A Writing Journey

Self-Editing

Your first draft is done, and you may want to start sending it out or letting people read it straight away. You shouldn’t. Let it sit, let it rest, and then after a few weeks (or months, or whatever), come back to the desk and look at it afresh. You will see bits and pieces that don’t fit, rocks among your gems, and you will get to work editing.*

So how does one go about self-editing? It’s a tricky business, I’ll tell you that. It’s tricky because you know what you’ve written, and you may either be sentimentally attached to certain parts of the story that need to be seriously changed (or deleted altogether) or you may skim over your writing and miss things that need to be fixed. If you are like me, you may intentionally gloss over something that you know is wrong, but you aren’t sure how to fix it yet.

Thus the first step in self-editing is to READ CAREFULLY. In fact, read out loud, slowly. When you do this, you will catch things that you would likely not catch reading silently (think awkward word pairings, misspelled words, horrifyingly long sentences). Read once through without changing anything.** Doing this will give you a good sense of your story, how it flows (or doesn’t) and what places need work. Once you’ve read through, go back to the beginning and get started editing with the following tips:

1.Get rid of your “catch phrases”

We all have certain words or phrases that we tend to use more frequently than others. You’ll notice them as you read, and you will remember them. A few times through the book is okay, because your reader may or may not remember that the phrase you used on page 238 is the same as on page 24. HOWEVER I will advise to use particularly “pretty” phrases or words (think quiescence) only once. A word that your reader has to look up or a phrase that they will linger on WILL be remembered. Go ahead and rework these phrases, choose different words, and go on from there. You may have to do this several times.

2. Cut “very”

Do you remember the scene from The Dead Poet’s Society where Mr. Keating talks about “very”? He warns the boys to pick stronger words. And now I’m warning you. If you are using “very” to beef up your verbs or adverbs, you need to work harder. And I know it’s tough. Sometimes you just can’t think of the perfect word. That’s why we edit more than once, and why when we are writing the first draft, we don’t worry so much about “verys.” But to make your novel as strong as it an be, pick “crucial” instead of “very important.”

3.Check your POV

No matter if you are writing in first or third, point of view is crucial to your story. (See what I did there? Huh, huh?) First of all, you should pick a point of view and stick with it. If you pick to follow two characters, alternating between them, don’t all of a sudden drop one (unless they die – which in that case I hope it’s a mystery and we know something the protagonist doesn’t!) or add a third. I’ll give you an example. If you’ve been a follower here for a long time, you know that I LOVE Robin Hobb. This is probably the only complaint I will ever have against her. In one of her recent novels, she changed perspectives and started following a different character – without any indication that this is what she was doing. It was confusing and, to be honest, it took me a couple pages to understand. I did understand, but for those few moments I was not immersed in the story – and our goal as writers is to keep the reader immersed.

When you are writing a single character, try to make sure that every word you write reflects that character. If your own biases or stylistic word choices slip in, cut them. Be careful about consistency. Your novel will shine when you are consistent.

4.Grammar, typos, and formatting

The general stuff, right? Make sure you use correct grammar (or stylistically consistent grammar). Correct misspellings and repeat words. Make sure that your formatting is consistent throughout the manuscript. It’s tedious stuff, but important. Publishers and agents expect a level of expertise when it comes to writing.

I hope these tips will help you as you begin self-editing, and if you have more, please feel free to share them in the comments below!

Take care,

Emily

*You may also need to rewrite huge swaths of your story. This is fine. This is expected. This is probably needed.

**Mark places that you feel need work, if you must. But try your best to refrain from changing things! You want to come into the work with “fresh” eyes – as a reader not a writer. It will help in the long-run, I promise.

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winter.:

EarthSky Facebook page, by Timothy Boocock

Fierce wind whipped us as we plunged through the storm. The blood on my coat was frozen. The arm around me never loosened its grip. The run of the horse was not smooth, but jarring and I felt sick. Only the sting of wind and ice kept me in the moment. I could hear the cries of the tormented horse, crying from it’s mind to mine, asking me to please, please let it rest. I tried to answer it, to tell it that all would be well, but I did not know how without the man hearing me too. And so I sat in silence.

At last the man slowed the poor beast, and though the wind still thrashed around us, the snow lightened, and far above the clouds were starting to drift apart. I threw up, covering the man’s arm, my front, and the horse’s neck. The man swore and pulled the horse to a stop. He pushed me to the ground and for a moment I felt the sickening sensation of snakes in my stomach and then hit the ground, air whooshing out of me. I rolled as he dismounted. He shook the sick off of his arm and glared at me. Anger rolled off of him. I scrambled away backwards, fearing his rage. He snatched me and told me that I was not to try to run away, because if I did then I would die. I wondered: would he kill me or the storm? I did not ask it though.

He wiped down the horse, who was effusing gratitude for the rest and little weight on her back, and then he turned to me. He told me I should try to clean myself with the snow because he wasn’t going to do it for me. I scrambled to obey and as I did, I watched him from the corner of my eye. I did not like the look of him. He was graceful in the way a hunting cat i graceful – watchful, lithe, and ready to strike. I knew he was a killer, and I knew he’d taken me – for what purpose I could not fathom, but he had not hurt me. He had pushed me off the horse though, and that made me just as wary as as that he’d killed. And he was big, so much bigger than Auntie, bigger than Shuri, Naha, and Abrisin.

When I was as clean as I could make myself, he lifted me back onto the horse and we were off again, but this time it was a steady trot instead of an all-out gallop. I was grateful for that, and did not feel sick that time. It had been a long time since I’d slept, and I started nodding off, only to be jarred awake each time by my falling head. I shook myself and sat up straighter. I did not want to fall asleep in the man’s grasp, if for no other reason than my fear that he would push me from the horse to wake me. He was not a gentle soul.

Eventually the night was clear, though still windy, and the moonlight shone down on us. I did not recognize the landscape, and felt sick for home. We stopped by a road shelter – three walls and roof with a dirt floor that had been sheltered from the snow. The man dismounted and took me with him. The horse joined us in the shelter and the man gave us both food – some sort of meal for the horse and bread with dry cheese for me. He ate as well, eyes never leaving me.

I asked him what his name us. He told me that I could call him Soliri, but I didn’t believe that that was his real name. I asked him what he had taken me for, and he said I was a Whisper, and people bought Whispers. Then he told me to be quiet, and go to sleep, because he was tired and if he was tired then so must I be.

I watched him lay down, no pillow or blanket, thoughts whirling in my head. I had been called a Whisper before, and it was time I learned what it meant.

#FirstLineFriday

Are we getting used to this yet? For new visitors, a brief explanation of what FirstLineFriday is:

  • Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules (like this).
  • Post the first one or two lines of a story idea, work-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.
  • Urge others to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is optional).

     They always told her never to leave the Safe Waters because here the Path was still pure, untainted by hate for her kind, and the night sky burned with stars of gold and green, bleeding through from another time and place.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions or ideas?

Take care,

Emily

Intermediate Worldbuilding

Okay, so last week we had a post for beginning worldbuilding that outlined a few of the most important steps for worldbuilding. Those steps were: make maps, think about religion, and decide how people look. This time we are going to go a couple of steps further. For those of you who want to continue past the first three steps (or those of you who are wondering how to proceed or just want some extra ideas), here are two more steps to take your world to the next level.

1. Language.

This doesn’t mean you have to go all Tolkien on us and go study linguistics to make your own fully-fledged language (though if that’s your thing DO IT!). Rather, look at the names of characters and places that you’ve come up with. Say them out loud. What do they sound like? If you’ve got one nation your focusing on, chances are most names are going to have a really similar cadence or feel to them. I’m not saying that everything has to sound the same (because really, we don’t want that), but look at the rhythm and flow of your names. For instance: in Quest for Salvation I have the following city names: Ruslaht, Ohmlaur, and Talahm. Say those out loud. There’s a similarity, and they are all very clearly from one nation. But Frewantin (another city) is obviously from a different part of the world, by the sound of the name alone.

So what about character names? You can keep it simple, like with city names, and have names that just sound like they go together. Or you can take it a step further and create a system for names. For instance, in my novel there is a system for imperial family names; male names start with consonants, female names with vowels, and all imperial names end with the “ay” sound. In addition, names throughout the nation have certain sounds that are more prominent than others (such as “ie” “o” and “n”). You can get as creative as you want with things like this, and it will be sure to give your story that extra layer. Just be sure to write your rules down, and follow them consistently!

One last note: not all countries have to have similar language sounds. In fact, the further apart they are the more different they should be. You  could always have slight differences between neighbors that become huge differences between the nations on either end of the line. Example: if you have a common tongue that people from most or all nations can speak, they will still have names (cities and people and sometimes even special items) in their own language. So someone named Sandrilion can still interact with someone named Crystal, but be from different places.

2. Politics.

It’s important to know what your political system is in your story world, even if you never mention it directly. That’s because whatever is happening at the top has a huge effect on what happens at the bottom. For instance, if there is a political coup and the king is overthrown by his great-niece the duchess of Winderburn, there’s going to be some backlash. People who supported the king are going to have to fall in line fast, or be smart about taking the new queen down. And maybe some pro-king folks will take it on themselves to raid villages in Winderburn, which causes hardship for the farmers there, who suddenly can’t get crops to the trade depot that your character runs, and she has debts from sending her son to a prestigious academy in the capital that has actually been shut down by the new queen, so not only does she have to pay that back to the folks who loaned her the money and her son is back with her so she has to feed him again, but now her trade depot can’t make a profit because the farms are being raided.

Get the idea? Even little political changes can have a big impact on your characters. It’s a trope in mediocre fantasy that “the poor people don’t care what’s going on with the rich,” (and vice versa) but to make your story ring true, the poor should always care, because everything always effects them – you just have to pay a little more attention.

I hope these two worldbuilding tips help take your world and story to the next level. If you have comments or questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below!

Take care,

Emily

 

deeplovephotography:“ flickr | facebook | society6 ”

aldrtree.tumblr.com

Those first weeks with the strangers were excruciating. I walked between them, snow soaking into my boots and chilling my feet. My body did not want to heal from the torment I’d put it through. The food the strangers ate was tasteless.

They called themselves Naha, Shuri, and Abrisin. Naha was the eldest, or so I assumed, for she directed the others and they followed her bidding. She had spoken to Auntie, made the deal with her to sell me. Shuri was the man. He was in charge of our food, and I wondered if that was why it tasted so bad. But he did keep us fed, and he often took special note of how I reacted to the dishes, and tried to change them so they would be better. Abrisin was in charge of my care. She was a gentle soul, and when we stopped each evening she made sure I had a cozy nest near the fire.

And so we went, travelling deeper into the cold. North, they called it. There were no birds or animals that I could see, though Shuri pointed out their tracks. I could not even hear them in my head over the whispers of my traveling companions. Their lives were so loud that I wondered how they could ever travel in silence, which frequently we did.

I was not in their care for long. There was a storm one night that threatened to bury us in our camp, so Naha decided that we would press on to the town they knew was near. We’d not stayed in a village or town since setting out from Auntie’s. In the town, we arrived at an inn. The innkeeper told Naha that the rooms were full, on account of the festival of fire. He said that we were welcome to stay in the common room, for reduced price. I think Naha was ready to brave the storm in search of another inn, and certainly we would have followed her, but she looked down at me, weary and shivering, and agreed to the innkeeper’s terms.

The common room was full with people in a similar situation to ours. Some of them looked as we did – weary travelers who just needed a place to stay for the night. Others looked fierce, as if this was their first time among civilized folk. Naha ushered us to a corner out of the way, and Abrisin settled me in a cocoon of blankets. She smiled down at me, stroking my hair, and told me that all would make sense when I made it to the Citadel. And then Shuri warned someone not to come any closer.

I think those memories I chose to lose, for there are only flashes of what happened. Warm blood on my face, Abrisin’s back as she stood to protect me, her weight as she fell on me. And then someone dragging me out of my nest, and a grinning face with a cracked front tooth.

The innkeeper did nothing as they drug me from the place. The other travelers did nothing. Perhaps they thought that since I did not scream or cry, I was in no danger. I was too afraid to scream or cry or even fight. Perhaps I thought it the way of things, to be passed from one keeper to the next. The big man who had me in his grasp was wild. His hair tangled with itself and the beads strung through it. A gold ring shone from his ear. His fingernails were torn and dirty.

Out in the storm he loaded me up on a horse and swung himself up after me. I’d never been on a horse. When he spurred the beast into movement, I clutched the arm around me, terrified of falling. We rode out into the night. The storm closed around us.

#FirstLineFriday

Welcome to #FirstLineFriday. Explanation:

  • Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules (like this).
  • Post the first one or two lines of a story idea, work-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.
  • Urge others to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is optional).

So get comfy, take a seat and tell me what you think!

Ehdra’s people lay dead at the bottom of the sea, their lives stolen by the dark ash that fell from the sky and the liquid flame that burned their cities.

This line is from an origin story, of sorts, and that’s all I’m going to say about it. Where do you think it’s going? What do you think is going to happen? And above all, what do you think about the line – things you would change, improve, keep the same?

Take care,

Emily

A friend of mine recently said “I hate worldbuilding, that’s why I only write fanfiction these days.” I’ve heard the sentiment before, and it shocks me every time. Worldbuilding is my favorite part of writing. I love diving into something that isn’t even real yet and figuring it out, deciding how the people live, how things are done. There is a lot that goes into worldbuilding, and all at various stages of how much you want to accomplish, or how much you need for the story (trust me, it’s always more than you think, but if you have the basics, the rest will come while you write).

So what does one need, to start worldbuilding? I have A NUMBER OF TIPS for you in this post. I will say, before we get too far, that not every story needs tons of worldbuilding. If you are writing a fiction or fantasy that takes place in this world, you may have a specific place in mind so you don’t have to build one. But you may have to take more time developing the magic system or history of were-creatures. As with all writing tips, use them or don’t at your own discretion.

Tip #1: Make maps.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know about my obsession with maps. I draw maps for all of my stories (heck – I draw maps for my ideas and the ideas that haven’t even become ideas yet). This is one of the most important parts of worldbuilding, so you can get oriented and know what’s where. Think about it: have you ever read a book and come across a passage that jars you directionally? For instance, if I’m reading a book and it says they are going east, but then says the rising sun is behind them? Or even not having a discrepancy like that, and just assuming the layout of the world is one way, but in the author’s mind it is the complete opposite? Maps help with this. Maps will help you, the writer, avoid mistakes like the one illustrated above, and they will help readers have a clear vision of your world.

So make maps. Not just of countries and continents, but cities and buildings and important places in your story. You don’t have to include everything in the end, but if you know it, you’ll be able to write more clearly about it.

Tip #2: Think about religion.

Okay, I know a lot of people aren’t religious. I’m not very religious. But we can’t deny that religion plays a huge roll in our world. If you are creating a world from scratch, there are going to be creation myths, legends, and maybe even texts that someone decides is the key for how to live life. Some of these are going to evolve into religions. Because people want something to believe in, whether they are characters in a book, or real people. If you don’t want to have any religions in your book, there should be a good reason for their absence. Not one that you necessarily have to share, but it will inform your writing if it is there. And if there are religions, but you don’t want to make it a focus, maybe your main character is not religious. Or maybe it becomes a source of conflict between the hero and their travelling companion. One suggestion: don’t be preachy. It’s okay for one character to preach at another, but don’t preach to your reader. They won’t thank you for it.

Tip #3: Decide how the people look.

I’m not just talking physical features, though that’s important too. I’m talking about how they dress, how they move. The climate will play a part in this – people in colder regions are typically shorter and stouter while people in warmer areas are thinner and taller. (This is about heat conservation in northern regions, or keeping cool in warmer regions. It’s biological. If you have someone move from a warm region to a cool region, their kids are still going be taller, typically.) Not only height and girth, but in cold places people are more bundled, making for less graceful movements. Clothes are very important to worldbuilding – and not for description purposes (let’s face it, it sucks to spend paragraphs upon paragraphs trying to memorize details of someone’s attire). But if you think about why they wear certain things, you’ve hit a gold mine. If most people in a country wear leather armor, you can assume they are warlike. If they wear fine silks and flowing robes, maybe it is because they are excellent traders and have become very wealthy. Of course, in every culture and country there is wide variation depending on class, occupation, and even religious beliefs.

Okay. So these three steps are going to get you started. Of course there is so much more to think about, but if, like my friend, worldbuilding is not your forte, or is simply new to you, these steps will get you started in the write direction. (I know, written puns never do so well.)

What is your favorite worldbuilding tip?

Take care,

Emily

Sunday Special

Hey folks! So I’m pretty excited because yesterday I reached the HALFWAY point on book 3! This is a pretty big accomplishment for me because of the short amount of time it’s taken to get to this point. Admittedly, I did start book 3 a while ago, but the last couple weeks I’ve gotten through about a fourth of it.

Another update: I’ve decided where I’m going when I finish book 3! Of course I’ll start by editing/revising/rewriting both 2 and 3, but then I’ve got another pair of stories for the same world: other people dealing with the aftermath of Lacey’s adventures.

Okay, thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Emily

Midwinter Dream..Love the snow and how quite it is when the snow falls outside. Then on the inside,a warm fire in the fireplace, the smell of cooking and baking. AAAAAHHHHH YES!!!:

From Pinterest, originally pinned from midwinter-dream.tumbler.com

My convalescence was, I realized, a fabrication. It took time for this realization to strike, a whole other season of hot, but once it took hold I would not let it go. If I asked Auntie about it she told me I was ill, not like the sun-sick I’d been before, but ill with nature. This made no sense to me. I could feel nature pulsing outside of the cottage, feel it calling me, telling me stories. I could hear the birds whisper sweet nothings to each other, I could hear the ants warn each other of water spilling into their hills. They all mattered so much, and I wanted to find them, love them, cherish them.

When the crisp air came again, Auntie went to the villages. Before she’d taken me with her. Now she told me to stay home, rest, and work on my letters. For the first time, I defied her. When she left, so did I. I went into the hills and talked to the animals, the insects, the plants. I coaxed dying flowers back to blooming, I kept long grasses from giving in to their exhaustion. I had missed a whole season with them, I did not want to let them all go not.

Much of the season passed so, until I came home late, or perhaps Auntie came home early. She yelled and screamed, so angry that I’d disobeyed her. She took me back to the little stone room within a room. The man who’d been there was gone now and the stones told me he was dead. Auntie didn’t know what else to do and she put me in the little room and left me there.

I wanted out. Out of the room, out of my mind, out of my skin. The world was going on without me. I needed to sing the grasses to sleep, bid farewell to the migrating birds and soothe the butterflies as they died. But I was concealed in stone, and I could not feel them, could not connect to them. And so I clawed my flesh, I beat my fists against the stone, I screamed and cried and ripped at my hair. Auntie brought me food, but did not bring me company or peace. I begged her to let me out, but she said she couldn’t let me lose myself. She didn’t know I already was, trapped in stone like that.

And then, one day when the earth was sleeping, she came and was not alone. There were three of them, two women and a man. They smelled of sheep and horses, but with another scent as well, a tang of metal, a wisp of smoke. They were appalled. I was bloody and broken from my months in captivity. Auntie cried for me, and cried for herself. She’d failed me, she said, and the Whisper Man had died and she didn’t know what to do, or if I was dangerous. One of the women hugged her and told her she had done her best, but humans were not equipped to deal with Whispers. The man was disgusted with my Auntie. The other woman was focused on me. She brought me out, wiped blood from my face and hands, wrapped me in a blanket. Onaemi, she called me, my first true name.

I marveled at the sounds of sleeping earth, sounds that had been held away from me by the stone. I heard the snow softly sighing, and hibernating animals dreaming. I heard the mournful song of the dragon fill my mind and my heart ached for it.

Auntie cried herself out, and dumped coins into the man’s hand. They told her that I would be better off, that perhaps, if the Whisper Council approved, I might go to the Citadel. She said whatever they could do to make me well, she would welcome. Her eyes rimmed red, she watched them lead me away.

#FirstLineFriday

Okay folks, I’m trying something new today, thanks to Rami Ungar the Writer. This is #firstlinefriday and the explanation/rules are as follows:

  • Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules (like this).
  • Post the first one or two lines of a story idea, work-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.
  • Urge others to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is optional).

Well, I’ve got plenty of “first lines” to choose from, so I’m going to go with one from an idea for a “future earth” story. Here you go!

     I try to imagine what this would be like in the past; there would be grass under my feet as we stood at the graveside – a deep hole in the ground – with rain splattering against canvas, a tiny hand gripped in my own.

So, what do you think?

As for who I’m going to encourage, let’s go with some folks who’ve been less active in blogging, and try to get them back! English and PhilosophyValourborn, and Flaming Colours. And of course, anyone else who wants to participate! Feel free to tag me and I’ll come read what you post! 🙂

Take care,

Emily

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