I'm delighted to welcome another fabulous author to my blog today, Carrie D. Miller, who's debut fantasy novel is coming out on April 1... JUST A FEW MORE DAYS! Woohoo! Today, however, she's telling you why working with her editor was the best thing that happened to her novel!
An Editor Can Be The Best Thing To Happen To Your Novel
Now, now, don't get upset at the title. It's your novel, I know, your baby. You spent countless hours hunched over the keyboard, or clutching a pen in your cramping hand. You poured your heart out onto the page, lost sleep, stressed and panicked, fumed and cursed. I get that, I've been there. I am there now, actually. But, my editor was the best thing that could have happened to my novel, aside from me writing it.
Everyone's writing journey is unique. However, the thing all authors have in common is the need, nay, the requirement, of an amazing editor. While there are several types of editing your book needs before you release it out into the world, I'm going to focus on the one particular type that impacted me the most: content editing also referred to as developmental or substantive.
By the time I was ready to send my novel out for editing, I knew it wasn't perfect but I could no longer see the problems. I knew I had timeline and consistency issues, but for the life of me, I couldn't find them in all those words. You reach a point where you have been so close to those words for so long, they become a part of you. You are so emotionally invested in those words that you can't see the flaws that are staring you in the face, literally. You need a detached, knowledgeable third party hound dog to find them. Enter the editor.
“Sometimes a content editor is like a structural engineer, showing you the weaknesses in your foundation and how to repair them so that your story is strong.”
When I got the email back from my editor after she'd reviewed my manuscript, my palms were sweating. I opened the attached document with closed eyes and peeked through one eye just to have my vision assaulted by a wash of red and long blocks of comments. My stomach did a flip-flop.
But it wasn't as bad as it initially looked. Not in the least. She did exactly what I needed her to do, and then some!
Through gentle and positive coaching, she detailed what areas of my story needed help, when and where the pacing lagged, and pointed out things I wasn't aware of, such as one of the early sub plots not being integrated as well as it could be with the overall story, and in some scenes (particularly at the end of a chapter), I went off the rails, rattling on and on, which lost the emotional momentum of the scene. She identified areas of concerns that I smacked myself on the forehead over. Duh! Of course, shame on me for missing those. (Leaves in August in New England would still be green, not turning to autumn colors. Smack!) Each line of her editorial letter and each comment and suggestion she had in my manuscript helped me see all those words in a new light and from different angles, which I sorely needed.
Something I really loved about my editor was her insightful suggestions to remedy whatever predicament I'd gotten myself into with a scene. Those suggestions proved invaluable. How the scene was constructed and how it flowed were so ingrained in my mind that I would have struggled dearly to find another way to retell it.
One key critique was that I had developed the relationship between the main character and the love interest a great deal in narrative and summary. Many of the scenes and details would pull in the reader more, bring the love interest to life better, if I turned that summary into dialog—have these scenes as conversations between the two, then the reader would be able to identify and connect with the character better. This proved to a be a wonderful suggestion. In creating the new content, I added more depth to the scene, more life and richness to the character, and had great fun doing it.
I think it's safe to say I took about 85% of her suggestions. I didn't let my pride get in the way. What matters most is having a strong, tight story, free of holes and inconsistencies that grabs readers and doesn't let them go.
To be honest, I was very nervous making all these changes. A part of me felt like I was violating something sacred. I lost sleep over what I was doing to the story I loved so much. Once I had finished and read through it all again, I loved the story even more, which I didn't think was possible. I saw how much these changes enhanced the story line and the characters, and how richer the scenes had become. It made me giddy with excitement.
My editor has become my partner—someone I can ping in the evenings or on the weekend with a question, a problem, or a thought to discuss or to simply tell her some good news. I can't say whether other editors do this as this is my first adventure into writing, but I can say without a doubt that having a relationship with your editor is critical. An amazing editor has invested a lot of time in your novel. They've pondered its problems, ruminated on ways to improve it, and worried about the characters' development and likability, just to name a few. An amazing editor can take your novel to the level of greatness it needs to be, that you want it to be. I'll never be without one.
In a former life, Carrie D. Miller was an executive in the software industry for many years. Her career in the technology world included software product management, website design, training, and technical writing just to name a few. Although she’s written a great deal over the decades, read by thousands of people, software documentation allows for as much creativity as pouring cement. At the age of 45, she decided to chuck it all to become an author which had been a life-long dream.
Carrie lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, with a man who can put up with her, a cat who hates everyone except Carrie (but only sometimes), and a goofy German Shepherd.
Her debut novel, The White Raven, is a contemporary fantasy story about a witch seeking to be free of the curse she's endured for centuries. It will be released on April 1, 2017.
I'm delighted to introduce a very good friend and classy young lady from my neck of the woods to the blog today. Vacen Taylor is an inspiration and strong female role model, and today she's talking about... wait for it... editing!
When words freeze into their right place and whole sentences sound like they were written by a master wordsmith only then do I sit back and sigh. At that point, I pass the manuscript to an editor. The red pen comes out and the editor performs the task of a comprehensive edit. Out goes sentences to help tailor the text, bring clarity to the chapters and find every punctuation or spelling error I have missed in the last series of rewrites. And I thought I had everything just right. Pfff.
As an author I value the levels of editing but this is never done by me. I know many writers who do their own editing but I find when I have been rewriting a manuscript for a length of time I never feel comfortable enough to do the final edit. My eyes see things the way they want and it reads the way I want it to sound. A fresh pair of eyes can pick out the flaws, the mistakes and check the proper order of things. It’s a craft all of its own.
These days I try to be careful when I plot or create a story arc, characters or even when I’m researching for a story. I’m happy with my experience and knowledge in doing this now. I’ve grown wiser. These things take time for me. I’m not one of those writers who can knock out a book in six months. However, I do write for different industries (film, theatre, novels) these days and that breaks up the grind of writing one specific manuscript. All of the substantive editing, copyediting or proofreading tasks necessary for high-quality publication needs to be done by someone who is confident in the art of editing. If you feel you are good at that then I’d say go ahead. As for me, I’d prefer to hand that job over to an editor. This way I can save my ugly cry brought on by frustration, stress, word delirium for moments when I really need it. Like when someone dies in Game of Thrones.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few great editors so I’ve never had a difficult time with the process. In fact, I’ve always grown from the experience, learnt something new or been challenged to remedy any problems. If you are willing to rise to the challenge of an editor than I guarantee your manuscript will improve.
Whether it’s a short story or large manuscript it will always need another pair of eyes to look over the work. Now, I know people complain about the cost of editing but it’s worth it if you want a high-quality product. I know many times I have missed a spelling error or the correct word order and it has cost me a place in an anthology or a short story competition. So if I can leave you with one bit of advice: If the story is worth writing then it deserves the best chance for publication. If you have it professionally edited it will be in with a chance.
Vacen Taylor is an Australian author. She started writing short stories in 2009 being published in international e-zines. Her accomplishments include the publication of three children’s books in the Starchild series with Odyssey Books. Vacen is also a screenwriter, winning the Best Short Screenplay titled, Foiled in The Good Dog International Film Festival.
Her first play titled, Crazy Plastic Love was selected to be part of the Playwrights Program 2017 at The Arts Centre Gold Coast, having the opportunity to work with a director and actors for a performance reading with an audience.
When she’s not world building with her writing, she’s most likely reading, studying, watching films or volunteering.
I'm super thrilled to be a part of Laura Heffernan's book release blog tour today, helping spread the word and celebrate her debut novel America's Next Reality Star!
In AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, Jen is cast on a reality show after she loses her job, her boyfriend, and her home. She hopes to win the cash prize but finds she also wants to win the heart of fellow contestant Justin. Fans of Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic won't want to miss this charming, witty read published by Kensington’s Lyrical Shine.
Laura is offering one (1) lucky winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter!
About America’s Next Reality Star:
Title: America’s Next Reality Star
Author: Laura Heffernan
Publisher: Lyrical Shine - Kensington
Series: Reality Star #1
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
SEEKING THE SMART ONE
Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.
Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .
Add to your TBR list: Goodreads
Available at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iTunes
He touched my chin with two fingers, bringing my gaze up to meet his. Damn those green eyes. I searched them for answers, wishing I knew whether he was putting on an act for the audience. Even with the lights off, the cameras stationed in the yard would capture us. The producers filmed everything, day and night. Everyone in America would know if we kissed. For a moment, I struggled to remember why that was bad.
“I guess it’s not your fault, since I got the question right,” I said begrudgingly, shifting slightly backward.
“If that is the best I can get, I’ll take it. But I’m going to work on complete forgiveness. I’ll pay you double interest on our bet—six cents.”
“Well, then,” I laughed. “Maybe I’ll have to reconsider once I get my money. I’d hate to have to send Birdie to break your kneecaps.”
The image of five-foot-tall Birdie coming after Justin with a baseball bat cracked him up. I laughed, too, crossing my legs and settling more comfortably in the lounger. My knee practically touched Justin’s leg. He didn’t move.
We sat quietly for a few minutes. I wondered if he heard my heart pounding. Even not wanting to get caught kissing on national television with a near-stranger, I found something about Justin irresistible. Possibly his smile. Or his dimples. His brains. The ease of talking to him. His personality. The fact that he was practically perfect for me in every way.
That line of thinking wasn’t helping. I needed to change the subject before I started calling him Mary Poppins.
“It’s a beautiful night.” I gestured at the sky.
“Yes, it is,” Justin said, his eyes never leaving my face. Did he lean forward slightly? Only inches separated our lips.
The warmth definitely wasn’t the beer. I licked my lips nervously and leaned in, closing the gap. If he moved the tiniest bit…
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Heffernan
Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon
I'm thrilled to be one of the blog tour hosts for a good friend of mine, James L. Weaver, to celebrate his latest book release, ARES ROAD. This is book # 2 in the Jake Caldwell thriller series and makes for an absolutely explosive sequel to the award-finalist POOR BOY ROAD.
You should go out right now and buy James' books, and here are some links that will help!
Poor Boy Road on Amazon
Ares Road on Amazon
Anyhow, here's a great interview with James himself!
Do you recall when writing become a part of your life that you had to indulge?
I’d have to say the writing bug didn’t bite for me until my late twenties. I had already written a novel that was justifiably rejected by a myriad of agents and I gave up for a while. Having a stack of rejection letters tacked to your wall tends to kill your confidence. I’d say the need to indulge in writing something came with my novel Jack & Diane, a coming of age love story written from the point of view of the boy. I wrote it, shopped it and then let it sit for years before I found it in the bottom of the drawer. It’s a great story and when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I wanted nothing more than to get it in her hands and let her see something she always encouraged me to do. I knew it wouldn’t happen with traditional publishing so I self-published. Unfortunately, she died in a matter of three months from her diagnosis so she didn’t get to see it, but that really launched my desire to write and to think about it as a potential career.
What were you like as a kid at school? Was English a subject you excelled at, or at least loved?
I was pretty middle of the road in junior high and high school – good student, a good amount of friends, maybe partied too much. Most of my friends that I hung out with went to other schools. I played baseball with them or they were friends from the old neighborhood, and we’d spend the weekends cruising around looking for parties. In terms of school, I did pretty well without putting forth a ton of effort (a tactic that didn’t work out so well in my freshman year of college). As far as English goes, I hated (and still hate) poetry and Shakespeare – a hatred recently renewed when my daughter had to read Romeo and Juliet last year, but I really enjoyed the creative writing portions of English. I think the first spark and encouragement came in my freshman year in college when I took a creative writing class as an elective and the professor was super supportive. When she asked me if she could use something I wrote as an example for her other classes, I was stoked. Thank you, Nina Hajda at Kansas State University.
Can you remember the first thing you ever wrote that you could call a decent piece of work?
The first decent thing of substance I wrote was the unpublished novel I named Dark Aura which was a serial killer/cop thriller set in Kansas City. I was in my early twenties when I finished it and it’s a good story with some great scenes, but too clunky (which was why it was rejected). Still, I had written an entire novel and it at least gave me the confidence that I could do it, that it is not an impossible undertaking. I have so many people that say they would love to write a book, but let that self-imposed wall stop them from doing it. The next thing was probably my short story series about a poker player that was published in Bluff Magazine. It was the first thing I wrote that I was actually paid for!
So, why crime thrillers?
The simple answer is that it’s what I love to read. I’ve always been drawn to stories of society’s seedy underbelly and those who battle against it. I told my wife the other day that if I had to go back in time, I’d probably go into the FBI or something. While Jack & Diane is a love story, it has a ton of me in it and my experiences, albeit a bit embellished, of growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. But it works because it’s what I know and love. Years ago, I found John Sandford and devoured every Lucas Davenport novel I could get my hands on and followed up with Lee Child and binged on Jack Reacher. I knew I wanted to do a series with a different kind of protagonist and had my Jake Caldwell character bouncing around my skull, but I didn’t have the right circumstance to put him in. When I went back to my dad’s Lake of the Ozarks hometown for my grandmother’s funeral, that circumstance clicked and I knew exactly what I was going to do. So my advice to writers is to write what you love and for me it was crime thrillers.
What's been the hardest part of your writing career so far?
Without a doubt, it has been building an author brand. I thought I could just write the books and word of mouth about them would grow. Nice try. In truth, the writing part is easy. The hard, but extremely necessary part is all the self-promotion, building a website, blogging and tweeting that you need to do. Working with the folks at Lakewater and their publicist, it’s really been an eye-opener for me about what you need to do to build yourself up. It makes total sense because nobody knows who the hell you are and if you have ever gone to a bookstore or scrolled through Amazon or Barnes and Nobles book titles, you realize you are but one fish in a large damn sea. Not so much with Twitter because it’s way less personal, but I always feel guilty posting something on Facebook promoting my work. But, you need to attack the author brand on multiple fronts if you want people to know you have something out there worth consuming. I’m still working on it.
And the best?
The best is the feedback from my readers. When someone says they laughed or cried or can talk in detail why they loved a certain character you created from thin air, it’s an amazing feeling. When one of my beta readers told me they physically cried when one of my characters died, I did a fist pump. To know you evoked that level of emotion from something you crafted is euphoric. And it’s also very validating. I mean, there’s not a ton of reviews out there, but Jack & Diane is sitting at 95% five star reviews, Poor Boy Road has an average of 4.5 out of 5 and the early reviews of Ares Road are at 4.88 so I know I’m doing something right. I’m a junky for reviews and I check them almost every day to see if there’s a new one out there because it’s that kind of feedback that makes you want to write the next book. It’s a pretty masochistic habit, but I can’t help myself. For those who are reading this, go write a review of the last book you read and do it NOW! The authors want and need that kind of encouragement.
Is Jake Caldwell based loosely on people you know? How did he come about?
As I said before, the idea of doing a book with a leg-breaker for the mob had been rolling around in my head for some time, but I couldn’t put him in the right setting to make the story click for me. He was going to be this bad ass who got in over his head with the mob, but I just couldn’t come up with a premise that spoke to me. When I went back for my grandmother’s funeral and heard some stories about my grandfather (who died before I was born), Jake morphed and the story changed to not what he did, but why he did it – what led him down that path of violence and now that he found himself in a place he didn’t want to be, what was he going to do about it? I wanted him to be a bad ass, but a bad ass with a good heart who could travel down this road of redemption and emerge a changed man.
Bear is Jake's sidekick and has turned out to be an extremely popular character amongst readers. Do you have a favourite character in the books so far?
Oh my God, I freaking love Bear. He is such a great character and is so fun to write. I have to say that even though Jake is the protagonist, Bear is my favorite. He’s so down to earth and just tells it like it is. While Jake is a much more complex character, I love that people love Bear. In fact, dear readers, there is a Bear Parley book rolling around in my head. I have the follow up to Ares Road already plotted and the fourth one in the series planned, but the fifth could very likely be a Bear Parley book. But, it’s up to you if you want it. If you keep buying them, I’ll keep writing them.
Where do see you and Jake 5 years from now? Where would you like to be?
If all goes well, Jake and I will still be together five years from now. I have some general thoughts about where Jake will be by then, but I don’t want to spoil them here. For me, doing the writing gig full-time would be my dream, but we’re still a ways from being able to do that!
Can you share a snippet from your WIP?
Oh man, you’re putting me on the spot, but I’ll give you a taste. Please keep in mind that this is the rough, rough, rough draft, my eagle-eyed editor hasn’t even seen it and there’s some sensory details I need to add in. If you will grant me that, you may proceed.
Given Jake Caldwell’s extensive experience in seedy, out of the way bars in the middle of nowhere, Rattler’s did not disappoint. On a scale of one to ten, with one being an avoid at all costs atrocity of humanity, Jake had to give Rattler’s a zero.
He sat a table in the corner of the smoky bar with his broad back to the wall, clear sight line to the entrance and a partially blocked exit to his right adorned with a sign that read “Open this here door and you get your ass kicked. This meens you.” He hoped the alcohol in the grimy mug killed any lingering parasites as he peeled his arm from the sticky table and took a drink with a wince. Might as well be drinking luke warm piss.
Dexter Swofford walked in from the northern Oklahoma heat, a cloud of parking lot dust trailing him like Pigpen from the old Charlie Brown cartoons. The sunlight ripped away the darkness for a blinding moment, swirling the cigarette smoke above the padded bar. The plywood door slammed shut behind him and the dimness settled back on the dozen patrons scattered about Rattlers who resumed their drinking with all the enthusiasm of someone about to get a root canal. Dexter waded through the sea of misaligned tables, shook hands with a couple of leathernecks playing pool on the opposite side of the bar and settled on a bar stool. The anorexic bar tender with cropped locks battling for color dominance between blonde and black, trudged over and placed a fresh mug of the same swill she gave Jake in front of Dexter without a word.
Jake checked the photo on the flyer Pedro had given him even though he was 99 percent sure the guy at the end of the bar was Dexter and punched a text into his phone. Even though partially obscured by a grungy hat reading “Wine ‘em, Dine ‘Em, 69 ‘em”, the gaunt, pocket-marked face and mashed nose matched the picture to a t. He took inventory of crowd and wondered how many were packing. It was a bunch of Oklahoma rednecks. Probability was high that most of them had guns, or at very least a big ass knife shoved in their back pockets. His phone dinged, he checked the message and rose to make his move. Thank God because John Anderson’s “John Deere Green” started warbling on the broken speakers of the juke box. Jake hated that fucking song.
Today, I'm delighted to welcome a very special friend of mine and also talented author Helen Stubbs to the blog. And, as you guessed, talking about that sore subject of EDITING!
Four Sides of the Story: My best and worst experiences working with (and as) and editor.
Well, that sounds juicy, doesn’t it?
I love an editor who makes me work.
I revel in the editing process – even though it can be painful. For me it’s about the story; taking it up to the highest level possible, which requires putting my writer’s ego aside and sweating it out – like a work out at the gym – strengthening my story, trimming its flab and bringing out the best in those attractive parts like developed characters and relationships and the plot.
The first time an editor made me work hard on a story was when I worked with Elizabeth Fitzgerald on my story “Stormchilds” for her CSFG anthology, Winds of Change.
Elizabeth discussed things she felt weren’t working in the story and asked me for my thoughts. She made suggestions and guided me, as I rewrote particular sections and developed characters. She came back to me with edits around five or six times, so I redrafted the relevant sections.
There’s something lovely about an editor seeing potential in a story and lending their time and expertise to improve it.
The result was a much better final story – one which gives me tingles when I read it. I was tired of working on it, sure, and relieved when we signed off on it. But you have to work hard to create something worth reading.
What I most dislike about working with editors is when I don’t get to. Sometimes one of my stories is accepted for publication and an editing phase is skipped, and that makes me sad. Maybe some stories don’t need structural and fine edits? I don’t think so. I feel that my work will always benefit from an editor’s input. Rewriting based on thorough structural and fine edits tends to produce a story that I’m really proud of.
Working as an Editor
My favourite parts of working as an editor – which I’ve only done a little of (though I’ve done lots of critique or beta-reading) – would be when authors have appreciated my work, and I’ve helped transform a story from a good one into a great one.
I love it when this happens: something isn’t quite working in a story, and as an editor I highlight that and make a suggestion, then the writer comes back with something even better. There should be a name for it –the Editorial Two Step.
I particularly enjoyed working with Betsy Roberts on No Lime Ice Cream and Rebecca Fraser on Coralesque, which was recently republished in Killing It Softly. (Recommend!)
My worst experience of working as an editor was when I asked an author to try to bring out a little more in a beautiful scene. We were a few rewrites in and she must have been tired of the process, because she made comical changes to the scene.
That actually really hurt me. As an editor I was highly invested in the story, and the scene. I’d spent hours working on it, and I wanted it to be the best it could be, and she’d purposely ruined it. Her sarcastic changes to the story seemed to indicate that she had no appreciation of my work.
Having held the editor’s pen, as a writer I’m always grateful and respectful when an editor brings their expertise to my story.
I’m sure that everyone’s experience of working with, and as, an editor are different. If you have an interesting story about your experiences, please let me know.
Helen Stubbs writes stories that are dark with pointy edges, published on Amazon and in anthologies and magazines including Apex Magazine, The Never Never Land, Midnight Echo, and Winds of Change. She interviews for Galactic Chat and the Australian SF Snapshot. In 2010 she won the Worldcon short story competition and in 2015 she won a Ditmar Award for Best New Talent in Australian SF.
She’s a keen obstacle course racer (think Tough Mudder and Spartan) and loves zip-lining and hiking. Sometimes she climbs things she shouldn’t! Check out her blog or say ‘hi’ on Twitter to @superleni.
I'm delighted to welcome a very special friend and one of the most talented and exciting writers I know to the blog today... Maura Jortner.
Let me begin with a thought:
Editing is all about being open to change, not fearing the unknown, but embracing it.
I teach a course on academic writing every semester, and often I’ll find myself saying to a student, “Think about editing that section of your paper. It doesn’t quite work.” The student then, wide-eyed, beads of sweat popping into existence around the temple, takes in a quick mouthful of air. I put out a calming hand. “It won’t be so bad.” I use my reassuring voice. “It’s just one section of your paper. It’s not working. It needs to be edited.”
The student, visibly shaken, might say, “So do I need to add a sentence somewhere, or…?”
This example is exaggerated, but it hits on the truth. My students often don’t want to edit—really edit—their work. They’d rather cut a useless phrase, make their topic sentence stronger, or alter the punctuation. Tackle the small stuff. But that’s not what I mean when I ask them to edit a section. I want them to, if necessary, cut the entire part that isn’t working and start again. Or, better yet, to critically think about why that section isn’t doing what they want it to do and figuring out what needs to change for it to be effective.
Editing, true editing, takes a leap of faith. It takes being willing to cut a lot of material, and we all hate doing that. But cutting and starting from scratch, or at least looking at the work with hedge-trimmer rather than surgical-scissor eyes, is always the best. And in the end, cutting chunks of a manuscript—even large ones—can ultimately save time. I might agonize over small changes for days, rewriting various sentences or changing their placement. Hours! And when I reread it, it still doesn’t work. Cutting and starting from scratch, at times, is simply the most time effective way to handle a problem. We can wring our hands over it, but often it’s that leap of faith that’s needed.
When my finger hangs over the delete button, I comfort myself with: “I wrote it once; I can write it again.”
And for students and writers everywhere, I give this tip: Cut the part that’s not working. But don’t delete it. Paste it into a new document. You can save it, and if the new stuff isn’t better, you can always go back to it.
This advice often works for my students because saving their old words is a kind of security blanket. 99% of the time, they don’t go back to the old. Why? Because they know what needs to happen and by cutting the whole part, they’ve given themselves permission to begin anew. And, again 99% of the time, the new writing is stronger.
I once got 40K into a novel before I decided I had to start it over, trash it all and start from scratch. Even my writing friends gasp in horror when I tell them that, but it was the right decision to make. The novel wasn’t working. The idea was a good one, but the main character I’d originally chosen to tell the story was all wrong. And, unfortunately, I didn’t realize it until I was 40K in. My bad. But at least I realized it.
And the manuscript is better today for that leap of faith.
Because that’s what editing is—being willing to jump into the unknown. We don’t like cutting words that are already on the screen because they’re known. For good or bad, we’re familiar with them. But if we cut them, we have the blank page. And yet, that leap of faith—that jump into the unknown—often makes the work stronger.
Maura Jortner grew up in New Hampshire but she now lives in Waco, Texas with her patient husband, two amazing daughters, and one unruly cat. She teaches literature and writing classes at Baylor University. A lifetime ago, she used to direct plays and put on puppet shows for kids, which led to a Ph.D. in Theatre History. Currently, when she's not writing, she's spending her time like every native-born Texan: worrying about how many chiggers might be hidden in the grass outside the house or if she put enough sunscreen on her kids.
I'm delighted to welcome my friend and an #EditFoster client, Laurie Bell to the blog today, with her own inspiring take on the nightmare that is editing!
Editing – the nightmare you CAN control.
As a recipient of the dreaded edit letter I am here to tell you… it’s not so bad.
In fact, it can be great. Especially if you are open to making your manuscript the best manuscript it can be. Just like a robot you turn it on for the first time you can either freeze as it takes control of the internet, hide in your safe room as it takes over your house or shed tears and cry, “It’s that Doctor Who episode, not the edit letter, honestly!” while stuffing your face with Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food.
Or, you can look at it like – oh, little Robby the robot needs a few changes to his software before he really comes alive. And hey, I can do that.
Every edit letter or CP email I've ever received I have learnt from.
Sure – that first click can be daunting. Your manuscript is your baby. You've spent so much time on her. Maybe you’ve taken her on one or two playdates with family or friends. Maybe you’ve even shared her with a Critique Partner or two. Opening that email can seem like both hope and heartache in one key stroke.
I always open mine with excitement. I want to hear what an editor or CP thinks. I want to know what grabbed them, what made them laugh and what they didn’t really connect with. I want to read how my manuscript affects or doesn’t affect someone.
And then the fun begins.
I get to break my story down and rebuild her – like the six million dollar woman, she will be stronger and more powerful.
My journey has been a long one and it is still ongoing. But if anything, I'm getting a good process down – it works for me, it may not work for anyone else.
So, let me tell you my most recent journey.
First, I save a copy of my manuscript. That way, I can come back to it if my changes don’t work.
Then I print the edit letter or CP email and highlight everything I want to work with (ideas, thoughts, suggestions, examples…) Sometimes I get CP comments directly onto my manuscript. Again – I print this out to review and make changes directly onto the page.
I do some research – copy or print examples and really drill into my brain what I needed to learn. I then write up character bio sheets – and not just the basics like hair colour, height and so on, I delve deeper into my characters’ history. What was their relationship like with parents, siblings and friends? What makes them happy and sad. How do they react and what do they do when relaxed, stressed, afraid etc. Then I do the same with the worlds I create (I write sci fi so my worlds are as much of a character as my characters)
Then I print my little robot out.
The first cut is always the deepest. So, I go big on the slash and burn, and then repair the damage later. It’s a little like surgery, slash those “extra” characters or the ones that aren’t needed and kill off that opening chapter (or eight).
In my case, it was both chapters and extraneous characters I was cutting… and it was brutal. Metaphorical blood flew, knife hacking and spaceship guns flaring. Pages fell under the onslaught. My delete key is a sharp and unforgiving tool. (Thank god for the undo button. Remember, I have that previous copy saved. So my lovely words are not gone forever).
When you stop for breath, you find half a book is left. But half a book of tighter plot points and direct action.
I reprint my paired down little robot.
Going back over the plot holes, I mark each one with a * and pull out my trusty notebook. I enter each page number down and start to rebuild.
As an aside, I prefer to handwrite my drafts. I don’t get a lot of spare time with work and theatre so I write on the train and at lunchtimes. I hand work my edits too.)
When finished, my manuscript is whole again but needs a lot of work to polish up.
And boy, what a difference. Then I print it again and read it out aloud.
More changes. But at the end – what a beauty. Then, with more trepidation I ship it off to my CPs.
But do you know what, even before I get their positive comments back, I know it’s better.
Don’t be afraid of the slash and burn. You are a writer – writing new material is what you do.
You can rebuild.
You can make it better.
And then it will come to life – and possibly go off and solve crime… who knows, it’s your story! Mine flew off to solve space crimes and get her life back on track!
An editor or a friend can only give you their opinion. But it’s only that, an opinion. It might be a very well informed opinion, but it is still an opinion. Your manuscript is yours. It’s your words, it’s your story.
If you look at the edit letter as an exercise, then you get to play with an open mind and try all sorts of things. See what works and what doesn’t. You will know if it’s better. Listen to what helps you. Ignore what doesn’t.
And make your manuscript shine.
I have three.
I am working on more.
Don’t stop doing what you love.
But heck, give it a try.
It’s not going to kill you. (Your characters maybe, but not you!)
Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen. She writes Science fiction and fantasy for both adults & YA, and has written three manuscripts (all are in the editing / querying trenches).
She is currently working on her new WIP and you can read more of her work on her blog www.solothefirst.wordpress.com
Look for her on Facebook www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell
or Twitter: @LaurienotLori
There aren't many authors I come across who openly admit to being like me, that they prefer the editing of their manuscript to writing the first draft. But the awesome Michael Bowler is one of them. And he has some absolutely stellar advice on the subject.
THE JOY OF EDITING
The best part of writing a book is… editing it. I know, I know, so many writers hate this part of the deal because it can mean—gasp--changing something in their baby that they slaved weeks or months to bring into the world. For me as a writer, the first draft can be frustrating to complete, but the editing—or revising—period is when my books really come to life and every element “clicks” into place.
I tend to write stories with numerous characters and intertwining plot threads that all come together in the end, so solid revising and editing are essential. I hate reading published books that contain editing errors, especially those of continuity, dropped plot points, storylines that are clumsily wrapped up, or when characters veer wildly from their established personas because doing so better serves a plot convolution. Sadly, I’ve read more books—from big publishers—with these major gaffes than I’d care to acknowledge. As a result, I am obsessive about reading and re-reading and revising every line of my own work before I even send it to an editor.
I suspect much of the blame for typos finding their way into published books is the result of editing on computers, rather than on paper. Typos that fly under the radar on the screen fly off the page on paper, but I’m someone who believes in protecting the environment and not contributing to waste, and it’s less wasteful to edit digitally. What’s disturbing, however, is how often I find story and continuity problems in published works. I don’t know if editors have to work fewer hours on simultaneous projects or if the editors themselves aren’t careful readers, but—just like plot holes in movies—plot problems in books can—and should be—fixed well ahead of the release date. I guess this reason alone is why a great editor is worth his or her weight in gold.
With my own writing, I first edit on the computer for several drafts, making any necessary revisions and catching as many of the typos or syntax errors as I can. Then I turn the Word document into a PDF and read it on my phone. Suddenly, like a light going on, obvious errors, and even continuity problems, that I should have seen on the larger screen become glaringly obvious on the smaller one. By going back and forth a few times between computer and phone, I manage to find most obvious problems or mistakes before an editor ever reads the first line.
Since I have no publisher that has worked with me for more than one book, and no representation, I have to hire my own editors to help me get each manuscript into the best shape possible before I send it out. I’ve worked with editors who feel that nasty, smug, insulting comments are the best way to entice an author into improving a manuscript. As a high school teacher for twenty-five years, I never used such methods with my students because they don’t work. Seeking to undermine the confidence of a student, or a writer, will not create a better version of either one. Don’t get me wrong, I want honesty, and I especially want to know what doesn’t work so I can fix it, but attitude is everything—in life and in editing.
Thankfully, for my last three unpublished books, I found a great editor named Loretta Sylvestre who has helped shape my sometimes-unwieldy manuscripts into smooth-flowing, highly readable books with all the plot and character threads playing out in believable and satisfying ways. So far, those edited versions haven’t enticed any interest from agents or publishers, but that is due to my storytelling abilities—or lack thereof—and not to the editing. These books are more highly polished and professional-looking than many already in print. My current middle grade project is in the beta-reading stage right now—by both adults and middle grade students—and then I will need to work with an editor who knows this genre.
Which brings me to another worthwhile point: it’s essential to find an editor who knows your genre. I feel I could edit books for teens, since I read and write in that genre. I would not be a good fit for romance books since I don’t read them and don’t know all the conventions, but I’ve read tons of fantasy and horror and could easily work with those stories. Likewise, professional editors have their areas of expertise, and writers should inquire ahead of time what those areas are and what books the editor has worked on.
My love of editing goes back to my eleventh and twelfth grade English teacher, Ms. Marna Maynard. She saw early on that I had a flair for writing and taught me how to revise, how to edit, how to clarify points I thought I’d made, but didn’t clearly state on paper. She instilled within me a deep love of writing, especially the necessary truth that writing is all about re-writing. She guided me through multiple drafts of every paper while she provided feedback on each and every version. She was the kind of teacher I strove to be in my own teaching career, and I hope I was able to inspire at least a few kids the way she inspired me.
I know all writers don’t love editors, especially if those editors are nasty, but good, affirming editors who provide real, solid suggestions for improving a book are the heartbeat of a great story. As authors, it’s hard to distance ourselves from what we write, and impossible to see our stories the way a stranger sees them, so that extra set of eyes is essential. A writer weaves a spell. An editor helps cast it. Together, they make magic.
About the Author
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who has made low-budget horror films,
written stage plays, taught high school for twenty-five years, and been a lifelong volunteer
with youth, especially incarcerated, disabled, and marginalized youth. Michael hopes his
books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles, and he continues his
advocacy for children’s rights.
I'm stoked to be a part of the book release blitz for Guardian of Secrets, book 2 in the Library Jumpers series by the amazing Brenda Drake. You should totally go buy these books right now!
We're celebrating the release of Brenda Drake's GUARDIAN OF SECRETS (Library Jumpers #2), today! Check out the teaser excerpt, and be sure to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter below!
GUARDIAN OF SECRETS (Library Jumpers #2) by Brenda Drake Publisher: Entangled Teen Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens. Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it. And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia. Maybe. If she survives.
Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1):
Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2):
Excerpt from GUARDIAN OF SECRETS
She did a U-turn and drove off. I sprinted to the area where I spotted the lightning. A shadowed figure sat on a white bench near the water. Another flash of light kissed the sky and illuminated Nick. Since discovering he was a wizard, Nick struggled with his new magic. And he was careless. Anyone could spot him out here. How would he explain it to someone who was human and not from the Mystik realm? I couldn’t imagine how it felt to have that much power. Unlike him, I was a Sentinel. I had little magic and relied on my battle training to best wizards and other-world creatures. He only needed to shock or electrocute his adversaries. “What exactly are you doing?” I asked, approaching. He almost fell off the bench. “Shit, Gia. Don’t sneak up on a person like that.” “Seriously, Nick? What are you doing? Someone might see you, and then we’d be discovered.” “Just leave me alone.” “I’m not going to just leave you alone.” I sat down on the bench beside him. A light breeze swept loose strands of my hair across my face. The briny smell of the ocean filled my nose. “Talk to me. You’re my best friend, Nick. I’m here for you.” He formed an electric charge on his palm. I created my pink globe and tossed it on his hand, snuffing out the charge. He made another electric ball and I cast another globe at it. “Quit doing that.” “You stop it.” “I get it. Your globe is badass. It can counter magic and shield people, but it makes you weak. I can do this all night and wear you out.” “You’re not nice.” He buried his face in his hands. The knuckles on his right one were torn, with blood coagulating around the wounds. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I can’t stop myself. I know I’m being mean to Deidre, to my parents…to everyone.” “You haven’t been that mean to me, yet. That has to say something. I’m the most annoying one of the bunch.” He snorted. “Did you just snort?” “No.” He looked startled. “It was a sneeze.” “I think you snorted.” His face brightened. “I know what you’re trying to do. And it’s working.” “I’m not trying to do anything. That was a full-on snort.” I wrapped my arm over his back and watched the water lap against the retaining wall in front of us. “I know you can’t see a therapist for this, ’cause what would you say? That you just found out you’re the son of the most evil wizard of the Mystik world and the curers recently released your magic?” He gave me a half smile. “Yeah, that might not go over too well.” “Or maybe you could. They’d think you were delusional, and you’d score some drugs.” “Drugs make me nauseous.” He stared at his hands, and I stared at the water, searching for the right words to say. “This has to be tough for you. I get it. I’ve been there. It’ll take time to adjust. How about I be your counselor? Anytime you feel anxious or angry, you call me and we’ll punch some bags or whatever. It always helps me to relax. Plus, my services are cheap.” “Violence would make you relax.” He was pleased with his retort and laughed, which was followed by another snort.
About Brenda DrakeWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram
Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2). She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). Look for her upcoming novels, Thunderstruck, Seeking Fate (Fated Series #3), and Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3) coming soon from Entangled Teen.
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It is with great pleasure I welcome short story writer (and novel dabbler) Megan Manzano to the blog today. She's talking about a topic I, along with a fair number of writers, struggle with, and that's writing short stories.
Short stories seem to have two distinct views in the writing community. There are authors who write and enjoy them and authors who ask, “How do you write a short story? How does it not become a book?”
I’ve gotten the latter question often since I predominantly write short stories and have several of them published in literary magazines. Short stories come easily to me. They start off as a word or line in my head and branch out to a larger idea. Often, the idea is not big enough to be a book or would zap all my energy if I tried to make it into one. The benefit of using an idea to create a short story is I get to explore the characters, the world, and the meat of the plot without having to build up to it.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve gotten as a writer is “start your story in the middle”. Don’t lead your reader through an abundance of backstory and miscellaneous details. Throw them into an event and let the world fill itself out. For books, this can take hundreds of pages, even several books. Short stories are like a snapshot. You have what you want yourself and others to remember and then it’s over.
There is a freedom that comes from writing short stories. I don’t necessarily have to explain everything. I can choose what I want to reveal as long as it guides the story forward and my reader is still able to understand the conflict and the motivations of my characters. It does get tricky when I can’t figure out exactly how to end a story or I ask myself if I’ve done the story justice. A lot of my experience with short stories has come from practice and little to no planning.
Yes, I must make a confession: I don’t outline or plan. I am pantser if you will. Laying out details for my story hinders my creative process. I like the unpredictability of not knowing if my initial idea will remain the same or change. I like being surprised. I like not placing a limit on the words I’m putting on the page. I do tend to have a conclusion I want to reach in my head. It usually pops up when I begin writing, but I don’t question how I get there unless it makes absolutely no sense when I read it over.
Another habit I have is I write short stories in one sitting. This does not apply to all of my short stories, but it applies to ninety percent of them. Short story ideas are fleeting in my head. If I don’t get them on paper, they won’t be as strong the next day or the day after. They won’t have the same muse pushing them forward, weaving my words together without effort. It makes for some intense pressure as a writer, but it also presents a fun challenge. Can I finish a story I haven’t planned, that possibly has an ending, and no idea how I’m going to get there? Yes, most of the time. There are always instances where these ideas get left in my work in progress folder with the hope I return to them in the future.
Writing my first book – the novels I wrote as a child filled of ghosts and time travel and talking babies don’t count – has presented its challenges. In the beginning, I had the same muse I get for short stories. I was finishing whole chapters in a day. Now, that initial spark has died. I love my book and my characters, but the writing process is much slower. I write in bits and pieces or it will be a few days or weeks until I finish a chapter in a single sitting. This is when I realized what kind of writer I am, the contrast between how I write short stories and how I write my book. I think writers tend to have the opposite problem, but nonetheless, I plan on finishing my book. Most of it is done and then I will go through the crazy process known as editing. My journey just takes a bit longer than it would for others.
I do recommend writing short stories even if they don’t go anywhere or get published. They can be a great tool to explore your style as a writer as well as test yourself on how you can cut details and extrapolate plot. They may not be for everyone, but I wouldn’t rule it out until you give a shot. You may realize you like them or if you are the type of author that likes writing a book, you may find a foundation for a new one.
Megan Manzano graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in English. She has been published in several magazines: Maudlin House, Firefly Magazine, Fantastia Divinity Magazine, and Twisted Sister Lit. Her favorite activities include reading, blogging, finding ways to travel, editing, and expressing her imagination through writing. It is also worth noting she has an unhealthy obsession with dogs and wants to have many in her future.
Follow and find out more about Megan here!