Editing encompasses several elements in order to achieve a well-polished manuscript for submission. Editing includes among other things, continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming.
Where should you start?
Instead of plunging directly back into a first draft, let it sit for a while. Start another project, take a rest, whatever you need to tear yourself away from the world and the characters you created. Ideally, leave it for three to six months, depending on any deadlines you have, of course. This will allow you to ‘see; it with fresh eyes.
When you go back to re-read there will be new insights. Rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to ‘correct’ all the editing elements mentioned above, concentrate on one item at a time.
Limit each read through to a specific task.
When you have completed these tasks let either trusted friends, or members of your local writing group read it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. Remember, no matter how many times you or your beta readers go through a manuscript, there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt or a continuity slip up. Once this is done it is time to consider handing over the manuscript to a professional. A professional editor is a good investment, if you can afford one. A badly edited book reflects on you the author and no-one else.
Here are a couple of tricks that can help you edit more effectively:
Read the book from back to front page by page. This stops your brain putting in words that are not there.
Read it out aloud to yourself or an understanding friend. A missed word is very obvious with this technique.
When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene. Deleting these can be hard. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. A writer’s jetsam so to speak. These ejected words from our narratives may dwell in our hard drives or document folders for months, sometimes years. They may even be useful if at some point in the future you decide to use them in a sequel!
Without correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.
Normal programming will continue with an author interview. Slight hiccup with the interview being completed. In the meantime I am re-posting this. It is rather apt as I am currently in the midst of editing a sequel myself and also involved with a small NaNoWriMo editing group where five authors and I are going through each other’s manuscripts. Several chapters a month works well for our process.
As writers we love to be immersed in our own creations -weaving plots, planning and following story arcs, creating character profiles as well as their trials and tribulations. Our minds are full of questions : What happens next? How would my character react? Is that plausible or believable? Can I improve on that scene? Have I shown not told? Is there too much exposition? Would the reader have enough description to envisage the scene?
Graph – speedofcreativity.com
All these questions need to be answered but not when we are writing the first draft. This initial phase is the most enjoyable part of creating a story. Remember to give your inner editor time off enabling you to create freely and get the basic story line written. Once you have finished, the ‘real’ work starts. Continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming. Where should you start?
Once the story is complete put it to one side and go onto new projects. Leave it for a month or more (I’ve left two projects for nearly 6 months). When you go back to re-read you have fresh eyes giving you new insights. Your revision process may be to correct everything above as you read each page or you could concentrate on one item at a time, re-reading each time giving you a particular focus. This second method does lean itself to sharpening the process as you are not trying to ‘spot’ numerous revision types at the same time. With your editing done let your favored readers have it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. No matter how many times you or your beta readers go through the manuscript there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt or a continuity slip up. How do you make your manuscript as good as it can be?
A professional editor – if you can afford one – is a good investment. However, one trick that may work for you in finding those elusive errors is to read the book from back to front page by page. Another is to read it out aloud to yourself or a understanding friend (a glass or two of wine helps with this one!) A missed word is very obvious with this technique.
When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene. Deleting these is hard – it is your creation and your words were written through hard work. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. They are a writer’s jetsam so to speak, which is my link to today’s calendar word. I had to squeeze it in somewhere!
These ejected words from our ‘ship’ may float on our hard drives or become washed up in a document folder but wherever they end up they are part of our creative soul and never truly lost. We may pick them up from the shore in the future to use in another piece of writing or they may stay hidden in the depths of our files. No matter which scenario occurs, they are born of you and precious all the same.
As writers we endeavor to produce the very best manuscript or article we can and that is why we endure the editing process. Without this method of correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.
I wish you fortitude in your process to make your work excel and delight your readers.
This mostly depends of what I am writing. Subject matter or issues of personal interest can be energizing to work on while other subject matter can be more difficult.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Probably distractions of any kind. When I am writing, I like to sit down in my office chair and completely focus on the job at hand. Interruptions can disrupt my thought patterns and make it difficult to concentrate completely.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not yet! I don’t feel a need to do so and feel this may not be in my best interests. I would prefer readers to recognize my name and/or associate it with my books.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I know a number of local authors – including Todd Babiak, Roberta Laurie, Mandy Eve-Barnett, Alison Neuman, Darla Woodley and Dorian Joyal. I am also a long-standing member of a local writer’s group. Knowing and associating with other writers / authors can be helpful (writers seem to be the only people who understand writers …), motivational, and inspirational. I would have to give credit to my writer’s group for helping me increase my self-confidence as a writer and to give me the push needed to write my first book.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I am favouring the second route where I am building a body of work with connections between each book. My first book, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians, opened the door to my writing my second book, The Successful Caregiver’s Guide. As a twice-chosen contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul, I have provided them with caregiving-related stories. I also continually freelance write about senior caregiving and other senior-related issues.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Probably hiring a lawyer to review my first book publishing contract. This was an area I knew very little about but I knew it would be important to have somebody more in the know to read through this contract, make sure that all the “I’s” were dotted and the “T’s” were crossed, and that this contract was fair for me.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Many years ago when I was much younger, I remember writing a letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal about my lost dog being found and returned. Unbeknownst to me, my mother kept a copy of that letter until she passed away. When sorting through Mom’s filing cabinet after she died, I came across this letter and was very surprised! The message that I learned here was that if I had impacted my mother so greatly with what I had written, I expect I would have impacted others as well. That theory has been repeatedly verified from my meeting with people at current book signing events … I routinely see nods of approval for my topic choice or hear high praise from those who have read my books.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Hmmm, I think I would choose an owl. My mother always liked owls and shared her appreciation with her children. I admire these birds for their grace and beauty.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Perhaps surprising, but none! While I do know other writers with half-finished book projects saved on their computer’s desktop, the only thing I have saved is a related project I am currently working on!
What does literary success look like to you?
Publication of one’s written work and royalty cheques! Literary success also includes the positive feedback from readers (meaning that they have read your book and appreciated it at some level).
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
This depends on the book’s subject matter. With my own works, I drew from my own personal knowledge as a caregiver for both my own aging parents. Researching can also be done by other means … I have “google-searched” on-line (being mindful of both the source and the currency of the information provided), read associated material, and interviewed subject matter experts.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
Due to other working commitments, I often can write for only two to three hours per day a couple of days per week. I have been known to also write in the evenings and/or on weekends, but I usually only do that if I have a tight deadline and need to get something done in short order.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
After serving as a caregiver for both my own aging parents, this area has become very important to me. While I realize that the number of seniors in our country is ever-increasing and there will be a higher demand for the type of information I provide, I also gain immense satisfaction by helping others (who are prospective, new, and/or current caregivers).
How long have you been writing?
I have been casually writing for many years (as mentioned, I think it all began with that Letter to the Edmonton Journal’s Editor about my missing dog). I recall enjoying writing English essays in school and have worked a number of jobs where writing was involved (i.e.radio broadcasting and marketing). I finally stumbled across the Professional Writing program (offered through Grant MacEwan University) and decided to register for classes to see if writing was simply a casual interest or something I should take more seriously.
What inspires you?
Good writing, music, the great outdoors (gazing at a mountain peak, for example), a cleaner and more organized desk and working area, and participating in a writer’s group (where I can receive support and motivation from others).
How do you find or make time to write?
While I do have a secondary job outside of my own writing from home, I have arranged for this work to be part-time. As a result, I have a couple of days per week left mostly open for writing projects. My reduced regular paycheque provides me motivation to chase after freelance markets as well!
Caregiving seems like an odd book subject choice … why did you pick this area to write about?
Thanks for asking! I was a former co-caregiver for my own aging parents (Mom had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia while Dad had Alzheimer’s disease). By helping and supporting both of them before they passed away, I learned a great deal about their health conditions, my own abilities, and how relevant caregiving has become in today’s society. As a means of coping with Mom and Dad’s decline, I began by writing newspaper and magazine articles about my own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. After my parents both died, I continued to write about this subject – feeling that it was both very valuable to other prospective, new, and current caregivers as well as therapeutic for me. Some years later, I spotted a book publisher’s call out for an author to write a book about caregiving. This got me thinking, “I have the related experience and could probably do this …”. I, very nervously, wrote up a pitch letter to introduce myself and the proposed book (as I saw it …). After some dithering on my part, I finally mustered up the courage to e-mail my letter to the publisher. It’s a good thing I did as I received a very enthusiastic “yes” on my proposal and then a book contract.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I am mostly writing in support of what I have written. This means I am continuing to write caregiving-related articles for newspapers, magazines, and on-line markets. While I am not always paid for these articles, I always have the opportunity to provide a concluding bio – this includes my own name, my book titles, and my author’s website. I feel that doing this is a great way to promote my own name and work.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Probably more similar writing. I always have my door open for other opportunities and am interested in a number of ideas: public speaking, collaborating with others, exhibiting opportunities at senior’s trade shows, and so on. Although book authoring can be an extensive job, I haven’t ruled out my writing another book (or more …)!
Amicable – definition : characterized by or showing goodwill : friendly.
Today’s word certainly describes my next interviewee, C.S. Lakin. One look at her web site will show you how generous she is with her experience and support for other authors and struggling writers. Susanne is also a prolific author in several genres.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer and why?
I’m sure most authors say this, but I’ve written since I could hold a crayon. I even “published” a neighborhood magazine back when I was about eight called “The Stone Canyon Gazette.” It was in those ancient prehistoric days before copy machines and electric typewriters. I organized a handful of neighbor kids and we hand wrote ten copies of each issue on construction paper, including drawing the same drawings ten times. We charged ten cents. The mothers complained I had too many entries in the magazine and didn’t feature the other kids enough. Already hogging the limelight! After that I helped my mother with her scripts, collating and offering ideas. I got my first rejection letter at age twelve from the producer of Woman from Uncle regarding my script idea. (I was raised in the TV industry.)
Who is your favorite author and why?
Patricia A. McKillip is my favorite author. She is an amazing fantasy writer and is a master at wordsmithing. I try to write as well and as beautifully as she does but I’m sure I fail miserably. When you read her fairy tales, you feel shifted into a different dimension of time and space. I like a lot of writers, but not any as much as her.
What has been your greatest moment as a writer?
I actually had a most exciting experience that few ever had—my book was a finalist in a big contest—the Zondervan First Novel contest at Mount Hermon in 2009. I knew I was one of three finalists, but only learned I had won when my name and book were announced in front of an audience of 400. It was very thrilling. Although Someone to Blame won, it was not the first novel I’d written. In fact, it was my sixth. Shortly after that, I contracted with AMG Publishers for my fantasy series, the first three books I’d already completed. I’m hoping there will be many more to come!
What genre do you read and why?
I’m very picky. I’d make a terrible book reviewer as I tear things apart. Being a professional copy editor and writing coach makes it hard for me not to want to redline all the books I read. And I find mistakes in almost all books, even highly acclaimed releases. I mostly read NY Times best sellers, to study what makes them popular (since that’s what I’m aiming for with all my commercial mysteries). I also read a lot of literary fiction, international authors, classics. I don’t read Romance in any form—not my thing. Otherwise I like anything from historical (not romance) to sci-fi to westerns. I’m a big fan of Walter Moers (who draws really hilarious pictures in his books), and I’d say my favorite books I read in the last year are The Art of Racing in the Rain (Stein), The City of Dreaming Books (Moers), The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfield), This Body of Death (Elizabeth George) and The Shadow of the Wind (Zafon).
What genre do you like to write in and why?
I mostly write fantasy/sci-fi and intense psychological suspense. I suppose both genres bleed a bit into each other, since my fantasy plots always contain mysteries and intense relationships, and my contemporary suspense novels often use evocative language and metaphor. I think my leaning toward literary fiction and poetry seeps into everything I write.
What do you want readers to know about your newest book?
Conundrum is 95% autobiographical. I didn’t really want to write it, but I felt compelled to explore my father’s mysterious death as well as deal with my mother’s cruel betrayal of my family. I felt it important to show that sometimes survival depends upon cutting out family members who are toxic and intent on destroying you, and that it’s the healthy thing to do. I also wanted to show a person cannot just survive but thrive by doing so, however painful. So many people tolerate family members in their lives who are like a cancer, and they feel guilty thinking about separating from them. I wanted this to be a very life-affirming story, and a heartfelt journey about a young woman trying to understand the father she never knew. In the process I felt I got to know my father a bit (he died when I was four) and as my character journeyed, so did I.
What has been your greatest challenge as an Independent Author?
I think handling over twenty years of rejections and frustration over not getting published. Not really a writing problem. I had agents that loved my writing; they just couldn’t sell my novels. As far as the craft of writing goes, I always have minor roadblocks in trying to hone the craft and push myself to be a better writer. Mostly what has helped me is prayer and waiting on God. For example, I’m working on plotting book #11, intended for Harm, a modern-day story of Jacob in a dysfunctional family. Yet, as much as I want to start digging in and writing the book, there are some key elements missing to the themes and I know God is working with me on this. I’m waiting for him to help me finalize the last bits and get that aha moment of the pieces all fitting together. Like all my books, I know there is a reason I’m meant to write it and a message it means to impart. I could just start writing, but I send his hand holding me back. Wait, he says. Not ready yet. I am thinking there is something I’m going to see, some revelation, that is going to smack me in the face and then I’ll have my green light. Writing as a believer is way different than writing when in the world. It’s all about God and what he wants out there. We want to produce much fruit, but Jesus also says without me you can do nothing. Zilch.
How do you come up with your titles? Do you have your title first or the story first?
Most of the time I already have a title in mind, since I start with a basic plot idea and theme. Often I just have the title, and that inspires the entire book, as was the case with Conundrum, Someone to Blame, and Intended for Harm (which comes from the Bible: Genesis 50:20).
Dilatory – definition: 1. tending to put off what ought to be done at once : given to procrastination; 2. marked by procrastination or delay; intended to cause delay, especially said of actions or measures
What aspect of your writing life do you procrastination the most about?
Or do you put off other aspects of your life for your writing?
The latter is most certainly me – yes I admit it – the housework can pile up! Given the choice I would immerse myself in my creativity 24/7 – alas that’s not possible – YET! The day job gets in the way as does the dreaded chores but retirement is a golden carrot (well in my case, a golden pen!) dangling ahead of me, drawing me ever closer to my dream.
Do you have any tricks to stop yourself procrastinating?
1. The First 30 Minutes Of The Day Is Always For Work
Does this sound familiar: you start the work day/study session telling yourself – you’re “just going to check email/facebook/twitter/reddit for 5 minutes, then I’m going to get to work”. Before you know it, 5 minutes has dragged into 2 hours, and 2 hours has dragged into 4 hours, and you realize you have spent half your day sucked into a never-ending loop of checking email, social media, youtube, and your favorite viral news sites?
The first 30 minutes of your day/work day/study session should be spent doing work. If you really need to check email or your social news sites, do it once you have established a good work groove and you’ll find it much easier to shut it off. Or better yet, block distractions out completely until you’re done.
Having trouble jumping into those first 30 minutes? Tell yourself that you’re just going to get 10 minutes of work done and if its just too painful, you’ll give yourself a break. That first 10 minutes is usually all you need to start getting focused.
2. Become More Self Aware
Procrastination usually comes in two forms. There’s:
Difficulty in starting a task
Getting distracted while working on a task
They both follow a similar pattern of self rationalization.
You tell yourself “I really need to get started on this.”
You feel stressed.
You feel an urge to do something else, so you tell yourself “I’ll get started soon, but I can afford another 5 minutes doing this one other thing.”
Giving yourself this little reprieve relieves the stress temporarily and reinforces the neural pathways associated with procrastination, making it just a bit easier to fall victim to procrastination again, 5 minutes later.
Try this next time you find yourself facing this never-ending cycle. Next time you’re about to start a task and you feel a voice in your head telling you to “check your email, it might be important!”, or “I wonder if anyone commented on my Facebook status”, resist the urge. Tell yourself you’ll just resist it this one time.
You’ll find that the urge does pass once you acknowledge it for what it is – a sudden impulse driven by your reptilian brain.
3. Block Out Distractions
Did you know that willpower is a limited resource that can be depleted like any other form of energy? Much like going on a morning jog tires you out for your evening work out, the more energy you spend resisting temptation, the less energy you’ll have for resisting temptation later on. This has been confirmed by real studies.
What does this mean for someone trying to get rid of procrastination? It means that just knowing that Facebook or Reddit is one click away can make it more likely that you’ll get distracted and start procrastinating. While you might be able to resist the temptation during the first half of your work day, as you expend energy focusing, you’ll become more and more likely to give into temptation and start procrastinating.
To avoid this, use software like Rescuetime, StayFocusd or Freedom to block distracting websites, or block the internet out altogether. Not having to deal with the temptation of constant distractions will not only make it less likely that you’ll succumb to momentary temptation, but it will actually give you more energy to focus on your work and avoid procrastinating when you’re tired.
4. Embrace Imperfection
One of the reasons we procrastinate is to avoid having to make tough decisions and deal with a difficult task. If you’re trying to write the perfect paper, coming up with the perfect thesis can be so intimidating that you don’t even want to get started.
Instead of always aiming for perfection, start intimidating projects by just getting started. Can’t come up with a perfect first line for your essay? Just start writing anything that comes to mind on the topic. Can’t think of a topic? Just start writing down anything vaguely related to the subject matter.
The same can be applied to studying. Is the thought of reading that thick textbook too intimidating? Just start by reading the table of contents, or the first page. Too tired to take notes or really process the concepts? Just skim through what you need to get through and come back tomorrow to re-examine the material when you’re refreshed. Getting something done is better than doing nothing, and once you get started, you’ll often find you have more energy than you thought you did.
5. Make Yourself A Date
Human beings can be strange – if we’re meeting a friend, we’ll set a fixed time to do so, and we show up. Most of us would never make an appointment with a friend and simply avoid showing up for no reason. Yet when it comes to important tasks like going to the gym, or getting another chapter written for your novel, we’ll just set vague goals and feel perfectly comfortable pushing back our self-imposed deadlines.
Start scheduling your important tasks and showing up every time, no matter what. You would not bail on a meeting with a friend just because you feel a little tired, would you? So why do you do it with the gym? If you want to go to the gym 3 times a week, instead of just telling yourself you’ll go 3 times this week, pick 3 days and 3 times that you’re going to show up, and don’t miss those appointments no matter what.