A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘drafts’

Why Hire an Editor?

It seems these days that everyone is DIY-ing everything. And why not? It’s fun to make your own decorations, gifts, and cards. But one thing you should not DIY is editing.* That’s right, I said you shouldn’t edit all by yourself. This is a lesson it took me most of high school and the first year of college to learn. I was an avid self-editor. While self-editing is an important step in the editing process, it isn’t the only step.

So why shouldn’t you rely solely on yourself (or worse, spell-check) for all of your editing needs? For starters, you know your story. You know exactly what you mean when you write certain phrases – the same phrases that befuddle readers. If you only self-edit, you are going to miss an important opportunity to improve your writing ability. You might, even with your story bible, miss a detail that you changed in one place but not another (we’re humans, after all).

Another excellent reason is that spell-check doesn’t catch everything. I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself. You write see instead of seen and spell check doesn’t catch it. You’ve probably read and reread and rewritten your work so many times that you skim, and you miss it too. A second pair of eyes will help you beat typos like those.

Okay, okay, you say, but why hire someone when friends will edit for free, or some beta readers will, for free, read and give feedback about what passages don’t work? Simple: you get what you pay for. Friends will often be slow-going (especially when you are an adult writer and your friends are also adults) and, unless they are also writers/readers, they may not edit to the standard you need. Many friends and family readers will only tell you what you want to hear, for fear of hurting your feelings. This is unproductive if you are trying to improve your craft. In the blogging community or writers’ workshops** you may find people who are willing to give the feedback you need, but unless they have an incentive to get it done, they, too, will likely lag. It’s no fault of theirs – people simply have to take care of things happening in their own lives first. An editor, however, will be on a schedule. It is in their best interest to get the work done, and do it well so that their reputation prospers.

I get it, you may not have much money right now. Luckily there are a wide range of editors out there, with all sorts of different fees. There are both professional and freelance editors, some with specific skill sets or preferences for projects, and some who are open to taking on just about any project. If you are really strapped for cash but want to hire an editor, and if you have a computer, you can always earn some extra money with things like Smart Panel, MintVine, SwagBucks, and so many other similar sites. If you aspire to be a published author, you really should hire an editor. Your chances of being accepted by a publisher will increase because a better manuscript means less work for them. The same for story, article or poetry submissions to publishers and magazines. In some cases, even blog posts can benefit from hiring an editor.

So take a look around, find someone who meets your needs, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s what the editors are there for. To help your writing become the best it can be.

Take care,

Emily

*Of course start with doing it yourself. Clean up your writing as much as you can, that’s your job as the writer.

**Sometimes the writers you find in workshops or other locations take their role too far, and are crueler to your writing than they need to be. I’ve seen it happen. Always choose someone you trust.

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.

When Writing, Have Goals

A notebook full of goals has a prominent position on my desk. Some of the things in the notebook are get a full time jobexercise daily, and (my favorite) finish that book. With each goal, I have four or five “action steps” listed – things I can do with RIGHT NOW to accomplish a goal. Things like “write for a half hour every day” (it’s easier than I expected – especially if I take my notebook to work and do it on break) and “design one project a month.” That one is crochet, by the way. Reasons for why I should follow through on the goal are also there, at the bottom of the page. Feeling accomplished is on almost every page. And guess what – I’ve finished two goals and I DO feel accomplished – which encourages me to keep going.

Having goals is an important part of life, so that we aren’t just dragging our feet from home to job and back again – goals give us purpose. So we had better have some goals when we are writing!

What are my overall writing goals? This question is the key to how writing fits into our lives. Is it a hobby, a career, a passion? Answering this question, truthfully, can help you decide how to focus yourself.

I want you to go past “I want to be a published author” and “I want to be a bestseller” and “I want to reach/change/impact the world.” While those are great goals, they are surface goals. They are the goals every budding writer comes up with. Think a little more personally. What does writing mean to you? How does it impact your life? Where do you see your writing going (think hard about this one – it could go towards editing, copywriting, technical writing, freelancing, books, poetry, and so, so much more)?

When you have that figured out, give yourself some action steps, things you can do today, in this moment, to set yourself on that path, or keep your journey going. (As for me, I’m going to do my half-hour writing as soon as I’m done with this post.)

 

 

If you are a fiction writer, you have to think about more than just your goals – you’ve got a whole cast of characters fighting for attention – fighting for their goals to be fulfilled. Just like our goals give us direction and meaning, so do theirs*. Something more than “the good gal is determined to beat the evil witch.” Because while that can be an overarching goal, that good gal had better have some compelling goals for her own life (or a compelling reason that she’s got to defeat the evil witch). Just like us, they need action steps that they can accomplish to get them closer to their goals. Sure, they will make mistakes (at least they better!), but everything they do should advance the goals (hmm, sounds like some plot-relevant advice, doesn’t it?).

Now, let’s get back to us. When writing our lovely novel, we’ve got the task of keeping everything on track. So stick to your goals, even if your characters lose sight of theirs. Get that book finished, get it published or stowed away or whatever you do with finished manuscripts, and then get on to the next one.

Take care, travelers

*Sure, you can have an aimless character, but you will have to have a fantastic story to make that work – too often aimless characters get drug around and have no say about anything. Of course, your goal-oriented character can also have these things happen, and they can make bad choices based on hopes for accomplishing their goals – being goal-oriented doesn’t mean the story is boring.

Self versus Traditional Publishing: Where I Stand and Why

I won’t try to deny that there are great books that are self published, or terrible books that are traditionally published. Both are true. The great self published books are all-too-often hard to find, and the terrible traditionals are much to easy to pick up. It’s a sad situation for an avid reader and a confusing one for a writer.

As a writer, I was raised reading traditionally published (traditional, from here on out) books. I still read mostly traditional books. This isn’t because I have anything against self-published books. Well, maybe I do, which isn’t fair. Most of those authors work just as hard (if not harder in promoting themselves) as any traditional author. But I also see too much about someone writing a book, thinking the first draft is gold, and self-publishing right away. I believe that this harms the authors who do put in the work of polishing their novel to get it ready for readers. Why? Because in the end, readers have to wade through all the “first draft books” to get to the gold. And from my own experience, it’s not something we keep at for long. (If you have found the self published gold, please let me know because I want to read it!)

I’m not sure how we combat that either, because just as many poor novels are published traditionally. And that isn’t even my Big Qualm with self-publishing – it’s my qualm with lazy writers. We have a duty to our readers, whether it is one person or one million.

My Big Qualm* with self publishing is the feeling of unfinishedness. When we as writers have the ability to go back and change the story or make additions or edits for “new editions” – how is that any different from a draft (albeit with beta readers)? How can we call it finished? I know that if I were to self publish, I would never let the story go and thus I would never write anything new. Not everyone feels this way and I am glad for that – different opinions make the world go ’round.

What are your thoughts? If you self-published could you let the story go?

-Emily

*I also have little qualms with self publishing. Like the feeling of worthiness. My brother sent me a link to Amazon self publishing when I finished my first novel. I think he was trying to be supportive, but it came across as “ha, you wrote a stupid story and you want it published, well no one will take it so here, do it yourself.” I know that this is, likely, just a me thing coming from my background, which is why I didn’t include it in the bulk of the post, but it just goes to show that lots of things influence a person’s decision, whether real or fictional! Now get back to writing! 😉

I know I said…

It just so happens that I am really terrible at following my own rules. For instance: I said I wasn’t going to start working on book 3 for a while. I said I was going to at LEAST finish transcribing SOTD onto the computer. Well I just couldn’t resist. I’ve got about a third/half of the outline for 3 done, as well as the first ten pages. To be honest, I was going to write just the first scene tonight but it turned into most of the first chapter. I would keep going but between writing and crochet my hand needs a break!

I’m fairly excited for book three – I’m excited that it’s finally coming to a close (even as I say that I laugh at myself. It will be at LEAST a year of writing the first draft, and many more months editing and reworking. Besides, I haven’t even gotten past the first draft of book 2!). So even as I laugh, I am excited. I’ve known how this story will end for about three years now. Yes, some things have tweaked and changed in that, but the ultimate ending will still be the same and I CAN’T WAIT!

Do you have endings that you just can’t wait to write?

You know, I think part of my excitement is that I have been working on this story, in it’s many forms, since 2010. I wrote the first short story that inspired it all back when I was finishing my freshman year of college. It seems like so long ago now, and a lot of the story and world has changed since then. But some things have not. The main cities bear the same names as first I gave them, there are still mountains that house ancient ruins, the character in that short story has played a minor role in the first two books and will blossom in book 3. (Seriously, I am excited that his story still plays a part in the over all tale.) There is a deep sense of contentment that comes with knowing that I’m almost there. And it’s contentment with energy. I am energized by being so close to the end.

I think, after I finish 3, I will take a break in another world for a while. It’s a little early to say that for sure, but I think I need to let it all rest, to go and explore another strange land – to be an adventurer again rather than a native.

Of course, thinking about the end of this trilogy has also got me a little bittersweet. Again, I know it is premature, but I really am almost there. I’ve been through so much with these characters, this world. I can’t imagine what life will be like when I pack them all up in boxes and move on. When their stories are finished, will I keep thinking about other parts of their lives? Will I want to write them again? I wonder how I will be able to leave them. They are like my friends, and I will miss them.

But not yet! Because I still have plenty of time with them. 🙂 So for now I will be content with that.

Write on, my friends.

-Emily

I finished it

*Happy dance* Well, not really because I’m pooped. But guess what! I finished another round of edits on QFS. This one’s it. As soon as I get printer ink and more paper (and I guess an envelope and a wee bit of cash) I’m sending this baby off. No longer will it be in my hands!

I guess I ought to get on that cover letter! Whoo!

WIP Updates

Well, revisions are coming along nicely for QFS. Some of the chapters require more work than others,  but I am pleased to say that overall the revisions are minor,  and mostly consist of converting narration from “telling” to “showing.” This is an enjoyable process because I get to add detail and play with the order of words to match my narrator’s voice.

I have also been working in the first draft of the sequel and am about six chapters in. So far I am happy with it,  and especially happy that I am following my outline so well!  I can’t wait to get the first draft done,  but it will be a while yet.  Still,  I am happy.

How are your various projects coming along?

Take care,  fellow travelers.

Confession Time

As you might have guessed from the title, I have a confession. I never got around to sending out my manuscript. With all the chaos of moving it slipped my mind. After having let the story rest I came back to it and realized I still had a lot of work to do before sending it out. Most of the work is on dialogue and chronology. In addition, I am going through and rewriting to include more “showing” rather than telling, and to develop the world and the characters more fully. This will take some time, and it doesn’t help that my perfectionism is coming out now. So please bear with me as I continue rewriting, and hopefully I will be motivated enough to get this done within a couple of months.

Take care,  fellow travelers.

Foreshadowing

Last week I wrote about voice. I told you that my natural voice is blunt an analytical. As you might guess, this puts a damper on foreshadowing. I say what needs to be said and move on. In addition, what little foreshadowing I have is so obvious that a blind cat could see it. But lucky for me, I’ve redrafted. My foreshadowing has become more subtle (I hope) and I have found that there is an ease to writing this way, once I get in the rhythm.

The hard part of foreshadowing is that you have to know where the story is going. I don’t do very well with foreshadowing for the current book, but I look ahead.  As such, I’ve put a lot of foreshadowing for the second and third books in Quest for Salvation, but practically no foreshadowing for later events in the first book. For me, it works. I don’t know how other people will feel about it.

To foreshadow properly, a writer needs to have a picture of where things are going (as I said above). For me, this means having the outline for book 2 and the general plot of book 3 (and even later books that are not included in this trilogy).  In my first drafts, the bluntness of the foreshadowing reminds me what I need later. It jumps out at me and says “Don’t forget to make me important!” And so I remember.

But I’m afraid readers won’t. What happens if my foreshadowing is too subtle and the readers forget it? Well, I suppose that is what editors are for.

Take care, fellow travelers.

Voice

Voice is something that is incredibly important in writing. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, voice is what defines our writing.

Now, I have always had a hard time developing a compelling voice. My natural writing voice is analytical and very blunt.* My voice did well throughout college and became more set-in-stone and I am good at it. But this isn’t the best voice for writing fiction. Readers want some level of mystery, and a blunt analysis of the plot provides no mystery. My first couple of drafts were written in my natural voice and my main characters knew pretty much everything that I did fairly early in the story. As I redrafted, I focused on shaping a second voice – my Fiction Voice.

Well, my Fiction Voice was definitely a step in the right direction, but it felt aloof. Quest for Salvation is in the first person, and this new voice felt more third-person than anything else. That would be great, if I were writing that way. But I’m not and so I had to continue to develop my MC’s voice.

Lacey, my protagonist and narrator for Quest for Salvation, has a voice that is so much different from mine that it is sometimes a struggle to keep writing her way. I would never be able to write in her voice if I didn’t know her as well as I do, and yet sometimes I still think I have to know her better. After all, I have to know her better than myself, or my own voice will bleed into hers. Keeping in her voice was the hardest part of draft five, and I am sure there are places that still sound a little bit more like me than her.

Practice is what has gotten me to this point, and practice is what will carry me forward in my journey to keeping in character-voice. It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it.

How many voices do you have? How do you develop those voices?

Take care, fellow travelers.

*Maybe that’s because, as an introvert, I despise small-talk and prefer to get right to the point, leaving all the fluff behind.

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