The Editing Process: Getting Your Manuscript Ready For Proofreading.

Todd Barselow, senior editor at Imajin Books, has just sent me his first pass at editing DESCENT and had this to say:

“My life would be so much easier if all the manuscripts that crossed my desk were as clean as yours.”

Wasn’t I surprised to find such a great comment and to find I didn’t have too much work to do revising the manuscript. As you know, the ARC for DESCENT went out last week, so I was pleased not too much would change.

How did I get to this point?

Yesterday, before my first coffee,  I opened my email and found the edited version of DESCENT waiting in my inbox. I have to admit I was nervous, so I finished my coffee, ate breakfast, walked the dog and when I could procrastinate no further, I opened the attachment.

The editing process went like this:

  • Imajin Books gave us a deadline of early May to complete the edits and send DESCENT to the proofreader.
  • Todd and I must both read the manuscript three times (minimum).
  • Todd reads once and sends DESCENT back to me labelled V1.
  • I accept/reject any proposed changes – it’s a good idea to learn how to use the review section in MSWord as this seems to be the industry standard for editing right now.
  • I send the manuscript back to Todd as V2, and we repeat the process two more times.

This may seem like a lot work, but I think it’s worth the effort if it means a better manuscript.

I would have sworn my manuscript was error free. But alas, it was not so. What did Todd suggest? What errors did he find? I’ve summarized a few items below, so you’ll get an overview.

  • Be consistent with the Oxford comma. I don’t use them, and somehow a few slipped into the manuscript.
  • Replace a period with a question mark. This happened in two places even though I know how to use a question mark.
  • Add an exclamation mark. I didn’t use any, and Todd suggested two be added in the climax scene to increase tension.
  • Too, to, two: Jokes on me. I used ‘to’, instead of ‘two’ in chapter two.
  • Be consistent with hyphens and follow Chicago Manual Of Style These are hard errors to catch, but he found a few.
  • Tiny words… ‘as’ instead of ‘if’, missing ‘of’, and reach missing the ‘ed’
  • Dialogue.  When addressing people, use a comma after Hi. “Hi, Donny.” is the correct form in dialogue.

That should give you an idea of how detailed the edit is. For the sake of not boring you, I didn’t include everything.

To get the manuscript to a place where Todd praised it, I followed the process as outlined in the For Writers section of my webpage.

I think you’re getting my point…It’s a large, okay huge, shall we say ginormous amount of work to polish a completed manuscript.

Gotta say thanks to the talented Todd Barselow for his eagle eye and for making my novel better!

If you haven’t read my blog before, I’ve signed on with Imajin Books and will blog about my publishing adventure. I’ll share what I learn and hope it helps someone out there get their novel published.

Thanks for reading…


The Audacity of Reading a Novel Aloud

I’m testing both Garageband and Audacity to determine which one is better for creating podcast. So far Audacity is winning.

With the new Mac operating system, the help files are stored online and not on the Mac itself. For people connected 24/7 to the internet, this might be okay. For me, not so much. While living on my sailboat, I’m often not connected and can’t get access to the help files.

This is particularly frustrating when learning a new software program like Garageband. So on the advice of my fellow blogger, Kirsten at A Scenic Route,  I tried Audacity.

The help files come with the program, so I don’t have to have internet access. The noise reduction function works very well. The help files give tips on how to speak into a microphone. The basic functions are easy to learn.

So, Goodbye Garageband. Hello Audacity.

On the proofreading side of things, I discovered creating a podcast of written text helps find errors. A lovely added bonus when trying to perfect work.

Thanks for reading . . .

He Said/She Said When Reading Aloud

Last Monday, I wrote about reading aloud. I’m on a bit of a discovery mission and figuring out how to do this well.

I think if you’re an actor or have training as an actor, this might come easy to you. For those of us that have only read aloud to children, it’s hard.

After creating a recording of a short story, I quickly discovered listening to a story is different than reading a story.

When a person reads the story they see the paragraph breaks between speakers. This tells them the speaker has changed. When listening the person doesn’t have the visual to aid in understanding the change of character.

So if you’re not a person who can talk in many voices, what do you do?

I’m trying to add he said/she said in the audio version. Sometimes placing the tag before the spoken sentence instead of after of adding the tag near the beginning. For example:

“Thanks,” Bob said. “I need to hear that.”

The other option is to add a character movement or action before they speak. Something simple like: She sighed.

I’m not sure if this is a proper method for reading aloud.

Any suggestions on how to do this?

Thanks for reading . . .

Procrastination Can Be A Writer’s Friend

Procrastination? Don’t feel like writing but want to hit your word count?

Writing a novel can be an intimidating task, so why not try something shorter?

For me, when I’m overwhelmed or feel too pressured by word count, I write something else. I like to have my blogs written and pre posted. In my lifestyle, I’m never sure I’ll have internet access on a daily basis, so writing blogs ahead of time reduces the stress for me. You’re probably laughing and thinking what stress can I have living on a boat for the winter, but I take my writing and my blog seriously. Self induced stress, but still stress.

How does writing in smaller increments help with novel writing?

I find by taking on a shorter piece of work, I often get in the flow of writing and can switch over to the novel. Even if I don’t, I’ve been productive and written something.

Does it have to be a blog? Nope. You could write a short story or an entry in your journal.

How do you kickstart your writing?

Thanks for reading . . .

Scene Development

Writing is an endless process of revisions and editing, at least for me. So how does a writer know when a scene if finished? I use a template, shown below, to make me ask myself some hard questions. Once I can fill in the blanks below, I feel like I have a working draft of a scene.

I also have templates for settings and a detailed spreadsheet to keep track or dates, when a character is introduced, weather, etc., but template below gives me a sense of whether the scene has done its job in the context of the novel.

My template keeps growing and changing with each novel, but here it is in it’s current format.

Beginning = Hook:

Middle = Development:

Climax = Disaster:

Action (Scene or Sequel):

What does POV Want:

Outcome if POV fails:

How Does Scene Move Plot Forward:

How Does Scene Builds on Previous Scene:

How Does Scene Leads to Next Scene:

What’s Happening Between Characters That’s Not Spelt Out:

Is Setting Best Place For Emotional Impact?

Do you have anything you could add to the template?  I like to add new items that I can think about.

Thanks for reading . . .

Character Development

Anyone else out there spending the holidays thinking about their characters in a novel instead of real people? A hazard of being a writer, I’m afraid.

Introducing new characters, especially if you are writing a series can be a challenge.

Do you ask yourself:

  • What did the character do before the start of the novel?
  • How did they enter the protagonists life?
  • What motivates them?

I find even if I ask these questions it’s not enough for build a well-rounded character.

I use Scrivener to write, and I add a section for scenes that happen before the novel starts. When introducing a new character I ask myself, what was the character doing one month before the novel started, 6 months before and sometimes well back into their youth. Then I write a scene from this time frame. Something dramatic that happened in their lives that changed them usually works. This helps to fill out the character and know them before the story has even started.

You don’t have to do this before you begin writing, sometimes I do this after the first draft. Once I discovered a character fit the criteria of a sociopath. After writing the first draft, then writing scenes that happened prior to the opening,  the sociopath opened up some interesting story lines. These, of course, found their way into the second draft.

For me, it’s not enough to ask questions about my characters, I need to write about them to understand them.

What about you?

Thanks for reading . . .


Opening Your Story

Do you read books on how to write?

The latest I read talked about opening a story and checking for four criteria.

Does your opening start with:

  • the protagonist,
  • conflict,
  • movement,
  • setting?

This is a lot for an opening, and I’ve been studying novels to check if authors do this.

The first point, the protagonist, doesn’t seems to happen consistently. There are books that start with the protagonist, the villain, a minor character, or a character that doesn’t appear in the rest of the novel at all. I like all of them. So I guess on this one, you have to decide for yourself if your protagonist is the best place to start. I do agree the protagonist should appear early in the story.

Conflict: This one seems more consistent. Sometimes the conflict is quiet or subtle. Sometimes it’s a full-out battle, but it’s there.

Movement: I find books with no movement boring. Even if the character is walking, it’s better than sitting still, or worse yet, if there’s no mention of what the character’s doing.

Setting: This might only be one word, one line, one paragraph or this could be more. To me the setting it important at the beginning. I like to know where the character is. Are they in a city, in the country, on a mountain or in outer space? This helps me figure out what kind of story I’m reading.

Do you follow any guidelines for opening your story?

Thanks for reading . . .

Scrivener and Setting Summaries

Scrivener is still helping me write.

In Scrivener and Scene Summaries, I wrote about using a template for asking a series of questions about a scene to ensure I making the most of the opportunity to engage readers in the story.

I’ve added a second template where I ask myself the following questions about the setting of the scene.

  • Role In Story
  • Related Characters
  • Unique Features
  • Description
  • Sights
  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Objects
  • Notes

This helps in several ways.

  1. I keep track of how many times a use the same setting. Sometimes it’s easy to write about the same setting, but maybe that’s a lazy way to write. i follow this up by asking myself, could be the scene be set somewhere else that would further the plot and make the story more interesting?
  2. If I use a setting more than once, this is a memory aid for keeping the descriptions consistent and for not repeating details.
  3. If I don’t fill out enough of the points, I haven’t put enough effort into describing the setting.
  4. I use the notes section to remind myself of how I want to use the setting later in the novel, Perhaps I’ve used setting for foreshadowing and I want to remember to follow through later in the story.
How do you ensure your settings work for you and move your story forward?
Thanks for reading . . .


Tips For Writing a Synopsis

There seems to be a common thought that writing a synopsis is difficult, and I have to agreed.

In my post, How To Use A Spreadsheet For Your Synopsis, I give tips on how to use a spreadsheet to help you write your synopsis. But I have more to say on this subject. Like all things to do with writing, there is a lifetime of learning associated with talented synopsis writing.

Today, I want to talk about word limits and how they can help you improve your synopsis.

Publishers, agents, writing competitions usually ask for a synopsis and they usually give a word limit.

To make meeting the word limit easier, cut the limit in half. Yup, you heard me. If the limit is 1000 words, write a synopsis in 500. Don’t go over the 500 words. When you are satisfied that you’ve written the best possible synopsis in under 500 words, then and only the, can you start adding words.

Now you have 500 words available to improve your synopsis.

You may find you have room to add a subplot or show how you develop a character. You may find you want to delve deeper into the setting. You now have 500 words to do this.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to work your way up from 500 words to a 1000 than to try and cut from 1500 to 1000 words.

Please let me know if you have any tips for synopsis writing.

Thanks for reading  . . .

Why Blog About Something You Want To Learn?

I had a friend in medical school who told me when she was learning a new medical procedure she was taught:

  1. Learn one
  2. Teach one
  3. Do one

I think this process can be applied to learning grammar and punctuation. When I’m unsure about a rule, the first thing I do is check my grammar books and read about it. This is the Learn One phase.

Next, I blog about it. If I can explain the rule, then I probably understand it. This is the Teach One phase. If you’re doing this, be careful to use your own words. Don’t cheat and look at the grammar book for help. You need to be able to explain the rule without any aids. Sometimes I don’t blog about the rule, but I do try to write the rule in my own words. Even if it’s on a scrap piece of paper, it helps me remember the rule.

Lastly, I write using the rule. This is the Do One phase. You can edit and proofread to ensure you’re using the rule properly too. I consider editing part of the Do One phase.

I figure if this is how medical students learn, it must work for other areas of knowledge too.

Do you have any tips for learning?

Thanks for reading . . .