Archive for the ‘editing’ Tag

Discover Writers Can So Outline!   3 comments

There’s a myth that you are either a plotter or a pantser as a writer.

Plotters outline. They know where they’re going before they even start. Many of them know exactly each step they’re going to take in the journey to THE END before they write the first word. They are generally plot-driven. Occasionally, they might deviate from their intended course if a plot element presents itself that must be included, but they like order and so any deviation is a carefully-thought-out deliberate choice.

Pantsers thrive on spontaneity and discover. They tend to be character-driven. After introducing themselves to their characters, they let the characters navigate. Discovery writers seek to be surprised by the words as they fall from their fingers, discovering new insights about their characters and their world as they go along. At best, they sketch a few guidelines in advance, maybe have an idea of what the end point will look like, but generally, they don’t want to be constrained by an outline.

Related imageI am definitely a discovery writer when I draft. Even writing a series where I know what the change points of each book are going to be, I generally don’t want to know how my characters intend to get there. That would be boring and I suspect self-defeating. It would feel too much like work to me and a large reason why I write is to entertain myself. If you can produce a good book that way (and who am I to argue with the likes of Stephen King), more power to you, but I prefer to allow my creativity to take lead. I get a better draft that way.

But that doesn’t mean I never outline.

What? How can I say that? You’re either an outliner or a discovery writer. You can’t be both. Right?

I outline after the draft is finished.

Writing 100,000 words for a book is often a series of sprints. I tend to work on a scene at a time. I don’t always work in chronological order. Sometimes I work on scenes later in the book before I work on scenes at the start of the book. I may sketch out a few guideposts in advance, maybe identify some oncoming conflict, but overall, I let the characters lead me through their lives and tell me their story.

When I complete a draft, I then write a chapter-and-scene outline of the completed manuscript. This is where plotters are frowning in confusion. Why would I do that? It makes no sense to them.

Bear with me.

I’ve just written roughly a 100,000 words that are like a puzzle that still needs to be fitted together. I need to step back and see how that puzzle looks when all the pieces are put together, and a scene-by-scene outline lets me do that. I assign one bullet point per scene, and then I can see the whole puzzle in a few pages.

Where are the rises and falls, where is the climax, where is the inciting incident or incidents, where is the resolution? Is there a ton of backstory, delivered too early? Is there not enough conflict?

Image result for image of a road mapWhen you look at your book from a macro perspective, you can see big-picture flaws like abandoned plot threads, unnecessary scenes, missing or unbalanced elements, the place a faulty ending really began to go wrong, etc. I use different highlighting to note these types of problems on my outline so I fix them early on.

It’s easy for rewrite to become about fixing wording, grammar, punctuation and countless other details. Those errors need to be fixed before publication, but that’s proofreading. Why do that if you might later delete the entire chapter? Evaluating your manuscript via a scene-by-scene outline helps cut out some of that superfluous editing of words and commas.

I have a friend who actually prints out her outlines and cuts them up by scene to pin to a big corkboard, but I prefer to do my moving around on the computer. What if you moved the gas station scene to the next chapter? What if the father’s backstory went after the funeral instead of before? What if you cut chapter twelve, except for the fight?

Where are you heavy or light, long or short? Is your book dark except for a couple of humorous scenes? Okay, but did you realize all those scenes were within a few chapters of each other? Is your book almost all loud moments? Is it too quiet throughout? A big-picture view is invaluable in making these determinations.

Once you see an outline you like, you can revise your manuscript with a plan in mind.

By outlining after writing, discovery writers can draft in the manner that allows our creativity to lead while still making use of the organizational benefits of outlines. Also, you’re not locked into your original outline. You can revise the outline after each major revision, then take a step back to see how things look through a wide-angle lens. Your characters will thank you for the freedom you’ve given them, and your readers will be grateful for the extra steps you took to ensure your story works on every level, big and small.

And, finally, there’s a last advantage to this. If, like me, you give your chapters titles, your outline makes a handy way to do the table of contents. I’ve had author friends complain that this is an annoying process of going back and forth between the written chapter and the front matter and it was for me the first time, but then I recognized I could do the TOC in the outline and it eliminated all that bouncing back and forth. I could just run the two documents and go back and forth between them. I intend to borrow my son’s computer for a night to do this with two screens this time around. I suspect that’ll be so much easier.

You learn as you go along as a writer, and I have certainly had plenty of lessons.

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Posted September 14, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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Self-Editing   6 comments

This week’s topic for the blog hop is supposed to be interviewing our editors. You can join us or check out my fellow authors here.

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Image result for image of an editorI don’t have a professional editor. A rule around our house is that hobbies must pay for themselves or not cost much to pursue. Brad started an entire business without incurring any debt and that business is still self-supporting. My books, being a small business, must be self-supporting. I do invest my own money in them, but I have a budget, which means that I spend my money on the things I’m not good at — like advertising — and the things I am good at, like editing, are not yet in the budget. When the books make money, that profit is reinvested into the areas where I need help – promotion. At some point, I hope to tip over into the place where I have enough profit to hire professionals like editors and cover designers, but I’m not there yet.

I trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter for a while. I have also worked as an editor in several jobs. So editing is a skill I possess in my personal toolbox.

Of course, an author editing her own book is fraught with difficulty. It’s like driving and navigating at the same time … possible, but complicated. Fortunately, I belong to an author cooperative where I have a ready source of beta readers, often in exchange. It’s all about being honest with each other. If I am ruthless with their work, they learn to be ruthless with mine and pretty soon, we’re all acting like editors.

So what do my beta readers say?

“This is the easiest beta read I’ve ever done,” was what Melissa said about Objects in View. “What’s with all the dialogue tags? You really don’t need them. Stop using THAT word (or phrase)! Didn’t this character have a similar conversation with another character two chapters earlier? You really do dialogue well. It feels natural. You manage to work faith into what is really not a Christian book and not lay it on too heavily.”

Image result for image of a beta readerMelissa wasn’t telling me anything I don’t already know, Objects in View being my fourth published book.

My professional skills come out in that I have gone through the manuscript several times before I turn my work over to betas. And, I will go through the book at least twice after I get the manuscript back.

I was trained in a time when dialogue tags were considered a required part of dialogue. You never wanted to leave the reader wondering who was speaking. These days, we assume the reader can figure it out. But they still work their way into my writing if I’m not thinking about it.

We all have words and phrases we overuse. They sound good to us, so we don’t eliminate them from our writing. We need betas or editors to point them out to us.

Image result for image of a beta readerSometimes my characters are trying to work out something for themselves, so they go back to the same topic again and again with different characters. Unfortunately, that bores the reader, so I have to refrain from doing that, even though I don’t object to it myself in the books that I read.

I know I’ve confessed this before. My characters just sort of appear in my head while I’m doing other things. They start to tell me that story that I end up writing. Well, they also have conversations in my head. Today, I had an interesting one between Shane and Rob while I was working out. While I do change their dialogue to match certain parameters, I am largely just transcribing the conversations I hear in my head. Thus, the dialogue flows. I don’t think that’s a skill. It’s one of the talents that just sort of flow from my writer’s brain. I am much more gratified when someone compliments me on my imagery because, to me, that’s a skill I’ve worked on. Dialogue just sort of happens.

My faith is part of my life. It does not consist of 12 rules that I follow assiduously in an effort to please God. What I believe informs my life. The faith of my characters has the same flavor. I don’t write books for a Christian audience, but I don’t write books intended to offend Christians either.  When you read my books, if there is a Christian character, you will see them portray what I identify as authentic Christianity. That’s faith that is intermingled with a human personality. So, when a character does something that stems from their beliefs, it shouldn’t come off as forced or message-like. It’s simply what they do because of who they are … unless that character has a faith that is external. Yes, sometimes I put hypocrites in my books because those exist in the real world too.

Image result for image of a beta readerI know some really great writer advice sites will insist that you shouldn’t try to publish a book until you can afford an editor. Editors cost a lot of money that I simply don’t have. In order to get around my lack of funds, I have taught myself to be ruthless with my own writing and then I use my betas to add another layer of honest evaluation. Last but not least, my husband and children have become pretty good copy-editors, who pick up the last few typos with red pens going over the physical manuscripts.

Someday I hope my books make enough money that I can afford a professional. I think that will be an interesting experience. Of course, I wonder if an editor will accept (as my betas must) that sometimes I disagree with them and will keep something the way that I originally wrote it just because I think it works best that way. Don’t know, but I look forward to finding out.

Posted September 19, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Red Pen   1 comment

I’m in that stage with Life As We Knew It where I have printed off the manuscript and am taking a red pen to it. Words look so different on the computer screen. I bleed red ink. Shane changes how he says things. I realize that I need a character to think like the New Yorker he is. I see the grass bend before the wind.

The story deepens and I bleed red ink.

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