Tag Archives: editing

The time might not be now

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the fifth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 5: “But do we need to know it now?”

For my fifth lesson, I opted to do a one-on-one critique with Linda Camacho (@LindaRandom) an agent with Prospect Agency.

We had a lovely 15-minute chat that went all over the board, and much of it was personal to my story. However, I’d like to share a tip she suggested (in regards to showing rather than telling, which seems to be a problem of mine) that really stuck with me and felt universally helpful.

When you’re looking at the amount you’re telling in terms of backstory, ask yourself these two questions:
1) Is this something we actually need to know to further the story? If no, delete. If yes…
2) Do we need to know it now?If no, delete. If yes, find a way to work into dialogue if possible, or pare it down to bare bones.

Of course you want to tell all of the nuances of your character that you spent hours and days and weeks building. But if the readers don’t need to know something, it’s okay to just hint at it, or leave it out altogether. If they do need to know it, are you giving it in an information dump? Does it even really make sense to be in that particular part of the story?

Long story short:

Don’t dump. Yes, you want to get your key points across, but resist the urge to drop backstory on your readers like a load of bricks. Parcel it out, in conversation as much as possible, and only give the most important tidbits. Save the reason your character will only wear white socks for a time when that fact actually helps forward the story.

Result: I’ve got some editing to do. Not news, but now I have one more tool to help me do it.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, let me know a favorite nuance you created for a character that you can’t find a way to work naturally into your story.

Happy editing!

Photo by Alex Holyoake at Stocksnap.io

Writer, edit thyself

I just attended a workshop at the library on the subject of self-editing your novel with Jennifer Sawyer Fisher of JSF Editorial. She gave us a good deal of great information, and plenty of examples to help drive the points home.

In no particular order, here are a few of my takeaways:

  1. I might have to cut back on the subplots
  2. Trying to push through and edit a full-length novel all in one sitting would be as silly as trying to write the thing all in one sitting.
  3. Writing and editing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, I made this one up. But it’s still the basic gist of what she said.
  4. One day, when I write a murder mystery, the rule of thumb is a death in the first three chapters. Don’t need this now, but I’m just filing away the info for later.
  5. Hiring a good editor is worth every penny. Though Ms. Fisher didn’t specifically say this, I think it was implied. And probably very true.
  6. This I’ve heard before, but it bears repeating:  just because there are super-long books on the bookstore shelves doesn’t mean a first time author is going to get a super-long book published. Cut the fluff.
  7. When it comes to accepting or rejecting an editor’s, agent’s, or publisher’s suggestions for your book, go with your gut.
  8. Also not news, but worth repeating: action verbs, action verbs, action verbs.
  9. I need to stop using the same word so many times in a single sentence/paragraph (for example, I just edited a second word “session” out of my sentence below and replaced it with “workshop”).
  10. Full page paragraphs are a big no-no.

It was an inspiring session. Thanks to Ms. Fisher and everyone at the Hudson Library and Historical Society who made the workshop possible!

Happy editing!

Have you received a great piece of writing or editing advice lately? Please share in the comments.

Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash

The details that make the story

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the second in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 2: “I did not need to think of a new story. I only needed to create the details.”

My second lesson came from opening remarks given by Newberry Medal Award-winning author Linda Sue Park (@lindasuepark). The first thing you should know about her is that she’s really funny and a great storyteller. Second, while she has given a voice to Koreans and Korean-Americans in many of her stories, she also loves baseball, cooking, knitting, and many other things that make her unique.

She shared a quote about two basic plot structures (attributed either to John Gardner or Joseph Campbell depending on the reference you use):

  1. A stranger comes to town
  2. A hero goes on a journey
Is she a hero going on a journey or a stranger coming to town? You decide.

What she loved about this was the freedom that comes with it: if there are indeed only two kinds of plots, all she had to do was fill in her own details. She encouraged passion for the details, and pointed us to the Fuse8 blog by Librarian Betsy Bird (@fuse8) as an example of details (in this case knitting needles) that were wrong.

Her point, and well taken, is that the people who are passionate about a particular field will definitely notice when you get it wrong. If you’re going to write about something that isn’t your field, you should do so much research that you become a part of that community. And you almost certainly already have passions you could write about that you would be frustrated with if someone else got wrong. The devil, so we’ve heard, is in the details.

Long story short:

You’re unique, and so am I. Though I had heard it before, I was reinforced in the knowledge that each of us has our own story to tell, and we are the only ones who can tell it our way. We should write something that ignites our passion, that we spend the time to know well.

Result: I’m going to continue to write my passion, and know that telling a story my way is the only way I can, or should, try to tell it. And I’m going to be sure to get the details right.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, please share something you’re passionate about that has come through in your writing. Or tell me your story about the girl in the photo above…

Happy writing!

Why I won’t be paying to crush any candies: how #writing a novel is like playing #candycrush

As I work on completing my first novel so that I can either sell it to a publisher or self-publish, I am tempted to rush to the end. I just want it to be done already! But I also know that rushing it is the worst way to get my story out there, and will ultimately do me a disservice. I keep reminding myself that the journey is key. Do the right things, and good will come of it.

I have also recently become addicted to Candy Crush. Who hasn’t? That game is making millions of dollars per day*, or so I’m told. And the people who made it definitely know what’s addictive to humans — sounds, praise, lots of candies flashing across the screen…

The problem with Candy Crush — wait for it; you might think I’m going to say it’s that you have to wait to get new lives or that you have to do those quests in between sections, but that’s NOT what I’m going to say — is that it only costs 99 cents to “cheat.” See, not what you thought I was going to say, right?

Philosophically if the game is offering you extra moves or the chance to skip the quests, then that isn’t really cheating. But every time I think about taking that super-easy road, I ask myself this: “what am I playing for?” I’m not playing to reach the end — there IS no end. If you’ve reached “the end” you’ll have seen that there’s another similar game now available, or new levels are suddenly on offer. I’m playing to play.

Dare I make the comparison? Yes, I do dare: there’s almost no more perfect metaphor for becoming an author than playing Candy Crush**.

Yep, you can get there faster — whether “there” is Lemonade Lake or publishing your novel. But if you do make that skip, it’s going to cost you. It might just be 99 cents to start, but once you open the door to shortcuts, you’re willing to take them again and again. Pretty soon, you’ve spent $20 on a “free” game, or you’ve published a book that you realize could have been better — whether that’s better written, better edited, or better marketed. And then your return isn’t as great as it would have been.

I’m in Candy Crush for the journey. If I stay on level 86 forever, at least I’m still making the journey, rather than putting resources into a venture that ends up netting me nothing.

Of course, I realize that without all the people who do pay for levels, I’d have no Candy Crush to play at all, since the company has to make money to stay afloat. You can pick apart my metaphor in many other ways if you wish. Maybe it’s not that perfect. Neither am I***. But I’m still sticking out my editing process, and my Candy Crush level, until I beat it myself, rather than taking the shortcut.

Happy writing and Crushing!

*This is one of those “I think I heard it somewhere” anecdotes, rather than an actual fact that I can back up with proof.

**I’m sure there are many more perfect metaphors, but writers are given to hyperbole. It makes for a better story.

***In fact, I had to make the rule not to pay for Candy Crush because I’m the kind who might get so addicted that I probably wouldn’t ever stop if I let myself skip. I NEED the 30-min buffer. Plus, I’m “frugal.” Ask my husband. He might use a different word, but either way it means I try to keep us both from spending too much on “unnecessary column” items.

UPDATE: After being stuck for literally weeks (due to my no pay rule). I finally passed level 86! Yay! Now back to work.