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Editing Tips- After You Think You’re Done

paper and pencil

You write something awesome, reread and edit it multiple times, maybe get an editor, and you think you’re done, right? Wrong. After being in a critique group for four years, I’ve learned some invaluable things that every writer should consider.

  1. The first time you introduce a character, use his or her name.
    1. Example: “She rolled and struck him in the chest. Hot blood oozed down her hand as his screams filled the air. Heather smiled.”
    2. Instead: “Heather rolled and struck him in the chest. Hot blood oozed down her hand as his screams filled the air. She smiled.”
  2. After that, you can mostly just use pronouns (he or she), unless there are other characters, and it’s getting confusing.
    1. Example: “Heather liked to watch people die. Heather waited until the life drained from their eyes, then went on with her day, feeling like she’d had a dozen cups of coffee.”
    2. Instead: “Heather liked to watch people die. She waited until the life drained from their eyes, then went on with her day, feeling like she’d had a dozen cups of coffee.”
  3. Put down your work for a minimum of a few weeks, so you can read it with fresh eyes.
    1. There have been COUNTLESS times I’ve received feedback and disagreed with it. Then, week or months later, I read my work again and realize I was wrong. When you are too “close” to your work, it’s hard to see the truth.
  4. Read through your work, look specifically at the adjectives and adverbs to see if you are over-using them or could remove them and use a better word.
    1. Example: “She spoke loudly.”
    2. Instead: “She shouted.”
  5. Don’t forget your character’s thoughts and emotions. Without them, you have more of an outline of a story rather than a story.

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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.

 

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

 

 

Why Editors Help Create Successful Writers #writing #editing

Another week is dashing by us, and I’m really appreciating all the votes last blog post got about what to do on the blog. If you haven’t voiced your opinion, feel free to go back a post and do so.

Today I decided to discuss a point of conversation with my critique partners–the role of editors in a writer’s career. Now, before everyone starts grabbing their spears and battle armor, hold up. Keep in mind, these blog posts, they’re all me-my opinion, my expierence and my issues, so while I’m hoping they provide some things to ponder, I, in no way, shape or form, expect the flag of public opinion to be waved frantically calling in reinforcements. One of the greatest things about being a writer, each of us comes at our craft differently, and each of our paths take completely different routes to our goals.

(brushing off hands) Okay, so with that warning given, let me dive in. (deep breath, perfecting diving pose, a leap, an arc, and perfect swan dive–scorecards flash 8, 9, 8.5)

I love my editors. That’s right, I am proud to announce I have more than one, more like five to six if you combine both sets from Black Opal and MuseIt. If you’re not familiar with what happens to your favorite book after your author types “#END#”, here’s a quick run down.

The poor baby begins a weight loss program. The first round will beat that baby down until it’s bawling in corner. The second round will coax it out, wipe its nose, then proceed to show it the way with some very straightforward talk. After some pouting, the story will straighten up, and face down the last round–where the final, professional polish will be applied–hair combed, pants pressed, shoes polished. Because of this, some writers have a love/hate relationship with their editors, they just love to hate them even as they lovveee the final product.

I am currently writing my fifth novel and the difference between SHADOW’S CURSE and SHADOW’S EDGE is…well…tremendous. As in, if I was doing the first book now with what I’ve learned, it might be a very different novel, but I digress. In 2011, I got my first round of edits back on SHADOW’S EDGE. I spent at least a week solid going over every point raised, making notes on style (don’t make this passive, show don’t tell), and pondering each question poised by her. This turned into long discussions via track changes through all three rounds, until I finally let the little bugger go and start walking on its own. It’s very difficult as a new author to release your clutching hold on your story and see it as a new reader, because you’ve breathed, cried, screamed at it for so long. Move ahead 6 months to SHADOW’S SOUL, this time the track change discussions we’re down to “got it” , “yep, I can see that”, or “What about this?”.

Then came SHADOW’S MOON and part of the reason I love my editors. Every bit of feedback I got from editors on the first two books pushed me to look at my craft critically and asked myself, what can I do to strengthen my writing? Challenge myself as a writer? Create something really cool for my readers?

I decided I wanted to change character perspective for my third book since Gavin and Raine needed some breathing room. Plus, well, I was challenged to write a romance. (Challenge me will you?) Not only did I want Shadow’s Moon to focus on the evolving relationship betweeen Xander and Warrick, but I decided to mix it up even more, I did two points of views in this story instead of my normal one. It wasn’t easy, but it did teach me quite abit about what I still had to learn and practice.

Then, mid 2013 when I handed off SHADOW’S MOON and the proposal for SHADOW’S CURSE to Black Opal’s caring hands, I decided to pause before starting Shadow’s Curse. I’ve been living in the Kyn universe for a long time, much longer than the publication dates on the books. Other characters and worlds were pestering me for their spotlight. Plus, since I write from limited third person point of view, and at one time wrote Shadow’s Edge completely from Raine’s POV (oh yes, much theraphy was needed after that), I decided to brave the wild new frontier of first person point of view.

Not as a New Adult story where first person seems very prevelant, but in an adult Paranormal Suspense story, one where I could explore my love of military suspense and paranormal abilities. But here was my challenge–I didn’t want every damn sentence to star with “I” . Come on, if all you hear is “I, I, I…” you may wanted to gouge out said “I’s” eyes. It wasn’t easy, it was difficult, enough so I almost gave up, but finally, FINALLY, I finished HUNTED BY THE PAST and it became part of the MuseItUp family. It also created a new series, the PSY-IV Teams.

This week, while working through the toughest Kyn book yet, SHADOW’S CURSE and the fiendishly difficult Natasha, I got hit with the edits for SHADOW’S MOON and HUNTED in one fell swoop. Anxious, I opened up the track changes leery I may soon find myself in a blood pile in front of my computer. Instead I got something better. Both editors left me notes, really heart warming ones on how much my writing had deepened and how much they were touched by the story. And this hard hearted wench of words, got a little bleary. There were still discussions and muttered comments (not in Track Changes because I didn’t want a hit put out on me), but I’m still loving my editors, because they are still providing me insight on things I can do better, ways to consider things differently, and how to ulitmately become a more successful writer.

So when the conversation arises among my partners in writing plots about what makes a successful writer, my first answer is: EDITORS.

Whether you’re Indie or Traditional or any mixture of writer, an editor can only help you. Not only can they give you an unbiased opinion on your work (Like my question this weekend of “So I’m going to change the POV on Book 2 of PSY-IV, you’re okay with that right?), they will keep your story straight, catch when you add an extra arm, leave a character standing at the side of the road, or another one decides to not only change hair color but their height (w/o shoes), they will the first one to push off that cliff of what ifs when you can’t get your feet to move. Because if you want to be a successful writer, you need to continue to grow your craft and your skill set. Otherwise–same story, different….you get the picture.

As a reader or writer, can you tell when a story lacks an editor?

The Devil’s In The Details #AmEditing

Edits.

More edits.

And even more edits since I just got my book back from one of my editors 😀

Sometimes, it seems like no matter how much time it takes to write the first draft, the editing always takes at least three times longer. Sigh.

Partly, I think, it’s because when I’m writing, I really *try* hard to just get the words down. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the wrong words, or even bad words. But, as a writer, editing means searching for ways to make them better. Clearer for my readers. More emotional, deeper, getting down into the characters that I fell in love with in the first place.

Because I write to tell their stories, and I hope readers fall in love with these people as much as I did.

So, back to the edits for me because I have a release date coming up soon : )

Q4U: Readers, what makes you love characters? Writers, what’s some of your editing process?

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Christmas-Tree-Nature1024-226431

I want to wish all my loyal Swamp Followers, friends, family and anyone reading this a wonderful Christmas and an exciting New Year.

Thank you so much for sharing 2013 with me.  Here’s to another year filled with joy and laughter!

And to ensure a grin, I have to share this lovely piece with you (however, I have to admit to stealing it from Ilona Andrews.)

bestchristmascard

Stop Apologizing

One of my characters is angry and hateful.  My fellow writers loved this character.  As the story progressed, the other writers started to have more and more trouble connecting with this character.  No one could put their finger on what was wrong at first, until someone finally figured it out.  My character was starting to continually “apologize” for all her negative traits.  It made her suddenly less interesting and less real.

I find myself constantly apologizing for the things I don’t like about myself, but this doesn’t mean that every character I have needs to be the same way.  If anything, it means the exact opposite.  Sometimes people, just like characters, simply need to accept their flaws and move on with their lives (or with the story).  Not doing so often holds people back from fully living their lives.  I also think it holds characters back.  It makes them seem like they are trying to be perfect.  And as much as people might thing otherwise, most people love characters, and people, for their imperfections more than anything else.

Therefore, I have decided to try to embrace my own flaws and allow my characters to embrace theirs as well.  Reading a book with a constantly apologetic character could get really annoying, really fast.  And if there is one thing I don’t want to do, it is to annoy my readers.

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