drafting, Editing, Kindle, revising, Writing

Editing made easy

Okay, not easy. Easier.

You’ve probably heard that reformatting your word processing page single-spaced with narrow margins (making it look more like a book page) is one way to get fresh eyes on your work-in-progress. Even better, if you have a Kindle, try the personal document feature (Send to Kindle) to examine your manuscript. A different format helps you notice problems. For example, until I read my current project on Kindle, I didn’t see I needed another sentence in the first paragraph.

If you’re like me, you edit as you write. All advice is against this, but too bad, I can’t help it. Often when I finish a scene I examine it in MS Word’s two-page view. This is very handy for seeing across a lot of text, spotting sentence pairs with identical construction, the same word repeated too often, etc.

I hope at some point you read your text aloud, a tried and true method to reveal shabby writing. And here’s my newest technique:

Don’t just read your text aloud, record it! Then listen to it while you study your word processing page.

When you think you’re ready to publish, don’t. Submit your work to a critique group like critiquecircle.com. Not every bit of advice you receive may work for your project, but CC writers can teach you a lot. Some writers post several drafts of each novel whether they intend to submit it to an agent or self-publish.

Finally, if you self-publish, be kind to your book and hire an editor. It’s what every publisher does.



drafting, Writing

Focusing on the Problem

I’m lucky to be able to focus, meaning I can think steadily on an issue for hours at a time. But like everyone’s, my idea stream regularly runs dry.

Here are my favorite techniques for recovery.

Sleep. Most obvious: take a nap, preferably with a problem in mind, like “How will she escape?” or “Why didn’t Lucie reclaim her property long ago?” This actually works best at night. In the morning, ideas appear, and I’m writing before breakfast.

Switch to another task. Ironing works best for me. Strike while the iron is hot! That means, start the task with an issue fully in mind. I keep a notebook close and write down ideas (and sometimes dialog) as I work. You may find some other mindless job equally helpful, like vacuuming. A walk might also be good if you don’t have to concentrate on your steps and watch out for traffic. I suppose you could exercise.

Read.  Find exceptional writing, the type you admire, that makes you want to say, “I know what you mean. I’ve often wondered that myself,” or “I’ve never thought of it that way.” This reading is not to steal ideas. I can’t explain what happens, but when I read very fine writing, I feel like I’ve spent time in a superior mind. You’d think the experience would be daunting; instead, it absorbs and stimulates my thoughts.

Make a chart. I make tables in MS Word or OneNote, three cells wide and rows as I need them. There’s something about empty cells that prompts me to fill them. Possibilities for this character, for that one, and what the effect might be. I make many tables at the start of a new project, when a story could go in many directions.

Quit for the day. Make a list of possibilities (or a table), turn off the computer, and admit you’re done for the day. No matter how lame it seems now, your list will look better tomorrow.

Amazon, drafting, historical fiction, Ideas for a New Story, main characters, revising, sequel, Starting a New Story, The Girl on the Mountain, Writing

Writing from scratch

Writing from scratch is harder than cooking from scratch, unless you’re copying someone else’s recipe. When you write from scratch, you must concoct the ingredients, too.

The first ingredient of The Girl on the Mountain grew from my dream about a poor child huddled in bushes at the door of a privileged home. An open carriage stopped at the door and a man pulled his children roughly to the ground. One child fell, and the small girl rushed from hiding to help her. The story, I thought when I woke up, might be about the poor girl and the privileged children who’d just lost their mother.

I pursued that idea, looked at pictures of carriages, imagined scenes for the child, created her history, and considered where and when the story might take place.  Eventually everything changed: I didn’t use the bush scene, reduced the children and their father to minor characters, made the poor girl a lot older, and forgot about the carriage.

Before reaching that point, I’d recorded even the least promising idea in my messy spiral notebook and the better-organized OneNote Notebook, part of Microsoft Office, sometimes waking at night and scribbling a note in the dark.

I thought a lot about the main character and possible bumps in her road, and tested ideas in brief scenes.  In a OneNote section labeled “Problems,” I created a page of “Character Problems” and one of “Author Problems.”  Author Problems included things like “Why would she be in that place at that time?”

My OneNote research section grew to 49 pages. There I also pasted pictures, thanks to Internet, of period features like decorative iron gates and primitive washing machines, and copied words to a Fanny Crosby hymn and quotes from Longfellow’s Evangeline.  I did not use most of my research, including descriptions of glove-making and instructions for cleaning a slop jar.  Images from the period were very helpful. One of my characters reacts to this beautiful engraving from an old edition of Evangeline, depicting Acadians forced from their homeland:

Researching more than I needed for the story made me comfortable with the culture of a logging town in 1899 and aware of influences on my characters, including what they read.

My current project continues the story of Wanda and Will from The Girl on the Mountain, so I’m not writing this one completely from scratch.#