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What I have written or in the process of writing.

How to edit your novel?

June 20, 2017

Or how I made mistakes and ended up editing my first novel myself.

When I finished the first draft of, The Ending is Everything, it was a cause for celebration that lead to a sobering and humbling first read through. Read my previous post from November for the results. That experience resulted in me realizing without a shadow of a doubt that I needed an editor. A professional. Someone to point out the repetitive words, the constant duplication of ideas, the telling, not showing, the foreshadowing and everything else an editor can help out with.

So, when I arrived at my third or fourth draft in March (it was probably my fifth or sixth, I had gone over the document so many times, see here for my first checklist), I set out to find an editor.  Being an independent author (one without representation), I had to find an editor who would work for a decent price and understood what I was trying to do. This was far more challenging than I anticipated.

The first step was finding someone who would complete the process for a relatively low price. My book ended up being seventy-eight thousand words. Most editors (without copyediting) landed somewhere around $.04 cents per word. That is a total of $3,120.00. Cheap by industry standards. Not for me.  With copyediting, it was $.06 to $.08 cents per word. Almost doubling the price.

Now, there are two types (sometimes three in my mind) of editing being offered. The Structure (development) edit and the language edit, which sometimes includes copyediting.

The Structure edit: Plot, Themes, Characterisation, Point of View, Voice, Pace, Dialogue, and Flow.

The Language edit: Proofread, Typos, Grammar, Trim sentences, Repetition, Indicate large issues.

Copyediting: All of the Language edit, Custom style sheet,  dots all the I’s and crosses all the T’s.

Now, in the traditional publishing world, all of this is done by multiple professionals with a particular emphasis.  In the self-published, independent world, you have to find them yourself. So, I did, or at least I thought I did.

In April, I began to work with an editor. We agreed on a language edit, for a decent price. I sent him a sample chapter for an example of what he would accomplish. It was what I was looking for. Word choice. Sentence suggestions. Grammar. He suggested there is no need to italicize the immediate inner thoughts of the character in a first person novel. I agreed. Then I sent him the complete novel. I asked him to send me the first chapter back as soon as he finished it. Because I knew that the first chapter is a strange one. It occurs during a drunken party. So my thought was to break it up in quick scenes, that represented the blacked out view of the narrator. What I got back was not what I wanted, and more importantly, the changes I agreed with were ones I would’ve caught after a few more read-throughs of my own. We discussed these issues, and I realized during these discussions that if we did this for every chapter, the book would be released in 2024 and would no longer take place in the future, but the now.

To sum up a long introduction, I decided to part ways with the editor. I understood the deposit would be gone but felt, after what I saw, I could do the work myself.

So, I began to work on a plan to edit the book.

Step One: Automate grammar and typos. I ran the novel through Grammarly (I purchased the program) to find the basic grammar errors. After that, I uploaded the document to http://www.proz.com/PerfectIt/Consistency_Checker which gave me a breakdown of my inconsistencies. hyphenations (blue-light vs blue light), spelling variations (gray vs grey) and common typos.

Step Two: The info dumps. I have a whole chapter that is a “flashback” chapter. It makes sense in the context of the novel that the character would flashback to his childhood, but it’s still an info dump.  I had to decide to keep this chapter or spread out the information throughout the novel. I decided to keep it but discern some of the information at other points in the book, so the chapter isn’t so long. This was a choice I made, based on the character telling/writing the story.

Step Three: Omit needless words. This was difficult. You can delete fifty percent of the words in the novel, and it will still tell the story. Or even ninety percent, and call it a poem. But, you go too far, and you lose the voice of the storyteller. I spent days working on this. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Look for adjectives, they are the usual culprits (-ly ending words) and can be deleted.

Step Four: Show vs. Tell. Not necessarily in scenes, but in words. She was cold vs. she shivered. Find the lazy writing.

Step Five: Speaker tags. Limit to she said, she asked, she replied. That’s it. Use action instead of speaker tags to break up and pace dialogue.

Step Six: Loose body parts. Her eyes fell to the floor. Yuck.

Step Seven: Passive voice. Really difficult to ascertain and change. Overuse of the words “was” and “were” are great indicators.

Step Eight: Create a style sheet. Acronyms, Abbreviations, Numbers, Dates, Names, Spellings. How are you going to display these words in the final novel consistently? For example: in my novel, the freeway numbers in Southern California are significant. Interstate 15 vs. Interstate Fifteen. I used the number as 15 in the book. Except in dialogue where everything is spelled out. This is entirely up to the individual, just be consistent.

Step Nine: Copyediting again. Go through word for word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph. Look for those hidden extra words. I found multiple times I had extra words. More than one then or than mix up. It’s tedious and difficult to do as an avid reader. Your mind sometimes fixes these mistakes for you, without your knowledge. The only advice I can give is slow down. Take your time.

Step Ten:  Book things. The little things in a novel that you may not notice. “The earth is flat,” She said. May look right, but it’s not. “The earth is flat,” she said.

Even after all this. After months of dedicated reading and re-reading. Changing and changing back. I still see things, that I may or may not change. Again, this is where the style of the first-person novel and the feeling I am trying to evoke may mean I keep words and sentences I would change in a third-person story. The immediacy and loose writing style is something I am working to maintain. So, when a reader picks up this book, it feels like reading a journal of the events. Like a found footage movie. It needs to look a certain way to evoke the realism. I attempted to find that balance. Not sure I succeeded, but the final product will be produced the way I intended.

A quick caveat: This is my first novel. I am, in no way, an expert. This is only my experience working on my book. If you have any other suggestions or links, please let me know. I am always looking for ways to learn more.

 

Some helpful links for self-editing:

Grammar Girl: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

https://www.jerryjenkins.com/self-editing/

http://theeditorsblog.net/

http://www.darkwaves.com/sfch/writing/ckilian/#3

 

 

On The First Draft of My Novel

November 29, 2016

Fifty Shades is a masterpiece compared to my first draft.

Featured_Image_On_First_Draft-300x300 On The First Draft of My Novel Featured Writing On August 10, 2016, at 3:37 am, I finished the first draft of my novel, after a six-hour writing session, that took me into the dead of night. 82,651 words. It was a cause for much celebration. I opened my desk drawer and took out a bottle of scotch. Poured myself a small glass and toasted my future success.

I decided to take three weeks off and not look at it. Let it sit. I spent time with the family. Went back to Southern California. Twice. Enjoying the respite.

On August 31st, I read it in one sitting. Oh, the horror.

“Why does this sentence sound like Yoda wrote it?”
“That’s not the character’s name.”
“Who is speaking?”
“I don’t know what that paragraph was about.”
“That’s not a sentence.”
“Where is the conflict?”
“I am a terrible writer.”

It was shocking how bad the writing was at times. And at first, I was dismayed. I began to feel like maybe this was a mistake. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. But, it was too late for that. I had pushed all my chips in. I was going to finish this damn book.

So, I read it again. This time I felt something different. I still saw the writing errors and little annoyances, but I also noticed that the characters and dialogue were well rounded and believable. I felt the story was working. The plot needed some tightening, but it felt like beneath the simple writing, there was a good novel in the marrow of its bones. Another important fact, was the writing improved as I went along. The first three chapters were a mess and would have to be re-written from scratch, but as the story moved forward the better it became. This, of course, made sense. My writing muscles have been dormant for so long, that, of course, it would improve the more I wrote.

I was relieved. I know first drafts are usually terrible. But, I was not prepared for the utter debacle that was in front of me. So I set out a plan to revise and improve the writing and plot. The characters and story I thought were ready to go. Probably because those are the elements in all stories I adore above all else. The plot, the writing and all the other items that make up a book, are the colors that enhance the characters and story. But, I knew I needed a plan.

So, I created the revision plan below:

Revision 1 – Big Picture

  • Create a detailed outline of the novel.
    • Refine plot
  • Re-write the first three chapters.
  • Remove excess characters.
  • Improve character arcs.
  • Add/Remove scenes.
  • Increase conflict where necessary. But, do not force conflict.
  • Look for information dumps.
  • Get on with it. Avoid excessive scene setting.
  • Avoid generalities. Specifics add a ring of truth.
  • Foreshadowing Issues.
    • Foreshadow Setup and Delivery.
  • Avoid cliches.

Revision 2 – Basic Writing Style

  • POV errors.
  • Choose a normal word over the obtuse.
  • Show, don’t tell. But, sometimes tell.
  • Omit needless words.
    • Be on the lookout for filter words. Example: I watched the box blow apart.  Versus. The box blew apart. 
  • Keep adjectives and adverbs under control.
  • Dialogue Issues.
    • Avoid speaker tags by using beats.
    • Eliminate impossible speaker tabs: “I think you’re amusing,” He smiled.
    • Don’t be creative with speaker tabs: “It’s a lovely night,” She sung.

Revision 3 – Advanced Writing Style

  • Verify Order of Events.
    • The “As” Factor – Use “As” to show simultaneous events.
    • Participle Phrases – Another method to show simultaneous events.
    • Motivation/Reaction Units or Stimulus/Response – Events in their proper order.
  • Resist explaining.
    • John was angry. He smashed the table. “Get out of my restaurant!” she said, angrily.
  • Pronoun Antecedents.
  • Motivation/Reaction.
    • Motivation (stimulus) precedes reaction (response).
  • Intimate Point of View.
    • The key to intimate point of view is to show what the character sees, hears, feels, and smells, and to do so without drawing your reader away from the character.
  • Passive Voice and The “Was” Problem.
    • Look for cases in which the subject is being acted upon (passive) instead of performing the verb (active).
  • The “Only” Problem.
    • Look for places where “Only” is placed before the verb.
  • Loose Body Parts.
    • Hazel dropped her eyes.
  • The “Before” Problem.
    • Before usually describes an action that precedes another action. “Bill opened the parachute before he reached the ground.” Did both actions occur? 
    • “John caught Mary before she hit the ground.” Did both actions occur? 
    • Make it clear. “John caught Mary, keeping her from hitting the ground.”
  • Read aloud “Listening” for Repeated Words or Phrases.

This may seem more daunting than it is. I have to be careful not to lose the characters voice since it is a first person novel and remember it’s the story and characters that matter. I am not trying to win literary awards.

I am working my way through Revision 1. I made the mistake of believing I could have all this finished by the end of November. Now, I am working towards the end of January.
Most of these revision steps I found on YouTube, primarily a lecture by Bryan Davis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKw80FwZJU0

After I complete all these steps, I will hand it over to a professional editor. The process will begin again. Yay!
I will keep you posted.

Thanks for reading!

On Why I Decided to Write a Novel. Part II.

February 4, 2016

In part one, I discussed when I made the decision and how that came about. In part two, I will discuss the why.

See, this isn’t something that came completely out of the blue. Throughout my younger days, I was always writing stories, reading and being fascinated by the written word. But, while I enjoyed the stories; I always pictured myself in film. Making movies. Telling stories through celluloid.

Filmmaking has always fascinated me. The collaborative art form. The visual interpretations and overall directorial manipulation. The art of film is the art of all the arts. It contains Photography, Writing, Acting, Music and host of other art forms to produce a feature film. This is what fascinated me. But, there are a couple of issues with filmmaking that would make it more difficult for me to achieve my lofty goals.

#1 – Money.  Filmmaking isn’t cheap. Even today. You can make a decent, indie, film for $10,000.00.  But, that is still $10,000.00. At that price, the story has to be written for that particular budget. No special effects or car chases, or anything to do with cars. It can be done and would not be a huge issue, except for…

#2 – Crew. Filmmaking is not a solo affair. You need a crew. You can have a minimal crew. But, you still need a camera man, sound guy and actors. If you are like me, not an extrovert and most of your friends are not into filmmaking, then you are kinda stuck trying to figure out who and what needs to be done. You could hire a crew, but that just adds to your budget and pushes the ability to tell your story away from the minimal dollars you would like to spend.

Now, I know one thing and one thing for sure: These two reasons are just excuses. You see, the real reason I never jumped into filmmaking or made any of the screenplays I wrote into anything more than the paper they were printed on; I was content.  That’s right. I was reasonably happy with my job, with no motivation to do anything more. I really wanted to tell these stories I had in my head, but no intense desire, beyond the writing of them.

When I was laid off and I started up my video business, I should’ve made a film right then and there. I had the money to hire a crew and actors. But, I didn’t. Instead, I started a business catering to other businesses. I was too afraid of not making an income, that I wanted to start a business to support the creative side. Unfortunately, by not making a film and concentrating on the business side, I missed a great opportunity. But, let’s face facts: No one makes a corporate video and thinks ‘this is what I always wanted to do with my life.’ My heart wasn’t in the business the way it should’ve been. Being self-employed, you can’t just kinda be into it. It takes up all your time. You need to love it. Or at least have the fear to push you to not fail. I had neither. I enjoyed it, but it never really was what I wanted to do.

Which leads me to: what did I want to do? When I found that time capsule, it hit me like a Dustin Brown body check; what I really enjoyed more than anything was making up stories. Diving into characters. Creating premises where the characters find themselves and discovering how they react.  I thought this was related to film, but being a writer would allow me to tell my stories without impediment. Besides, the internal ones. I researched the self-publishing market and was amazed at what I found. It really is a great time to write your stories and then have them available to millions of people thru Amazon, Apple, Kobo and other e-book sellers. I became excited, and I couldn’t wait to be begin. There was only one issue: How do I write a novel? A screenplay is a sketch of the final project. A Novel? That is something else entirely.


On Why I Decided to Write a Novel. Part I.

January 29, 2016

In the spring of 2012, I just purchased my first home. I had a good job. A job I had been at for thirteen years. And, most importantly, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup. Everything was going great.

Then, in 2013, everything changed.

My job, which began as an analyst position, had slowly morphed into an administrative assistant position. Instead of designing and creating analytics reports and providing suggestions for improvement, I was now answering phone calls, making copies, and sending out mail. I was a team player and did what I needed to help, but, it was at this time, after all these years, I begin to wonder if this is what I wanted to do. I enjoyed most of my time at the company. However, the last couple years, in the sales and marketing department, were not the greatest. The company had changed hands many times, over the past few years and it was beginning to show.

In June 2013, my boss invited me into his office and told me that they decided to let me go. At first, I was shocked. But once the initial shock wore off, I begin to become excited about an opportunity. I’ve always wanted to direct films and work in video. This was my opportunity. When I was finally let go, a month and a half later, I decided to start a business creating commercial videos. I did have a background in wedding videos, and I studied the art of video production. So I felt I could accomplish what I was trying to sell.

Unfortunately, without the working background or video reel to show potential clients, it was tough to bring in new customers. In order to lure the customers to sign on the dotted line,  I had to lower my prices so low, that I barely made a profit, if any. Which would’ve been expected and appropriate, for a while anyway, so that I could create some commercial videos for a reel to show future clients. But, in this day and age, where everyone can create a video with their smartphones; people think they can achieve for free, what you are trying to sell. I began to realize that it would take, approximately, five years to make a profit and that was three years longer than I had. I saved up enough money to survive two years without a steady income. Most of the potential sales I received wanted the video done at such a low price that I couldn’t take the job, as it would have been a waste of my energy. Or, I would have a potential large paying job, but just couldn’t close the deal without any other videos to show. The customers I did work with, seemed to enjoy my work, as most of them rehired me at a later date. But it just wasn’t enough.

I was, also, denied unemployment because I started my own business and wasn’t actively seeking employment. Once I did seek employment, after my business wasn’t paying the bills, I was told my unemployment benefits had run out. In other words: Shit out of luck.

In the summer of 2015, things became pretty difficult, as I predicted, exactly two years from when I was laid off. I began selling my DVDs, books, and electronics on eBay. I had a roommate who was helping with the mortgage and the utilities. But I knew I would probably have to sell the house.

There it was. The end all, be all, of my life. I was going to sell my house and… what? I had no job. The video business was a disaster. What was I to do?

In August, I was cleaning my garage, going through boxes; deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to throw out, when I came across an old manila (I always called it vanilla) envelope. It said, “Do not open until 2009.” It was already open. But, I forgot what was inside. It was a bunch of stories, questions, and answers about my life, written by my sixth-grade self.
A time capsule:
With questions like, “What annoys you the most?”
And answers like “Sisters.”
But one question caught my eye, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Hmm. I had no idea what I answered. “A Basketball player…” This made me laugh. Not gonna happen. Did I not see how short my parents were?
Or a writer.”

A writer? Of course.

I had all these stories, but no way to express them. Multiple screenplays with nowhere to go with them. I can do this. I was going to be a writer. An author. Write fiction. It will be awesome. I will take a year off. Take the profit from the sale of the house. Pay off all my debt. Move into my parent’s basement and write. This will work. It won’t be that hard.

To quote, Forrest Gump, “I may not be a smart man…”

Read Part II Here