Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘Theodore Sturgeon’

First Monday Mentoring November 2019 – do you always write from the heart?

This week I was reading The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker the second novel by past Valerie Parv Award Winner, Joanna Nell, when I found in the acknowledgments, her  appreciation for encouraging her to follow her instincts and write her book from the heart.

She’d certainly done that. At one point I was reading in such an emotional mess I didn’t think I could finish the book because I was feeling all the feels. Thankfully I did finish and the ending was totally worthwhile.

Joanna’s acknowledgment made me think about how important it is to invest yourself in your writing. Years ago an editor at Mills & Boon, London, proposed a change I’d already considered and rejected. When I told her so, she asked me how often I followed my instincts. I’d was forced to admit that I’d been second-guessing myself , trying to give the editor what I thought she wanted.

Nobody knows what will sell until it’s out there. Ask J.K. Rowling about her many rejections before Harry Potter became a publishing phenomenon.  Far better to follow your writing instincts and tell the story you passionately want to tell.

With so many books being published, the biggest challenge to readers is discovering your work. Joanna’s first book, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village, also published by Hachette, was launched with a national book tour. Her delightful humour and focus on love in older years meant she had a keen readership waiting for her second book.

Joanna Nell signs her much-anticipated new book

Some years ago when I wrote a book on creativity, The Idea Factory, published by Allen & Unwin,  my late husband drew a cartoon of a person being X-Rayed, the doctor indicating an actual book showing up on the screen. “Yes, there is a book in you.” These days it seems not only does everyone have a book in them, they can’t wait to get it out.

This can be at the expense of thorough editing and overall presentation, particularly if you’re self publishing. When it comes to basic grammar, story structure, spelling and the like, standards are slipping everywhere. The internet is full of memes showing the difference between their, they’re and there, which your spell checker doesn’t always recognise, although they’re (they are) improving all the time.

A useful rule for editing, coined by sci-fi luminary, Theodore Sturgeon, he described as “matter vs manner.”

Matter is what you write about – the stories of your heart. IMO these are non-negotiable. No editor or critique partner or group should tell you what stories you can tell, although you may have to wait for the readership to catch up.

Manner is how you tell your story and it’s here that beta readers, editors and critique groups are most helpful. If you have a wonderful story but it’s getting lost in turgid prose, excessive adjectives, typos and spelling mistakes, these are craft issues you can fix.  As far as possible I want readers to enjoy the story without  distractions, and I welcome having structural issues pointed out. The story is mine but how it’s told is an editor’s province, ensuring my message comes across as I intend.

For example, if the problem is the common one of repetition – the author repeating the same information in a different way or in another scene, it should be fixed, no argument. All writers have pet words we use unconsciously until we edit them out in successive drafts. Common examples are just, only, well, in fact, etc.  What must remain is your message, your reason for writing a particular story. In this I urge you to follow your instincts and always, always write from your heart.

How often do you follow your instincts and write from the heart? Share your thoughts in the comments below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing!

Valerie Parv

www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

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.

400019_10150464410896735_726256734_8798759_170849403_n

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

189650_437726069621804_1397664210_n

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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

Tag Cloud