Archive for the ‘editing’ Tag

The Ten Commandments of Writing #6: Thou Shalt Heed Thy Critiquers

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It has been some time since I posted one of The Ten Commandments of Writing. I am returning to this series today with the Sixth Commandment – Thou Shalt Heed Thy Critiquers.

I’ve been running The T Party Writers’ Group for over 20 years now. Various people have come and gone over the years. Some people have stayed for a little while and then moved on; others have been with us so long it’s hard to imagine a time before they joined.

Then there are others who came once, for a critique of their masterpiece, who  threw a tantrum when one or two members dared to suggest that perhaps this piece needs some improvement, instead of heaping effusive praise on it, and then they flounced off, never to be seen again. Just a tip – don’t be this writer.

The other end of the scale is the writer whose work receives a ritualistic flaying during a critique session, and they get so depressed they shove the work in a drawer and never finish it. I admit that this latter category has applied to me once or twice.

Sending your work out to a critique group takes courage. You have spent months or possibly years on your novel, sweated blood for it, gone through the usual rollercoaster of feeling alternatively like you’re an undiscovered genius or a blatant fraud, and now you have to sit there while a group of people take it in turns to tell you how ugly your baby is.

However, it is something that every writer has to learn to deal with. A common mistake that many self-published writers make is that they don’t get their work sufficiently edited. There is only so much a writer can do with their own work – you get too close to it to see the full picture. You need someone who’s not involved in it to give an honest critique.

That’s why it’s important to have beta readers and critiquers. People who will tell you honestly, and frankly, what needs improving. The problem we have in our group, though, is that for everyone who says ‘I didn’t like your character – she’s bossy and annoying’ there’ll be someone else who says, ‘I love the way this character argues with everyone and stands up for herself”.

There is a balance between listening to all the criticism and not listening to any of it. If you belong to a regular critique group you’ll get to know after a while which writers are on your wavelength, and which ones are genuinely interested in the genre that you write in. If you write cosy crime, for instance, you’ll probably find that the critique from the person who reads a lot of cosy crime is more relevant than that from the person who only reads hard SF.

On the other hand, if there are six people looking at your work and five of them make exactly the same point, it’s worth heeding it.

So this is today’s lesson. Find critiquers. If there is no ‘realspace’ writing group in your area, join an online critique group. Or start a group of your own (well, it worked for me). Once you have found them, submit your work to them and be prepared to listen when they take the time to read and comment on it. And be prepared to get your heart broken, because it’s never easy to accept criticism of your work.

But the only way to grow as a writer is to understand where you need to improve. No writer is beyond editing.

 

Advertisements

Monday’s Friend: Eric Price

Today I am pleased to welcome Eric Price as this week’s guest blogger, to talk about the writing process. This is something that’s different for every writer, so let’s hear about what it means for Eric.

Writing, Rewriting, Revising, and When to Submit
By Eric Price

Coming up with ideas has never presented a problem for me. I have too many file folders to count on my computer’s hard drive. So why am I not the most prolific author since Philip M. Parker? Well, since I do the writing myself, it takes more time. But I also have a hard time knowing when I’ve made my story as good as I can make it (at least before my editors get ahold of it and tell me to make it better). So when is enough enough? I suppose this question has as many answers as there are writers. I’ll walk you through my process. If you’re new to writing, maybe you’ll find the information useful. Established writers, perhaps you’ll find a fresh angle. And if you have a different approach you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Writing

This part causes me some trouble, but when I sit down to write, I try to do just that – write. Planning, plotting, researching the Cayuse War…all of these fall in one category for me: procrastination. At this point, the most important thing I can do is get my story typed. I can look up Cornelius Gilliam’s date of birth later. Far too often, I’ve spent countless hours doing research only to cut most of the juicy information from the final draft…or not using the material at all. I do save everything, though, so I may have a use for those notes on cutaneous gas exchange someday.

Rewriting

This part seems like it should be difficult, but I find it surprisingly easy. I basically scrap everything I just did and rewrite it. I credit (read blame) one of my writing instructors for this. I had an error created by copying and pasting, and she got on my case saying the technique makes for sloppy writing. She went on to tell me how in her day everything was done on a typewriter so changing sections meant retyping the whole thing.

Before I learned to work entirely on my computer, I would print a copy, make corrections by hand, and then retype it. Now I combine those steps into a massive rewrite. While I’m working on this, I fill in the details I fought so hard not to research in the writing phase, such as Cornelius Gilliam’s date of birth (April 13, 1798). I also use the time to beef up any descriptive details that add to the story, while removing those that slow the pace.

Revising

This is sort of my final walk through looking for typos and spelling errors. I list it as one step, but I probably go through the story two or three times at a minimum. I tend to get stuck on this step. I want to find every single error before my editors even look at it. I’m not sure why. My editors still find mistakes as plane as a 747.

At this point, some people also use critique groups. I don’t. I’m not going to tell you not to or say anything negative about them. In fact, I should probably have one. I have several reasons for not using one, and probably none of the reasons are, well, reasonable. I’m a private person. My writing is my creation. Victor Frankenstein didn’t offer tours of his laboratory. I did let several people read Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud before I submitted it. While I took some of their suggestions, I still felt like a bus full of senior citizens had just arrived. The Squire and the Slave Master (Saga of the Wizards Book Two) comes out in a few weeks. Not counting myself and the people working for my publisher, only two others have read it…and neither in its 100% final form.

Submitting

I see this word as having double meaning in writing. There’s the obvious: To submit something is to present it for approval. You’ve worked hard on your book, short story, poem, play, etc. Now you’re ready to send it to a publisher who will read it as soon as it comes across the email (he or she will open it immediately since you gave it the most catchy title in the history of literature), and once this lucky publisher regains composure from reading the awesomeness you just sent, you’ll get a reply with your contract. This should come by the close of business that day. If you believe this, let me know. I’ll write a new post on waiting. Tom Petty was right, it is the hardest part.

Where were we? Oh yes, the second meaning of submission: to yield, or stop. And that’s really what it is for me. I’ve gone through it countless times, and I finally get to stop…at least for a while.

So there’s what works for me. I certainly don’t claim this is the only way to write, or even the best way. I highly doubt many people do a full rewrite. Now it’s your turn. What techniques do you use to make your creation the best you can?

Eric Price Author Photo (2)Author Bio

Eric Price lives with his wife and two sons in northwest Iowa. He began publishing in 2008 when he started writing a quarterly column for a local newspaper. Later that same year he published his first work of fiction, a spooky children’s story called Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast. Since then, he has written stories for children, young adults, and adults. Three of his science fiction stories have won honorable mention from the CrossTime Annual Science Fiction Contest. His first YA fantasy novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Literary Classics Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Squire and the Slave Master, continues the Saga of the Wizards. It is scheduled for an August 4, 2015 release. Find him online at authorericprice.comTwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.

Blurb for THE SQUIRE AND THE SLAVEMASTER (coming August 2015)

The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, Yara’s everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life has her nerves too stressed.
Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request. She’s to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west.
It’s imperative she keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

Monday’s Friend: J E Seymour

Today I am pleased to welcome crime writer J E Seymour as my guest to the blog, with some sage advice on the editing process.

On Editing
By J E Seymour

I’m in the middle of editing my third novel. It’s not fun. I’m not even talking about the multiple times I’ve edited it myself, which is its own nightmare. I’m on the second round of professional edits with my publisher’s editor. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great. I don’t have anything against her, except that she’s forcing me to work at this. Yes, she is pushing me to do things with my writing I haven’t done before. Yes, she is making me stretch. And those are good things. I’m thrilled, really. When I’m not staring at the screen and cursing her.

StressFractures (2)This is what a good editor does. A good editor tells you what you’re doing wrong. The writer has to be able to take that criticism and make the writing better. Some of the criticism hurts. How can this person say that about my writing? But then, when I step back and look at it, maybe she’s right. Then I can make it better. And that is why a writer needs an editor. We all need someone to tell us when we’ve made a mistake.

Good editing starts at home. Set aside your first draft. I ignore it for a few weeks, some people set it aside for months. Then come back to it. You’ll see things you were missing the first time through. Then move on to beta readers. An outside eye, whether it’s a writers group or an individual reader, will again find things you missed, but should also help you with things like continuity.

After this, go over it yourself again. Pay attention to what your first readers said. Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way. Be objective.

For me, the next step is to send it to my publisher. Then the professional editor takes over and the real work begins. And if you’ll excuse me, I have to go bang my head on the desk as I go through the latest round of edits.

Author Bio

510x765-LeadPoisoning (2)J.E. Seymour lives and writes in the seacoast area of New Hampshire, USA. She has two novels out with Barking Rain Press – Lead Poisoning, and Stress Fractures, both featuring Kevin Markinson, retired mob hitman, Marine Veteran and all around family guy. Her third novel, Frostbite, featuring the same character, is due out from Barking Rain in March of 2016. She also has had more than twenty short stories published in print and ezines. In addition to writing, she works in a library and takes care of a farm with four ponies, two horses, a donkey, several cats, two rescued greyhounds, a cockatoo and two pet snakes. Find out more about her at her website and buy her books direct from the publisher here: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/j-e-seymour/

Monthly Round-Up: June 2014

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

In an attempt to try and be more diligent in my writerly blogs – which are technically supposed to happen once a week, on Wednesdays (sorry, I’m a day late) – I am endeavouring to make the round-up post a monthly feature.  This will be a regular update on forthcoming releases, works in progress and promotional appearances.  Without further ado, here is the news for this month.

COMING SOON:

The MUI re-release of DEATH SCENE is at line edit stage so progressing well. Still no confirmed release date, but likely to be end of June.  Watch this space for more news.

Edits on DEAD COOL are also progressing.  This is scheduled for release in the Autumn, so it’s likely to be September/October time.  My editor has been enthusing about what a good read it is, so I am feeling encouraged.

PROMOTIONAL NEWS:

I’ve been busy with the publicity train this month, with two guest appearances in the first half of June, and I’m talking about DEATH SCENE and my writing process in both.  Marsha West features me as her Tuesday author chat and I’m also chatting to fellow crime writer Joan C Curtis this week on her Joan Says blog.  Joan and I are clearly on the same wavelength – not only do we both write crime, but we have both got the same idea for blog names (since mine began life as Sara Says).

Next month I will also be attending the Theakstons Crime & Mystery Conference at Harrogate, Yorkshire, to hang out with other crime writers.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

I am nearing the end of the first draft of the 1960s crime thriller.  As this is a collaboration with my husband, I will be handing it to him once the first draft is done, for him to do some work on it.  We’ve never collaborated on a project before and this one is in an early stage, so it will be a bit of a learning curve for both of us.

And the third Shara Summers book is currently demanding quite loudly to be written.  So I would like to get started on that soon.

That’s about it for this month.  Further updates to come in July!

The Further Adventures of Shara Summers

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

My editor at MuseItUp has been quite busy.  Not only have I received the second round of edits on DEATH SCENE from her, I’ve also received the first round of DEAD COOL edits.

As well as meaning I know what I’ll be doing for the Easter weekend, it makes the whole thing a bit more real.  DEATH SCENE is scheduled for release next month.  DEAD COOL will follow a few months later.

This is all very exciting stuff, particularly with a series that I had pretty much given up on completely at one point (and if you’re a recent visitor to this blog, do a search on the Shara Summers tag to get a better idea of what I’m talking about here).  Shara now has a home with MuseItUp.  And with the contract for DEAD COOL stating that they want first refusal of any sequel, it makes writing more Shara books an attractive prospect.  When I thought I was writing the second book of a series that no one was going to buy, I found it a bit discouraging to carry on with it.

The homage to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, which I started writing as the original sequel to DEATH SCENE and then gave up halfway through, I am now giving serious thought to reviving as the third book in the Shara series.  This one originally suffered from lack of plotting, when I got stuck halfway through and abandoned because I made the mistake of starting to write the book without working out first how it was going to end.

The thing is, though, there was a publisher last year I sent DEAD COOL to and it got a very enthusiastic response from the editor there.  So much so that she asked questions about the first book, and the third, and at one point we were talking about a three book deal.

Sadly in the end this did not lead to a deal – not because of the editor, who remained enthusiastic, but apparently she could not convince her sales people that there was a market for a contemporary British-based Amateur sleuth in the US, and the US was too big a market for them to overlook this.  And that’s a whole different topic – let’s not go there.

The point of mentioning this is that when this editor asked me for a plot summary of Book 3, as part of her negotiations with the marketing people, I had to come up with one quickly.  This obliged me to go back to my half-finished novel and decide how it was going to end.  This plot summary is something I now do as a matter of course (see last week’s post on Plotting), but at the time I started this manuscript I didn’t, and it became one of the many casualties I abandoned halfway through before I learned the valuable lesson about how important it is to plot.

Anyway, the point of this rather roundabout tale is that because of this sequence of events I now have a complete plot outline for the next Shara book.  And I’m starting to feel increasingly enthusiastic about writing this book.

There are other, less developed ideas as well for other Shara books.  I want to take her back to New York (where she starts out in the opening scene of DEATH SCENE), in a story that will involve a secondary character in DEAD COOL (no spoilers!).  So maybe that’s book 4.

On the first round, Shara didn’t reach a very big audience.  But there are a handful of loyal fans out there who are interested in what happens to her next.

When one of them happens to be your editor, it does renew your faith in your character.

Writing Processes – Part 15: Professional Attitude

(Cross-posted on WriteClub)

Seventeen years with the T Party means I’m accustomed to my work being eviscerated. As far as writing groups go, we pull no punches.  When I workshopped DEATH SCENE, it got a fairly harsh review.

In most cases, however, I found I couldn’t disagree with the criticism. I tried to address these problems in later drafts; my editor came out with very similar comments during the editing process.

Understanding that my writing is far from perfect, then, I tend to take on board criticism and suggestions during the editing process and most of the time I change the manuscript accordingly. Hence, during the editing rounds on both books, my editor sent me suggested changes, I made them, and sent the manuscript back to her. I didn’t know it at the time, but this apparently is helping me build a reputation as a good writer to work with. It seems that not all writers take suggestions for change to their manuscript with as much cheerful acceptance as I. Some make a whole lot more fuss.

And this brings me onto the subject of this post: professional attitude. Now, if you’re a mega best-selling author, and your publishing company is making gazillions from your books, you can probably afford to be a diva who throws tantrums all over the place and people will still fall over themselves to work with you. For the rest of us, however, it pays to have a professional attitude. Editors and publishers are much more likely to want to work with you if you prove yourself to be easy to work with, willing to take on board the changes they want to make and return edits and all the paperwork in a timely manner.

Being a professional writer is about attitude. If you were an employer and you hired someone who never did what they were asked to do, who never turned up to work on time, and who whined on and on about not being in the right mindset to do what was asked of them, chances are they wouldn’t be your employee for very long.

Being a writer should be regarded in the same way. It’s a career. OK, it’s not one that pays the bills for many of us, but it’s a career all the same, and if you want people to take you seriously, you should treat it as a serious business

Maintaining the attitude is in itself is a full time job. You never know when you might run into someone socially who might be a potential punter for your book. They’re much more likely to buy it if they find you an agreeable person. This is why I carry my ‘writer’ business cards everywhere I go. Unlike the day job, which I can leave behind at five o’clock, I try to remember to weary my ‘author face’ whenever I’m out in public.

Being a writer is more than just creating the words.  It’s about being the kind of writer publishers want to work with.  About being a a writer with the right attitude.  These factors all become important when you build your brand.

And that’s a topic for a future post…

What I Learned From My Editor # 3 – “Stop Burbling”

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

The two e-books I have on Lyrical’s list both went through a rigorous editing process.  I tried to take on board what my editor told me.  In fact, I find when I write now, my “inner editor” has taken on her voice.  “If it doesn’t move the plot forward, take it out” is what I hear most frequently.

My amateur sleuth, Shara Summers, has a habit of “burbling”.  When I am writing about her, I find myself with pages and pages of self-reflection that are really no more than her opinion on things and do nothing to move the plot forward.  Or I’m focusing on too much detail.  I’ve talked about this before.  if Shari gets out of a car she’ll remove the key from the ignition, take her seat belt off, open the door, get out, close the door, lock the door, and so on, when all she really needs to do is get out of the car and the reader will assume the rest.

I’m currently working on Draft 3 of the second Shara Summers book, and when I get to the end of this draft, I hope it will be ready to present to beta readers. As I work on it, I am hearing this voice in my head, and I’m sure it’s my editor’s. “You don’t need all this detail. What’s important in this chapter? The six paragraphs you’ve got before that are slowing the story down. Cut to the action.”

It used to be that when I was working on Draft 2 onwards I’d be adding words, feeling the need to pad out the story. My editor has taught me that this isn’t necessary.

However, this means that I’m writing much shorter novels. Both SUFFER THE CHILDREN and DEATH SCENE lost over 10,000 words in the editing process, and neither of them were particularly wordy tomes to begin with. The current WIP was less than 60,000 words by the end of Draft 2. At the rate I’m going, it’s going to come in at less than 50,000 words when it’s finished.

I always thought I was a novel writer. Maybe I’m more a novella writer. Perhaps it’s fortuitous that I’m an e-author. There’s far more scope for short novels with e-books than with print books.

The End Of the Edits

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

The galleys for DEATH SCENE are finally done, and I am rejoicing.

For the uninitiated, galleys are the final proof of a novel before it gets published. For my e-books, the galleys arrive in the form of a PDF file. This is the last chance I have to make edits, so I have to read them carefully, and make notes of any changes in a separate word document, to be submitted back to the editor.

The pesky day job has been seriously hampering my writing time the last couple of weeks (and before that was my holiday…) so I was not able to devote as much time to my galleys as I would prefer. Still, I managed to read them twice. I found a few things that looked wrong, I made notes, and I despatched them back to the editor.

Submitting the galleys marked the end of the emotional roller-coaster ride that was the editing process. At the beginning of this process, I was excited that my book was going to have a place in the world. By the third or fourth round of edits, I was sick to death of the story and convinced it was a load of rubbish and I had no business calling myself a writer.

When I got to the galleys, that changed. As I read through them, my faith in my story was re-confirmed. It wasn’t a bad book after all, I thought. In fact, by the end of the editing process I was rather proud of what I’d achieved, and had rediscovered a belief in myself as a writer.

My involvement in the editing process is now over. My actress amateur sleuth, Shara Summers, is waiting in the wings for her big entrance into the world. I can’t help but feel a little nervous on her behalf. Will she get a standing ovation, or get booed off the stage? I guess only time will tell.

Endless Editing

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

I’m entrenched in the editing process for my forthcoming release DEATH SCENE. Currently working on the fourth set of edits. Or is it the fifth? To be honest, I’m starting to lose count.

With this, my second published novel, at least I know what to expect. When SUFFER THE CHILDREN was going through the editing process, everything was new and exciting. Even when I got to the point that I’d read my own manuscript so often I though my eyeballs would start to bleed.

When the final finished version of SUFFER THE CHILDREN dropped into my inbox, a zipped folder containing all six formats, I was so excited to see my first published e-book I tried to open all six formats at once. Of course this was more than my old laptop could cope with, and it promptly crashed.

But apart from skimming through the first few pages to read the dedication, and the acknowledgements, and the blurb, and basking in the glory of being a published novelist, I never actually read that final version. I had read it so many times during the editing process I just couldn’t bring myself to read it once more.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is now loaded on to my e-reader, but still I haven’t read that final version. Part of the reason is because of the aforementioned ‘reading fatigue’. But another part is because even up to the galley stage I was still finding mistakes. In spite of the endless editing process I am sure mistakes still made it through to the final version, and I’m not sure I could bear to find them, now, when I can’t do anything to correct them.

I understand the need for many rounds of edits. Each one makes the novel better, and picks up errors that have been missed in previous rounds. But the process can be exhausting – I have read this manuscript so many times now the characters are appearing in my dreams at night.

I wonder how long it will be before I can revisit SUFFER THE CHILDREN and actually read it, without the editing reflex action kicking in? Perhaps it might be a good thing to do when I’m finally done with edits for DEATH SCENE and want to take a break from it.

E-books and Editing

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a one-woman crusade to champion the cause for e-books. But there’s a lot of prejudice out there against them. One misconception is if you’ve got an e-book, you’ve PDF’d it yourself and stuck it up on Amazon.

It’s true there are a lot of self-published e-books. There are a lot of self-published print books also, but I guess e-books are easier and cheaper to produce if you’re going down the self-published route. Self publishing has always had bad press in the industry. Just because a book is self-published doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad – although I have read some that have made me understand where that assumption comes from.

The fact remains, though, that more and more small publishers are specialising in e-books only. This doesn’t mean they scrimp on quality. There’s still a rigorous editing process. SUFFER THE CHILDREN went through no less than seven rounds of editing, not including the pre-edit. DEATH SCENE is still in the process, but there’s already been three rounds with more to come.

With the nature of publishing changing the way it is, I think we’re going to see more and more independent publishers setting up as e-publishers. Sadly, much of the industry still has to come to grips with the fact that just because a book is an e-book only and has no print version doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘proper’ book.

I’m on a personal crusade to disabuse people of this notion at every opportunity. In fact most people who know me are bored of me banging on about this now. The publishing industry is changing. Those of us who are e-book converts just have to wait for everyone else to catch up.