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Posts Tagged ‘editing’

As writers, we make decisions everyday from what scene we’re going to work on for the day to what elements  we’re going to keep or throw out. But sometimes, trying to figure out what should stay and what should go is more gray than black and white. When I first sit down to start a story I ask myself a few simple questions: what is this story about? What challenges will my hero/heroine face? How do I get there? Answering these questions is the easy part. I have a clear plan I want to follow. It’s when I actually start writing I run into trouble. Suddenly my mind goes into overdrive and ideas spring forth one after another and before I realize it, I have too many elements for one story to hold. The best is when I couldn’t think of anything before and end up with an overload of ideas after I start. Now the question becomes what ideas are going to enhance my story and bring out the themes and subplots and which scenes/ideas are just weighing it down? How do I decide?

I am facing this question right now with my story Love, Death and Other Things. I’m not even twenty-thousand words in and I feel like there are too many things weighing it down. Car crash, heart-ache, rape, break-up and I’m not even finished. For me, it’s too early to tell what should stay and what should go, but I already have an idea that not everything is going to work. It almost feels like I wanted to write a great story, so in the interest of writing the best story I took every jaw-dropping, heart-stopping moment I could think of and wrote it in. The verdict of what goes and what will stay won’t happen until I finish the story and flesh out my main characters internal plot. That’s thousands of words and one revision from where I’m at now. In other  words, I won’t be able to actually start cutting out pieces for at least a few more weeks…if not months. But that’s okay. It’s fine if I don’t have the answers right now. Sometimes its better to wait and get to know the characters and story better before making any unnecessary changes.

I’ve read many blogs from authors who have begun cutting too soon and make more work for themselves later because they write  more scenes that don’t work and then end up re-typing the original idea. I’m not saying waiting is always better, but sometimes, if you don’t wait, instead of having too much in your story there is too little, which is like starting all over again.

How do you deal with too many ideas in one story? How do you decide what stay and what should go?

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As writers we pride ourselves on being able to pick out spelling mistakes and grammar no no’s. We train ourselves to spot any offending apostrophe or semicolon and fix it.  But along the way we lose our ability to let any mistake go.  At some point along the road to becoming a professional writer, we develop an odd case of OCD–one that only applies to the written word. Suddenly any memo, letter or e-mail that comes across our eyes isn’t safe and we compulsively correct it as we crack snide remarks about people who spell words like “see” and “you”  “c” “u” and shake our heads at the end of literacy all together.

I actually read a post by a mother in which she states her child will always have to write in complete sentences with correct punctuation and grammar, even if her son/daughter is texting; and she is not alone in her extremism. I have read countless writing blogs wherein the author abhors any misused punctuation or misspelled words. Some can’t even tolerate the use of “fake” words. So this is my post to all  the writers out there frantically scouring their WIPs for all the errors they’ve made or words they may have made up.

RELAX.

Somewhere along our path to becoming a writer, we have forgotten the most important thing. Language is a living thing. (This includes writing). We do not use the same words now as we did back in the 1400s and the words we do, don’t mean the same thing. I mean, look at the history of the word gay, it wasn’t that long ago when it had nothing to do with your sexual orientation. Some of the words we use today were made up by writers. Shakespeare has been credited with creating an obscene amount, including milk.

The fact is, if we don’t make mistakes, if we don’t allow the trends of the time to influence our writing at all, we aren’t participating in language. It’s alive, it’s going to be messy, but as long as there are enough periods and commas, it’s readable. I’m not saying we should ditch the rules altogether, but one error isn’t going to make or break a Manuscript. Besides, writing shouldn’t be about the best rule follower, it should be about capturing the life of language. And your MS will reflect a single moment in the life and evolution of the English language. So as a writer I will  embrace every LOL, LMAO, ROFL, Ain’t, double negative and out of place punctuation mark I make and change the one’s I catch. Because I’m a writer.

What about you? Have you become an OCD Grammar Nazi? If so do you think this has helped or hindered your writing?

I’m off now to cry over my poor laptop which has fallen out of commission today. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter if I find my pencil or not, as all my stories are trapped inside it’s locked depths.

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New Hair-Do

So, spur of the moment I had my waist length hair cut to my shoulders on Sunday.  My mother, who cannot grow out her own hair, declared my hair was just getting pretty and asked me how I was going to belly dance now. 

When I was little I was terrifed of cutting my hair because my mother had me convinced it would never grow back, but now that I’m adult I realize my hair is different than my mother’s and, after multiple cuts, know it will grow back.

My boyfriend on the other hand, is on the fence.  He never likes my hair after I change it, but after a few weeks, he’ll look at me and say “I like it.”

Everybody else has told me how cute my new do is and I like it too.

I realized my hair is like my MS.  When I first began writing, I thought I would never be able to reach 50,000 words or more and when I finished I thought, how can I cut anything?  It won’t be as good.  It’ll be too short.

But after cutting the first draft, I realized how much healthier my MS had become and saw the places where there was room for healthy growth. 

I realized I could regrow my MS and, if necessary, cut it again, without fear of it never growing back again.  Just like my hair.  It will only be a matter of time before I find my boyfriend sitting on my hair again.  Then I’ll know it’s time for another cut.

How do you get through tough cuts of your MS?  Do you find you create more room for growth?  Or have you cut the life out of it?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  Perhaps it’s time I went to find my pencil

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Scorpius

So I’ve been re-working my novel.  Going back over it chapter by chapter.  Currently, I’m editing/revising/rewriting chapter three.  Originally in this chapter, my MC overhears a conversation between one of my protagonists and the leading female.  Well, in the changes I made to the beginning chapters and the way my ending chapters stand, this scene just didn’t work anymore.  So, in an effort to salvage as much of the chapter as I could, I changed the circumstances in which my MC overhears the conversation and now, instead of just overhearing it, he actually participates by killing the “bad guys” off.

The problem with this, is the original protagonist in the scene is suppose to reappear in the next book, plus he’s suppose to be something of a bad ass because he’s the leader of the demon world, so my story would definitely fall dead if he died within the first three chapters of my first novel.

To fix this I inserted two lower ranked demons who had no names, but as I continued to write, one of my no-name demons morphed on me.  Suddenly, he wasn’t just an evil hench-demon, he had a name, Scorpius, and distinct powers.  In fact, as I continued to write, he revealed he actually knew my MC before this and used that knowledge to inform the reader of how “soft” my MC is, despite my MC’s unparalleled dislike for demons.

Now my manuscript has me wondering how Scorpius knows Azrael and, what happened when they met before?

But for now these answers can wait; although it wouldn’t hurt to write another back story.

Has your manuscript suddenly introduced someone or something new?  Did it make your manuscript better, or just create bigger mess to clean up afterward?

It seems I’ve lost my pencil, excuse me while I look for it.

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Okay, since I’m approximately 3 chapters away from the daunting task of editing/revision it has decided to worm its way around my almost “finished” story and take over my thoughts. Which is quite distracting when I’m trying to come up with a word to describe the agony my mc is experiencing and the only thing I can think is “I’ve used the word too many times. Do I really want to use it again? Afterall I’m just going to have to change it later.”

So as I struggle to focus long enough on my wip to finish it in order to tear it to pieces, I am also working on devising a plan on how to tackle my revisions. What’s sad is I’ve actually put more thought into my plan of editing attack than I did when I first started my novel. I wonder what that says about me?

Anyway, I’ve decided, so I’m not just hatching at words in the dark, to make of list of things to do. The first item on my list is read.

This may seem odd, but after I’m done writing my first draft, I’m going to use the “down time” to re-read some of my favorite authors and study the way the convey feelings without actually telling or voicing the emotion. In my first draft, I realized I ran out of ways to express surprise and horror, so these are things I’ll especially look out for. Also, I want to explore the way the senses are used and the way each individual’s writing either enhanced the story or detracted from it.

Second thing I’m going to do is make a list. After studying different works, I’m going to make a list of my favorite words, sensory devices and phrases and then make my own sentences, scenes, etc. using them. This way not only will I have an example I can look back on, but I can explore and come up with new phrases and sensory devices that work for me.

Third, I’m going to highlight all the repetitive language in my ms, I’m not going to edit yet, then I’m going to make a list of as many words as I can think of to replace them with. After I can’t think of anymore, I will consult the dictionary and thesarous.

Fourth item on the list, consult my notes. I made notes about most of the scenes as I wrote. I already know some of them need to be changed around and actually, I’ve changed the very last chapter of my book, so one chapter needs to be altered. I also have some chapters that need to be added, which means I need to make an outline for them.

After I’ve finished this, then I will begin the daunting task of reading my ms page by page in order to revise and edit.

How do you revise your ms? Do you make a plan or do you throw all caution to the wind and just dive in?

I guess I should go find my pencil, I still have three chapters to write afterall…

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