Tag: editing

self-editing for fiction writers

3 Tips from “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”

“The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.”–Zadie Smith

Write2Ignite’s  2020 Master class with  Joyce Moyer Hostetter is only a month away. The Write2Ignite team has suggested checking out several chapters of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King as a way to prepare for the workshop. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some of the great insights this book has to offer.

So Here are 3 Helpful Tips from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers:

1: Characterization and Exposition

As writers, we can be tempted to tell our readers everything we want them to know upfront. We want to make sure they have the information they need to enjoy our stories.  However, if we try to stuff all those details into long paragraphs of narration, our readers disconnect. It’s better to let them learn about our characters and settings bit by bit. Giving information gradually draws readers in and allows them to make their own conclusions.

Browne and King suggest ways to reveal our characters naturally through dialogue and actions. When they come to discussing settings and world-building, they write:

“Bear in mind that this kind of background is really characterization, only what’s being characterized is a culture rather than a person. And as was the case with characterization, readers can best learn about your locations and backgrounds not through lengthy exposition but by seeing them in real life,” (pp. 35).

Just as we want our readers to meet our characters, we want our audience to experience our worlds. Rather than simply explaining, we can reveal the setting and culture naturally through the eyes of our characters.

2: Proportion

Sometimes it’s hard to decide how much time we should spend on certain events, descriptions, and characters in our writing. Spending too much time on unimportant details can mislead, bore, or even annoy our audience. Spending too little time can confuse or disappoint readers. The space spent on scenes needs to be balanced.

Letting our characters guide our decisions on what to focus on helps tremendously. Browne and King suggest, “You can avoid smaller-scale proportion problems . . . by paying attention to your characters. When you’re writing from an intimate point of view, your character’s interest at the moment should control the degree of detail you put into your description,” (pp.77).

3: See How It Sounds

One of the best reminders Browne and King offer is the value of reading your work aloud. Hearing a scene rather than just seeing the words makes problem areas infinitely more clear. Our eyes auto-correct in a way our ears simply refuse to. As Browne and King write, “The eyes can be fooled, but the ear knows,” (pp. 107). This is especially true for dialogue, considering that we’re used to hearing people speak. We know what people sound like, and so we can pick up unnatural rhythms when we hear them.

Browne and King go on to add that, “Reading dialogue aloud can help you develop your characters’ unique voices,” (pp. 107). They suggest reading all of the dialogue from one particular character and taking note of the patterns.  Reading their words aloud can help us consider how they would say something; to get into that characters’ mindset. Much like an actor trying to determine how to play a role, we need to shape our dialogue to match the characters speaking.

 

Final Review:

Whether you’re planning to attend the Write2Ignite workshop or not, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is an excellent resource to have on your shelf. Browne and King balance their practical advice with engaging examples from books that handle writing techniques well (and some that handle them poorly). Each chapter includes a checklist of what to watch out for in your own writing, as well as exercises to help practice what you learn. The book is clear and easy to read, making it a perfect guide for new writers as well as a great refresher for experienced authors.

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

 

 

 

How Dialogue Strengthens Your Manuscript

Writing dialogue is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. If done well, using dialogue can strengthen your manuscript and turn an average story into an engaging ride people will be talking about long after they read it.

Here are 3 examples of how your story benefits from good dialogue.

 

  1. Dialogue puts you into the action

I love starting my chapters off with dialogue because it helps get out of the need to introduce everything, but instead drops your reader into a specific moment. If you’re stuck on how to get your characters into a certain conversation, just begin a scene with the conversation and work from there.

 

  1. Dialogue establishes character dynamics

When writing dialogue, you not only get to write what people say, but you also get to include dialect, body language, and how characters think and feel about each other. All of which are opportunities for you to give your characters depth in each conversation.

 

  1. Dialogue advances the plot

Conversations are necessary to inform the reader on motivation and a means to get to the next step of the plot. If you have a limited narrator, you also need to hear from your other characters in order to get an idea of what they’re thinking. Advancements include: getting a significant question answered, interviewing a character in a mystery, or encouraging a different direction or goal.

 

Warning! It’s easy to write poor dialogue, so here are a few tips on how to avoid common mistakes.

  1. Don’t overuse dialogue tags (said, told, replied, exclaimed, etc)
  2. If you have more than 2 people talking, make sure your reader knows when you switch to a new speaker while also following tip number 1.
  3. Drop and indent each time a character speaks. This structure makes it easy for the reader to follow along.
  4. Read your dialogue to make sure your characters have a unique voice and that it sounds natural. Writing conversations don’t need perfect grammar.

 

Get to know your characters, drive your story, and have fun with it!

Do you find it easy or difficult to write dialogue? Let us know!

Don’t forget to check out Write2Ignite’s masterclass with Joyce Moyer Hostetter where you can learn even more about dialogue and other writing essentials. Click here to learn more.


Leah Jordan Meahl writes to encourage both the rooted and the wandering Christian to go deeper. She’s a born and bred Jesus-follower hailing from Greenville, South Carolina. She’s a lover of devotional writing as well as fiction. Her newest book Pebbles: 31 days of faith enriching parables is set to release August 2020. Feel free to visit her blog. And ‘like’ her on Facebook.

 

editing tips form a woodcarver

3 Editing Tips from a Woodcarver

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” -Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You’ve probably never thought to ask for editing tips from a woodcarver. I normally wouldn’t, either. Yet this past week, I had a little time to spend on my ongoing woodcarving project–a woodland-themed chess set that will likely take forever and a day to complete.  As I sat outside chipping away at my little cube of wood, I realized that woodcarving and editing have some surprising similarities.

Creative endeavors often speak to one another. The basics of creating something useful or meaningful or lovely jump across the boundaries between different mediums.  And when you indulge in different art forms, the principles of one art can offer helpful reminders for the other.

So here are 3 Editing Tips from a Woodcarver:

1. Start with your rough-out (and don’t be discouraged by it!):

The first step in turning a block of wood into a bird, or horse, or (in my case) a mushroom, is to rough out the general shape of your piece. You lop off corners, carve out chunks, and usually end up with an ugly mass that only slightly resembles your finished product. The wood is rough with splinters and frayed edges. But that’s to be expected. The rough-out is just a template of what’s to come, so no one expects it to be perfect.

When it comes to editing, our first drafts act as our rough-outs. They’re the beginning stage, rough-hewn and maybe a little ugly. It can be discouraging to read through the result of long hours of writing only to discover many flaws that still need to be fixed. What we must remember is that the first draft is just the general shape of our stories; just our template of what’s to come. Think it of it as the necessary, unavoidable first step and keep going forward.

(And if you’re one of those people with perfect first drafts, please send us mere mortals the name of your muse. We’d love to meet her.)

2. Cut. Cut, and chip, and carve away everything you don’t need:

Once you finish your rough-out, you can carve with more confidence. You cut away everything unnecessary to your piece, slowly excavating your vision from the wood. Big cuts, little cuts, long cuts, short cuts. Every change you make in carving is done by taking away. You can’t add more wood, you can’t move sections of wood around. You can only subtract what you don’t need. Woodcarving is the art of discerning the essential from the nonessential, and creating something beautiful from what’s left.

In editing, we have a little more freedom. We can add more words to our block if needed. We can shift paragraphs and chapters around. Even so, the ability to cut away anything inessential to our story makes our work infinitely stronger.

3. Step back and look at the big picture periodically.

One of the final steps in carving is smoothing out the surface. Smoothing and rounding wood, in a way that looks natural, requires working gradually. You can’t focus solely on one spot; you have to work from one side to the other. Each cut blends into the next, starting at a distance and working softly toward the spot that needs to be fixed. If you don’t keep the big picture in mind, you can end up cutting away too much without realizing it, or creating stark edges that look unnatural.

In editing, it’s easy to make changes that cause problems in other areas. We can labor over one scene or chapter, getting it just right, only to discover that now it doesn’t fit the chapters surrounding it. As we edit, we have to make sure we step back occasionally and look at the bigger picture. Our changes need to blend into each other and make the story flow.

Bonus Tip: Have Patience with Yourself

Editing, like woodcarving, takes time. If you rush the process, you miss the opportunity to polish your piece to the best of your ability. Have patience with yourself and your work; allow yourself time to check over the details. That way when the times comes, and you decide to call your work complete, you can feel confident that you’ve done your best.

 

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours. In what ways do your hobbies speak to your writing?

 

 

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

Grow Your Writing Skills — Part III

Polishing your writing is the final step in Ian Lurie’s copywriting course.

In an effort to grow my copywriting skills, I took Ian Lurie’s LinkedIn Learning course “Learning to Write Marketing Copy.” He broke copywriting down into four easy steps: create a plan, free write, write your first draft, and polish your writing. While the course focused specifically on writing marketing copy, I’ve been able to apply his method to fiction writing, blog writing, and even journalism.

For the final blog in this series, I’d like to focus on Lurie’s fourth and final step: polish your writing.

Polish Your Writing

When I first started my job as a promotional writer with Liberty University Marketing, I noticed something almost immediately. Writing only takes up a small amount of my workday. The bulk of my time is spent editing and proofreading my work (and other writers’ documents).

Our editorial process has several levels it must pass through to meet the university’s quality control standards. Because everything that comes from the marketing department must be properly branded, there are very specific guidelines we must follow when creating an email, letter, or advertisement. 

Our editorial team, called quality control, checks for grammar, spelling, clarity, and, of course, our brand. They ask questions like Does this piece sound like it was written by the president of the university? Is this email consistent in tone with our other pieces?

However, before they ever lay eyes on my projects, I need to polish my text to be the best it can be. Lurie suggests taking three steps when polishing your work: get help, edit, and proofread.

Get Help

Always be willing to ask for help when polishing your work. Readers will often catch mistakes that you do not.

No matter what kind of writing you do, it’s always good to have another pair of eyes on your work. If you’re writing a company newsletter, have a fellow employee read over it for you and offer suggestions for improvement. If you’re working on a fictional piece, reach out to a friend who enjoys reading fiction. 

As one of eight promotional writers for my department, I have seven other writers who review my work for me before it goes to our quality control team for proofing. Generally, we try to have two “reads” on our work before we hand it over to quality control. 

This is helpful, especially when I’m writing something similar to what I’ve written before. Every month, I write monthly offer emails. These emails generally advertise similar offers, but I often leave information out because my brain writes on auto-pilot. Having coworkers who are unfamiliar with the material lets me know where I need to improve. They ask questions as both a reader and a writer, offering insight and sparking conversation.

If you cannot find someone to review your work for you, take some time away from the piece. Anywhere from an hour to a few days will give you “fresh eyes” when reading the document, and you’ll find mistakes you didn’t catch while writing. Reading your writing aloud is also a great way to spot errors.

Edit

Editing is making large structural changes to your work, while proofreading is checking for grammar and spelling.

Lurie describes editing as “reorganizing and modifying copy.” Basically, this means you should make large structural changes before worrying about the details of a piece.

When editing, you’re looking for readability and flow. You want your piece to make sense to the reader without them having to work too hard to understand what you’re trying to say. (Many readers will stop reading if the writing is difficult to decipher.) Editing can be as simple as rearranging a few paragraphs to totally reworking sentences. 

At the end of the editorial process, your piece should have a logical flow that gently guides the reader from sentence to sentence. 

Proofread

Proofreading is a little different than editing, though the two often get lumped together. Lurie says proofreading is “correcting spelling and grammar.” Spelling and grammar are difficult for many people. Understandably so.

My suggestion for proofreading is to make it easy for yourself. Always write with spellcheck turned on. Download Grammarly for free to have your work automatically proofread as you go.

Tools are great for proofreading, but they will fail from time to time. That’s why it is so important for you to have a basic understanding of English grammar. I keep a couple of books on my desk at work to help me with proofreading. You don’t have to know everything about English grammar, but using these resources will help you grow more comfortable with it:

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary — Because spellcheck doesn’t always work the way you need it to
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White — Great basic overview of English grammar
  • The Copyeditors Handbook by Amy Einsohn — Excellent resource for mastering copyediting

Never rely solely on built-in tools to proofread your work for you. Always proofread your work all the way through before submitting it to your editor, posting to your blog, or sharing online.

At the end of the day, writing is a skill that you develop. You may be a passionate young writer with many exciting stories to tell, or you may be a seasoned professional struggling against the daily grind. No matter where you are in your writing journey, know that there is always room for improvement. Just remember Lurie’s four steps: plan, pre-write, write, and review.

Follow these four steps, and you’ll see improvements in your writing in no time.

Emily Babbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband. Learn more about Emily here.

Editors – Should an English Teacher Edit Your Book?

Editors & editing

Write2Ignite 2019 is history, but now your work begins! We hope you’re primed and ready to tackle a new project or pull out an old one that needs editing and polishing.

No matter how well we write, we all need someone with an objective perspective to critique our books. That’s why writing critique partners and groups are so valuable to us.

Still, we need to be careful. How do we process the feedback we receive? What is the background or experience of the people offering their critique?

We need to be especially intentional about the people we hire to edit our books. Are they familiar with the contemporary publishing industry? Someone with an in-depth knowledge of English or even classic literature may not be the best individual to edit our books. Which brings us to English teachers…

English teachers as editors?

At first blush, an English teacher sounds like the perfect editor. But the grammar and punctuation rules a teacher may follow might not be the same as those used by editors familiar with contemporary books in your genre.

For example, most of us were taught that sentence fragments are inappropriate. Yet they’re in frequent use today. And many classic literary works are heavy on flowery descriptions which contemporary fiction readers tend to pass over. As Elmore Leonard once said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

Additionally, English teachers frequently encourage creative substitutes for the word “said.” However, in today’s publishing world “said” is better to be as invisible as possible. An even better choice is to replace it with physical beats. For example:

“No way!” Mary exclaimed.

As opposed to:

Mary slammed her fist on the table. “No way!”

Another example is the use of punctuation. From the perspective of an English teacher, semi-colons can be correctly used in fiction. However, in contemporary publishing, semi-colons are often discouraged in fiction. Why? They tend to pull the reader out of the story.

All that to say English teachers can be great editors as long as they also understand the current publishing environment.

Of course, they can be terrific at critiquing plot flow and character development. And they would also serve well as beta readers to provide feedback on whether your book held their interest.

So, definitely seek out critique partners and editors. But don’t make your choice based on titles or vocations. And when it comes to hiring an editor, connect with the individual to determine if they’re the right person to edit your work.

Bottom line: understand your genre’s standards and ensure your editor understands them, too!

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