Editing Made Easy
Dec18

Editing Made Easy

    So you’ve finally done it. You’ve finished your prized manuscript – the one you’ve spent months creating – and the temptation to pop it into a postal package and ship it off to a welcoming editor is tugging at you mercilessly.   I urge you to resist that temptation. For now, anyway.   After spending so much of your time and effort in producing what you have so far, it would seem a shame to rush things at this crucial stage in your manuscript’s life. Once the first draft is done, almost every writer realizes that an edit or partial rewrite is going to be a necessary task.   There are almost as many different ways to edit and rewrite as there are writers. Some prefer to edit as they go. There are those who prefer to chop and change storylines midway through the creation process. Others seem to race through the first draft and spend time polishing it up once they’re done. I’m one of the latter.   It makes no difference which technique you prefer, as long as it works for you. The point is to end up with a professional manuscript that an editor or publisher will hopefully buy from you in order to publish it.   So let’s take a look at 12 polishing techniques that could mean the difference between a sale and a rejection.   1 – Print it Out Seeing your words paraded before you on a screen is one thing. Reading your words in a different form means you will see it in a different perspective. If you write in long-hand, type it out. If you use a computer, print out a paper copy.   I realize this method gets a little heavy on the pocket, but seeing your work in a new light will highlight a lot of little mistakes and inconsistencies that would not be so obvious otherwise. Your work will benefit from the exposure in a different format.   2 – Read it Aloud Okay, so this might look a little silly to anyone peeking through your window, but the chances are, no one is looking anyway. The point of this exercise is to bring out the natural flow (or lack thereof) in your writing.   For this step, a notepad and a plentiful supply of pens are handy. As you read, don’t be tempted to stop and correct any redundancies, or awkward phrasings. Jot down anything you notice in your notepad, but keep reading. You will get to the fix-it stage later.   Nothing will benefit your writing more than hearing it read aloud. You’ll...

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Weave Sub-Plots into Your Novel
Nov26

Weave Sub-Plots into Your Novel

      How many times have you started work on a great novel only to run out of steam 50 pages into your work? The story stalls, the idea goes flat, the characters seem to stare back at you saying “What now, boss?” In some cases it might be that you didn’t spend enough time planning how your characters are going to get from beginning to end. Sometimes you might find that you wandered off on a plot tangent and aren’t sure where to go next. Either way, that red-hot plot you were so excited about when you first started writing just fizzles out. In other cases it might be that the idea wasn’t big enough to fill out a novel or maybe you simply don’t have enough conflict in your story so far and want to liven things up a bit. Weaving a second plot through your main storyline not only helps you to uncover new facets of your characters but can help raise conflict levels and create tension. You also have the opportunity to create a new depth to your original story, building layers of complexity that can force your fictional world into three dimensions. If you create a sub-plot that has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot you’ll even force your reader to keep turning pages just to see how they gel together. Of course your reader already knows they will end up tied together in a neat little bow by the end of the book – otherwise there would be no reason for the new plot thread – but the reader will want to know how they end up intertwined and so will keep reading to find out. Your sub-plot doesn’t need to be a romantic thread braided through the original story, although this is one of the more common sub-plot tactics used in many novels. You might decide to have your main secondary character working with your protagonist openly, but secretly harboring a desire to thwart the hero’s efforts at every turn because he has other things on his agenda. You might decide to introduce a completely new plot to your novel that has nothing to do with the first and weave these together. No matter what you decide to add for your sub-plot or how separate they are, it’s important that something within the sub-plot contains a vital element that is necessary to complete the main plot. Sub-plots are used very effectively in many fantasy epics. The characters are all focused on a primary goal or quest, but each character has different things going on that either impede or interfere...

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Writing a Synopsis – Condensing Your Novel
Nov23

Writing a Synopsis – Condensing Your Novel

  Writing a synopsis is one of the most daunting chores a writer must face. After spending months lovingly crafting a complex plot, realizing and nurturing a cast of characters and painstakingly selecting the right prose for descriptions, how do you then summarize your masterpiece in just 2 or 3 pages? There is simply too much information in a 400 page novel to condense into a brief blurb. How will an editor ever catch all the nuances and clues you’ve woven into your plot? And what if he misses the connection between your hero and your villain? Won’t the ending seem contrived if all the by-plays aren’t included? The great temptation for many writers is the urge to explain the connection between characters and events, just to be sure the editor can’t miss the by-plays. Unfortunately, doing this will make an editor wonder what’s left to read in your manuscript, and so probably won’t request to see it. Here are some tips for keeping your synopsis short and focused, and keep an editor interested at the same time. Format Write your synopsis in the same format you would use for your manuscript. Use black type on clean white paper. Double-space your work. Set your margins for one inch (about 2.5 cms) around ALL sides of the text. Do not right-justify your text – the lines on the right-hand side of the page should be staggered. Use a standard font, like Courier or Times New Roman. Serif fonts allocate the same amount of space for the letter ‘i’ as they do for the letter ‘m’. Don’t be tempted to use the prettier options on your word processor. Put a header on every page. Your book title goes in the upper left corner. Your last name (or your pseudonym’s last name) and page number go in the upper right corner. Start with a bang! All writers fret over the perfect opening line to their novel. Do the same for your synopsis. The rest of the synopsis will need to be precise and tightly written, so use the opening sentence to set up a strong hook. Remember, an editor has hundreds of submissions to go through every day. Make sure yours doesn’t let his attention wander with an opening that reads: “John was 34 with brown eyes and blonde hair.” BORING! Create a hook to lure the editor into reading further into your storyline. Open with a bold, evocative sequence that forces the reader to want to continue. Key Plot Points After your spectacular ‘hook’ opening, the big challenge is to outline the basics of your novel’s plot, without going into too...

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Creating Conflict and Sustaining Suspense
Nov23

Creating Conflict and Sustaining Suspense

  “Dan stood on the wet paving, his arms limp by his side, his jaw hanging in horror, as he peered through a crack in the curtains. Before him a man crept towards the figure of his wife as she lay on the sofa. “Leave my wife alone,” his mind screamed silently. His mouth formed the words but no sound would come. On the sofa his wife smiled and opened her arms invitingly. Dan did not notice his car keys drop from between his numb fingers. They landed in a puddle at his feet with a dull jangle. At the sound, the stranger turned toward the window. Dan’s heart skipped a beat as he recognized the swarthy features of the man inside his home.. He wondered how hard it would be to murder his best friend.” Did that little excerpt leave you wanting more? I hope so – that was the point. Conflict is the driving force behind all good fiction. Without it, there is no story. The good news is, creating conflict is much easier than you might believe. Many new writers believe that adding conflict to a story is as simple as inserting violence into the plot line. Nothing could be further from the truth. The conflict in the example above is only present in Dan’s emotional state. Physically, he has not moved from the window. Let me give you an example of writing without conflict. Dan arrived home from work. He stepped out of the car and hurried up the drive to escape the rain. Through a crack in the curtains he spied his wife awaiting his arrival. She was curled up on the sofa, a serene little smile on her face. His car keys fell from his grasp and he stooped to pick them up, before hurrying into the house. Now, tell me – would you like to see 400 more pages like this? Did you happen to notice that Dan’s point of view is exactly the same in both examples? He is still outside, peering through a crack in the curtains, watching his wife on the sofa. The difference is, I have created tension and suspense by adding emotional conflict about what Dan is seeing and feeling. Also in the first example, I have added the hint that it is raining. This is to introduce a sense of physical conflict. Dan’s first impulse should be to run into the house. He ignores this impulse and endures the physical discomfort, because he is emotionally preoccupied. In the second example, there really is no reason for the reader to want to continue. Nothing special or unusual...

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