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Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

It’s the start of the new calendar year. Are you going into it wondering if you are ready to publish? Convinced you are definitely ready? On the fence?

 

Wherever you are sitting on that question, moving from writing and editing to publishing is a big step. So, what if you are ready? What do you do now?

 

First, is to make sure you really are ready to take that next big leap.

 

 

 

If you are writing shorter projects: articles, short or flash fiction/nonfiction, poetry, etc.; you will likely find the rules on readiness for publishing less strict for some publications. Check their requirements before sending your piece in. And if it does not say otherwise, assume they want articles that are complete and edited to perfection, although that does not mean they won’t ask for revisions. Fiction submissions usually need to be completed work.

 

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

If you are writing a full length book, it’s going to take more work to make it ready for publication.

 

Pitching to a publisher with a book idea in the expectation of getting an advance to then write the book is almost certainly going to leave you lying flat in the depths of rejection. Unless you are Paul Sheldon (author of the Misery series in Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery, made into a movie of the same name), or some other movie or book character, this is unlikely to result in a contract.  Big name authors with a track record of best sellers may score that advance based on an idea they haven’t written yet, but for the rest of us this is not how it’s going to work.

 

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your best option is to send that advance-seeking pitch to an agent, not a publisher. A small publisher may indulge you with a smile and nod, but they are unlikely to sign a contract for an unseen unwritten manuscript by an author whose work they don’t know. And, if you want to get in with the big publishers, you need an agent.

 

As an unknown or little known talent, your best option is to write the book first, perfect it, get it edited, and then pitch it. This way potential publishers and agents can see the quality of your writing.

 

 

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

You wrote a book, but is it ready to publish? The answer to that is the answer to this question: is it edited to perfection? It is not enough to write a book. It needs to be written well, to hook and pull the reader in, make them yearn for more with the ending of each page. Editing and developmental errors can ruin this and your chance of being signed on with the publisher.

 

The book market is rife with editing mistakes from the big name authors at biggest publishing houses down to the smallest self-published author. They happen. People edit and people are fallible and let’s be real here, writing and editing a book are huge undertakings. You also don’t really know how much that publisher is actually investing in paid editing, so you want your book as perfect as you can make it before you submit it. Heck, I was published with a small press who claimed to have a paid editor. I suspect their editor was more fictitious than my characters; at least they have some form of life breathed into them through the pages of the books.

 

What kind of editing do you need?  All of them.

 

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

The four main types of book editing are (in the order they should be done):

 

1) Developmental Editing: This is a structural and developmental edit of . . . everything; including a critique of the essential elements of the story: plot, story structure, setting, timeline, characterization, pacing, and of course, presentation and marketability. You may have already rewritten your manuscript in whole or parts before this, but be prepared to have it stripped down to basics. You may do so again after the beta readers have read it and given you feedback. This is where you might find yourself re-ordering or rewriting events and chapters, reimagining characters, tweaking your story arc, and other major revisions. This will include line editing, copy editing, and proofreading, but does not replace those necessary steps afterwards. With the revisions that will be done, you will still need the following editing steps.

 

Note: at this point you should have or be enlisting beta readers to give you feedback on your story. You may have to go back to the developmental editing on parts or all of your book after their input.

 

2) Line Editing: Line by line edit focusing on the flow, tone, and style of writing. The goal is to clean up unnecessary verbosity, tighten sentences, and fix awkward sentences and paragraphs for readability.

 

3) Copy Editing: Essentially it is text editing. This is a word by word edit to find and correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, language, syntax, typos, etc. This should be done after you are satisfied with the story structure, plot, settings, characterization, and so forth, and have no further changes to the story.

 

4) Proofreading:  The final editing of the book ‘proof’. This is the last look at the print ready book proof before publication to catch any missed typos and formatting gaffes.

 

 

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Your book is perfect. Now what? Now that you have let beta readers at your book and have done further revisions and had all the forms of editing done and maybe done again, your book is ready to publish. Now you need to decide how you want to publish. For some, the old school large publishing house is the only way they want to go. Others prefer the total control of self-publishing. There are also the in-betweens; small publishers, Indy presses, and hybrid options.

 

1) Large publishers. These are the ‘you need an agent’ publishers. They typically do not take unsolicited manuscripts, and by solicited that means coming from an agent who has already vetted the author and their book as something that publisher might be interested in looking at. They also are more likely to expect an instant best seller and less likely to settle for anything less. You write the book, and they put in all the expenses to publish it and take the risks of whether or not it will make money.

 

2) Independent presses are publishing companies that operate solo. They are not part of or operating under the umbrella of a large multinational or conglomerate corporation. These can be large or small publishing companies.

 

3) Small press. The title basically describes what they are. These are smaller independent publishing businesses. They don’t have the large finances behind them, which also increases the risk of them going out of business in the tough world of book publishing. They are unlikely to offer an advance and that’s okay, because an advance is borrowing against future royalties you have not yet earned. It also means they don’t have the same corporate weight in getting your books into bookstores as the larger presses do. The good news is that you don’t generally need an agent to query them on your behalf. Small presses are usually quite happy to discuss publishing contracts directly with the author and are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author or book that does not fall neatly into the mainstream popular market. Like the bigger publishers, they pay the expenses and take the risks, but you are likely to sell fewer books.

 

4) Hybrid publishing occupies the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It runs in various models and is called by different names. Hybrid publishing is a newer variation on the publishing business and can involve a larger publisher, independent or not, or smaller publisher. Whatever you want to call it, the premise is that it is a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing; a cooperative agreement between the author and publisher that involves some financial investment from the author. The author has to pay for some of the services to get their book published, generally in exchange for a higher percent of the royalties. The author will also have more control over their book than under a traditional publishing model. This should not be confused with a ‘vanity press’, a term for a predatory company preying on the author’s need to be published (considered ‘vanity’ long before modern marvels like computers and typewriters made being a writer easier).

 

5) Self-publishing is the do-it-yourself of publishing. This is all on you. The author is solely responsible for all the costs and risks of getting that book published. You are your own publisher. There are a lot of services out there available for everything from the four types of editing to typesetting and formatting your files for uploading both to print book and eBook. There are artists and stock photos, and the cover designers to make them into your book cover for you. You are also on your own to market your book or hire a company to market your book for you. Self-publishing authors often utilize POD (print on demand) tools and/or eBook publishing. Self-publishing is your most costly option as far as monetary investments go. It is also probably the hardest to find success at, since you don’t have the name of a known publishing house behind you.

 

 

Whatever publishing route you choose, make sure your manuscript is one hundred percent perfect and do your homework. Research the publisher or service you are planning to use. Look for reviews, Better Business Bureau complaints, and anything good or bad online. Check out the covers of their other books to make sure they look like professional quality covers. How easily found are their books? Are they professional in their dealings with you? And above all, never sign a contract without being one hundred and ten percent sure of it. If you are unsure of the publisher or the wording or a contract in general, the online writing community is an invaluable source of help. So is hiring a publishing contract lawyer.

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Photo by Olivier Guillard on Unsplash

For some reason, NaNoWriMo entirely aside, November seems to be the busiest month every year for me. It’s the season of winter craft sales for those doing that circuit. If anything goes sideways at work it is always November (for me, at least). At home it’s the beginning of Christmas planning, decorating, gift lists, baking, and trying to figure out how to make that Christmas budget stretch farther than humanly possible. Even notwithstanding that, November just seems busier at work, home, and everywhere.

 

And then, just to make a busy month more so, we have NaNoWriMo. I hope you fared better than me. With working Monday to Friday at the ‘pays the bills’ job, my commitments to the Manitoba Writer’s Guild, and working doing book events and playing catch-up on the weekends, my NaNo time amounted to a random hour or so, dwindling to that in a week if I’m lucky.

 

Yet we writers persevere and push on, counting those words and plugging in five minutes here and ten minutes there of writing. The stress builds as our word counts rise, perhaps falling above or below the curve of 1667 words per day of the NaNo arc.

 

By November 30th you feel like you need to decompress or your will implode, or maybe explode, with that self-imposed pressure. It can be hard to put it down after obsessing over that project for thirty straight days. So, how do you do that?

 

As a general rule, I don’t let myself look at or even think about that NaNo book for two months. (This year will be different since I split it between multiple works in progress and essentially had to give up the ghost mid-November and accept failure). But this does not mean I take a months long break from writing.

 

 

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

First, breath! It’s over. You did it! You survived National Novel Writing Month. Let yourself take a well-deserved breather. Take a bubble bath with a glass of wine or binge watch something cringe-worthy. Whatever your go to relaxation method is, you deserve it.

 

Focus on another writing project. Whether it is outlining a new project, editing a finished one, working on an existing one, poetry, short or flash fiction, articles, it does not matter. While you are backing off the manic pace of NaNovember, put some of that drive and habit you gained into keeping a writing routine going.

 

Accept that your NaNo project may be junk and move on. It’s okay to feel like you wrote trash and you won’t be alone in that feeling. Heck, a lot of first drafts will incite that even with meticulous time and care put into them. And that is exactly what it is, a first draft. Do not dwell on it (yet). It’s not a waste of time or of writing. Editing fixes all (usually).

 

Think on what you learned through NaNoWriMo. What did you discover about yourself and your writing strengths and weaknesses? What will make next year’s challenge more survivable? How can you use it to improve your daily life and writing?

 

Through December put that compulsive drive into family and the holidays. After all, it is the season and a very busy month too, and you probably neglected them just a little through NaNovember.

 

January is the month of … Exactly! You will have made your New Years resolutions and maybe even meant it when you said them. You are probably already thinking of how you will get out of them, am I right? Keep that writing routine going. Life marches on.

 

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

 

March is when I traditionally revisit my NaNoStory. This is when I finally let myself look at it. First with an editing savagery that would do my Celtic/Viking ancestors proud. No sentence is safe. Over time that will work into the more finely detailed edits of spiffing the story up all pretty and cultured from developmental and structural edits to copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. Whether March comes in and out like a lion or a lamb, it’s editing madness month! Why do I wait two full months? For the same reason I will put a manuscript aside for months or longer – to come at it with a fresh eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online articles for writers:

https://thewritepractice.com/after-nanowrimo/

https://prowritingaid.com/art/294/Life-After-NaNoWriMo%3a-Facing-the-Technical-Edit-Like-a-Pro.aspx

https://thewritepractice.com/nanowrimo-over/

https://justwriterlythings.com/blog/a-writers-guide-to-life-after-nanowrimo/

 

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Photo by Ryan Sepulveda on Unsplash

November. Are you ready? Will you spill yourself heart and soul out onto the written or virtual pages this month?

It’s November. That month where the world grows gloomy and cold, commuters begin their winter trek in the dim twilight or somber darkness, seeing little of daylight in their false indoor lights, and the long shadow of winter is upon us. Some of us are wallowing in regret from eating all that sweet Halloween candy bliss we had to panic re-buy last minute before we get tricks for not treating the ghouls, princesses, prancing unicorn ponies, and Ninja Turtles racing door to door October 31st.

Leaves have turned shades of yellows, oranges, and reds, like a burned effigy to summer, and fallen crisp and dry to the ground to house the creatures surviving the winter outside. Soon, tangled strings of mostly working lights will be pulled out to create a carnival of Christmas color.

November is the month of remembering those lost to us in forgotten wars of the past and the sacrifices made by both the living and departed veterans of yesterday’s and today’s battlegrounds.

It is also the month of awareness for too many causes to list; Movember (men’s health issues including prostate cancer), pancreatic and other cancers, crohn’s and colitis awareness, national domestic violence awareness, fall prevention, … let’s stop there.

What else is November? For some us it is the month of mad writing spurts, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you ready for it?

 

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

For those unfamiliar with that strange term “NaNoWriMo”, it is an acronym of the first few letters of each word for this wordy month: National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is about writing and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s about putting aside meticulously plotting and thinking out each word and sentence carefully before committing it to literary art.

The month long writeathon pits participants (Wrimos) against their own inner doubts with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s on the short end for a novel, and it doesn’t actually have to be a novel. It can be anything so long as you meet that goal of 50,000 words. You could be finishing a work in progress or starting something new; writing any genre or type: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories. There is also a youth version of NaNo. The kids set their own word goals.

 

It’s free to participate and is a worldwide massive internet-based writing competition. If you win, you get to download virtual badges. If you lose, you can boast participation badges. There are no monetary awards and no magic publishing button at the end of the rabbit hole. Wins are awarded on a self-declaration basis. That is, you upload words to a counter that determines if you won or lost. So, yes cheating is easy and is done; but, who are you really cheating?

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

NaNo is about challenging yourself to put aside thought and free your inner muse. Write. That’s it, just write. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be planned or outlined. It’s an exercise in freedom to write without constraint, to simply let the words flow. You might be surprised at what you learn about your own writing ability if you have never done this before.

 

More importantly, NaNoWriMo is about encouragement, support, and awareness. Yes, and having fun in a weird writerly way that non-writers will probably never understand.

 

From the NaNo Org:

“NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that supports writing fluency and education. But it’s also a social network for writers like LinkedIn is for job professionals, or DeviantArt is for artists, or Facebook is for moms whose kids accept their friend requests only to provide them with “limited profile” access. It tracks words for writers like Fitbit tracks steps for the ambulatory. It’s a real-world event, during which 900+ volunteers in places like Mexico City, Seoul, and Milwaukee coordinate communal writing sessions in thousands of partnering libraries, coffee shops, and community centers like… well, like nothing else.

 

It’s internet-famous. It’s a community-powered fandom (before there was the Beyhive, or Nerdfighters, there were Wrimos). It’s a start-up incubator for novels (books like Water for Elephants, Fangirl, and WOOL began as rough drafts in November!). It’s a teaching tool, it’s a curriculum, and its programs run year-round.

 

Whatever you thought NaNoWriMo was, it is more than that.”

 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

How the heck do you survive NaNovember?

 

50,000 words in 30 days is daunting. It’s the mountain of incomprehensible impossibility. The molehill the ant could not imagine to build. It is also only 1,667 words per day (rounded off). That’s only 69 1/2 words an hour. You got this! Okay, accounting for the need to sleep, eat, go to work/school, and all that, you might get two or three or four hours a day in, so realistically 417 to around 830 words an hour.

 

But hey, who really needs that eating and sleeping thing, right?

 

The NaNo community is very supportive of their fellow Wrimos. There are groups online and off to find encouragement in. You can get endless writing prompts and cues for NaNo sprints. A sympathetic shoulder to lean on, you go girls/guys/theys, and even encouraging articles from known authors. You can buy self-affirming posters, coffee and travel mugs, shirts, buttons, and other swag to litter your writing space with reminders.

 

The trick is not to let yourself feel overwhelmed. Give yourself a daily goal. If you can exceed that, great, you have a buffer for those days that will invariably come where you flop or cannot write at all. Life does have a habit of getting in the way of best intentions sometimes. The more wordy buildup you can get early on, the better you stand later. (I usually flop around the three-quarter mark of the month.)

 

Every word adds up.  If I get half a dozen words in before racing out the door in the morning, it’s a win. Write a scene on your phone notepad, or a real notepad, while your bus or ride trundles along through traffic. I strongly recommend against that if you are in the driver seat. Nope, no, not a good idea. And, it’s likely illegal wherever you are. (It definitely is illegal here in Manitoba!) Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, waiting for that ride home; every bit of scene, dialogue, and drama adds up. I will write in bits and spurts in the evening too, between supper, house stuff, fur babies, other commitments, and family.

 

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

Find local NaNo gatherings where they encourage sitting quietly and writing, offer writing prompts and tips, and muse support. Hide away in a quiet corner in a coffee shop where you can disappear from family and friends (although you might want to let them know where you are so they don’t call the cops when they don’t hear from you for hours), focus, and unplug from the constant buzzing bleeping of your phone alerts to every post and picture of your extended online life.

 

The other trick is to ignore that inner editor. They can have at it later to wreak havoc on whatever you write. Don’t let yourself question or second guess the words spilling out. There is no going back to edit, revise, or fix anything, not even spelling. You can run it through the dreaded Spellcheck later, that nefarious creation which I’m sure was spawned with evil intentions and purposely tries to make you sound like an eighteenth century professor who hasn’t a wit about what half the words in existence now mean, or how people actually talk. You can rip, revise, and edit to your heart’s content – after the sun sets on November 30th and dawns on the crisp road gunk dulled snow of December 1.

 

If you’ve never tried it, don’t be afraid to give it a go. No one in the NaNo community will denigrate you for failing to reach that 50,000 word mark. You have nothing to lose, except maybe your sanity to the NaNo muse.

 

Don’t forget to join your local NaNo chapter!

https://nanowrimo.org/

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the half way point..

The first two weeks of National Novel Writing Month are down, we are half way there, and today we all gear up for the second half.

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.just not feeling it

This was supposed to be a light-hearted post, full of encouragement and humor because that is what NaNoWriMo is about.  But, I’m just not feeling it.

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With the recent terror attacks in Beirut and France, all the blind hatred against so many who are innocent of these crimes and knee-jerk fear it has caused against people for the sole crime of their appearance as someone of middle-Eastern descent (as if that even were some heinous crime), and the daily atrocities being committed across the world by a multitude of terrorist and hate groups, today I find it impossible to feel light-hearted.

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farHate is an ugly thing.   It makes people live in fear, hating people they know nothing about, just because of what they look like, which church they go to, how they dress, what little piece of dirt on this planet their ancestors were born on, how much money they earn, and even whether they were born male or female, among countless other non-reasons.  Hate has touched every single country, every people, every culture, at some time in history.  People make assumptions about people because of how the look.  No one is immune, and it never makes sense.  Haters hate for the sake of hating, it seems.

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Terrorism is even uglier than hate.  It is a power game.  A cry for attention.  No one will ever truly understand why people commit acts of terrorism, why they feel the need to join with others and do horrible things to other people who they don’t even know.  They are the schoolyard bullies of the world, only they seriously up the ante.  We can only cry for the hurt, and pity those who are so broken inside that they cannot live their life without the need to hurt others.

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Okay, now that I got that out, let’s turn the focus on what this blog is about, writing.

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PrintIf you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, at this point you are falling somewhere in the spectrum of the three groups of the half-way NaNo point.

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  • The woot-woot, I totally have this group.
  • The hopefully optimistic group.
  • And the I’m so dead in the water I should just roll over and quit group.

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The woot-woot, I totally have this group are those who are so on track they are smoking.  Maybe you already have the 50,000 words and are just waiting to sail across that finish line at the end of the month with a record-smashing work count.  Maybe you are just at or above par, but you know you have this.  You rock!

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The hopefully optimistic group are in the zone where they may fail or they may triumph.  You are at par, struggling to keep up, but you are still hopefully optimistic because you know that if nothing unforeseen happens you can still do this.  Maybe you are behind a little or a lot, but you still have hope.  Hell, you still have half a month to go!  If you knuckle down now, you can push your way through to make that 50,000 count by the end.

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The I’m so dead in the water I should just roll over and quit group.  Yeah, you know who you are.  You are feeling it.  You are still plugging away at that NaNo novel, even while you wonder, “Why am I even bothering?”  You are so far behind, haven’t the time, and know that you have already lost.  You feel defeated already, without hope, lost.  But you are still plugging away at it, too bloody stubborn to give up even though you keep telling yourself to give it up and just go have a glass of wine and drown your losses.  So why are you even still trying?  Why?  Because you are a writer and that’s what writers do.  They write.  They keep writing when all feels lost, when no one around them understands what they do or why they do it.  They keep writing when people around them think they should just quit, when they themselves think they should quit.  They keep writing when even they don’t know why they bother to keep writing.  Why?  Because they must, it’s who they are, a drive only other writers truly understand.

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This would be the category I fit best in, although I am trying hard to be in the hopefully optimistic group.  I am woefully behind on NaNo.  I’m maybe just not cut out for this, but am too stubborn to give up, no matter how many times I voice out loud that I give up, that I quit.

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I did the stay at home parent thing for years, and have now been back to work for four years (holy crap, has it been that long already?!).  And now, it feels more like I’m still a stay at home parent, with all the things a stay at home parent has to do because that’s all the things every parent has to do, only ten hours a day, five days a week, are sucked out by the need to earn a living and pay bills.  The kids are hitting the age where their bed times are growing later, their activities more numerous, and their demand for attention even greater, as if that were even possible.  And the housework is forever behind.

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So where does that leave writing?  That leaves writing in the world of blind determination.  Sitting in a corner with my laptop while the kids have their taekwondo lesson.  Spending my lunch breaks writing or editing.  Impossibly trying and failing to tune out the chaos of kids surrounding me because I have no quiet place at home, and finally knocking off some real writing after eleven o’clock at night on a weekend night when I don’t have to be up at five-thirty in the morning.  And throwing in whatever words I can manage when and where I can manage in between.

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Writing needs inspiration.  But inspiration does not always come just because you are writing.  Without inspiration, your writing is dry and as lifeless as that soggy sandwich you didn’t eat two days ago when you missed lunch.

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inspiration just aheadNational Novel Writing Month is about committing yourself to trying to knock out those 50,000 words regardless of time and inspiration.  It is about pushing away all your preconceptions about what writing is about, the rules you think you must follow, and just giving yourself the freedom to write without stressing over whether it is good or bad or whether you followed every rule.

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And, if this makes no sense to you, then you might be missing the point.  Writer’s block is yourself not being willing to let that inspiration flow.  It is a self-made crutch.  Do you go to work or school, look around, and say, “I can’t do this today because I’m just not feeling it.”  Do you stare blankly at that unfolded laundry basket, sink full of dishes, or empty stove and decide you just can’t do it?

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These are things you do every day because you must.  You trained yourself to do them, to know automatically how to fold those socks vs. a pair of pants, to take separate things and put them together into a creative work of art called “supper”.  The thought process to do your job comes automatically, whether your job is data entry, flipping patties, or creating something masterful and inspirational.

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NaNoWriMo is a month long exercise in pushing yourself to maybe do something you did not think you can, to write on demand when and where you can, whether you *feel* it or not.

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lets get creativeTo train yourself to bring on that inspiration on demand.

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Now let’s get out there and NaNo!

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overworkedI spent endless hours editing, re-writing, and editing Garden Grove.

I then spent endless more hours editing, refining, and polishing Garden Grove.

Then I spent endless more hours doing it again.

Finally, after more months than I’d care to guess, Garden Grove was ready for publishing!

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betareaderAnd then my beta reader apologetically (and maybe a little afraid of facing my wrath) told me I had written parts of the book in the past tense.  “Shouldn’t it be written in the current tense?” my beta reader cautiously asked, perhaps afraid it would offend me.

My first response was to deny it.  I didn’t actually tell my beta reader, “No! I’m right! I spent too much time on this for it to be wrong!”  But that’s what I felt.  Seriously, WTF, how do you just accidentally write entire parts of a book in the past tense and not notice it through all those endless hours of editing?

I wanted to argue, to say that my beta reader was obviously mistaken.  I told myself that it must have been parts I wrote in the past tense on purpose.  After all, tenses exist for a reason.  Sometimes you want past tense, because the scene is about something that already happened.

It was constructive criticism, though, and offered with helpful intentions.  That is what you want your beta reader to give you.

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constructivecriticismConstructive criticism is about having someone who does not have their whole life and being wrapped up into the writing and editing of the book taking an objective look at it and making helpful suggestions.

Let’s face it; you are way too wrapped up in the story to be objective.  And you have gone over those same words in those same paragraphs so many times that your mind just slips over some things without even seeing them.  It’s just the way the human mind is made to work, overlooking the inconsequential to see the more important things.

Unfortunately, when it comes to editing, there really is no such thing as an inconsequential mistake.

SPOILER ALERT!  THIS IS WHY BETA READERS ARE IMPORTANT.

So, I did what I knew I had to do.  I graciously accepted my beta reader’s suggestion and took a look.

HOLY CRAP I WROTE THE WHOLE FLIPPING BOOK IN THE PAST TENSE!

Really, I did.

So, now my mind reels with this new discovery.  How in Sam Blazes did I manage to write the entire book in the past tense and not notice?  Not once.  Not during a single hour of editing.

(Now, since you never read this before your mind is probably taking a side trip into wondering who is Sam Blazes.  Whereas, if I wrote this while lost in the flow of a writing spurt, it might not even click for me during editing that those words might have an unintended meaning to the reader or might lose a reader’s focus.)

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I could have decided to live in denial.  Maybe try to convince myself that no one will notice the whole book is written in the past tense.  Or maybe they’ll think I’m terribly clever.

I would still know it’s wrong.

So, off I go back to the very beginning of the book to start a whole new round of major editing to fix it, and so delaying Garden Grove being ready for publication.

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So, how did this happen?

wtfI mean, WTF happened to my writing style?

It’s not that hard to figure out.  I read a lot of news articles.  I took notice of how those news articles are written the next time I read articles from my usual sources.

News articles, if you didn’t notice, are often written in the past tense because they are reporting on things that already happened.

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You are a writer.  You are a sponge.

Have you ever heard the writing advice to read writing that is similar to what you are writing?  If you are writing poetry, read poetry.  If you are writing romance, ensconce yourself into romance novels.  If you are writing horror, crime, drama, etc, embroil yourself into novels of that genre.  The same for biographies, autobiographies, etc.

Your mind will soak up the nuances of the genre, the pitfalls of the characters lives, the writing styles, the happy, dark, oppressive, and the highs and lows that pull you into that genre.

Your mind will also soak up other subtleties, writing forms and mannerisms.  Just the same way you might find yourself mimicking people you have spent time with, other authors’ writing will rub off on you.

Just like the old saying goes, “You are what you eat,” you write what you read.  Reading a lot of poorly crafted stories will hurt your writing style.  Reading good quality writing will help your writing style.  And, apparently, too many news feeds and not enough time for novels has turned my writing style into something of the past (tense).

Just as I have said so many times, that reading blog articles, interviews,  et al with advice on how to write better will have an unconscious effect on your writing, and so will reading other authors’ stories.

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There is a time and place for past tense.  Don’t be too hasty, though, to turn your back on the past tense.

When do you want past tense?  When you are backfilling story.

Back-story can take many forms.  A character can be mentally reliving a moment from their past, or relating a story from it.

Sometimes this calls for the use of past tense.

Switching to past tense triggers the reader’s mind to know that this is what happened before.  It’s not the current moment in the story.  You are jumping to a previous event.  It’s also only one of the ways to do this.

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fixmeHow do I fix my writing style?

First and foremost, I need to cut back on the newsfeeds like an insomniac needs to cut back on the late night caffeine.  That won’t help reduce making lazy word duplication mistakes like using the term “first and foremost”, two words that have essentially the same meaning.  But that is a post for another day.

But, it will help cut back on the past tense influence of the news feeds.  Unfortunately, news feeds is something you can do in those few minutes time you get to yourself that are not enough time to do anything else.

I need to find a way to spend more time reading novels.  Not just any novels, but good ones of the right genres to have the effect on my writing subconscious that I want.

I need to make a conscious effort while editing and writing to watch those tenses.  Making a round of editing dedicated solely to fixing tenses will be necessary on every story until writing in the current tense becomes as natural for me as writing in the past tense inadvertently became.

It will come.  I went from writing as laughable as your old high school hairstyle looks to you in your forties, to something so much better using this method, together with a lot of practice writing, rewriting, and editing.

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.polar bear scream and poop

It’s one of those ugly little things in life.

Everybody’s poop stinks.

How many of us try to avoid using a public washroom when you have to go “number two”, fearing embarrassment that someone else might smell our stink.

How many of us have had the misfortune of walking into a bathroom to be encased in the stench of doom aka the odious odor of the sulfurous mushy mass of bacteria ravaged compounds (poop) that had been deposited and flushed just before?  Your automatic reaction is to cringe, gag, gasp for air only to suck in a mouthful of stink and gag again because oh for pity sake I can TASTE it.  You hold your breath in disgust and make a hasty retreat.

This is the universal kind of experience you know your readers can relate to.

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moodCreating mood is essential to good story telling.  Your readers will read your story, that’s the given obvious.  But will they just read it, or will the experience it?

How will you draw them into the story?  To make them feel what your characters feel?  To feel like they are really there?

In short, triggers.  Memory is a powerful tool.  Certain things can trigger memories, both latent and cognisant memories.

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stinkyOlfactory senses can trigger both of these.  We aren’t there yet to create books full of scents that tease your nose to match the scene on the page.  Maybe someday, but not yet.  And scratch and sniff is not feasible.  Besides, who would actually by a book that smells of poop?  So, it’s probably a good thing.

By adding in your characters’ reactions to their surroundings, the smells that are ever present but suddenly brought to your characters’ attention by what is happening in their world, you can trigger the memory of those smells in your reader.  That, my friend, pulls the reader inside the world on your pages.  The sudden assault on their senses of the sweet perfume of roses when they walk through the garden gate before they can see what the yard beyond holds, perhaps to find a contradictory scene of ruin beyond the remains of the first spoiled rose bushes laying tattered on the ground just inside the gate.

Whether the scents are pleasant or vile, expected or out of place, they can trigger in your reader an automatic response they don’t even realise they are having.  A subliminal affect that pulls them ever deeper into the drama unfolding for your characters.  And when they purposely draw on a memory the scent brings to their mind, it brings your story home to them, making both author and the story more memorable.

Anyone can write a mediocre/good story.  It takes work and attention to detail to write a great story.

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where the bodies areL.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

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Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon:  The McAllister Farm.  Take a step back into time to learn the secret behind the bodies.

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Garden Grove-title & bad bullet holeAlso coming soon:  Garden Grove.  Vandalism, altered blueprints, an entire work crew poisoned, and someone is planting old human remains, all apparently to stop the Garden Grove community development.  Who is trying to stop it and why?

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Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

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How Not to Get Noticed by Other Writers, Agents, Other Publishing Types, and Book Junkies.

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