Things I wish I knew about Editing Your Own Work when I started writing

Text: Things I wish I knew about Editing Your Own Work when I started writing.Editing is a dirty word for some, but for me, it’s the best part of writing.

It’s where ninety-five per cent of my effort goes (if not more), and it’s the part I can get lost in. A little too lost, sometimes.

I wish I’d known a few more things about editing my own work when I started writing, because I spent years trying to perfect sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters, yet I didn’t have a clue that some of my stories had bigger problems.

It was a classic forest and trees problem.

I had the editing part down, but not the story part. In short, I didn’t know how to edit for story.

Therefore, my advice to my younger self: Don’t start editing words until you’ve edited for structural issues.

That’s not all I needed to learn. Here’s some more fantastic advice I wish I’d known when I started writing:

“So, so many words can be deleted. I promise there will be another opportunity to use them later.” L. K. Evans

“No matter how many times you go through it, there will still be something an editor will pick up that will have you facepalming and wondering how you could ever be so stupid.” Ann Smyth

“I finally realised that the Rules of Writing are actually just guidelines, not hard and fast rules.” Roland Boykin

“Other people will always pick up things you won’t, so another perspective is crucial; preferably six or seven or ten if you can. If different people are saying the same things about your work then it needs some changes.” Mark Mercieca

“Add your text to a read back app on a computer or mobile device. Follow along on paper to mark the errors in spelling.” Glendon Perkins

“Keep notes to help remember if it was the ‘right hand or left hand that was burned’ later on in the book. Use this for characters and places and named objects.” Keith Keffer

“No matter how good of an editor you are for other people’s work, you will never give your own stuff the same diligence. I find myself overlooking simple things like typos much less giving my work the angry red pen that it really needs.” Colin Ritter

“Get Adobe Acrobat to read your stuff back to you (albeit in a robotic voice). You’ll notice missed/duplicate words, bad sentence rhythm, etc. more easily. If you read it aloud yourself, you may still miss things as you’ll read what you think is there. The computer won’t make that mistake.” Ann Smyth

“Use word count analysis to pick up spelling differences in names etc.” Mark Mercieca

“Know when to stop and pass it off to someone else. If you are on your fifth pass through and you find yourself second guessing what you wrote, hand it off.” Keith Keffer

“There are several things in life for which no amount of preparation will match the actual task, editing is one of these. Make it as much fun as possible because one edit is not enough.” Chantelle Griffin

“When you finally get around to writing a novel, you’ll discover its fun, until editing begins. The countless revisions (i.e. self-editing) is where it gets tough – and the author emerges. Outsourcing is recommended, especially proof-reading.” Karen Wyld

“Always read your work out loud. It means you read a little slower, and you can pick up on issues like repetition, syntax and rhythm that you may otherwise miss.” Angeline Trevena

“Write what you love (what you know will come), read it aloud (and repeatedly) because if you don’t want to, you KNOW something’s wrong; start strong (and then live up to that); and seek advice (then fight it).” Will Hahn

“When you get to the point when you’re changing a word, then changing it back, it’s time to stop.” Ann Smyth

“Edit in a different medium than you write, such as e-reader or paper.” Keith Keffer

“There is no such thing as great writing, only great rewriting.” John Skeats

“Text to speech is a great idea I wish I’d heard of earlier. The metallic computer voice is the ultimate impartial judge on your writing.” Mark Mercieca

“You have to wait before editing. Doing it the day after you’ve written a chapter will block your progress and never be good enough. It may end in an infinite loop of write and correct.” Era Metko

“Find great critique partners who pull no punches. It can be a little painful at first, but once the bandaid is pulled off it doesn’t hurt so much. And the scar makes your writing stronger.” Blanca Florido

“The best way to edit yourself is to hire an editor. Before I hire one, read it out loud, it’s a very different perspective on your work that you must have.” David Nelson

“When writing a story, you need to shut off you inner editor or you’ll never finish your work. Editing comes when the work is complete, not when you finish chapter one.” Chris Mentzer

“The best editing is done three years after you’ve lost your ms, stumbled on it again, said ‘this is really bad’ and started again. You just can’t edit your own work properly until it’s stone dead.” John Yeoman

“Take at least a few months off before making a final edit to make sure the material is no longer fresh in your mind.” Drew Briney

What’s your best piece of editorial advice?

Check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Author PromotionPoint Of View, Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

Things I wish I knew about worldbuilding when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about worldbuilding when I started writing.Here we are for another collaborative blog post, this time on worldbuilding!

Worldbuilding’s a personal weakness of mine – I tend to write stories first and then go back and enrich the world. That, of course, changes the story and the characters and everything else, requiring further rewrites.

My own lesson is: “If you love a world you’ve created then reuse it; setting subsequent stories there will save you a lot of time.”

That is just one simple piece of advice I’d give to my younger self. There’s probably hundreds more I could impart. Here’s some more great tips from wiser and smarter people:

“Treat your real world locale like another character.” Penny Ruggaber

“You don’t need it to make sense. It just has to be internally consistent.” Hisui X

“Tools, philosophy, folklore, and spirituality. And don’t forget the little touches, like minor superstitions, and foods. Even if you don’t use them, they will inform the way you write and add richness.” Robyn McIntyre

“Make sure you create some kind of map to know where everything is. The last thing you want to do is send your characters north when the city is actually south.” Chris Mentzer

“1st check. Do YOU believe your world could exist, if you don’t, no one else will.” JW Arlock

“Don’t throw capitals at me every couple of pages.  You remember what they mean because you wrote the book.  I’m not likely to remember all those Circles of Pollyanna and Three Faces of Musili.Stanley Morris

“Always make sure your reader knows whether your story is centered in the northern or southern hemisphere. For instance, a reader in north America would get confused if your character heads south and the temperature got colder.” Roland Boykin

You don’t need to do as much thinking or research as you think you need to do before beginning.Mark Mercieca

“I’m a sucker for worlds in weird shapes. Flat worlds are awesome (I mean, who doesn’t like the ability to literally sail off the edge of the world?)” Joseph Stoll

“Just don’t forget that when worldbuilding, whether it’s in this world or another, every subculture has its own favoured art, music and symbols, as well as ideology. Hone those, as well as the history of the place.” Zena Shapter

“Don’t set the “World Map” in stone too early on–let it solidify around your story. I drew mine out and named every mountain range, forest and town years before the story had fully come together, and my uncle surprised me with an artist’s elegant, framed illustration of it. It’s been sitting in my closet for years, and would require a monster glob of white out to be updated.” Charles Murray

“Don’t forget that food, clothing, shelter, and all the other goodies come from resources, both local and imported. Knowing those plants, animals, minerals, water, etc., can go a long way to showing your characters living in the world instead of living on it.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“World building is by far one of the most magical moments that take form before putting pen to paper; an ever-evolving beast that grows with every step. Without it the story would be a shadow, but add too much and the damage can be catastrophic. The intertwining link between the two plays out like a lover’s embrace, and when done well creates a world of delight.” Chantelle Griffin

“To bring the world alive, it’s not just the social and geopolitical aspects you need, its economics and how alien topographies might affect the story.” Mark Mercieca

“Creative boundaries set by your world can be great creative starting points.” Rik Lagarto

“A world needs to have it’s own myths, religion, heroes, villains… these kind of stories should come out naturally in the narrative and it can make your book stand firmly in a reader’s mind.” Vanessa MacLellan

Check out some of the other posts in the Things I Wish I Knew About series: Author PromotionPoint Of View Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, and Writing.

Things I wish I knew about story development when I started writing

Text: Things I wish I knew about story development when I started writingSo here we are for another round of writerly advice from the friendly writers of Google Plus. This time I’ve asked people for their best advice on story development.

My own personal favourite: “Figure out the worst thing that could happen next, and do that.” It works particularly well with humour where one white lie quickly becomes a disaster zone, but it works almost anywhere else too.

You’ve got to watch it as the worst thing that can happen isn’t necessarily the best thing for the story, but if you use it sensibly to generate story twists and turns, it’s magic.

Enough from me.  On with the fantastic advice from some other writers!

“Don’t worry if it fits right now; it can always be fixed later.”  Glendon Perkins

“Know what your characters want, why they want it, who or what is getting in their way and why, how far they will go to achieve their goals, and the consequences if they fail.” Kyra Halland

“Most of the time it’s the characters who seem to make the story, since, chances are, readers will already have seen your plot somewhere else, and will keep on for interesting or amusing characters and worlds.” Quinn Miczo

“If you plan your novels (plotter), concentrate on the story milestone scenes. Except for these, inevitably everything will change so don’t go into too much detail with the supporting scenes or don’t even bother planning them at all.” Mark Mercieca

“For me, the best stories are character driven and you can’t have a successful main character without a strong cast of supporting characters.” Roland Boykin

“Sometimes it’s better not to think.” Quinn Miczo

“You always need more backstory/world building than you think you will.” Ann Smyth

“Build a story bible.” Charles Barouch

“Writing is the easy part. Revision–now that’s the tough part. Suddenly you question every scene, every paragraph, every word! Everything you love could wind up on the chopping block. And it takes way longer than writing it ever did.” Traci Loudin

“The tendency to avoid conflict in life is very strong. You need to be vigilant for signs of that in your writing. Don’t necessarily shower your reader with one disaster after another (that too can be off putting) but give the characters and therefore yourself, as the author, story obstacles so challenging that you have no way out of in your head, then wait for a way to appear.” Luke Mercieca

So there you have it, fantastic advice on story development from some wonderful writers on Google Plus. What’s your best advice?

If you liked this, check out last week’s post: Things I wish I knew about writing when I started out.

Conflux Writers Day April 2014

Conflux BannerJust a brief post to let everyone know I’ll be doing two presentations at the Conflux Writers Day on Saturday April 5, which is a prelude to the Aurealis Awards that night.

The inaugural Conflux Writers Day will take place at University House, Australian National University, Canberra.

The theme is ‘The Writers Journey’, which will be covered by four sub-themes – Writing Skills, Writing Processes, Submission and Publication and Building a Career.

My first presentation, Presenting Your Blog Posts for Maximum Impact will focus on:

  • text layout
  • readability
  • images and other features
  • how to keep people on your site for longer
  • accessibility issues and what to avoid.

My second presentation, The Elements of Novels, will feature information about:

  • balancing the beginning, middle and end
  • purpose of theme
  • how to distil a novel into a single, sharp, meaningful sentence
  • the three essential characters every novel needs (and how they work together).

In all, there will be a total of twenty sessions, plus an additional four plenary sessions by:

  • Joanne Anderton
  • Kaaron Warren
  • Ian McHugh
  • Keri Arthur

It will be well worth your time if you’re able to come.

Further information:

You might like to check out my Novel Structure Diagram which forms part of The Elements of Novels presentation.

Maer Wilson – Methods to My Madness: Guest Post

Today I have Maer Wilson here to talk about her writing process, a subject I find endlessly fascinating. Her first novel, Relics, is set to be released by Crescent Moon Press on May 1.

Photo of Maer WilsonSo, you want to know about the process I use to write? The methods to my personal writing madness?

You do realise that going into the mind of a writer can be a dangerous thing, right? I mean, I could tell you stories! No, no, not about me, but about my friends.

Me? I’m actually fairly normal. Sorta, kinda. In a writerly sort of way.

My writing space is at my desk on my pc.

That sounds pretty tame, right? And it is; except that my pc is a gaming computer and set up for ultimate comfort. Yes, that means a footstool under the desk and cushions on my executive chair. Anyway, you get the idea.

I read how friends are writing at lunch on their laptops and such and I envy them a little bit. The most I could write on my laptop is notes.

I need to be at my desk, kicked back with feet up as I type away.

Sometimes I don’t type at all, but use Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate my novel. About a third of Book Two was dictated. Most often, though, I type, as long as my arm and hand will cooperate.

Music is usually on. Not songs. I don’t’ want to start typing lyrics or anything, but film and gaming soundtracks are great background music. Especially the more epic soundtracks help me stay pumped and crank out the words.

When I’m in writing mode, I write fast.

– The first draft for my first novel (97,000 words) was written in five weeks. –

I wrote a few notes, but mostly I just let the characters take over and the story went places I never thought it would.

Book Two took about nine weeks this past summer, but those were broken up into two stints, one during Camp NaNoWriMo in August.

I have a general idea where my book is going to go, but I’m not always sure how it will get there.

Book Two took an unexpected and (hopefully) awesome turn toward the end.

Major confession time – my entire series has gone places I never expected. I thought I was writing some Urban Fantasy mysteries. Turns out it is a much larger story than that.

I keep a cast list of characters, with ages, relationships, names and years.

Since Book One covers about fifteen years and the series is growing, I need to track some things. That list also has the odd note in it here and there. Lines I want a character to say, something that I want to incorporate. That sort of thing. But there are no outlines and few details.

As the series has progressed, I’ve become more sure what happens in each book. Mostly.

Going into Book Three now, I again know where it’s supposed to be going. Not that there’s any guarantee it won’t take another turn and end up somewhere I hadn’t expected.

My characters can be unruly, fun and surprising, which I love.

They each take on their own lives and I let them tell me their stories. Which is fine with me!

Crescent Moon Press "Coming Soon" image.Besides, if I don’t tell their stories, they hammer and yammer inside my head until I let them out. But that’s perfectly normal, right? See? Like I said before: I’m pretty normal.

After a successful career being other people, and later teaching others the many tricks of that trade, Maer Wilson has decided to be herself for a while. Turns out she’s a writer. She’s always loved stories, especially fantasy, mystery and sci fi. She has a dragon-themed room in her home, but sadly no dragons in the back yard. When she’s not writing, Maer plays online video games, teaches college and reads. She lives in the high desert of Southern Nevada with her two dogs, a chihuahua and a poodle. Relics is her first novel and will be released by Crescent Moon Press on May 1, 2013. You can visit her website at maerwilson.com.

Guest Post by Christine Rains about her Writing Process

I’m always interested in how other writers approach their writing, and today I’m honoured to have Christine Rains, author of The Dragonslayer, drop by to discuss her process.

The Dragonslayer CoverHi, my name is Christine and I’m a pantser.

I’m a little jealous of the plotters. I wish I could create an outline of a story and happily stick with it. It would improve the structure in the first draft, and I’m betting it would save me time.

I’ve tried. Oh how have I tried! But my stories refuse to be bound by an outline. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, I love being a pantser.

A pantser is a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. Someone who lets the story grow organically.

Plotters have at least a general outline before they start writing. They know what their novel is going to be about before the first words are on the paper or screen.

I’ve been asked many times by plotters: how do you write a story if you don’t know what it’s going to be about?

Easy. I just write.

Usually I have an idea of a concept or character first. Most of the time, it’s a character since I do focus on characterisation a lot. Then I start writing and let that character tell me her/his story.

I place my trust in my characters to know what they’re doing.

I love the weird and wonderful places my characters take me, the twists and turns in the plots, and the surprise endings. Yes, every ending is a surprise.

I’m in love with writing first drafts. It’s probably why I have such a rough time revising.

Thankfully I don’t ramble a lot, and I rarely have odd plots that don’t go anywhere. Somehow, everything just seems to work out in the end.

Do I have any advice for pantsers? Delight in the first draft, but prepare yourself to be tough during the revisions.

Have faith in yourself and listen to your characters. They know what they’re doing.

My name is Christine. I’m a pantser and I love it.

The Dragonslayer (The 13th Floor series, #3):

On the rooftop of a neighboring building, dragonslayer Xanthus Ehrensvard fires at his target, Governor Whittaker. How he missed the shot, he doesn’t know, but fleeing the scene, he picks up an unwanted passenger. Gorgeous reporter Lois King saw Xan’s face, and she believes it’s the story to make her career. Except he can’t let her walk away knowing what he looks like. Xan has to show her the Governor is a bigger threat to the world than he is.

Xan knows dragons never went extinct. They evolved with human society, taking on mortal forms, and slithered their way into positions of great influence and power, just like the Governor. But it’s no easy chore proving to someone that dragons still exist, and even more so, they’re disguised as famous people. Xan must convince Lois or find another way to silence her. An option, as he gets to know her, he likes less and less.

After all, dragonslayers are no longer celebrated heroes but outlaws. Just as the dragons wish it. But this outlaw must make a plan to slay the dragon or risk its retribution.

Christine RainsChristine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she’s not writing or reading, she having adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She’s a member of S.C.I.F.I. The 13th Floor series is her first self-published series. She has four novellas and eighteen short stories published. You can buy The Dragonslayer via Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo and Goodreads.

If you found Christine’s post interesting, you might also like to take a look at some writer interviews.

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