Archive for the ‘#amediting’ Tag

Go Went Gone … Urggg!   5 comments

What are your top five writing mistakes? Either mistakes you make or mistakes that make you cringe when you see them in print?

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Good, Better, Best … Never Let It Rest

Journalists are, supposedly, terrible spellers, but I came to the reporting game with good spelling and strong grammar. My training just enhanced that and make me more sensitive to common errors. That doesn’t mean I never make a mistake. It means I rarely let other people see my mistakes — I catch them in the editing process. I know how to make good writing into better writing, always striving for the best.

Grammarly asked users what their most frustrating grammar errors were and they said

  • Incorrect verb forms
  • Subject-verb disagreements
  • Run-on sentences
  • Comma splices
  • Pronoun antecedent disagreements

Watch for the other three fingers

I certainly have made these mistakes myself, but they do drive me crazy when I see them in other people’s writing — particularly if it’s already been published. Really, people, at least get a couple of beta readers to go over it before you put it on Amazon. By “people”, I mean me and anyone else who has made these mistakes.

Incorrect Verb Form

Irregular verb forms can be challenging because so often we make these errors while speaking and don’t even find them odd when we see them in writing. I was taught to take a pause and remember my credibility as a writer is hanging in a free-fire zone if I get this wrong. Here are the most common verb conjugation mistakes:

Is it “seen” or “saw”? Sometimes you can hear you’re wrong when you read it aloud.

“I seen the movie last week”

Or is it?

“I saw the movie last week”

You can hear the error easily.

But is it?

“I been there” or “I have been there.?”

Most people say “I been there”, but, when writing, it’s really “I have (in the past) been there.” That one really trips some people up and I read it in their books and not just in dialogue, where it is acceptable. Take a pause, folks, and think about it. Unless you’re writing narrative in a regional dialect, it pays to question the words that come out of your mouth and whether they belong on the page.

Subject-verb disagreement

In Spanish and American Sign Language (my other two languages) the subject of the sentence must correctly align with the verb conjugation for both number and gender. I especially found Spanish to be challenging because of this. Less so ASL probably because it’s a visual-gestural language.

In English, compound subjects follow a simple rule. They’re plural. “Mark and Jane” are two subjects (compound). “They” are compound. “We” are compound. So much easier. But then you run across irregular verbs. Oh, those can be so frustrating.

Consider “forces of nature.” Nature is one subject … right? So the verb would be “is”, right? But, no, it’s plural subjects. It’s the forces of nature. Nature itself may be one thing, but it has multiple forces.

“The forces of nature are knocking the heck out of deck furniture.”

I corrected a supervisor one time over “rights of way”. He was planning to send this letter somewhere important, where his credibility was at stake and I was trying to save his career. Trust me, I have that correct. It is definitely “rights of way” (plural). But he spent a good half-hour arguing with me that it’s just one “right of way”. Yes, we were talking about just one “rights of way” in front of a business, but it’s still plural, not singular. We finally looked it up in two grammar books and on the Internet and I won the debate. He’s an engineer. I wouldn’t argue with him about how to build a road, but he wanted to argue with a professional writer about grammar. It was hilarious.

Grammarly suggests you memorize irregular verbs, but you can usually reason them out — that’s how I do them, though I also still pull out my 30-year-old Associate Press Style Guide when I get stumped.

Run-on sentences

A run-on sentence contains two or more independent clauses (a group of words that contains a subject and a verb and that can stand alone as a sentence) that are not connected with correct punctuation. 

Though there are different kinds of run-on sentence errors, most often writers neglect to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, etc.).

“I enjoy writing immensely but my deadline is looming I am starting to feel overwhelmed.”

It’s rare for me to include a run-on sentence even in a draft because I am a fan of Hemingway and trained as a journalist. Journalists HATE commas, so are told whenever we feel like putting one in a sentence, we should ask ourselves if we couldn’t use a period instead. If you can use a period instead of a comma, you should use the period. See, you don’t even have to memorize a rule for that, but there is a rule.

Each independent clause must be set apart from other independent clauses with punctuation or a comma and conjunction. Punctuation marks that are ideal for marking complete sentences are periods (full-stops), semicolons, and em dashes. Got it! Use it! Stop frustrating me!

Comma splices

Comma splices and run-on sentences are kissing cousins. Comma splices are really run-on sentences.

“He was very hungry, he ate a whole pizza.”

When a writer joins two independent sentences with a comma instead of separating them with a period or a conjunction, that’s a comma splice and it makes my head pound. Cut it out!

Pronoun-antecedent disagreement

“John had a card for Helga but couldn’t deliver it because he was in her way.”

When you use the pronouns “him” or “her”, readers need to know to whom those pronouns refer. Otherwise, they get confused.

Who is the second “he” in the above sentence — John or someone else? If the reader has to look back at the last sentence to be sure, you’ve not done your job as a writer correctly.

“John had a card for Helga but couldn’t deliver it because Tim was in Helga’s way.”

But what about me?

The one that drives me crazy in my own writing is actually a typo. Sometimes, my fingers get to moving so fast, they write a different word than the one I am thinking — “form” instead of “from”, “dog” instead of “god”, “left” instead of “felt”, and “who” instead of “how” — or the reverse of those. All the grammar-check programs in the world won’t catch them and I think it’s sometimes unavoidable. It happens so often when I’m “in the zone” and I just don’t notice it. I usually catch it when I have Word read the text aloud, but it’s frustrating because it’s so simple and yet so-really-hard to catch and correct. You have to catch an error before you can correct it.

Blog Hopping. On the Cutting Room Floor.   Leave a comment

Posted September 16, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Sculpting Novels   7 comments

What did you edit out of your most recent book? (or another book…let’s see those outtakes!)

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First Draft

Here in Alaska, we have an annual competition of ice sculptors from around the world. I’ve helped with some of these projects and noticed that they share something in common with novel writing. An ice sculptor takes a block — or several — of ice and pares it down to something beautiful.

I’ve published seven books, in addition to submitting shorts to anthologies, and my editing process is a great deal like the process I see ice sculptors using. I am an inveterate self-editor who does not like to share her books before they’re almost ready for prime time. I did allow an editor a somewhat early crack at “What If … Wasn’t” which is why it is under extensive rewrite still two years later. It’s a good process that will make a better book, but that’s not my normal way of doing things.

When I write a first draft and to a certain extent the rewrite, it’s almost all creative process. I create the block, the large strokes of the story. I do some spot editing while I write. I fix my obvious typos and correct my spelling errors and grammar when they jump out at me, but for the most part, my first draft is pure creativity. I want to get the story down. I’m concentrating on narrative voice and character interaction and sometimes action scenes will be just one or two sentences because that’s not where I live as a writer. I know I’m going to come back later, so I’m not worried about making mistakes. This is my time to get messy and to throw stuff in that might not work. If it sticks to the wall, great. If it doesn’t, I can always revise.

Rewrite

My second draft is actually a rewrite that will invariably have a lot cut from it, but it will also be longer than the first draft because when I read the manuscript in its entirely, A bit like an ice sculptor using what is called ice welding, I”ll recognize where there are holes or events that don’t make sense without context and I will provide those. I’m a character-drive writer, so often times I don’t bother with descriptions during the first draft. I add those on the second draft because I recognize that pages and pages of dialog makes tough reading and sometimes I’ll cut a lot of dialog because I don’t need it once I add the description.

Pruning

I end up at negative editing in what can arguably be called my third draft. I don’t really experience it as another draft, but I’ve had editors and writing partners term it a third draft, so I’ll go with what they say.

This is where I get ambitious. Everything is up for grabs. A 12-word sentence can become a 9-word sentence with a tweak and a stronger verb. Whole conversations that were merely filler might be cut down to a few words. The plot has already been changed and rerouted during the rewrite, but it might get tweaked again. Sometimes I’ll decide a scene needs a change of POV because, for example, Jazz would see things Shane would not or vice versa. I’ve moved whole scenes from one location to another, swapped paragraph order or even substituted characters that weren’t in the original scene.

I pay particular attention to the voice of the characters at this point. And not just the characters who are speaking dialog, but the POV character’s narrative voice. There’s no reason to have more than one POV if they all sound as if they think alike.

Sometimes I cut whole scenes or pare a scene down to a few sentences in another scene. Nothing is sacred, although it is sometimes painful to kill my darlings.

Gates

A common mistake I find in my writing is I don’t have enough turning points. Many of my chapters miss that moment of no return as I get caught up in description and dialogue and just forget that the plot needs to move forward. I catch that on rewrite, putting in a realization or an action that can’t be undone. These sorts of “gates” inevitably lead to more conflict, which makes everything interesting.

Currently, I am editing “Gathering In”, the 5th book in the Transformation Project series. Of course sentences will be edited out and dialog trimmed, but there’s one fairly large part that is currently highlighted. It won’t be cut entirely because I think there’s some important character development in there that touches on future scenes, but it’s a little heavy-handed so it’s getting a major rewrite even in the third draft.

It’s a scene between the two brothers – Cai and Shane. Although I don’t write to a Christian audience, I do always want to present elements of my faith. Cai is a born-again Christian who makes mistakes. He recently had to kill a man because that man was a slaver (it’s an apocalyptic, right?) He’s torn up by this and seeks advice from his brother Shane who is not a Christian and is a mercenary with a lot of blood on his hands. Inevitably, the conversation will turn to faith because it’s a conflict between these two men. It’s a friendly conflict. Shane isn’t hostile toward his family’s beliefs, he just doesn’t accept them. Cai can get a little obnoxious (from Shane’s POV) but he means well. He believes Shane’s life would be better if he were a believer.

But the conversation is too long and too heavy-handed and so it’ll get pared – not deleted, just cut down to a few words and phrases so that Cai makes his points and Shane can reject them (or not) and move on. I can’t cut the scene entirely because it’s a healing scene for Cai and I can’t cut the conversation completely because there’s something Cai says in this section of the scene that is pivotal for events in the next book and rather than trying to explain what happened off-scene, I prefer to show it.

Yes, all that editing is a lot of work, but it is oh-so necessary. I spend at least as much time editing as I do writing the first draft. It’s a painful, but rewarding process as I hammer out scenes that I feel I can be proud of. I never send a draft to betas or editors that looks much like my first draft. I’m never sharing that draft with anyone (which is why I have no outtakes for this blog post). I would never knowingly dump a lousy draft on an editor. I want my book, whatever it is, to be as good as I can make it on my own before I let anyone else read it, especially before I pay anyone else to read it.


Posted September 16, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Keeping It Fresh   4 comments

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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This was actually a hard question for me because I am always trying new things … new recipes, new hiking trails, new ideas, but those seem like they aren’t all that new because I’m always doing them. Does it count if I make a new recipe using techniques I’ve mastered decades ago? I didn’t think it did.

I eventually hit on what I am doing this November. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before as a challenge with a friend and wrote a deeply-flawed novel I have no interest in ever rescuing. I wrote myself into a corner and the main character refuses to speak to me, so it will languish on a disc in my archives and that’s probably it.

This year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo to rewrite a novel I think could be a great story with a main character that has been talking to me for two decades. When I write, I usually loop back to re-read portions of what I’ve written and to rewrite so things flow in context, but the rules of NaNoWriMo are that you write it in one run and you don’t edit. There’s no way I could do that with a new novel. I am firmly convinced the flaws of that earlier novel are a function of that process and it’s dead to me since I can’t write if the characters don’t talk to me. Apparently, I can’t even rewrite without character interaction.

This current novel concentrates on a young recovering alcoholic getting out of jail for a crime he deeply regrets. He wants forgiveness but knows he’ll never receive it. It’s loosely based on a  friend’s unfortunate years that deeply affected me when he told me about it. My novel is not his story, though he has been an adviser for some aspects of it.

What If Wasn’t has been written over several years. The plot makes sense, but a beta reader pointed out a lot of flaws. It’s episodic. The main scenes don’t appear to build on one another. It’s filled with bumper-sticker recovery language and way too much self-analysis by the main character.  A romance buds in it but I never pursued it because I was focused on the MC’s damage and painful past. The story itself needs to be deepened and made emotionally compelling.

So I’m going through and rewriting some scenes and then adding scenes that link the major scenes together. In the process, I’ve discovered a larger backdrop story that I didn’t realize existed that can act to drive some of the narrative. This time, I’m concentrating on making Peter more human and focusing not on his past, though he still has to haul that rotting baggage with him, but his way forward.

What I’m doing is a complete rewrite, save for a couple of scenes that impressed that beta reader, and I’m not looping back. Looping back is part of my established process, but this time I’m not doing that. I’ve written/rewritten 70,000 words this November and I’m getting to a great place in the story where the climax is about to happen. Peter thinks he’s ready to move forward and he’s about to be blindsided by a tidal wave he doesn’t see coming. I already wrote that – it was a point the beta reader thought worked well, but what follows it needs a huge rethink, to resolve that romance and to point Peter down the road to his future. I know there are continuity errors and that has me itching to loop back, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to write those scenes this coming week. November 30 I’m going to close the rewrite, hopefully with the last scene written, and take a break from that story.

I’m learning a new skill, a difficult skill, a discipline I am not certain I will use in the future and know I won’t make it a centerpiece of my process, but I want to see if it can be a useful tool that improves my final product, maybe something to be added to a rewrite process. It certainly has sped up the rewrite and we’ll see if the novel is improved by it. I know this rewrite is better than what was written before. I also know it won’t be the final draft of this novel.

So when was the last time I did something for the first time? I’m doing it right now. 

Watch This Space   Leave a comment

July 9, 2018

Have you written any books or stories that you haven’t published? Tell us about them. Do you have plans to release them in the future?

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I’ve been writing since I was 12, mostly for my own amazement, so I have a large back catalog that I can dig into for new stories. While I’ve mostly published fantasy and apocalyptic science fiction, I’ve got several works in progress that are moving toward completion at various speeds.

This fall, the fourth book in Transformation Project “Thanatosis” will launch. The draft is in rewrite mode currently. And the draft for the third book in Daermad Cycle “Fount of Wraiths” moves closer to completion every time I get bored of doing Transformation Project or when I have a break between books. I try to do that after each book because variety is the spice of life and I always have a primary project and a secondary project so I don’t get bored and risk writer’s block.

TP Cover Montage“What If Wasn’t” is the closest to publication of my WIPs. It’s a literary fiction (or a New Adult, human interest drama) tale inspired by a friend of ours who did four years in prison. Bern did an interview with me a few weeks ago. Of course, I’m a fiction writer, not a biographer, so it isn’t really his story. It’s “inspired by”. The character of Peter is nothing like Bern and the details of his crime are quite different. But some of the struggles he has reintegrating into society and some of the things that happened to him in prison are things Bern has told me about. I really hope to publish it sometime in the next year or two, but it’s not ready yet. The draft needs a major rewrite.

I also have a YA that is a full draft, but also needs a major rewrite. Oh for the time to accomplish it.

For the last few years, I’ve participated in the Agorist Writers Workshop‘s anthology series, Clarion Call. This spring I wrote “An Investment Returns” which was an adventure set in Alaska. The characters of Dan and Mallory have inspired a mystery/thriller/romance that I feel might finally be an Alaskana project worth following. We’ll see. It’s not a primary project, but the ideas are flowing. It’ll be at least two years before anything might be published on that because the opening scene is temporarily held by AWW.

The one I’m most excited about but is definitely the hardest to do is an extension of my alternative historical fiction started in “A Bridge at Adelphia” (also in a Clarion Call anthology Echoes of Liberty). I postulate that the US Constitution is never ratified because: a) James Madison has one of his famous illnesses and so was unable to push the ratification efforts; b) that George Washington’s letters about land and the need for a “controlling power” are made public and people come to believe that he wants to be king (these letters are actually public today, but at the time, they were private). Patrick Henry’s convention speech was more widely published and swayed some state legislatures; d) that Arthur St. Clair’s manipulation of his post as President of Congress (under the Articles) so that he can be appointed governor of the Northwest Territory is discovered and made public; e) just one state refused to ratify early on and that convinced the others not to. It’s a fun project because I get to mess with history, to show how tiny tweaks in the circumstances around the Constitutional ratification might have derailed the whole process. . It’s also a hard project because I have to decide what might have happened if the Articles of Confederation had continued in force. Indian relations on the western frontier would have been different because the US would not have been able to mount a big army to force their desires on the tribes … and that was covered in the short story. I think Ohio would have become a state even without St. Clair’s influence. Washington DC would have never existed and Philadelphia would be the US capital today. I plan to follow the life of the central character, with snatches of his life in short story form, so the book ends in 1860s (upon Lai’s death). I’m still staring at that subject of slavery and how it will resolve under the AofC as opposed to how it did resolve under the Constitution. Without a big army, whatever would the North have done to force the South to give up its economic livelihood? That could be the subject for another book, you know?

And, then I have a whole list of projects I would like to do, but are no more than a few notes here and there. But who knows? Maybe I”ll get to them, someday. Watch this space.

 

Soup to Nuts   2 comments

March 26, 2018 – Being the CEO. How do you handle all the tasks you must juggle in this writing/publishing world? Do you hire out certain tasks? Why or why not?

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Badly? Sometimes well? See all the balls in the air? Ignore the ones on the ground!

I am a hands-on author/publisher, involved in pretty much all aspects of publishing my books.

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverOf course I write them. I guess there are really popular authors out there who have a team who does their writing for them. I’m not that popular.

I edit my writing. It’s not that I don’t use an editor or don’t think they have value, but the cleaner your manuscript is before you send it the beta readers and then an editor, the better. It saves money, headache and heartache.

I read the beta comments and incorporate the changes they suggest … if I agree with them. It’s the same with an editor. Ultimately, it is my book and I don’t always take suggestions because sometimes what is suggested is not what the story needs or it clashes with who the character is.

I design my own covers. That was a financial choice with my first book The Willow Branch. My daughter, an artist, designed the original cover and then ran off to “join the circus” (she’s a traveling musician). She wasn’t available for my second book Life As We Knew It and I “hired” an artist friend of hers who would work for blueberries and moose stew. Then I had a catastrophic computer failure and I lost all of my cover images. My daughter’s friend was busy with school, so he showed me how to use the software he used and I taught myself cover design. I already knew typography from my journalism experience. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at cover design. I do as good a job as the cover mills that risk cover clones and I fulfill my own personal standard of designing a cover that suggests what’s inside the book.

lifeasweknewitI’ve gotten so good at formatting that I’ve now been paid by a few people to do it for them.

How do I do it all? I set deadlines for myself and I try to hold myself to them. I post them to the Sticky Notes feature of my laptop so I am harassed by my own work ethics whenever I log on to play a video game. I’m not always successful — sometimes the video game wins — but I keep trying. I promise myself a break right after I upload the book to Amazon and Createspace and the last couple of books, I’ve kept my promise to myself.

When I have extra money … like, when the books have a good week … I spend the money on advertising. I lack the resources to reach hundreds of thousands of people and some advertisers do a much better job of creating advertisements than I do.

 

Edit Ruthlessly   2 comments

As writers, we’re also readers. What is a common mistake you see in many books? Offer suggestions for making a change. You can even share a paragraph from a book and correct it.

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Image result for image of manuscript editingI love to read and when I’m not writing, that’s often what I am doing. I love books by indie authors, but I also have favorites among the authors you’ll find in a mainstream bookstore.

Because I was trained in editing and have made my living at least partially editing the writing of others, I tend to notice errors and if they’re in a published book, they drive me crazy because I can’t fix them and, depending on the author, I wonder how they got past the professional editor.

Errors?

I have no opinion on the Oxford comma. They are forbidden in journalism writing, which is why I rarely use them, but it’s not technically an error to use it. If you don’t know what an Oxford comma is, google it. It’s useful information. My rare usage is reserved for those times when absolute accuracy matters.

So, what do I consider to be errors?

Well, there are the standard ones – were, where … there, they’re … it’s, its … affect, effect … lie, lay, laid, lain  — yes, those are different words with different meanings. Learn to use them correctly, authors! Grammar and spelling really do matter. Not all your readers are going to have editing skills, but they will enjoy your work more if grammar and misspelling errors don’t disturb their experience and that pays dividends. Learn the difference between a possessive word that ends with apostrophe then “s” (usually, with some exceptions like “its”) which is different from a contraction that might also end with an apostrophe “s”. Then there are plural words which still end in “s”, but have no apostrophe … ever. That frustrates me.

A while back, I was reading a novel by a traditionally published author and he had a huge continuity error in his book. Remember how in Lost the hatch took a lengthy hike to get to originally, but once they were using it all the time, they seemed to get to it in a few minutes of walking? That bothered me and this author’s error was similar. The rest of the book was good and I wouldn’t say don’t read it (which is why I’m not identifying it), but it did somewhat spoil my enjoyment of it.

In a similar vein, avoid anything that might knock the reader out of a willing suspension of disbelief. I was beta-reading a while back and the author used the American terms for currency throughout a fantasy novel. I understand why she did it, but it completely threw me out of the story. She admitted she did it for convenience sake and put some thought into a currency system for her world that will appear in the published book.

#1 Pet Peeve?

When I learned American Sign Language, I had to accept that some very similar seeming signs that sometimes have similar ways of speaking in English gloss very different concepts. For example, “see” and “look” are similar looking, but very different concepts and Deaf will laugh at you if you get them wrong.

  • “His eyes dwelt on her form.”
  • “His eyes ran along the floor.”
  • “His eyes were fixed on the sky.”

Well, let’s hope not. The hero should keep his eyes in his head. His gaze dwelt on her form. His gaze ran along the floor. His gaze was fixed on the sky. Let’s not give readers the word picture of eyes rolling around on the floor, cloud-hopping and/or groping maidens.

#2 Pet Peeve?

The overuse of the word “that” annoys me. For example, “that” isn’t needed after “said” about 99% of the time, yet even my graphic above uses it when it isn’t needed.

  • “It has been said that words are like inflated money …”
  • “It has been said words are like inflated money …”

There is a simple test for this. Can you think of any other verb that is normally followed by the word “that”?

  • “He climbed that the tree …” Nope
  • “She sang that the song …” Nope

You get my point, right?

Okay, so now you know. These things annoy me as a reader and I hope I avoid annoying others with same issues. Yes, we all make mistakes and an occasional typo making it to the finished book is understandable, but be ruthless with yourself so that you eliminate as few errors as possible.

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Becoming Unstuck

Magical BookLush

A New Dimension to Explore!! Love for books and series is all we need. Life can be lonely without books. All I love is books, series, and talking about serious causes like bodyshaming. Do join me if you love to live your life to the fullest

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

Read. Write. Love. 💕💕💕

Not Very Deep Thoughts

Short Fiction and Other Things

Ediciones Promonet

Libros e eBooks educativos y de ficción

the dying fish

Book info, ordering, about me etc. in upper right

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