Writing

My Editing Process

Two weeks ago, I posted about my writing process. This was originally going to be one GIANT post, but at some point, readers lose interest. It also made sense to me to break this up into before the end and after the end for simplicity’s sake. If you haven’t read the first post, you can do so here.

The End? Nope. Editing Time.

So the writing process typically takes me anywhere from 4-6 months, depending on how long the story is and how long it took for me to get past the beginning stage to start fully drafting. This is why I try to get the gooey beginning part started while finishing up another book if I can.

From there is the major editing stage. Something I started doing a few books back (I think while writing Selkie Cove) is to stop at the 33% to 50% mark and do some major edits early. This way, I tidy up the beginning, I make sure the characterization makes sense, and reacquaint myself with the beginning of the story and early stakes before moving on. This helps me a lot in terms of consistency, especially because it takes me longer to write the first half than the second half. Also, remember that I edit as I go anyway, so my book isn’t terribly messy after I’ve done the minor tidies throughout and the more major tidy at the halfway point.

Big Picture Edits

When I finish the entire book, it is time to do big picture edits. Typically, I don’t have anything too monumental because I edit as I go and do that 50% edit, but I do often have a list of things I need to fix or change but didn’t feel like doing while writing. I’m not someone who usually has to rewrite their entire book from scratch or move too much or insert whole scenes. This is probably because I go so slowly and have a lot of built in thinking time. An example of what I might fix is making sure character descriptions make sense, deleting unnecessary dialogue or lines of description, reorganizing scene breaks in a chapter to make it more dynamic/flow better, breaking a chapter in a new place, beefing up description if it seems lacking, etc. If I spot typos along the way, those get fixed as well.

Beta Readers and Round 2

Next, I send the book off to a beta reader if I have someone who is willing to take a look. I don’t always anymore, so if I don’t, then I put it aside for a few days while I work on something else and then dive into round 2 of edits. If I have a beta reader, I will still dive into round 2, but I may need to do another round of edits with their feedback. If anyone hasn’t heard of a beta reader, it’s typically a trusted friend or critique partner who is willing to give you feedback on your work. At this point, my hope is that their feedback won’t include major changes. As with any feedback, you should listen to what your beta reader(s) have to say, especially if more than one person tells the same thing, but if their feedback goes against what you’re trying to accomplish or just feels wrong in your gut, don’t use it.

Round 2 edits are line-level edits. Making sure things sound good, they’re clear, everything makes sense, etc. Smoothing lines, breaking out the thesaurus or double checking that words aren’t anachronistic. Inevitably, I will miss something, but I try. At this point (or after beta feedback), the book should be in pretty good shape and there shouldn’t be any massive changes.

Round 3 Edits (where the most weeping occurs)

Round 3 edits are copy edits. I tend to do this twice because I miss typos no matter how hard I try and something always manages to make it into the book, usually more than one. I read chapters out of order at this point to keep my brain from numbing out and not reading the words. I also use Microsoft Word’s speak feature to have it read me back my work a paragraph at a time to catch typos. It will miss homophones, though, so if you know that’s a problem you have, be like me and make a list of words you might screw up and use ctrl F to find them and double check (that and the verb tenses for lie/lay). Once I have finished rereading my work for what feels like the 800th time, we’re ready to format.

I will not go into the formatting process here, but I do my own formatting for paperbacks and ebooks. The good thing is, putting the book in either form also makes it easier to catch typos, so if you feel like you’re eyes are crossing looking at your computer screen, print it off on paper or read it on your phone/tablet to catch errors better. The change is format seems to help a lot.

I will admit that copy editing is my least favorite part. By the end, my eyes feel like their bleeding and knowing that despite reading my work so many times I still will miss things hurts. If you have enough money to do so, I highly recommend sending your work to a copy editor to find all those typos and grammar errors for you.

A Final Word

But yes, dear reader, we have come to the end of the writing and editing process. I’m sure some of you are appalled that my process goes against the usual advice you see online for writing books. Write a lot, write fast, but if you are like me and thinking about writing 30k, let alone 50k, in a month makes you feel ill, this may be a better process for you.

I will also add that I am a monogamous writer, meaning that I typically write one book at a time until I hit the later editing phases. Then, I might have an edit going and the early drafting process started. In order to keep my characters consistent, I need to be able to keep my projects separate in order to mold the best story I can. Some people just aren’t built for writing 3 things at once or writing 2k a day, and that’s totally fine. The point is that you need to find what works for you.

My process has evolved over time to become a process versus me just doing my best, feeling it out. I’m still feeling it out with projects, and over time, I’m sure how I write will change too, but as of 2022, this is what works best for me.

See you all next week!

Writing

5 Editing Tips and Tricks for your Manuscript

With The Earl and the Artificer ready for publication in a little over two weeks, I thought I would touch upon one of the major steps in the writing/publishing process: editing.

Editing is one of my favorite parts of the writing process and also one of the most daunting. When you finish your 300 page manuscript and sit staring at the mountain of papers, editing seems like an endless process. Really it is, since you could edit it forever, but at some point, you must edit and release it into the world.

Here are some tips and tricks for getting your manuscript edited and ready for publication:

  • Edit as you go. I know many writers suggest writing a first draft in some sort of adrenaline and creativity-induced haze, but I find that I just can’t do that. If you’re like me, you’re a tinkerer. Embrace that habit… to a point. The problem with editing as you go is you can easily end up not moving forward. If you worry about getting stuck, try beginning your writing session by only editing what you wrote the previous session. That way, you have a certain area you’re allowed to play with, but you do it before moving forward.
  • Make a list of things you need to edit as you write. This goes along with the previous bullet point. To keep you from going back and tinkering or to simply have a good idea of what you know needs to be fixed, keep a list of things you want to edit. It won’t cover the entirety of your editing, but it will ensure you don’t forget thing you had been dying to fix at the time.
  • Know your weaknesses. This may be the hardest aspect of editing. Writers tend to either think their work is perfect or all drivel. Know what you aren’t good at. This can be learned through feedback from writing groups or even reviews of your work. Often, overwriting is a problem in first drafts. Be on the look out for overwriting or over-explaining, especially if you know you are prone to it. I have a problem with lay versus laid, so as I’m rereading my draft, I circle every one I find. That way, I can check it with a chart I have to confirm I’m using the correct tense. It may help to make a list of your known issues that you can reference as you edit.
  • Have someone or something read your work aloud after you’ve edited it. This was an old trick we used in my university’s writing center. If you read something out loud, you’re more likely to catch errors or hear when a sentence is awkward. I usually can’t find someone who is willing to read my 300 page book out loud, but Adobe Acrobat Reader has a text reading feature where it will read your document aloud. It’s like a GPS reading a novel, so some of the pronunciation is awkward. Overall, I found it quite useful for proof-reading my editing novel. I heard the errors and was able to easily correct them on my word doc. Anything that lets me play on Facebook and edit at the same time gets my vote. As mentioned before, this is a trick for after your book has gone through several rounds of editing and is in the final polishing stage.
  • Edit by hand. Yes, I’m killing trees, but I have found that I pay closer attention to what I’m reading on paper and make more thoughtful choices while working on paper versus strictly on Word. On paper it’s “permanent” while on the computer it can be easily changed. It’s all psychological. Plus, there’s less of a chance of being distracted by Facebook or Twitter while working on paper. I also tend to edit my edits as I type them into my computer after hand-editing.
Writing

Plotter, Pantser, Gardener

If you have ever seen an author interview, very often you will see a question about whether the author is a plotter or a pantser.

A plotter is fairly self-explanatory. It means that the author plots out the points of the story before writing (some plot every point, some do only major points).

Pros:

  • Author always know where they’re going
  • Organized- less time spent figuring it out as they go
  • Easier editing (probably)

Cons:

  • Lacks spontaneity
  • Author may not feel the need to write as they already know the ending
  • Author spends a lot of time prepping and not writing

A pantser is named such because the author flies by the seat of their pants while they write, typically not making use of an outline or using a very vague one.

Pros:

  1. Plenty of room for change
  2. More writing, less planning
  3. More “fun” for the author who enjoys surprise

Cons:

  1. More editing (probably)
  2. The author may get stuck more often
  3. Messy, which doesn’t work well if the author is more of a structured person

Most authors fall along this spectrum of rigidity, but what about if you fall somewhere in the middle?

This is where the gardener comes in.

I describe a gardener as someone who begins with a basic plan but allows for a lot of wiggle room. It takes the best of both worlds when it comes to plotting and pantsing. Why call it a gardener? Well, a gardener has an idea of what they want the garden to look like when they start. They know where the plants will go and maybe what types they want. They plant the seeds (plot strings) and tend them until they grow to full-bloom. Along the they way prune or add fertilizer as needed. They may notice that a plant needs to be moved or gotten rid of, and they take that into consideration as they tend the garden. As a gardener, I have a hard time thinking of cons because the style of gardener varies greatly with the writer. It can be a bit messy and will lead to at least some editing later, but it lacks the rigidity of plotting and the “winging it” aspect of pantsing. Here is an outline I wrote while working on The Earl of Brass:

eilian-hadley outlinePlease ignore the crazy diamonds, I was marking off what I covered at the time. As you can see, the major points are plotted out with arrows from event to event. What you can’t see from the final product is that I actually filled in several major events that I knew I needed, and then I added the smaller events in between. This is the basic idea of a gardener. They know the major points and fill in the smaller ones along the way but not to the point of completely locking the plot. For me, I need flexibility while I write to let my characters breathe and do their thing. They often surprise me, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

So are you a plotter, pantser, or gardener?


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Writing

A Sloppy Update

Become-a-writerFor hours I wracked my brain to figure out what I was going to write today and still came up with very little, so please excuse this meandering and somewhat aimless progress update.

Well, for the first time in a while, I have actually been writing pretty consistently. I wish I could tell you what has suddenly caused this change in productivity. Part of it I think it is shaking off the transition period from the end of the semester, but I think a lot of it is taking the pressure off myself. For a while, I was telling myself, “You will write 1,000 words or you are a terrible writer!” Well, that doesn’t accomplish anything and only makes you feel bad about yourself when you don’t reach that goal. Then, I tried not editing anything while writing. I ended up getting frustrated because there were scenes I was itching to fix and it made it very hard to go forward.

Now, I have been sticking to what I like to call the croissant dough method. It can also be called two steps forward and one step back. When making dough for croissants, you need to continually fold it and layer it with butter. By building up the dough and breaking it down, you make a richer product. What I do is reread what I wrote during my last writing session and tinker with it. I tend to build-up scenes when I do this sort of editing because I have a tendency to write before bed, which leads to missing words and skimmed scenes that need to be beefed up later. By doing this, I also become reacquainted with my work, which makes it much easier to move forward.

In terms of word count, I’ve told myself that I need to write daily, which I’ve done all week thus far. My goal is to write between 500 and 1,000 words each day, and for the majority of the week with the exception of two days, I have been able to do that. This actually surprised me because in the past I have not kept up with it when I set word count goals for myself. I will admit that it felt like it took forever to get to 10,000 words, but now that I have passed that milestone, the words seem to flow easier.

Right now, my biggest issue is trying to weave in the many threads that will make up the plot for the rest of the book, and because I’m not that far into the book, I feel like I am sitting in the middle of a yarn basket. Well, hopefully as I reach the middle of the book, these threads will weave and knot and eventually form a story. For now, I keep telling myself that I’m not even a quarter of the way into the narrative and can’t rush things.

Monthly Review

May 2015 in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

School’s out for summer! May has been the month of sweet freedom. Unlike April, which was stressful and made me want to tear my hair out, May has been lovely. Currently, I am at home except for one day a week where I work at my office job, and now I finally have time to write and read, which means, I can hopefully get a lot of work done in preparation for the fall semester. Yes, everything revolves around grad school… and writing, which is practically the same thing when you’re working toward an MFA in creative writing. Shockingly, I think I accomplished most of the goals I set last month.

What I did accomplish:

  1. Finished my last bit of schoolwork and received good grades
  2. Continued to blog and create a monthly newsletter
  3. Wrote 2 chapters of The Earl and the Artificer
  4. Edited The Earl and the Artificer
  5. Read 3 novels, a novella, and a short story (and began Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)
  6. Didn’t stress out at the Steampunk World’s Fair

Goals for June:

  1. Write 4 chapters of The Earl and the Artificer
  2. Work on creating a routine to be able to write every day
  3. Read every day
  4. Continue to produce content for my blog and newsletter
  5. Research marketing (possibly buy Susan Kaye Quinn’s marketing book)
  6. Get out of the house more

The last goal may seem a bit odd, but as an only child who lives at home and has the summers off for the most part, I become a hermit– a cranky, bored, semi-delusional hermit by the end of the summer. Cabin fever does not help my productivity, so this summer I am hoping to maybe get out a bit more when possible. I’m hoping that on Thursdays when my boyfriend is home from work that maybe we can go to the beach and sit and write/draw by the water. We are also celebrating our 10th anniversary in June, and while we probably aren’t doing anything that spectacular, I am still amazed that we’ve been together this long.

Anyway, getting back to goals, I only wrote two chapters this month. Part of this was due to my transitional period between school and vacation and the rest was caused by my own confusion regarding my plot. That week between the end of the semester and vacation beginning was a sort of limbo for me. My brain was still in work-mode, but I didn’t have any work to do and my story was not coming to me because I had been pushing it away for so many weeks. At that point, it felt like all I could do was read and recover from a lovely cold I developed at the same time. The other issue was my confusion regarding the plot of my current project. From writing bits and pieces over the course of a few months during the semester and never truly focusing on my book, I had no idea really where the story was going apart from the major plot points. If I don’t know where I’m going, I end up not going anywhere.

A good chunk of May was devoted to rereading The Earl and the Artificer and plotting what points I covered and what points needed to be addressed in the next few chapters (introducing certain characters and facts). As I reread it, I edited what I had, tightening the plot and beefing up some of the descriptions and scenes. I must admit that I tend to panic when the beginning of a story takes me a while to get into. Somehow I forget that I do this with every book, but when the threads of the plot are incredibly loose and not yet knitting together I worry they never will come together. I keep reminding myself that they will. I just need time and words.

Right now, I’m hoping to sit down in the next day or two and loosely plot chapters 6-10 of The Earl and the Artificer, so I can get cracking for the rest of the month. Maybe I’ll even be able to slip in a short story for the Ingenious Mechanical Devices universe or possibly for an anthology I have been looking into. One thing I have noticed with my writing is that it tends to pick up when I’m reading an inspiring book. Currently, I am reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I am loving it. It’s a huge book compared to what I usually read, but it’s moving quickly and I catch myself reading it as often as possible. Because of its size, I haven’t given myself a set number of books to read this month.

As a final note on May, I decided to run a sale where I set both books to 99 cents for a few days. I accidentally set it for Memorial Day weekend, and I’m not sure whether it was a good or bad thing because tons of authors planned sales for that weekend but it was the first official week of summer when people look for beach reading. At the same time, I ran an ad with Ereader News Today and sold quite a few copies of both books. Part of the reason I like to run sales is not necessarily to make money off of it (especially since the mark down obviously cuts my royalty) but to get my books into the hands of new readers. At 99 cents, readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown author, and after running the sale, I received a few more reviews and hopefully gained a few more readers along the way.


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Writing

The Importance of Proofing

I had a minor rude awakening this weekend.  My proof copy of The Winter Garden came last weekend, so I decided I would give the book one more round of proof-reading to find some leftover typos and make sure everything was in order.  I quickly found out, it was not perfect.

Somehow italics in certain chapters magically disappeared.  No idea how it happened, but somewhere between the original file and the paperback, half the italics in the book did not translate.  Luckily, I discovered the issue Saturday night and fixed it using Word’s compare draft feature along with control-find.  At times, I wish I didn’t reference so many books or have my characters think so much, but the issue did make me very aware of what nearly skated under my quality-control radar.

This is why when you create a paperback, they send you a proof-copy to check over.  At first, I didn’t notice it because half the book had italics (sprinkled throughout), but chapter two didn’t along with many others.  Comb through your manuscript with eagle eyes.  Take your ebook or original copy and compare it to your paperback because that is how issues like this are spotted. I didn’t notice it until I was correcting typos and had my Word file for the ebook and paperback editions both open and saw that a book title wasn’t italicized.

Apart from the italics issues, I also caught quite a few typos or awkward phrasings that were easily smoothed. Proofing is a time to put the final polish on your novel and make sure everything is up to snuff. Luckily, now it is all fixed, though I’m sure I’ll find more silly errors within the coming months, but the issues have been caught and the both formats have been finalized for publication.

What am I going to do with the 35 days between now and March 31st when The Winter Garden is released? Hopefully work on book three.  More about that will come as I get further into it.

Writing

DONE with Editing

kindle wg

You cannot know how happy I am to be finished.  Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be finding typos from now until June like spinach in my teeth, but at least the major editing is done and the “final” file has been uploaded to Kindle’s website.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I have a love-hate relationship with editing.  I love being a rock-tumbler for my story and seeing how it polishes up by the end, but it is so hard to reread the same story twenty times and still be interested.  Editing can take me a while because I need to step back and not read about my characters for a while.  Continue reading “DONE with Editing”

Writing

7 Tips for Editing Your Manuscript

editing

I have a love-hate relationship with editing.

Being the type of person who is appalled and embarrassed to have others discover mistakes in my work, I use editing as a way to polish my work before I show it off to anyone.  I have one alpha reader who reads most of my work while it is in progress because she is the most familiar with my characters and can often judge if I have a scene or reaction makes sense, and of course she sees my work in its unedited glory.  She is also my best friend and a fellow writer, who isn’t afraid to say, “Uh, what were you thinking?”  No one else should see it that way.  To me, an unedited work is like being in your underwear.  You don’t necessarily want everyone to see you in that state. Continue reading “7 Tips for Editing Your Manuscript”

Writing

Finishing Book Two and What I Learned Along the Way

wg manuscriptIt’s done.  The Winter Garden is done.

Well, the story is finished.  While I was stuck on the third to last chapter (yes, I had finished the epilogue and part of the pen-ultimate chapter before I started that one), I decided to edit the first twenty-seven chapters.  Now, the editing is done as well and The Winter Garden (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #2) is off to my beta readers! Until they get back to me with their feedback, I will be taking a little hiatus from Emmeline, Immanuel, and Adam.  Every time I finish a novel, it’s a bit depressing.  I’m done with the characters (for now), the plot is finished, the bad guys have been dealt with, and now, I need to step back.  In my next post, I will discuss editing in more detail, but for now, I would like to impart what I have learned after publishing my first book and finishing my second. Continue reading “Finishing Book Two and What I Learned Along the Way”