Self-Editing: How to do it well

Hi, guys!

If there’s one writing rule that I believe applies to every piece of writing, it’s that you NEED to edit. Don’t publish a rough draft.

That’s just bad juju.

But editors are expensive (for good reason). Editing is work.

It takes a long time and a lot of effort.

Many people say never ever publish without a professional edit.

But sometimes, that isn’t feasible financially.

That is NOT an excuse for publishing poor quality content, though.

It just means you have to do even work yourself.

So, if you’re a broke bitch from way back (*raises hand*) and have to rely on self editing, here’s the process I put my work through.

It isn’t fool proof. Some typos hang on, fighting tooth and nail, to make sure they make it into the final draft. That’s why there’s an industry standard of allowed typos. (1 for every 10,000 words, I think? Don’t quote me on that, I may very well be wrong.)

But this process helps me to feel better about the standard to which my work is edited.

For starters, study grammar. Learn that shit. If you struggle with commas, study comma usage. (I overuse them, so I’ve been writing with Grammarly open, letting it yell at me to break the extra comma use.)

If you struggle with showing possession on a noun that ends in an “s,” fucking study it. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I once read a traditionally published book wherein the author gave the MC a last name that ended in an “s.”

(I’m going to say Childers, though that’s not the name from the book.) The possessive form ranged throughout the book from the correct Childers’ to Childers’s to Childerses, and even Childerseses.

My brain melted when I read that last one.

Please, if you’re going to self-edit, study grammar.

Now, the actual editing routine.

I do something a lot of people say not to do (in addition to self-editing, because apparently I’m a rule breaker). I edit as I write.

Any obviously misspelled words are fixed immediately. Like, before I type another word. I keep flow and pacing in mind as I write and adjust accordingly. My style uses sentence fragments, so I make sure the only ones in there are 100% intentional.

Since I’m a pantser, sometimes I come up with new things or realize I have a plot hole. That means I have to go back and fix stuff.

And I do. Right then.

Most would say to include a note somewhere and do it in edits. But I don’t. I fix it then, adjusting what needs adjusted before continuing to write.

So by the time I finish my “first draft,” it’s more like a second draft.

If you have trouble finishing manuscripts, I don’t recommend this. Just do another round of edits later.

Now, there’s some debate as to whether you should do a round of edits immediately after finishing writing (with it still fresh in your mind) or put it away and come back with fresh eyes.

I say, do both.

If you’re self-editing, you need to be thorough as fuck, anyway.

Now, there are several types of editing. Proofreading, checking for continuity errors, making sure it flows, looking for grammar and syntax errors, etc.

You can do each one separately, but I do all of them, every single time I edit.

After a few rounds, it’s time for beta readers. Because you need someone else’s eyes on your work. After a while, your brain is likely going to fill in details or skipped words because you know what’s supposed to be on the page.

But beta readers don’t. They can tell you when something doesn’t make as much sense as you think it does. They can tell you whether it works or fits in the genre you’re aiming for.

You can also find critique partners in writing groups. You read and critique their work, and they do the same for yours.
That allows for another perspective, i.e. someone who knows about formatting and marketing and flow and all that stuff.

Now. Please. For the love of all that is good, take their opinions into consideration. If they point out a blatant mistake, don’t get defensive. Just fix it.

If they have a valid point about a potential plot hole.

Fill the plot hole.

If they point out a style choice that they don’t like, consider it. Give it some thought. Decide whether it’s a flaw in your story or personal preference. (Books are, after all, very subjective.) But if all your beta readers have a problem with the exact same thing, chances are, it needs fixed.

Now, implement all the beta reader/critique partner feedback.

After that, you guessed it…another full round of edits.

After that?

I recommend getting Grammarly or some sort of computer editing program. There are a lot of them out there. I use Grammarly because it came highly recommended and it’s super easy to use. It plugs right into Word and pops up in the task bar, ready for use.

Whichever program you choose, go through your manuscript with it. I usually do that during another round of edits, fixing the things Grammarly finds when I get to them.

It might be alarming how many errors it finds, especially if you write fantasy and have a bunch of made up words/place names/species names. When I first opened Grammarly on Soul Bearer, it had something like 1500 errors.

Then, I added Aurisye’s name to the dictionary and knocked off a few hundred errors. Lol. Then, I added Rafnor’s name to the dictionary. Knocked off another few hundred. Each name (or place name) made a huge difference.

So did cutting all my extra commas.

And Grammarly fucking hates characters with accents. Be prepared to add a lot to the dictionary.

So don’t panic if it’s a huge number.

Then comes the “read aloud” round. No, you don’t have to read the whole thing out loud, yourself, chugging water to moisten your parched throat.

Word has a feature that will read whatever’s on the page to you. It mispronounced a lot of things, but it also shows you when a sentence doesn’t flow. Each word is highlighted when it’s read, so follow along looking for typos.

Plug in some headphones and listen to that emotionless voice coldly stabbing you with every sentence that needs shortened.

Then, maybe do one more round of normal edits.

And then, after all those rounds of edits (what was that, 8 rounds? 9?), your book should be good to go. As long as you did that first step and studied grammar. It doesn’t do any good to look for errors if you don’t know what to look for.

Anyway, this has been an incredibly long blog, so I’ll keep the update part short. I’m now 96 pages shy of finishing the final round of edits on World for the Broken, and an absolute fuck ton of handwritten stuff to add to the 17,721 words that I already have typed for my new WIP.

Don’t forget, the ebook version of my novella, Annabelle, will be on sale in the Amazon US and UK marketplaces the entire last week of January. Just 0.99 (dollars and pounds).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Progress Report!

Hi, guys!

I’ve done something I maybe shouldn’t have. Or maybe I should have. Who knows.

At any rate, I’m excited about it. Lol.

I started writing a new story.

Yes, I should continue writing my sci-fi series, and I will. But it’s going back on the back burner for the time being. I’ll still add to it and work on it as I go, but this other story is calling me.

You see, I’m not a technology person. I’m a magic person.

I’d much rather plan out a magic system and create gods than calculate space travel times mid-writing session. There’s a reason most of my books are high fantasy.

I just love magic.

I love the idea of being more than just…human. That’s why the humans in most of my fantasy novels have access to magic or abilities. That’s why I write about humanoids (elves, orcs, and races I make up).

It’s also why this new story has NO HUMANS

.The characters are humanoids. They have pointed ears because I fucking love pointed ears. But they also have antlers and access to magic and all sorts of awesome shit.

I mean, these people redesign a fucking landscape, and I’m excited about it.
I know that doesn’t sound as epic as it actually is in the book, but I promise, it’s to die for.

Btw, after this book comes out, reread this blog. I promise that joke will hit differently. Lol.

You may think I’m a bit twisted for it.

But let’s be fair. If you read any of my books, you probably think I’m a bit twisted.

Anyway, the point is, sometimes you just have to write what you want to write. And this story is what I want to write.

I’m not condoning the abandonment of every project after it loses the “oooh shiny” effect of a new story. You do actually need to finish stories.

Which means actually writing them.

But I’m always worried that it’ll show through if I’m writing one story while my heart beats in another.

And I know I’ll knock this one out pretty quickly because it’s a fantasy romance story and I fucking love fantasy and romance. Plus, all the major scenes have already played through my mind.

I’m already 5,000 words deep (started handwriting eight days ago, started typing six days ago). The world is built, the Gods and magic system are in place, both mortal races have been created, and the main cast is assembled.

I have a title and ideas for the cover. I even made a little thing on Canva, stockpiling images I’m going to photoshop together for the cover. Lol.
And a kickass playlist is under way with songs specifically chosen for the story.

Basically, I’m pumped!

I’ve been in a loop of editing for months, trying to prep all my stockpiled manuscripts for release now that I’m officially self-publishing everything. I’ve done a round of editing on one story, then another, then another, then went back, and started the loop again, and then threw in a round of edits on a different one and…

Well, I’ve been feeling like an editor rather than an author. (Really, I’m a broke self-published author, which means I have to be an entire publishing company rolled into one person.)

But I was feeling like a fraud, like I wasn’t a real author because I was spending so much time editing and so little time writing.

I was even worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything or that I wouldn’t be able to write it if I did come up with an idea.

Yeah, I worked on The Regonia Chronicles off and on to keep the insanity at bay. (Seriously. Writing, creating worlds calms my anxiety. It gives my overactive mind something to focus on besides how terribly every aspect of my life could go wrong. ) The bits and pieces I wrote for Regonia, the chapters I added helped.

But the creative energy has been building.

And now, it’s all pouring out. Lol.

Don’t worry though.

I’m not screeching to a halt with my release prep. I’m still editing and all that.

The edits on Where Darkness Leads are pretty in depth, honestly. I wrote that one several years ago and I’ve learned a lot since I wrote it. Which is good for the stuff I’m working on now and for my edits.

But it also means that this round of editing is going to take some time.

Where Darkness Leads is going to take some serious work to whip it into release-ready shape, and…I have to write, too. I can’t just edit for months on end.

That ain’t me.

So, this super ambitious “release one of my stockpiled manuscripts every three months” plan I came up with (btw, I never officially announced that tentative release schedule, but that’s roughly what it was going to be) will likely have to be a bit more spaced out.

All beta reader feedback for Salt and Silver (to be retitled later, but this one has the wolf shifters and the demi-demon MC) has been received and considered. Necessary adjustments have been made.

I have all the swag I ordered for The Gem of Meruna, but I’m waiting for my book order to get here before I announce the giveaway. Holiday rush and all that means that the printing is slow and the shipping slower.

But it’s coming.

As with the giveaway when Soul Bearer released, winners will be chosen from Facebook, Instagram, and my email subscribers. And yes, there will be an extra prize for the winner chosen from my email subscriber list.

I’ll be officially announcing the new title for my post-apocalyptic story later this week. Once I do a final sweep for typos, I’ll be formatting, adjusting the cover size for final page counts, and revealing the cover to all you lovelies!

Keep an eye out for it. I’m pretty psyched about how it turned out (much thanks to my husband and my writing friends for all their feedback during the cover creation process, btw).

After that, I’ll have an official release date and set it up for preorder.

If you’ve been looking for a dark, dark, DARK post-apocalyptic romance novel, this is the one for you. Just saying. A book group I’m in requires a list of triggers on any book posts, so I was thinking through the list…and it’s almost all the triggers.

That wasn’t my intention when writing it, but that’s what happened. I didn’t even realize it until thinking through the list, either.

So…yeah. Readers beware, I guess? Lol.

Whew…that was a lot. As you can tell, I’ve been incredibly busy. They’ve been cutting back a little on overtime at work, so that’s helped me get stuff done. But it’s still been a hell of an undertaking.

But you know what?

I’m making my dream happen.

So I’m going to keep pushing and doing…all things bookish.

Just as you should do what you need to do to make your dreams happen.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

It’s a Trap!

Hello, all!

So, you’re probably going to think I’m being wishy-washy, but I swear, I’m not. I’m going to have to edit The Gem of Meruna.

Now, hear me out.

Last week, I said I would only edit it if I found a lot of grammar errors or problems, and I cannot, in good conscience, rerelease it in its current state.

Not that it’s bad, but I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing over the past five years, and the state this book is in just…falls way short of the mark.

For those of you who’ve read it, don’t worry. The story isn’t changing. It’s just sentence structure and stuff like that. It needs tightened up. Honestly, it could probably stand to lose about 5,000 words, over all, just by fixing the lengthy sentences and losing the few instances of passive voice.

But this is a good thing.

It means that I’m learning more and more about writing as time goes by.

Which, in my opinion, is how you tell a good writer from a bad one. Good writers keep trying to improve.

Bad ones…think they don’t need to. They think their work is the best in existence, a gift to the world, and to edit or tweak it, or change their process at all is tantamount to blasphemy.

But that’s bullshit.

Bad writers can write good stories, and good writers can write bad stories. That’s not what I’m getting at, here.

The day you stop learning and growing as a writer (or as a person) is the day that you become a bad writer. Even if your stuff is gold, there is always room for improvement or experimentation.

And there is always room for editing.

Of course, at some point, you have to pull the trigger, and release your work upon the world, but it needs polished, first. I’ve read several books lately that could have stood to undergo one or two, or five, more rounds of edits. (I won’t name them, because I’m not here to trash talk other writers. My point is…edit your fucking books. Lol.)

Anyway, this will be the last rerelease I do. Any future books will be edited, published, and left the fuck alone.

The first time around for Meruna was a train wreck, though. Lol. (And I need it rereleased under my married name so it’ll be on my Amazon Author page with the rest of my books.)

You see, I went through a vanity press, because I didn’t know better. At that point, I didn’t know what that meant. I assumed it was a normal publisher, and that everything they did was, well, normal.

But…no.

Not at all.

They did no professional edit.

I arranged the cover art myself. (A.K.A. My husband, an incredibly talented artist, did it.) A traditional publisher (what I thought I was doing) would have done editing and had a cover done by their own artists.

They formatted and printed the book, and charged me for their services. Since I didn’t know that isn’t how the publishing industry is supposed to work, I gladly signed and paid.

Then, I regretted it when…nothing happened.

Because, unless I paid them more money, they weren’t about to do any marketing.

All this was in the contract, of course, making it completely legal.

But I didn’t know, at the time, that that wasn’t how it would have happened with a traditional publisher.

The big difference is that traditional publishers and self publishers make their money off sales.

Vanity presses make their money off the authors.

Which is why I still get calls from them, five and a half years later, trying to talk me into paying them for more (subpar) marketing, primarily by talking over me and not letting me get a word in edgewise.

The worst part is that…once I realized my mistake, I was super embarrassed. I didn’t know any better. I was just a noob, trying to get a book published. But I was mortified. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was terrified that someone would ask how I got published. But I should’ve talked about it.

I’m certainly not the only person who’s done this. I know of others who’ve had much MUCH worse experiences with vanity presses than I had. So, I’m definitely not alone in this. I could have been commiserating with them so much sooner, helping myself to feel less awful about it, and actually dealing with the problem.

Now, this isn’t where I intended to go with this blog, but I think people need to know that vanity presses are not the same as self or traditional publishers. People need to know how/why they’re different. (I’ll talk about what I was going to talk about next week.)

So, learn from my mistake.

If a publisher requires money upfront, run.

They should pay you, not the other way around.

Of course, if you self publish, the cost of editing, cover design, formatting, and a copyright is on you. Some of those things, you can do yourself, but the cost is on you regardless. But the printing and distribution costs come out of the purchase price of the book. Not your pocket.

Keep that in mind.

For now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S. – Fun fact, for those of you who came here via my IG or FB…The picture I chose for this is especially fitting for me this week. I got bit by either a tick carrying lyme disease or a brown recluse spider…eight goddamn times. Two of the bites did that whole…bullseye thing. Red ring with bruising around the outside (one the size of a fruit can, and the other the size of a half dollar coin). Feels great…

Antibiotics are helping, though. So, yeah.

But yeah, the two things have the same symptoms, apparently, and look pretty similar. The main difference is that tick bites usually have a tick in them, and brown recluse bites usually happen in pairs (at most) and turn necrotic. None of those things happened. I found no tick. There was no necrosis.

So…who fucking knows. All I know is that I want to rip the skin off my legs to stop them from itching. Yay!

Bye.

Lol.

*waves*

Then Comes the Crash

Hello, all!

Now, those of you who follow me on social media (thank you!) probably already know this, but I finished the first draft of Salt and Silver!

God, it’s exciting. I can’t even begin to express how much of a high it is to finish writing a book. (Not without taking absolutely forever about it, and, lets face it, that would get pretty boring for you guys.) The feeling of accomplishment is incredibly overwhelming, though.

Of course, now there’s the problem of…the crash.

You see, finishing a book is huge. But I’ve spent the past 4 or 5 months (since the first or second week of January) in the minds of these characters. I’ve lived and breathed their lives and breaths.

Ness, Nolan, and Elias have become so real to me, as do the characters in every book I write. And they have to, really. My writing is deeply psychological and very emotional. I have to flesh the characters out, have to know what drives them. I have to figure out their deepest desires, their coping mechanisms, their humor, the things that make them nervous…

All of it.

And by the time you do that, they’re like real people.

Add to that the fact that I’m a pantser, and it’s basically like the beginning of a friendship (or rivalry, in the case of villains). Every time I sit down with these characters, I learn something new. Every time I think through their lives, I figure out something new in their past that explains the personality they’ve taken on.

Yes, I know. I can practically hear the scoffs and see the eye rolls I’m sure some of you are giving me. I’m perfectly aware that most people who do a lot of outlining and plotting think that all this pantser mumbo jumbo is…well, mumbo jumbo. “You made the characters. You control their personality and their actions.”

Yeah, I do. To a degree.

But for the sake of realism, I have to treat them like people. The only alternative is plotting everything ahead of time, and feeling like I’m suffocating. If they each have their own code, their own personality, then writing them by the seat of my pants is easier. Because there are certain things they would, or would not, do.

Plus, much like real people, fictional people cause all sorts of drama for themselves when left to their own devices.

But treating them like real people has a price. Now, there’s the emptiness left behind by getting their stories out. Because, now, I don’t have to learn more about them. I don’t have to figure out their lives. I don’t have to learn what these friends like to eat, or why they like the sound of the birds in the woods beyond their cottage window, or why they feel guilty all the time.

It’s all done. It’s all figured out.

These friends, in their own way, have moved on. Which makes this “crash” seem a lot lonelier than I intended it to. Lol.

And since I’m going to be editing for a while, rather than starting another story immediately, I’m not building a new world or creating people. It’s honestly…a bit boring. Lol. 12 hours shifts go by so much faster when I have a story spinning through my brain. My mind is desperate to work on something, but…I can’t edit while operating heavy machinery.

Not if I expect to come out the other side of the experience with all my parts attached…I kinda have to watch what I’m doing. Staring at a screen is just a bad idea. Lol.

It’s not like I don’t have ideas, though. I intend to finish The Regonia Chronicles this year, and then there’s Second to None, the thriller that I’m dying to get started on.

But if I don’t do some editing, and get all this other shit done, I’ll never get any of these stories out to be read. Between the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna, Salt and Silver, and the other completed standalone novels (I specify standalone here, because technically book one of Regonia is done, but I’m not far enough with the series to even think about a release for that one yet), I have five books…just…waiting.

And since I’ve decided to self-publish, all they’re waiting on…is me.

We’ll see how stir crazy I get, not writing. It genuinely drives me batty. I may have to do a chapter here and there for Regonia, just to maintain my sanity.

For now, though, I’m about five chapters into the preliminary edits of Salt and Silver. (I have the edits for the next couple chapters handwritten, though, because I worked on it in the cafeteria at work. So…sorta seven chapters into the edit.) This is just the “I put that in to fill a plothole, so don’t forget, take it out, and fuck up the story” edit. It’s also the “Why the fuck did I choose that word?” edit…

Basically, just catching wonky flow and typos while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

I have to tighten it up, basically. Not that my first drafts are absolute monstrosities, or anything, but they certainly need work.

Then, I’ll let it sit while I get The Gem of Meruna ready. Then, back into the minds of Ness, Nolan, and Elias in the world of Salt and SIlver for more edits. Then…drum roll…writing something else. Eventually, some more polishing for Salt and SIlver, and then it’ll be off to beta readers.

So, in case you thought books were quick and easy…They’re not. Lol. There are so many steps involved.

Now, I write fast . The last two books I’ve written took about 4-5 months each, while working full time, with overtime almost every week. Hell, since I started taking my writing seriously in 2014, I’ve written six complete novels, a novella, and a lot of short stories. (RIP the novel I wrote in college, that was lost when the laptop and the external hard drive it was backed up on…fried.)

But there are so many things to do to get a story truly ready for readers. Writing it is only the beginning.

Anyway, though…

That pretty much gets you all up to speed with where I’m at, right now. I’ll set a release date for The Gem of Meruna once I get through some of the updating, and I’ll keep you posted.

For now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Cavemen and Rants

Hello, all.

*sigh*

So little time.

*sips hot apple cider*

It feels like I’ve been spinning my wheels, stuck in the mud, and going nowhere. So much time has been going to this rewrite. It’s necessary, believe me, and Salt and Silver can’t progress until this is done. I have to relearn who a couple of the characters are after throwing a few new curve balls at them.

And the fixes, the new tensions, the momentum of it all…It’s so much better than the original.

But it’s taking far longer than expected.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of editing/rewriting. If not for editing, most stories would be complete garbage. The ones that wouldn’t be complete garbage, would still be rough as hell. Loose ends would fray, rather than being tied off. Plot holes would swallow entire worlds. Characters would be flat. Grammar and spelling would be appalling.

So, yes, I know this is a vital step in my writing, this rewrite. But I’m so excited to move the story forward, rather than fixing the messed up first half.

Of course, working overtime every week certainly doesn’t speed the process. Every extra minute in the factory is one less minute typing.

Every author knows the struggle of not having time to write, though. Hell, every person who ever existed has felt the pressure of time, except maybe those who lived before time was invented.

But I have to wonder…did they feel it, too? The onward march, the fleeting nature of life? Were they, perhaps, able to perceive the crush of time, even if they had no idea what they were feeling? Did cavemen lament another day passed, another day closer to death?

I digress. That’s a concept for another day. At any rate, I have no answer. All I know is that time is a cruel mistress.

And certainly cruel, tonight.

I just worked a 12 hour shift, and then came home to do a bunch of cleaning. My husband and I are having a new dishwasher installed in the morning, and the house mustn’t be a wreck when the installers get here. (*rolls eyes at own need to impress total strangers*)

Also, note that I said morning.

I am not a morning person. My job usually works quite well with that, given that I don’t have the seniority to get day shift.

But appliance installers…morning works for them.

So, I’m typing all of this up as quickly as I can, for the sake of going to bed. I could wait until tomorrow, but…let’s be honest. I’m going back to sleep once the dishwasher is installed, and the strangers leave my house. Lol.

Anyway. I’m very ramble-y today. For which, I apologize.

So, some positive stuff.

I’m nearly halfway through the rewrite. 41 pages of 102 done.

And I did get some important world building stuff done this week. I made a world timeline, nailing down exact dates for important events. From the start of plagues that happened nearly 400 years prior to the story, all the way to invasions and wars that changed the landscape of the countries involved. I even figured out birthdays and…death days.

I also finally made a map. I had it in my head the whole time, of course. But seeing it on paper, rough sketch as it may be, is helpful. I’ll do a better one later, and I may even put that one online.

So, while it doesn’t feel like enough progress, it actually was a decent amount of work, given the amount of time I actually had. I suppose I should also consider the fact that no amount of progress ever meets my standards for myself.

Again, a topic for another day.

Before I go off on another rant, I’ll let you all get back to your day.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Death, My Darling

Hello, all!

Don’t worry. This blog post won’t be as violent as the title suggests. It’s only metaphorical murder that I speak of.

Lol.

There’s a saying most writers have heard, possibly coined by Stephen King, though I think he was actually quoting William Faulkner.

Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.

I don’t know if that’s the original phrasing, or not, but the meaning remains the same.

As writers, we tend to get attached to particular characters, chapters, paragraphs. Perhaps, a specific turn of phrase catches our fancy, or makes us feel clever.

All of these things, all of these parts of our stories, are parts of us. They’re things that we created, things we literally pulled out of thin air, and, somehow, shaped so that meaning and images and thoughts and worlds and entire people can be put into the minds of others in the way that we imagined them.

It’s a powerful thing.

As such, there is the potential for fixation. This lends itself to the thought that any one thing, if removed from the manuscript, could drastically, and catastrophically, impact the overall story.

So, we hoard our creations, holding fast against the eroding tide of editing.

We get stingy, whether unwittingly or by stoutly refusing to adapt depends on the person. Which, in the end, proves far more detrimental to our writing than the changes we resist.

It keeps us from seeing our flaws. It holds us back from seeing the entirety of the world we’ve created, because this one particular phrase needs defended with every single scrap of attention we can spare.

And, sometimes, changing a manuscript is just downright scary.

Now, as you all know if you’ve been following my blog, I’m in the process of rewriting one of my WIPs (works in progress). It had problems. Plot holes large enough to swallow a double decker bus. Forced romance where it shouldn’t have been. Jarring cut-off points.

In the process of rewriting this week…I had to cut an entire chapter.

Which hurt.

A lot.

That chapter provided a nice bit of humor and a touch of background information for a character that was rather central. It also introduced other characters, which did nothing but hinder the plot. They play no pivotal role, and quickly became loose ends that I would have had to scramble to tie up at the end.

Not to mention…The character whose background we were gaining…has been downgraded.

So, a brief conversation was added later to cover all the vital information, and the entire chapter was killed.

Sort-of.

I saved it in another document, so it’s more like it’s been…locked in a far far far away tower, never to see the light of day. Lol.

In it’s place, there is a much better chapter which highlights a character whose role has been elevated significantly.

And I love the new chapter. Far more than the original.

FAR more.

So, my point is, for all the writers reading this, writing is a mess. Embrace that. Kill your darlings, when you need to. Save them in a separate document, just in case the original was better than the new version, but often times…you won’t need that backup, won’t want it.

For all the readers reading this, writing is a mess. Embrace the polished works wrapped up in gorgeous covers with bows and shiny bookmarks for your pleasure. Because it’s a long road, getting the story to you in a nice, cohesive, easily comprehended, pretty package.

Love them, as we writers have loved them.

We pour our souls into our books. Our time, our thoughts, our tears (yes, seriously, I cry when I write sad scenes), our joy (sometimes to the point where our fingers move too quickly over the keyboard, producing gibberish, as we rush forward, too excited to slow down), our hearts…It all goes in.

One way or another, bits of ourselves find their way into our books. Whether we intend it or not.

We just have to pick and choose which parts to send forward to the readers.

Sometimes, we have to kill our darlings.

But we end up so much better off.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thank you all for coming, for taking the time out of your day to read what I’ve had to say. Thank you for reading my books, if you have. If not, they’re here, on my website. *shameless plug*

Aaaaanywhoo…lol. (Don’t worry, I won’t do that again.)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing tips? Who the hell am I to give writing tips?

Hello, all!

I recently got an audio book version of one of my favorite books (I won’t say which, because I’m about to shit on it a bit. Figuratively, of course. Lol.) I put it on my phone, and have been listening to it while at work, and….it’s just stunning. It really is a perfect story, even if the writing could stand a few improvements, at least in the beginning of the book.

It has aliens and futuristic technology, primitive survival and humans on the brink of extinction, other worlds and a new vision of our world, drama and tension. Multiple romances, even a love triangle, though in this case it’s more like a square with one side collapsed so that two corners collide.

In short, the story has nearly everything that I like to read.

But hearing it spoken aloud brings writing flaws to attention. There’s a reason that one very common tip mentioned in writing groups is to read your work aloud.

Which brings me to the topic of discussion today: passive voice and copula spiders.

Basically, they’ll fuck your shit up.

Too many make your story drag on, racking up the word count without adding to the plot, or moving it forward, at all. I know how comforting a higher word count can be, believe me, but if it’s all going to be cut out in editing, it doesn’t help in the end.

Passive voice example:

The apple was eaten by Tom. (passive as hell)
Tom ate the apple. (much better)

The second sentence actually shows someone doing something. It’s active. It’s more interesting, and doesn’t pack your story with useless words. (A tip I saw in a meme recently said that if you can insert “by zombies” after your verb, you’re using passive voice. The apple was eaten…by zombies.)

Now, for copula spiders. Basically, if you search for the word “is,” or some other conjugation of the word “be,” in your manuscript, and can find more than 8 on a page, that’s a copula spider. If it’s printed, circle one, and then circle the others, connecting them all to one in the center. It’ll kinda look like a spider.

Is, am, were, was, be, been.

Look into it. They’re vicious soul suckers, and slow the story down. Don’t believe me? Here you go:

The apple is red. It is shining. The sunlight is bouncing off it.
The red apple shines brilliantly in the sunlight.

Which would you rather read?

Hell, I was able to add another word (“brilliantly”) for impact, and the second version was still shorter. Concise writing vastly improves story quality.

Let’s combine the two flaws, because they tend to go hand in hand. How about we raise the stakes while we’re at it, really drive the point home?

The gun is loaded. It is pointed at me by Tom.
Tom points the loaded gun at me.

Sweet (in theory, not in the practice of pointing guns at people), simple, and to the point (pun intended).

It just flows, so much better.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times where this can be used for emphasis. Perhaps, Tom wants to assure us that the gun is loaded. Perhaps, someone is colorblind, and has confused a fuji apple for a granny smith. They need corrected, lest they put the wrong type of apple in their pie, and someone says, “It is red.”

Similarly, passive voice can be used to emphasize parts of the sentence, and, let’s face it, people love to really drive their points home, any way they can. So, dialogue becomes a free-for-all, to a degree.

In a similar vein, first person-present tense can use these things quite effectively, if the story is written as if it were the character’s thoughts. Even then, it has to be done well.

Not to mention the potential for a troublesome character who tends to over-explain, thus limiting any possibility for concise language.

So, every rule has its exceptions.

But, for the most part, passive voice and copula spiders hinder storytelling. Burdensome and ineffectual, they slow the reader, transforming a potentially page-turning novel into a sluggish read.

That’s not exactly something most writers want.

Some stories are strong enough to pull their weight, regardless of a few extra words. The one I’ve been listening to, for example.

But not every story can bear that kind of burden.

Do yourself, your editor (and thus your wallet), and your readers a favor. Be wary of these things. When you employ them in your story, do them with great purpose, and make sure it’s obvious that you meant to do it.

We can tell when it’s an accident.

*steps down from the soap box*

*prepares to use the hell out of copulas, because at this point, I’m just talking*

On a more personal note, I want to say that rewrites are exhausting. Lol. I worked through about seven chapters of Salt and Silver, and was frustrated the whole time. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I just knew that it wasn’t working.

Then, I realized I was holding on too tightly. To sentences. To phrases. To chapters.

To a character.

So much stuff must be cut to make room for the things I have to work in. I was trying too hard to adjust things, rather than eliminating them. But if a character’s role in the story changes…naturally the amount of time they’re given in the limelight should change, as well.

So, I head into this week’s revisions with a clearer idea of what I must do.

Wish me luck. Lol.

For now, though…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.