Today’s Writing Tip

computer- copy

One common mistake of inexperienced writers is to rely too much on prepositional phrases. This is not to say they should be avoided entirely, only that they should be scrutinized to decide if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them.

In many cases, they can be eliminated by making it possessive. For example, instead of saying “the trunk of the car” you could say “the car’s trunk.” Other times they’re redundant. For example “He strolled through the trees in the forest, enjoying the aroma of pine needles.” In this case, “in the forest” is most likely not needed if you’ve set up your scene already. Depending on the rest of the scene, “of pine needles” could be a candidate for deletion as well. Or, as noted earlier, make that “pine needles’s aroma”.

The main thing to remember is if anything is redundant, zap that sucker out of there!

Today’s Writing Tip

notes-copy

Editing is essential, but it’s extremely difficult to edit your own work. Hiring an editor isn’t simple. Besides the fact there are several different types of editor who perform different functions, many are simply clueless. Just because they can read they think they can edit. I have seen many indie books where the poor, unsuspecting author paid someone to edit their story and definitely didn’t get their money’s worth.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is put out money and then not get what I expected in return. There are a couple ways to approach this problem.

1. When you read a well-written, nicely edited book, find out who the editor was from the author. There’s always a chance the author did a flawless job and the work wasn’t a credit to the editor at all, but it’s still better than no reference at all.

2. Make sure you have a clear understanding what you expect the editor to do. As noted earlier, there are many different kinds, from someone who functions largely as a proofreader who identifies typos (and if you’re lucky, incorrectly used words like those pesky homonyms), to those who essentially rewrite your entire story or even check your research.

3. In most cases you’ll get what you pay for. This, of course, is often the problem. Struggling authors can’t always afford an editor. This can be a huge mistake, just like slapping one of those rather pathetic canned covers on it. However, there is a way around it that can work and that is to arrange a beta exchange with another author. Just make sure both of you are skilled enough to do the job and you agree on your expectations, format, etc.

There’s a description of the different types of editor on my other website here. Yes, I do editing and my rates are based on what you want as well as the condition of your manuscript, of which I’ll want a sample so I can give you a personalized bid.

Today’s Writing Tip

laptop-4 copy

Preposition phrases are one thing that get a lot of bad press. If you had the not-so-joyful experience of diagramming sentences in school, you’ll remember that they were placed below the main subject/predicate/object line. This is a graphic illustration that they are add-ons. One way to get around them in many cases is by using possessives. For example, “the pencil’s tip” vs. “the tip of the pencil.”

You’ll be surprised how often this streamlines a sentence, not only be eliminating words, but by compacting the sentence’s meaning, making it easier for the reader to digest. Often prepositional phrases are redundant, too. Give them an evil eye when you’re editing. First see what happens when you take it out entirely. If it contains important information that needs to be included, see if using the possessive form works.

You can’t get rid of them entirely, but assessing their value and then using them sparingly gives them as well as your writing as a whole more punch.

Today’s Writing Tip

laptop-3 copy

Few writers capture all the elements that make an outstanding story in their first draft. It is comparable to the sketch a master painter uses. It capture the essence, but still requires refinement. My first draft usually is primarily action and dialog. I’ve often thought I’d make a great screenwriter, leaving the other details up to the director and producer. However, that isn’t going to work in a novel.

Granted, some genres are heavier on description than others. A Gothic Romance, for example, is likely to go on and one describing the setting, which would be beyond annoying for a suspense thriller. However, some description is required to fully engage your reader.

I use the acronym IDEAS as a reminder for what to look for when I’m editing. This stands for Imagery; Dialog; Emotion; Action; Suspense. All of these are important story elements. The balance may vary with genre, but each is essential. After you finish your first draft, these are some things to watch for and make sure you haven’t left anything  out. You may have envisioned the story in your head while you were writing, but did you give the reader enough information to do the same?

Today’s Writing Tip

alphabets-copy

Use your POV character’s name sparingly. Some authors seem to think they need to use it repeatedly, even when it’s clear (or should be, if written properly) who’s doing what. Same goes for the other characters as well.

It drives me crazy when authors do this. Unfortunately, the editor in me kicks in when I read something that’s not well-written. Then I start rewording sentences in my head and rolling my eyes rather than staying connected with the story. I’m reading a book right now that has an interesting plot and quite a few good qualities except the author repeatedly makes the same mistakes, such as this one.  He also uses far too many prepositional phrases, which often introduce redundancy as well.

When you’re editing your work, pay attention when you use the POV character’s name more than once in a paragraph, or even too many times on a page. If it’s clear who’s involved in the action or speaking, you don’t need to repeat the name. This is why we have pronouns! Use them!

Today’s Writing Tip

laptop-copy

Editing can be painful. As authors, our words are our children and can be hard to delete, even when we know a scene needs to go. One way to soften the blow is to cut and paste it into an “edits” file arranged by chapter. If you decide to put it back, it’s there.

If you eventually decide it really wasn’t needed, it’s a lot easier to zap that file when the final version goes to press. On the other hand, if you have a real blockbuster on your hands, at some point you may want to work them back in for an “expanded” version or literary “director’s cut” you release later.

Today’s Writing Tip

blank copy

Don’t worry about those pesky adverbs during your first draft, when such concerns can interrupt your creative flow. When you’re following your muse capturing your story for the first time, don’t fuss over such things.  However, this is one area to attack on your first edit. This is accomplished easily by using  your word processor’s “Search” function to find all words ending in “ly”. At that time you can put on your thinking cap and replace it with a strong verb. (Thanks to author Jeanne Foguth for this great tip!)

Today’s Writing Tip

blank-3164721_1280 copy

When rewording a sentence, make sure you take out any words that no longer belong. Many editing faux pas examples I find involve extraneous words that weren’t deleted when a change was made. This is another case where the author sees what’s supposed to be there, not necessary what is. Reading your final draft aloud may catch these; if not, hope your editor does.

Authors need to realize that many readers notice these things and can be rather unforgiving if it occurs often enough. It’s a distraction that throws them out of the story and shows a lack of professionalism in putting forth the best possible product. A few here and there is one thing, but a preponderance of them and you’ll lose readers. Trust me on that, because I’m one of them.

Today’s Writing Tip

laptop-3087585_1280 copy

When you get to what you think is your final draft, start tightening your story by trimming adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases. Many adverbs go away when you select the correct verb. Make sure adjectives contribute to imagery or emotional impact and avoid repeating them. Prepositional phrases are often necessary for clarity, but make sure it’s really needed and that you don’t repeat the same information later.  Read the sentence without each of these items to see what, if anything, they contribute.

Today’s Writing Tip

home-office-336378_1280 copy

Read your work out loud as part of your editing process. If you find yourself saying something different than what’s written, consider rewording it accordingly. If it’s awkward when read aloud, it’s not the most natural wording. Even better, read it aloud into a recorder and then listen, especially if you’re an audio-type. This is very effective for catching redundancies.