Apparently, I need a blog editor

It appears my last post is an example of why I edit, edit, edit when I write fiction. Evidently, I need to do the same when I write these blog posts. I thought I wrote a positive post. I thought I shared a bit of wisdom. But I confused some of you, so obviously my thoughts did not make the trip from brain to keyboard intact.

For the record, I’m happy to be a published author. I’m proud of my first novel and excited to get my next one out soon. I’m thrilled that I have fans—FANS—can you believe it? I hope thousands of readers discover my books, but if they do, it will most likely be by word of mouth because, by nature and by choice, I am not a high-profile writer.

However, if I’m destined to become an author known throughout this world and beyond, so be it.

Speaking of editing, I have now written 90% of the first draft of my next novel, so I’ll soon be ready for that stage. I hoped I might crank out those last 10,000 words this week, but I’ve been stalled since Monday night. I mentioned my dilemma on Facebook yesterday and a few of my writing friends let me know this is a common occurrence at this point in a draft. I guess I’ve forgotten.

I think the problem is my attempt to not write this novel as a pantser. I wrote a simple outline and several key scenes before I started the draft, but—as they always do—the characters had their own ideas. I quit following the outline some time back and eliminated or revised some of the scenes, but I still have a couple that I can’t decide whether to use as is, revise, or trash. So, until my characters show me the way, I’m stuck.

And speaking of Facebook, have you LIKED my author page? I’ll be thrilled if you do. It takes only two clicks, first click on this link and then click LIKE to the right of my name. Come on, I dare ya’.

Even if you don’t LIKE me, I wish you a wonderful end of the week. 🙂

How to Trick Your Editor’s Eye

I’m not officially editing my next novel because I haven’t finished writing it, but I do some editing as I write. While I’m waiting for the next scenes to come to me, I go back and read parts I’ve already written, changing bits here and there.

When it’s time to edit the completed work, I use a few tricks to help my editor’s eye read as though I haven’t been staring at all those words for months. I print it, read the story aloud, and send it to my Kindle. That helps me see, and hear, typos, grammar, and punctuation errors, as well as discover the words and sentences I need to move, add, or delete.

Recently, I’ve been editing some short stories, and I created a .pdf of each to share with some critique partners. Yesterday, I sent them something I don’t normally share—a partial first draft. I gave them the first 6,000 words of my WIP as a .pdf, not for them to critique, but for them to give their opinion on the tense I used.

I didn’t take time to read the file at the time, so when I did that yesterday morning, I saw immediately that I’d misspelled a name. I also flagged a few places where my hair-trigger comma gun misfired, a couple of things that needed clarification, a few weak word choices, and a sentence or two I’ll move for better flow and stronger narrative.

Now, I know that reading my work in .pdf format helps me read with fresh eyes. I suppose it’s akin to reading it on my Kindle, but it’s much easier to click Save As in Word and, within a minute, be reading it in Adobe Reader. When this book is fully written and ready for editing, I’ll employ my usual methods, but for a quick peruse of a chapter or two, I’ll be using the .pdf method as another way to trick my editor’s eye.

Your turn: What tricks do you use to make your manuscript look fresh to your eye for editing?

When a book is done, and done, and done …

The focus of this blog has always been my writing life. Sometimes my posts have an iffy connection to that subject, but I try. Since, I have nothing deep or spectacular to share with you today, I’ll just tell you where I am in my writing life. (Leave now, if you have better things to do.)

I wrote my first novel for myself. It was good practice, maybe someday I’ll see if I can revise it, so it won’t be embarrassed to show itself in public. I started writing my second novel in June 2008 and finished it in November 2009. And April 2010. And October 2010. Each time, the novel grew: from 68k to 89k.

“Good grief!” you might say. Then, equally aghast, you might ask, “How could you think you were finished 21,000 words too soon?” And if you did ask, I might say, “Beats me.”

That would be a lie. I do know the reason, actually two reasons.

  1. I grew impatient to be done with it.
  2. I failed to write out the entire story, even though it was in my head.

My impatience stemmed from having written my first novel in a year, so my second novel should have been done in a year, right? Actually, I’d been working on the second one for a year and a half, therefore it certainly had to be done. Of course, the first novel was for my eyes only. No one critiqued it. It was done because I said it was. But not this novel, it needed maturing. And we all know, that takes time.

Some of my beta readers challenged me to explain, expand, extend. That was easy to do because I knew all the parts of the story they wanted to know, I just hadn’t written them out. (Yeah, I know, readers aren’t telepathic.) I know I’m not the only one who’s thought a book was done when it wasn’t. It’s a bit embarrassing, and a lot frustrating, but it happens.

However, I’m not sure other indecisive writers went a step further and queried at every stage. I did. Yes, I did. And I queried most of my A-list agents, who of course said, “No thanks.” So now I have what I think is a solid novel, one that could actually sell a few copies, and I have to make a new list of agents and start querying again. Oh, happy happy joy joy. But wait, there’s more.

First, I have to revise my query letter, which means I’ll have pulled out most of my hair by the end of the month. I’ll look okay for Halloween, though.

Spaghetti Gone Wild

Yesterday, in a Tweet to Kayla Olson, I described the state of my chapter-in-revision as spaghetti gone wild. Switching the order of the scenes had seemed a simple task. I had four scenes to deal with: one moves down, two move up, one stays in last place. No big deal. Next step: write/revise the narrative to link these scenes.

That’s when the mess began. I wrote words. I deleted them. I wrote different words. I deleted those too. Nothing felt right. Desperate, I thought maybe the fault lay within the scenes. Even though I’d loved them when I wrote them, I began to edit. I highlighted words, phrases, whole sentences I could improve, but I knew there was no sense working on those until I was sure they wouldn’t be cut. But then, the more I read the more I became dissatisfied. (If you’re a LOST fan, this is when I nicked the dural sac. :-))

Suddenly, none of it made sense to me. Everything was wrong. The writing was mediocre, the story silly, and I questioned why I wrote the chapter in the first place. When I realized I would rather play games than even open the file again, I knew I was in trouble. I now hated the chapter I once loved. Where had I gone wrong?

Without a clue, I gave up and played TextTwist, and as I did, I was reminded of way back when I first wrote about Jalal. I would write until I was out of words, and then I played Bejeweled. I don’t know why, but the background music brought Jalal’s voice to me, and I would play until I knew what to write next.

So, yesterday, as I sat there playing TextTwist, the fog lifted. This chapter was about Jalal, from his point of view, but I had ripped the heart out of it by trying to revise without him. I barged right in and started hacking away and shoving in more, without “getting into character” first. That’s how I totally screwed it up.

I must now step away (Or count to five? :-)) and listen until I hear Jalal’s voice. Then I’ll get this mess untangled.

Now, your turn: Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this.

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Photo credit: Susan at Timeless Gourmet

Shhh … 5 secrets to novel writing

Are you about to read The Five Secrets to Writing a Bestselling Novel by Linda Cassidy Lewis? I wish. We both know I don’t have the experience to write that. (Yet!) No, I’m going to tell you five things I discovered about how I write a novel. Five things, though mostly contrary to what I read in how-to-write manuals, that work for me. (Your mileage may vary.)

No, the novel of which I speak isn’t published yet, but it’s a good story, and feedback I’ve received from several other writers confirms that I succeeded in crafting a solid beginning, middle, and end. Nevertheless, as you read my five secrets, you’re welcome to have your grain of salt ready.

  1. Write what you know: Never take this to mean you can only write about a subject if you’re an expert on it. You can learn about almost anything through the internet, books, interviews, documentaries, etc. However, it’s hard to convey feelings convincingly in your writing that you haven’t experienced—at least in some way. I believe that if you make yourself feel the emotion you’re writing about, your reader will feel it too. If you have an idea that moves you, excites and interests you, write what your heart is telling you to write. You can research the details.
  2. Outline: You must outline; all the books say so. Ummm … no! I did not outline. The closest I came to outlining was creating a scene list. I wrote a one-sentence description of a few “big” scenes in advance, but mostly I listed each scene after I wrote it. I also wrote character sketches though, of course, these people revealed quite a bit more of themselves as I wrote and one character changed completely.
  3. First draft: I know the books say to get the story down fast, write straight through, don’t stop to edit. No can do … and didn’t. I see no reason I shouldn’t edit as I write. My story wasn’t quite complete when I thought it was, so it grew and changed through further editing, but my “first draft” was not “shitty.”
  4. Feedback: I read advice not to seek feedback until I completed and edited the novel. I didn’t listen to this either. Maybe someday I’ll have more confidence in my plotting skills, but for this one, I needed to know if the storyline that made perfect sense to me, also made sense to others. However, I started with a pretty good grasp of my story’s beginning, middle, and end … even if I hadn’t written it all yet. Only once did all my critique partners agree that a plot point needed serious revision, but often they let me know when I needed to add or clarify something. I preferred making those corrections while I was still writing the story rather than after I’d gone forward with more story that connected to what I had to cut or change thereby necessitating revisions to all those later scenes too. For me, receiving in-progress feedback was both confirming and motivating.
  5. Editing: I’ve read reams of how-to’s on editing. Most of them advised the method of going through your manuscript looking for one thing at a time: plot holes in one pass; grammar and punctuation in another pass; excessive use of adjectives/adverbs in yet another; etc. Though I tried, I found it impossible to focus on just one thing at a time, so I corrected whatever I saw as I read. Of course, I read my manuscript straight through at least three times (once, aloud) and through each of its three parts separately at different times. Eventually, I covered all the editing concerns I had listed.

So, that’s what works for me. Maybe you read these five “secrets” and shook your head, sure that I can’t possibly have written anything publishable. Maybe you read them and thought, Well duh!

I say, do what works for you—just write!

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