A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘editing’

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.

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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.

The Unknown

Do you ever get to that point in your project, when you start to wonder what you’ll write  next? Not the next page or chapter, but your next book. I’m there now. I’ve finished yet another edit of Quest for Salvation (one that I was itching to do and once I got that rejection letter, I knew I could do it!), finished typing up the sequel, and I’m about 1/3 -1/2 of the way done with the third. I have an outline that takes me to the end, and I’ve been making steady progress.

So what will come next? I have lots of ideas, some I’ve even started writing out the first few pages. But they don’t feel right yet. It could be because I’m still immersed in Lacey’s world, it could be because I’ve spent so much time there building it up that everything else just feels hollow. I logically know that the next project I settle on will grow and develop to be just as good, if not better, than my current one.

To be honest, I’m trying my best to push back this worry and just focus on the writing – which works when I am actually, physically writing. I know I have a long way to go and a lot of time left with these manuscripts – after all book 2 is only a first draft – yeesh!

But I also like to plan ahead. And that means starting to think what I will do next. Will I stay in the same world and pick a different character, a different time? I have plenty to choose from! And a part of me yearns to write those stories as well. Another part, however, whispers, “Go somewhere else for a while. See different worlds. Don’t neglect your other ideas.” And it is this voice that has me wondering what, then, I will write next.

For now, I will keep writing what I’m writing, keep stewing on other ideas, and when the time comes, I will have another idea settled to shape and form and make great.

Take care,

Emily

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 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!

Thinking Back

When I was in high school, I dreaded PE. All that running and sweating and softballs being thrown by over-zealous athletes was NOT my idea of fun. I was the kid who purposefully tried to get out in dodgeball, and let everyone else get brought back in first. And yet, I do have fond memories of PE. Well, of our PE free-time.

There were times when PE was cut short due to a late start or an early out, or we had finished a unit or our teachers were just feeling nice. Those days were the best, because while the athletic students would play basketball or tennis or any number of games, the rest of us sat in the bleachers and did whatever we wanted. I would read, or write. I remember very clearly working with a friend on our novel (one that ought never be read, it’s so bad!) and giggling over the characters and their lives. I remember reading, completely oblivious to everything around me.

During the school day, I would read or write whenever I could. I learned that if I wanted more time for these activities, I had to get my work done before class. I developed an incredible work-ethic – for the sake of writing. I would go to school forty-five minutes early so that I could have quiet time to work ahead on assignments or get some reading in. My studyhalls were spent writing, usually in the school library. During class, when we were finished with the lecture or discussion (okay, sometimes DURING) and all my work was done, I would write. I still have my planners from the last three years of high school, and flipping through I can see paragraphs upon paragraphs of the miniscule cursive I used to make sure no one else could read what I was writing.

Writing is a lot of work. Now, I struggle with it as I do not have a rigid schedule to follow. I struggle with coming home from work, and knowing I should write, but having to choose chores or cooking over writing. Writing was a lot of work in high school, too, but it never felt that way.

I am making it my goal to edit one chapter per week until I am finished. Starting today, I am going to try my hardest to accomplish this. It will be a lot of work, but the time will pass whether I do it or not. I would rather get it done, and take pleasure in the fact that I finished another round of editing.

Take care, fellow travelers.

Please Excuse My Typos

Recently, I have been blogging from my phone. It’s convenient, especially when one does not have access to a reliable internet connection.* Unfortunately, it also paves the way for numerous typos, and for that I apologize. However, I do think that it provides an opportunity to discuss typos in writing (and in blogging).

When I was younger, finding a typo in a book was horrifying. Had these authors not put the time into their work that would have prevented such errors? Had the editors not cared enough to find every little mistake? Back then, a typo spoke to me of a story that the people putting it together didn’t care about. That saddened me, for I loved the stories.**

Since those years, I have learned that typos aren’t about not loving the worlds and stories we create – they are about being human. We all make mistakes. No matter how many eyes look at something – we can’t catch every error. Because we are human. When I realized this, I no longer worried about typos in books (well, not as much) and I have come to the point where they hardly distract me anymore. It’s the story I’m after, a relationship with the characters, not perfection.

This is also the case when it comes to blogs. Many of us who blog are doing it because we want to, not because it is a job. Now, I still cringe when I see typos in my posts, and others, but after a moment (or several hours) I shrug it off. We’re all human. We’re going to make mistakes. It’s just unfortunate when we make them where anyone can see, for unlimited time.

How do you feel about typos in books? In blogs?

Take care, fellow travelers.

*So now, I will be at the library multiple times a week, composing and revising my blog posts.

**Perhaps I’ve said it before, if I don’t love a book, I will not continue reading (unless, of course, it is a free kindle book and I have nothing else to do except dishes).

  • Typos (authortlgray.wordpress.com)

Those Productive Days

What to do with all my time? I was write, when I guessed that moving to a new place was going to give me lots of free time, and that I would use that time to read and write. In the two weeks and one day that I have been in my own apartment, I have read four books, edited six chapters, recorded readings of three of those edited chapters, written two chapters of my next novel, and written numerous scenes/plot summaries/outlines for various other novels (all set in my same world).  Whew! And that was in the midst of moving in, getting settled, and starting training for my new job! Looking back on these two weeks, I feel pretty proud at how much I’ve accomplished.

This last weekend, in particular, was especially fruitful. On Friday I got my new library card and read “Daughter of the Forest” cover to cover in the span of two and a half days (yes, I have to do other things like cook and clean – otherwise it might have been one and a half!). After I finished that on Sunday morning, I set to work on the sequel to Quest for Salvation (which at this point I am calling Scourge of the Daiyen). I was part way through chapter four the last time I stopped work on it, and that was about three months ago. Now I am at the beginning of chapter six! I have to say, I’m really excited!

Now I have two more books to read (in addition to all those unread books that I actually own) and I can’t wait to get back to my writing. I know where this story is going – not just this novel, but the one that comes after it and I have a rough idea of how my others stories that take place in this world are going to play out.

I know I can’t keep this up forever. I know, that sooner or later I am going to have another minor freakout about my writing. I know that I will have to take a break from my voracious reading. I know that I will have to set aside my novel and do something else for a few days.

But I also know that every word I write gets me closer to where I want to be – on the shelves of a bookstore, on the shelves of dear readers, spreading the story that speaks to my soul. Every word I read helps me learn more about myself and helps me develop my own voice. Even when I have to take a break, I know I will come back. I always do.

Have you had any productive days lately? What books have you been reading? How are your projects (whether they are books, paintings, or fixing that leaky gutter) coming along?

Take care, fellow travelers!

Reclaiming Fantasy Afterword

In all my writing on this series, I learned a valuable lesson: I don’t always follow my own advice. I use the cliches that I warn against, I craft my characters in stereotypical molds, I create bland, interchangeable settings. Everything I warned against, I’ve learned by doing. I’ve been questioning why I do the very things I say not to. My answer is: it’s complicated.

See, I love the cliches. I really do. In television at least. I like the shows and movies that are entertaining but have that typical character or plot or setting or whatever*. And sometimes I incorporate the cliches into my writing. And you want to know something? That’s okay. For a first draft at least.

A lot of my advice in this series was about things we should change or work on. But we’ve got to have something to work with first. We’ve got to know the basics of our stories before we can fix it. So write the first draft however you want and then worry about the cliches and stereotypes. You can try to do it all at once, but that might just discourage you. I know it would discourage me. First drafts are allowed to be – supposed to be – awful. Not in the sense that the story has no potential, but in that they have significant room for improvement.

I’m not advocating to purposefully write bad first drafts. What I suggest is writing without listening to anything outsiders are saying. Just get the story down. Then, while it is resting, explore the advice of others and apply it when you rewrite.

You want to know something else? Sometimes I write, just for me, and in those stories I have cliche after cliche. It’s comfortable, and comforting, to write that way sometimes. And guess what. All of the stories that I have shared with others started as a “just for me” project, filled with cliches and terrible prose. Because my goal in writing is to get the story out of my head (though as soon as I start writing it just gets deeper in my mind) and I don’t care if someone thinks it’s awful. It’s the story in my mind.

So. Write how you want to write, and then work on making it better. It’s a long process, but I fully believe that it is worth it.

Take care, fellow travelers.

*These shows are by no means my favorite, though.
If you missed any of the series Reclaiming Fantasy, follow the links below!

Reclaiming Fantasty – Part 1, Introduction

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 2, The Setting

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 3, Characters

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 4, The Plot

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 5, Magic

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 6, The Villain

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 7, Hero or Heroine

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 8, Series

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 9, Weapons

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