of those rare people who can turn out a pristine first draft (if so, I'm jealous!). I always get a moment of paralysis before I start the first edit of a book – the moment when it hits me just how much work is still ahead if I want to get the manuscript into a readable shape. But that’s completely normal, and the best approach is to take it a step at a time. Bear in mind that I'm guilty of everything I'm pointing out in this post, and I think most writers are!

1: The Big Picture

Read through the draft in its entirety, and note down any plot and character-related issues, from inconsistency to confusing elements. Some writers like to note down particular pages/chapters and cross-reference, others might prefer a general list to refer to as they read. The key thing is not to worry about the quality of the actual writing at this point – this is effectively a macro edit, looking at the overarching story, before diving into the minor issues later.

Things to watch out for:

  1. Plot.
  • Look out for inconsistencies, plot holes, points of confusion and any unnecessary scenes that deviate from the main storyline. For instance, that random encounter with a gigantic invisible monster which never appears again probably isn't supposed to be there. (Totally random example. Honest! *shifty eyes*)
  • Writers who don’t use an outline (and probably some who do!) might want to make a list of scenes at this point, in a spreadsheet. It’s an easy way to see if every scene needs to be there, and if they’re in the right order - each scene should build on what's happened before, and there should be a sense of forward momentum, not a string of disconnected events. Even though I start with an outline, the story often changes as I write, so I've found it helps to keep track of the scenes in this way.
  • The crucial point is this: every scene must advance the story in some way, furthering the plot or a sub-plot and developing characters. A lot of writers tend to overwrite in their first drafts, including scenes that aren’t necessary to the story. I have the opposite problem in that my first drafts tend to be skeletal, often missing whole scenes for foreshadowing and character development. So in my spreadsheets, I look for gaps where new scenes need to be inserted, or what is already there can be deepened and extended. 
  • This is also a good time to check pacing, and to work out whether you're spending too long at one plot point or rushing through several at once. 
  • As I write fantasy, I need to ensure that the worldbuilding also remains consistent throughout. Make sure that any rules aren't conveniently forgotten for plot purposes!

  1. Character.

  • Tied into plot revision – and equally important – is character. Ensure that characters’ motivations and goals remain clear and consistent throughout the story.
  • The main character ideally has to undergo some kind of change over the course of the story, and their arc ideally needs to be the main focus. When editing, I make sure that the character is at the centre of each scene, and that they have agency - they don't just follow the plot, they are the plot. This is especially important if you write plot-driven stories (like I do) - I recommend this blog series, which is a great way to see how character development ties into story structure rather than acting independently of it! 
  • Related: to push yourself even further, ask whether your main character is truly challenged over the course of the story. The harder their journey, the more compelling their emotional struggles, the more the reader will invest in their story. If you find opportunities where you can dig ever-deeper and really make your characters suffer, do! (*evil writer laugh*)
  • I also try to look at the characters from a reader’s perspective and make sure their actions are logical. I want readers to sympathise with the protagonists, even if they're not conventionally likeable... (And, uh, with me, they usually aren't. I've been known to say, "Nice protagonists are boring". :P) And definitely ask CPs/beta readers for their opinions on this!
  • It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply telling the reader what a character is thinking or feeling, but in revision, try to show this through their behaviour, interactions with others, responses to the environment.
  • Note: as an editorial intern, one of the most frequent issues I saw in submissions was telling character emotion rather than showing it, and it really does make a difference to how the reader perceives and identifies with the character. The most common one seemed to be, "I was angry". How about showing some clenched fists, a snappish tone, glaring - even better if you can show how this particular character deals with the emotion, in a way unique to them. This can be tricky, but ultimately leads to a more 3D character. Read The Emotion Thesaurus for some golden advice on how to do this!
  • For minor characters, even if they're only there for plot reasons, make them distinct. This can be difficult, as I've learned the hard way, when trying to introduce a lot of characters at once. Give them one or two memorable traits to avoid reader confusion.
2: Micro Edits

It's often helpful to do the big-picture edits first, but I've found that despite my better intentions, I always end up digging into minor issues in the first self-edit. So now I do several rounds incorporating a bit of both.

  • While marking up the MS, I'll also be keeping an eye out for other issues, noting sections where the setting or description needs to be more evocative, the tension lags, or the pacing is off. Pacing, emotion and tension are three things that are difficult to get right, but are essential if you really want to hook the reader. Try to read as a reader, and ask yourself whether you'd want to keep turning the pages (and definitely get other opinions!).
  • One of my personal weaknesses is lacking detail in descriptions, so I take time to make sure they’re vivid and clear. Mood and setting are crucial to a story, and I use this phase to add in the sensory details that really bring the story and the world to life, and make the characters seem like real people. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of writer who overdoes the description and details, now’s the time to look at each sentence and ask whether it needs to be there, or if the story would work just fine without it.
  • Another weakness of mine is conveying information at the right time, especially with worldbuilding. It's hard to do this without infodumping, but massive paragraphs of information are a major turn-off for readers! Then again... so is being utterly confused and not understanding what's happening. Try to integrate key information into dialogue rather than exposition. Highlight sentences where you're telling the reader a piece of information, and ask yourself whether it needs to be there. And ask for readers' opinions, of course!
  • Now is also the time to check things like sentence structure and repetition, remove unnecessary dialogue tags and adjectives, and ensure that the passive voice (a pet peeve of my publishers!) is kept to a minimum. This means: any verb ending in "ing" ("was running", "were walking", etc.).
  • I use Word’s search function to highlight words I tend to overuse, including ‘was’ (nine times out of ten, active is better than passive- ‘ran’ sounds better than ‘was running’!); ‘that’; ‘had’; and other filter words such as ‘felt’; ‘heard’; saw’; ‘thought’… the list goes on! Filter words are best replaced with more concrete language (which is also related to showing rather than telling - instead of saying, "he felt sad", show us his reaction!). And adverbs! Keep them to a minimum. My worst is "just", and also "really". After a while, you start to become aware of which words you tend to over-use – critique partners can be a great help with this, too!

Is that daunting? Absolutely! It takes me 3-4 rounds of edits, including getting opinions from at least two rounds of readers, before I have a manuscript in decent shape. And there are roadblocks along the way. Sometimes it feels like playing Story Jenga, when you change one minor detail and it turns into a domino effect which threatens to topple the entire manuscript. And the fact is, it's human nature to overlook our own errors, so critique partners and beta readers are absolutely vital. Some writers share their work with critique partners as they go; others wait until they have a finished draft to start searching for beta readers, and others wait a few months, do several rounds of self-editing, and then send it to other readers. I find that it can certainly help to get others’ opinions before making major changes to your book - not to mention moral support! The best beta readers/critique partners are both tactfully critical and supportive.

There are many places you can find CP's or beta readers, from forums like Absolute Write to blog events (I know Maggie Stiefvater sometimes hosts a CP Love connection on her blog) to contests. It never hurts to ask around! A word of caution, however (from experience!): be sure you know what to expect before asking. There's nothing worse than receiving critique which is unhelpful - or worse, critical to the point of plain rudeness. Unfortunately, it happens, even in the writing community, and in a career which is emotionally unstable at best, the last thing you need is unnecessary negativity. Tactful honesty is important, but if the critique is delivered in the manner of a one-star reviewer, then, well, to put it delicately, it might say more about the critiquer than the manuscript! The important thing is that it's your story, and all suggestions are totally optional (I say this as an editor, too!). :)

How many edits do you need to do? I've heard different answers to this, ranging from three to ten drafts. I do one in-depth self-edit (or two, if I have a really messy first draft) before sending it to CP's/beta readers for feedback. My reason for this is: writer blindness. It happens. We all have our blind spots. Mine, for instance, are silly overlooked plot holes, character development/motivations, infodumping, telling, lack of descriptions and the dreaded passive voice... and self-editing isn't enough to catch out all the errors. Nor is only one opinion - I put each manuscript through at least 2 rounds of beta readers and it's not uncommon for the final draft to barely resemble the first! I always hit a point where I think the damn thing is never going to be good enough, but it's possible to edit endlessly.  At some point, you have to stop tweaking and put it out there, whether that means through querying, sending to your agent/publisher if you have one, or self-publishing (and in that case, hiring a professional editor).

Wow, that was a long post! Like I said, it’s different for every writer – some people love revision, others loathe it. Either way, it's a vital step on the way to the dream of being published, and a part of the process I've come to value highly - even when up to my neck in passive voice and trying to figure out another synonym for the word "looked"...