A Rebel with a Cause…

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I’ve always approached editing as a linear progression. Roll up my sleeves and start at page one, word one and sweep through the manuscript, cleaning up chapter by chapter as I go.

And it works, for the most part. Until I reach the middle of the story, then fatigue sets in. The words drag together, the plot blurs. I let weak sentence structures slide by, thinking I’ll fix the mess on the next sweep through.

And I do, for the most part. Round two usually proceeds much like round one: start at the beginning and work forward, leaving the middle to sag much like my sad, sad waistline.

I know I’m not alone. I read it every day when I pick up a published book. Few, so precious few authors, hold onto tension in the middle. The story often drags, the scenes are lackluster. My stories certainly follow this course.

Enough I say! Who writes the rules governing editing? Who says an author must start at chapter one, word one? Maybe it’s the rebel in little Ol’Sue, but the last time I began editing my Irish story, Summoned, I decided to start in the middle. It was time to skip those over-polished first chapters and give the middle section a much-needed workout. Seem silly? Maybe, but let me share 4 things this achieved:

1) Fresh perspective. It’s a bit like taking a scene out of context and viewing it from a different vantage point. It’s astounding how much I cut from chapters after realizing the scenes or sections are dragging the pacing or killing tension.

2) Enjoyment. Really, I love attacking these middle chapters guilt free. It’s like being the second or third runner in a relay race. I’m fresh, aggressive. I don’t have the start or the finish line in sight, just these pesky, fat chapters in desperate need of trimming.

3) Edge. I push characters. I strip away their defenses. I remove light banter or chitter-chatter. I think some of this exists in books from shear author fatigue.

4) Bliss. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but there’s something about the insurmountable task of plowing through an entire manuscript, screening for grammar, plot, character and pacing issues that wear me down. Focusing on the middle section seems so… doable.

I’ve completed edits on the mid-section of Summoned and loving it. The characters are stronger, the pacing is tighter, and though I still have a ton of work to go on this bad-boy, at least I’m confident the middle is no longer the weakest section.

What do you think? Care to give it a go?

Happy writing!

Sue

 

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5 steps to chapter revision…

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 image credit: pixabay.com

Next up: breaking down your story into bite size pieces. I have to be careful not to overload my creative little mind, so at this stage, I’m still focused on the macro while examining chapters. Here are five steps I find handy:

1) I work off a printed copy of the story, so any changes I make at this point aren’t permanent. This is important. It gives me freedom to read with a critical eye. Later, when I’m ready to make changes to my digital version, I make a copy of THAT document (again, freeing myself from the worry that I’ll delete something important).

2) Next, looking at chapters from a macro lens, I ask myself the hard questions.

Does the chapter have a reason to exist? Is it fluff? Backstory? Does it drive the story forward or hold it back? What part of each chapter works, what doesn’t?

Once I’ve identified weak chapters, I mark them with a sticky note and write something like “this chapter is going bye-bye, but keep the dialog on page so-and-so. It’s too awesome to cut.”

You may have heard the expression, “kill your darlings?” Yup, I’m pretty vicious at this point, but I wasn’t always this way. When I first started writing, I fell in love with every word. I truly couldn’t see one stinking thing to cut! Time, distance, exposure to new ideas and three novels later, I’ve become a heartless writer. I make bold decisions, deleting without fear (insert mwah-ha-ha).

3) Chapter order. Again, using that pulled-back macro filter, I look at where I’ve put turning point chapters (or even just scenes). Do they make sense where they fall? Or could I up the tension by rearranging the order? Yes, this is a pain. Cutting chapters, or moving them around destroys transitions. But at this point, you have to go back and re-work the entire novel anyways. Why not get the big stuff done first?

4) Chapter structure. As in, does it have one? I mentioned in my previous post that I use the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson to plot. Randy (yes, we’re on a first-name basis) suggests each chapter is either a goal, conflict, set-back or reaction, dilemma, decision. Taking the printed copy, I scan the surviving chapters to see if it meets one of these criteria. It’s amazing how I’m able to see the weaknesses and the strengths more clearly using this method. Sometimes, all the chapter or scene needs is a bit of tweaking to tighten the tension.

5) I know some of you are itching to take out that red pen. So, it’s time. Keeping in mind I’m not looking at sentence structure yet, I mark passages that drag and need cutting. I’m reading as a reader – looking at the chapter critically and thinking Where am I skimming? Where have I lost the tension? Do I have enough dialog and action to move the story forward?

I’ll look at chapter again next week. For now, I hope these general tips and ideas are helpful. And please, as always, I’d love to hear your take on revision!

Happy writing!

Sue

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Looking for more writing tips? My author website can be found at www.suebahr.com

Looking for a taste of my writing? I can be found on wattpad.com under “Vermont Writer.”

Thanks for visiting!

Five ways to fall in love with editing…

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image credit: pixabay.com

I love drafting a novel. I love the breathless feeling when I finally type “the end”. For a precious moment, I can sit back, satisfied my novel is complete. Characters exist, the plot is framed, the lump of clay has taken the shape of a book.

But then the moment vanishes when I realize this lump needs a whole lot of work to ever see the light of day. My heart speeds up. My throat goes dry, as I face down the beast formed from 80,000 words.

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Where do I start? How do I fix broken subplots? What do I do with characters who took on a life of their own and left my carefully crafted outline in the dust?

I’ve attacked this fear by studying how-to books. I’ve read blogs, gathered information and tidbits and sage pieces of advice, but no matter how much I’ve learned, I still don’t like editing.

Some of you buckle down and get the job done. Lucky dogs! I have to trick my mind into believing it’s easy. Here are five things I’ve found helpful:

1) Stop calling it editing. Call it (at this stage) what it is: revision. At this point, you needn’t be concerned with fine details. You’re looking at the BIG PICTURE. Which leads me to the next point:

2) Think of your mind as a lens. Imagine pulling back to see the larger view. Now is the time to look at turning points. Where do they fall? Do the characters have an arc? Examine primary plot points – are they resolved in the end? If you’ve followed my suggestion, you’ve printed off your wonderful first draft. Now is the time to dig in. I use post-it notes to mark turning points (which typically fall at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 way mark, depending on how many “acts” your story has).

3) Once you’ve examined the larger points, tighten that lens- but only a little- to look at chapters. Do they have dramatic tension? I follow the Snowflake Method which proposes that each chapter is driven by either a GOAL, CONFLICT, and SET-BACK or a REACTION, DILEMMA AND DECISION (if one chapter is a GCS, the next would be a RDD).  Using that theory, I note, right at the top of the chapter GCS or RDD. I even break it down a bit further by noting each element in the chapter.

For example: if it’s a GCS, I’ll mark the chapter this way:

Goal: The protagonist needs to find safety, which means tearing up roots and leaving again (she’s on the run from an abusive father).

Conflict: She’s part of a gymnastic team that is top-notch and heading for States in the Spring. If she leaves, she’ll miss out on her chance to place (and thus, lose out on chances for scholarships).

Set-Back: She has no choice. Father has found her. She has to leave, and abandon her dream.

It’s amazing how much this has helped me – both in editing and in plotting a chapter.

4) Let’s go back and play with the word “revision”, and tweak it to re-envision. Here’s the time to read through the chapter and let it play out in your mind, much like watching a movie.  This allows you to dive deeper into the story without worrying about small details like word choice and sentence structure. Which leads me to number five:

5) Take notes. Take lots and lots of notes as you re-envision. Resist the temptation to go back and rework the micro when you still have to fix the macro. Keeping a notebook handy keeps the ideas flowing and your creative juices primed. I’ve filled pages with everything from setting adjustments to mood and emotional content. Then, as I progress to the stage of editing (sorry for that word!), I won’t have to search my memory to pull forward all those picky details.

I hope these ideas help. Got some of your own and care to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy revising!

Sue

5 things to do before you edit that first draft…

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 image credit: pixabay.com

So, you’ve finally completed that first draft of  your novel. Congratulations! It’s an accomplishment, no matter how long it took to get there. Now that you’ve finished, you may be asking, What’s next?

Is your heart thumping wildly in your chest as you force yourself to sit down, a proverbial red pen in hand, starting at word one, page one? Do you tweak with sentence structure or word choice? And how do you tackle thousands of words when you’re not sure if they all add up to a plot?

Here are five things to do before you even begin the editing process.

1) Let it sit. Let it be. Resist the urge to open that document and peruse it’s greatness, or it’s lameness and give your brain a much-needed break. This is a great time to conjure up your next story, maybe make notes and write character descriptions. Or, if you’re like me, and you have numerous books all in different states of creation, you tackle one of those.

2) While your story rests, invest into some good books on editing. And I’m not talking line-editing, but BIG picture editing. Books like A Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson, and Writing the Heart of Your Story by C.S. Lakin. Read them. Study them. Soak in them in and learn how to look at your writing from the MACRO to the MICRO.

3) Read. Read novels in your genre. Find ones similar to what you write and study the pacing, the voice, the phrasing each author uses. Did you draft your book in third person, past tense and maybe you fall in love with first person, present tense? Maybe it would be great to change things up? You can make this big picture decision before you even edit a word.

4) Read. Read novels way outside your genre. Test yourself- how much diversity can you take? You may be surprised how much inspiration you’ll discover by thinking outside the box. And who knows, it may inspire your next best-seller!

5) Now that time has passed–at least a few weeks, if not a month, print your book. Use all that hard-gained knowledge from those how-to books, note changes directly on the page. We read the printed word differently than ones that appear on the screen.  It’s amazing how many mistakes I’ve discovered when reading my novel on a printed page!

I hope these suggestions help. Got some great ideas that work for you? Care to share? We’re all in this together…

Happy editing!

Sue

Let go and breathe….

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I’ve been writing now for nearly four years. Over the course of that time, I have learned a thing or two about what NOT to do (want proof? Check out my previous post). Anyways, I dug into the craft of writing, adsorbing as much information as this old brain can take, trying to better my stories and prepare for publication.

Everyone has an opinion.

For young adult, always use first person, present tense. For young adult, never use first person, present tense- it’s sooooo last year. Don’t start with a dream sequence. Don’t start with a prologue. Show don’t tell…

Don’t, don’t, don’t. Blah, blah. blah.

You know the feeling – when you’re trying to do EVERYTHING right and then you pick up a book and the author is rich and making a gazillion dollars and they started with a prologue? Maybe one that includes a dream, even?

What’s a newbie to do?

I’ve been working on Fairless, a young adult fantasy, for two years now. It’s gone through love and hate and editing and even a series of workshops with writer friends who helped me dissect it this summer. And still I struggle with the beast that is voice.

Until the other night. Until I finally shut down the screaming inner editor that’s been clambering for attention. Yes, Sue let go and breathed.

The book came from a dream. So it starts with a dream. I’d left the prologue out for my writing group and left them wallowing in confusion. The constant question of my protagonist’s motivation plagued MY dreams. And then I realized. I have to embrace this story. It’s not what the publishing world wants, but it’s what the story wants.

I closed my eyes and wrote. If you don’t mind, I’ll share the prologue and a bit of the  first page….

 

The Vision

 

          In my dream, I’m holding onto you.

          You, the beautiful boy that haunts me.

          Strength and warmth flow from your hand to mine. I want it to last, this connection, though I know it won’t. It can’t. You aren’t real.

          Your eyes sparkle with mischief. The sky behind you ripples with streaks of fiery russet, golden ochre and deep cobalt blue. Such stunning colors, if only they aren’t so illegal. 

        You’re a rogue, daring me to challenge your creation. This is your sky. These are your colors. No matter they’ll summon the Sovereign’s wrath.

          I want more each time we meet. I want to move that mass of hair back and touch your face. I want to see and know the color of your eyes.

I want to know your name.

          A breeze rustles your white shirt. It’s coming: the pain, the ache of loss. Whatever it is that will claim you has arrived. I clutch your hand, as if binding you to me, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

          I hold tighter. I grab at you with both hands, but something rips you away as if I simply don’t exist and I am left standing on the ground, watching, helpless as you are lifted up and hurtled toward the waiting moon.

 

 

 

Chapter 1

Tipper Jones

 

 

I’m a fool to fall in love with a dream.

I glance at my hand lit by sage-green moonlight, imagining your fingers entwined in mine. And I know, if I could place my other hand on your chest our hearts would beat as one. I am for you. You are for me.

Crickets sing out their night song as I tiptoe to Father’s workshop, using the shadows as a shield. I should turn around. I should return to my family’s lodge and crawl into my bed and be the girl they need me to be. I should but I can’t. I have to know if you exist.

My linen tunic clings to my body. Sweat beads on my forehead and I swipe it away. I’m risking too much. What if I’m discovered? How will I explain that I’ve overheard some school girls gossiping about a young man who’d painted his sky with vivid, bold colors and that has propelled me outside and in the dead of night?

How, when the words sound crazy even to me?

Your smile lingers in my memory, daring me forward.

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Care to read more? You can find this chapter here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/22556779-fairless. I’ll be uploading more chapters as I go.

For now, I’ve got to go. Thanks for swinging by…

Cheers!

Sue

call me crazy…


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Got your cup of tea ready? Good.

So. Editing. As in every author’s favorite word. I’ve been editing not one, not two, but three full length novels AND I’ve started a fourth. Yes, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Too much, in fact, but that’s a given, right?

A few posts back, I shared some tips on editing. As in how NOT to do it. Thought I’d share some more and hopefully save you a whole wad of time.

When I first began my Mighty Irish Epic (now called “Summoned” but that title took many, many years to finally stumble upon). Where was I? Oh, right, my MIE.

I spent three years coaxing that bad boy along before I dared to share it with the crowded, noisy world. I was a new writer. I was in love with my story and didn’t want anyone to criticize my baby. I know this sounds familiar. I may not have shared, but I did study. As in everything I could get my hands on regarding the craft of writing. And on that journey, I discovered how NOT to do it. For the sake of your sanity and my self-worth, I’ll concentrate on the macro and leave plot structure stuff to the pros.

Here is a fine example of what I’ve learned along the way:

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her.   No, no, silly, you don’t need “as”…. Sheesh.

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her. Nope, don’t need the adverb. Catch one and kill it, right?

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her.  I learned words like “watched, looked, heard, felt” are blocking words. They jump the reader out of the story because the reader IS the protagonist. Suddenly, you’re reminding the reader that they aren’t. so…

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her. And last? I learned to squish words together. Tighten to strengthen. That sort of stuff.

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her. approached.

I know, I know, maybe it needs some description, like “Arden’s boots clicked on the stone floor as he approached.” but that’s another post.

My tea is getting cold.

Writeoncon is here!!! What’s that you say? Don’t know what that is? Well, why don’t you read more and find out…..

http://www.writeoncon.com.

If you’re a writer of all things young adult, middle grade or even picture book, you should know there’s a FREE online conference taking place RIGHT NOW (the workshop/conference dates are this Tuesday and Wednesday but the forums are open now). There you can post your query letter, first 250 words and/or first five pages of you manuscript for review and feedback from your peers. You, in return, review and critique five others work. It’s simple. Fun. It’s a great way to grow as a writer and support others in their journey.

The exciting part?

They have ninja agents and editors stalking behind the scenes who, if they love your work, can request to see your full manuscript!

So… what are you waiting for? Head over and check it out!

Happy conning-

Sue

World Blog Tour, what me?!!

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I’d like to pass along my thanks to Judith Post over at http://writingmusings.wordpress.com/ for highlighting my new blog and inviting me to participate in the World Blog Tour. Judith is a seamless writer. Her stories read effortlessly which means of course, that she has dedicated copious amounts of time developing her craft! Her books have a paranormal twist and draw upon Greek/Roman and Norse mythology. You can find them on amazon.com. Great reading, I promise!

And now a smidge about me…

I’ve been writing for about 3 years. Throughout that time, I have completed 3 drafted novels and learned a whole lot about crafting a story. As in, wow, I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started!

In answer of the four most burning questions about my writing…

What am I currently working on?

 

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Two young adult fantasies. I love fantasies (can you tell from my blog?). One is set in a Medieval type world, the other in 16th century Ireland. Both are in the editing phase and I am blessed to have the help of beta readers and a local writing group helping me with that process. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes an army of dedicated, like-minded soldiers to write a book.

 

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of This Genre?

 

I follow the universal story for plotting. I guess that makes me a mainstream kind of writer. I want my readers to feel comfortable and forget I’m even there. I believe the way to achieve that is to study and use the typical story format. That being said, I believe every story is unique. Every character needs their own voice. It’s my goal to create sympathetic characters and write stories that grab a reader’s heart. I want them to love my book.

 

Why Do I Write What I Write?

 

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I write  what I want to read and I enjoy reading young adult books, especially fantasy. All have to have some kind of romance plot woven through the story. I’m also enthralled with Irish history, so expect to find elements of the Irish in each of my book.

 

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How Does My Writing Process Work?

 

My writing process is a work in process. I’m learning as I go. I’m currently developing a new book. That involves mulling over major plot points, spending time with the protagonist learning their hopes, dreams and fears. Once I have the idea developed, I’ll spend time outlining (and squirming in my seat) the major points. Once that agony is over I grab a chocolate bar to celebrate and just let it fly! I’ve learned from my vast mistakes, to complete the draft  BEFORE editing. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I bet some of you out there can’t move forward without tweaking each chapter. Okay, so I tweak, but only a little.

I’ll leave you with some of the best advice I’ve stumbled upon:

Write hot, edit cool.

When creating that amazing first draft, let the words flow. Be bold. Be passionate. Tell, don’t show on your first draft! Showing is for the second draft! And, by all means, use lots and lots of exclamation marks if it makes your blood pump hot in your veins and it translates into your writing!!!!!!

You can always delete them later.

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I’d  like to thank Judith Post for the invitation to talk about me. I love talking about  me, but now I’ll take my bow and move on…

I’d like to invite you visit two other blog/writers. “Mom”  at Maybe Someone Should Write That Down- http://youwhoineverknew.wordpress.com/ Mom  shares her passion for family stories and genealogy. Her enthusiasm shines through her posts!  So, why not head over? Grab a spot o-tea and enjoy a wonderful read!

The other blog I’d like to invite you to visit is Laura at- http://lauraryanfedelia.wordpress.com/   She has written and published a book called “The Box”  (which is available on Amazon.com). It’s a modern day take on Pandora. Laura’s story is fun, compelling and her dialogue is witty and wonderful! A great read, I promise!

So there you have it. I’ll leave you with Judith’s cheery words-

Happy Writing All! (and sorry for the cheesy images. I just can’t resist.)

Sue

 

 

 

Editing. Oh, so much fun…

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There are many things I wish I knew from the start of my writing career. I say career with a hopeful smile. Nope, not published yet. But that’s okay–I’m looking at the past three years as development. All those Kindle books on writing how-tos are bound to pay off one of these days…

It’s just… if I could go back to when the first story knocked me off my rocker and carried me to my computer, I would do so armed with knowledge that would save me countless hours.

Hours of micro-editing when I didn’t have a handle on the BIG picture.

Hours of messing with words when the characters needed CPR. Or a quick burial.

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Hours and hours of wasted editing.

Somewhere in my kindle reading, I stumbled upon a concept that resonated. Re-envisioning. Take each scene and let it play out in your head. Visualize the characters and the story.  Forget the words. What is the character feeling? Seeing? Doing? Then ask yourself “What does the story need to be stronger?”

 

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My story number 2 is better for this type of editing. I know it’s grammatically a mess. But hey, isn’t that what editors are for?

So, what do you think? What works for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

cheers!

Sue