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Archive for May, 2011

As if learning the craft of writing a novel isn’t difficult enough, after it’s finished you’ll need to edit it. If you’re going to be traditionally published, you’ll probably work with an editing staff to make your work marketable.

But before it gets to that point, you have to get it past the slush pile – that means doing a lot of self-editing first.

Of course, you may choose to go the indie author route and self-publish. No need to rise out of a slush pile, just a need to catch a reader’s eye out there in the big world. Sounds pretty simple.

But before you catch a reader’s eye (and you want to make a good impression, yes?), you need to have a great story – that means doing a lot of self-editing and perhaps hiring a professional as well.

No matter what you do, if you want to be read and have those readers give you great reviews, spread the word and buy your other books, you have to face the red pen. You must edit your manuscript.

Thankfully there are many resources available to help from blogs to books to videos. Here are 11 resources that will make editing just a little easier on you.

  1. Editing Your Novel: High Level Story Read Through by Joanna Penn – In this video, with transcript, Joanna explains some of the process she went through editing her first draft of Pentecost from weaving in back story to checking for consistency.
  1. A Perfectionist’s Guide to Editing: 4 Stages by Jami Gold – In this blog post Jami narrows our focus from revising the big picture to nailing down those pesky words that need to be just a little stronger.
  1. Proofreading & Editing Tips: A compilation of advice from experienced proofreaders and editors – This article is just what it says, a list of tips from general proofing to content editing.
  1. Copy-Editing And Beta Readers by Joanna Penn – In this blog post Joanna shares how she worked with beta readers and what benefits she found from their feedback.
  1. No Really: Kill Your Clichés by Leslie Wilson – This blog post takes a humorous look at how clichés can hurt your writing.
  1. Do You Copy? Tips on Copy Editing Your Own Work by Janice Hardy – In this blog post Janice shares several concrete examples of common problems such as tense issues, parallel series difficulties and ambiguous pronouns.
  1. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty – In this book Mignon helps writers understand complex grammar concepts by using simple examples and memory devices.
  1. 10 Actions You Can Take to Improve Your Proofreading by Randall Davidson – This blog post is rather on the nose with simple tips that include slowing down, reading out loud and asking for help.
  1. 10 Grammar Rules You Can (and Should!) Ignore! By Tracy O’Connor – In this blog post Tracy gives us permission to break those “hard and fast rules” like split infinitives and ending a sentence with a preposition… only when it makes the writing sound natural, of course.
  1. A Good Edit Would’ve Fixed That by April Hamilton – In this blog post April gives several concrete examples of how to fix problems such as using internal monologue for omniscient exposition.
  1. 5 Essential Tips on Self-Editing by Catherine Ryan Hyde – In this blog post Catherine reminds writers to use spell check, but don’t rely on it, as well as four other very useful tips.

Editing is unavoidable and can be painful, but it doesn’t need to be impossible. These are only a few of the resources I’ve found. What about you? What resources and tips have you picked up as you’ve gone through the editing process?

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There’s a lot of conversation around the Top 100’s in Kindle sales and it’s mostly surrounding mainstream authors. I was curious about the Top 100’s in Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy, so I took a peek. Here’s what I found.

Top 11 Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy

      • The first seven books listed in Top 100 Paid were by Vaughn Heppner, an indie author selling his books for $2.99 or less.
      • In eighth and ninth place was Mary Doria Russell, traditionally published by Ballantine and selling her books for $11.99.
      • Vaughn Heppner reappears in slot 10.
      • In the number 11 spot was Angela Hunt, also traditionally published by Thomas Nelson and selling her book for $1.27.

So what can we conclude from this little snapshot?

What’s happening in the mainstream is also happening in Christian speculative fiction. The main difference I’m seeing is that some publishers seem to be adapting quicker to the new paradigm: readers want good ebooks at low prices.

It also means that getting traditionally published will only validate your writing if that is how you view success. Indie authors writing Christian fiction have the same opportunities as any other author, provided we work smart and give it our all.

Success is a matter of choice regardless whether you choose traditional publishing or indie publishing for both mainstream and Christian fiction.

***

This post was updated/cross-posted on my other blog One Servant’s Heart.

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What makes you uncomfortable with or defensive about your story is worth looking at closely for two reasons: 1) it could be a hidden gem, or 2) it could be a little darling.

Hidden Gems

Sometimes as we write our subconscious seeds our stories with hidden gems, like how or where your protagonist will find the answer to his surface problem*.

In Bob Mayer’s book, Novel Writer’s Toolkit, he talks about a writer getting stuck with a particular problem in the story (the main character needs to discover some vital information in order to solve the mystery) and not knowing how to resolve it. It only took a quick look back through what was already written to find the answer in a short bit of description (several journals the character had seen on a shelf in another character’s office).

Another possible hidden gem your subconscious could work in is a story-worthy problem.

While it is important to give at least a minimum amount of thought to what your protagonist’s underlying issue is, sometimes the real issue develops deep within your own mind and isn’t revealed until you begin writing.

For instance I recently wrote a scene where my main character’s father, an ordinarily soft-spoken and gentle character, speaks condescendingly to his son, my protagonist. It’s a scene I’ve hated reading because it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve considered several times removing it, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

However, since going back to basics with this story and trying to develop myself into more of a planner and less of a pantser, I’ve realized this scene reveals my main character’s story-worthy problem — the need to believe in himself. Had I taken it out before finishing the entire story I might have missed this very important detail.

Little Darlings

On the other hand, those “special” scenes that we feel the need to defend as “necessary” may not be necessary at all. They could be little darlings, as Stephen King calls them, and need to be eliminated (or at least banished to a folder far far away from the rest of your civilized manuscript).

To know the difference you can ask this very important question: does this move the story along? If it does, great! If it slows things down you may need to cut it. At the very least you’ll have to revise it, which means shortening and tightening.

A lot of my personal little darlings tend to be flashbacks and memories. They’re fun scenes and often moving, but necessary? Probably not. Some of the information needs to remain, but there are certainly better ways to scatter it through the rest of the story.

One example from my WIP is a flashback where my protagonist’s father is teaching him what the term “warming up” means. It’s cute, even endearing, but it really slows down the story. Instead, I’ll be re-writing the flashback into a memory, most likely as a couple of sentences instead of the several paragraphs it currently is. It’ll be painful, but it’s necessary.

Writing a great novel can be tough, but thankfully we’re not alone. There are multitudes of free blogs and inexpensive books we can read to help us learn about craft. Best of all, there are other writers and readers out there we can get in touch with thanks to social media who can become our mentors and beta readers. With all those great resources available, it makes it that much easier to decide if that scene is a hidden gem or a little darling.

How do you make that decision?

*For more information on surface vs. story-worthy problems check out Les Edgerton’s book Hooked.

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