Monday, November 25, 2013

Tips for Surviving Revisions

It’s the last week of NaNoWriMo and thousands of writers will be finishing up their manuscripts. After the frenzy of the first draft comes the next step – revising that mess!

Whether you winged it or followed an outline, that manuscript will need some work. You’ll be facing edits, revisions, and possibly a complete overhaul. Don’t be overwhelmed! And don’t threaten to burn that manuscript. We have some tips on how to handle it without losing your sanity or taking hostages.

Here are some suggestions –

Let the manuscript sit for a few weeks. Get some distance.

Work from a hardcopy – it’s easier on the eyes and mistakes are more apparent. You can also make notes in the margins.

Read through the entire manuscript once. Familiarize yourself with the story as a whole.

During the first read through, note what needs more research, but don’t stop to research right at that moment. Get to the end first.

Write a short letter or note to yourself – what do you want to achieve with the next draft?

If you didn’t do one initially, make an outline. Write down what is happening in each chapter. Note where characters come and go.

One the next pass, either focus on one chapter at a time or one issue at a time.

Read dialogue out loud. Use the character’s voices and facial expressions. (Try not to do this in front of your family or they’ll have you committed!)

Is the story told from the right point of view?

Individual issues and items:

Punctuations and spelling
Sentence length and variation
Plot holes and inconsistencies
Description – too much or not enough
Unnecessary characters
Character voice and consistency
Spots that drag or become boring
Consistency with people, descriptions, details, and storyline
Length of chapters
Proper amount of world building
Proper pacing and tension
Word count acceptable for genre
Repeated words and phrases
Use of active and forceful verbs
Timeline for events is accurate and believable
Unnecessary or overwhelming subplots
Show versus tell
Character actions and body movement

That may seem like a lot, but when you know specifically what you are looking for, it’s easier to spot and fix it.

And of course, once you have been through your manuscript many times, pass it off to a critique partner. (Or two or three…) Let them know where you need help or if something isn’t working. Trust me, they will find those rough spots! Just keep an open mind to suggestions.

I’m sure that list is just a drop in the bucket. If you have other tips or suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

Ready to revise? You can do it!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Getting To Grips With Genre

I used to think that writers were born with a writing skill.  

End of story.  

But I’ve since changed that point of view. 
(Okay, I needed to get that off my chest.)

You may or may not have a talent for writing, but you can develop it. It requires hard work. I’ve also learned that a certain streak of stubbornness coupled with the development of a thick skin really helps.

So the no#1 issue on my mind is - genre. There are a variety of genres to choose from, sci-fi, romance, horror, mystery/suspense and I’ve noticed that most writers find their niche all wrapped in one. To make a comparison, it’s specialist versus the handyman. A specialist is highly skilled. The handy man has knowledge of a number of jobs required around the workplace, like a little bit of plumbing, some electrical, some painting, a little carpentry. A jack-of-all-trades, he has basic knowledge and knows a little something about them all.

In general, writing can be like either, specialist or jack-of-all-trades. Even the great writers will break form or genre from time-to-time. Just look at Fantasy author JK Rowlings of Harry Potter fame, who has recently revealed that she is actually Robert Galbraith, the writer behind The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is a detective novel. The great poet and dramatist, Oscar Wilde, known for his clever, pithy sayings, penned one work of fiction, The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

Reality check. Not just anyone can become a JK Rowlings or Oscar Wilde, even with development. But you can grow as a writer, get published and feel a sense of personal pride... and even become a fairly well-known author... who knows?

It has been said that newbie writers shouldn’t worry too much about genre. They should focus on getting words on the paper. Let the genre manifest itself as the writing develops...

That’s good and well. But we need to think ahead.

I am no master when it comes to the publishing process, but I always say – logic prevails. So further down the line, logic tells me that playing coy with your genre may present a three fold problem. As a reader, I have no idea if it’s a book I like. As a book seller, I have no idea where to put it on the shelf. As a publisher, I have no idea if it’s a genre I represent or if there’s enough of a market to justify the time/money that accompanies the publishing of your book.

A writing buddy once said to me: Write what you want to say. Worry about the genre once it's finished, not earlier.  And who cares if you end up not fitting in any specific genre?  There's always *literary* Or maybe you'll invent a new genre of your own: "In the tradition of the marvellous Writer-In-Transit's unimitable style…."? Ha! Yeah... right...

So back to the question of choosing genre. I’ve heard a writer say that she did not choose a genre, but the genre chose her. Fascinating thought. Maybe I should just continue with my flash fiction pieces and wait for a genre to come knocking on my door?

Knock. knock.

Who’s there?


Horror who?

Eeeeeeeeeeek! It’s you. *takes one look at my face and bolts*

You get the idea?

But to be serious, I’ve always imagined that I would write mystery/suspense. But that’s only because it’s my preferred reading genre. Is that reason enough? I don’t know. Probably is. I do know that I feel comfortable writing in this genre.  

So what if you decided that you wanted to try something in another genre. Where do you start? When stuck for inspiration, anyone can use a picture, word, statement, or even an idiom/proverb as a starting point, for example: “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

Now, if you want to create a story from that, do you take it literally and write a non-fiction about the freedom of choice and the difficulty that lies therein? Or maybe a sci-fi story featuring parallel universes and a devil attempting to take over a planet? What about a Seussical-styled tale filled with rhythm and rhyme.  Or a fantasy about  merfolk and a devil? Or a steampunk adventure with a steam-powered boat? What about a romantic suspense/thriller, involving a devilish rogue, which takes place aboard a luxury liner? The possibilities are endless. A simple prompting word or phrase can take you to so many different places. You need to begin to see the world from differing perspectives.

So does that mean I’ll be writing a horror or sci-fi story some time in the future? Probably not. The point is that we need to stretch the imagination... experiment... get out of your comfort zone... keep an open mind... it’s not only about genre, but also about growth!

Develop different ideas. 

Put them together. 

Your story starts to take shape.

That’s a large part of the growth process...  and the essence of good story-telling.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On This Day and Every Day

For those of us in the USA, today is Veteran's Day. A day to remember and give thanks to those who have served our country in the military. Every day I am grateful that I live in this country and have the freedom to write as I wish, worship as I wish and work for what I want. And on this day and every other day there are ways to give back.

Writers are generous people. Check out these writers who are donating the proceeds from their books to help veterans in some way. Marie Gilmore is donating the profits from her book about running a small business to pay for WWII vets to visit the war memorial in Washington DC. I wish my father could have seen before he passed away. He's the handsome guy on the right, this picture taken during in Japan at the end of that war. Thanks, Marie.

Ivan Mehosky wrote The Story of a Soldier about his father. He's donating all the profits to the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The care his father had for the troops who served under him inspired Ivan's book and his generosity.

Readers are generous people too. Books for America is a website where you can click through to Amazon and have a share of the price go to this benevolent organization. Read this quote I lifted from their homepage. They have many ways to donate books to help young people read.

61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. Families living in poverty must use their financial resources to pay for food and shelter, not books. Reading Literacy in the United States 

There are many opportunities to donate books if you know where to look. We have local organizations who collect books along with other items to send to our troops. Others that collect books to re-gift to people who don't have access or the means to have their own books. And it's not a one way street. Giving feels to good. Knowing someone might have the chance to fall in love with books as you have is a terrific feeling.

Many writers have involved themselves in anthologies where writers work together to raise awareness and funds for a cause. How about the Holiday Food Drive Blog Fest being run by Tina at Life is Good? It's a great idea.

And on a note that hits close to home for many of us, Nick Wilford's stepson, Andrew, passed away a few days ago. Many of you know Nick from Scattergun Scribblings and have also heard of the anthology, Overcoming Adversity, he put together to support Andrew. Kyra Lennon is putting together something to support Nick and his family during this difficult time. Please visit her site for details on how to donate.

I'm betting that all of you have even more suggestions of ways we can honor veterans this day as writers. And as readers and writer and plain old citizens of the world, there are so many ways we can help others. Please share in the comments what you'll be doing to honor veterans today. Also share any causes being promoted by you or writers you know across the blogosphere. We're all about the links here, so let us know where we can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG Post Day - A Question and a Challenge!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The co-hosts today are CD Coffelt, Tina Downey, Isis Rushdan, and Michelle Wallace! Please be sure to thank them for their time and effort to make all IWSG members feel welcome.

Those of you who participate in the monthly posting for the IWSG know it’s a special day. We share our fears and concerns. We offer encouragement to others. We receive support from our fellow writers.

I have a question and a challenge for you today!

Is there a particular post of yours that garnered the support and encouragement you desperately needed? Or a specific issue that IWSG members helped you with? Or a comment that changed everything for you?

And the challenge – can you invite just one other writer to join the IWSG? Or suggest they follow this site or our Facebook page? Can you help us double our numbers by the beginning of next year?

You guys are awesome!

Monday, November 4, 2013

I Promise...

... we've all had this happen: you upload a post on your blog, then go about the business of writing and waiting, working and waiting, eating and waiting.

Two hours pass and there's no visitors. Not a single comment. Maybe you wait two more hours, check after lunch, dinner, before bedtime, first thing the next morning, but ...


So what do you make of that?

You sent it out on all the wires, right? Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads ....

Receiving no comments is not personal. They aren't ignoring you. They're caught up in life's dramas, just as you are. They may have even read your post, loved it, but (for reasons that probably have nothing to do with you) didn't have time to comment.

Writers care. That's why you're on their Twitter, Gather, Facebook, or Farcebook, as Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar likes to call it. That's why you're on the wedding list, maybe even in the wedding party. It's why you're invited to dinners, baby showers, barn risings, to the neigbour's to see the slide presentation of their trip to Roswell, to your brother's-in-law colonoscopy party, or any number of other events you sometimes wish you weren't invited to.

Nobody thinks they're the only one who can't respond at that precise moment. They're expecting that if you don't see a comment from them, you won't notice because you'll be swamped with comments from all your other blogroll buddies. How many times have you thought that same thing yourself?

There are always reasons for a lack of response. You're new. You have no one on your blogroll. Your timing is bad. Something momentous is happening at work, or on the news. Your blog post was swallowed up by the bigger picture. Or they planned on sending you an email and forgot.

Again, trust me, it's never personal.

For whatever reasons your post didn't receive a comment or at best only received a few, it doesn't matter. It shouldn't stop you from ever posting again. Simply lift yourself up, brush yourself off, and next time someone on your blogroll broadcasts a post, take a moment and check it out. Even a simple and sincere: "That was interesting, thanks" goes a long way.

Besides, it'll say volumes about you, the blogger.

If you ask our Ninja Captain how he does it, receives hundreds of comments every post, I bet he'd say it's because he takes the time to reciprocate. It's all about fellowship. In other words, it's that wonderful old saying, "Do unto others..." my blogging friend.

I promise.

 ~ ~ ~

Now for an all-important message:

The first Wednesday of the month is coming up and that means our official IWSG Day, Insecure Writer's Support Group is upon us. IWSG is a group dedicated to supporting and encouraging all writers of all genre. If you'd like to learn more, if you're tired of crying in your soup alone, click here

If, like me, you live a solitary and sometimes insecure writer's life, you'll meet some terrific like-minded writers. It's definitely made a difference in my life.

~ ~ ~

Joylene Nowell Butler lives in Cluculz Lake, BC with her husband and three cats, Garagee, Marbles, and Shasta. She is the author of mystery thriller Dead Witness and winner of the IPPY awards 2012 for her psychological thriller Broken But Not Dead.  You can learn more about Joylene at her blog.