Writing Makes Me Happy, Editing is a Chore

February 18, 2020

I’m editing my WIP (work in progress). I don’t like this part of the process. It’s much more rewarding to write – to create characters and scenes and develop motivations and plots. What will this person do next? How will they overcome the obstacles and succeed in their quest or change for the better? Writing is creativity.

Editing is necessary for any written work. I have no problem editing reports or speeches or other nonfiction, but when it comes to my creative writing, I’m loath to remove anything.

This is a brief outline of my editing process:

Once I finish writing, I set it aside for a few days or weeks so I can edit with fresh eyes. The longer the piece, the longer I wait. This is tough because I want to finish the project.

After the wait, I do a thorough read through and condense the piece. I’m good at condensing. Short story writing is training me to be more concise, to make every single word count. Sometimes, however, I have trouble deleting. I may acknowledge the scene description is too long, but I like the way I’ve described things. I become attached to my characters and to certain scenes.

Next, I look at my structure:

  • Does something of interest happen right away?
  • Is the goal or plot clear? Is it enough to make the reader care?
  • Is the main character compelling? Will the reader care?
  • Does the character grow or change?
  • Does every sentence move the scene or story forward?
  • Have I described the setting well enough? Or too much?

Each scene needs a reason to be there. It should contain an objective, conflict, struggle, and outcome.

Then, I look at:

  • Dialogue
  • Flow
  • Pace
  • Conflict and resolution

My next step is to highlight elements of the work. Tension is yellow, background is pink, setting is blue, dialogue is purple, description is green, metaphors and similes are red. This helps me see if the story is balanced.

Then, I check for redundancies. I tend to use some words too frequently, so I do a search and change some of them. For example, how many times do I have a character smiling? Instead, they could stretch, open their arms up, or hug someone. The character who keeps widening his eyes could instead stand back, breathe faster, or swallow. I often connect compound sentences with the word “but”. However, therefore, though, yet, nevertheless – these are all good substitutions. Sometimes, I split the sentence into two.

My final step is a spell check.

The steps I’ve outlined here are basic, and I’ve left some things out. There’s a lot more to it. An outside editor is also an option. I’ll talk more specifics of editing and revising in my next post.

Right now, I’m going to finish my first round of edits, then I’ll set the piece aside again before moving on to the next stage. Wish me luck.

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Office, Coffee Shop, Mountains, Lake, Write

February 4, 2020

One of the nice things about writing is that you can do it anywhere, whether you use a laptop, a tablet or a pad of paper.

I have a great office on the 3rd floor of my home. When I first saw the house, I immediately coveted the third-floor space for writing. I’ve since made it my own, and I do most, but not all, of my writing there early in the morning.

my office

 

My sci-fi, fantasy, thriller short story came to life in a coffee shop. A busy coffee shop. One character looks like the nursing student who always sits in the corner studying. Another character looks like the boyfriend of one of the baristas.

rod-long-I79Pgmhmy5M-unsplash

 

I’ve written in a hotel room in Reno, Nevada, that boasts a fabulous view.

20171116_124418

 

My first train journey inspired me to write as I looked out at the mountains.

 

A couple summers ago, I found myself writing at my beach house, with its view of one of the Great Lakes.

PH rainbow

 

In reality, I don’t need a nice view. When I write, I enter the world I’m creating and tune out my surroundings. Hours can pass without my noticing. Yet, I want a comfy or inspiring place to write.

My writing while viewing the mountains did not include mountains. Likewise for my writing while gazing at the lake.

Every once in a while, when I’m writing, I look up, and small things enter my consciousness. Like the nursing student I noticed in the coffee shop while I was first describing a character named Gina.

The lake and mountains show up in later writing, done in my office.

It’s amazing all the information and images our brains hold. When I write, I unconsciously sift through my experiences and pull out what I need. How cool is that?!

So, even though I can write anywhere, I seek out places that move or inspire or energize me, knowing that inspiration or feeling may not enter my writing for another week or month or longer or ever. Mostly, these places make me feel good in the moment.

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Pick a Genre, Any Genre, or Two or Three

January 21, 2020

When I began writing fiction, everyone assumed I was writing science fiction. But I wasn’t.

king ludlum steel

 

 

My reading taste has always been eclectic. When I was younger, my favorite authors wrote horror/sci-fi, spy thrillers, and romances.

 

 

 

My taste slowly evolved. For a long time, I read legal and political mysteries. I also like sagas.

                           mysteries     saga

 

Then I discovered science fiction.

scifi

 

Next, I came across books with magic.

fantasy

 

I’ve always had an affinity for the tales of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician.

arthur merlin

 

I also like the classics. And poetry.

                                        classic books     poems

 

For the last decade, my favorite genres have been science fiction and fantasy.

jordan gabaldon

 

These classics are my all-time favorite books. A family saga and world building.

favorite books

 

I read the Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin long before it became a TV series. (The first book is on loan to a friend.)

Martin

 

When I sat down to write my fiction, the stories in my head were women’s fiction. Stories about relationships and how we react and change due to the events in our lives. I’ve read some women’s fiction over the years, mostly when I want an easy read. It surprised me a bit, but that’s what I was compelled to write.

On a fluke, I wrote a spiritual story and entered a short story contest. My beta readers cried, and I won an award. Then, about a year ago, I saw a contest for sci fi, fantasy, horror, thriller, or any combination. I decided that could be fun.

My story started as science fiction. By the third page I had added fantasy elements. It became a thriller by page 5. I added a bit of horror around page 10. My beta readers said it was dark and creepy. I was thrilled. We want to provoke emotions in our readers.

I ran out of time to polish the story but entered the contest anyway. I didn’t win, and I’m revising that story. There’s another story in my head. This one is fantasy. I’m not sure where it’s going, It might end up being a love story.

Are you confused yet?

jumble of books

Writers, editors and publishers tell you to stick with one genre. Maybe that works for most people. It doesn’t work for me. The stories I write are the ones that I’m compelled to write. The characters talk to me, and they don’t shut up until I write them down.

Right now, I’m revising my sci-fi, fantasy thriller. I’m also polishing a spiritual short story. And, I’m jotting down ideas and scenes for my fantasy romance.

We’ll see where it all takes me.

What genre do you prefer for your reading and writing? Or do you cross genres like I do? Do you think the “experts” are right? (I don’t.)

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A Tale to be Told

January 7, 2020

Do you ever get a story in your head that won’t leave until you write it down? Here’s my most recent one.

 

A TALE

“Aaaah, it’s a monster! Help! Mom! Help!”

Trixie backed up against the door, screaming. Why wasn’t her mom coming? Trixie was alone outside on the deck and the monster was coming closer.

It approached the steps to the deck and Trixie looked around, frantic for a place to hide. Her eyes darted to the grill, the lounge chairs, the glass-topped table and chairs, and paused on the storage compartment for the chair cushions. She could hide in there. But she didn’t know how to open it, and she didn’t have time to figure it out.

With one last cry, she slipped off the side of the deck and ran into the yard. The monster swiveled its head, tracking her, and Trixie froze. A light breeze started up and Trixie could smell the foulness of the creature.

~ It’s a monster! ~

There. The car. Trixie ran to the car and slid underneath. She was small. The creature was at least five times her size. Surely it couldn’t fit under the car. She laid flat on her stomach and peered out. “Aaaah!”

It was bent over, looking under the car right at Trixie. She backed up so she could no longer see its face, only its spindly legs. It wasn’t moving. It was silent. Trixie wondered if the monster was strong enough to lift the car off her. But wait, did the monster have arms? She scooted closer, cringing when the creature came back into view. The spindly legs held up a giant body, topped by a skinny neck and small head. It had tiny black eyes and a long pointy nose. It didn’t appear to have any arms, which brought Trixie a small measure of relief. Then the breeze blew up again and Trixie realized the creature had wings. It could carry her off. She cowered back under the car, crying.

~ Trixie could smell the foulness of the creature. ~

A shout came from the deck. Finally.

“Hey, get away from her, go away,” her mom shouted, advancing toward the monster.

“Mom! Mom!”

“It’s okay Trixie. Just stay there until I scare it off.”

Her mom stood 5 feet from the monster and continued shouting yet it didn’t move. Trixie hoped it wouldn’t attack her mom. Then, her mom began banging a wooden spoon on a pot, all the while yelling. Trixie smiled. Her mom looked ridiculous. She was saved, saved!

~ She was saved, saved! ~

The creature stuck its head back under the car, and Trixie cried out in surprise. It wasn’t leaving. She saw her mom point the remote at the car and the horn began honking. That, at least, gave the creature some pause and it began backing away from the car.

“Over here, Trixie, quick.” Her mom motioned her over.

She crawled toward the rear of the car, ready to run for it, when she saw another set of spindly legs. Oh no! There were two of them.

Since the second monster was blocking her way to the house, Trixie slithered to the side of the car and ran down the driveway. Her little legs pumped furiously as she ran. She looked over her shoulder and panic set in. Both monsters were chasing her down the driveway. She darted into her neighbor’s yard, ran along the side of their house and hid behind a bush.

Breathing heavily, she peered out at her driveway. The monsters were there, looking around, seemingly confused. They couldn’t find her!

~ There were two of them. ~

She walked stealthily back toward her house, where she saw her mom holding open the door to the sunroom. Safety! She scooted in the door, which her mom slammed and locked. The monsters had apparently seen her because they now stood right outside the sunroom door. But they couldn’t get in. They peered in the glass door and Trixie shivered.

“You okay, Trixie?” her mom said.

Trixie began to speak but was blindsided by a body slamming into her. She couldn’t believe it. Now she had to fight her stepsister. Trixie had just been adopted into the family and had been looking forward to having a sister and two brothers. She’d been on her own all of her short life. Apparently, her stepsister didn’t feel the same about getting to know her.

~ …was blindsided by a body slamming into her. ~

She wrestled with her sister, who seemed to be out for blood, while her mom shouted at them to stop. As her mom approached the two of them, looking stern, her sister scurried into the adjoining dining room. Her mom shut that door, shaking her head.

“I’m so sorry, baby.” Her mom picked her up and cuddled her on her lap. “You’ve had a rough morning. This really is a good place. You’re not hurt, are you?” Her mom looked her over while Trixie cuddled close, letting out a sigh of relief.

As her mom continued crooning to her and cuddling her, Trixie purred and closed her eyes. The monsters were gone, and the sun was shining in the windows creating a pool of warmth where she lay. Trixie was exhausted. Time for a cat nap. She was safe.

~ …a sigh of relief. ~

 

trixie

This is 5-month-old Trixie.

turkeys

These are the monsters trying to get at her under the car.

Did you figure it out? It’s a true story. Wild turkeys show up in our neighborhood every year around Thanksgiving. Usually, they shy away from people. This year, they were exceptionally bold, and they continue to come around. Trixie stays inside more. Her new sister still doesn’t like her; her new brothers are happy she’s here.

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Words & Strides

November 26, 2019

This is the time of year I often neglect myself. Not on purpose. I enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the necessary preparation. My days are filled with doing for others, even more so than I usually do, and that’s a good thing. It’s a big part of who I am. However, the more personal things that feed my soul often fall by the wayside. I’m determined to try and fit them in this year.

What things? Writing, running, and reading. I have work. I’m dealing with my relatives’ estate. I have yard work, shopping, and soon I’ll be decorating and going to holiday parties. Already, I find myself saying, I’ll write later, I’ll run later, I’ll read tomorrow. And then I don’t.

A week ago, I decided to start my morning with a run. It was snowing. Nevertheless, I went out. Snow was beginning to blanket the grass but it hadn’t yet stuck to the sidewalks or roadway. It was cold. It was glorious. Snow quiets the world and quiets my thoughts. We got 10 inches that day.

snowedit2019nov

I enjoy winter running if it’s not icy or windy. There’s something magical about it. I have all the gear, even though I wonder if I look like a criminal with the balaclava.

balaklava

I’m also taking an hour – just an hour – to write in the evening. It’s difficult to tune everything else out and focus on my story. I succeed 3 or 4 times a week, and those small successes bring me joy and a happier outlook.

writingpad

I try to read a novel once a week, again in the evening, an hour or two before bedtime. It helps me unwind.

readingbook

Recently, I read a blog post about the importance of taking time for yourself, and then a friend mentioned the same thing. Sometimes I feel selfish when I have such a long to-do list. I have to remind myself that I’m happier, more positive and more energetic when I fuel my passions and feed my soul. It’s like the instructions on airplanes – if the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first, so you can help others. It’s the same theory, right? Then why is it so hard?

oxygenmasks

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