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    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
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    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

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Tying Up Loose Ends

As I’m doing (hopefully my final) edits on my current book, I’m noticing that one of my major issues is that I’ve left some loose ends. I’ve been so focused on the entire series, I think I forgot how frustrating it is to be a reader, and have the author leave too many unanswered questions.

But I think the worst part is that I honestly thought I had answered the questions! When I am too close to a book, I sometimes have trouble figuring out what actually got onto the paper, versus, what’s just in my head.

One example:
My main character has a lot of questions about her family history. As she progresses through the book, she learns a lot of things, but not enough. A couple of my readers were frustrated at the build up, and then the let down.

This feedback left me discouraged. “But I explained it all right… well… it’s here somewhere.” But it wasn’t. I didn’t plan on giving everything away, however, I certainly don’t want my readers feeling like I gypped them.

So then, there is the matter of fixing it. I thought, perhaps, it would be a complicated mess. That maybe as I tried to incorporate this information, it’d be like pulling on a loose thread and watching it all unravel. But so far, it has gone better than expected. By adding to a couple of conversations, and weaving a little information in, I think I’ve fixed the problem.

But editing is a tireless job. There is always more to do.

Sometimes I think if I just mapped things out in excruciating detail, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time editing. However, I also think there wouldn’t be much fun in writing a book when all the “magic” is gone.

How do you write? Do you just write and worry about the editing later? Or do plot it and sail through your editing?

A Life of Editing

Some people love their first-draft. Others hate it. Some people live for their second-draft, where they can sprinkle in all the “good” stuff (now that the foundation is done).

I’m definitely a first-draft kind of girl. I love the excitement of creating characters and a world, of putting the things in my head down on paper. It’s like falling in love, where the object of my affection can do no wrong.

Editing is when reality sets in. Where my perfect story transforms into a flaw-riddled disappointment.

Unfortunately, right now, I’m working on my billionth draft of my current novel. The ulcer-inducing editing process that involves tearing apart sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that I’d once loved.

I had my “finished” book in my hands a couple months ago and sent it off to some of the members in my writing group. Since then, I’ve been waiting, feeling like I’m sitting on a giant ant pile, working on blurbs and book covers, along with the next book in this series. Just waiting.

Every writer (I think) secretly hopes they’re going to send their book off and get shining, sincere reviews. But the reality is, there is always more work to do. For me, I will be combing through these four edits, and then sending it off to a line editor. Then, and only then, I think I’ll finally be able to say I’m done.

And, of course, the truly scary part starts after that, when I’ll get reviews from people who may or may not like “my baby.”

Color Me

highlighterWhen editing, I find highlighters are a great tool. They help me look at my writing in a different way. Highlighting helps me to focus on one specific correction, and help improve it. Here are a couple ways to color your manuscript.

 1. Verbs

Lately I have been focusing on using stronger verbs and avoiding the all too common “was” or “is”. When I highlight them, I get a bigger picture of my verbs usage. Then I go back and know what sections to strengthen.

2. Show Don’t Tell

Highlight every time you find an adjective (smart, funny, sexy) or a feeling (envy, bored, hate). If you see too many highlighted words in one section, go investigate. If you take the word out, will you still have conveyed the message through action or description?

 You can use this method to focus on any area you wish to improve. Whether setting or verb tense, looking at your story in a different light—literally—can help you identify its pitfalls. So, grab some colors, and get to work.

 

Precision in Language

I watched The Giver this weekend with my husband. I have loved the series and thought the movie was well done. One statement they used in the movie was “precision in language”. The parents often reprimanded the children when they were not clear about their feelings. Over the course of the weekend, my husband and I often would correct each other with the same comment, “precision in language,” as a joke. But as I am going through my edits, I find myself time and time again breaking that simple rule.

I often do a word search for some of these culprits: just, well, now, and so. Another nasty one for me is “was”.

For example:

Jim was walking down the path just as a plane flew overhead.

I can cut out “was” and “just” straight off the back. Then add a little show don’t tell to deepen it even more.

Jim walked down the path, when he heard the roar of a plane overhead.

Editing can be tedious and hard, but precision in language makes for a stronger story. Do you have any pitfalls you have to search for in editing?

The Case of the Missing Commas

Lately I’ve found commas mysteriously absent in today’s popular fiction. I understand every author has an artistic right to cut those little devils out. For instance, Cormac McCarthy not only cut out commas but most punctuation in his bestseller, The Road. His style brought a gritty raw feeling that accentuated his story.

But recently, I have been finding those brutes missing in otherwise punctuated stories. My latest read was from a New York Times bestselling author. I constantly found myself wondering if his editor missed the comma or if it was left out on purpose. The distraction annoyed the flow of a great story.

I know some commas like the Oxford Comma (the last comma in a series before the final and) are a matter of opinion. Is the missing comma similar to the rule of splitting an infinitive, fading into oblivion? Is the battle between the hard core grammarians who cannot let it go versus the creative minds who throw the rules out the window?

I still believe when you combine two independent clauses, a comma is needed unless the sentence is short. Am I getting too old school for my good? What’s your vote on the matter? Keep the comma or is it just an accessory to use when needed?

Two deceiving devils: Lie and Lay

At group the other night, we were discussing those fun joyous verbs lie and lay. Those two little devils have derailed the mightiest of writer. Personally, I have a sticky on my desk to keep them straight. I wanted to provide a small chart to print for those writers who battle with them as well. Good luck!

Lay
Definition To put something down. It always needs a direct object.
Simple Present: lay(s)
Simple Past: laid
Past Participle: have/has laid
Present Participle: are laying
Lie
Definition To recline. I remember this definition because both have an “I” in them.
Simple Present: lie(s)
Simple Past: lay
Past Participle: have/has lain
Present Participle: are lying

 

The Ego and the Edits… #editing

Much like my fellow dwarves, I’m in the midst of one final round of personal edits of SHADOW’S CURSE, the fourth book in the Kyn Kronicles. Ok, stop panicking, it’s already in my editors’ hands, promise. This is the personal read through I do before my fantastically talented editors hand back my baby liberally drenched in red.

It’s a quickie, not a detailed edit (those were done BEFORE I gingerly handed the book off). I do this to myself and my books for a couple of reasons:

1.  I need some time away from the story from when I finish it to right before final edits make their way back to me. This is me needing space.

It’s vital to have this space because it gives my ego time to come out of hiding. Generally when I finish a book, besides the big huge sigh of relief that can be heard miles away, I go through this strange well of insecurity. It’s ugly, peeps. There’s whining, a few harsh sobs, a little derisive anger. even some real childish pouting and ignoring going on. After five books, I think I finally figured out why this happens–my creative child has sunk deep into the stygian depths of doubt, and creativity is battered and bleeding. My ego is flatlining at this point. They need recuperative time. So, I add a buffer of space. This time it’s been two months (a month longer than normal–see previous post on why).

2.  I realize all my worries about the story not working can now be validated or negated.

Luckily, most of the time its negated. All those horrible nightmares I had of the story lines being trite, or characters being flat, are calmed, because look, I got so caught up in reading, I forgot to edit those last 2, maybe 5, pages. That’s a good sign, right?

3.  I want to write a kick ass blurb.

This can’t be accomplished when I’m spending 24/7 with the story. I need to be able to see it as a reader. I get way too close to the story and there’s a lot in my head that doesn’t get to the paper. I have to make sure that the back blurb fits the story. That the tag line nails it. And, trust me, trying to put a 300+ page book into less than 15 words–yeah, that’s like 3rd level of hell type torture.

And lastly, because without this sitting down to tackle the next story could be traumatizing–

4.  My creative child and ego get on the same page.

Being able to take a deep breath before diving back in means my creative kiddo has a chance to become excited, once again, about spending time with our worlds and characters. My ego decides, “Ahhh, that last one wasn’t soooo bad. Hey, I have an idea, how about this time, we step up the challenge level and (insert challenge here).”

I will admit, I have always been one of those readers–you know the type, the one who is practically dancing in place, chanting “can’t you write any faster? Pluuuuzzzzzeeee? I really need your next book.”

After seeing the process from the other end for last few years, may I offer all my favorite authors a sincere apology. I’m so sorry, I promise I’ll wait patiently for your next book and stop stalking pestering you.

 

What’s your relationship with editing? #AmWriting #AmEditing

Since the swamp has been very, very loud the last few weeks from the moans and groans and screams of editing authors, let’s talk about editing.

Free Red Pen Stock Images - 7055204Some people are able to get pretty darn sparkly first drafts out. (I’m eyeing you, Wicked). Others not so much (avoids mirrors).

Some people love this time in the writing process. They revise and rewrite draft after draft until the book shines. Others… yup, not so much.

And some people have different moods based on the individual book they’re working on.

I’ll admit, when I first started writing, I didn’t like what sometimes felt tedious and time consuming, even knowing it’s a very important step. Slowly, me and editing have come to terms with each other 😉

The interesting thing I’m dealing with now, however, is reworking and editing (mostly writing fresh) an older book. The last time I worked on this story was a few years ago, but I’ve delved back into the world and still love it just as much.

The writing… MY writing… urm, has *definitely* improved, LOL.

Which is actually why most of what I’m doing these days is scraping down to the bones and starting fresh. Because–and ask any writer to go back and read something they wrote a while ago–we are all (hopefully) growing as writers. Our skills, basic craft, as well as our imagination, changes over time. And that’s an awesome thing 😀

Q4U: What’s your current relationship with editing like?

~ Amber

 

 

How to Start a Book

It’s really easy for me, when I’m writing, to jump right into a story and keep the tension high and the pace fast, immediately grabbing hold of my readers. But then the first chapter or two ends, and some of the problems with diving instantly into a heart-pounding scene with no real exposition becomes annoyingly obvious. People don’t understand the world, or how it works. They start to have questions that I’m torn about. Part of me wants to say, you’ll find out, and the other part of me wonders if they should already know the answers. So taking some time, I decide to pick and choose, weaving some of this important information throughout my story. But then, I get a lot of this and this, slows down the tension.

Sigh. What am I to do?

Most of the time, I end up going back and adding a chapter in the beginning. This chapter still has great tension and character development, but it also explains some of the vital information about my world, so the rest of the story can move faster. But it isn’t as heart-pounding as my first draft, at least not right off the bat.

I still haven’t completely decided about the best way to start a book. Is it better to get right into things and then slightly slow the pace later on by adding the vital information? Or is it better to start a little slower, get that information on the page, and then dive into the really good stuff?

But for the two novels I’m working on right now, I’ve changed them to slow the pace in the beginning, so I can quicken the pace throughout the rest of the novel. This is not necessarily what I’ll do with ever book I write, but right now, it seems like the best decision.

Stating the Obvious

I’m in edit mode. Crossing off and hacking away at my little pretties can be difficult at times. But one thing I’m focusing on lately is Thought Verbs.

You know them: know, think, imagine, want, believe, and remember. This list could go on forever. I try to narrow in on these verbs and see if they are really necessary in my story.  Avoiding overuse of these verbs can help your writing in a couple of way.

  •  Closer Point of View (POV). Wicked Dwarf is always quick to point that “she knew” or “he thought” is stating the obvious. And when you’re in a close POV, “knew” or “thought” isn’t needed. As readers, we want to meld and identify with the characters, not be constantly reminded we our outsiders.

Instead of saying: She knew that Michael would loathe the idea of a party.

Just say: Michael would loathe the idea of a party.

  • Show Don’t Tell. Instead of telling the readers what they should think about the character(s) or situation, give them some credit and show them. If you show them, they will be immersed in your world. I’m often guilty of this. Showing takes more effort, but the end result is worth it.

 

Instead of saying: Karlee wanted to go to the Pink concert but couldn’t afford it.

Show us: Karlee loaded her Pink playlist on her iPod for the third time today and stared at her empty wallet. She had ten more days to figure out how to get the money. She twirled a piece of bleached blond hair around her finger. One minute later she was on her computer researching selling hair or any other non-vital body part.

 

Well, back to work for me. I’ll sharpen my blades and keep an eye out for these sneaky darlings. Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

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