Tag Archives: edit

Forum: Revisions

Our heroine completed the Monster Revision from Hell on Book 1 this weekend, dear Reader. I thought it had me beat for a while, but I prevailed after all. Books 2 and 3 should be far easier. By the time I wrote them, I had a clue what I was doing. Not so with Book 1. It required a dramatic overhaul. I’m sure my beta readers will find many items that need to be addressed. (Eeek!) Still, I take heart in knowing it’s a far better novel.

Revising can be hard work. It is ultimately gratifying, though. For the most part, I love the revising process. I get to take the raw materials of the rough draft and sculpt it into the novel it’s meant to be. Further passes through, especially after good critiques, only serve to polish the piece until it shines. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

I find when I’m revising I can get too close to the words and lose track of the storyline or timeline. That’s when I take a break. A terrific way to take time away from revisions is to read inspiring articles. Check out a few which may give you a fresh approach when you return to your manuscript.

The talented Teresa Frohock has an article in her helluo librorum blog I found interesting. Writing Fiction with the 1-3-1 Method refers to the time-honored method of writing an essay and applies it to chapter structure. I think it’s a great idea. I’m reviewing my chapters for the 1-3-1 points.

In her Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog, Alexandra Sokoloff wrote about Thematic Image Systems. This is a remarkable look at not just how to identify your theme, but to weave it throughout your novel. I found this fascinating and was eager to employ some of the techniques during my revisions. Do set aside the time to give this a full read.

The reader must be interested enough to keep reading the book, right? Doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, your plot must move the reader into eagerly turning the pages. The Kill Zone‘s Clare Langley-Hawthorne addresses this issue in Propelling the Plot. There are lessons here for writers of all genres. Keep that storyline moving.

Part of the revision process is getting fresh eyes to look at it and offer what should be constructive criticism. We addressed the idea of beta readers a few weeks back, but this article contains some great advice. David Sheppard‘s Novelsmithing has an article called Getting Your Novel Critiqued. You’ll note that it is Part III of a series called, as luck would have it, Writing, Rewriting, Editing. It’s worth reading each section.

Take the break when needed. Get the inspiration you need to dive back in. Don’t be dismayed if you come across advice which inspires you, but makes you cringe at revising all over again. The goal is to make the novel the best you can. The process may take several passes.

As always: “Re-examine all you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.” (Walt Whitman) Not everyone’s advice fits all. Look for what sets your imagination on fire. Use what compels you to get back to the manuscript with your sculpting tools.

Forum: Openings

Our heroine noticed a trend in the writing communities on Twitter lately, dear Reader. Writers are working, reworking, restructuring and rewriting the beginnings of their work. Why? Because it’s crucial to grab the reader’s attention straight away. We form and reform the first lines, the first scenes, trying to set a hook that will catch hold of the reader.

One of the problems with doing this is getting so close to the material that we can no longer see it objectively. We discussed beta reading, a powerful tool when this happens. Fresh eyes see things we no longer can. Taking a step back from the manuscript, giving it and yourself room to breathe, is important. So is momentum. Don’t wait until you’re so frustrated you put it completely away.

There are many ways to keep your writing momentum. If you want to stay with the project, you can try Johanna Harness‘s Big Board or even standard note card processes to get a view of the greater picture. Step away from the project by writing something else, perhaps. Flash fiction is my choice, a routine diet of shiny new words and stories. Some prefer outlining another novel, writing poetry or working on a short story. Keep that writing ball rolling.

I’m here to give you another option, perhaps one to supplement your writing momentum. We dealt with this concept in a past Forum called Grab Their Attention. Here are some more links that deal with opening scenes. The writers share good ideas. You may find inspiration in them, something that gives you the delicious a-ha experience that causes you to dive back into your project.

C. Patrick Schulze shares some Tips on How to Create Your Opening Scene in his blog This Business of Writing. (It is available in podcast form as well.) In it, he asks the important question, “So, just how might one go about creating that initial burst of excitement?” He answers his question by detailing twelve ideas that may spark something for you.

Wordplay, K. M. Weiland‘s blog, has an article titled 9 Ways to Strengthen Your Beginning. She starts the article by confessing that she hates beginnings. Who better to speak to the subject, I ask you? She has successfully faced her demon, the opening scenes of a novel. Here she shares valuable advice.

James Scott Bell, on The Kill Zone, has two articles of note on this topic. The first was Garlic Breath, or What Not to Do on Your Opening Page. Taking the more positive approach was the second, How to Grab Them On Page One. Both offer terrific advice. You don’t want to miss these articles.

And now for some Tough Love: David Mamet’s Editorial Notes. He created a series for CBS called “The Unit” and this is a memo to the writers. The notes don’t specifically deal with the opening scene. Instead, they speak to every single scene. This is not for the faint of heart. He gets right down to brass tacks. It was a rough pep talk to me, so I wanted to share it with you.

I like to read these and articles like them when I need a kick in the pants. They’re a great way to keep your head in the game while taking the step back that can be so necessary. I read them, say “hrm” a lot and just let it all perk in my writing subconscious for a while.

Don’t let the necessary importance of the opening scenes hamstring you. Write it, take a step back if needed, keep your momentum and dive back in to fine tune it when you’re clear headed.

What process do you use?

Forum: Beta Reading

When our heroine decided to look into the topic of beta reading, dear Reader, she had no idea how difficult it would be to find resources. Oh, there are plenty of hits in the old search engine, but they’re almost all to do with fanfic beta reading. Nothing wrong with fanfic if that’s your genre, but I was looking for information pertaining to the general application of beta readers.

That said, you might be surprised that my first link is to a fanfic site called KatSpace, by Kathryn Andersen. Please don’t reject this one out of hand because of that. It’s titled simply Beta-Readers and it speaks to the process well. It also has some important points about how to choose a beta reader and how to be one.

Literary Rambles also addresses the question in What is a Beta Reader & Where Do I Find One? Casey McCormick gives good insight into how a beta reader helps a writer. She also gives good ideas on how to, you guessed it, find beta readers. At the end, she turns the question to her readers and their comments give more ideas.

Beth Bernobich wrote a compelling essay on her blog called Alpha and Beta… which details the responsibilities and qualities of good alpha readers as well as beta readers. Moreover, she speaks to the subject of critiquing styles. This is a good read for anyone with questions about the process.

One of the most common suggestions for finding beta readers is to join a writers group. Holly Lisle has an article on her site titled The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, or How to Choose a Writers Group. It’s a good and thorough look at the subject. Be picky about what group you join by making sure it suits your needs. Holly gives some ideas on how to do just that.

I’ve had the honor of reading for others. It’s an exciting role in the process of birthing any form of writing. It’s critical to make a good match between writer and beta. Without that, the process falls apart. It offers nothing to the author which will improve the writing and ends up frustrating all involved. Trusting instincts and knowing how to sift through the advice are abilities that some have naturally. I expect that all, even they, improve those skills with experience.

As I get deeper into the revisions of my current novel, I’m aware that the time is coming for beta reading. Nervous? You bet I am. Eager? That, too. How do you feel about the beta process, either being the beta or using the advice?

Forum: Brevity

Brief note: My apologies for the delay in posting. Hurdles and all that. Thanks for sticking with me.

Our heroine would begin with the “soul of wit” quote, dear Reader, but that would be too obvious. Oh dear, there it was anyway.

Brevity is a goal for many reasons. You don’t lose your reader along the way. You don’t slip into purple prose. Your writing is well paced, tight and polished. Mark Twain said to write “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very” and then send it into your editor. The editor will delete all the “damns” and the manuscript will be good to go. That’s one way, I suppose. The other is to skip the “damns” altogether.

I’m writing Flash Fiction in addition to my novels. It’s given me a new appreciation for brevity. Flash is a short short story that leaves a punch in few words. As you’ll see in S. Joan Popek‘s article Flashing Your Setting, the number of words can vary. It’s a great article not only for Flash information. You may take away techniques about editing your manuscripts as well.

Have you heard of Stephen King’s On Writing? Probably. Considered one of the best books on the subject by many, it’s quoted on a number of sites. Here’s one with some excerpts titled, oddly enough, Excerpts from Stephen King’s On Writing. Check the middle section with the Formula for Success.

Copyblogger has an article by Michelle Russell titled How to Write with a Knife. Love the title and a great article. A simple step-by-step for chiseling your writing down to size. Well done.

Now two of the most famous bits of advice on brevity in writing are taken on.

Wendy Palmer‘s article Writing Rules, Misapplied: Kill Your Darlings tells the history of the advice and picks it apart. I enjoyed reading her point of view on the subject. Not all rules work with all writing styles. In fact, you may want to take a look at the rest of her series. The links are at the bottom of the article.

Perhaps the most quoted is Elmore Leonard, who said he tries to “leave out the parts people skip.” Robert Gregory Browne‘s Casting the Bones has an article titled, of course, Leaving out the Parts People Skip. He asks, “What exactly does that mean?” Luckily, he goes on to answer his own question. There’s good advice here. Read at leisure, apply with abandon.

Are all adverbs bad? No. Silly thought. Must all appearances of “that” be eradicated? Well, almost. We each have our repetitive words, phrases and character reactions. One of the tricks to brevity is weeding those out. They can be hard to see if you’re not using fresh eyes. I’ve found trying to rewrite too many pages at once or rewriting while tired – often the same thing – dulls my eyes. I begin every rewrite section by going over the last pages from the previous session. Never fails. I find things I missed.

Find your voice. Find your pace. Slice at will.

Friday Forum: Grab Their Attention

Shakespeare began every play with something special. It was designed to grab the attention of those closest to the stage. If he could get The Pit’s attention, he was golden. It’s no different for a novel writer. The Law of the First Five applies for us. The first five lines must grab the attention of the reader and the first five pages must hold it. Many refer to it as setting the hook.

When an agent expresses interest in a manuscript, he or she usually asks for the first X number of pages. A writer must get that agent’s attention straight away or the pages will be tossed. The agent knows that if he or she isn’t interested immediately, neither will the reading public.

This topic is of particular interest to our heroine as she rewrites her series, dear Reader. My first pages are coming together but are not ready for prime time. I took a look around the net for inspiration.

Andrew Jack’s Writing Blog addresses The First Paragraph, inspired by literary agent Nathan Bransford‘s First Paragraph Challenge. This is a double duty referral. First of all, do take a look at everything to do with that First Paragraph Challenge. Nathan Bransford wrote about the good, the bad and the ugly regarding what was submitted. Andrew Jack’s article gives some simple rules and suggestions about the first paragraph, too.

Write It Sideways has an excellent article titled How to Write a First Chapter that Rocks. This one not only gives advice, it links to examples of various great first paragraphs and pages. The differences among them may surprise you. I found encouragement here. Every story can begin with its own form of bang. The collection of links here is fantastic and the advice serves to reinforce the lessons to be found.

If You Give a Girl a Pen has some great advice about going beyond that first paragraph and keeping the reader’s attention in Your First Five Pages. There are tips and strategies here you may not have considered. It’s important to treat the first pages with keen focus. This article shows some ways of doing just that.

If after all this you don’t buy into the theory of the First Fives, I suggest you read the next article. In fact, give it a read either way. There’s great information to be found in Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog‘s article 7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Paragraph. It’s a guest column by Livia Blackburne. She wastes no time when she lists and explains each point. Save yourself some time and nail biting. Double check with this list before submitting your work.

Shouldn’t every paragraph, every page, even every word count? By all means. By the time your novel reaches publication, they will. To get that far, it will have to garner the attention of someone who can make that happen. Pay special attention to the portions that will grab the agent or editor’s attention. After all, those are the portions that will convince someone to be one of your readers.

Friday Forum: Editing Theory

As we all know, editing is crucial to creating a well-written novel. (We do all know that, right?) Our heroine once hated, dreaded and generally avoided editing and rewrites in any way she could, dear Reader. Now she understands the process and dives in with abandon. Don’t get me wrong. There’s always more to learn and I stay open to new ideas and thoughts on the subject. Learning how others evaluate their work gives me ideas for tweaking my own process.

It’s easy to say that the editing process turns the rough stone you created into a bright shiny gemstone. Why do we do it? How do we do it? There are as many answers to those questions as there are writers. Tired to say it, but it’s true. Even as a beginner in the world of editing, you put your own spin on things. I put together an article early on in this blog titled Simple Editing Techniques for Any Style. It’s nothing more than some things I learned that work for me. I hope they either work for you or that they inspire you to tweak your own method.

That brings us back to the simple question of why. Why do we edit? I found a couple of great articles on the subject. One writer inspired the other, in fact. Both are on great blogs.

The first is on Editor Unleashed by Maria Schneider and is titled Is Editing Worth It? She gives some of her own thoughts on the subject. The bulk of the material is in the comments after she poses the question to her readers. It’s a great read and a good way to find out what your fellow writers think on the matter.

The second was written after Isabel Joely Black, of In These Heels?, had read a post “by Maria Schneider on the value of editing.”  It’s titled The Value of Editing (but not obsessively). She details some observations and applies them to her own work. Explaining why she edits as she does is perhaps the most important part I took away from the article. The value she’s found in editing is conveyed well.

Chances are good you were already sold on concept of editing your work when you walked into the Forum today. The above links probably served to reinforce why it is we do what we do. What is that exactly? Kill the passive voice, find your repetitions (I have a crate of “just” handy if anyone needs, that’s my bugaboo) and get rid of them, look for lagging bits to tighten. If that’s all it takes, why is editing such a difficult process?

Patricia Stoltey wrote a marvelous article titled Charting the Novel Story Arc, an installment of Blood-Red Pencil‘s series called Self-Editing One Step At a Time. Clearly, it’s a series you’ll want to explore. This portion of it struck me in particular, though. It’s a terrific way to look at your novel and quickly identify problem areas. Soggy middle? Erratic pacing? You’ll see it straight away with this process of evaluation. Moreover, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s meant by an arc in the first place.

I found another of Anthony J. Barnett‘s articles, this time on Hub Pages, which dovetails with the subject du jour. Titled 20 Top Tips for Editing That Novel, it’s a handy checklist of the process he uses. He says that “good novels aren’t written, they’re rewritten.” You’ll hear that sentiment in a variety of forms from most people in the writing and publishing game. Why? Because it’s true, it’s no cliché. Anthony generously shares the issues he addresses when editing a novel. There’s a plenty of good information here, so be ready to be inspired.

I’ve also found that fine-tuning my plotting process helps me edit, especially where rewriting or restructuring is indicated. At the moment, I’m cleaning up the third book in my series. Rediscovering Johanna Harness‘s Big Board process is a great tool in this. It’s helping me see the elements in a tangible manner and allowing me to move them, add detail and add depth to what’s already written.

I’m still finding my way in the great world of editing. I suspect that every writer develops a special technique that becomes tried and true. Is every writer open to new ideas? I’d like to think the answer is that most are. What techniques work for you? Please, let everyone know by leaving a comment below. I’d love for us to share new editing methods.

Friday Forum: Submission Details

With all the fuss of NaNoWriMo behind us, our heroine emphasizes again: December is not NaNoSubMo, dear Reader. Don’t submit your new precious until you’ve edited, tightened and polished that precious until it really is a gem. So why am I addressing details to do with submission today?

We all need something to set as our goal. For writers, that often is being published. Gee, how clever is our heroine to suss that one out? The step we take for that is daunting, however: submitting our work. That’s when we take the step from creative space into the business world of publishing. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy in creative space. The business world? Not so much. Gearing up for the transition well ahead of time makes the step from one to the other less of a jolt.

Thus, a few of the little details we need to know as we slowly approach letting our creations fly and be free.

Some are accused of focusing too heavily on word count. When in creation space, that could be a stumbling block for some. For myself, when creating a rough, it’s  a stepping stone. It doesn’t much matter either way because once the rough’s done, the editing commences. Your shiny gemstone at the end is perfect, right? I’ve got news for you: Your pretty gemstone’s word count has to fit within some guidelines for the business world of publishing. The Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog addressed this definitively. In fact, Chuck Sambuchino titled his article Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post. It was a great relief to find this. What’s your genre? It’s addressed here. Your shiny gemstone may need further editing to fit these guidelines.

Speaking of guidelines, have you researched your potential agents’ submission guidelines? It doesn’t take long to Google and check them out. Don’t assume they’re each like the other and whatever you do, don’t Tweet or Facebook message to ask. That shouts, “I’m lazy.” Here’s one view on the subject from Call My Agent! called Line Spacing and Synopses. I was particularly interested in the little mention of synopses. Those dread things. We’ll get back to them in a moment.

Here’s a great look at what one author does to prepare a submission once his shiny gemstone is ready to go out the door. Tell Me a Story‘s Anthony James Barnett wrote an article titled Writing Tips – Submission Guidelines. He puts many personal touches in each package that goes out. Mind you, not every query leads to the submission of a manuscript. Yes, sad to say, you won’t be doing this process on a daily basis. Keep this article handy for when it’s your turn. Again, as previously pointed out, your agent’s submission guidelines trump all.

Now, as to synopses, here’s a delightful look at them that blows the “dreaded” bit right out of the water. Ann Aguirre wrote an article titled  Dispelling Popular Fallacy on the subject. Hilarious and irreverent as ever, Ann takes on the whole concept of the synopsis and breaks it down to bare bones. She’s a hoot and not for the tender-hearted. You’ve been warned if you’re of a delicate nature.

Of course, NaNo isn’t the only reason we write novels. It’s passing rare that a NaNo makes it to the worthwhile gemstone phase. No, you may very well be on the precipice of submitting what is already a shiny gemstone. If so, a tip of the hat to you. I hope these links are some help. Best of luck with your submissions.

Regardless of where you are in the process, looking ahead helps you prepare. Yes, it can also intimidate. Don’t let it intimidate you out of finishing your project. Stick with it and get all the information you can. Let me help with that. What do you need, what do you want researched? Leave me comments and I’ll schedule the topics to include them.