Category Archives: Critique

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Voice

Just a really quick post this morning about voice. Some of us think of voice as our own voice as a writer and that is indeed true. This is part of style — how we narrate, the type of words we use etc. but I like to think of the other voice and that’s character.

While there are still some who favour the all-seeing omniscient narrator who is, in essence, you sitting on the outside reporting on all, contemporary literature tends to favour the character viewpoint narrator.

When I was writing lots more short stories, one of the ways I experimented was in finding different voices. Even in a novel that uses multiple narrators; and even in third-person, you still wants to create distinct and individual voices for each narrator. Remember that voice is how that character viewpoint is heard: in thoughts, feelings, reactions as well as dialogue. It is how you connect to your reader.

Think about Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads if you want to think about character voice. While your own authorial voice is in there in how you create the magic; it’s the characters we hear, not you!

That is all. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

how-to-write-a-believable-character-now-novel

 

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Friday’s Editing Tips [Formatting]

While formatting will be changed for Kindle and the like, it is good practice to get into a submission-ready standardised way of formatting your work as you write. Then change fonts and spacing if required by whoever you are submitting it to but generally most follow the same basic guidelines.

Here are some tips from a handout I like to share:

A Few Simple Tips For Formatting

 

Always check the guidelines for submission with the publisher or agent. Likewise, always check the rules and the submission guidelines when submitting to a competition or anthology. They will have their own in-house styles and rules. However as a rule of thumb the most preferred formatting is:

  • Times New Roman (Ariel sometimes)
  • 12 point
  • Double Spaced (remove extra space between paragraphs)
  • Double speech marks – although some prefer single (some even say if they want straight or curly!)

(Just make sure you are consistent.)

  • Rugged right (justified leaves gaps in the text) and editors usually prefer this as it appears too uniform otherwise. This is using the ‘align left’ tab not the ‘justify’ tab.

 

Paragraphs

The default tabs in Word are usually fine (sometimes they might ask for certain indents but not usually), set for double spacing (sometimes 1.5) and click box – don’t add extra space between paragraphs for the whole document. Start the piece or a new section to the far left, then indent for new paragraphs. Look at books as this will give you the idea:

e.g.

And so it began.

It was the summer of 1974…

 

Use an indent for a new paragraph or speaker (also includes reaction by a speaker so the reader can easily follow the conversation).

If you change scene, extra line space – no indent.

For a large time gap or point of view change also consider using asterisks for a larger scene break.

 

… She never stayed to hear his reaction. She couldn’t watch the man she loved just walk away. Not today. Not ever.

***

Peter drank. Perhaps not always the best answer but today Peter drank to forget.

 

Here we changed point of view. The formatting tells the editor/reader the switch in point of view was intentional. Again look at the way books do it and be consistent in your text. You will find your own style.

 

Dialogue

Always indent when a new person speaks unless it’s after action:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. “What the hell was that?” he said.

Avoid hanging saids like:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. He said,

“What the hell was that?”

(Move it up onto the same line.)

Again look at books. If you’re given another character’s reaction to what a speaker says start like a new paragraph.

e.g.

“It looks nothing like an alien or a lion,” said Joe blushing.

Peter dug his hands into his pockets and shook his head at Joe.

 

Thoughts are sometimes also expressed like dialogue. This is completely unnecessary for a single viewpoint character narrator when it’s clear it’s all his thoughts (so you can also lose expressions like he thought.) But excursions in a third person narrative to direct first person thoughts or with an omniscient third person narrator it is preferable to use italics. These make it clear it’s thoughts and differentiate from dialogue.

e.g.

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound, like a bird maybe. It put him in mind of a parrot screeching but longer notes, more persistent. Whatever it was it wasn’t going away – (all character thought)

It’s going to get me – (switch to first person direct thought).

Rather than:

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound. “Maybe it’s a bird,” he thought. “Maybe like a parrot but more persistent.” He stood back. “Whatever it was,” he thought, “it wasn’t going away. It’s going to get me.”

 

If you get into the habit of using the correct formatting it makes it easier when you submit and it also tells the editor you do know about writing – it’s far more professional. It also shows them you know how to follow rules which is essential if they decide to publish you. It’s surprising how many writers don’t read. Read as much as can not only do you then pick up the right way to format but you also see what works best.

 

Also make sure you use things like hyphens (-) to connect words and en dashes (–) to separate clauses and em dashes (—) for interruptions

Also for ellipses do not use three or more full stops control-alt-period (…) not (…).

 

Make sure you follow the guidelines, so if it says no identifying marks, remove your name from headers and footers. If it asks for page numbers at the bottom, insert them in the footer. If it asks for Ariel font, no indents (The Costa Prize does this!) and saved as a PDF, then do exactly as it asks.

 

Make sure you follow the rules of competitions: themes, word counts, previous submissions etc.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ready to write

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Count your blessings

I saw something on Facebook that said get a glass jar and every time something good happens write it down and fold the paper and put it in the jar. I think this is a wonderful way to think in a positive way and focus the mind to think about good things and not bad ones. I think I could count many blessings every day; that I get to do what I love, that I write lists and do everything on them; that I have the most wonderful friends, a great family, a man who tells me every day how much he loves me. I think we must all think that way.

This week as I look at it in review I have subbed Chutney with a new synopsis; finished an edit and have the report to write today, fitted in three gym classes yesterday, helped someone pass the next level of their PT course by being their guinea pig in a training session the day before, set up a JustGiving page for our gym challenge and met the lady from the charity, got banners, T-shirts and balloons and arranged a visit to the hospice; arranged to see my best mate Sunday as a pre-birthday lunch and plans with a couple of friends for lunch next week. Hopefully my poorly man will be well enough to take me out Saturday but if not then we will have to postpone the birthday celebration until he is well… that will stretch it out, right?

If we can see the good and the positive and not the negative side of life, which we all know is there, we will see that counting our blessings is a wonderful way to live and imagine the joy we will have reading those little notes in that glass jar this time next year.

That is all, have a wonderful weekend everyone… 

jar2

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When You Feel The Love

Short post this morning as I smile away to myself. Recently I’ve worked on a few projects for the lovely people at Cornerstones and seem to be getting some great feedback from the authors. They tell me how valuable they have found the detailed analyses and the way I have shown them the strengths and weaknesses in plot and narrative.

Feedback on your own feedback is invaluable. It helps you  to provide the best service you  can, so I am always grateful when clients say these things; it also looks good for the agency of course and I feel proud when they notice and comment on the kind of responses I’m getting.

That is all.

Be happy. Be grateful. Love what you do.

It's a two-way thing...

It’s a two-way thing…

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Little boosts to confidence

It can be a very insecure life being a writer, especially before you start to see your work accepted.

But even when you do, if you’re like me you keep moving the goal posts and challenging yourself.

So when you have a new story accepted or published, as happened last week with Open Windows, and a writer who you greatly respect says something really complimentary (someone whose work really sits up there in the short story field) you think, wow. Really? And then you think: phew.

There are so many of us out there trying to get validation with our work, so every little comment or nice review makes a massive difference. Writing is basically something you sit and do alone and so as a writer you do sometimes think: okay great this is really working and other times you think, this is pants. That’s being a writer, that’s also very much part of process. First drafts of anything have those pants moments but the more your chisel and refine your work, you more you come to know when it is working.

Working as an editor also helps and I think one of the things I can see has really developed the more I work with writers, is being able to look at people’s plots and shapes of stories. I think getting up close and finding issues with the plot is fundamental to those big second drafts, and often we just don’t see the issues when we get too close. Story analysis is something I seem to have refined more and more as  a skill to try to help other writers, and to help my own writing of course: it’s the who, why, where, what does the protagonist want, what’s at stake and who or what is standing his way that might sound fundamental but actually make the difference between something really working or it not working as it should. Being able to pin down what’s not working and might be stopping an author getting work accepted is a vital component of my work, so I am also learning and looking for new ways to ensure this is achieved in my editing work.

Getting up close to the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts stuff once we have looked at story shape and character motivation is actually the easier part usually to put right, those clunky phrases, out of context metaphors, clichés, telling etc.

I do care about the process and my clients, so if, as happened recently with a client, it seemed they had not quite grasped something important that I felt was essential for their novel to work, I couldn’t relax until I had I arranged a call to talk about it. I feel as if I am nurturing something very personal and so it has to be right, and handled right. Your stories are after all your babies, right? So come into my world and I will be mindful of that. I think it helps that I am a writer too.

But even when you have a reasonable grasp of all of this, it still can be isolating, so when someone appreciates your work, take the compliment and let it boost your day.

Or week.

Or forever.

Have a great day everyone.

Compliments

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When the self-doubt creeps in…

I was asked how I dealt with doubt. How I dealt with writing something and then thinking it’s pants and wanting to abandon it. What should you do?

Great question from Daniel.

How do we deal with doubt?

Well, self-doubt is another part of process, trust me — and before we start having regular acceptances and even when we do, we all doubt in our ability. We might have friends, writing groups etc.saying this is great but nothing we do finds the work the validation we seek and it’s tough. So there is doubt in a general sense and since rejection is part of process all you can do on that one is to keep writing and keep getting advice — and keep writing. Oh and keep writing. Work through the doubt much as you work through the pain of exercising on top of aches and pains from yesterday’s exercise! It does get easier as you shape up the muscle!

But how about when you are in a project, something like a novel that seems to be going well and then you think — this isn’t working. Start over?

It’s a hard one. I don’t tend to abandon short stories or novels, but I do leave them to rest if they really don’t feel as if they’re working, right now at this time. And often something happens that makes me go back and then usually the distance from it  enables me to see what direction it wants to take. But there are a couple of older short stories I probably won’t go back to. Sometimes you really do have to let go. But if that inner part of you says this is a great premise, worth fighting for, go back and you might be amazed what happens.

The trick is being discerning enough to know something won’t work and time to say bye-bye and knowing when it has that extra something that will get it noticed but either you are not ready to write it or it needs time to settle. And again I truly believe that writer’s instinct will develop the more you write and you will just know. I know I Am Wolf, my feral child novel, has something. I sense it. But I also knew it wasn’t holding together as it should, so when my agent told me what I knew, it proved my instincts were correct. I won’t abandon it, I will allow it to sit and I know when I do come back to it I will find a way to fix it.I just know it is a story that needs to be told. I just need a way to make the reader connect to Amy. She needs time in rehab and then I will go back to her.

Self-doubt has crept in recently with Isle of Pelicans as I still fear the plot isn’t quite there and has challenged me the whole way. So I want to get this draft down (that is always a good feeling) so I can rest it and work on something new now and then come back to it. But I will come back to this one.

What helped me last week deal with doubt was writing a completely new short story that refueled by obsession with writing and it worked. If you haven’t written a short for a while you have this crazy notion you have forgotten how. I know it sounds insane. So now I feel better and the story has been subbed.

Allow stories time to rest and reexamine, but if in doubt write something new. And if it really isn’t working, know when to let go. Nothing is wasted because it’s all part of a long but rewarding process and patience is essential for a writer.

But don’t keep starting one thing and then abandoning it for another or you won’t finish anything. If you get to that stage, take a complete break and don’t write anything for a short time. I don’t tend to do that, but I do know there are times when the words come and the stories work and other times when they don’t. IT’S NORMAL!

Well as normal as life can be for those of us who live inside our own heads!

This is very apt.

Self doubt

Whatever you do — don’t give up!

HAPPY THURSDAY ALL!

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