A Writer’s Responsibility #WickedWednesday (@KaceyHammell)

Wednesdays

Good morning everyone! Happy Hump Day. Sorry I have been MIA the last couple of weeks. Life for me has changed this past month and I’m learning my way through balancing everything. Thank you to the other Quillers for their patience and understanding. Balancing so much has reminded me how valuable writing time is. I’m not the only writer to work outside the home, and actually have three jobs – writer, mother, and a full time day job – and for the first time since I began writing, I think I value the moments of solitude even more. And time with my characters has become golden. In many ways, I took the hours I could be writing for granted a bit because I had so much time before. I’ve learned a lesson here, and I take advantage of every five minutes I can get words down.

But in all the chaos recently, I finished my latest book. It is now fully done and self-edits were brutal. I wasn’t completely happy with it when I was done it before. Thanks to critique partners, I forged my way through the figuring out what was wrong and thoroughly revised many aspects from the original. Which leads me to today’s topic – being a vicious editor. No one else can write your stories for you and we have all said how important edits are. There are still many writers out there cutting corners and releasing stories that are not up to snuff. To each their own, but it is our responsibility to produce stories that shine.

With my last few books, I have used “Pro Writing Aid” program. It’s a godsend for me. It checks over everything from repetition words/phrases to dictation, run-on sentences, grammar, checks transitions, dialogue tags, abstract words, and more. It heavily searches through a manuscript and notes everything that needs to go. There are few things that I don’t change. I don’t want to change the voice in my stories, but I make the decisions on what I change. Nothing is written in stone. But I’ve found it a very useful tool.

I’ve mentioned my “cheat sheet” of bad habits in the past, words I use often – then, it, damn – and it is so important to thoroughly edit out those terrible habits. Readers don’t want to be repeating words over in their heads either. We’d lose readers that way. I can’t stress enough how important going back through your MS is before sending it to a publisher or self-pubbing it yourself. Be your fiercest advocate. Even if it takes you a month to do edits, then let it. Don’t publish crap that isn’t worthy. It’s that simple. Why spend a month or two, or more, on a story that you end up doing an injustice to if it’s not edited properly.

Not all writers are editors. We aren’t. However, it’s a writer’s job to also know about how to edit a story. Common story structure, grammar, to see errors, etc., is part of our job. The edits begin with the writer before sending / hiring another editor if self-publishing, and other publishers demand clean manuscripts. It’s that simple. The writer has all the responsibilities outside of simply writing the story. Too many writers are not taking this part of their job seriously and it saddens me.

It is such a disservice to your characters and stories.

A quick checklist that I tend to use when editing, even without Pro Writing Aid, which I tend to look closely for…

  1. Omit unnecessary words – then, that, it, and, overuse of the characters’ names.
  2. Redundancies – avoiding the use of ‘shrugged his shoulders’ (there’s nothing else to shrug!). ‘She nodded her head’ (there’s nothing else on us that we nod!!)
  3. NO Head Hopping!! So important. Stay in one character POV for an entire scene. If you do switch to the 2nd POV (after a few pages of one character), then make the transition easy and smooth.
  4. Limit the number of ‘ly’ words.
  5. Don’t over explain. Example – ‘Doris was angry and pounded the counter.’ I would edit this sentence to – ‘Doris pounded the counter.’ Plain and simple. We read the anger in her actions.

These are a few items on my checklist that I am mindful of with every read through / edit. They’re simple but oh-so-crucial!!  The more stories a writer creates and the more editing they do – on their own and with a professional editor when the time comes – the more their voice will shine and the better writer they will be.

 

Until next week,

Happy Writing. Happy Editing!

Kacey xoxo

 


 

It All Begins with the First Draft… #SatisfactionSaturday (@KaceyHammell)

saturday

firstdraftshouldsuck
Kacey here, and good morning all. Happy September! Can you believe how fast this year has gone by already?? It’s crazy. It’s like blink and the day is over. Kids are back to school (here in my area) this coming Tuesday. I’m back and forth with the feelings however. I love having my kids’ home all the time. I’ve never been one to be excited to see them leave every morning, but I do enjoy watching them experience new things and grow up to be young and interesting people.

But that’s not really what I am here to discuss. I promise. No Mommy woes any further. Today, I want to share about when writing that “never ending” story. There are times, like with my current WIP that seem to go on forever. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can be overwhelming and / or concerning (for some). Outlining stories on paper is a great idea. I know many authors who use chapter boards, post-it notes of a variety of colors and pages and pages of outlines. (Psst: John Grisham usually does about 50 pages of outlines, following them to the letter). Whenever I do an outline it is a brief one about that of course has the conflicts, beginning, middle, end as I see it at the time. But my twists and turns for a story don’t usually come to me until I’m actually writing the story, and sometimes things in my outline change. Surprises can be great, makes things so exciting, but sometimes it can be a downfall for some authors.

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And cause the author to have one of those “will this frickin’ book ever end!!??” shrieks that can be heard from one end of the house to the other. I’m in that now with my WIP but I’m still happy that the story is being written. Things are more complex than I thought, and what I am writing is key to the story. My writing motto is usually – don’t stifle the writing. Write until the story is done and don’t hold back – and I am still following that but I did think I’d be done this already!! LOL Just a double-edged sword really. We writers are slaves to the words. *g*

The best thing for any author to do is sit in that chair, have the tea/coffee pot beside you and write that first draft as if there are no limitations, no one you have to answer to in that stage of things, and enjoy it. Once that first draft is done however, the real work (in my mind) begins. Self-edits. The slashing and slaying of the overused words, the run-on sentences, the time to fix the moments where your leading lady has red hair in one scene and blonde everywhere else, to make your hero smoothly transition from an A-hole to a sweetheart, and push the limits of every plot/twist.

I personally love the self-edit stage the best. That’s when I can start reading my story again – I DO NOT make any revisions to any of the first draft until it’s done. Many will write each chapter then edit as they write it – it doesn’t work for me – I enjoy going back and reading/editing my story after the first draft is done, I get those “Oh wow, did I write this? It’s so good.”  And of course there are the “Oh wow, you idiot, this just won’t do”. Self-edits are important for all authors. You want the very best piece of creativity to be sent to the publishers. I mean, why put in all that effort writing a story when you aren’t going to care for it, do each step (from self-edits to critique partners, to beta/alpha readers, etc. – your routine is YOURS so do it how it works best for you), and watch your story grow with every level of molding you put it through to not make it the very best to publish. All of us on this blog have said it – Edits / finding the right editor is VERY important. No book should be published without proper editing.

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A key piece to remember when you’re done the first draft of your stories is the most important for me – is the story always moving forward? Concentrate first on the plot/main point of conflict. During the editing process, it’s easy to get caught up in the misspelled words, etc., but my first read through is always concentrating heavily on the plot aspects. From main conflict to secondary and even tertiary plots. In the outline these three areas are the most important. I start every outline with each one. always ensure that every scene keeps things moving along quickly. Readers like the details and such, but they don’t like to be weighed down by too much that is unnecessary.

After I have diligently done all the slashing and fixes, especially if I’m uncertain the story is moving along well enough and I’m not weighing anything down but I might be too close to the story to still see the issues, I will bring in my critique partners and a beta reader. Authors are very close to ever story they write and sometimes need unbiased individual who are blunt in their feedback and will tell me us like it is. Some authors don’t need these people, and that is fine, but for me personally I can’t stress enough how useful CPs & beta readers are for me. They give me a piece of mind that I have covered all my bases to make an even better story than I first though. Besides, who better to discuss/brainstorm about a story with than other like-minded people who know what it takes to do this job.

All in all, every author has their own writing process but it all begins with that first draft. Nothing else can happen until the story is written. So sit, get the fingers flying over the keyboard and keep going until the story/characters say it is done. In most cases the first draft is not always the finished product and that is the first acceptance an author has to make. It’s a long, sometimes grueling, but amazing journey from start to finish.

 

Good luck! Happy writing!!

Kacey (2)