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Posts tagged ‘editing’

First Monday mentoring for February – whose writing advice should you take?

It’s First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. Here’s a common question – who’s advice should writers take?

When I started writing, I soaked up how-to-write books by the dozen, but most didn’t make sense until after I discovered their truths through my own work. That’s why, when I wrote The Art of Romance Writing, I made it as clear and helpful as I could, putting into it everything I wish I’d known starting out. Staying in print since 1982 shows me it achieved my aim.

These days there’s more writing advice on and off line than anyone can absorb, and they often conflict. Write fast, 2,000 words a day minimum. Write slowly, polishing your work as you go. Start with characters. Start with plot. Write what you know. Or what you can find out.

There is some truth in all the advice, but not all the advice is true.

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After writing more than five million words for publication, I can assure you that there’s no one way to write. There’s only what works for you. Be wary of anyone telling you theirs is THE way. The advice may work if it suits your style. You can write fast if it’s your natural inclination, but not otherwise. I’ve had as many books spring from characters as from plot. Often it’s a mix. Let’s face it, if there was “a formula” to writing, every writer would use it and be successful. But writing is more like fishing. Sometimes you catch nothing, sometimes you pull out that elusive best-seller. There’s no predicting which.

So here’s my list of sources whose advice may be helpful.
– An editor who asks to see a revised version of this work, or more of your future writing. They’re prepared to put their company’s money where their mouth is.
– A consensus saying much the same things. If several editors or critique partners suggest that your characters are shallow or your pacing slow in your body of work, you’d do well to look at these aspects carefully.
– People whose opinions you respect, such as successful writers, editors, those making a living from publishing (but not those making money from assessing work).
– Your own instincts. If you’ve written several drafts and find yourself back at an earlier draft, you may need to listen more closely to your inner voice, telling you when you’re on track.

What sources may be less than helpful to you?
– People with their own agenda. Either those making money from commenting on your work, or those who want you to write like them. I repeat: you can only write your work your way.
– The green-eyed monsters. When you get encouragement from an editor, win a contest or place highly, be prepared for others in your writing circle to say nice things, while giving you advice that comes from their own jealousy. It doesn’t make them bad people. Jealousy is all too human. But it does make them poor advisors.

So what advice have you given or found useful? Comment using the box below. Comments are moderated to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

First Monday Mentoring – 5 editing tips to strengthen your writing

It’s that time again, the first Monday of the month when I answer your writing questions here. Suggestions from other writers are welcome too, so we can share experiences and solutions. This week I’m on tour for Writing Australia, visiting the writers’ centres in Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide with my Power Editing Masterclass, making this a good time to consider how editing can strengthen your work.

With so many writers publishing their own work online, we need editors more than ever. The most common complaint I hear about indie published books is the number of mistakes readers spot, often in the first few paragraphs. This not only turns readers off that book, but very likely anything else the writer has out there.

Every writer, however well established, is too close to the work to be objective about it. We can’t help seeing what we expect to see, reading things like motivation into the writing when it’s still in our heads.  Everything your reader needs to understand your characters and their story must be written in to the manuscript. Which brings me to the first, most crucial editing tip:

1. Step away from the book.

Put the work aside for as long as possible, days or weeks if you can manage it, to restore your objectivity. Missing motivation, repetition, inconsistensies will all jump out at you when you come back to your book with a fresh eye.

2. Say what you mean

In workshops, I’ve had writers bring along a preamble they want to share before reading their work. Your readers won’t have this luxury. Whatever they need to know must be in the book. An editor can soon tell you what’s missing.

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3. Find yourself an editor

If you’re accepted by an established publisher, they will appoint an editor who’ll look at content and structure. Your work will also be copy and line edited to suit the publisher’s style. If you indie publish or are polishing work to submit, you can hire a qualified editor. Start by giving them a sample and obtaining a quote to do more, to be sure you’re on the same wavelength. Find freelance editors via the Australian Publishers’ Association website or the Institute of Professional Editors.

4. Know what to change…and what  not to

Theodore Sturgeon called it “matter vs manner”. Matter is your message, what you want to say with the work. No one should try to change your message, be it ‘love conquers all’ or ‘life’s a bitch and then you die’ or whatever. A good editor will look at “manner” (how you say it) to be sure the reader gets your message as clearly as possible. As an editor told me, “If I’ve missed something, millions of readers will, too.” If your message isn’t clear to your editor, make the changes, no arguments.

5. Read like a reader

This is hard to do and requires all the previous steps. Will the reader understand why your characters act as they do? Will they spot “who dun it?” chapters before they should? An editor can tell you whether you’ve given the reader enough information to understand your story.

Don’t be like the hall of learning which recently produced several thousand student book bags emblazoned with the name, “Missouri Univeristy.”

Do you have questions about editing? Or experiences you’d like to share? Post your comment or question here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Books in my head, inside a writer’s brain

Many years ago a dear friend, Pat Kerry, gave me a poem she’d written called Books in My Head. The last lines have stayed with me because they’re so true –  “books in my head will never get read/ unless I get up and write them.” She was talking about those dreamy times straight after waking, when our heads are full of thoughts and ideas.  Unless we get up and write them down somewhere, these precious words are likely to vanish forever. All we’ll remember is that we had a great idea, but not what it was.  Whether you record your ideas on a laptop, tablet, cellphone or a notebook kept by the bedside – and I recommend you keep something handy for this purpose – doesn’t matter as long as you capture your thoughts. You can edit and develop them later. The main thing is to get them down somewhere.  Our brains aren’t wired to make memories out of the thoughts we have in the time between sleep and waking. That’s when the slower brainwave cycles called alpha and theta waves occur and we’re most likely to have great insights and inspirations. Frustrating when you think it’s also when we’re least able to remember them.

There’s another way of looking at the lines from the poem, too. It’s that wanting to write a book, intending to write one and talking about your wonderful ideas to your friends won’t produce one page of words  unless you actually “get up and write them.” It’s probably why so many people dream of writing a book but the majority never actually do. Writing is hard work. And news flash, it doesn’t get easier with practice. As I’ve found writing 25 nonfiction books and over 50 romance novels, you get better at  putting words down in a readable order and seeing where the work can be improved. But every book is a first book. As one would-be writer asked me, “How do you know when you sit down to write, that you can do it?” The answer is, you don’t. You write to find out IF you can do it this time, with these characters, telling this story. When I sat down to write this first blog, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. All writing is a voyage of discovery. That’s the fun part. And it’s the part which keeps me writing even when the going gets tough. We writers are very lucky, we get paid for doing the very thing that got us into trouble as kids, making things up. Like my next book. And this blog. It’s no coincidence that I chose to write my first post about what’s going on in a writer’s brain. My two great loves are human psychology – what makes us tick, and how we turn books in our heads into worlds for readers to come play in. Whether you’re a reader or a writer or both, I hope you’ll come play here again soon.

Valerie

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