A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘rewriting’

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.

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

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!

Poetry is Emotion

The title says it all, right? Over and over I come across little sayings (usually on Pinterest) about how poetry starts as a feeling, sometimes a lump in the throat or a tingly sensation or whatever you can imagine. I know that this is true for me. My best poetry comes not from thinking, but from feeling.

As such, I don’t often rewrite my poems. To me, rewriting poems, born from an intense emotion, is rewriting that emotion, saying that it did not exist that way, that I did not feel as strongly as the words suggest.

The truth is, I did feel that strongly. I wrote exactly what my feeling told me to write. Because of this, I don’t share a lot of my poems – I don’t invite just anyone into my world. But the writing is what helps. Putting those emotions on the page proves that yes, I feel them and yes, I feel other things as well. And so I do not rewrite my poetry (except for the occasional word-change when it isn’t precisely what I want, and that usually happens while I’m writing it down anyway).

What do you think about rewriting poetry? What do you think about poetry as emotion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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.

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

Friday Inspiration – Finishing a Rewrite

I set out, at the beginning of this month, to write a chapter a day and finish my fifth draft of “Quest for Salvation” by July 30th.

I’ll tell you the bad news first. I didn’t write a chapter a day. I was sick for a little under a week, and I choose not to write when I am sick. I learned during my freshman year of college that when I am sick, my writing becomes an incoherent blob of crazy (and yet I still managed to salvage that paper on Julius Caesar). At that point, I was ready to give up. I thought: I’ll never finish now, there can’t possible be enough days left in the month to get this done! (Yeah, I only have nineteen chapters so I think my math skills suffer when I’m sick too…)

But here’s the good news: I finished. On Monday I sat down and said: write, you fool! You have a week left! And I wrote. Oh yeah, I had to go to work and spend time with my family, but I got past the hardest part of my rewrite and I kept going. On Tuesday, I got up, ate some breakfast, and powered through the rest of the novel. (Admittedly, my rewrite cut about three chapters and I didn’t have to change much in the last five, so I had it pretty easy.)

I don’t know how inspiring this really is, but I just want to say: You can do it. It might be hard, you might be sick, but you can still do it. You can make that deadline, self-imposed or not. You just have to buckle down and get it done.

This is a skill I learned during college. I had lots of writing deadlines (you know, all those papers I was writing when I was sick?) and so I learned to do it. Sure, I stressed out over every single one, but they were all finished. I never turned anything in late.

When I was in high school and didn’t have a strict writing schedule, I always thought that the thing holding me back from putting my whole heart into becoming a writer was that I couldn’t “write on command.” In other words, the deadlines scared me. Now, I say bring it on.

After I visit family at the beginning of August, I’m going to start sending out my queries and chapters. Wish me luck!

Take care, fellow travelers. And keep writing.

Friday Inspiration – Flowers

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” – A.A. Milne

This is one of my favorite quotes. My mom and I always debate the value of dandelions. To her, they are nothing more than weeds. I’ve never thought so. Weeds are just green scraggly things – not something with pretty colors! Obviously dandelions are flowers.

In the first few drafts of a novel, there are going to be a lot of “weeds.” I know I’ve had to cut probably half of my manuscript (and rewrite it, of course) at various stages. But those “weeds” are important for two reasons. The first reason is that they might not fit the story you’re working on now, but they might be right for a sequel, or a completely different story. Don’t just pull the weeds and throw them in the trash – compost them. Someday you can turn them into flowers.

Now, the second reason that those “weeds” are important is because they might be deceiving you. They might be flowers. Of course, you’ve got to help cultivate them. Let me explain with an example: There is a part in my story that I have never been entirely comfortable with. My main character is much too passive in the mid-section of the manuscript and it leads to a lot of trouble. And yet I couldn’t cut the middle out and just skip to the end (making the story shorter) because of the foundation it builds for the way she acts later, and for the foundation it builds for the sequel.

Over the course of my writing and rewriting, I have edited and rewritten the “passive section” more times than I can remember. Now (amazingly) I know how to fix it. The “weed” wasn’t a weed at all, I just had to figure out how it was a flower.

If you are feeling down, look for the flowers. Even if they look like weeds, the flowers are there.

Take care, fellow travelers.

What flowers have you found amongst your weeds?

Encouragement

In May, I sent my latest draft of Quest for Salvation to some of my best friends. I knew that it would take a while for them to get to it since most of them were finishing up classes or busy with work, so I didn’t really expect to hear back about it until the end of summer. But to my surprise, one of my best friends finished reading it and she said that she loved it and thinks it would definitely sell!

Needless to say, this is very encouraging! She isn’t a writer and she doesn’t read very much fantasy, so to get this kind of feedback is great! Feedback from non-writers can be some of the most valuable. Readers can tell you a lot more about the flow of the story, and if those things you think are holes are really holes, and if the story makes sense on a whole. Feedback from writers is great, don’t get me wrong, but hearing from an average reader can really point you in the right direction, or give you encouragement that no, your story isn’t falling apart around chapter ten.

As of right now, I am a little under half-way through draft five. I’m to a point that requires more re-writing, so it’s a little bit slower going, but I still think that I can finish by the end of July. When that is finished I will be stepping into the realm of querying, which I am already starting to work on. Wish me luck!

Take care, fellow travelers.

How are your projects going? Do you think feedback from non-writers is helpful?

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