There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Line Edits! And why you need them. November 13, 2013

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:40 pm
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All right, here is my much anticipated (dreaded?) line edits post!

I first heard about the existence of line edits via Leigh Ann Kopans’ blog, where she chronicled the publication of her first novel, ONE. I had never heard of them before that, but now that I’ve done them for both Coldness of Marek and Knights of Rilch, I can’t imagine having not done them. My novels would be far less stellar pieces of work.

If you read my post last month on revising for publication, I sum up one final revision you’ll want to do if you’re going to self-publish a novel. The next step after that revision is line edits. But line edits are also a great idea if you’re querying agents/subbing to publishers, because they’re just so nifty.

Most of the revisions and tweaks you’ve been doing up until you’re ready for line edits have been macro — as in, whole paragraphs being moved or deleted, if not chapters — but you’ve probably already done plenty of line editing in the middle of all that. Line edits are all about the phrasing, the word usage, the OVER-usage, the placement of line breaks, etc. These are different from copyedits. (Copyedits involve grammar and punctuation errors, as well as other little magical things that we mortal writers might not know about, and no matter which publication path you choose, you’re not the one responsible for them. Your copyeditor is! If you’re self-pubbing, get thee down and find thyself an excellent one.)

So. How do you go doing a full-on line edit? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Once your manuscript is in what you deem to be ready, publishable form, go through it line by line and question every sentence. Is it passive? Is it repetitive? Is the phrasing just right? Is there a better word for fleece, or did you really mean fleece? Did you start too many sentences with, “She” or “I”? Would mentioning the chair first be more powerful? Would it be more in character for Henry to say “I will kill you” or “I will end you”?

All these decisions are likely to make you half crazy, and I have a lovely, perfect solution for that as well. Employ your CPs. Are there any of them who are extra good at catching little line issues like this? Did they notice little things on their first pass? Great. Ask one of them (and I say one, because you can only use so much input on the line-by-line basis before you go insane, but there’s really no set limit) — bribe them, trade with them, pay them with cookies or favors — to go through slowly and laboriously and pick on every. Little. Tiny. Word. You can hire someone to do this, but the reason I say pick a CP is because you already know that they understand your voice and your writing. They’re not going to steer you wrong. Tell them you want ALL THE NOTES. You want them to be brutal. Remember, you’re releasing this novel into the wild. It needs to be nice. It needs to shine.

After you get those notes back from your trusted CP or beta reader or whomever, the ball is back in your court and it’s time to do your own line edit. Even if you did a picky edit before, it’s good to look at it again with fresh perspective. Take this:

I stepped inside the room. It was quiet — too quiet. “Jenna?” I whispered. There was no reply. Not even the sound of breathing, or the clatter of her stirring in bed.

There’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s all a matter of taste and mood at this point. I could do this:

I stepped inside. “Jenna?”

It was far too quiet. No Jenna. Not even the sound of her breath or the clatter she made when she stirred in bed.

Or this:

I stepped inside the room. The sound of my shoe echoed, then disappeared into eerie blackness.

“Jenna?” My voice almost startled me.

But there was no answer. Nothing besides thick velvet silence.

See what I mean? You can get more wordy, or less, cut down on the line breaks, or multiply them, etc. Is one of them better than the rest? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But there are all kinds of possibilities that you may never have noticed until you got all the little pieces worked out to the point you can be micro. Teeny tiny. It sounds like it will be hell, but I swear to you, this nit-picky pass is so very freeing you will get addicted to it.

And then? A final read-through. If you can find someone who can stand to listen to your whole novel aloud, I recommend reading it to someone, not just to yourself. Because you’ve read it so many times, there might be something you say aloud that causes the listener to go “huh?”, but you would have glazed right over it. Work this thing. Work it really hard…

When you’re done? SEND IT OFF. Whether it be to your agent, your copy-editor, a final beta reader, or a pile of queries, get that thing sent off before you have a chance to question the brilliant fire it just came through.

Of course, mix and match these steps as they work for you. I found that what I did with the two novels* I’ve released so far varied slightly, and I’ll probably do something a little different for my third book. Everyone has a different process, so don’t take any of this as gospel. Just use what you need, and happy editing!

–Rachel O’Laughlin

*I went through line edits with my longsuffering CP, Darci Cole, on both of my manuscripts, line-edited myself, and then asked my incredible editor, Rebecca A. Weston, to keep an eye out for anything weird that might have slipped through us both (not all freelance editors offer this, but mine does).

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It’s Not So Bad . . . Is It? October 16, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:30 am
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So, here’s the thing. I read this really great, enlightening post on the word ‘it’, and said word’s usage in writing. That being, laziness. Now that I want to reference the original post, I can’t locate it. I even went back in my handy WordPress reader. No luck. Which means the blog was one of those I get e-mail updates on and I’ve deleted it.

Anyhow, I will admit, I never gave It much thought until I read that post. I mean, who doesn’t use that tiny word, right? Such a simple creature, really. Two letters. Most times I’m not even aware I’ve read It. Like ‘said’, It blends into the sentence, unassuming and totally at peace with the surrounding words. It causes little trouble. Keeps to Itself. I never suspected It suggested laziness as a writer. I actually hadn’t dwelt on It at all.

Until that fateful post. Now I can’t get It out of my head. But I’m very conscious of trying to remove it from my writing now. Is that good or bad? I haven’t yet decided. I don’t want to be a lazy writer. I don’t want to use words such as thing, stuff, something . . . You know, “He picked up the thing.” Well, what is the thing? What’s it look like, feel like, smell like? Even if he doesn’t know what the thing is, he certainly knows those bits of information. Right?

“He heard something.” Really? Something like . . .  a whistle, a hoot, a scream, a bang, a thump . . .what?

Now there’s It.

Is this lazy writing? Jenner picked up the sword. He swung it, marveling at the way it whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. It could be his if he wanted it.

All right, it’s not winning any literary awards, that’s not the point. The point is, what if I write this instead: Jenner picked up the sword. He swung the weapon, marveling at the way the blade whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. The sword could be his if he wanted to part with his gold.

Is the second attempt better with the elimination of It? I definitely had to work harder, coming up with other words to replace those two lovely letters. Did the change improve the writing? What do you think? Does It go onto the list of Lazy Writer Words That Shall Be Avoided?

~ K. L. Schewngel

 

Revising for Publication October 3, 2013

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 8:42 pm
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Right on trend, I’m following Mara and posting a day late because I was apparently so engrossed in critiquing my CP’s manuscript that I couldn’t read my calendar. #headdesk

This post, and the next few posts of mine, will be allllll about revising and editing, so…grab some coffee. I know this will make you sleepy.

I am the world’s worst outliner. There, I said it. Phew. No matter how hard I try to outline, I always abandon it somewhere in the middle and just wing it. Of course, this makes for a crazy amount of revision. My CPs [and my editor] have waded through an awful lot of my crap and given me straight-up amazing advice, and I love them to pieces for it. Anyhoo, I don’t figure I’m the one to give you advice on how to outline, or how to write a draft. As much as I love drafting, I’m crazy spontaneous about it and don’t really have a rule besides “let your hair down and have a good time…oh, and freak out while you’re at it!”

When you first look at that beast you created and it’s time to revise, you’re probably going to be all “bleh…bleh…blarrrrrggg…” and want to drown yourself in still more caffeine. But you power through and whip that thing into shape, no problem. Send it to CPs. Revise according to their notes. Get it in the hands of some betas. They say it’s looking pretty good. You decide you can do better. You do a rewrite or another overhaul. Send to more betas. Let it sit for awhile. Implement more little tweaks. Read through it and, scared as you are, it just might be ready.

I’m fairly certain those who have an agent can just idly peruse this post with a bemused expression, because I’m pretty sure you’d have already sent in that third draft or what-not to your agent. This is that last, crazy madhouse revision that you absolutely MUST do if you are self-publishing. And of course, this can fall anywhere in your process, however it works for you. It just needs to happen after you’ve gotten a considerable amount of notes and implemented them. After your story is rock solid. After your character arcs are all in place and any unnecessary scenes have been trimmed. This is your last swoosh before line edits. (And yes! I’m doing a post on line edits next week.)

First, make sure your mood is right for this. You need to be confident in your story and know where it’s going. You’re almost done! This is exciting. If you’re depressed or having an off day, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT hack up your manuscript. Stay the heck away. You need to be in your best zone to do this. Maybe even knock it out in one lovely day with no other responsibilities so that you can feel empowered with it. I like to print off my whole manuscript and do this last revision with a pen, because after I’ve done it all on paper, then I have a moment to check myself as I do it in the document. And always, always save an old version before you get ruthless.

All right. Time for the nitty gritty. What you’re looking for:

Scenes that end too soon. Do they end strong? Do they give enough information? Is there mystery? Do they keep us reading forward? Check every single scene. Double check. If there’s even the slightest feeling that it’s weak, fix it. This might mean you need to move endings to the beginning of next scenes or move beginnings of scenes backward into the one before it. That’s okay. If it needs to happen, do it.

Scenes that are too long. This is something I do too much. I keep my characters rambling forward just a paragraph too long, because I think the reader needs to know something–but they would probably be much more interested if I just let them discover it. Cut, cut, cut those endings. Save them all in a file in case your line editor sees something missing and you need to recover some nuggets, but for the most part, those things need to be gone. Don’t cry. It’s okay.

Unnecessary dialogue. I’m a huge fan of using dialogue to tell the reader things instead of putting it in the narrative. Of course, you’ll already have eliminated places where the dialogue feels unnatural or wrong, but keep an eye out where it’s still lurking. (This stuff lurks and lurks.) Dialogue needs to feel real, and that could mean they talk about soap monsters once in awhile, but make sure it’s all necessary to character development and every bit of it is driving us forward.

Unnecessary description. Likewise, I find myself with whole paragraphs that don’t have much to do with the story, I just…I just…couldn’t part with them. You have to be cruel to these lovelies. No one is going to do it for you. If it hasn’t made one of your CPs dance with happiness, if it bugs you on bad days, if you catch yourself skimming over it because it’s boring…it needs to go. Get it out of there.

Anything that interrupts the flow. Anything, anything, anything at all. Characters introduced in a weird way. Info-dumps that may have been missed because they’re actually only a sentence long but gosh-darn-it, they’re still an info-dump. Imagine your book in it’s final, formatted state. Do you have a segway for everything? Do the chapter titles make sense? If the book is in parts, do the parts work together? Scratch things out. Move paragraphs. You’re invincible. Go go go!

As the publisher, you don’t have loads of professionals sifting through this. If you have a line editor and a copyeditor (and you better have a copyeditor), assume they don’t exist, because there will still be plenty for them to catch. At this juncture, it’s just you, baby. You and your utter, cold-hearted ruthless pen. Slice, dice, toss, reword, rethink, rearrange until that thing looks like a freaking bestseller. And you know what that means?

Wheeee! You’re ready for the scary land of line edits! YOU DID THIS THING!!!

–Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Self-Publishing: Why and How August 17, 2013

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:12 pm
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Hi there my wonderful There and Draft Again folks!

I’ve been quite busy with a blog tour, beginning August 5 and ending yesterday, August 16. I have to say, it’s been a wild two weeks. For those of you who aren’t sure what the whole blog tour buzz is all about, it’s pretty much a stampede of guest blog stops (all penned by yours truly) for the sole purpose of getting the word out about my book. And there’s nothing I, as a writer of fiction, would like to avoid more.

The trouble is, that’s not the kind of writing I’m good at. If I wanted to talk about real life, I’d write non-fiction. I’d be a journalist. I’d compose how-to manuals and advertising copy. This is SO NOT my thing. For the Coldness of Marek Blog Tour, I had to set aside four weeks of writing time. Which is just ridiculous. I mean, I can write a whole novel draft in four weeks. Why all this time for a blog tour? Well, probably because I spent hours tapping at my keyboard, only to backspace every word. I pretty much looked like this:

And at the end of the day I had nothing to show for it. I just checked my stats, and apparently I wrote 15k in blog tour material. That’s nothing. That’s piddly. That is me being terribly inefficient. Not to mention all of my friends’ manuscripts that were piling up, waiting to be critiqued/read/loved. To round it all out, our fearless There and Draft Again leader, EM Castellan, asked me to write a post about self-publishing.  I was all, yeah, okay! But inside I was thinking, um, this is the first time I’ve ever done this. I have nothing to say about self-publishing.

Well, after 15k in blog tour posts, I’ve discovered that actually, I do. I have a lot to say. So listen up, anyone interested in self-publishing — or interested in raising an eyebrow or two about self-publishing — here’s my mighty rundown. Ready? Go.

First, don’t judge. If you set out to self-publish, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because you’re bitter about not getting a traditional deal. Don’t do it to show the world you’re better than them. Don’t do it because you think you work harder than agented writers and you think you should earn more of your profits. That’s all just stupid-face talking. Do it because you have sound, positive reasons for believing this is the right direction for your book — and one of those reasons should be because you love stories and love sharing them.

My reasons were: I honestly couldn’t sit down and tell you my entire plan for this three (four?) book series. I don’t have an entire plan. I have a tentative plan. An agent needs to be able to know exactly what you’re planning to put into your career so that s/he can help you get what you need out of it. I didn’t want that type of give/take. I wanted to go it alone, at an even pace with an evolving plan. I wanted to get to know each of my readers, like a street musician does.

Second, go about it the right way. Make sure you ask for help from the right people. Everything is pretty much up to you, but the one important ingredient that everyone MUST HAVE is an editor who knows what they’re doing. Get one. Get one you can trust to call you out on your shiz. Get them yesterday.

My “right way” was comprised of:

My wonderful critique partner who doubled as my line editor, who knew my story inside and outside and who fielded my freak-out texts as well.

An incredible professional editor who (did NOT field my freak-out texts because that is NOT her job. Do not abuse your editor) cut all the last stupid and lame and dumb lines from my story…oh, and also fixed the grammar, too.

An artist friend who was willing to do cover art for me.

A street team comprised of a handful of volunteer heroes who loved me and/or my writing and were willing to yell about it before they even had ARCs, because they’re loyal and golden and the salt of the earth.

A hundred dollars worth of cute swag to give away.

Advanced reading copies of my book to send to reviewers.

And…that’s all.

Third, be yourself. Don’t sweat over trying to sound like all the other authors you’ve heard interviewed. Don’t put other authors down to try to make yourself look better. Be humble and straightforward, be professional and talk about the things you’re knowledgeable about. Just let it flow.

Being myself required: Checking my assumptions at the door. I couldn’t assume anything about what I would accomplish with my book release, how people would view my writing, and where I would be after a few weeks of being out there in the market. I had to be wide-eyed and fresh, and open up as if I was meeting new people at preschool. I had to stare loads of my insecurities in the face and tell them to stand down. It was scary and crazy, but it all worked out pretty well, and once I settled into it, there was actually some pretty fun stuff that happened.

Fourth, be grateful. Be grateful to everyone who bought it. Be grateful to everyone who got your novel ready for market, who made it look pretty and polished your prose. Be grateful to everyone who reviewed it. Be grateful to everyone on your street team, cover reveal, and blog tour. Be grateful to everyone who talked about it to their friends and on social media. Be grateful for the traditional platform that produced books for centuries to kindle the love of literature that now allows you to sell your book to readers everywhere. Be grateful for an economy that is able to support self-published authors.

I’m grateful to: Rebecca Weston, Darci Cole, Amanda Aszman, M. Andrew Patterson, Michelle Roberts, H.E. Griffin, Steve Knapp, E.M. Castellan, Joshua David Bellin, Lauren Garafalo, Lucy Hershbine, Serena Lawless, Kathi L. Schwengel, Mara Valderran, Beau Barnett, Nazarea Andrews, Amanda Olivieri, Bill Murphy, Chris Prickitt, Steve Chiasson, Uwe Kruger, Jens Kruger, Andrea Hannah, Leigh Ann Kopans, Dahlia Adler, my friends, family, husband and children.

And I’m grateful for you, lovely reader. Thank you for indulging me and reading a little post about my journey. I appreciate the time it takes for you to read and I hope you enjoyed.

— Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Keeping the Soul While Ripping the Heart Out April 24, 2013

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:06 pm
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Okay. This is completely not what I meant to blog about this month, and I may be getting a little personal here (har har, me? Never!)… but this is what I’ve been in the midst of lately. Plus, it can’t hurt to drift into the editing/polishing territory here on There and Draft Again, because it’s an important part of the writing process. So please bear with me. 🙂

I’ve been stuck in edits with my upcoming epic fantasy COLDNESS OF MAREK for awhile now, and as much as I love this story, it’s getting to that point where I begin to hate it. For me, once I get down to the nitty gritty, it becomes grueling. I start to question all of my decisions thus far and the text starts to look stupid and gangly.

For any writer, trimming down our words is painful and akin to shaving off pieces of the soul. But for a fantasy writer it becomes even more than that. You’ve created a whole world that reflects you in so many ways — things you think are good, or bitter, or right, or ugly — every facet is something you probably feel strongly about. You’ve spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours inventing this place, and then when it comes time for line edits, guess what else has to go besides pretty words? Yup. Pieces of your world. Anything that feels awkward or just doesn’t need to be there. Out.

If you’re being published traditionally, most likely someone else will be cutting out a lot of this stuff for you, but it will still hurt to see the result. If you’re doing it yourself or have hired someone to do it for you, it hurts a lot, too. Yet it must happen in order to make all that drafting, revising, and revising again worthwhile. It must happen in order to make that novel truly shine.

It’s hard not to get worn down in the process. You need help with this, for sure; you need friends who know how to be uber critical and uber supportive, and if you’re self-publishing, you need a professional editor before you’re done. In the midst it all, keeping your world consistent becomes increasingly complicated. And with all those world details to keep track of and hone, keeping the emotion in the story consistent becomes… well, complicated. You’re going to want to have your Fantasy Bible nearby, for sure.

I discovered there’s something else I need. Something I used to think was just for fun. But as soon as I got here, to this patch of crazy, I realized I needed it savagely. What is it? Emotional props. What for? To help keep myself on the same plane with my characters’ passions and loves. I didn’t have trouble with this in the drafting stage. Not even in the revision stage. But here? SO BAD, I NEED IT SOOOOO BAD!

Mine is a hodge podge pile, but it includes music, movies, youtube vids, outfits, Pinterest boards, other novels (usually completely unrelated to what I write), a font, a friend who understands why Marek and Trzl can’t be together… anything that connects me with the emotion in that story that I am now chopping into a million pieces. You’ll need things that rivet you down to the heart of your story, that strike that chord for you. Keep them handy. Not to influence your editing, but to influence you.

To remind you that there’s something lovely and shiny at the end of all of this. To keep the depth of your characters’ souls fresh and real. To convince you to stay the course tenaciously, to polish fervently and ruthlessly, because that heart and emotion is what all your words will say when you’re done.

Keep it alive.

Rachel

 

Writerly Tools: Editing Edition February 22, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 4:44 am
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Here at There & Draft Again, we’ve gone over lots of helpful tips and tools you can use when writing your novel. World-building resources. Thesauruses to help expand your prose a bit. Building characters. POV. But what if you’re past all of that? What if you’ve already written your first, even your second or third draft of your manuscript?

Well, first of all, let’s start by saying:

congrats

You’ve finished writing a book! Time to publish!

Wait, that’s not what I meant at all. What I really meant was that you are, as most people say, halfway through the battle. In reality, I think it is more like 1/4 of the way but who am I to nitpick?

The point, of course, is you have a long journey ahead of you filled with editing, beta readers, crit partners, etc. All of which you will need to get your manuscript shiny enough to send off to an agent or publisher. In this edition of Writerly Tools, we will be discussing editing with advice as well as tools you can use.

First piece of advice: Never submit a first draft to anything besides a beta reader or crit partner. First drafts are just that–first drafts. The harsh reality is there is a lot more work that goes into being a writer than the fun parts like developing characters, world-building, etc.

writers2

In fact, sometimes it can feel like a full-time job after the first draft is done. So what do you do? Where do you start? Well, with some nifty tools of course. We’ve already touched on this, but a thesaurus is really your best friend when it comes to editing. We all have our favorite words in our ever-expanding vocabularies, but you want to make sure that doesn’t show too much in your manuscript. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of editing, you can try these three tools:

1. Wordle: This is a word map of your manuscript. I have not been able to get it to successfully work for me, but other people have and speak very highly of it. Basically, you plug in your manuscript/chapter and Wordle will create word maps, or word clouds, of your piece. The bigger words are the most used, which tells you that you need to narrow down the usage a smidge (or more if you are like me and love it when characters purse their lips). Best part: It’s free! Worth a shot!

2. Autocrit: Oh, how can I sing thy praise, Autocrit.com? Not only do you offer a free preview by allowing authors to paste 700 words into your wizard and spit out some interesting bits (like overused words, for example), but for a fairly decent price you can subscribe for a year and get access to even more tools like cliches and redundancies, pronoun usage, and many more. I got the Platinum membership for $77 a year and I definitely recommend it, especially for editing novices like me. The process of editing can be overwhelming and this definitely has some good pointers as to where to start and helps you develop an eye for mistakes.

3. MyWriterTools Editor Edition: I can’t say too much about this because I don’t have it myself, but it does look appealing. It seems to be a plugin for Microsoft Word and creates checklists for writing, proofreading, and editing for you. If I am reading the site correctly, the program also creates your very own style sheet. This is definitely on my “want” list, but since I just got Autocrit and this program is $49.99 ($29.99 introductory price) and I am still learning about it, it will have to wait. Have you used this program before? Sound off in the comments!

I know not all of us can afford editors, but sometimes these programs might help offset editing costs while making your manuscript stand out as something, well, not riddle with errors. It might be worth the investment if you find yourself in the position to make it.

What are some of your tips and tricks of the editing trade? Tell us what you use and what you think of the recommendations!

Mara Valderran