Sunday, June 19, 2011

From the Department of Redundancy Department

One thing I've noticed as I review my writing is all the extra words I include that aren't needed. That's part of the fun (and I'm being sarcastic) of editing.

When I wrote The Hidden Sun, I would fret over sentences and paragraphs as I wrote. I remember there was one line that I just couldn't get to sound good. I got so hung up on it, I started to lose focus on the story. I finally threw my hands up in the air and moved on. When Tristi Pinkston edited the book for its re-release, she masterfully fixed it. Sadly, I don't recall the details aside from just taking out a few words here and there and tada! It flowed very nicely.

The subject this month is really about editing, though I'm taking a bit of a different approach. I've heard from other authors that they suggest to just write the story and then come back to edit it. Some people write and re-write the first chapter over and over and then get frustrated about how slow it is going.

The Hidden Sun was my first book. It took me roughly 5 years from the time I started writing it until the day the first copy was sold. Granted, I was working full time and yadda, yadda, yadda, but still, that's a long time to hold on to a dream.

My second book, The Waxing Moon, came from an idea I got while editing The Hidden Sun. It's done and will hopefully see the light of day within a year's time. The trippy part about The Waxing Moon is that the final version is actually quite a bit different from the first draft. I was shooting for about 100,00 words. When I got to about 65,000, the story was over. So. . .I wrote another 35,000 words and tacked it on the end. My beta readers noticed what I had done right away. The end result? I went back into the original 65,000 words and added some interweaving subplots that enhanced the book--and I think it's much better because of it.

And about those 35,000 at the end that were cut? Let's just say I have a good head start on the third book of the Bariwon series.

In my current work in progress, The Mirror of the Soul, I'm just plowing through the story full steam ahead with the knowledge that I'll be going back to edit, fix, adjust, add, and rewrite what I've done. And isn't it wonderful that writers can do that.

As for the subject of editing and use of redundant phrases, let me end with a few examples:

Advance preview. I guess this means you get to see a preview of something yet to come before someone else?

Over exaggerate. I've used this phrase at least a million times.

Kneel down. Along the same lines of Stand up.

True facts. Very important to use these when writing non-fiction.

Pair of twins. I actually had this on an earlier version of The Hidden Sun.   

So, my final conclusion is that it's absolutely necessary that writers plan ahead to avoid using redundancies.  And when editing, scrutinize in detail the sum total of your redundant words, with your ultimate goal to completely eliminate them from your writing. If you need help, you can always ask a knowledgeable expert.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

After Patting Yourself On the Back...

So you finished your project, a novel, a short story, a play, whatever it is.  Take a minute and pat yourself on the back.  Now remove that hand from your back and put it back on the keyboard.  You’re not done yet.

Hashing out a first draft is only phrase in the life cycle of your work, and also vital is polishing up your work so that it will shine as brightly as possible.  Competition for publication can be fierce, and you cannot afford to put anything less than your best work out there. 

Revision ,  like writing the first draft, is a highly personal process.  Everyone does it a little differently and whatever works best for you is how you should do it.  Here are a few things I’ve found helpful.  

1.     Read for one element: There are so many things to look for, including grammar and spelling, pacing, style, etc, that you might be overwhelmed if you look for it all at once.  You might find it better to give the work multiple readings, focusing on a single aspect.

2.    If in doubt, read aloud:  If you stumble when you read, your reader might as well. If you are not sure, read the passage aloud and see how it flows.  This helps in a way that cannot be duplicated by reading silently.

3.     Your manuscript is not “for your eyes only.”: After spending so much time with your work, you are too close to it to see it completely objectively.  Though you need to go over it yourself, it is best to seek the help of others, at best, those who can give you their genuine opinion.  It’s a good idea to give the manuscript not only to those who know something about writing, but also to someone in your target audience.

No matter how you do it, remember that there is a time to revise and a time to refrain from revising. You cannot revise forever, or you’ll never see print.  Revise until you feel good about your work and then send it out into the world.  It sometimes feels like letting out a child out into the world to fend for themselves, but as long as you have taken the proper time to revise, you have nothing to worry about. 

The blog tour and launch party for my next book approach.  Come get the details at