Today’s Writing Tip

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Producing your first draft is a major milestone. Many authors,  myself included, compare it to having a baby, especially if you ever actually HAVE had a baby. At some point in your story, you may feel as if you’re 9 1/2 months pregnant and really want to be done with it.

firstdraftWhen you do, by all means celebrate! You deserve it! But don’t think for more than one glorious day that you’re finished. No matter how great your work seemed as you put it down on paper initially, chances are it can be improved. Probably a lot, depending on whether this is your first book or tenth or more.

If the first draft is comparable to a pregnancy, the second draft is comparable to potty training. If you’re a parent, I probably don’t need to say any more to complete the analogy.

When you get to what you think is your final draft, (probably comparable to raising teenagers) start tightening your story by trimming adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases. Many adverbs go away when you select the correct verb.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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One of the most difficult things to find when you’re editing your own work is missing words. Sometimes even editors fail to catch them, but not an alert reader. Once in a while a grammar checker might, but not always. These are usually not quite as bad as typos which stand out like the proverbial sore thumb, but close. They tend to jolt the reader out of the story, even for a nanosecond, or sometimes longer if it makes the sentence difficult to understand.

When reading over your manuscript during your final draft, do so slowly enough to note each word is indeed written as opposed to assumed. Reading it aloud can help. If you’re fast on the keyboard, you may be even more likely to leave words out because regardless of how fast your fingers are, you brain is moving faster.

If you’re ever beta reading for someone and find missing words, be sure to tell them. The author will be very appreciative!

Today’s Writing Tip

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I don’t know about you, but my first drafts tend to be unbalanced. This, of course, depends on your natural style. There may have too much or too little of certain elements. My first drafts tend to be heavy on action and dialog. I’ve often envied screenwriters, who can do just that and let producers and directors worry about the rest.

However, for your story to be the best it can be, it needs to incorporate more. Don’t interrupt the creative flow by worrying about it during your first draft. For your second draft, however, one way to assess what you have is by checking how your IDEAS are presented.

As you’ve probably guessed, that’s an acronym for: Imagery; Dialog; Emotion; Action; Suspense.

Read each scene and check to make sure it has some of each. Imagery could have been established earlier, which is fine. Not every scene will have dialog, and that is fine, too. However, too much description or exposition gets boring, so if that’s the case see if you can convert any of it into a conversation. Emotion is essential. If there’s no feeling behind it, is it even necessary? Action goes without saying, even if it’s mental action, and of course suspense, without which your reader may not bother to turn the page.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Economy of words makes your message stronger. Using too many that are extraneous distract and dilute it. This is why adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases often add extra bulk that should be trimmed. Being too wordy indicates lack of skill and trouble expressing what you want to say. When you’re talking aloud you can get away with fumbling around a bit, but not in print.

On the other hand, people who talk too much are usually annoying. Thus, by extension, it can be pretty grating when an author takes too long to say something. Readers are not the most patient people out there. Everyone these days is pretty busy and doesn’t want to waste their time with someone beating around the bush.

If you can say the same thing with less words, do so. Start by zapping adverbs by using a better verb, then see if those prepositional phrases really add anything to the story other than word count. Some writers have a tendency to add a prepositional phrase on the end of a sentence that is totally redundant. Make sure you’re not one of them.

Today’s Writing Tip

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I’ve harped on this numerous times, but I believe it’s important enough to bear repeating. Know the different types of editing, especially if you hire an editor. Otherwise, you may be disappointed or not get your money’s worth. Here’s an outstanding blog on the subject.

If you think that one person is going to entirely rewrite your story into Best Seller material think again. Maybe some will, but that’s something you need to have a clear understanding of from the start. Otherwise, they may do no more than correct your typos and misspellings. If you’re really lucky, maybe they’ll fix those misused homonyms as well.

Rewording sentences may not be part of the deal, much less paragraph designation, or any number of other things.

There are too many people out there who think they’re editors when all they are is someone who knows how to read and, if you’re lucky, spell. It’s best to only hire an editor who has been recommended by someone you trust. It isn’t a guarantee to ask an author of a well-written book who their editor was, either. Perhaps the author is so skillful that their editor had little if anything to do!

As so many parts of being an author, choosing a competent editor is not simple. Make sure you know what you’re getting and that the person knows what they’re doing. Furthermore, some editors may entirely rewrite your story when that is not what you wanted, either! I’ve had editors completely change the meaning of a sentence with their supposed “editing” when I was a technical writer at NASA.

I’m afraid this turned into a bit of a rant. LOL! Obviously it’s something about which I have strong feelings. It’s all about communications, folks. As a writer, that should be your forte. Comprendez-vous?

Today’s Writing Tip

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Editing your own work is always a challenge. It’s easy to read over typos because your brain tends to see what it expects. You also have your own writing style, which of course will seem natural to you, even if it has something fundamentally unclear that a reader will trip over.

One way to help overcome these obstacles is to read your story aloud. You can tell more easily if the flow of the words is natural, often discovering a better way to arrange them. If nothing else, read the dialog out loud, which helps determine whether or not it sounds authentic.

Today’s Writing Tip

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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

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In most cases, it’s unnecessary to use phrases such as “he knew”, “he thought”, or “he saw” when dealing with your viewpoint character. Just dive right in and say it as it would be going through his or her head. This is something to definitely watch for during your final edit.

For example, instead of saying, “He saw that it had started to snow, covering the mountain peaks in the distance” you can simply say, “It had started to snow, covering the mountain peaks in the distance.” See how simple it is? One advantage is that this helps pull readers in, as if it’s happening to them. Saying he saw/she saw or thought or heard can act as a subtle bump out of the story. Besides, you want to eliminate unnecessary words, anyway, and this is one place to start.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Mercury retrograde is a great time for editing and bad time for starting a new project.  While this prognostication is astrological in origin, it’s often a time when skeptics start to recognize there may be something to it. Astronomically, it means that the planet Mercury is moving backwards in the sky. Of course this isn’t true, only by appearance, similar to when you’re passing another car on the freeway and it appears that the other car is moving backwards when you are actually moving away from it.

Astrologically, since Mercury rules communications of all kinds as well as anything that moves, this is not when your brain, electronics, or anything mechanical is functioning properly. Computer, automobile, and appliance problems are common at this time as well as communication problems at the people level. This is a time to go back and review, revise, reconsider, and reassess while starting something new is likely to not go anywhere ever or, at best, be delayed.

This usually happens three times each year. The next one will be from November 17 – December 6, 2018, but to be safe, avoid new projects from October 29 – December 25. Put this time to good use by editing and revising as opposed to new copy.

Today’s Writing Tip

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A fellow author/friend told me she uses a text-to-voice reading app for proofreading as well as finding typos and awkward wording in her novels. If your book will eventually become an audio book this is an even better idea. Besides finding mistakes, this is a tremendously useful self-editing tip that puts your writing in another sensory dimension that provides new insights into your story’s effectivity.