Tag Archives: editing

Are you repeating yourself?

PJ here. I love the editing process. Well…love might be too strong a word. What I do love, though, is learning my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and layering my story with the fine brush strokes that hopefully make the characters leap off the page and the plot keep readers riveted.

As I’m reading through a printed copy of WESTERN DESERT, my editor’s voice rings in my ear.

Coming June 24, 2013!
Coming June 24, 2013!
She has pointed out a specific weakness many times, but I couldn’t see it for myself until I read it on a printed page. There are just some things my eyes don’t pick up on the computer screen. In my case, it’s the glaringly repetitious -ing sentence structure that results in lots of “telling”. It seems I have a habit of structuring my sentences as follows:

We stopped only when necessary and took turns driving, making good time and closing in on our destination.

All in all, it’s not a horrible sentence, but repeating this pattern frequently can really bog down the writing. This is clearly a case of “telling”–beginning with a subject/verb construction, using –ing words, and making it a weak sentence that is unnecessarily long. Ooops! I did it again! Did you catch it? I’ve used two phrases connected by a comma, requiring me to use the gerund form of the verb in the second phrase. Darn it! I did it yet again! I can’t seem to help myself, LOL. Believe me, it was an eye opener when I finally saw it. Hopefully, I’ve taken care of the problem through most of the manuscript. If not, I’m certain my second round with an editor will catch it.

As for strengths, I’ve been told I have a knack for description. Here’s an example of using description to ground the reader in place and to paint a picture of the scene.

In the distance the Western mountain ranges turned a deep purple under clouds of smoke from wild-fires gone unmanaged. The coastal winds from the ocean beyond carried the wayward flames toward the desert, but with nothing but sand and cactus, they would die of starvation long before they reached us or the city of Las Vegas.

Although this could be considered telling, in just a few sentences you get a clear picture of the environment and lots of information about what’s happening. Like most writers, I struggle with brevity—the art of saying more with fewer words—but I’m definitely improving.

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have any particularly stubborn habits that bog down your writing?


Good morning Scribes and Scribettes. PJ Sharon here, writing from deep in the edit cave. I thought it might be useful to share an Indie’s perspective on the editing process. It’s about seven weeks until the launch of my next book and the pressure is on.

Coming June 24, 2013!
Coming June 24, 2013!

I received my final set of edits from Carol, my super-editor who looks at everything from plot holes, inconsistencies, and characterization, to misplaced modifiers, repetitive sentence structure and comma placement. She is very thorough and brutally honest. She gives me fantastic feedback that at first makes me grumble and sometimes even cry in frustration at my own lameness as a writer. But then I realize that her suggestions are right on the money and that I would do well to listen.

Her best advice in the end for WESTERN DESERT: “Paula, if you can learn to write sentences that do not rely on “this” and “that” but are specific and vivid, your writing will improve enormously!”

You’ve got to love English teachers!

Carol’s straightforward approach makes me continue to grow as a writer and I am eternally grateful for her as a resource and a friend. But everyone’s view point is limited so I am going through another round of edits on my own, employing her suggestions, layering in details that will enrich the story, and developing more deeply, the character arcs. By this point, I’ve also run the entire manuscript through an editing program called Auto-crit which gives me reports about overused words, repetitive phrases, clichés, and much more. I could make myself crazy with it, but I’ve learned to use it to catch those pesky bad habits we all have (55 occurrences of the word “that” in one chapter, please remove about 34 occurrences). Eeek! Using the program helps me to see where stronger verbs and more vivid language are needed.

Next–as in today–I’ll hand the book over to editor #2, Jane. I feel like this round of edits is what fine-tunes the story, bringing it to life on the page and cleaning house on all the picky details like grammar, punctuation, and overall flow. Don’t get me wrong; Jane will also catch me on plot points that need clarifying, missed opportunities to deepen character, and stilted dialogue. She, too, is extremely thorough and honest—two necessary traits for a great editor.

When Carol and Jane are done red-penning my baby to death, and I’ve done my level best to write a compelling and entertaining tale, I’ll send the manuscript to Createspace for print copies.This step takes a week to ten days (usually less), so I use this time to work on marketing and promo plans. Initially, I can only buy four copies since I haven’t approved the final at that point. I give two of these copies to Beta readers (avid readers with a keen eye for what works in a story and what doesn’t), and send the other two copies to reviewers. Most of the big review sites require copies several months in advance of release, but it won’t hurt to send one to Publisher’s Weekly and hope for the best. This is also the time I will send the e-version in PDF format to on-line review sites. I have a yearly subscription to Author EMS, a website that pre-filters a list of reviewers perfect for my book. It’s a lot of work querying and sending out requested material, but I think it’s worthwhile. (I’d love to find an assistant to do these types of tasks for me).

Once I receive all the feedback from my Beta readers, (I usually give them a week or so), I make one more pass, considering their suggestions as I go. I’m usually still adding layers, sharpening dialogue, and looking for ways to weave the underlying themes throughout the story—basically putting the fine brush strokes on the final picture. Then it goes back to Createspace and I get a few more copies. I give one to a Proof reader, and the others I use as review copies. After the final proof read and final corrections, it goes to my husband for formatting. Although I’ve gotten pretty good at it myself, he is much more patient than I am and is meticulous with all of that awful detail and computer savviness. I approve it on Createsapce and order print copies, 30-50 to start, and upload to Amazon, BN, and Smashwords.

Viola! We have a book. The hardest part of this entire process is all of the other work that is supposed to happen simultaneously, such as planning a launch party, marketing the other books, and preparing my social media strategy for getting the word out. Obviously, I need to get back to work!

Any questions? What’s your process like?

Proofing your Work

Hidey-Ho Scribblers ~ J Monkeys here.  I recently blogged about finishing one of my WIPs. You can read that post here.   It was an exciting thing.  I may have overstated things when I said I finished it.  My next book is a departure for me, a non-fiction work call DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy.  Back when I wrote that post (all of 3 weeks ago) I had finished several steps in the journey to a final draft: I wrote the book, proofed the book, had the book edited by someone else, got input from a beta reader and modified the manuscript to incorporate the editor/beta reader’s thought and fought my way through formatting the book for print.

Then I ordered my proof copy and patted myself on the back for finishing it.  But it wasn’t really done.  No, no.  My proof copy arrived in the mail a week or so ago.  I sat down and over the course of several day, I read every word, evaluated every page and marked that copy up like a college student cramming for a test.

Today I finished inputting my changes and created version 4 of my DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy manuscript.  Moments ago, I placed an order for proof copy #2.  When you Indie Publish the proof copy replaces the galleys, blues and ARCs of the old publishing world.  I have learned to love the proof.  Just because you think your work is finalized doesn’t mean that it really is…

I’ll give you an example.  My editor noticed that I had some trouble with the style of quotes, apostrophes and dashes in my text.  In some cases the text had smart quotes, and in other cases there were…well, I’m sure they aren’t called dumb quotes, but I don’t know what to call them.  Straight quotes maybe.  You know what I mean, right?  I use MS Word and sometimes (like when Smart Quotes is turned on) the quotation marks look nice and round with a circle dohickey and a point going in opposite directions.  And other times they look like this: “.

I had the same problem with dashes.  Sometimes I had em-dashes and sometimes I didn’t.  Em dashes are those longer dashes that appear in Word when you put a space around the dash and then a space at the end of the word after the dash.  Word changes the dash to an em dash automatically, when you have it turned on through Autocorrect.  Well, I had to straighten this out.  It may not matter which type of quote or dash you use, but for sure you want to be consistent!

I dutifully went through my manuscript and fixed all of the quotes, apostrophes and dashes before I set up my proof copy.  Or so I thought.  Do you have any idea how many contractions I used in a hundred pages?  Lots.  And 80% of them we ugly straight apostrophes.  Well, I circled ever blasted one of them in my proof.  I fixed the over the last couple of days – an annoying little project, I can tell you! 

So now I wait, impatiently, for proof copy # 2 to arrive.  I expect it will look a lot cleaner than proof 1 and I hope that the changes I have to make will be so minor that I won’t need to wait for proof copy # 3 before I can say that I’m REALLY done with the book.

Stay tuned – I’m expecting to be able to release DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy in early November.

Today’s Secret: Sometimes getting a proof copy can be just the thing you need to put a little juice into your excitement level for a project.  If you are feeling down about your work, create a proof copy on Createspace.com and take a look at your work in a fresh way.  They don’t cost very much – usually less than $5.00.

Today’s Question: How many drafts does it take you reach perfection – or at least as close as you are likely to get?

What I didn’t learn in English Class…

I’m on a deadline so today’s post will be short and sweet.

My editor likes to edit the old school way, with paper and pen. Okay, so when I first saw my 350 page manuscript I thought WTF! I was used to working in track changes in WORD or getting comments in those neat little balloons.

Instead I got odd-looking little, alien-like symbols all over my book. I knew they must mean something but apparently they didn’t teach grammar at my high school(Ask me how Shakespeare I’ve read. Grumble. Grumble.) And while I could figure out what most of the symbols were I got majorly stuck when I saw the word STET.

I had to go to my trusty friend The Internet and look it up. STET is a latin term for LET IT STAND, which means ignore the previous marks.

So just in case you ever run into the same situation I thought I would include a little chart to help you navigate your editing process.

What about you? Do you know all your editing and proofreading symbols?

“The story starts here.”

If you’ve ever heard the words, “the story starts here,” you know what every writer eventually learns. The first few chapters of a manuscript are likely not where your story begins. This concept is not new to me. Over the years, I’ve heard these words from contest judges, critique partners, and even as feedback from agents and editors on submissions.

I shouldn’t have been surprised then, to hear it from my editor on my current WIP. When I got my first round of edits back last week and she said get rid of your first two chapters, my jaw dropped and I immediately wanted to argue. But what about setting the scene? How will my readers know that we are in a dystopian future and how we got there? What about all that lovely description? After I took a few deep breaths, poured myself a glass of wine, and contemplated leaving the country, I turned around and looked at my story board and had a good laugh. Among the pink sticky notes I’d posted, briefly outlining each chapter, there was a bright yellow sticky signifying chapter three. It said, “INCITING INCIDENT-story starts here”.

Well, crap! That yellow sticky note not only validated that my editor was right on the money (isn’t she always?), but that I knew where my story began and I had ignored my better judgment. I also realized that I had taken the easy way out. Instead of skillfully weaving in backstory, description, and setting, I had laid it all out in those first two chapters like a newbie.

You’d think I would know better by now, but I fell prey to what most writers do without being consciously aware—I “told” my readers what I thought they needed to know. In all fairness to myself, I recognize that this is part of my process. Those first few chapters are necessary for me to clearly set the stage for the story to unfold—at least in the first draft. During revisions I should have caught this and fixed it. Given more time and the opportunity to work with critique partners I’m certain it would have been.

If I had to pick my greatest weakness as a writer, I would have to say it’s that pesky “showing”, and knowing how and when to deliver back story. It’s a tricky business finding a balance between narrative, dialogue, internal thought, and description. Sprinkling information through a story without “dumping” or taking short cuts via prologues, journal entries and other overused devices is hard work. Normally, I wouldn’t use the word “lazy” to describe myself, but when it comes to “show don’t tell,” I’m afraid I take the easy way out every time until someone points out that I’m “telling” too much. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean, let me give you an example.

Zeph challenged Sam’s authority at every turn.

Rather than saying this, I could easily show Zeph arguing with Sam. In other words, don’t state the obvious. Whenever there is telling, it takes the reader out of the story and into the narrator’s voice instead of staying in the character’s head. In my opinion, one of the reasons Kristan Higgins’ books are so good is because she is a master of the show don’t tell rule.

As I continue on with my edits, I’ll have to find creative ways to weave in the back story, setting, and descriptions that will bring the story to life rather than drag the reader along by the nose. Wish me luck; I have my work cut out for me.

What about you? Do you have trouble with information dumps and giving too much backstory? How do you know how much to tell the reader and when?