Editing Series | Chapter 23

Sometimes that masterpiece needs a complete rewrite. Here are some reasons why mine did.

If you want to skip to a helpful writing tip, you can jump to 3:18. 🙂

I will be posting a post-critique group video on this same chapter in the future to let you all know what they had to say about it. I’m anxious to learn what my first round of editing missed that they are able to catch. I’m so grateful to my critique group, they truly are an amazing group of writers and are such an incredible resource for me.

If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe and I’ll see you in a future video!

If this series is helpful for you and you want to learn more about how I can help you polish your novel:

-Check out my writing services

-Follow me on twitter

-Or donate a treat to my writing companion Pit/Dalmation pup Petey for patiently waiting for my attention while I created this content

Happy Writing!

~MJ

Editing Series | Chapter 24 Critique Group Comments

What did my critique group have to say about my editing of Chapter 24?

Quite a lot, actually. Click the video below to learn more.

This just goes to show how blinded an author can be to the limitations of their own work, even when they identify and acknowledge issues and try to fix them.

Our greatest challenge is translating what we see in our head to the page, and I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to know if I’ve succeeded in doing that completely unless another person (preferably more than one) reads and critiques it.

Having a critique group to provide insight and feedback is such a great tool and it’s really helped me craft the best version of my story, and it’s what is going to make all the difference in getting this manuscript published.

If you enjoyed this video, please follow my blog and subscribe to my youtube channel, and I’ll see you in a future video!

If this series is helpful for you and you want to learn more about how I can help you polish your novel:

-Check out my writing services

-Follow me on twitter

-Or donate a treat to my writing companion Pit/Dalmation pup Petey for patiently waiting for my attention while I created this content.

Happy Writing!

MJ

Editing Series | Chapter 24

The second video of my Editing Series is live!

Chapter 24 is a first draft that I haven’t read since I finished writing it during NaNo 2020. This short video describes the main issues I encountered during editing.

If you want to skip to a helpful writing tip, you can jump to 2:18. 🙂

I will be posting a post-critique group video on this same chapter in the future to let you all know what they had to say about it. I’m anxious to learn what my first round of editing missed that they are able to catch. I’m so grateful to my critique group, they truly are an amazing group of writers and are such an incredible resource for me.

If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe and I’ll see you in a future video!

If this series is helpful for you and you want to learn more about how I can help you polish your novel:

-Check out my writing services

-Follow me on twitter

-Or donate a treat to my writing companion Pit/Dalmation pup Petey for patiently waiting for my attention while I created this content

Happy Writing!

MJ

Editing | An Introduction

Are you struggling with identifying why the novel you completed during NaNoWriMo isn’t ready for publication? Are you curious if other writers experience the same first draft issues that you do?

I am launching a new series on my YouTube Channel: Editing Series (kinda lame name but oh well) which will explore exactly that and offer some writing tips along the way.

I finished a rough draft of my novel during NaNoWriMo 2020 and it needs a lot of work, but I’ve made it my goal to get this novel ready to start querying agents in 2022.

If you are interested in learning how I am going about reaching that goal, and what issues I encounter along the way, please subscribe to my YouTube channel because I will be breaking down each chapter’s issues as I complete them in the hope that it will help me stay on track for my publication goal, and also provide insight into what might be missing from your first draft.

Check out my Introduction video below to learn more:

If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe and I’ll see you in a future video!

If this series is helpful for you and you want to learn more about how I can help you polish your novel:

-Check out my writing services

-Follow me on twitter

-Or donate a treat to my writing companion Pit/Dalmation pup Petey for patiently waiting for my attention while I created this content

Happy Writing!

MJ

Content – When To Cut

You’ve worked diligently on your manuscript for months, maybe years, every word is where it should be, all of your scenes written perfectly to tell the tale. Right?

Wrong.

As you go back through to tighten up your book, it’s natural to find a few things that don’t flow. Maybe an idea you weaved in that didn’t go anywhere. So you tweak, cut, rework. These things are not so hard to part with.

What about entire scenes? Or even plot lines? Or whole characters?

It turns out that the first version of my book, after several beta readers gave me feedback, did not have as cohesive an ending as I believed, and in order to correct this, I’m going to have to cut out and rework some sentimental material.

The main beta reader takeaways were: Too many characters to keep track of, the main characters are scattered all over the map by the end, there’s too strong of a cliffhanger for an ending, nothing is really accomplished, and it feels more like “part 1” instead of book 1.

Ouch.

I’ve done a lot of research into how to end a series book, and there are no hard fast rules. However, there is one overarching guideline: Accomplish something/ tie up a main plot point by the end, reader advised.

This has forced me to reconsider a lot of things that happen in my book, and I’ve come to realize that in situations like this, huge chunks of writing may need to go away. Forever.

Sometimes, especially if you’re writing a series, when you’re really attached to the cut material, you can move it elsewhere.  Sometimes in can be saved.

Other times, it just has to go.

“But that character I introduce there is really cool.” Or “that fight scene that happens because of x, y, z is super engaging!” Or “so much information is revealed here.”

I know. I get it. But how do these scenes contribute to the overarching goal of book 1 (or 2 or 3)? Are they really important, or is it fluff? Is it “look at my cool writing skillz”?  Or does it reveal too much at once?  Is it an infodump?

In my case, I think I can put most of what needs to be cut out in a future book, change some names, etc. Even if I can’t, I have to gulp down my sadness and start slashing and reworking because the end result will be worth it.

My book 1 will feel like a book 1, instead of a part 1. And to my readers who have to wait on book 2, that is an important gift to leave them with as an author:  The desire to know what happens next, but closure for the time they have invested.

To sum it up, as an author we need to come to terms with our purpose for writing.

Are we writing for ourselves?  Then keep all of your scenes exactly as they are.

Or are we writing to tell a story to other people, who will then want to share it with their friends?  Then we’re going to have to evaluate each scene, each plot line, each character, and do some cutting.

We’re all in this together.

Happy writing!

Evolution of a Manuscript: Part 2 – Microsoft Word to PDF

In Evolution of a Manuscript part 1, we discussed scribbling your first draft on the go with gmail (or anything else handy), and then transferring it to your computer to beef it up in your designated writing space. Now, the next step is to take that piece and edit, edit, edit, and edit again.

In this article, I’m going to take you through my process of editing through Microsoft Word and Scrivener, and show you the final product in 6×9, 10 pt font pdf – the closest visually I’m going to get to printed book form. Which is psychologically very satisfying to see as an author–like a glimpse into the future (because my book (and yours) will be published).

Here it is in Word:

me_gadnor_pt2_1

Immediately we see squiggly lines indicating bad grammar or misspellings. After fixing these, I was still highly unsatisfied with this opening. It doesn’t put me there enough, it’s too wordy, and I don’t feel like I am Gadnor the way that I want, and visually there is too much white space, it looks unfinished and it reads the same. Also, there are some disjointed sentences about Lithaneva–the “reaction was rooted in something far more complex than surprised guests”–just doesn’t seem very relevant, too vague and wordy and honestly, it doesn’t add to the story much, it doesn’t tell me anything about her. So, I go back to Scrivener, tweak, and here is what I came up with:

me_gadnor_pt2_3

This is much better, less white space, there is more happening in the scene. Now, with the addition of audience actions I can get a sense of the room, whereas before I was only getting very wooden “she did, he said” type things and little substance. I still don’t like the first paragraph. “Perplexed” sounds complicated, too much to digest within the first two sentences, and I’m still not feeling as though I am Gadnor. There also seems to be a disjointed organization of people and paragraphs. So, back to Scrivener, and this is what I come up with:

me_gadnor_pt2_4

There, now I feel like I have conveyed the awkward feeling well, you know the one where everyone in the room is waiting on someone to say something and they just don’t. I feel like I have captured that now, and I feel like I really am Gadnor. I have also (hopefully) managed to give the reader the sense that Gadnor feels partial to the Princess in a way that is natural, without having to actually state that.

There are some things I still don’t like. There is too much happening in the second paragraph, too many actions by too many people, and the “reveling in it” and “gloried at the spectacle” are rehashes of the same vibe. So, I tweak that a bit and call it good, and now here it is, edited to the point where I’m comfortable with a peer review, in 6×9 10pt font.

me_gadnor_pt2_5

It’s very satisfying looking at how it might appear when published. Don’t you think? I encourage you to try this if you haven’t already. When you get your scene how you want it, format it like this and just see how it looks. Read it over, make a change if you feel it’s necessary, and then keep going with the next scene.

Use this visual as a reward for your hard work and a sneak peak at when it all pays off.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Feel free to post in the comments some of your own editing/motivational tricks.

Happy writing!

Evolution of a Manuscript: Part 1 – On-the-Go Scribble to Writing Space

I’d like to take you through my iterations of a draft, from first conception to final product.  I’ve chosen one paragraph to do this way and dissect–the opening of my latest scene as of 7 March 2020.  Hopefully, you will come to the determination that the final draft is a good one, and one that is as close as possible to being publish worthy.

Gmail draft:  Gmail is an excellent conduit for writing on the go.  When you’re not in front of your desk or designated writing area, gmail is at your fingertips anywhere and everywhere, and will save your muse’s life.  It’s accessibility from any device is a godsend.  Boring meetings?  Pull up your draft in Gmail.  Bad gas station sushi?  Pull up your draft in Gmail.  On hold?  Pull up your draft in Gmail.  Listening to your boss drone on in a meeting?  You get the idea.

Here is the conception of my on-the-go draft in Gmail:

me_gadnor

Rough huh?  Yea…

Here it is again, copied into Scrivener and polished up a bit sitting in my designated writing area–my lovely desk in a room full of windows with a view at my lovely garden–this an important distinction for every writer:

me_gadnor2

This is less rigid, a little more sensory, and a bit less disjointed, but it still feels choppy.  There are several bits that don’t flow as smooth as I want.  Also, the POV, Gadnor, comes off too creepy in the first paragraph, and the sentence about Princess Lithaneva being wary doesn’t exactly seem to fit–wary of what?  There really isn’t anything mentioned yet that warrants that reaction.  The last sentence is also very wordy and redundant.

Also, this draft feels like it’s from the POV of an onlooker, and my goal is to transport the reader so they become the main character, and this doesn’t quite feel like I’ve done that.

So, with a few changes with those bits in mind, here is what I came up with:

me_gadnor3

It’s not at all ready, but it’s on it’s way to becoming something I feel good about showing to the world.  I’ll sleep on this and take another look tomorrow.  Stay tuned for part 2 of Evolution of a Manuscript.

2020 – Week 6 “To Cut or Not to Cut”

I’ve made some excellent progress this week and exceeded my goal to fill in the missing pieces of the scene. The pieces are in and I’ve started my editing process. I’m currently on step 5.

Every step reveals something that needs changing, something that doesn’t look or sound right, or something that’s still missing or would sound better restructured, cut, or moved somewhere else. I cannot stress the importance of self-editing enough.

The original v12 version had a dream sequence before this particular scene I’m writing happens, and I’m seriously debating putting it back in. It might be important for character development…not necessarily for the plot at this point though, which is why I wanted to cut it. It’s a bit of a dilemma, but I think I’m going to add it back in. It does reveal to the reader a little something about this character, and also throws a little mystery in there too.

So my goal for this week is to finish up editing this scene and get it sent off to a peer for review, and also get the first paragraph of the dream sequence written. I won’t have a chance to write much this weekend so hopefully I’ll be able to accomplish this!

Happy writing!

Editing tricks that don’t cost a dime

Editing.  It’s such a dirty word for authors because it means returning to  place you’ve already been, going back over something you’ve already done, and performing the tedious task of proofreading, grammar checking, rephrasing, rewriting etc.  In short, it’s a chore, one most writers despise.

I’ve read some articles and heard a lot of people say not to worry about editing until your manuscript is finished, and then to hire someone to do it.  I think this is a mistake.  While it’s likely true that you won’t be able to catch all of your mistakes or plot holes and you need a separate set of eyes, there are a lot of free avenues you can take to weed out as many inconsistencies as possible so when it comes time to pay a professional, you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

1) Write your manuscript in Courier or Courier New font.  This is old school typewriter font.  A few people have told me that it’s hard on their eyes or looks weird.  If this is you, then choose a different font, just choose one that is significantly different than Times New Roman, which most final drafts are submitted in.

2) Briefly edit as you go.  I’ve heard so many people say “don’t worry about mistakes, just write write write.”  I’m not a fan of this.  While it’s important to not get hung up on wanting it to be perfect (don’t do that!!  Read my article about that here), it’s also important for my own peace of mind to proofread sections during breaks in muse to correct spelling errors, replace redundant words, and rephrase things to fix flow if it’s a fast read through.  I don’t recommend spending more than 5 minutes editing a paragraph at this stage, do a quick once over to correct obvious mistakes, and then keep writing.

3) Reread your finished scene.  Again, so many people have told me to just keep going with my first draft until it’s complete and then go back over the whole thing.  But I must be honest, if I did 0 editing until the book is done, I would be rewriting my book over and over (which actually I have done 4 times because I followed the advice to go go go).  By rereading scenes as I go, I’m giving myself opportunity to figure out that I want a different cliffhanger, that I’ve already stated something in a previous scene, or that I want some other character to show up and do or say “the thing,” which will change the whole story.  Catching things like this after each scene can prevent the overwhelming book rewrites that are inevitable if you wait until you’re completely done with your novel.

Now, sleep on these changes and move on to step 4.

4)  For Scrivener users (if you aren’t one, I recommend becoming one!!), compile your finished scene into a standard double spaced word document using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.  This will allow you to utilize Microsoft’s spellcheck/grammar check feature for the first time, and can help you find the contractions and mistakes that you missed.  Microsoft’s concise feature is also helpful in eliminating common wordy phrases that bog down your narrative.

If you’re not a scrivener user, then just change your font to 12 pt. Times New Roman and double space your doc.

Why? Doing this allows you to see a new visual view/line/word placement of your work, and can really help you see at a glance sentences, phrases, and words that hinder flow, sound redundant, or need to be reworked.

Now sleep on it and proceed to step 5 tomorrow.

5)  Compile your scene into a novel-formatted (usually 5×9 page size), Times New Roman, 10 point font .pdf file.  Again, this is providing you a new unique look at your scene, and one that is extremely close to how it will appear in print, the ultimate goal.  Being able to see it in it’s “published” form will help you weed out anything else you’ve missed up to this point.

Follow the same editing process from step 4, and proceed to step 6 tomorrow.

6)  Print the corrected version out.  Same as above, it’s a different visual of your story, and something about paper vs. computer screen really helps to further highlight things missed.  Make any necessary changes to your computer file.

7)  Find another pair of eyes to look at your scene.  At this point, you have looked at your scene from 4 different angles and made edits.  But it’s well known that writers still miss so much when it comes to their own work.  We’re too attached.  We know every line, and our brains sometimes fill in gaps or skip over things regardless of how different we make it look with page and font sizes.

Many suggest finding a family member or close friend to read over it, which is usually your quickest and easiest option.  Keep in mind though that family and friends may not be forthcoming about their true opinions of your scene, so I always recommend finding a non-biased person to review your work too.  A family member or friend also might not be very inciteful about writing style, genre tropes, or spelling or grammar because they may not be avid readers or writers themselves.  If they are, wonderful!

Critique groups are one of the best options for a non-bias perspective.  You get multiple pairs of eyes on your scene from avid writers (and readers) and they can help you with flow, plot holes, even weird cultural nuances and character vernacular that you may have not even thought about.  It also gives you a chance to share your writing knowledge with others and exchange tips and tricks (let’s face it, most family members aren’t interested in hearing about your writing process, but other writers might be!).  Best of all, critique groups are free!  Just find a group in your area and start attending.

One drawback (and advantage – it’s a double edged sword) to critique groups is that members aren’t shy about voicing their true opinion.  In the moment, this can be hurtful, especially if several members are commenting on the same thing, or they flat out tell you they don’t like it.  Members of critique groups don’t have a personal connection with you like your family and friends do, so be prepared to receive some criticism, but be confident that the feedback you receive is given by fellow writers and readers who are genuinely trying to help you improve your story and style.

Of course, also remember that you can take or leave anything they say.  You’re not under contractual obligations to make the changes they suggest.  Make notes, thank them for their feedback, and then decide what to do with the information.  If they have identified confusing segments though, consider carefully how you can correct these in your story.  Odds are, other readers (agents and editors too) will encounter the same issues.

If you’re unsure how to find a critique group, a good place to look is google, the meetup app, your library, or local college, or even Inkitt.  And if none of these options produce fruit, start one yourself!  I started the Augusta Writers Critique Group last October via the meetup app and it now includes 150 members.  There are always attendees at meetings and the feedback has been phenomenal!

After all of this, your scene has been edited and revised many times over and is in great shape.  Once every scene goes through this gauntlet and you’ve come to the end of your novel, reread your entire manuscript and tie up any loose ends you may have missed.

8)  Find a beta reader to read your book from start to finish.  If you can find someone to read your entire finished draft for free and give you their thoughts, fantastic!  Again, family members are prime suspects, or even a member of your critique group may volunteer.  There are also several online websites such as fiverr where you can find beta readers for free or for a small fee who will read your entire manuscript.  This step is important for evaluating the overall story plot and execution, which can be hard to do in a critique group where only one scene at a time is shown to a varied audience over a long period of time.

But now, if it’s in your budget, is the time I recommend hiring a professional editor to go through it and make suggestions.  Professional editors can be pricey:  4 cents/word is a common price I’ve seen, which is $3,200 for 80,000 words.  Ouch.  According to freelancewriting.com, basic copyediting on average charges anywhere from $25-40/hr and tackles 5-10 pages/hr.  More strenuous editing could cost even more for fewer pages.  Once your book reaches this stage, you want it to be as polished as possible to get the most bang for your buck.

The bottom line:  You don’t have to rely on expensive professional editors to produce a polished manuscript.  Further, skipping free ways to improve your book means that the intricate details a paid professional could find may not be found because of surface errors that you could have corrected yourself.  Also, a professional editor is still just one set of eyes, and one point of view, and no amount of money you spend on them will change that limitation.  The more opinions you have, the more fleshed out your manuscript will be.

This process has personally improved my writing by leaps and bounds, and has given me confidence to continue moving forward with my story.  I do not plan to completely scrap and start my novel over again from the beginning, and these steps are helping to ensure that the story I’m telling is readable, interesting, engaging, and free of mistakes, inconsistencies, and plot holes as much as possible.

Happy writing!

 

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