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Posts Tagged ‘Rewriting’

After I finished writing my first novel, I stared at the pages, not knowing what revising entailed.

It’s perfect I thought. Exactly the way I wanted it.

But then I started to research the process of revising and it dawned on me that I had to completely slash away and polish every sentence, analyze every word, make sure every punctuation was just as I wanted it before querying.

I found some fantastic books and websites, but none helped me more than Caro Clarke’s in-depth advice.

If she taught a class, I’d take it. The way she explains everything and the topics she thought to include, astounds me. I read each and every one of her writing articles and if you have a little time I would check them out. How could you not, with unique article titles such as:

Just to name a few.

Caro truly knows her stuff and I promise you that you will come away a better writer after you have read through them all. I took her advice so seriously that I felt the need to thank her in my first novel. Best of all, the advice is free!

(Although it would be nice to purchase her novel in thanks if you find her advice as helpful as I do).

Just writing this blog has made me realize I should reread all these articles again before I revise the next book in my series. I’m sure I’m in need of a refresher course.

Thank you, Caro, for taking the time to write these extremely helpful articles and for sharing them so graciously.

Have any of Caro’s tips helped you? Whose writing advice has made the biggest impact on your writing?

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How many revisions does it take for your MS to lose its spark?

“Let’s find out.

One…

tWoo…

thhhhreee”

*CRUNCH*

I wish I only had to do three revisions. Three, and I might still be gushing about it for launch. But I find when I’m reading my novel for the twentieth time my MS loses its spark.

Finish the MS—Wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever written! Perfect!

First revision after letting it sit—Wow, this needs work but what great scenes and dialog! I love it!

Second revision—Wow, I can’t believe how many mistakes I missed after that last edit, but it’s still awesome!

Fifth revision—Wow, still so much work. I’ve got to rewrite a few scenes, but it’s pretty good stuff.

Tenth revision—Wow, I think I need glasses since I’m still finding mistakes! Eh. It’s okay.

Fifteenth revision—Wow, another revision, I don’t think I can read it again. I hope I’m going in the right direction.

Nineteenth revision—Wow, this has to be the last revision! I’m so sick of it! That’s it. I’m done.

Twentieth revision—Wow, is this even any good anymore?

I’m sure this happens to every author, but I imagine it must be harder for the self-published author since you have to feel confident about the piece you’re about to release to the world—on your own. You don’t have team cheering you on from behind. A team that has thought so highly of your project that they have invested in it.

Of course, even LOTR and Pride and Prejudice would lose its spark after twenty reads within a short amount of time. So what do you do when you start to question if your MS is still good when you have worn it out like a pair of comfortable sneakers?

You must have rounds of beta readers. You need someone at every stage of processing to tell you that you’ve got something there. You need someone to see your twentieth revision with fresh eyes. You need them to tell you it’s amazing and which parts they laughed and cried at. Then they tell you two or three small things that they would change and you’re back to revision twenty-one:

Wow, they loved it, so this must be good. I just have to fix a few things and it’s off to the editor who will be so impressed with how much work I’ve done this time.

After the editor—Wow, I can’t believe I missed all these mistakes. Am I ever going to learn comma placement? *bangs head*

So what about you guys? How many revisions does it take before your eyes bleed and doubt sets in?

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Have you ever picked up something you’ve written more than a year ago and read it again?

It was amazing.

After letting it sit for a year, I was shocked with how much I’ve forgotten. Once I got past all the terrible grammar mistakes I made prior to my editing education, (wow I really have learned a lot!), it was fascinating to read something I didn’t remember—yet I wrote!

It was so strange to actually critique and experience my MS like a reader. So many things were a surprise. I mean, I don’t have dementia. I do remember the large things, but there were many times I actually said to myself, “I can’t wait to see what happens here!”

Crazy, I know, but I do recommend it.

Also, I found I was confused at parts, even though before things made perfect sense. I found those holes and patched them up nicely.

I highly recommend writing, then letting it sit for a long time while you write something else. It is wonderful and so helpful! Still get as many betas as you can (you can NEVER have enough), but it’s always good to let your piece sit long enough so you can see it with fresh eyes.

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So in the middle of this whole first self-publishing experience, I’m attempting to get my second novel of the series ready to quickly follow the first.I find myself going back (what feels like so long ago) to the first major edits of my first. So these are the things I’ve learned from so many terrific editing blogs out there:

1) Remove all the ‘just’s you can

2)Remove all the ‘that’s you can

3)Do an ‘ly’ search for adverbs and change them where you can

4) I tend to overuse the word ‘look’ so I do a search for those and change them

6) Tighten up unneeded words

7) Remove all unnecessary dialog tags

8 ) Cut the fat (take out anything that doesn’t move the story forward)

9) Change all ‘has pulled’ to ‘pulls’ or ‘is running’ to ‘runs’, even ‘comes running’ to ‘runs’

I’ve also started to go through all the things I learned from my editor so she doesn’t think I’m a lost cause. My goal is to have a lot less red on the pages with the next one.

It seems a never-ending process though because publishing the second makes me want to finish writing the third book so I can have that follow as well, but I’m only human! How can I be learning self-publishing, promoting, editing the second, AND writing the third! How do these prolific writers do it?

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Phew! I did it. I sent the corrected MS back to the editor for the second look through. She said she’d have it back to me in two weeks and then I’ll make the changes and ship it off to a second copy editor to make sure we caught everything.

But I didn’t change everything the editor suggested. Most of the time, I immediately saw that her suggestions improved my novel and implemented them, but there were some instances where I realized the change wasn’t right for what I wanted to convey to the reader.

Here are some examples of what I didn’t change:

1) I kept some ‘says’ and ‘continues’ in where I felt needed it, but I did try to take out as many as I could.

2) Some historic things she didn’t find in her research but I found support in more detailed non-fiction books.

3) She wanted to take out unneeded words and I thought it changed the flow or impact of the sentence so I kept them.

4) She made a suggestion to completely remove something that didn’t seem to have much relevance to this novel but it is something that will be mentioned throughout the next few books and explained in the last book.

5) Her suggestions sometimes showed me that she didn’t understand what I was trying to say and told me I needed to clarify the sentence better.

6) Also some of the suggestions she made went completely against some beta readers’ favorite parts. If you hear the same suggestions being made it tells you to change it, but if some of your readers love something I say you should keep it.

All in all, 95% of the time I made the changes. The last 5% I thought over and over about before I decided to keep my words in. But if I send it to the copy editor and she picks up on the same things I didn’t change, well then, I’ll probably make the changes since it’s obviously standing out in the wrong way.

Well, off to enjoy a little summer 🙂

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Ugh! I see why it takes a year to print an accepted novel to be traditionally published. I’m still working on this MS and I’ve been working on it every moment I can get! I can’t believe what a tedious process this is. I sympathize with editors since it must feel just as long to go through a novel, looking for every blessed error, and trying to give suggestions to correct them. It must feel twice as torturous to them because it’s not even their story!

So last night I finished all of the easy corrections (wahoo!) but I highlighted any areas the editor flagged for larger changes that I have to still work on 😦

Historical Inaccuracies– My editor was outstanding in that she even looked up all of my historical phrases, places, and objects (there are many!)  and double-checked to be sure I got them right. Some of these suggestions I have to go back into my research and be positive I have support to back me up, but I love the extra confidence that my historic details are strong.

Scene Building Although I thought I worked out all my scene building gaps from suggestions from workshops and beta readers, my editor found a few more areas where she felt a scene or a character needed more description. It’s easy to miss these sparse areas while writing since I have this whole world in my head so clearly that I can’t see where I forgot to guide the reader through. So I have to go back and try to describe what’s already there for me and try to do so in a descriptive and intriguing way.

Plot Holes- *Dum-da-dum-dum!* There are a few instances where my editor pointed out areas where illogical events, unlikely actions of characters, and statements that contradict earlier events in the storyline cropped up. These make my head spin! They are hard to accept because to me it all makes perfect sense, so the trick is that I have to figure out a way to convince the reader that it all makes sense. This means I might have to go back earlier in the story and put in more information to make a development seem more logical. Or I might have to put in some historic information to explain why I have my character act in a normal way for their time but not as likely for our time. Or I have to remove a contradiction or explain why my character is contradicting themselves. And if I can’t do any of these things, then I have to take it out entirely (ouch!) since it will pull the reader out of the book.

I really, really hate this part.

I’m desperately trying to finish all these improvements by tonight so that I can send my editor the MS back before I go away again. This will be my last vacation before the baby comes and it will be nice to get it off for my fabulous editor to complete the last look through. I’m not sure how long that will take but it feels so great putting my novel in her hands. And even though I doubt that she’s overlooked anything, I will still send the returned MS out to another copyeditor to be doubly sure that my book is in the best shape possible.

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First off–A DISCLAIMER–I’m not an editor nor do I have any editing background. Upon correcting my MS, I see these mistakes highlighted repeatedly by my editor and would like to pass it on to anyone else with grammatical disability*.

(I’m probably making grammatical mistakes even just explaining this to you.)

Like I’ve said before, I have tried…tried to learn how to revise every common mistake new writers make. I’ve read all the blogs on revising advice and I’m still so shocked that there were so many corrections! Well, maybe you can learn from me…hopefully I’m learning something through this all so that I won’t make these same mistakes with my next novel.

 

TOP MISTAKES I’VE MADE:

TOWARDS- I always spoke with a plural on the end of this one…note to self: it is toward.

COMMA BEFORE BUT- I thought it was a general rule that whenever you used but in a sentence, you needed a comma before it but not always so. Only if the group of words following the but is independent the comma is used. (Notice I didn’t use a comma above–there may be hope yet!)

DON’T OVERUSE EXCLAMATIONS! – Whenever my characters were upset, I used exclamations for the whole tangent when I’ve been told it is overkill. Use them sparingly and let your dialogue convey the anger instead.

CUT GARBAGE TAGS- These tags should be used sparingly: says, continues, and finishes.

CUT REDUNDANT ACTION- With actions such as ‘nods his head’ you should always cut out the obvious ‘his head’ since nods is self-explanatory. (I already knew this one but you’d be surprised how they disappear into the text)

NO SPACE AFTER ELLIPSIS- When using an ellipsis in a sentence there is no space between the end of the ellipsis and the next word.

POSSESSIVES- When you put a possessive at the end of a name that ends in an ‘s’ that doesn’t have the hard ‘z’ sound you must add an apostrophe ‘s’ to the ending. Example: Sokarisis’s dream chamber.

OVERUSING ‘THEN’ IN ACTION- My editor pointed out the abundance of ‘then’ in my action sequences and pointed out that it’s better to just allow the action to flow without it.

I HEAR, I FEEL, I SEE- It is extremely hard to resist using these when writing first person present, but as my editor pointed out using these makes someone feel like ‘they’re trapped in a long car ride with someone who is only talking about themselves.” Allow the reader to experience the action outside of the first person’s head as much as possible.

SLIPPING TENSES- I originally wrote my novel in first person past tense, but after a workshop everyone agreed it would feel much more immediate if it was in present tense. I seem to naturally write in past tense so I find whenever I rewrite I slip into past tense again. Thankfully, my amazing editor always found the slip-ups.

SEMI-COLONS AND COLONS- Still haven’t seemed to fully understand when they should be used. I get corrected 50% of the time…will have to study these more.

 

Oh well, that’s about all the grammatical talk I can tolerate. I still can’t fathom how people like my editor can just spot these things so perfectly. I have a feeling my disability has to do with my ADD, since I seem to get so hyper-focused into the story that I can over-look most errors. However, lucky for me, I have a superhero editor who will make it possible for me to self-publish in spite of my grammatical kryptonite.

*Don’t know if grammar disabilities do exist but I’m sure if there was a test, I just might qualify for it.

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