Writing Tips – The Final Edit

So, I’m at the final stage of editing the third book in my YA paranormal series, The Dark Hollow Chronicles. Because I’ve been through this about seven times now (and made many mistakes), I thought I’d share what I learned from the process. And I’m also taking a break from a three-day editing marathon. Anyone out there feel my pain?

Here we go…

Set a Deadline

If you’re an indie like me, you don’t have a publisher breathing down your neck (if only), so it helps to give yourself a deadline. I use Amazon’s pre-order option to act as the ticking clock attached to the bomb. The first time I listed one of my books for pre-order, I made the classic rookie mistake of missing the deadline (48 hours before the release date), so the e-book my customers received was my shitty first draft and not the polished final copy. I was able to re-upload it eventually, but that was an embarrassing goof that I will not repeat. If you use this option, make sure you note the final upload deadline, not just the release date. Amazon does send reminders, but it’s best to post it in bold type on a hot pink sticky note somewhere at your workstation.

A writer shares his experience about missing a pre-order deadline.

The Screen Edit

Because I wrote this particular story on Wattpad first, it has already gone through at least one edit, from first draft to Wattpad draft. But errors always seep through; and I love it when my readers find them. They act as my beta readers for this book and the other ones in the series. If you’re not on Wattpad, you should check it out. It’s great for readers and writers.

Next comes the screen edit, meaning I pull up the word document on my computer screen and read through my story without stopping to fix any errors (painful). When it comes to writing, I’ve learned that clarity is rule number one. Ask yourself if the events in your story make logical sense in space and time? Ditto for the world in which it takes places. Is it easy to understand? Can a person with a middle to high school education (my audience for this book) follow it? Is the vocabulary appropriate for that age group? Is the plot engaging, or can it use a few tweaks?

I also cut and paste difficult passages into Grammarly (I have the subscription, and it’s worth it) to tease out that dreaded passive voice that continually pops up, as well as other problems. A word about Grammarly and other correction apps: it’s a tool, but it’s not infallible. It’s not the computer’s job to catch your mistakes. It’s yours (or an editor’s if you’re lucky enough to have one).

Make sure each sentence is grammatically correct, but remember that fiction prose is more flexible than nonfiction. Most fiction writers will have a sentence fragment thrown in to quicken the pace or create tension. Grammarly would read that as incorrect, but sometimes it works. For example, I just opened a Stephen King book (The Stand) to a random page and read this: “Silence from the floor.” Should King have added a verb there? No. But sentence fragments should be used sparingly and only when it serves the story.

“Must you write complete sentences each time, every time? Perish the thought.” Stephen King On Writing

Once my work passes the read-through, I go over it again on the screen, fixing errors, searching for character name misspellings, and other types of embarrassing egregiousness.

Then, I format the text for printing. Putting something in print is a bold move. I don’t publish it right away (thank God, I haven’t made that mistake yet). I order the proof through Amazon and use that as my final working copy, which leads to the….

Hard Copy Edit

Seeing one’s work in print is both exciting and terrifying. The clock is ticking for my final upload, and the pressure is on. Holding the proof copy in my hands makes it very real, but the biggest reason I recommend the hard copy edit (you can use a printer too) is that the mistakes jump off the page.

It also helps is take your hard copy to a quiet location away from your workstation. I often work in a carrel in my local library. Surrounded by all those published books, I am inspired and challenged to have my work be just as good. The isolation of the carrel forces me to focus. We live in a world of distractions folks, and if you think you can simultaneously edit your book while half-watching a YouTube video on a small window in the upper corner of your computer screen or listen to your favorite podcast, you’re dead wrong. Get away from all screens! Now! You’re studying for your final exams. This is serious business. Your life depends on it.

I prefer to do my hard copy edit a few chapters at a time. I find if I try to do too much, my mind wanders and my eyes start to cross. So after demolishing a few chapters with my pen, I return to my computer screen and fix the mistakes. Some passages will need to be rewritten, and those passages will have to be checked for errors. You’ve reached the tear out your hair stage, but it’s also when you find your work beginning to reach a level of flow finally, and that’s a great feeling.

The Final Pass

For the final stage, I pull the edited chapter up on the screen, blow up the text, and slowly read it aloud. Many writers recommend this. Again, mistakes will come out of hiding and bop you over the head. You’ll notice how that alliterative passage feels forced, how a better word choice there would improve the flow, etc.

I read my story as if I’m trying to hold the attention of my audience. If I get chills from what I’m hearing, if I’m dying to know what happens next (even if I already know), then I have done my job. I’m starting to feel good about what I’ve accomplished, that all that obsessive hard work was worth it.

Perfection is impossible, but you have to aim for it. I’ll go over my manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, and still mistakes will seep through. It happens even with professionally edited books. At some point, you do need to let go. But before you hit that publish button, you want to make sure that you’re putting forth your best effort. Then you can move onto the next book. And that’s a great feeling too!

But for now, the clock is ticking. I need to get back to work on my final edit. Good luck with yours!


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New YA Novel on Wattpad

 

A few months ago I decided to write the sequel to my new YA novel, The Ghosts of Dark Hollow, which is now available on Amazon and Kindle and paperback.

I started my writing process with The Snowflake Method. It was my first time using the software, and I admit its thoroughness got on my nerves a bit, but ultimately it proved to be an excellent writing prep tool. It forced me to think about all aspects of my story before I even started writing, especially character development. Once I sat down to write the first draft, the process was pleasantly smooth, and I didn’t need to go back and fill in as many story holes as I’ve had to in the past.

The witch of long shadows
Cover design by Consuelo Parra
Model: Faestock.deviantart

Continue reading “New YA Novel on Wattpad”

How Not to Write a Book

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Recently I’ve been dipping my reading time and my pen into the Young Adult genre. It’s through my obsessive viewing of booktube that I’ve been exposed to some very creative stories in the fantasy and science fiction genre.

Along with that, I’ve been abusing my Amazon prime membership by purchasing many of these books that have gorgeous, colorful hardback covers and dust jackets that look beautiful on my shelves. Since finishing book three of A Song of Fire and Ice, I’m taking a reprieve from adult reads and soaking up some YA loveliness.

Except that it’s not all lovely. Last week I read a heavily hyped YA science fiction adventure novel that is an object lesson in how not to write a book. I won’t mention it by title because its authors have already suffered enough abuse, but the mistakes they made can be a note of caution to every fiction writer. Continue reading “How Not to Write a Book”

Good Writing Days

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I think it was Stephen King in his great book “On Writing” who stated something to the effect that if you show up at the same spot and time everyday, the muse will do the same.

Okay, I found the quote. It’s much more articulate than my paraphrase (go figure):

“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” Continue reading “Good Writing Days”

Getting Featured on Wattpad

I joined Wattpad in August kind of as a fluke. A Netflix show I really liked got canceled (Gypsy with Naomi Watts) and when I was google searching why, I found a Reddit thread where someone had posted a fan fiction story about what happens to Watts’ character and her lesbian lover after the show ends. Intrigued, I checked it out and discovered a site I’ve since grown to love. Shout out to you, @AnnaGold1 for bringing me there. I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of Wattpad, before then, but as soon as I joined I was hooked. It’s become my destination social media site since I defected from Facebook. And, I’ve found, a much more productive one.

I quickly made a profile for myself and put up a few of my short stories that no one read, then I eventually put up my two completed novels currently lost in the Amazon jungle. They got a few reads on Wattpad, but it wasn’t until I wrote a novella-length story that catered to a specific audience (YA) in a popular but not over-used genre The Ghosts of Dark Hollow (paranormal), and got a stunning cover for it (credits below), that my story got featured by the site without me having to submit a request. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but this is considered grabbing the brass ring on Wattpad. That, and reaching the #1 spot out of millions of stories (mine is currently ranking at #5).

I also wrote what I think is a pretty good story that keeps the pages (or screens) turning. It’s something I try to do with all my fiction, along with a good twist near the end. Since I first posted it as a draft, I did quite a bit of polishing and editing: some of it formed from the comments I received from readers. Continue reading “Getting Featured on Wattpad”

Fostering Creativity – Part 7

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It’s easy to get sucked in.

Eliminate Distractions

Multitasking may seem like a necessity in today’s world, but it’s a killer for creativity.  I saw an interview with Patti Smith recently where she said that during her sojourn in Michigan she would use the early morning hours before her kids woke up for writing and studying. I’m an early riser too, and I need absolute silence (or Zen music) when I’m writing. People have different levels of tolerance, but anything that distracts your mental energy from focusing on the creative task is bad, and the internet is full of them.

When you get stuck on a sentence, it’s temping to open a window and kill some time, but I’ve found it’s better to stay with the thought and work through the problem. If all else fails, it’s probably smarter to take a walk or do something physical than to open the Daily Mail. It’s easy to get pulled into one wormhole or another and before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t written one word.

No assholes

Mind space distractions are killers to creativity, and certain people can burrow in there real good. My husband has a rule for his business. If he wakes up still thinking about some asshole on the job, he fires them. Now, most of us don’t have that luxury when it comes to our working lives, but how many of us have hung on to shitty relationships out of some warped sense of duty? I know I have. We all have bad moments now and then, but if someone is consistently obnoxious to the point where you are thinking about them too much, it’s time for the old heave-ho. It may sound harsh, but in order to create to your fullest potential your mind must be free from the petty dramas of life. Continue reading “Fostering Creativity – Part 7”

On Writing

Go where the pain is

This is a quote from Anne Rice who was told this by a teacher of hers and she found it useful and passed it on. A few days into my second nanowrimo writing marathon (while continuing to update a Wattpad story) I can relate to it.

I described my take on writing recently to a fellow writer as a painful obsession.

A painful obsession is perhaps analogous to a long distance runner (it’s been a long time since I’ve done any strenuous exercise so maybe that’s not the best example). All you have to do to stop the pain is to stop the activity, which is exactly what keeps you going.

Writing isn’t easy. This morning I awoke from a nightmare (I have them often, so much so that some mornings I awake feeling like I just ran a marathon which makes my statement in the previous paragraph rather fallacious). At 4:30 am I was drinking coffee and chasing away the demons by writing them all down. I find that the dungeon sex scenes flow easily under these circumstances; the love scene in the garden not so much, but still you push through. Whatever scene I’m working on I  find it easier to do it early in the morning before the world rushes in with its distractions.

Sometimes it isn’t a nightmare that gets me up at 4:30 am but because I’m really excited to discover what my character will do next. That’s a good place for a writer to be.  Continue reading “On Writing”

Fostering Creativity – Part 5

Finding Your Own Voice

I wrote a previous blog post (a bit tongue in cheek) a while back about my writing gurus. Since then, I read one of Derek Murphy’s books, the YA paranormal romance Shearwater. I left a pretty harsh review that may have inspired the author to record this video.

 

I have since taken down the review after watching this because I felt rather bad about it. I don’t like to throw negativity out in the world. If readers enjoy Mr. Murphy’s work that’s fine. Continue reading “Fostering Creativity – Part 5”

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