Revising Your Fiction, Part 2

March 24, 2020

I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been sick. No, I don’t have the Coronavirus. I had the flu, which turned into bronchitis. Now that I’m feeling better, we can’t go anywhere, but I’m grateful to be well and grateful that my family and friends are well. During this difficult, strange time, when many of us are confined to our homes, I’ve decided to focus on my faith and my writing.

What is happening in the world is out of my control. All I can do is try and stay healthy. This is in God’s hands. That doesn’t mean I understand it, just that I accept it. I pray a lot and try to leave my worries at the cross. I am also reaching out to friends and neighbors. I watch a limited amount of news, and then look for distractions.

My WIP sat for a month while I was sick. I got back to it last week and completed my second round of edits. My previous post talked about revising and editing. Here are some additional questions to ask yourself as you edit.

*Is the story plausible and does it play out naturally?

*Is there an immediate conflict?

*Are your scenes interesting? Cut the least memorable one.

*Do you need subplots to keep the story moving?

*Is suspense drawn out to increase tension?

*Is the dialogue realistic?

*Have you used sensory descriptions that invoke all the senses? Many of us just use sight or sound.

*Is there too much exposition?

Beta readers can also be beneficial. Or not. My recent beta reader’s only comment was “I like it”. That’s not especially helpful. When I pressed him, however, and asked specific questions, he was very helpful. Because of his feedback, I’ve decided to rewrite the ending. Not a small task.

Later this year, I plan to hire a developmental editor for another WIP. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Until next time, stay well.

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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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Where are the good writers? And editors?

May 29, 2014

Much to my disappointment, writing that is error-free, typo-free and grammatical seems to be a thing of the past. TV commercials, radio commercials, and printed materials abound with errors. It makes me crazy and it makes me sad. It also makes me wonder who’s in charge. All I can do is shake my head, after I turn off the painfully sad commercials with people who don’t speak properly. I’ll never buy their products, but obviously I’m not the intended audience so they don’t care. 😦


Edit with Respect

June 27, 2013

As a communications professional or manager, you are likely tasked with editing the work of others.  How well this editing is received depends upon you and your attitude.

writing pic

A few years ago, a young woman on my staff asked me why her colleagues seemed to be so offended when she edited their work.  After observing her in action, I realized that, while her editing was right on, her attitude was not. She treated people in a condescending manner and incredulously asked one person how it was possible that he did not know a basic grammar rule.

Rule number one for communications professionals is RESPECT. Respect your colleagues, subordinates and managers, regardless of their writing skills. It will go a long way towards developing and maintaining good work relationships.  (This is a good rule for all workplace interactions regardless of your position or responsibilities.)

My standards vary depending on your occupation. I hold my staff to a very high standard, with respect to grammar, spelling and typos. We are the ones who should do it right. For people in other departments, I cut them a little slack. That doesn’t mean I don’t correct them, but that I do it with lower expectations. Although I do expect a certain professional standard across all departments, if someone in a “non-writing” position, such as a numbers person or salesperson, makes a grammatical error, my approach is quite different.  My corrections will be prefaced by something like, “I’m sure you don’t know this because you’re a numbers person, but…” or “There’s no reason you should know this, but the rule is…” I usually end the conversation by saying, “Feel free to ask me about this anytime, especially if you think something doesn’t sound right. It’s my job to know this and I’m always happy to help.”

 


The Grammar Battle

August 13, 2012

I bought my smart phone about a year and a half ago and swore I’d never adopt the abbreviations and made up words that are becoming so prevalent. As a writer, grammar is of utmost importance to me. Typos and misspellings make me crazy. Well, it took about two months of texting before I gave in to the shortened lingo. It’s just so much easier and faster to type LOL, OMG, what r u doing 2nite…

That said, there continues to be a debate (at least among certain age groups) about how we are losing our grammatical and communication skills. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but our modes and means of communicating are certainly changing. I do know that if you’re online at all, there’s a new kind of peer pressure to accept this new kind of “grammar”.

Some days I like it, some days I don’t. However, I have brought my grammatical pet peeves with me to the online world, and outline some of them here. Unfortunately, I now see/hear these in the written word as well as on TV and radio commercials, which makes me think that proper grammar is becoming extinct.

*It’s. Contraction. Stands for “it is”. It is blue. It’s blue.

*Its. It is a pronoun and replaces a noun. What is its name? Its name is irrelevant.

*There. Adverb, adjective, noun or pronoun. Denotes space. There you are. He went over there.

*Their. Pronoun. Possessive. Where is their car? Who are their relatives?

*That v. Which

If you can drop the clause without changing the meaning of the sentence, use which and set it off with commas. If dropping the clause changes the meaning of the sentence, use that.

Pizza that’s less than an inch deep just isn’t Chicago-style.

Pizza, which is a favorite among Chicagoans, can either bad for you or good, depending on how much of it you eat.

If you remove “that’s less than an inch deep” from the first sentence, it becomes inaccurate. If, however, you take out the clause “which is a favorite among Chicagoans” from the second sentence, it still makes sense.

(Example from the Chicago Manual of Style)

Last but not least, could we please remove the words “like” and “you know” from our vocabulary? You know, like, that makes me crazy.


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