Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't Rush

Finishing a book, putting that last word on the page, usually involves cheering and a sense of accomplishment. Truth is, though, that you're most likely not finished.

Create a file on your computer or get a spiral notebook that you label with your book's name and keep notes inside.


Now it's time to re-read and catch glitches in the plot or mis-spellings or missing words or impossible feats by characters or…. The list can go on and on. If you make a change that you know will affect a future event in the book, make a note in your file or in your notebook since you know you'll have to change things later on in the book. Take care as you stack up the pieces of your book.

Be on the lookout for pet words used over and over. You probably won't even know you're using them unless you search for them. If you do a search and find for, say, weeping, and find that you’ve used it eight times, that may be too many times. Find another word or way of saying what you want to convey to the reader. You can also use "search" to make sure you didn't make a mistake. Did you say the bad guy's shirt was pink or red? Do a search on each word. You'll be able to determine which color you used as well as determine that you didn't slip up and call it some other color.

Don't hop from one character's head to another. Stick with one character either for the entire book or for long sections. Readers can get lost if they're in Susan's head, then they jump to Jack's thoughts, then they're suddenly back in Susan's head or maybe Harold's head. And pretty soon the reader is putting down the book and picking up another.

Think about how you can define a character without listing traits or describing him/her in detail. One way is how that character talks. Does he talk like everyone else? Does he use contractions and slang? Does he, for example, say MickieD's instead of McDonald's? Does he speak without using contractions? For example, does he say, Let us go to McDonald's. Or does he say, Let's go to McDonald's. One way to help define a foreigner is to have them not use contractions.

Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of three books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, the novel Angel Sometimes, and two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe. Her next book, Dismembering the Past, is due out in Summer 2014.

13 comments :

  1. The last word on the page is just the beginning of the pre-publishing, publishing, and marketing processes. Sometimes I wonder how many of us would have opted to become writers if we had known the REAL work of becoming a published author.

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    1. Very true, Linda! I think most of us stick to writing because we have characters talking to us in our heads.

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  2. The draft is the easy part. Revision is the hard part, harder still because you want to be truly "done." I created Story Building Blocks III to hold all my revision methods in one place and I work them through high to low ... the internal resistance building with each layer. Sometimes you have to set it aside for a day (maybe a week) before you continue the gauntlet. But, satisfying the readers makes it all worthwhile. I finished Cassandra Clare's City of Heavenly fire and her favorite phrase was "gout of blood." Odd phrases really stand out when they are repeated.

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    1. They do, don't they, Diane. "Gout of blood" would definitely catch my eye!

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  3. Geez, Helen McBuzzkill ... my happy dance just turned into a funeral march!

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    1. Christopher, you always make me laugh. Thank you.

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  4. I'm approaching the final chapter--or chapters; I never know for sure. When I'm ready to edit, I print it out in a different font, in 2 columns so everything looks 'different' and then I read the whole thing, making notes before transcribing changes, which is the opposite of my 'edit as you go' system for writing. I've also found a nifty program called Smart Edit that can pinpoint overused words, and I'm always finding new ones. It also flags adverbs, cliches, and profanity and a whole bunch of other things. Makes a good 'second set of eyes' before sending it off to my beta readers and then to my editor.

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    1. Very interesting, Terry. This is the first I've heard of Smart Edit. I think I'll look for it!

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    2. Smart Edit looks interesting, Terry. I've used Auto Crit, and that helps, especially with those overused words.

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  5. Good reminder of how important those second and sometimes third drafts are before we declare a book finished. I'm going to look for smart edit, too. Sounds like a great resource.

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    1. I tend to read and re-read and re-re-read and so on.

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  6. I definitely needed this blog post today. The problem is the greatest when you stop and start a book. Other things get in the way, and all of a sudden you don't know where you were in the story. That's when mistakes happen.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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