Tag Archives: editing

When to Delete Part 2 {Editing Tips}

editing

As we saw yesterday we can make changes for the flow of the narrative by editing out any words that do not have to be there; but the same can be said of information and backstory (exposition), repeated information, non-functional scenes, plot points, entire subplots and whole characters!

This is the real nuts and bolts stuff because as you start to edit out these things you could potentially weaken the structure of the story or piece and make it unstable. What you do in one place can have serious consequences elsewhere, but structural editing is a vital part of the process. While I have called this Part 2, in reality, this is the editing you will do first before you tackle the things I talked about yesterday. You need to get the shape of the story right before you start playing with scenes that might not even make the final cut, right?

So look at:

  • How you handle the information we need to understand the story: character backstory, historical information, science information perhaps: the stuff you research. Do not include this as ‘information dumps’ but drip feed in on a need to know basis as and when the story dictates! And use the backstory stuff as a tease so you hook your reader as I have talked about before.

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  • Tell the reader once; do not recap, by repeating information we already know, like Janice, my adopted sister… don’t keep saying who she is. If some information has not been used for some time find more inventive ways to remind the reader through their dialogue or a short phrase. Don’t repeat for the sake of it, this is more you reminding yourself of the story!

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  • Make sure all scenes are functional: by that I mean they move plot, reveal character and by doing so explore theme. I talk about this a lot in my reports, narrative and dialogue has to be functional, like repeated information or information dumps it’s FILLER and needs deleting!

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  •  Subplots that do not tie directly into the resolution of the key storyline: delete. The function of the subplot is to add layering to the story but not to add a whole other story!

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  • Characters also need to be functional and assume defined roles. If you have too many then think about how they work and see if you can merge roles, so you have fewer key characters, doing some of the same things. Look at the traditional archetypes so you will have in there a mentor, lover, enemy, shape-shifter and remember characters can assume more than one role! At the editing stage, you might be killing your darlings… literally or writing them out of existence… oh the power of the writer. But remember, like everything keep drafts and maybe you’ll use the ‘decreated’ ones again. Now there’s a story… what happens to all the character who didn’t make the cut… like rejected toys? The victims of the editor’s imagination?

 

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That is all, character voice tomorrow!

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When To Delete {Editing Tips}

 

editing

All I can say is: be ruthless when it comes to anything that’s — clunky (awkward), redundant, superfluous, extraneous, clichéd, telling, overdone…

When it comes to having a nice fluidity to your narrative you have to ensure you remove things that simply don’t need to be there, simple! Take them out and if it still works then you are on the right track. Some writers think they have to say it in unique and interesting ways. While, to some extent, that might be true it can, if you work too hard, really feel forced. Then it simply doesn’t work! I have seen some wonderful metaphors and similes lost in a crowd of metaphors and similes! The trick is to use such devices sparingly and in just the right place. This gives them power. Got it?

 

Here are just a few things to ponder… I will talk about filler and the things you can lose from the actual story tomorrow!

  • Description — this is important for allowing the reader to really ‘see inside the moment’, to visualise it as you intended them to, but they don’t need every single detail drawn in for them — just enough and perhaps more importantly to create the right mood, or tone, perhaps, even, to create the right sense of danger if you are leading them to the edge of a cliff face, for example. Sparing, yet vivid wins the day! So it really does come down to how you use your words and which ones. And if in a moment of great tension then whatever you do don’t stop to admire the view, make the description an active part of the movement itself. Look at how other writers do it!

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  • Look at things like attributions; the ‘he said/she said’ in dialogue. You will find that a lot of the time you can remove these as long as you can stay with the flow of the conversation. Better to show some body language so we know who said it. And don’t write  ‘they paused’ — create the pause with an action! None of us stop and pause, well not really! Lose adverbs that are redundant if we can see how something is done or said. Lose different words for said when said is just fine (I have talked about this before!) Punchy and sharp!

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  • Lose clichés as these are considered to be lazy prose! The tears streamed down the face… ugh! How about she dabbed her cheeks or some other more interesting way to show she was crying!

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  • Telling tags: These tell why something is done or said when it’s usually obvious! She stopped the man to ask the time because she was worried she was late. Telling! If we see her rush and ask the time as she rushes we can see it, it’s shown! See what I mean?

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  • Lose ‘that’ and ‘very’ and ‘just’: a lot of the time … see some of my deliberate crossings out. Also see the use of italics when I think the word is more functional so I left it in…  The way that he said it made her smile; he was just so angry (more active?); she was very jealous (though better to show this through actions… right?) Also think about some of the adverbs we overuse! Like ‘suddenly‘… So often there is no other way to interpret the action so lose it and just show the action!

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  • Pleonasms: nodding the headshrugging the shoulders; thinking in the mind… Where else? Get the idea?!!!

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The message here is very simple: if you can lose it, lose it. That way the writing becomes sharper! 🙂 Only repeat expressions or use words that are less functional in a sentence when part of character voice and there is a difference as I will show you later in the week!

Happy Tuesdaying!

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Create Your Style Guide [Editing Tips]

Welcome to a new and busy week. I thought I would give some editing tips every day this week, of course, some of this will have been covered before but  I think it’s always useful as a reminder.

So hands up who uses a Style Sheet or Style Guide when they write?Do you even know what one is? 

A style sheet is a list setting out the decisions that your editor has made on aspects of the layout and language of your document, in order to keep the document consistent.

This is a really useful thing, especially if you intend to write this as part of a series and so how you do something in one book must be consistent across books as well as within the book.

As you come to edit your work you don’t just focus on the shape of the story and if it works, on filler, character development etc. When it comes to the nitty gritty bits of the narrative don’t just focus on the flow of the language and the construction of the sentences either, you have to think about how you represent things. So, for example, do you use a hyphen in ‘no-one’ like that or ‘no one’, both are acceptable. Which of the OK or okay forms do you use (ok is not generally an accepted form). Do you write -ise in words like recognise or realise OR the more US form of recognize/ realize and how is this in other forms of -ise/ize words. Do you use capitals in some of your expressions, like the Magic Sword, the Golden Knife. Do you capitalise the East and the West? Do you use a capital in Professor? University… here I would say unless part of the official address, his name, the university’s name then use a small letter — get the idea? US or UK spelling?

By writing these things down you can create a guide so you don’t have to remember because, inevitably, you will use forms interchangeably. The sheet helps you create consistency — which is key here. For a final edit/proof, it’s vital, especially if you plan to self-publish. But to submit you also want to show the highest level of professionalism. It’s very rare I am sent a ms with the writer’s own style guide but it happens from time to time and it shows me they appreciate this aspect is important.

 

It might include notes on what font is used, whether the text is left or fully justified, how particular words are capitalised or hyphenated, how much indent your indented quotations have, what is put in italics.

Especially if you’ve learned English as a second or other language, you will know that the English language is not consistent, and it doesn’t even have proper rules for some things! This can be really frustrating, as two people might do things in two different ways, BOTH of which are correct.

For example, in English …

  • We can use -s- spellings or -z- spellings in words like “organisation”
  • We can capitalise or not capitalise words like Chapter 1 or experiment 2
  • We can hyphenate or not hyphenate pairs of words like policy-maker

 

And that’s before you get to decisions like …

 

  • Are you going to use 20%, 20 percent or twenty percent?
  • Are you going to describe America as America, the United States, the US, the USA, the U.S. etc. etc.?
  • Are you going to use double inverted commas for quotations and single inverted commas for concepts, or vice versa?
  • Are you going to refer to other research as (Brown, 2003; Green and Jones, 2005, p. 23) or (Brown 2003, Green & Jones 2005:23) or any other variant

 

Now, the important thing with all of these is to keep it consistent.

 

More editing tips tomorrow!

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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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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!

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Countdown

Late blog this morning as was busy early, but just popping in to say have a great weekend all! The countdown begins and next week I will be posting short extracts of some of my published short stories and maybe novel extracts too on here in my own countdown until Friday!

So watch this space folks!

Happy Friday!

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Colleagues

One of the downfalls of working for yourself, from home, is a distinct lack of colleagues to bounce ideas off. Thankfully I have a lot of writer friends. But it is rather nice that I do take some of my work from Cornerstones, the big literary consultancy group, and last night I got to meet the team at last!

I had a consult with a client who I had worked for via Cornerstones and so I managed to arrange my meeting with him first at the Grange Hotel near Fenchurch Street for some interesting discussion. Then I headed over to Hammersmith and the Brook Green Hotel to meet with some of the other Cornerstones editors and the team I have been emailing for the past three years.

Always nice to put faces to names!

Helen was telling us how the agency started with six of them in a room and now they have sixty editors as part of the team and this year launched Cornerstones USA where they have sixteen editors.

Check them out! http://cornerstones.co.uk/uk/

So I kicked off the Christmas season with drinks with the team and this Saturday we have the launch of the Bridge House Anthology Baubles and The Best of CafeLit 5. And Gill and I have the one payment we ever get from BH that comes in the form of our annual Christmas meal afterwards. Whoop!

People last night were asking me about the private work I do and the way I built my business, because in truth most of my work is private, although I have done a lot more with Cornerstones over the past two years and am currently mentoring two writers and have two novels to work on this side of Christmas for them! I love to tell people how I feel like I created the ideal job and I am so lucky to do what I love every day. I knew when I was first invited to  work for Cornerstones that it was a good fit as their in-depth and very detailed analysis was exactly the kind of thing I was already doing; so all I had to do was the same kind of reports but on Cornerstones letter-headed paper and change some of my headings. Now, in fact, I use the same ones in my reports (having now added a useful section on ‘Marketability’ so where work sits in the marketplace) and so I don’t even have to change headings, only the paper, when I work on one of their reports. The nice thing is the work is proofed and checked by them before it goes to the client. You are paying more to work through them; they do have a vetting process and they do scout for leading agents, so they can really help to get you noticed.

There are a lot of people out there doing what I do and if you really want good feedback on your work then do check then out or come to me direct. If you’re serious it pays to have one detailed critique at least once in your life. What thrills me is that people keep coming back to me 🙂 And I see the people who have success; the ones who were prepared to put in the work — time and time again. The message has to be: DON’T GIVE UP.

Have a great day everyone!

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