Tag: Editing

Video Saturday – Advice to Writers: #Editing #writing

Not a lot of information about the video today. This Saturday, considering I was spending the bulk of my time working on editing rather than actual writing, I thought it might be good to see about finding video advice from authors on editing. Believe it or not, although there are lots of posts about writing, there aren’t very many about editing. The one below on Good Manuscript Housekeeping is by Patricia Anderson, PhD, Literary Consultant.

Just as a reminder, the presence or absence of any specific author, editor, publisher, professional, etc. does not indicate endorsement.


WWW: From Word One

A little under a year ago I wrote a story called The Ghosts of Venus.  If you’re in CVS you probably remember seeing it.  It’s a concept that I enjoyed, a story that was fun to tell, and it let me dip my feet into a pulpier style of writing that felt pretty damned good.  However, there were some rather glaring flaws in the story.  Not the least of which stemmed from a woman largely talking to herself for the first half.  And a world I didn’t get the flesh out properly.  And a character I wanted to explore more.  Even though I had cracked the Hugo and Nebula defined lengths for a Novelette, it still felt like it was missing lots of big things.

But it wasn’t a novel.

So I’m trying it as a novella, and so far it’s a damn fun experience.  I brought along some extra characters so I could have crazy things like interpersonal drama and conversations.  I know, that’s crazy talk.

What this meant was breaking the original story down completely, pulling what few cogs and gears I could out of it, then going to the work bench and bulking it up.  Massively.  We’re talking about a transition from just over 7500 words to something that should land in the range of 25-30k, a quadrupling of length.  It’s a challenge, but it’s a damn fun one, finding places to actually insert a story, create a problem to solve, all while keeping large parts of the original concept in tact.

Our stories are our darlings, our little babies.  And just like any baby, it’s important to know when it’s time to slaughter one to pull out what parts of it you want while creating an unholy monstrosity that will dance to your pan flute.  Or something like that.  I’ve still got a few months to get this fatherhood thing figured out.  The point is that we sometimes need to stop coddling our stories, and realizing that they aren’t perfect and precious little things, but that there’s something that can be done with them.

I used to dread starting a story over from scratch.  I was far more willing to just forget it and let the file linger on an external hard drive.  But as I’ve had concepts that I love too much that turn into stories that aren’t quite right, I’ve seen the power in being willing to open up a new file, stare at that blank page for a minute, then start over again from word one.  It’s work, yes, but writing was never meant to be easy, and the results are often so much better than before.

Now…if I could only get those results the first time through a project I’d really be kicking some ass.

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WWW: This is the End

“How about this, then?”

I’ve been good so far while rough drafting Nickajack.  I haven’t been going back and doing whole scale edits.  But when I showed my wife/coauthor the first go at Chapter 35 last night, it fell a little hollow.  Something that was meant to be subtle was made rather overt, changing some of our end game plans.  She didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it after reading it.  There was something wrong about it.

Nickajack is a story told through four perspectives.  Our hope above all hopes has Nickajack as the first part of a trilogy that follows two of those four characters.  A third is likely to show up again, though likely not as a POV character the next time around.  The fourth will be left behind, living her fictional life in our fiction state in our alternate earth.  Chapter 35 is her last full chapter, and the last we’ll see her until the climax of the book is going all ker-blooey.  The plan is another long scene with her POV in the last numbered chapter, then it will be good bye forever.

It means in the middle of all the set-up for future books, all the wrapping up of the bigger plotline, and stuff exploding, her much more personal plotline needs to come to a satisfactory conclusion.  I feel a lot more pressure for her story line than I do any other in the book.  She’s the only complete story, or as complete as any story ever is, and in a large sense is the heart of the entire novel.  It turned into a hard chapter to write, as evidenced by the immediate reworking of the last 400 words last night.

It’s probably all entirely too much pressure to put on a rough draft.  We’ll have any number of chances to rewrite the end, middle, or even beginning of her story.  It may even become her friend, not her, who acts as the POV character.  That’s the editing process, strange things happen and stories change.  But there’s also something to be said about getting the ending right this first time.  Knowing, even if her story changes, that this version of it came to some satisfactory conclusion.

I’ve gotten to the end of novels before, but they’ve all been less deliberative processes.  This will actually be the first novel that I finish that didn’t start as a Nanowrimo project.  There’s something different about sitting down, knowing the ends of characters, building up to them…and then actually writing them.  It’s a long goodbye to a character I’ve gotten to know now over the course of several months, the last of the POV characters to be conceived of and the first to reach their last plot turn.

Of course, starting as early as next week we’ll start the initial editing pass to turn the rough draft into a first draft, and I get to say hello all over again.


Track your Writing – Knowing your Productivity; Saving your Mental Health

A while back I came across a blog post by an author comparing his productivity now, after publication of 2 books, to what it was ten years ago and expressing his frustration at the fact that in spite of the increase in the quality of his work and current success, his productivity was nowhere near where it was 10 years previously.   How did he know?  He kept track of it in journals.  Nothing fancy, just a plain notebook and inside it, whenever he wrote, he’d list the date, the title of the work, and the wordcount.  It wasn’t about time spent, or effort, or editing, it was just an account of pure productivity. 

Now let me be clear,  I am not a prolific writer.  I look on in envy at other members of my writing group who can churn out a few thousand words a night.  Regularly!  And before some of you folks out there make any comments about quality, I can assure you they write GREAT stuff at that pace.  But a lot of times, between work, family, hobbies, social activities (and yes, I HAVE heard that writers DO have a social life) it can be difficult not only to find time to write but to feel good about what is accomplished.  As an example, I put aside my Sunday afternoons for writing.  It is “protected time.”  But at the end of my first few afternoons, I lamented the fact that I only had completed around 2,000 words.  I was feeling bad about all the wordcount I hadn’t achieved even as I was adding to it!  I was beating myself up for actually WRITING!!!

Not a very good place to be mentally.

Pencil Graph by Cheryl GrahamSo I thought to do what I had read in that blog post - track my writing.  I committed to documenting the time and wordcount that I spent on this activity.  I needed to do this, if for no other reason than to assure myself that I WAS accomplishing something and moving forward.  Right now, I have a small datebook that goes with me everywhere and if I spend any time on writing or writing related activities I can write that down and give myself credit for it.  But what is noted must be specific.  I can’t say “Writing Research – 30 minutes” I would have to say, “Writing Research  – Design of HotAir Balloons During the Civil War and Dating of Design Changes from Balloon to Drigible (30 minutes).”  The same for any wordcount.  It must be listed specifically as to for what story or scene or novel. 

I’ve been collecting information for the past 3 months and I must admit, it has kept me motivated and feeling good about my writing.  Regardless of whether I get busy at work and have guilt raining down upon me like frogs and fish in a hurricane,  :)   it is somethng I can point to and say, “I did that!”  Different people will have different results.  I know my colleagues coul probably need to add a zero after my wordcount of the year for it to be even close to what they’re doing.  But tracking your writing isn’t about other people.  It is about you, and what you are doing.  And in the spirit of open communication, and because I AM proud of how much I’ve accomplished, let me share a quick summary from my Quarterly Report:

JANUARY

Writing Lesson Learned:  Using multiple passes on my writing works REALLY well.  Pass #1:  Dialogue (my strong suit) & Pass #2:  Description.  Etc.
Amound of Writing: 5 Days of Writing and 4747 words
Submissions: 4 Submissions (2 to CVSWriters and 2 to Magazines/Anthologies)
Notes:  Feeling positive about the new year!

FEBRUARY

Writing Lesson Learned:  Have a “Back-Up” Day.  When I don’t make my Sunday scheduled writing time, I don’t have an alternate time reserved so no writing gets done.
Amount of Writing:  6 Days of Writing and 5520 words
Submissions: 3 Submisions (0 to CVSWriters and 3 to Magazines/Anthologies)
Notes: First Sale of the Year!

MARCH

Writing Lesson Learned:  Momentum is Critical.  The more you do and keep doing, the easier it is.
Amount of Writing: 7 Days of Writing and 4836 words
Submissions: 5 Submissions (1 to CVSWriters and 4 to Magazines/Anthologies)
Notes:  Crazy-busy work month.  Lost 2 “Writing-Sundays”


5 and a Half Easy Ways to Annoy a Slush Reader

As some of you may or may not know, I am currently a slush reader for the Trust and Treachery Anthology that is going to be published later this year. Now, when I first began this journey it was as a way to get me back into writing, as well as giving me some experience working on the publishing side of things…But now it has become a whole new animal.

I have spent a lot of time reading, and have gotten very little umph to write out of it…but I have gotten a lot of gigglefits and screaming done.

Ok, ok, so this isn’t how to annoy a slush reader as much as it is a cautionary tale. The whole, “there but for the grace of God go I” and all that. Oh wait, I’ve gone there! Take a few minutes and review this little list I’ve made.  Trust me, after seeing these mistakes in just the few short months I’ve worked on this anthology I can promise you I’ll try never to make them again! (For the sake of my fellow slush readers if nothing else!)

5 1/2. If you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it.
You can’t “wonder through a town”…well, I guess you can, but I doubt that is the picture you are trying to conjure.

5. Basic Grammar and Spelling
I’m a terrible speller, and even worse at grammar…but EVERYONE has a friend that is better at that sort of nuts and bolts stuff than you. So, please, for the love of God give your story to that person before you submit it and we can all avoid you eating “potato’s”.

4. That cliché is like an old, worn shoe.
Comfy, sure, but a bit tattered around the edges. If you are going to go to a job interview, you might want to break out the new shoes, ya know? (Same goes for morals, avoid them “like the plague”! )

3. Format is there for a reason!
It is not easy to read strange fonts, or single spaced documents. It is sort of jarring to open a story with no title page or header. It is difficult to discuss story points when there are no page numbers. It may look boring, but trust me, we selfless slush readers will bless you if you can just follow proper format.

2. A rejection is final.
Take your rejection like an adult. Please do not write the editors to tell them that the slush reader that read your story was obviously mistaken in her evaluation of your ham-fisted attempt at literature. If you must write why not ask for a quick critique, or one piece of advice for your story.

1. Story Interruptus
Yeah, we can tell when you’ve gotten tired of writing the story. Build me up, build me up, and bang…leave me hanging. BAH! NO! If you’ve got a story, it needs an ending…give it that ending, not something slapdash or just tagged on at the last minute. Respect your story and the places you are submitting it to enough to think about your ending and actually WRITE it.


WWW: Micro-Editing and Macro-Editing

WYSIWYG text editors are possibly one of the finest innovations that has hit the world of writing.  Look, I never had to generate a manuscript on a typewriter, I don’t know what it was like, but the ability to go in and shift a sentence around, insert a paragraph, change up a character’s name, all without having to completely retype a manuscript?  Brilliant.  Can’t imagine living without it.  The ability to edit is always right there at your fingers.

The problem?  The ability to edit is always right there at your fingers.

There are two directions I could take this.  I could look at the need to push forward, or I could look at the need to edit more deliberately at times.  The former is at my blog.  This is the latter.

I’ve taken to a new form of editing that is working rather well for me when I feel that a story has an overarching problem, or when I want to just make sure it doesn’t.  Print it out.  The whole thing.  Every last word of it.  Then walk away from your computer and read it.  The whole thing.  Ideally in one sitting.  Digest your story the way a reader will, as one single unit while sitting on the crapper.  Okay, perhaps not to that extreme, but it’s important to remember that anything shorter than a novella is going to be read by at least a portion of the audience as a single unit.  So it has to work as a single unit.

I find when I’m editing in Word, I’m (to coin a phrase) micro-editing.  I’m looking at things at the sentence level, the word choice level, perhaps at the paragraph level.  But what I’m almost never doing is considering the work as a whole.  That’s because even with a relatively short story, micro-editing is a slow enough process that it eliminates my ability to keep the whole of the story in my head at once.  With a longer story?  Micro-editing is often a multi-night, or at least multi-session, process.  So at the end, I print the whole thing out, and I make sure it still works as a whole.  You’d be shocked how three perfect consecutive paragraphs do not make for a perfect page, or how a few otherwise perfect pages don’t quite string together into a story.  There’s a point where you need to not be micro-editing, and be macro-editing instead.

So go back to the old days, when a manuscript was a cohesive unit and needed to be treated as such.  When a major rewrite was just that: a rewrite, and not just changing the contents of a file.  I’m even considering playing with the idea of physically rewriting a story as an editing pass, though that experiment will have to wait until I don’t have nearly so many stories on deadline of three weeks or less.  If I do, I’ll tell how it goes, cause I always need more blog content.


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