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.

Self Editing   2 comments

I’m in the editing part of my latest book and so I’m thinking about editing all of the time. A lot of writing gurus claim you shouldn’t edit your own writing … that you really can’t because you simply won’t see your own mistakes. I disagree.

Image result for image of manuscript editingSelf-editing is a valuable skill that will help you produce better work, improve the feedback you receive, and ultimately become a better writer.

Self-editing is not a substitute for working with an editor or proofreader. Getting a fresh, objective set of eyes on your manuscript is one of the best things you can do to improve your writing and its chance of success in the marketplace. There are editors out there for every genre and every budget, so please consider engaging one.

But, before you do, it’s well worth polishing your manuscript as much as you can before sending it to editors, beta readers, and proofreaders. Self-editing will save time and money by enabling your editor to work with fewer distractions. In a “clean’ manuscript, mistakes are more likely to stand out. And, in self-editing, you will become more aware of your weak points and less likely to make the same errors again.

“Editing” is an unfortunately broad term that covers everything from organizing the overall structure of a narrative to picking up minute spelling and punctuation errors. They’re actually very different tasks, and they require different approaches and, in many cases, different people to perform them.

So how do you self-edit in your writing process?

There’s a convention wisdom that says you should write a book without editing first. I’ve personally never been able to do that. When I feel a little stuck on the next scene, I often read earlier scenes to get myself going. Well, if I see a misspelling or clunk grammar, I edit that rather than waiting until later. But it is true that you should take a break between writing and editing.

The longer the manuscript, the more time you should take before picking it up again. Obviously, deadlines and other life pressures may make this impractical, but to the extent that it’s within your power, schedule your writing so that you can let it sit anywhere from overnight (for, say, a blog post) to several weeks (for a full-length book).

I suggest enlarging your display to a minimum of 200%. This limits the number of words that you’ll see on your screen at any one time, making you less likely to skim, and literally helps you see errors more clearly. In the same vein, consider changing your font or font color because this makes the manuscript you’ve been staring at for months seem fresh and new and actually helps you see errors.

What are you looking for as you edit your own manuscript? You want to improve it, to bring it closer to reader expectations for your genre. You want to have a clear, well-supported theme and excise extraneous or distracting material.

Content Editing

Get ready to kill some darlings … you know, those distracting subplots or multiple climaxes. I know that’s hard, but really, readers get bored by them.

If the first page—heck, the first sentence—doesn’t compel readers to keep reading, they won’t. I have a writer friend who says he doesn’t really write his first chapter until he’s pretty much done with his book and then he spends almost as much time writing his first chapter as he did writing the rest of the book. I don’t go that far, but I do tend to spend a lot more time on it in the rewriting phase because it is really that important. The first chapter is that crucial. It must give readers a tantalizing glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the book. You’re not done with the draft until it does.

One of the best places to create tension and compel the reader to keep turning pages is by crafting strong chapter endings that leave a little suspense. This doesn’t mean the chapters should simply cut off randomly in the middle of scene … at least not often. There is a place for “open” endings at the end of a chapter. You want the reader to want to find out what comes next. Use your chapter endings to showcase an important insight or action.

 

Copy/Line Editing

At this point, you’ve more or less nailed the content of your manuscript; now you want to be sure that the language flows—that it’s appropriate for your audience, conveys the right feeling, meets grammatical standards, and isn’t confusing or redundant.

Tighten it up! Most writers include more than they really need to in their original draft. Look for ways to shorten sentences and paragraphs. Sentences should be 75% active voice. Do a search for the word ” was ” and consider ways to rephrase sentences that use it as the primary verb. Consider whether you actually need a dialogue tag or if context can make it clear who is speaking.

Watch your metaphors. They’re a lovely thing that adds spice to your writing — unless they used badly, when they might confuse a reader or make them laugh when you don’t intend them to laugh. Double-check your descriptions to make sure that they’re in line with the tone you want to convey.

Check dialogue and action scenes carefully. Make sure that it’s clear who is saying what, either from context, accompanying action or dialog tags (they have their place).  With action scenes, carefully block out the action in your head to make sure that all your characters are where they are supposed to be and that the action is physically possible. You can even draw diagrams if you have to or invite your teenager to the backyard for a mock sword battle.

One of the best ways to “read” your writing objectively is to hear it out loud. Invest in some text-to-speech software or get a friend to read it out loud to you. You can also read it out loud to yourself, but I don’t find that as effective.

Know your limitations. Some of us can do these first parts ourselves because we have a background of editing others’ material. Some of us can’t. There’s one area where most writers really need some editing help.

 

Proofreading

It’s critical to have another person (ideally someone with proofreading experience) look over your work before you publish it. At this point, you’ve read your draft through too many times to be able to reliably catch tiny errors. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it as a proofreader before you send it off to your proofreader or critique partner. The cleaner the copy, the better.

Use your word processing program’s grammar and spell check. No, it won’t catch everything—and many of the things it catches won’t actually be errors—but it will almost certainly find some mistakes you’ve overlooked.

Use the find-and-replace function. You can change your single quotes to double quotes and your double hyphens to em-dashes (so, — to —) in a snap and far more accurately than if you do them one at a time. While you’re at it, replace all your double spaces with a single space—this is in line with current standards and will help the final product look more professional.

Just remember that find-and-replace is a double-edged sword; make sure that you replace only what needs to be replaced. Don’t get lazy and clip “replace all.”

Use the Search function. If you know you have a tendency to make the same errors over and over again (typing “from” for “form,” for example, or spelling a character’s name different ways) do a search for those mistakes and check them one by one to be sure they’re correct.

Print out your work, if possible, and proof on paper. Time-consuming and not always practical, it’s still one of the best ways to see your manuscript in a fresh light.

You Should Self-Edit

These are just a few of the many ways that you can improve your own manuscript before sharing it with readers and editors.

Posted August 23, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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I Kidnap People and Bludgeon Them for a Living   Leave a comment

Consider the act of writing a novel. I know there’s a “recommended way” of doing it, but I’ve never been very good at following recommendations. I do things my own way and that’s how I write.

To a certain extent, I am a discovery writer … what is called the cute, but kind of insulting name “pantser”. Don’t worry. I’m no snowflake who can’t handle an unintentional insult meant as a joke. Maybe that’s what I find insulting about it actually … that they think the act of writing a novel as an organic process is somehow a joke.

Plenty of famous authors are or were discovery writers. Ray Bradbury was. Bradbury gave me permission to write as I was already writing … just letting the words flow even though what I write is often not really very good. He said to do it. He suggested writing a short story every week because it isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. I’m not so sure of that, but I believe it worked for him. The proof is in his writing.

So, when I start out any book, it always starts with no real idea of where I am going. Now that I’m in the midst of publishing two series, I really do have to have some idea of where I’m going, but I still can’t comfortably write a story from an outline. I need to let the story develop organically, to let characters talk about drivel or do meaningless things. That may not work for some people, but I am publishing my 5th book using that method, so it works for me.

I’m working on Transformation Project #3 A Threatening Fragility and because this is the third book in the series, I actually did know what the ending would be and what most of the major milestones would be. You’d think it would just crank out from my fingers, all ready to go, but no, I struggled. At 50,000 words, I felt like I was writing stupidity on a stick. Normally, by now, I would have found the passion of the story and begun writing with ardor, but this time … I just wanted to write anything else … which was what had caused me to turn from writing Book 3 of Daermad Cycle. I had too many ideas for other projects and no commitment to the story. So, here I was, 50,000 words into it and feeling a little like I should hit delete and start over.

And then a light bulb came on. I’m being too nice to my main character for the book. Yes, Shane is the main protagonist of the series, but it’s an ensemble cast and currently, what Shane is doing isn’t that interesting. He’s playing his part and it’s important for his later development to do it, but his brother Cai is the one in danger at the moment. So, why was he doing uninteresting things?

Turns out, I like Cai and I don’t want to beat up on him. He’s a really nice guy and I want him to go home to his wife and family and pretty much remain a nice guy. But that’s not what the story requires, so ….

Yeah … things are about to get tough for the nicest guy in the story and I’m sort of wondering how it will change the character because … well, frankly, as a discovery writer, I don’t really know the answer until it exposes itself on the page. And this is where the passion grabs me and drags me along for the ride.

I’ll have plenty of things to fix on rewrite and that’s fine now that I finally feel like the story is coming alive.

#books, #kindle, #amwriting, #amediting, #indiebookblast

 

 

Posted May 9, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion

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An Insult to the Written Word?   2 comments

Author Laurie Gough wrote an article titled Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word in which she argued that self-publishing devalues to the art of writing, is disrespectful, and less desirable than sharing “a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump.” To rub salt in the wound, the word “published” is put in quotation marks whenever used to refer to a self-published author.

I wondered at first whether the article was satirical, but Gough seemed serious as she insisted that traditional publishing isn’t perfect, but it’s the best system that we have because it’s the only system that includes gatekeepers.

 

As a self-published author, I think her view is short-sighted.

 

Readers make the author. Whether published by the Big Five or their own imprint, an author is nothing without her readers. In other words, readers are the ultimate gatekeepers … and always have been. When I’m looking for my next book fix on Amazon — or at Barnes & Noble or Gulliver’s Book (local bookstore), I look at a book’s title, cover and synopsis first. If those pique my interest, I read the reviews before I click “buy”. Frankly, I don’t care if the book was released by HarperCollins or CreateSpace. It’s the reviews posted by readers that I care about.

Image result for image of independent publishingGough asserted that the traditional publishing model is the best system we have, so we shouldn’t mess with it. Just because some find the Big Five publishing near-monopoly works best for them doesn’t mean it should be the only system available. To have just a handful of major players dictating who gets a piece of the publishing pie is a recipe for disaster. It would mean a world of shrinking advances for authors, missed gems for readers, and a lack of sustainability for publishers.

With self-publishing, authors can create their own imprints and function as a small press, competing with traditional publishers. I love to cite the example of Meredith Wild, an author who self-published her series, built a brand around her imprint, and scored a multimillion dollar advance for five books. Over at Breakwater Harbor Books, a group of indie authors have banned together to create their own imprint. We’re writing books instead of endlessly submitting to agents and publishers.

Gough’s main concern with self-publishing seems to be the quality of the books produced by indie authors. Which is, of course, why editors exist. Authors can and do invest in thier books and realize that they need professional help to improve on their produce to make it more enjoyable for their readers and more marketable. Why put them down for that?

I know editors and designers who work at traditional houses who take on freelance work. I can’t afford most of them, but I don’t think their quality of work goes down when they edit for an indie author. Many writers have published with traditional presses and also chosen to self-publish. Successful self-published books sometimes get picked up by publishing houses. The overlapping of the two methods keeps the industry thriving through economic turbulence. Whether we prefer traditional publishing or self-publishing, this is good news for book lovers everywhere.

With the business aspect aside, self-publishing a book is, at its core, a way for writers to express their thoughts to a wider audience. Writing is an art, a method of communication with the world at large, and part of what makes us human.

Gough softened her post with a few half-hearted words of acquiescence.

“I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally.”

What I found interesting is that her arguments are the same one the Big Three auto manufacturers made against upstart car companies or that network television made against cable. Lack of competition had made these old moribund companies complacent and stale. The arrival of newcomers in the field improved the product for everyone.

Yes, good writing takes time to learn. You aren’t going to get any better at it by writing pitch letters to the Big Five and the handful of agents they listen to. You get better at writing by actually writing. Indie publishing allows us to do that and then pitch our work to the only agent that truly matters … the readers.

 

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