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Posts tagged ‘matter’

First Monday Mentoring for September: when NOT to change your writing


Happy first day of Spring, and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for September.
Today I open the blog to your questions about writing and publishing, and answer them here. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your experiences. This is the day for it, heck, sometimes the whole week.

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To start us off, here’s a question from the Romance Writers of Australia’s Claytons online conference, raised again when I was judging RWA’s Valerie Parv Award. The 2013 award was announced at the national conference in Perth recently.

The question is: how do you know when to change your writing and when to stand your ground?
The answer comes down to Matter versus Manner.

Matter is what you want your story to say.
Matter includes your theme, your “message” if you have one. For example, “love conquers all” is the message of many romance novels. If your story carries this message, no critique partner, editor or well-meaning relative should ask you to change it. They may disagree, but you are entitled to have your writing express what you truly believe.

Manner is HOW you tell your story
This includes your word choices, settings, character behavior and any other means used to tell the story.
Manner is ALWAYS open to negotiation. As writers, we know what we mean to say. But if crucial details don’t make it into the manuscript, readers can be left scratching their heads. An editor’s job is to spot problems and inconsistencies for the writer to fix. There’s no point defending the work. If the editor misunderstood something, thousands of readers will, too.

So there it is. Matter – what the story is about – is up to the writer. Manner – how you tell the story – is the editor’s concern. Ideally, both of you want the same thing – a well-told story that readers understand in the way you intended.
Do you have questions or “war stories” about editing? Share them by leaving a comment below.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

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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

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