The Meticulous Edit

Lately I’ve ignored my blog. Not because I did not want to write on it, but because I am working on a self imposed deadline and I have had to dedicate all of my writing time to my novel. It’s the great tug of war between project and platform and I’ve lost. But I’m okay with that.

The joy of my novel has returned after being sucked dry by the upheaval and Editingenhancement of various plot details. Now, I’m flying through while examining each comma, period, adjective, and sentence. I’ve become a better writer and am editing faster and faster as I encounter the same mistakes. It’s like revisiting a photo album and watching yourself grow up as a writer as the novel goes along.

Here are some things that I’ve done to reduce waste. I realize the more I strip down each sentence, the better the flow of the story is.

  1. Destroy all prepositional phrases. Most of the time I realize these are unnecessary and each sentence is clearer when they are removed.
  2.  Delete long meandering paragraphs of description. I had a lot of these and they were darlings but I had to kill them. When I examine them in compared with my target audience (children 14-18), they must go. Young adult fiction has no time to wander about as it must contend with video games, online videos and the like.
  3. Look for duplicate words in the same paragraph and either cut them out or add something new.
  4. Be wary of adverbs. Excitedly, jovially, whatever-ly. I try to remove them all. However there are times when I feel they belong.
  5. Look for descriptive but non-descriptive words – large, small, box, red, dirty, bad smell and replace them with another more colorful one – gargantuan, miniscule, trunk, crimson, soiled, and pungent. Sometimes you’ll find one of these words takes the place of three.

These are just a few problems that I look for when editing and is just the tip of the iceberg. The main objective is to make each sentence as lean as possible.

If you are editing and have tips of your own, please share them in the comment section below. Otherwise, happy writing and editing.



Effective Writing: By Schedule or By Whim?

Don’t lose these!

I am a list maker. I live and die by them at home and at work. Sometimes I get sidetracked and provided that the lists do not get lost, they are essential to me to obtain measurable progress and complete tasks.

This translates to writing as well. I jot down ideas for blogs, stories, tangents, and the like to finish later. If I did not, I am sure the stoke of genius (or so I think!) would rush out of my mind just as fast as it invaded. So for me to be a successful writer at this stage of life I have to plan and be intentional. I have to fight for time to write. If I do not it gets crowded out.

This made me think (and perhaps you can do this along with me) about what makes me successful in my writing? Would it be allowing a jolt of inspiration to come tingling into my mind while I least suspected it and then feverishly scratching it on paper, the laptop or any device that spits out sentences? Or rationing out time every day at the same time to plod along, however dull and uninspiring that might seem.

So how about you? Are you better at waiting for the stroke of genius to come, then churning out fifty pages? Or are you better suited to write two pages a day, every day, until your novel is completed?  My suspicion is that when you evaluate the structure of your daily life, or lack there of, you will have your answer.



How To Write A Book Proposal

I promised, back at the beginning of the month, to send out a proposal to an agent. I feel unprepared, like a parent sending their child off to kindergarten for the first time. However, it must be done, eventually. I am a writer after all and this is, inevitably, the next step.

But, how do you construct a book proposal? How do you prepare your little beauty to step out of the nest with confidence?

As you might very well know, there are many ways to publish and I plan to try the Mount Everest of them–traditional publication.

The following is advice on, and an outline of, a basic book proposal. You might ask when is the appropriate time to write one of these and the answer is two fold. Non-fiction proposals can be both before and after the book is finished, but for Fiction there is no wiggle room. You must have a completed novel before sending in the proposal.

Please keep in mind that each agency, agent, and publisher, might have different criteria of what they need. Please see their submission guidelines before submitting. Also, do your research. Don’t spend your time sending your thrilling space odyssey novel to a nature magazine. Know who you are submitting to in order to find out what they usually publish. Otherwise, all of your time and mental strain over your proposal is for naught.

I. Overview

This is your elevator pitch. In two or three paragraphs write the synopsis of your book, What is this book about? This might be the only time you have the attention of an agent or editor so make them beg for more. Having trouble knowing how to write one? You can find examples of these on the back of nearly every book. Also, bounce ideas off your writer friends.

II. Target Audience

Who is the audience? Is it a children’s book? Is it a YA novel? Is it a picture book? Is there a market for it? If your work can reach a secondary audience name them as well. Basically, name all parties that might be interested in this book. Don’t be bashful, but be realistic. Your grandma will probably not be interested in your book on Weapons of the World.

III. About the Author

This is your time to shine. Who are you? What is your experience or credentials? Do you have a blog or twitter following? Do you have another platform? One thing to be encouraged by is if you are a first time author there are agencies that are looking especially for first time novelists. You don’t have to have 300 short stories published for someone to read your work. Though, it wouldn’t hurt.

IV. Competition

If there is an audience, what other books are currently reaching them? Please do not say you are writing a YA book that reaches the EXACT SAME audience as Harry Potter. While it may be true, it draws unfair comparisons. Know other books that might be in closer competition.

If you are writing a Romance novel, read the back of every romance novel in your local bookstore then write down the ones that sound similar to yours. After this, go home and research them until you are the expert in what is selling, and how you can do better.

V. Marketing and Promotion

Unfortunately, authors are expected to do more for their sales in recent years, especially if they want to be successful. This means speaking engagements. This means book signings and radio or television appearances and interviews in the local paper or your favorite magazine.

This might sound both intimidating and presumptuous. The best place to start might be an author you know who has experience in these sorts of things. If not, ask the local bookstore manager how authors do book signings and even go to a few of them yourself. Then check at the library to find out what you need to do to get some talking time there. Also, if there is a local radio station or university that owns a radio station or television spot, call and talk with them.

Don’t forget your blog, Twitter account, Facebook, and any other social media/writing outlet you might utilize. All can be used for the promotion of your book.

VI. Sample Chapters

I don’t think I need to say a whole lot about this but the particular agency where you are sending your novel may have certain criteria. It might be the first two, three, or five chapters or merely a few of the best chapters in your book. Read the guidelines carefully and do EXACTLY what they say.

In conclusion, the one thing I would like to stress the most if I have not already is, be sure you follow the rules! Don’t deviate. Don’t be “creative” or try to stand out. Don’t reformat your proposal using cute font. Be professional and serious, no rose perfumed parchment. I don’t know how many times I have read or listen to an interview with an agent that said the reason a lot of novels are disqualified is because they are either not good, or don’t follow the directions in the submission process.

It’s Friday, (WOOHOO!!!) and this means there is only one more week to go on my self-imposed book proposal deadline so I had better get cracking. If you are ready to do the same, good luck my friend.



How I Plan To Edit My Novel

After I finish my book proposal (more on that tomorrow) I plan to get back to making my novel better. Some might think this is backwards, but there are things I’d like to clean up as I wait patiently (all to eagerly perhaps) for that form rejection letter.

When taking gravity, mathematics, and the concreteness of reality out of the way, there are about a billion ways to do just about anything. Here is my bumpy  and unproven road towards a cleaner fourth draft.

Step 1: Create Small Goals

When I look back on my novel there is a lot of work to be done. But I plan to approach these corrections and tackle them like I remodeled me house, one room at a time. If I were to read through for grammar, characterization, plot, and other errors simultaneously, I would immediately become overwhelmed by the plethora of mistakes. So I plan to read my novel several times to sweep over each one. Also, I will to do a simple read through taking notes first, before I do any hacking and whacking to my manuscript.

Step 2: Create A Plan

Not only can the writer/editor become overwhelmed with the mistakes that have been made on an early draft of a novel, but it can be nerve racking knowing just where to begin. I plan to print of my manuscript three chapters at a time and each night before I go to bed, simply read through 5-10 pages. 400+ pages can be a lot of work, but if I were to get on a role and finish 10 pages a day for a week, there’s 70 pages right there. And that’s not to mention lunch breaks at work and the occasional morning where I might have the energy to get up and knock out 5-10 pages.

Step 3: Identify Areas of Improvement

As I do my casual read through, while scratching some notes, I plan to identify areas of improvement. For instance, if I have inaccurate descriptions, if I forget a character completely, if a whole scene needs to be rewritten, a new scene added, or, as William Faulkner say if he were standing over my shoulder, if that little darling part needs to be killed.

Again, as I said at the beginning this is not a sure-fire way to edit. I don’t think there is. I think there are formulas we can use that might help, but it is what fits the writer best. The most important thing for me is figure out a system that works, and to do it.

One word at a time.



Why do YOU blog?

I have been a whining moaning writer. Time has been my Enemy. Outside, I have been calm and collected. Inside, I am frustrated, tired, and utterly spent. Which made me reflect, why am I even blogging? I could be working on my novel! I want to be a writer and it is hard to both build a platform and work on a novel.

However, the question much closer to the heart of all of this is: When you strip all of the craziness of life away, if you could stop for a moment and evaluate what is important, what is worth the precious currency of time we all carry in the pocket of our days?

I am a writer I tell myself, that is why I am writing. I am building my platform. But, I am married and have young children. Cindy and I have been married for seven years and I wish that to continue for the rest of my life. Clara is eight months, soon to be nine months, and June is capable of conversation. Do I want to be one of those distant husband or father figures so virtuously engrossed in my own little writers’ world that I put my dreams above them?

True, the answer is obvious. My kids and wife mean more to me than my job and my writing and even my life. But, I still want to write. There’s just too little time for it in this season of life.

When I heard about Ray Bradbury’s death and some of the things he used to do, like write for hours at a time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY., it made me wonder what his life was like. He had children. He was married. With all of the other obstacles that come up in life he still found that minute morsel of time for his dream.

Every person’s life has seasons. Perhaps this is my writer’s Winter. I cannot wait for the writer’s Spring!

Find some time this weekend to write my friends. I shall try and do the same.



The Writing Life: You Never Know What You Might Have

Since I challenged myself to write 500 words three weeks ago, I did not miss writing an entry on a single weekday. Until, alas, last Thursday morning.

I was in my daughter June’s room and we had just finished playing with some of her toy animals. I usually slap  together a blog in the wee hours each morning before departing for work. For what was the first time in a long time I wrote the entry the previous evening and brought the laptop into June’s room to do a bit of light editing before I rushed out the door. What I discovered after the night of usual broken sleep was horrifying.

It was terrible. I have no idea what creature got a hold of my laptop that night while I was sleeping (perhaps it was my cat Bandit) but they destroyed the perfect gem of a blog I composed the previous evening. I remembered nostalgically, as I sipped on my peppermint tea, that it was a brilliant work, a post worth showing the world. Then, as I looked at the sad sad piece, I saw nothing of worth and nearly deleted the entry altogether.

A Happy, But Tired, Morning

My wife Cindy helps with my editing and, because I desperately need it, I shoved the computer in her direction to get her thoughts. She scanned the page with her blue eyes then looked at me with an apologetic smile.

“What do you think?” I asked knowing the answer.

“Well”, she said twisting her mouth in dissatisfaction, “It’s bland.”

I nodded, closed the computer, and went to work.

Now, someone once told me that the first three days of the work week tend to be high traffic times for blogs. If there is anything trendy or worthwhile to post, post it then so as to get the highest hits possible. This was my reason for not posting that day. I thought, hey, what’s the point? Thursday doesn’t matter. I’ll post tomorrow.

Then, in a flash, it was Friday morning and I had written nothing. I had the draft of that blog from the previous day, and no time to write something new. So, I spiced it up a bit, put in a few anecdotes, and clicked the publish button. I think it was still loading when I raced out the door.

By the end of the day, it was my second highest traffic day for my blog, ever. So the reason I put this post on a Monday morning is to encourage you, writer, to put yourself out there this week.

If you have a novel on the shelf, dust that baby off and start sending it to agents! If you have an idea for a blog, or an article, get started on it. If you have an opportunity to do something great don’t sleep in and don’t let it go to waste. For, you may never know what you might have. It might be nothing. Or, perhaps, it might be something unexpected. Something that in return receives, not that canned rejection letter, but one that says, “We are thrilled to inform you that…”

Come on. Let this be a good week for you, writer. Get devoted to your craft.