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Archive for the ‘revision’ Category

revision by handThe editing process is taking longer than I anticipated, but I’m not complaining.

My manuscript is emailed back and forth between my desktop and my editor Ellen in New Hampshire. Although I sometimes overrule one of her suggestions, for the most part, her comments to invent a better story are dead on. My characters are gaining depth, the plot line is gaining traction.

We manage to fine-tune several chapters each week. If we stay on track, we’ll finish this part of the self-publishing route by early June. Although my story will be available as an e-book and print-on-demand from Amazon, I will also print a quantity of soft covers, hopefully in time to sell at the Cape Cod Writers Conference in early August.

In the meantime, I’m re-writing the blurb for the inside flap and working with Stephanie at Riverhaven Books in Whitman, MA, to design the cover art.

I have to say…this is fun!

 

 

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hands on laptopAt this point, my editor and I have exchanged the master manuscript several times. In the last round, she pointed out a major discrepancy concerning last names. I had to rethink my characters and their relationships to find a way to make it logical in the narrative.

Another comment involved a walk-on character. My editor’s suggestion?…either eliminate the woman entirely, or make sure she shows up again in the story. I chose door #2 and added this wacky character into two future scenes, liking the effect immensely.

And let’s not forget a few grammar lessons! I love to use ellipses, and sprinkled them liberally throughout my story to indicate an aside remark, which is not it’s proper use. However, since I couldn’t locate even one online article to back me up, I had to replace them all with either an em-dash or a comma, depending on the sentence structure.

In an effort to strengthen word choice, I found the following website of 297 flabby words that rob writing of its power:  http://boostblogtraffic.com/weak-writing/. The list not only indicates the words to be avoided, but provided samples of alternate ways to write around them. I was astonished to see the number of times I used to word ‘so’.  Only a chosen few remain.

However, a word of warning. When you find a dastardly weak word lurking within your story, you’ll sometimes find yourself rewriting the entire paragraph that surrounds it! But have no fear… it will become a better read.

DAMN. There’s another ellipsis!

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hands on keyboardSeveral weeks ago, I purchased ten hours of editing and met my first-ever editor via phone. We discussed the level of editing I was expecting from her, and she explained how to use the “Track Changes” feature of MS WORD.

She emailed my first two chapters with not only comments to deepen characters or clarify a scene, but line editing for minor punctuation and grammar corrections. Time used: 3.5 hours.

When I panicked that my ten hours was being used up so quickly for such a small portion of the novel, she explained that she wanted me to see what a complete edit would include. That at some point, line editing would be necessary before going to print or e-book.

The next three chapters arrived with comments only, using another 2.25 hours.

Although I’m very pleased with her suggestions, and have no doubt that my story will be improved with her input, I’m thinking I’ll tackle my own line editing after we finish fine-tuning the chapter details.

 

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hands on laptop…my road to self-publication that is.

Riverhaven Books forwarded an analysis of my story by one of their editors.

First the good news:

The author has a well-conceived mystery. There are very good twists and turns, especially at the end. The writing is straight-forward and follows a logical structure. There will be little required in terms of correcting punctuation or grammar.

And now the not-as-good news:

However, I think there is developmental work to be done. I would recommend that the author work on character development, backstory, subtlety in dialogue, and that she check with law enforcement professionals on some of the legal practices described, as some don’t ring true.

I can either try to develop these improvements on my own, or hire this same editor to work with me. Her 10-hour contract costs $30 per hour…sounds like a good investment to me!

I’ll keep you posted as we move along!

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ah-ha momentFor the past few years, I’ve listened to well-meaning comments from two writing groups, manuscript evaluators and uninterested agents. After a particularly brutal critique session this past weekend, my brain finally kicked and I experienced an “ah-ha moment”.

I had lost my title character.

A comment made several months ago at a mystery writers conference to “start with the body” sent me off on a major rewrite to move my chapter thirteen to page one. This forced me to re-introduce my potential suspects after the body dropped. What I sacrificed was providing my future readers with a sense of my characters as they responded to each other. Without real-time dialogue, the victim morphed into dreaded and story-slowing back story.

And so, last Saturday, as I drove home with my ego bruised and my head spinning, it occurred to me that all along I’ve been categorizing my story in the wrong genre. Since the first word was put to the page…or more accurately, onto the screen… I’ve considered it a mystery, but it doesn’t start out that way. It’s more accurately defined as perhaps ‘women’s fiction” that becomes a mystery with a dash of romance along the way. I’ve just found a blog called “Women Fiction Writers” and subscribed.

I’m no longer writing for some unknown agent or publisher with an unknown laundry list of what sort of story they are seeking at the moment. I am writing for myself. The story that has been in my head since the beginning has resurfaced and set me free. Will I self-publish? Most likely.

Are my instincts right? Who cares! All I know is that I’m reinvigorated about bringing my original concept to life on the page!

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imagesWell, today was the deadline to submit 15 pages for a manuscript evaluation at the upcoming Crime Bake Conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

After several revisions, I managed to condense the first 13 pages of my story to end with Chapter 2 where the initial hook hopefully sinks in. The first page was a cover sheet, and the second a one-page synopsis. How difficult was that to write??? All the broad strokes on one page!

My submission will be assigned to an agent, an editor, or a published mystery writer for evaluation. I’ll find out who when I register on November 8.

The two of us will find a quiet corner in the Hilton Hotel and spend fifteen minutes together. She will tell me what she thinks of my story and my writing. It will be a nerve-wracking experience, but a necessary evil. After sending my story through two separate writing groups, eliminating my original opening chapters and many unnecessary scenes, plus rewriting the first page a gazillion times, I can only hope that my evaluator thinks my story is in pretty good shape.

During this conference, I will also pitch my book to the attending agents. Maybe I’ll finally get a bite!

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Multiple Writing Groups

imagesAfter I joined the Cape Cod Writers Center several years ago, I heard that there was a well-established writing group near me  in the town of Stoughton, MA. Knowing how important it is to get feedback from readers, especially other writers, I joined them immediately and have never looked back.

This group is comprised of several teachers, a retired insurance agent, an engineer, and a grandmother, among other members who drift in and out of the group as life permits. The manuscripts vary from coming of age stories to historical novels to mysteries and everything in between. At any particular meeting, we will have between four and eight participants, all eager to hear and be heard as we make suggestions to improve each others efforts to put a story on paper.

Sometime after joining, I was asked if I’d be interested in forming a new writing group with another writer who lived in south Plymouth, about an hour’s drive from my home. My answer was an enthusiastic “YES!” We meet at least twice each month. Members have joined and dropped out, our number has gone up and come back down, but we remain a viable resource of gentle critique with only improvement in mind.

When yet a third group was formed in my area via a website called “Meetup.com”, I thought I could handle the extra work involved to not only prepare my own piece for submission, but to review the writings of the other members. After several meetings, I came to the conclusion that three was too many and dropped out.

And so, I have settled back into my original two groups and am content. Each member zeroes-in on a different aspect of the writing, which carries a value beyond compare.

My advice on writing groups? Find one where you feel that most members are making valid suggestions to improve your story, and keep on writing!

 

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phrasesEver since I stepped onto the pathway to write a novel, I’ve never stopped reading or listening to stories written by the many talented authors we now enjoy. Whenever I hear a phrase that rings true to my characters or my plotline, I jot them down for possible use in my own story. I can usually picture the exact scene and paragraph in my manuscript where a particular phrase will fit perfectly.

At the various conferences and workshops I’ve attended over the years, several class leaders have advised that this “borrowing” is an accepted practice, and that the original creator of the phrase should be flattered!

However, in the interest of not plagiarizing another author’s efforts, I strive to alter the actual words while keeping the spirit of the phrase intact.  Here are a few examples of recent gems:

“She drew a shaky breath”; “her voice vibrated with rage”; “he eased off the gas pedal”, “she cast a suspicious look”; “he nodded her into a chair”; “she depressed the disconnect button”.

I will continue to listen for other delightful phrases that have potential to transform my story into a more textured and interesting read.

 

 

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Learning All the Time

revision by handWhen I first decided to write a mystery novel, simply because I loved to read them, I had no idea how complicated it could get. Choosing the right words and putting them on the page in the proper order is not so easy as you would think!

In addition to the basics questions like who will my characters be, where will my story take place, and what’s the problem that will move the story along, there is an endless list of other details that must be woven into the pages. Character arc, subplot, logical dialogue, scenes that evolve from cause and effect, and varied sentence beginnings.

And, of course, with every conference or on-line course, other facets come into play. Recently, someone handed me an article about sensory detail and how adding sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste can add depth and texture to a story. And let’s not forget the sixth sense: intuition. Each scene should have at least one, but make sure it’s appropriate to the characters and setting.

Another workshop advised that each page needs to include three elements: Feelings, Action, and Thought. Notice the acronym FAT!

And so I continue to revise, and hopefully improve my mystery! One of these days, I might actually feel that it’s as finished as I can make it. The trick will then be to find an agent who agrees with me that my story is worthy of publication!

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emotion

Traveling this long and interesting road since I decided to try my hand at writing a novel has been a real eye opener. Who knew there was so much involved in putting my story on paper? I respect authors who have written an engrossing story, then managed to find an agent and a publisher. On the other hand, I’m sometimes disappointed with the quality of writing, wondering how a book managed to get published at all.

This brings me to my fear of putting my story out there if it’s not as perfect as I can make it. Fascinating characterization, interesting setting, thoughtful plot line, and control of back story.  I’ve become a great lover of books written to educate a new writer. Most recently, I bought one called “The Emotion Thesaurus”. It  provides a laundry list of examples to write the emotions of your characters without falling into the trap of cliche. As my writing group points out on a regular basis, I sometimes forget to include my protagonist’s emotions, assuming that the reader understands what’s going on in my characters’ heads. Wrongo!

As I’ve been reading through this new how-to book, I’m inspired to go back into my story and find places where the emotional impact of a scene can be more accurately shown…never told!…to make my protagonist more human.

If you have a favorite book about the craft of writing, I’d love to hear about it. Always looking for new volumes to add to my ever-expanding library.

 

 

 

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