Self-editing and Critiquing #6

While some characters have obvious actions and tones of voice others are harder to distinguish. In the novel I’m editing I have a mother daughter combo as main characters. Since they are family my mind made them seem similar, with obvious differences in age, and less obvious differences in their life goals. 

But my beta readers have been saying that it is hard to figure out which one is speaking at which time because they are too similar. I’m trying to figure out the best way to fix this. 

It might be fun to make up some slang words for the daughter to use, but the mother doesn’t. Of course I don’t want to make it harder on the reader either. Making them remember what each word means, or worse look it up each time in a glossary, would take away from the story.

I had been trying to give each character word preferences, and I did make an attempt to have the mother use shorter more statement like sentences.Then again I wrote this during National Novel Writing Month. What I concentrated on one day was completely forgotten the next. I will attempt to add these differences more often throughout the novel, while small I do think they will help. If that doesn’t work I’ll have to go with my back up plan; give my characters catch phrases.

Self-editing and Critiquing #5

I’m in the throws of intense editing, also known as rewriting half a novel. I have found techniques which help make the process smoother, perhaps they can help you as well.

First I choose one scene to work on at a time, trying to look at the others as little as possible until the rewrite is complete.

Second I ask myself what I want to do with this scene. Who I want to introduce, what character development I want to see, and most importantly if I want it to end in an upbeat or a downbeat. 

What is that? When a scene ends with progress toward the characters goal then the scene ends with an upbeat. If a new obstacle appears between the character and their goals the scene ends in a downbeat. If there are too many scenes with one or the other in a row then it’s off putting to the reader which could make them put the book down. 

This brings us to our third point, I have to make sure that the characters current goals are clear to the reader. This can be simple, “His tummy rumbled, ready to devour the next edible object in sight.” Your character realizes he needs to eat, then his goal is to obtain food. These goals can also be complex such as a daughters need of acceptance from her parents. Clear goals are the way to help the reader root for your main character through their trials and tribulations. 

Self-Editing and Critiquing #4

I’ve been reading some friends beginning pages and finding them not to my taste. I wondered what agents were looking for, particularly in the first pages of a novel, and the novel as a whole as well. The results of research were helpful in giving my friends feedback.

Three things that will make an agent discard a manuscript:

1) Starting with a dream.

2) Starting with a person going through their daily routine.

3) Starting with the weather.

Three things that will make an agent keep reading:

1) Starting with action.

2) Consistent pacing.

3) A satisfying ending.

One of many good resources on the subject: http://darleyandersonblog.com/2013/07/31/11-ways-not-to-start-your-novel-5/

Self-Editing and Critiquing #3

This week I have been attacking three things in my novel.

1)      Repetitious use of the same word too soon.

2)      Character word choice consistency.

3)      Telling instead of showing.

Repetitious use of the same word too quickly, or in the same sentence location, bothers me. It always has, from the days of ‘see spot run’ I thought that the novel would be more interesting with different words. I try to hold my novel to the same standards as any other book I read, and that means differentiating my expressions. There is a particular focus on starting three paragraphs in a row with the same word, starting three sentences in a row with the same word, or just plain overuse.

This needs to be balanced with what a characters natural word choice would be. There is an alien in my novel and he doesn’t have a full grasp of the English language. It would not be unnatural for him to start sentences with ‘I’ or to use incorrect grammar. My hard core detective keeps to short sentences full of observations while shying away from personal feelings. Keeping my word choices and sentence structure straight between my characters is hard, but I believe it will take my novel to the next level of immersion for the reader.

Lastly I’ve been keeping an eye out for telling instead of showing. This was a particular problem for me while doing NaNoWriMo because I wanted to skip over a less interesting scene for the next one I had pictured. Yet this takes away from both the plot development, and more importantly the character development. I’ve started to highlight these so that I can expand them to their proper length at a later date.

Self-Editing and Critiquing #2

This week I have been focusing on list making.

1)      Missing scenes.

2)      Good scenes or ideas, as specified by myself or my beta reader.

3)      Forgotten subplots.

These lists have already been useful in determining what scenes need to be added, and what content they should have. I am already seeing places where my forgotten subplots will fit into a missing scene nicely to show character and plot development. The good scenes/ideas help direct where these new scenes should go. For example many of the good scenes involve my main characters talking arm implant being sarcastic. Because of this I plan to add more scenes with him.

How do I determine missing scenes?

The easiest is when I type in big bold letters FINISH THIS SCENE. Or ADD HOW THEY FOUND THE BODY HERE. If I was writing leisurely I probably wouldn’t have these outbursts, but this novel was written during NaNoWriMo, and with time being word count the novel had to go on.

My novel has two main characters, the detective mother and her daughter. I try to have every scene switch between their points of view. If I have a long chapter staring one without the other I am probably missing a scene.

If I’m reading and something seems to have come out of the blue. This is tricky because I wrote this novel out of order and it’s not completely in order yet. Therefore I might have just put a scene where it is not supposed to be instead of missing scene. In this case I write down what I think is the missing scene but with a question mark next to it, so that I know to look into it more after reader further into my novel.

Self-Editing and Critiquing #1

This week I have been attacking three things in my novel.

1)      Words which are not capitalized but should be.

2)      Two spaces after a period instead of one.

3)      Extensive unnecessary use of the words ‘that’ and ‘certainly’.

I thought these problems would be easy to fix. Capitalization and two spaces after the period are basically typos. I tried to go through my novel and take care of all of these problems before printing because I knew looking for them would annoy me. I did not do a good job, it’s still annoying me. To be fair it is hard to see if there are one or two spaces after a period while looking at a computer screen. On the printed page it is much easier. I have no reason for not seeing the lack of capitalization though. I hope to not have to deal with these problems again after this go through of the novel.

I’ve been getting rid of ‘that’ and ‘certainly’ during this read through of my novel. I had noticed they were being used to often in my writing when they weren’t needed. I decided to focus on getting rid of them since they can almost always be deleted outright to create a stronger sentence. No need to spend time rewriting or formatting the sentence, just delete the word and move on. It’s my kind of simple editing.

Kicking Off 2015 – Writing Goals

There are four major goals for this upcoming year and each major goal as three sub goals. As expected, one of my major goals is getting published. The sub goals for writing are as follows:

 

1)      Write and submit one short story per month. This nets me twelve short stories in the year and it will help me go through each stage of the noveling process in a small scale; plotting, writing, editing, and submitting. These shorter works should help me become a better author while not taking the time dedication needed for a novel.

2)      Write three 50k novels. One for each NNWM camp, and one for official NNWM. Go big or go home!

3)      Edit the novel from this year’s NNWM and send to publishers. This is a full year goal because the editing, beta reading, and further editing will take a lot of time. I’ve gotten a head start by doing edits on some pages I printed out.  I’m seeing new issues with every page, not just the ones I saw while writing. It’s disheartening, but I am determined. This book has the needed bones, they just have to be polished.

 

As a mini sub goal I will continue to post here, an estimated three times a week. A friend showed me Weekend Writing Warriors which I plan to make one of my consistent posts. With the amount of editing and critiquing I plan to do this year I think it would be fun to have a weekly post covering issues I have been seeing throughout the week. I might add ways to focus on these problems while self-editing and any easy ways to fix them. Not sure what my last weekly post will be, perhaps checking in on how the progress is going on these goals? Time will tell.

 

PS: I did send out one short story during 2014. I just got the word that it was rejected. Time for editing! It will be sent out again by the end of Jan, with whichever new story I might write!