NaNoWriMo – What Now?

So you hit 50,000 words in November — or maybe not quite so many. Now what?

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Once you’ve got your first draft down — or at least gotten a good start on one! — what should you do now?

  • Put the blasted thing away – you heard me. Put it into a drawer and forget it for a few weeks. Close the file (remember to save your work!) and start something else. You need a bit of time before you can start editing your draft, so you’ll see it with fresh eyes instead of overlooking things because it’s old and tired to you right now.
  • Start something new – edit an older draft. Start a new project. Do something completely different. You’ve been cooped up with that draft for 30 days now, and both of you need some space. Shake things up and do something else for a bit.
  • Focus on the holidays – did you forget it’s December? You’ve got decorating to do and gifts to buy and traditions to uphold!

The End

Book Two is finished … well, the first draft is done

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This is only the beginning, though.

  • I’ve got the first edit to do – go through reading for continuity and flow.
  • Rewrite as needed from that edit
  • Then I’ll do a dialogue edit to make sure all the dialogue sounds good and matches the characters
  • More rewriting as needed
  • Then there’s the (possibly first) professional edit to see what I need to fix
  • Then there may be yet another rewrite … maybe even several

Then, and only then, will I send it to my agent to see what she thinks. It’s not a short process.

How many edits do you go through before you publish?

Writing Workshop: Day 3

Editors for Hire (Chantelle Aimee Osman)

Once you’ve written “the end,” the journey is only half over. You must put out the best book you can – if it’s not, you might sell it, but they won’t come back for more.

A clean, polished manuscript can make all the difference – a copy editor is a must if you’re self-publishing and even if you’re going the traditional route, I recommend having your first 5-6 chapters gone over by a professional.

How much editing do you need? Most professional authors might get by with only one edit. Some people need 4-5 edits.

Do a read-only edit yourself before sending it to the editor – catch major errors and over-arching story problems before you send it off for a line edit or line and content edit.

 

The thing everyone is looking for is your passion on the page. Never write just for a trend. Write what you love to read, what you love to write.

Know your genre – don’t write a zombie vampire YA mystery with Western overtones.

The first two and last two chapters of your book are the most important – have a hook at beginning to make them need to turn the page – no backstory.

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Style issues:

  • awkward phrasing, repeated phrasing
  • do not try to have a unique voice – just write your way and the voice will show through
  • the tighter, the better – cut unnecessary words
  • preaching is a no-no
  • watch for changes in tense or POV

 

“good dialogue is one of the most difficult and challenges a writer has”

Dialogue problems:

  • fake dialogue – not using contractions, very formal, awkward
  • dialogue to obviously advanced the plot “radio drama dialogue”
  • forced dialogue – do your research
  • too many trendy words date your work
  • show, don’t tell
  • make sure characters have distinct speech patterns
  • Read your dialogue (and everything else) aloud

Descriptive problems:

  • using the protagonist’s senses to relate information is a better way to show instead of description
  • avoid general descriptions (beautiful, nice, etc)
  • avoid laundry lists
  • watch out for repetition – favorite phrases and images, sentence structure – “crutch words”
  • combinations of words with the same meaning
  • a set of fresh eyes are valuable in catching these things
  • adjectives and adverbs – don’t use too many, never more than one together
  • cut 10-15% of your words
  • watch “to be” – try to avoid if possible (passive sentences)
  • no qualifiers like very or really
  • cliches (that also includes cliched descriptions and situations)
  • wrong word choices (towards instead of toward, affect/effect, etc)
  • watch for sentences with more than two commas – maybe two sentences instead
  • now it’s one space after a period
  • double check for possessives and plurals

“Punctuation is like a throw-pillow.” Doing the job without calling attention to itself

Errors in character:

  • characters must be unique, bring the readers back
  • know your characters well, give them clear motivation
  • must have goal and clear reason to work toward that goal
  • characters must grow
  • no stereotypes
  • outlandish names – names often paint a better picture than descriptives – you don’t want something that reader must stop reading to figure out how to pronounce it
  • misplaced or overly long backstory

Plots:

  • if characters just go along without anything interesting happening, there’s no emotional attachment
  • every book should have basic essential question (who/what/where/how/why) – know what that question is and be able to resolve it in the end
  • don’t write about something you don’t know about
  • know your genre!

The End:

  • almost as important as the beginning – what’s going to sell the second book
  • resolution must make reader feel something
  • don’t keep readers wondering in a bad way (forgetting a plot point)

Now you’ve just started on your journey of queries, rejections, edits, cover designs, etc.

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Social Media 101 for Creative People (Alison Sky Richards):

3 Points:

  1. Website (your store front)
  2. FaceBook (your billboards)
  3. Twitter (your conversation)

There are around 328 highly utilized social media sites – around 600 total

 

FaceBook:

  1. Create an author (or book) page
  2. Create an author voice

Twitter:

  1. Be careful who you follow/allow to follow you – spambots and trolls
  2. Build dialogue and communication – look for your favorite authors and create communication
  3. Hashtags #amwriting, #amediting – scroll past photos to get to # feed at bottom of screen

Grab your author name on major social media sites – and URL

Websites:

  1. Responsive design – allow for different devices
  2. Visual design – images get 10% more response than text
  3. Appearance – NO Comic Sans! Need an easy to read font like Verdana or Arial – nothing too trendy or crazy. Use tinted background instead of plain white – easier for most people to read. Red is also very visually attractive, but not fire-engine red
  4. Have your social media integrated
  5. Search Engine Optimization – takes a lot of work! Need to get a lot of people to look for a specific phrase and click on the website.
  6. Constantly re-evaluate your website. Check content for freshness and readability – average reading level is 8th grade – recommended website level 6th. Rebrand website to be most effective.

Revising 1-2-3

Revision can be tough. Sometimes it’s hard to take a good, clear look at what you’ve written.

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Here are some good tips to get you started on the revision process:

  1. Start at the beginning – Editing is easier when you follow your story the same way your readers will. Starting on page one will not only help you to catch typos, but allow you to check for plot holes, continuity and characterization.
  2. Highlight all passive verbs. Look for is, are, was, were and has/have been. If the sentence can be rewritten into active voice, do so. If not, consider eliminating the sentence entirely. You do need passive voice occasionally, but keep it to the bare minimum.
  3. Get rid of the cliches. HERE’S a great list by Writer’s Digest of the most commonly used cliches. Do a find-and-replace search to be sure none of these have crept into your story.

Once you get into Edit Mode, you’ll find that it flows right along.

The Art of the Rewrite

Susan Cummins Miller gave a great talk at the Tony Hillerman Conference. Here are the highlights:

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A Baker’s Dozen: Common Writing Mistakes

  1. Starting at the wrong point – usually it’s too early. Start just before the really interesting part, or the inciting incident
  2. Lack of dramatization – beginning writers tend to “tell” instead of “show.” Get rid of “telling” adverbs and adjectives and “show” the action and reaction, and give the dialogue.
  3. Poor plotting – beginning writers often mistake a great premise (the 2-3 line pitch) for a great plot (what actually happens between Chapter 1 and The End. You should know what your characters want, and make them work for it, with a primary objective plus some smaller sub-goals. Each scene must have conflict, a climax, and resolution, and each incident must have repercussions and reactions.
  4. A contrived ending – let your characters interact and lead you to a logical ending. That needs to grown naturally from the building blocks of your scenes.
  5. Point of view errors – remember that, whichever point of view you choose, it must emotionally pull the reader into the story. Avoid the authorial voice (“telling”). Also, be sure that the reader knows whose head they’re in. Don’t switch point of view within a scene because that’s too confusing.
  6. Ineffective dialogue – dialogue should support and develop the plot, or give a little bit of backstory. Check for stilted or uninspired dialogue, or for cliches. Enliven your dialogue with revealing details.
  7. Weak characterization – no cardboard characters allowed. Your characters must be three-dimensional and emotional beings.You have your entire novel to reveal backstory, so avoid the temptation to tell everything about the character all at once. Give small, specific details a little at a time instead. Know what makes your character travel (physically or emotionally) toward their goals and remember to place them in stressful situations.
  8. A pointless story – this is when your reader finishes the book without having an “aha!” moment. It usually means you’ve either failed to define your objective, or neglected to show the development of your protagonist. The solution is to make sure that every action has a reaction and leads inevitably toward the climax and resolution.
  9. Flat writing – this is caused by “playing it safe” and not digging too deeply into your own emotions, or by fearing the logical reactions in your story. Cut narrative or dialogue that has no relevance to the plot, and be sure that you’re showing instead of telling.
  10. Lack of vivid, realistic settings – instead of giving paragraph after paragraph about your setting, choose one or two small but vivid details that will stick with your readers.
  11. Too much backstory and exposition (the dreaded “info dump”) – choose what’s important and present it in “dribbles and drabbles” in a vivid way. Keep in mind that backstory, if used correctly, can actually increase tension by slowing down the pace and delaying the crisis.
  12. Failing to listen (to what people say about your work) – Susan recommends that you have a first reader who knows what they’re doing, or that you join a good critique group that will actually provide useful criticism.
  13. Submitting your work too early – don’t send out your first draft. Be sure you’ve edited and polished until you’re sending out the very best you can produce.

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More from the Hillerman Conference to come!

Blathering: Edits

The manuscript is back from the copy editor already!

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I think that’s a good thing. She said it was a good story, and this is a PhD in English, so I’m going to believe her and start working on those query letters!

A few niggles – some instances where I spelled a minor character’s name one way in one chapter, and slightly different in a later chapter, some words I hyphenated one time and didn’t hyphenate later – that sort of thing. And, of course, the inevitable missed comma errors (I tend to add too many) and misspellings that the Spell-Check doesn’t catch because they’re real words (just not the word I intended to spell).

Overall, I’m satisfied that “my baby” is ready to send out into the dangerous world of Publishing. I never had kids, so I don’t really know, but it feels less like sending a child off and more like entering a science project in a huge science fair and hoping for a prize. I did my best work – and I know that will improve as I keep practicing the craft! – and now it’s time to let the judges see what I created.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Blathering: Edits

Draft #2 is off to the editor for the last check-up before I start on the query letters. This is someone who’s never read anything by me before, so it should be illuminating to get her take on the book.

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Getting started on Book 2 in November for NaNoWriMo. The working title is Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid: The Hawaiian Affair. That’ll change as soon as I think of something better — it’s too much like a Sherlock Holmes title (or something from Man From U.N.C.L.E.). The lads will be involved in treaties between the U.S. and the Republic of Hawai’i … not gonna give you any more hints!

I’m spending the next 10 days doing research, then it’s 1667 words a day for the entire month. By Christmas, I’ll have half the book finished!

Blathering: Final Edits

I’m doing the last read-through of the novel before I send it off to the editor.

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This is a little nerve-wracking. I’m at the stage where I’ve read it so many times it’s starting to sound like crap. I’m forcing myself to keep going and look for the continuity errors I’m supposed to be checking for, but it’s hard to keep from trying to rewrite – or even to start the whole damn thing over again!

How do you keep from tossing the manuscript into the trash when you get to this point?

How to Edit Your Manuscript

I’m nearly done with my second re-write of the book, and it’s time to think about editing again. How do you edit your own work, and when do you know that you’re finished editing and ready to send the work out to the agent or editor?

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Rules for Editing:

  1. Print out your manuscript. Somehow, it’s easier to edit if you have the paper in front of you. You can write notes in the margins, circle things you want to change, and even read from back to front when you need to. If you can’t print, at least use the “Track Your Changes” feature of your word processing software.
  2. Make passes. I’ll explain each one below, but the idea is that, with each pass, you are concentrating on only one aspect instead of trying to edit everything at once.
  3. Edit without rewriting. It’s really tempting to start rewriting as soon as you spot an error, or a place you want to add something – but resist the urge. Finish your edits, then start rewriting.

WP_Book_Blur_LeftHow to Self-Edit:

  • First Pass: Read through the entire manuscript, looking for only spelling and grammatical errors. If you happen to catch something else that seems wrong, just make a note in the margin and keep going. You may choose to rewrite at this point, or just swing right into the next pass.
  • Second Pass: Read through the entire manuscript again, this time looking for word choice and clarity. One great trick to catch poor word choices is to read the manuscript from back to front. This forces you to concentrate on each word, not on the total sentence. Rewrite at this point, where needed.
  • Third Pass: Read through the manuscript for continuity. Make sure that any actions make sense, that all of the loose ends are tied up, and that any “props” brought into a scene are used properly. Just as a continuity checker in a movie or TV show checks to be sure everything is still in the correct place, you need to be sure that the pistol your character shoots in Chapter 7 was properly introduced in Chapter 2, when you showed us the gun cabinet in the study. Make notes in the margin and keep track of everything you’ve introduced to be sure it’s used. Rewrite after this pass, adding any necessary scenes or dialogue.
  • Fourth Pass: Read through the dialogue. Make sure each line is spoken in the unique voice of the character, and that each line advances the plot in some manner. If it doesn’t move the plot, expand the character, or deepen the setting, then drop that line. Use something else, or drop the conversation entirely if it’s not doing anything. Rewrite after this pass.
  • Fifth Pass: Yes, you might need one. If you’ve done extensive rewriting, you’re going to want to start editing again on those sections, checking for everything you’ve checked the rest of the manuscript for.

How do you know when you’ve finished editing? Most authors agree that when you reach the point where you’re changing only around 10% of the manuscript, you’re through. Stop fiddling with the thing and send it out!

4 Tips For Self-Editing

This is courtesy of Michael Stackpole’s lecture at Dragoncon.

First, remember that you are not editing as you go along. As Stackpole says, “first, dig the hole” – get the manuscript down before you play with it.

In order to edit the most effectively, Stackpole recommends printing the manuscript out and working on it in a different location from the one in which you write. This forces your brain to switch to editor mode and keeps those two “jobs” separate for you. You should be able to “turn off” one side of your brain and work either as a writer or an editor, but not switch back and forth at the same time.

When editing, if you come across a place in the manuscript where you want to make changes, simple write “FIX” in the margin and keep editing. It’s very important not to switch back into writer mode, but to keep working with the analytical side of your brain to complete your edits. You will go back to writing once you’re done with the edits.

Here are four tips to help you with this process:

  1. Create a scene inventory for the manuscript. This is a one-line description for each scene, giving general plot points, tone and nature of the scene (action, technically intense, emotional, etc). For each scene, ask yourself whether it moves the story forward – if not, cut that scene
  2. Check the story arcs for each of your characters. Are they genuine? What are the character’s goals, and what obstacles prevent them from reaching those goals? What is the character’s emotional journey? Be sure you have not dropped anything from the arcs, or left out any important information.
  3. Make sure your content is genre-appropriate in terms of emotion, action, and thought percentages. For example, for a science-fiction work, you should have something in the ratio of 40-45% action scenes, 40-45% problem-solving scenes, and 15-20% emotional scenes. For romance, the ratio would be more like 15% action, 5% problem-solving, and 80% emotion.
  4. When are you through editing? You’re going to write the first draft and then edit, then write a second draft and edit that, and maybe even do a third pass. Stackpole proposes a 10% Rule: when you change fewer than 10% of the words at the end of an edit, it’s time to wrap it up and send it out.

The thing to keep in mind about writing and editing is to keep them separated in your mind. When you’re writing, just write. When you’re editing, just edit. In this way, you’ll develop two different types of skills which will work together to produce your best possible manuscript.

What are some editing tips you’ve learned that help you improve your manuscript?