Tag Archives: Editing

But Critiques are Optional–Right?

How many of you write a novel or a short story, but you don’t know who to give it to? As writers, the most important thing to do during the journey of finishing your work is to hand a draft over for criticism. Especially if you’re starting out. I mean, you want your work to do well, right? I used to write fifty pages, then give it to my mom to see if it has the potential to be a good story. These days I try to actually finish the work before giving it to anyone. But sometimes it helps to know if the first few pages is an attention-grabber.

Handing out your work can be tricky and futile. For the most part, my mom is the main one to read my stories. I trust that she won’t throw my hard work around as her own. I trust that she will tell me the truth about whether or not if she thought I did well in writing it–to a point. I’ve given my first novel to a couple of friends who promised to read it and tell me how they like it. Then I ended up wishing I didn’t because they never follow through. People not doing what they promise to do, or saying they like something when they didn’t can hurt more than a million rejections from agents.

I tend to be very protective of my work, so giving my “baby” to anyone is a major deal. I’m always afraid it will fall into the wrong hands, so I prefer giving it to someone I know well. Unfortunately, even if they do follow through and read it, there’s that chance they’re afraid of hurting your feelings, so rather than saying it’s no good, or that scene is out of place, they may say “it’s not bad.”

Now that’s a great help to us who dream of being successful authors, isn’t it?

I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my first manuscript (soon to be on the market) for more than seven years. My mom was gracious enough to read it after each rewrite, and each time she’d tell me “yes, I love it except for this part.” And I’d see what I needed to do to smooth out the scene she was talking about, then she’d be upset with me because I’d always find something else I need to fix.

“It was fine the way you had it the first time,” she’d complain.

“No, Mom,” I’d say. “I have my dead guy as someone everyone hates. No one will care that he’s dead.”

Ironically, she liked each rewrite better than the last. Still, it’s one person’s opinion, and we want a few more, right? Thankfully, after I finished my final rewrite, God sent me another writer who graciously offered to read it and even edit it, if he liked the manuscript. With his guidance, I finished my first novel and actually wanted to read it again and again. Working frustratingly on a story and never being happy with the direction I was going in made me want to discard the entire project! Anyone else agree?

My good fortune continued when I was able to find a friend who did read my book, and an unbiased reader whom I didn’t know (but a friend does). I was nervous about handing it out to either person because of my history of fruitlessly searching for critiques. The good thing is that I know they were honest when they told me they thought it was a great story. And the icing on the cake was when I found they enjoyed the same scenes, wished I included more of this or that, liked this particular character flaw, etc.

This is why it’s vital to find someone to read your work before sending it off. There’s a lot of bad novels out there that were published but haven’t been “approved” in any way. But that’s the author’s right. However, critiques help. Your friends may catch grammar issues, spelling errors, etc, and you’ll want to fix them before either self-publishing or attempting to land an agent. Face it: agents aren’t going to want to give your manuscript a chance if you misspelled “the,” or if your heroine has brown hair at the beginning of the story, then blonde hair in the ending with no scene of buying hair colors.

Writer’s Digest offers plenty of excellent resources. It’s costly but worth it. I haven’t used their resources yet, but it’ll always be there should I decide I need to. Some writers attend groups where they critique each other’s work. Honestly, my trust issues won’t allow me to go that far, although, for the most part, writers want their peers to succeed. I just worry about my work, and I’m not alone…Even renowned mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark feels the same way.

If you’re a writer, I urge you to find a friend you know that enjoys reading (preferably the genre the story is in) and stress to them that they need to be as brutal and raw about their opinion as possible. Tell them to aim below the belt. You can choose to use their suggestions, or say, nay. But I bet you’ll find more often than not, their ideas are sound. After all, you know the point you were trying to make. Remember in school when teachers urged you to ask questions because chances are someone has that same question? Well, it’s often true to writing.

If you’re a reader, be true to your critiques. It doesn’t matter whether you’re critiquing something that’s already been published, or your best friend with ultra-sensitive feelings hands you a copy of their final draft. If you love the book, but not a certain scene or character, tell them. If you hated the book, tell them. They may ask why, and it’s quite possible they are willing to rework it. Nine times out of ten, they hand your their unpublished piece for a reason: to fix anything that may need to be fixed.

If we can’t take criticism, then I think we need to find another hobby or career. At the same time, if we throw out every criticism, you may as well not have asked for it in the first place. People in this world are overconfident when it comes to the things they are passionate about. Myself included. But somehow we need to realize that in order to be successful in this world, we need to work together. We need more honesty. The critiques may hurt, but if they’re genuine, it’ll only help in the end.

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Why Readers Stop Reading a Book.

Recently, we here at LitWorldInterviews.com conducted a survey, “Why do you put a book down?” and through the assistance of the writing community we had a very nice response of over 100 participants (I stopped counting.). Now it’s time to share what we found.

First, I want to say why the survey was conducted. We wanted to help writers by giving them the information they most need. If a reader takes the time to check out your book and don’t like it, they are unlikely to give you a second chance with your next work. First impressions mean a lot.

86.30% of those responding were Female, thus leaving the remaining 13.70% Male. Considering the majority of those reading novels are Female, although not quite this extreme, I’m comfortable with sharing what we found.

There were 34 sub-categories as a result of the survey. Those results were then placed into 5 main categories: Writing, Editing, Proofreading, Taste, and Other, with Writing providing the largest number of sub-categories and results.

68.49% of those responding noted some form of dissatisfaction with Writing as a reason for putting a book down.

26.03% gave Editing.

23.29% gave Proofreading.

17.81% was Taste.

2.74% was Other.

Let’s take a look at the Writing sub-categories first.

Click Image for larger view.

Writing Concerns of Readers Pie Chart

The above pie chart shows the concerns in descending order of greatest number of mentions. The story being Dull was the most frequently mentioned problem with 25.29% of the mentions of the Category. Followed by actual Bad Writing, then Dull or Unbelievable Characters, Info Dump, and uses  of Profanity.

Let me speak about Profanity for a moment, this along with Gore, Violence, and Sex were all mentioned in the context of being included in the story for no apparent reason. Most of those who noted it as a concern stated they know these things occur in books, and even have a place, but the problem arose when the author was using them as obvious crutches in an attempt to hide poor writing and plot.

The subcategories of Writing Concerns as identified by readers are as follows in descending order: Dull, Bad Writing, Unbelievable Characters, Info Dump, Profanity, Over Describing, Violence, Weak Narrative, Confusing Beginning, Unexpected Sex, Gore, Weak Story, Bad Dialogue, Dashes, Racism, Poor Relationships, Head Hopping, Repetition, and Writing with Dialect Accents.

What does this tell us? The first thing that jumps out to me is that we as authors aren’t putting out books with stories that are capturing the attention of the reader. With a book done with professional intent behind it, a dull story should be the reason our books are not read. That’s right, we are not read because we just didn’t do a good job of telling our story. Maybe we didn’t have the right beta readers. Maybe they were too nice. Maybe they just went through the motions. Maybe they just aren’t that good at the task. Or maybe we should recognize our work isn’t that good. How about all of the above?

Let’s look at Editing Concerns

There were four subcategories for Editing Concerns: Actual Bad Editing, Plot Holes, Sentence Structure, and No Scene Breaks for Time Lapses.

Click Image For Larger View

Editing Concerns of Readers Pie Chart

The bad thing about writing a novel is the author knows everything that is happening, even behind the scenes, the back story the reader never sees, and the in between scenes that happen. The problem this creates is hopefully caught during editing. A good editor can save a book from disaster. Fresh eyes see old mistakes that the author overlooks each time they’ve gone through each of the five drafts they’ve done.

An Editor is not responsible for rewriting a novel. I want to make that clear. They take what a writer gives them, looks for plot holes, sentence structure, weak story development, and things of that nature. They are not a Proofreader. I think people confuse the two, but having been associated with a professional Proofreader who has guest hosted here on the site, I know the difference.

If you pay an Editor they are to give you the tightest and most entertaining story they can from what you’ve given them. Of course you, as the author, can disregard everything, but that would be a foolish thing to do. I have a writing mentor who edits some things I give her at times. I take some of what she offers and disregard others because of the importance of what that means to the overall story, a story she isn’t fully aware of yet.

Notice I didn’t throw everything away, and I took into consideration what she said about the part I disregarded. I changed things to make that part seem more relevant to the story at that point, without giving anything away.

But what we get from this part of the survey is that readers notice editing of a book. The idea of not editing a book crosses the minds of Indie Authors. We’ve been through the book a dozen times. We know it’s just fine the way it is. Note the sarcasm I said those last couple of sentences with. I’m not saying it’s impossible to edit your own work, but you would have to be able to step away from the work long enough to see it with fresh eyes, several times. At least that’s my opinion. You also have to become slightly detached from this labor of love, in some cases.

Proofreading Concerns

There isn’t a need for a chart here. There were two sub-categories: Proofreading (66.66%), and Grammar (33.33%).

I have to say, this is an area I notice a lot in books. If there are proofreading problems in a book, they take me out of the story, out of the world created by the writer. Every book has a proofreading error, or perhaps a printing error, not so much on the printing these days with the modern printing methods, but back in the old days of typesetting, errors happened.

I’ve read several books for the purpose of reviews and I have put some down because of the proofreading problems. I honestly don’t think there was any proofreading conducted. You might get past the dull story, even some bad editing, but when you are constantly tripped up by spelling errors, punctuation, and all of that, you eventually become tired of it all.

Taste Concerns of the Reader

There were 7 different sub-categories placed under taste: Slow Beginning (30.77%), Tragic Ending (15.38%), Difficult Vocabulary (15.38%), Too Much Detail (15.38%), Back Story (7.69%), Genre (7.69%), and Cliffhanger Ending (7.69%).

Click Image for Larger View.

Taste Concerns of Readers Pie ChartYou won’t find two readers with exactly the same taste. They may have a discussion and it sounds like they are the same, but put five books in front of them and have them read them, I would be willing to bet you would get different opinions.

Some books, due to the nature of the story and world, may require a slow beginning. The trend is to jump right into action to capture the reader’s interest, but perhaps your story doesn’t fit that type of trend. Difficult vocabulary may be part of how a certain character speaks.

But I understand what the readers are saying. Sometimes the way things are done, they are not necessary. I think when it all makes sense, a reader is fine with it, but just as when people throw profanity or gore into a story, sometimes these tastes, other than perhaps genre, are signs of weak storytelling and plot.

Other

There were only two that fell into the Other category: Having the book available for Screen Readers, and Having a Misleading Book Description.

I think these are two very valid reasons to not read a book. As my eyesight fails I know it becomes more difficult to read. Some will say just get glasses, but this is due to medications I must take. Eventually I will likely not be able to see at all. But I love books. It would be a shame to not buy a book because it didn’t work with my screen reader.

As for a misleading book description? It may be the opinion of the reader as to the misleading nature or not. If it truly is misleading, I think the book needs removing or at least the description updated.

 Conclusion

What all did we learn from the survey? Good writing and story, with good editing and proofreading will make for a page turner.



by Ronovan Hester

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The Right Way to Write

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned as an aspiring writer is that it’s a major headache. Sometimes, I feel like finding a new hobby. I don’t know about other genres, but mysteries (my preferred field) can be such a pain. You have to hide evidence in plain sight and weave the story together in this perfect little web so that in the end it makes sense. And the catch is you don’t want your readers to say “yeah, duh. Saw that coming.” You want them to say “wow! I should have seen that coming!”

Because I try to come up with that twist to shock my readers, I hit many roadblocks. When I write, my mind tends to go one way, and then I’m like “well, that’s stupid. It doesn’t make a bit of sense.” I also try to be original. In this day and age, with all the unoriginal ideas, I think people would enjoy something fresh. Sometimes my attempts at originality turn dull, or plain dumb.

A headache. Actually, a migraine now that I think about it.

In the current manuscript I’m working on, I’ve written a hundred pages already, almost 40,000 words of my 80,000-word count goal. Since I had no clue as to where I really wanted to go, I hit a major roadblock. It’s like my characters are all running amuck doing completely different things than they should.

Then I began to stress. I’m a stresser, so it comes on naturally, especially when I want to do well in something I love. After trial and error, I found a few tips to help me iron it out a little bit: I’ve listened to the computer read the pages each morning, which not only helped me to add a few more scenes, but I’ve come to realize that the ending I had in mind wasn’t going to work for where the story was actually heading. In a book I started reading, if I remember correctly, I believe it was Stephen King’s On Writing, he said that he once read  Ernest Hemingway would read his work every morning from beginning to end before he wrote another word. I thought that was a great idea. So I started doing just that. I’ve found that it helped me a great deal. I was able to untangle some of the messes I created by not paying attention, or details I forgot. It takes me longer to finish my writing, but I’ve come to appreciate that in order to do it just right, you have to take your time. Especially if you’re an “organic writer,” like I am.

During a brief stressing out period, I was recently reminded by a fellow writer friend that this is the “fun” time. It’s the time when I’m building new worlds, creating new characters. I was struck by the realization that I’ve forgotten this was supposed to be a hobby. I was stressing myself out by trying to have my sequel (and other manuscripts-to-be) written in a certain time period (30 days).

Stressing causes me to have writer’s block, which in turn, causes depression, which results in my having a hard time getting my writing mojo back on. It is supposed to be fun. Starting a new story is always enjoyable, but I’ve realized setting unreachable goals, such as 30 days for an 80,000-word manuscript, fun will be replaced by a hair-pulling me. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to reach 80,000 words in 30 days. I’m sure plenty of authors are capable, and I’m sure even I will manage it…some day. But to me, writing can be like losing weight. If you set unrealistic goals, you may fail. It’s better to have a long-term goal, giving you a little leeway. At least when you’re starting out.

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins. ~Neil Gaiman

So instead of moving forward, I began to re-read my story to clean it up. Now that I’ve been able to take a deep breath and stop hyperventilating, I was able to see where it was supposed to go. Sadly I’ve removed a lot of scenes that I’ve spent time writing. It just doesn’t fit…for this particular story, anyway. I have a lot floating around in my head right now. I just might be able to find a home for those scenes somewhere. However, even if I don’t, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy writing those scenes. I was able to replace those scenes with an equal amount of wording because somehow it gave me the inspiration.

And because I have a friend that is a writer, I’ve been able to brainstorm new ideas for this story. Whether I use it or not, it helps me overcome those pesky blocks. I suppose that there is no right way to write. I suppose it’s all up to you, as an author, to find out what works for you. For me, it’s a lot of trial and error. I tend to be clumsy and stumble around, but I’m slowly finding my footing in this world. What are some ways that help you to move forward?

There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~W. Somerset Maugham

by: Angela Kay

It’s a Long Road

To me, it’s exciting to know you have a talent for the arts. A lot of people don’t. Some lie in mathematics. Some in science. While I wish I had the talent in science, I don’t in either subject. My forte is writing. I have a passion for creating a whole new world. Honestly, it could be a made-up world that takes place in a Star Trek-type universe, or it’s right in my hometown with my lead investigator solving a grisly murder.

In 2009, I was taking a Creative Writing course in my final semester of college. In that course, I wrote a two-chapter excerpt from a book I had in mind to write. My professor and my classmates loved the first two chapters when they critiqued it. It’s pretty ironic because when I finished those chapters, the person I had “killed” was someone everyone in the story knew and hated—even the three children that found the body! But for whatever reason, my class enjoyed it.

After I finished that class, I continued working on my first draft, including a few more characters that were hateful. Yes, it’s safe to say that there was a lot of hate going on in my first draft. Curious, I must say! My mom read the entire book, said it was great. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. She’s not one to say she liked it if she didn’t, although I wasn’t too pleased. However, I think it’s safe to say she liked the style of writing rather than the story itself.

When I re-read the story in order to change the spelling, punctuation, blah blah blah, I started in on major changes. The thought I had in mind was this: the dead guy was someone everybody hated. Um, yay, he’s dead? I didn’t care that he was dead. So, if I didn’t care, then why should potential readers? I wanted this thing to get published! If I didn’t care that the dead guy was dead, and I knew readers wouldn’t care, then why should publishers? They’d probably give me a phone call just to laugh at me even thinking I had a chance in the hard-to-get-an-agent world. But, you know…I was learning. When you’re starting out, even when you’ve been in the business for a while, there’s a lot to learn in this trade.

So, I completely rewrote the first few chapters. I made my dead guy loved by those who knew him. Boom! I wanted to find this killer that killed this wonderful man whose only crime was making a few mistakes in his life! Another character I created was someone who was also hateful, gruff, borderline abusive. I changed him into a nice guy, but stubborn and not always telling the whole truth. I felt much better with those characters. They were more believable.

As I went through the rewrite of my second draft, I found myself in the midst of a major, major mess.  It was a messy story that I wrote on a whim. It took me a year to write the first draft. Starting out, I think a year’s not bad. But it was the rewrite that set me back. I rewrote my manuscript, finished it, my mom read it, liked it. I still didn’t like it.

So comes the third rewrite. I wanted to strangle whoever said, “writing is all about rewriting.” My mom, and eventually when my stepfather

entered the picture, loves to tell me that I need to stop the rewriting. I always stuck to my guns, though. My response was always this: “the story is not over until there’s no more work to be done.” And, yes. My manuscript-in-progress had a LOT of work to be done.

Because it was such a mess, I felt it kind of held me back from writing. I spent years off and on going back to my manuscript. Every time I hit a wall, I’d get depressed and stop writing. I’d also begin two or three other stories on the side, but I would feel guilty that I haven’t finished my first “baby.”

Well, God kept me consistent. I may have been consistently writing off and on, but quite often, I’d hear the last name of one of my characters, which isn’t even a very common name. I would also hear my preacher in church often talk about “if you were meant to be a writer.” Or, I’d turn on Hallmark and a movie about a struggling writer would pop on. Maybe you think I’m crazy. But I think it’s God’s way of saying “get up, child! Finish the book!” Well, as of March 10, 2016, I finished my third, and yes, final draft of my story. The best part of it was that when I finished, I found myself an editor almost immediately. He’s editing as we speak. After re-reading the first seven chapters of my newly edited manuscript, I was like, “wow!” Honestly, after re-reading and rewriting so many times, I wanted to have it edited and not ever read it again. Now, I can’t wait for more!

Oh, and since I’ve finished my manuscript, I haven’t heard the preacher talk about writing, nor have I seen a movie about writing pop on unexpectedly, and I haven’t heard the name of that particular character. Amazing, huh? Well, to me it is…maybe you have to be there!

I’m thrilled that it’s in the hands of my editor. It’s one step closer to being published. And I’m also in the process of the sequel, as well as another manuscript. My fear is that I’ll stumble onto my old roadblocks. I really hope I don’t. However, if finishing this first book taught me anything, it’s this: no matter what happens, whether I’m published, or if it sits on my desktop collecting dust, I can rest assured knowing that it has been completed. It’s been a long road. But I’m taking the wheel, and am pretty satisfied.


Angela Kay, Author imageBy

Angela Kay

@AngelaKaysBooks

 

Getting Edited

Some writers love being edited, and others really, really don’t. Once we’re finished with our darling that we think is absolutely perfect as it is, the last thing we want is criticism. Ann Rice refuses to be edited. Other than proofreading, her words are all written exactly as she wants them. Most other writers, famous or otherwise, tend to have their work edited.

Getting your manuscript back with comments all over the place, and your favourite scene completely trashed could very well lead to apoplectic rage or rivers of tears. If so much is wrong then obviously you must be an absolutely rubbish writer and you may just as well give up could be your next thought—the one that comes after writing the rudest, most insultingly literate letter to your editor before hopefully having the good sense to delete it.

The thing to remember is that when it comes to changing your actual story, as an Indie, only you get to decide. You don’t have to take your editor’s suggestions on board if you don’t want to. Typos and grammar, yes, those must be fixed, but at the end of the day the story is only yours, and no editor is going to be cross with you for not agreeing with their suggestions. They’re just trying to help, but their tastes are different to yours, and many other people too. Just because you’ve hired an editor doesn’t mean that you are obligated to change anything at all, so if you’re happy with any parts of your book where changes are suggested, then rather get a second opinion or simply leave it as you like it.

A useful tool to use with Microsoft Word for when you do want input from others on your manuscripts, or vice versa by the way, is to be found in the Review tab. Click on Track Changes.

Track changes in word image.

You can change words, delete or insert.

Deleting in word image.

You can add comments.

add comments in word image

Changes can be approved or rejected.

approve changes in word image

Dialogue Tags, Beats, and More. Are you using the right one?

As some of you know, I host a Fiction writing challenge on Fridays here on Ronovan Writes. It’s funny how I use Ronovan Writes as if it’s not me. Sometimes I shorten it to RW. That has nothing to do with this article, merely an aside.

Dialogue Tags and More by Ronovan Hester



One of the goals of the Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes is to improve the writing of those who participate. At the moment my goal with the challenge is to encourage the improvement of the basics of writing Fiction. Some problems I see, not just in a few challenge entries, but in books I review, are the use of Dialogue Tags, Action Beats, and Dialogue Punctuation. Also today I’ll introduce some of you to Grammarly.

This piece today is not just for those doing the challenge. This is for anyone who:

  • Writes.
  • Writes short stories
  • Writes novellas, or novels.

What I have here will help you. For some of you it will be a reminder.


Let’s begin with Dialogue Tags. A Dialogue Tag is when you have a speaker identified along with the dialogue and a word such as ‘said’.

Example: “The dog jumped the fence,” Bob said. OR Bob said, “The dog jumped the fence.”

Example: “Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally asked.

Notice there are words used to show what kind of speaking Bob and Sally are doing. Let’s change one to see what happens.

“The dog jumped the fence.” Bob pointed to Fido racing across the field after the sheep.

We know who is speaking here, Bob because he is the only one mentioned and he is doing an action associated with the act of seeing the dog jump the fence. Now let’s see what happens with Sally.

“Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally pointed to Fido racing across the field after the sheep.

You’ll run into some people who despise Dialogue Tags, regardless of the situation. They would like you to use something like an Action Beat instead. What are Action Beats? An Action Beat is the actions taking place between the dialogues. The two examples above with Bob and Sally pointing are Action Beats. Notice there was no mention of the people speaking. You assumed who was speaking.

My personal opinion is you need a combination of Beats and Tags and nothing at all. Sticking to one and one tool only, in my opinion, would be boring.

Let’s take a look at passage using all three tools.

Example with Dialogue Tags and Action Beats.

“This class is crazy.” Billy ducked the dark rectangular object on its way toward his head.
Larry picked up the weapon, marker dust covered his hand. He threw the eraser back at the offender. “We’re not playing! Find someone else!”
“Thanks, Larry.” Billy’s muffled voice came from the floor.
“You can get up now, Billy.”
“Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?”
“If I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act as innocence as possible.”
“Will that work?”
“Did last year. This is my second year in the class. I failed by a point last time. She’s tough. They don’t call her hard butt because she works out so much.”
Billy laughed, and said, “Either way she’s my favorite teacher.”

The above is not the best example, but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about. I used one dialogue tag, and then only to keep the reader on track. I didn’t want to throw in lots of Action Beats. Action Beats work great, but can be overdone.
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Then you might have a passage with only Dialogue Tags.

All Dialogue Tags:

“This class is crazy,” Billy said and ducked the dark rectangular object on its way toward his head.
“We’re not playing! Find someone else!” Larry said.
“Thanks, Larry,” Billy said.
“You can get up now, Billy,” Larry said.
“Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?” Billy asked.
“If I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act as innocence as possible,” Larry said.
“Will that work?” Billy asked.
“Did last year. This is my second year in the class. I failed by a point last time. She’s tough. They don’t call her hard butt because she works out so much,” Larry said.
“Either way she’s my favorite teacher,” Billy said.
How boring is that? Annoying? Except for the exclamation marks for Larry there is no personality or life to the scene. Now you see why you use dialogue tags as little as possible. You also use Action Beats only when you need to. Of course you can pep up the dialogue itself and accomplish a lot.
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One thing you need to do when writing is, give each character a distinctive voice. I always try to do that in every story I write. One character might speak in short sentences, another in long. This guy doesn’t use contractions, this guy uses them even when they don’t exist.

By giving distinctive voices, you can have a conversation without a lot of tags or beats. Beats are good. You do need them. However, if you can get as much as possible across in your dialogue you are a long way to being a success.

No Dialogue Tags and No Action Beats.

“Billy, duck!”
“These people are insane. That could’ve hit me in the eye. Thanks Larry.”
“We’re not playing! Find someone else!”
“Ooo, you nailed him with that eraser.”
“He shouldn’t’ve thrown it in the first place. Uh, Billy?”
“Yeah?”
“Stop hiding.”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks. Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?”
“Put it this way, if I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act like an angel.”
“Will that work? This place is a disaster area. There is no way she will think we didn’t do some of this.”
“Worked last year.”
“Last year?”
“Uh, Billy, I’m a year older than you, remember? I failed by one point last time. But as bad as my grades were, I never got in trouble with Ms. Willett.”
“Larry, you’re always getting into trouble.”
“I know, but every time something happened, I stuck my nose in a book. She’s tough but fair. They don’t call her hard—”
“Larry!”
“Okay, they don’t call her hard ‘butt’ because of how much she works out.”
“I don’t care why they call her that, she’s my favorite teacher.”
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Along with dialogue, one thing I notice in books I read and blogs I read is Dialogue Punctuation. I’ll only mention one form of punctuation at this time.

I’ll also make this as simple as I can. Where does the comma go?

Example: “The dog jumped the fence,” Bob said. OR Bob said, “The dog jumped the fence.”

In dialogue, we all know to use the quotation marks around the speech, the dialogue. Where does the comma go? Yes, there is a comma in most dialogue IF there is a normal expression of speech. Look at the example above. There is no exclamation nor a question mark, therefore you put a comma inside the quotation mark.

If you have an exclamation or question mark, then put the mark and close with the quotation, no comma is required.

Example: “The dog jumped the fence!” Bob said.

Example: “Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally asked.

No comma was required in the examples above.

You can do away with commas by not using Dialogue Tags and sticking with Action Beats. Yawn. Okay, not really yawn, if done correctly. When you have a scene with two people conversing, you can easily do away with Dialogue Tags and stick with Action Beats and no manner of denoting who is speaking at all based on the rhythm of the exchange.
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Grammar and Spelling

For those without Word to help catch spelling and grammar errors, I have a suggestion for you. However, first if you do have Word, I’m going to refer you to Using Proofing To Help Your Fiction Diction & More!, for how you can make the most of Word

Another TOOL to use, if you don’t have Word is Grammarly.com. It can be used inside of WordPress or any place you type, even comments on blogs. Also, they have a FREE version, which I use.
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If you found this helpful, you may also enjoy:

UNDERSTAND THE TOOLS OF YOUR TRADE by Jo Robinson of any of Jo’s articles on Self-Publishing by clicking HERE.

HOW TO AVOID MANUSCRIPT MENTAL FATIGUE. by Ronovan Hester.



Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in February 14, 2016. He shares his life through his blog RonovanWrites.WordPress.com. His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as LitWorldInterviews.com.

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@RonovanWrites

© Copyright-All rights reserved by ronovanwrites.wordpress.com 2016

Call for Submissions, plus and Interview with the Editors of Rivet from @TrishHopkinson

Something I thought I would share I ran across. Hope you enjoy.

From the blog of Trish Hopkinson. Also on facebook.

Trish Hopkinson

Trish Hopkinson

The Review Review recently posted an interview with Seth Amos, Katelyn Delvaux, Michelle Lee, and Maw Shein Win—Editors of Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks.

If you like this post, please share with your writerly friends and/or follow my blog or like my Facebook page.

Rivet

Other than reading the journal itself, reading editor interviews is a great way to understand what types of work they like to accept. Read the full interview here:

Approaching the Ordinary in Extraordinary Ways: Four Editors on Seeking Writing That Risks

Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks is based in San Francisco and is moving into its fourth issue.  Rivet wants poetry, fiction, and non-fiction that is mindful of craft, but is experimental in spirit.  Rivet looks for work that questions genre boundaries, blurs convention, and approaches ordinary subjects in extraordinary ways.”

DEADLINE: Submissions are always open.

For more info on submitting, read…

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Fact in Fiction. by Guest Author @wendyproof

A well-researched novel is a joy to read. I love it when an author seamlessly weaves his or her research into a story. An excellent example of this is Susan Louineau’s The Chapel in the Woods. I enjoyed this book so much, I felt compelled to write a review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/576806766

However, too many facts can get in the way. The research overpowers the fiction. I had to stop reading one political thriller because the author wanted to tell me everything he knew about the workings of the British Parliament from its inception to the present day. I was so lost in the detail that I couldn’t locate the beginning of the actual story.

Equally, a lack of research can also get in the way of telling a good story. If the facts are wrong it undermines the fiction.

These facts include things like the spelling and punctuation of the names of well-known companies, products and people. When proofreading novels I regularly have to remove an extraneous apostrophe from a popular coffee chain, and equally regularly add one to a popular burger chain.

I need the internet to do my job efficiently. Without checking online I wouldn’t know how many ff’s and whether it’s ei or ie for Michelle Pfeiffer.

I often wonder what the internet bods who monitor everyone’s online life must think about me. Driven by the proclivities of the fiction I’ve been proofreading in the last few months, I have recently found myself looking up French fashion designers of the 1950s, automatic pistols and yoga positions. I fondly hope they think I’m a well-dressed, dead-eyed assassin, who can balance on one leg for an hour.

As well as confirming spellings of the names of Renaissance artists, towns in Madagascar and the odd rare cheese, I sometimes carry out more extensive fact-checking and research online. Not to the level and expertise of an editor, but when proofreading I double-check dates and historical references if they strike me as incorrect. It gives me great joy to spot an anachronism or two. Allow me a little fun:

Debbie put the phone down and dashed to her diary. Turning to 10 January 1983, she wrote: “First date with G!!!!” Finally, finally, the man of her dreams had asked her out. Admittedly watching Pulp Fiction at the local cinema wouldn’t have been her first choice, she would have preferred a romantic meal at the new Italian restaurant in the high street, but a date was a date. And it was with Gary!

Not the ideal first-date movie, I’ll grant you, but that’s not the biggest problem for our young couple. They should be more concerned that that particular film won’t be out for more than a decade.

Living so close to London, I love proofreading books set in the capital. They give me an excuse to double-check all sorts of snippets about its history and geography. The London Underground is my favourite obsession – the three maps on my dining room walls can attest to that.

This is why I was thrilled when a few years ago, author Larry Brill asked me and my husband (an even bigger London buff than I am) to help him with some research for his satire on modern media, set in 1760s London. He’d written the story, but wanted some advice on the authenticity of the dialogue and the accuracy of the depiction of London geography.

Part of the humour of this story is generated by the juxtaposition of modern phrases alongside authentic eighteenth-century London language. However, the reader needs to feel secure that the author is in control and is using modern idiom on purpose, rather than in error. As soon as a reader starts to wonder whether a particular word would really have been used at that time, the suspension of disbelief is broken.

We looked for words that might jolt the reader out of eighteenth-century London and undermine the whole wonderful conceit. We debated long and hard about the use of words such as “moniker” and “conniption” (nineteenth century) “doozy” and “ginormous” (twentieth century).

As well as spending a lot of his time in London pubs, the lead character also wanders the streets of London. So we spent many a happy hour poring over old maps to check that his walks along Fleet Street and The Strand would indeed take him to his intended destinations.

We also double-checked the dates for the construction of the now-familiar bridges across the Thames. We were surprised to learn that there weren’t many options for walking over the Thames in 1760s London: only London and Westminster Bridges existed at that time. We suggested to the author that he remove or amend references to Blackfriars, which didn’t open to the public until 1769, and Waterloo Bridge, which wasn’t ready until 1817.

I would hesitate to put myself forward as a professional researcher, but it was heaps of fun and I hope we played a tiny part in helping the author ensure that the reader fully enjoys the reading experience.

In case this has whetted your appetite for this gem of a book, here’s a link to The Patterer by Larry Brill: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18587008-the-patterer?from_search=true

To sum up…

An untrue “fact” or a historical “blooper”, while delighting the sort of person who loves to spot howlers, can spoil the flow for the majority of readers who want to be entertained as well as educated.

Too many facts, however brilliantly researched, can take a good story and turn it into a textbook, or worse – a dreary showing off of the author’s knowledge. A little learning goes a long way.

The internet and the reference library are the author’s/editor’s/proofreader’s friend. Authors/editors/proofreaders, do you have any websites or books you use when you research that you’d like to share?

wendy_janes_author.jpgWendy Janes is a successful freelance proofreader for a range of large and small publishers and has been for over a decade. She has a Bachelor of Education degree from Goldsmiths College (London University) and a Chapterhouse qualification in proofreading and copy editing. Her own work can be found in two anthologies; A Kind of Mad Courage and Romantic Heroes , the non-fiction memoir of her grandfather The One and Sixpenny Englishman, and her full length literary fiction novel What Jennifer Knows. For her services, go to her site http://wendyproof.co.uk/testimonials/ and make certain to connect with her on Twitter, . (She in no way proofread this bio.)


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The Proof is in the Reading. by Guest Author @wendyproof

The Proof is in the Reading

If I do my job properly, I am invisible.

Very few of us finish reading a novel and say, “That book was beautifully proofread.” And who would want to? A story should transport us, take us out of our everyday lives, excite or move us in some way. We don’t want the misspelling of a character’s name or a missing full stop to jolt us out of the story. OK, maybe that can be forgiven when we’re being swept along by an entertaining tale, but repeated typos and inconsistencies can undermine our trust in the author’s ability to spin a good yarn.

When I’m proofreading, I’m always thinking about the link between the author’s words and the reader’s mind. I like to believe that I play a tiny part in ensuring that the story travels cleanly from one to the other. I often find myself asking two questions: “What is this author trying to say?” and “Will the reader understand it?” Using these questions as my focus I spend hours choosing when to intervene and when to step away. It often feels like I’m walking a tightrope.

I’d like to demonstrate some elements of this high-wire act, and share with you the types of decisions I make when I’m proofreading fiction. This post inevitably touches on the differences between proofreading and editing, and I’ll say categorically, up-front, no doubt about it, I’m in the troupe that firmly pitches its circus tent in a fuzzy grey area. However, as a general rule, when proofreading I tend to only correct proofreading errors and make suggestions or ask questions about editing issues.

So, let’s get down to details with one example of a descriptive passage and a couple of examples of dialogue.

Dirk has escaped from his kidnappers and the author is describing how he’s now lost in the desert:

The son beat down like a demon, dragging his very soul from his aching limbs. Dirk couldn’t take any more of this dessert. It filled him with a stomach-churning dread. He could be stuck hear for ever in these dessert sands that stretched for ever. The harsh, cruel, unrelenting terrain played tricks on his tired mind and his weak body.

Having corrected “son” to “sun” and “dessert” to “desert” and “hear” to “here”, there really isn’t anything else I should go ahead and amend as a proofreader. I would probably add a note to suggest avoiding the repetition of “for ever”, but however much I might want to cut down on the number of adjectives describing the terrain or think that the word “battered” would work heaps better than “weak”, I have to rein myself in because it’s not my job to put my stamp on an author’s work.

Let’s move forward to the moment Dirk is being helicoptered out from the “harsh, cruel, unrelenting terrain” of the desert. The dialogue runs:

“How long have you been out there?” The medic enquired.

“Dunno,” said Dirk, “L-lost track of t-time,” he coughed.

“Take a sip of this,” the medic offered a bottle of water.

I’d make the following corrections:

Line 1: Change “The medic” to “the medic”.

Line 2: Alter the comma to a full stop after “Dirk”.

Line 3: Amend the comma to a full stop after “this” and “the medic” to “The medic”.

Basically I’m ensuring that speech tags and action tags are punctuated correctly. I have a dilemma deciding what to do with the second line. Strictly speaking “he coughed” is action rather than speech and so the comma after “time” should be a full stop and the “h” of “he” should be amended to upper case. However, the hyphens suggest to me that Dirk is coughing as he’s speaking (probably he’s suffering from all the sand that got down his throat after an undisclosed number of days in the desert), so I’d probably leave this, even though the grammar police are probably beating a path to my door as I type.

Dialogue can be an excellent way to efficiently drive a story forward, but often when a book has been through a few drafts I’ve found some authors have lost track, and included details in both the dialogue and the narrative, which results in unnecessary repetition. We now find Dirk being interviewed by the police after his kidnap ordeal. He’s been asked to provide a description of the kidnapper whose afternoon nap allowed him to escape:

“Tall guy, six-two or six-three maybe, well-built, massive shoulders, like a rugby player, black hair, longish, clean-shaven, broken nose.”

“What about accent? Anything unusual about his voice?” asked the policeman.

“English, probably London. Deep voice,” replied Dirk, remembering how the kidnapper tried to intimidate him with his height, his deep voice and rugby-playing physique, but that he whimpered like a baby in his sleep.

Here I would guess that the author initially put the detail in the speech, then in a later draft decided to do this via Dirk’s memory, but forgot to remove the detail from the description. It’s not a proofreading error, but I’d query whether the repetition was on purpose or not.

Which leads me on to another question I often ask: “Has the author done this on purpose or not?” The most exciting writing breaks the rules, and I need to be alert to the occasions when an author breaks the rules on purpose. A very simple example of this is when an author drops in short phrases rather than full sentences to inject pace and drama. It’s usually pretty clear that the author knows perfectly well how to write a conventional sentence, but has chosen a few choppy phrases to create an effect.

I don’t sit there wielding my red pen correcting novels as if I’m a teacher (although I was a teacher long, long ago), nor is it my job to criticise an author’s work or to show off. I’m fully aware that the author of Dirk’s adventure knows how to spell “sun”, “desert” and “here”. They are typos, not a reflection of the author’s intelligence or ability to write. I don’t approach my job in a judgemental way.

I do need to tune in and judge how formal or informal the author’s style is and in turn respect the author’s voice. So if an author regularly uses the comma splice or doesn’t punctuate “that” and “which” in the way that I was taught at school, as long as the meaning is clear I won’t change the text. And as long as the use of commas works for a sentence I won’t get bogged down in gradable, qualitative, classifying or coordinate adjectives. Essentially, if the author is getting the message across I try my hardest not to interfere.

A little aside, in case you are interested in the comma splice and the punctuation of “that” and “which”. Here’s a basic outline:

  • The comma splice, also known as the run-on sentence, occurs when you use a comma to join two unrelated main clauses. For example, “I enjoy proofreading novels, I spend all day playing with words.” Strictly speaking the comma should be replaced by a semicolon or colon, or the two clauses linked by a conjunction. I have to admit to a guilty fondness for the rhythm of comma splices.
  • “That” is used without a preceding comma to introduce text that is integral to the sentence, whereas “which” is preceded by a comma when the text is not integral to the sentence, which makes sense really.

If you’re interested in reading more about those gradable, qualitative, classifying and coordinate adjectives I suggest you set aside an hour, pour yourself a strong cup of tea or a stiff drink and read section 4.3.4 of The Oxford Style Manual (UK) and 6.33 of The Chicago Manual of Style (US).

There are rules, and many of them are there to help the author’s words convey his or her intended meaning, but equally many of those rules are made to be broken if the author knows what he or she is doing. A huge part of my job is to judge when to impose those rules and when to keep shtum.

Having raised my head above the parapet with this post, I’m now going to wrap myself in my invisibility cloak and return to working on other people’s words.

wendy_janes_author.jpgWendy Janes is a successful freelance proofreader for a range of large and small publishers and has been for over a decade. She has a Bachelor of Education degree from Goldsmiths College (London University) and a Chapterhouse qualification in proofreading and copy editing. Her own work can be found in two anthologies; A Kind of Mad Courage and Romantic Heroes , the non-fiction memoir of her grandfather The One and Sixpenny Englishman, and her full length literary fiction novel What Jennifer Knows. For her services, go to her site http://wendyproof.co.uk/testimonials/ and make certain to connect with her on Twitter, . (She in no way proofread this bio.)

I want to thank Ms. Janes for giving us an inside look into the world of a proofreader. I must say I like her method, and the length of times she takes. Give me a person that says they will turn around a book in a couple or three days, and I will give you someone I worry about.~Ronovan

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What Does a Proofreader Actually Do With Your Book? by Guest Author @wendyproof

You’re considering sending the manuscript of your novel to a proofreader.

Her website is error free – that’s a good start.

She has a number of testimonials – so that’s reassuring.

You agree rates and dates, and she confirms it will take her ten to fourteen working days to return your book. You picture that happy day when, hey presto, typos will have been eliminated, inconsistencies expunged. Although you have confidence in her skills, what you’d really like to ask is: “What do you actually do with my book during those fourteen days?” You don’t want to sound like you don’t trust her, but…

So, this is a post for anyone who has ever wanted to know what a proofreader actually does with a manuscript but was afraid to ask. Of course this is only how I work, but from chatting with colleagues we all do pretty much the same, with a few slightly different incantations and flicks of the wand.

Welcome to my dining room where the magic takes place.

Day 1: As soon as an author sends me the Word document, I open the attachment on my PC to ensure that it is the author’s novel and not the email intended for Great Aunt Pam. I download and save that copy, and confirm receipt with the author.

Onscreen I look for formatting issues. I turn on “backward P” for this. Better known as the paragraph mark icon in the home menu, it allows you to view the invisible parts of a document. I look for things such as:

  • chapters set at the start of a page using carriage returns
  • unusual fonts/mix of fonts
  • mix of straight and curly (smart) quotes
  • double spaces after punctuation and between words
  • extra space before new paragraphs
  • incorrect/inconsistent use of hyphens, en and em dashes.

Over a cup of tea (and maybe a few biscuits), I email the author to clarify what I’m going to do (if anything) with these issues. I also encourage the author to allow me to make these particular changes with Word’s track changes facility turned off, otherwise the manuscript will be littered with red-lining and it will be very difficult for the author to see the detailed proofreading corrections.

So the first amendments I usually make are to simply delete multiple carriage returns and insert page breaks at the start of chapters, and alter the document to a single font (unless the story requires multiple fonts). The other agreed changes will be carried out later. I save this version of the original document with the novel’s title followed by the words “print version”.

Printing can take ages, so I usually do a bit of knitting or a crossword to keep me occupied or catch up with the Twittersphere or Facebook-land while my trusty printer does its stuff.

Day 2 to Day 4: Now the real fun starts. I proofread the printed manuscript while seated at the dining-room table, marking up any obvious errors using proofreading symbols in red pen, circling in pencil any words that may be wrong or inconsistent, and noting in pencil any factual errors or queries. I also write a list of characters as I come across them. We don’t want Edwin starting off as Elmira’s brother-in-law and ending up as her uncle – unless there have been some family shenanigans, of course. I try not to stop and research or double-check anything during this proofread because I’m aiming to pick up obvious errors and to get a good feel for the book. This results in a manuscript that is littered with my pencil scribbles.

Day 5 to Day 10: I like to let a novel rest for a day or two, and then I proofread the same hard copy again. I usually pick up a few more errors (yes, I will have missed some on the first reading) and work through my extensive pencil scribbles. I check spelling and hyphenation of words, grammar and style issues against one or more of the following reference books: the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, The Oxford Manual of Style (UK) (which, I confess, I need to update to the New Oxford Style Manual) and The Chicago Manual of Style (US). While I rely on my eyes – and a good pair of prescription lenses – to find inconsistencies, I also carry out double-checks and various searches using Word’s “find and replace” facility as back-up as well.

I write up a document with additional notes for the author. This consists of spelling, grammar and style points, including items such as:

  • a list of words I’ve amended for consistency
  • setting of numbers (eg, all numbers up to ten in words, numerals 11 onwards)
  • setting of correspondence (eg, indented) and emails (eg, in quote marks).

During this proofread I spend a lot of time dithering, trying to decide whether to intervene or not (a subject for another blog post, I think). At this point I also do my research and fact-checking (ah, another blog post beckons). This involves a lot of traipsing back and forth between dining-room table and PC – my exercise for the day.

Day 10 to Day 12: My next step is to transfer all the amendments from the hard copy to the document on my PC with track changes (TC) turned on. Then, I’ll turn track changes off and input the other amendments I agreed earlier with the author, such as:

  • amending straight to curly (smart) quotes
  • replacing double spaces with single spaces after punctuation and between words
  • deleting that pesky extra space before new paragraphs
  • replacing spaced hyphens with spaced en dashes (UK) or unspaced em dashes (US).

I’ve repeated this list because I think these types of things scream amateur if left in even the most beautiful prose. Again, Word’s “find and replace” facility is useful for some of these operations.

I name this document with the book’s title followed by “TC showing”. I put any specific questions for the author in a series of comment boxes on the document, and other general comments are added to my additional notes.

I generate a copy of the TC showing document, accept the changes, and call this document by the book’s title followed by “TC accepted”.

Day 13 to Day 14: I then compare the TC showing and the TC accepted documents side by side. This ensures that I haven’t introduced any errors with my corrections. I will admit – just between you and me – that I sometimes find a couple of last-minute boo-boos at this point, which I correct with thumping heart and dread fear that I’m not perfect. Any changes I make to the TC showing document means that I must generate another TC accepted document, which I save over the existing TC accepted document.

I send both documents, along with the additional notes, to the author. I like to send a TC accepted document so the author can see the book without all the red-lining. Both documents will display the comment boxes, which the author can deal with and delete one by one.

I encourage my authors to get back in touch with me if anything is unclear or if they have questions about the proofread. I hope this post has answered some of your questions and if it’s raised some more please get in touch via this blog or via the email address on my website.

wendy_janes_author.jpgWendy Janes is a successful freelance proofreader for a range of large and small publishers and has been for over a decade. She has a Bachelor of Education degree from Goldsmiths College (London University) and a Chapterhouse qualification in proofreading and copy editing. Her own work can be found in two anthologies; A Kind of Mad Courage and Romantic Heroes , the non-fiction memoir of her grandfather The One and Sixpenny Englishman, and her full length literary fiction novel What Jennifer Knows. For her services, go to her site http://wendyproof.co.uk/testimonials/ and make certain to connect with her on Twitter, . (She in no way proofread this bio.)

I want to thank Ms. Janes for giving us an inside look into the world of a proofreader. I must say I like her method, and the length of times she takes. Give me a person that says they will turn around a book in a couple or three days, and I will give you someone I worry about.~Ronovan

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How I learned to Kill My Darlings.

You’ve heard the expression in writing that you may come to a point where you must “kill your darlings.” Some will even say kill every last one of the son of a—oops. I was channeling someone else for a moment. Some darlings are okay to keep, but some should be killed. But how to know which and who came up with the idea of the da—yeah, channeling again.

There once was a man named Q, who didn’t know what to do, then one day, decided to say, all your darlings do slay.

In 1912 Arthur Quiller-Couch became a professor at Cambridge. In his first series of lectures he coined a phrase, or at least it is our earliest noted use of said phrase and in the portion of that lecture it went like this:

Arthur Quiller-Couch“[If] you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”~Arthur Quiller-Couch from On the Art of Writing Lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge 1913-1914.-Page 146

 

If this be much too much for some to grasp and too ancient I shall refer you to a more god like being in the eyes of us mere mortallaic scribes.Stephen King

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ~Stephen King from his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Perhaps even that is a little too old school for some. How about this?

Neil Gaiman“I absolutely believe in taking out things that make the story better if they aren’t there. Just as I believe in writing scenes you didn’t want to write, when you’re doing the second draft, because it makes the story work better if they are there.

Other than that, I think you’re God when you write, and you get to make the universe the way you want it. If you’ve written something really good, why would you get rid of it? Normally the bits that I really like are the bits that my readers really like too.”~Neil Gaiman , his Tumblr,com page March 18, 2012 (This link will open in this page.)

kill the darlingsIf you are still with me then you are wondering what my advice is on how to kill your darlings. What one piece of advice can I give that you may not have heard before?

Write and draft and draft until you loath, you despise, you literally wish to KILL your novel. The darlings will then leap from the page and sacrifice themselves. Until this point your darlings are in disguise.

I speak from experience. Recently I’ve been working on draft after draft of a book I began back in 2012 or earlier. 300 pages of words, non-stop for days on end have been my life. I know all of you reading can feel me on this one. I am now in stage 25 of writer draft coma and am hooked up to an IV of coffee—I only started drinking coffee a few weeks ago. I think there may be a correlation, and yes that’s how bad it’s been. No, not the story, but how dedicated I am to getting this one exactly how I want it.

In stage 25 it happened. I. Killed. A. Darling. Then. Another. I began to read and see the saccharine everywhere. Those cheesy bits of one-liners in the interior monologue of the narrator that is supposed to be cool because he represents ME! I had reached hatred level. The more I read, the more it became obvious that I, the narrator would NOT say these things. No one in their right mind would read these words and say, “Oh yes, I’ve thought those very same things myself.”

Some of you are saying at this time, “I will never loath my novel.” By loathing your novel I am in effect stating you are loathing the process of continuously laboring over the need to draft and draft. Your mind will eventually have mercy on you.

But how can you do this? I realized somethings.

One is as I said before there are things people just don’t say. They draw attention to the writing. They pull me out of the story, even my own story.

Then I determined things I had in the story were things people skipped. You know those passages in a book you will likely skip as you go along. You get to certain parts and you want to know this, not that. “That” is a darling. “This” is what you need. I found a way to get out of the way of the story. I want my stories read. Is my story the same story without “That”? If the answer is yes, then son long to “That”. Yes, I know I am using quotation marks too often but I am doing it for emphasis.

Going through my novel again I have made great cuts and slashes. Phrasing is improving left and right, pace has improved, the voices of the characters are becoming more distinct. It has taken a long time to get to this point and a lot of pain, in the literal sense. I would not change a moment of it. What I discovered is something that will help me for the remainder of my writing career.

Will this be the piece of advice that helps you get to that goal you have? I don’t know, but every tip is worth at least reading about. I’ve found I gain something each time, or I lose brain cells from the sheer duh duh duh of the person who thought they should be giving advice. Yes, go ahead and say it as you finish reading this about me. All together now. DUH DUH DUH.

But one last bit of advice. Make certain to save that previous draft. When it comes time for your Beta-Readers to read, you may find you need to Frankenstein some Darlings.

@RonovanWrites

 

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Hyphens & En Dashes & Em Dashes Oh My.

hyphens dashes

Let’s talk hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes.

Are you using them the correct way? Are you using the correct lengths? You are probably wondering about that second question, and we will get to it in a moment. But first let’s talk about what each one is and does. Much of what you will see is based on the AMA and CMA information. In other words, these aren’t ideas I pulled out of the air. You’ve been taught differently, then you’ve been taught differently.

Let’s take them by length order.

First to join us is the hyphen.

What does it look like?

Where do you find it? You’ll find it between the 0 and the = keys.

How do you use it?

First of all there are several names for the uses of the hyphen. I’m not going to bother filling your time with names that may not even be real or standards. I am going to give examples. Isn’t that what we want when we go looking for this information?

  • Sometimes you will use the hyphen when words are linked together to describe something. They are linked together because they are essentially one descriptive trait.
    • She is a twenty-nine-year-old college student.
    • My mother-in-law made dinner tonight.
    • The novel is forty-two chapters long.
    • A quarter is one-fourth of a whole.
    • She lives in a split-level house.
  • I think we all know about the hyphen between numbers, such as forty-one. I know, I know, we aren’t supposed to spell forty-one out but I do in my writing, and in truth you will see a lot of advice saying to do so. But writing numbers is a whole different article. For me it’s a style preference. I visually like the numbers spelled out.
  • And of course there is the hyphenated last name. Abigail Smith-Wesson.

 

Now we have the En Dash.

What does it look like?

Where do we find the En Dash? Today we are going to use the lap top. Because I use the laptop.

But first we’re going to talk about the uses of the En Dash.

How do you use it?

  • You use the En Dash for noting ranges. 1–100 is an example of a range. Also a range of time such as June–August is summer vacation for schools in the USA.
  • You might even see a sentence that has – in it. I know you are scratching your head. What you are seeing is an En Dash with a space on either side. Some people use that as an Em Dash.

 

Last and definitely not least is the Em Dash.

What does it look like?

Where do you find it on the keyboard? Good question. And no, don’t hit the hyphen a few times.

How do you use it?

  • Think of the Em Dash as an interrupter. Interrupter is my word for it here. And I mean that in a couple of different ways.
    • The most common we see in novel writing is when dialogue is interrupted. “You are a no good piece of fu—” “What were you going to say, young man?”
    • But you can also use it to insert a different thought in the middle of a sentence. I ramble a lot—I do so in my brain—and I type like I think. As long as my writing works—I don’t care what I use.
    • Some people use the Em Dash in the place of commas, colons, parenthesis, and semicolons when they want to give whatever it is that extra bit of attention. That being said: don’t over use it. If you use it all throughout your novel then it just becomes another period to the eye and ear.

One thing to keep in mind about En Dashes and Em Dashes is, be consistent. As someone reads your novel, and let’s be a positive thinker here and say novels, you are training them to know what you mean. If you use an – to be an—in one chapter then do it in the next chapter and perhaps the next book as well. I am hoping you got what I did there.

How do the three look?

– Hyphen

– En Dash

— Em Dash

 

The reason they are called En Dash and Em Dash are because how much space they take up.

N

M

 

How do they look with a word?

the-

the–

the—

 

On my laptop when I look at what I am about to tell you there is a key combination or Shortcut key to use that includes the Num key. That’s the Number Lock key. I’m not certain about all of you, but I don’t have a number pad on my laptop. And the Function to actually create a number pad doesn’t work with the key combination to create the dashes I need. So what do I do? I create a new Shortcut key. It’s pretty simple to do even though the instructions below look long. I am very detailed when I give instructions. I see no reason to skip steps. Some of these steps are going to seem like, as I like to say ‘Duh’, steps to you but there is no reason not to include them.

 

Where do you find the En Dash and the Em Dash?

I’m not sure what kind of laptop you use. But if you use Windows then this should work. What you do is:

  1. Open Word on your laptop.
  2. Click the Insert tab along the top of the screen.
  3. Look for the Symbols It’s at the far right on my bar at the top.
  4. Click Symbols.
  5. More than likely it will say ‘more symbols’.
  6. Click ‘more symbols’.
  7. You will have a pop up box appear with two tabs.
  8. Click the Special Characters
  9. You’ll see the En Dash and the Em Dash with the Shortcut key combination to get each symbol. The hyphen is what we have on the keyboards already. The En Dash is a little longer, and the Em Dash is longer than that. Now you will see there is a Shortcut key combination to use but on mine it says to use the Num My laptop doesn’t have a Num key and doing the Function that does the Number Lock doesn’t make the Dashes work. So continue on below.
  10. Select En Dash
  11. Click Shortcut Key at the bottom
  12. On the next pop up box called Customize Keyboard you will see a field where your cursor is most likely already waiting for you. That field is called Press new shortcut key.
  13. For the En Dash I chose Ctrl and the hyphen. It will look like Ctrl+- in the Shortcut key list. Then click Assign. You could use Ctrl and N.
  14. For the Em Dash I chose Ctrl, Alt hyphen. It will look like Alt+Ctrl+- in the Shortcut key list. Then click Assign. You could use Ctrl and M.

After all of that I want to show you something.

The—

The—

Looks the same, right? Not the same. The first was created by hitting the hyphen twice and then hitting enter. The second was created using my shortcut keys for the Em Dash.

If you made it this far you are probably wondering why all the bother. Using the correct punctuation is never going to hurt you. Not using it can. You don’t know what pet peeve will set off that person assigned to reading your submission has. If you can get something right, then why not get it right? There is more to this subject than what I have here. But this is a place to start. I wanted to plant the seed of getting it right and then you can grow your understanding from there, and possibly even grow mine by sharing in the comments. Other people will read this and you will help them.

 

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Co-Writing With My Best Friend by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

I’d like to share my experience of co-writing. Partly because it’s a funny story, and partly because I hope you’ll find it interesting to find out how we did it. It might even encourage you and a friend to have a go yourselves.

A few years ago my friend and I were sitting in her conservatory chatting about whether men or women could write better love letters, and via a little too much sharing, we bemoaned the fact that any books we’d read with good sex scenes had weak stories, or if the story was good, it glossed over the sex. So we decided to write an erotic romance with great characters that people would care about, an intriguing plot, and sex scenes that would excite our avid readers.

Now, bearing in mind neither of us had written a full-length novel before, one of us was a school governor and a grandmother, and the other enjoyed craft fairs and knitting, we didn’t seem likely candidates for writing erotic fiction.

I don’t want to get into the Fifty Shades debate, but I would like to say that we had finished writing our book before we’d heard of that publishing phenomenon.

So how did two middle-aged women from South London set about co-writing their novel?

Initially my writing partner (let’s call her Pandora) went out to buy lots and lots of stationery.

We met once a week to brainstorm characters, and pretty soon we had created four women who became real people to us. Authors need to know their characters inside out, but because we were co-writing we had to share out loud everything that we knew about them. Such as Hazel’s hairstyle, what Sonia ate for breakfast, the first song Paula bought and Jacqui’s worst memory from childhood. Within weeks the four women were joined by five men. We adored drop-dead gorgeous Billy, we also adored the vile Richard, but only because we were astonished that we could create such a creep.

During this time we also bandied around oodles of ideas for plots. Our notebooks were filling up fast, but we’d not written a word of the story yet.

We plotted Chapter One (which of course never made it to the final draft) and separately wrote our own versions of it. The idea was that we’d give each other feedback on what we liked and what we didn’t and somehow magically turn them into one sparkling opening chapter. That didn’t work. Mine was too full of emotion, more like a Mills and Boon romance and Pandora’s was too spare, more like a thriller. This was not looking good, and so far we’d not written a single sex scene.

Plan B. Pandora would write Chapter One and I’d write Chapter Two and we’d edit each other’s chapters. Plan B wasn’t wholly successful either. While we both agreed that we could write a darn erotic sex scene, I have to admit I took Pandora’s edits a little too personally and things were rather cool between us for a day or two.

Plan C. Pandora was lightning quick at generating ideas, and I was better at taking her ideas and developing them. Same with the writing. So for the next few months we met once a week to plot a chapter together. Then Pandora would take an hour to write the chapter, email it to me and I’d take six hours, often more, to develop it and send it back to her. We agreed there’d be no further revision until we reached the end of this first draft.

Then came the best bit. We read each chapter of Draft 1 out loud and talked through the revisions together. It was amazing how in tune we were with the characters and the plot, often voicing the ideas that were still in the other person’s head. I will gracefully admit that Pandora came up with the best ideas, including the plot twist that had us dancing round her conservatory with glee. What also became apparent at this point was that the four women who at the outset we’d thought were nothing like us, had traits of each of us. Pandora’s vibrancy and love of life shone through in gorgeous Paula. My insecurities were writ large in naïve Sonia!

We then sent the book to friends (male and female) who gave feedback – thank goodness I didn’t crumble in the face of criticism any more – and in the light of that feedback we revised again, and again, and again. By this point we couldn’t remember who had originally written what or whose idea was whose. We were having such fun we could have tinkered with our book for ever, but we also wanted to publish it. Eventually (!) we came up with a title and published our book under a pen name. We were proud of what we’d written, but our children (Pandora’s four and my three) begged us not to use our real names.

The book didn’t take the world by storm as we’d genuinely, honestly (naively) thought it would, but we had a wonderful laughter-filled two years writing it, and we’re still best friends. The whole experience introduced me to the world of self-publishing and helped me find my own writing voice. I reckon that’s a happy ending.

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Patience and Integrity-The Secret to Success

Author Integrity. This week on Lit World Interviews seems to be all about that. Whether you are an Indie or Traditionalist Author there are things we all should be doing. These days there really is only one difference between the two types of Authors and that’s who puts out your books. Some say the Publisher will do a lot more for you so you don’t have to, but that’s not always the case and it costs you.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against signing with a Publisher. I want to sign with one someday. But I do know that to be successful you need to be all in your own business and not simply sit back and let everyone else be all up in it.

This week you’ve seen a relatively new way of editing from Author PS Bartlett with her article Text to Speech: Editing Through Listening, Proofreading problems from Author and Proofreader Wendy Janes with Most Mortals Need a Proofreader. And rounding out with Author Jo Robinson our resident Self-Publishing guru and her article Authenticity and Honesty as an Indie Author.

I feel each article is linked in that each points to creating something and representing something that is professionally done. Integrity is the word that finally came to mind after reading Jo’s article. Through every draft you write, every proofreading, and every promotional idea you happen to come up with or is created for you, keep integrity in mind.

There are Authors out there that are popular and have great sales numbers. I don’t read them because I don’t trust them and their integrity is non existent in my eyes. That’s right, I look at an author and their product just like I do a person such as an actress. I am asked “Don’t you think she is so hot?” 9 times out of 10 the person they are talking about has the personality of a cross between Bill O’Reilly and Rosie O’Donnell. It doesn’t matter if you have all the physical characteristics of ‘hot’, if your personality is repulsive then you are repulsive as well.

If I look at your books and your promotions and see a lack of professional polish then I begin to think you simply rushed through a writing of it and threw it out there, and you are promoting it with fake gloss to trick people into buying what could have been a great story if you had just had the patience to go through as many drafts, proofreadings, and edits as was necessary to get that best work possible.

patience-integrity

Patience and Integrity in the world of the Author go hand in hand. Don’t rush the love of your life out into the world of Amazon or wherever you publish. Let that love mature and grow and go shopping to look its best. This is a coming out party and it only gets one shot at it.

 

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Most Mortals Need a Proofreader by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

Why can’t you successfully proofread your own work?

It’s very simple – you read what you expect to see.

When you read other people’s work it’s fresh and new. Any errors seem to leap from the page, as the following examples demonstrate:

“Perdita was so angry she felt like throwing the laptop out of the the attic window.”

“Mark was fifty-five minutes younger that Spencer. An injustice than irritated him no end.”

The errors in the above sentences look so obvious. However, when you’ve been working on your book for months, maybe longer, and you’ve re-worked, revised, edited, tweaked, fallen in and out of love with it more times than you can remember, it’s almost impossible to gain the professional distance that is required to proofread it effectively. This is no reflection on your skills as a writer.

I’d like to share my own (humbling) experience. You see, I’d been telling people for years that it was unwise to proofread their own work, but to be honest I didn’t believe it would be true for me. I’d been proofreading for over a decade, I knew what to look for. So when I co-wrote an erotic romance with a friend a few years ago (that’s another humbling story) and we sent the book to our proofreader, I was confident that she wouldn’t find anything to correct.

Let’s pause, while you chuckle, because you know what’s coming.

When the proof copy was returned to us, I was MORTIFIED.

Yes, it deserves capital letters.

Characters who were as dear to me as my own family had their names spelled inconsistently, missing quote marks made a nonsense of dialogue, and there were typos galore.

Nothing like first-hand experience to teach you (ie me) a lesson!

And now, to make me feel a bit better and to entertain you, I’d like to share a few of my favourite bloopers of recent years (I’ve used artistic licence to ensure that no author can be identified):

“Maddy checked that her trouser suit was free of creases before she walked into the interview room. She shook hands with the CEO and felt the waist band of her skirt tighten alarmingly as she took the seat he offered.”

“A warrior through and through, Mardor fought on, the blood dripping from his severed arm. Around him, his soldiers spilled their blood for the victory that was destined to be theirs. Mardor gripped his sword with both hands and brought it down…”

“Maria shook the last painkiller from the bottle and swallowed the table with a gulp of water.”

“Discretion is the better part of velour.”

“This was the last pubic lecture he’d ever give. His nerves were too bad to ever consider doing anything so embarrassing ever again.”

I hope you enjoyed those bloopers as much as I did.

I’d like to add a practical coda to this post:

If you want to self-publish, but you can’t afford a proofreader I encourage you either to save up or to consider some old-fashioned bartering. For example, swapping proofreads with another author, or offering your website design skills to a proofreader. Or you could try a micro-version of the approach used by an innovative publisher called Booktrope, where you offer a proofreader a share of the income from your book.

 

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Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading? by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading?

I love my job as a freelance proofreader, but sometimes authors make it very difficult for me to do my job effectively.

However brilliant your writing, however delicious your story, if there are too many errors and inconsistencies, you are asking too much of your proofreader to spot everything.

Here are a few examples of things that should have been removed by the author/developmental editor/copy editor prior to proofreading. Just in case you’re wondering, they are all products of my fevered imagination:

  • A tear-jerking family saga opens with Davina playing with her five-year-old brother, Oliver, on the sprawling lawns of their darling papa’s country estate. When our feisty heroine rescues sweet young Oliver from his evil kidnappers two years later, he is ten years old. The hapless Oliver dies in a fire soon after his rescue, and (miraculously) reappears at Davina’s sumptuous wedding to Henrico a decade later.
  • In the opening scene of a delightful chick lit novella, independent career girl Polly totters off to meet hunky Blake wearing a pair of Jimmy Chew’s. She jumps off a Central Line tube train at Sloane Square. (Tricky in those dubious heels and even more tricky because Sloane Square isn’t on the Central Line.)
  • In a sci-fi/fantasy, the leader of the Heliopians may well fight with grit and determination throughout the thrilling spat with the Lunopians, but his name changes from Garvord to Gurvord and back again in the space of ten pages.

I have to be honest and say that it gives me great joy to catch these types of errors, but when a novel is littered with them it makes finding the typos, which are the bread and butter of proofreading, all the more difficult. Not only that but if your proofreader is charging you by the hour, you are in effect bumping up the cost.

While it is the proofreader’s role to spot and correct errors and inconsistencies, there are number of things you can do to avoid your manuscript being inundated with them:

  1. Choose whether you’re using US or UK (or insert your choice here) spelling and punctuation. If you’re going for a hybrid, then be clear about your choices.
  2. Punctuate speech correctly.
  3. Check that spelling and hyphenation are consistent.
  4. Use hyphens, en dashes and em dashes correctly, and delete double spaces between words and after punctuation.
  5. Look for over-used words such as “that”, “just” (my own pet over-used word), “only”, “really”, “very” etc. Actually this isn’t something that every proofreader will automatically look for, but eliminating over-used words will improve your writing no end.

If a proofreader has been searching through a whole novel for “ise” endings in order to turn them into “ize” endings, he or she may miss all the unfortunate slips in the following: “Davina realized he loved Henrico wit all here hat.” If a proofreader needs to correct every single comma and full stop in order to punctuate speech correctly, there’s a good chance he or she could skip over that missing open quote at the start of Garvord’s battle cry.

I can’t say this enough, so I’ll repeat myself. However good your proofreader is, he or she won’t be able to pick up every single error if there are too many of them. It’s a bit like looking for a letter on a messy desk. You can’t see it for all the other pieces of paper, chocolate bar wrappers, pens, pencils, coffee cups and cake crumbs. If you sweep away the crumbs, put the cups in the kitchen and the wrappers in the bin, there’s a better chance of finding the letter.

You may be thinking, what on earth is a proofreader left to do if I make all these corrections before I send my manuscript off? The truth is that most mortals, even if they do all of the above, still need to have their book proofread by a professional. My next guest post will be about why it’s so difficult to proofread your own work, and will include some of my favourite bloopers (all made anonymous to spare authors’ blushes).

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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers Review by @RonovanWrites

renni browne dave king This was a great gift I received. One reason it was great is because I asked for it. And that means I did  not have to pay for it. I would have but writer’s love free things. I love this book. It’s a 5 Star Rating from me here and on Amazon. I intentionally read the book before starting my most recent novel and it has really helped a lot. In what ways?

  • I am aware of some little things that show a professional from an amateur
  • I can make at least some things right so during my next draft I don’t have to struggle through those parts
  • My beta-readers, proofreaders, editors or even possible co-authors don’t have to find a way to tell me that my writing stinks, well at least no more than usual
  • It has a check list at the end of each chapter to help you learn and create a habit of what to look for and remember to do each time you read

It doesn’t matter if you are a 20 novel veteran or a first time novelist, this book is worth the money. It tells you everything in plain English and common sense language from ‘Show Don’t Tell’ to ‘Voice’. Some of my favorite chapters are ‘Proportions’ and ‘Once is Usually Enough’. Get this book It has great reviews and plenty of them. And a lot of reviews is always a good thing to see. So get it at Amazon for Kindle or Paperback by clicking here.

Watch my Video Review below.

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Q&A with Amira Makansi of THE SOWING. How a dream became a novel. @AKMakansi

Have you ever wanted to know how a book goes from idea to the hands of a reader? I have someone who can tell you that, not only as an author but as part of a family in the book publishing business. She used to be one of the people that read the Author submissions. Meet . . .

 

Amira Makansi

Co-Author of The Sowing

A Writing InterviewAuthors Photo

 She’s the one in the middle.

(Be still my heart if I were ever in the same room with all three for an interview.)

THE SOWING - Book One of the SEEDS TRILOGYTheSeedsTrilogy.com

RW: Amira, you have a book out now, with another one closing in on completion of the process, tell us about your book, The Sowing.

 

AMIRA: The Sowing is, at its most basic, a story about two people coming to terms with each other and the world around them. In the future society of the Okarian Sector, Okariascience rules all, and the food you eat has the power to change who you are. Sector ‘Dieticians’ program certain individuals for specific roles using genetically modified seeds and chemically-altered food; some are programmed for success, others for servitude. The majority of the Sector is kept in the dark about the true extent of the manipulation taking place, but some have learned the truth and are fighting back. The Resistance, a small, underground group of guerrilla fighters, has sworn to stop the Sector’s oppression of its citizens. Remy Alexander is one such fighter; when her sister was killed in a classroom massacre, her parents fled, taking their surviving daughter underground to join the fight against the Sector. But now, Valerian Orlean, who once loved Remy and has never forgotten her, is put in charge of a military operation to hunt and destroy the Resistance. The two are set on a collision course that could bring everyone together – or tear everything apart. 

 

RW: I think I may have a few friends who would like you to write their book jackets for them. You are a co-author, who are the other authors of THE SOWING?

 

AMIRA: Two of my favorite people in the world: My mom, Kristina, and my sister, Elena. 

Authors Photo

 

 RW: I can’t imagine working on such a creative project with family and not wanting to perhaps do some type of bodily harm one another but we can get to that later. Real quick, where can my Friends purchase your book, THE SOWING?

 

AMIRA: You can get it in print or get an e-book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. (Thanks in advance!) 

 

RW: I want to focus on your writing process during our time today because we’ve discussed you coming back for an interview for when your next book is set for publication. With that being said let’s get into your writing process, and please use THE SOWING, which I have a copy of, (And no, it was not a gift.) as an example so we can see the process in real action.

First, what is your background as far as education, degrees? What brings you to the writing arena?

 

AMIRA: I have a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Chicago. UChicago is a grueling place with a strong emphasis on academia. I wrote countless papers in college, which, I think, honed my ability to write from a structural and grammatical perspective. Studying history is also where I really found my love of storytelling, and therefore, writing. History is just the assembled story of hundreds of thousands of lives, and studying history, at its most basic, is nothing more than discovering, analyzing, and retelling those stories. 

 

RW: As a Historian myself, degree thereof, bravo. (I have never actually written the word bravo before. You must try it. Fascinating.) Now we know about your background to be a writer, let’s take this step by step: how did you come up with your book idea?

 

AMIRA: It was definitely not my idea. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s actually Kristina’s, my mom. She had a dream almost four years ago that sparked the original concept of THE SOWING. In her dream, two young adults are fighting in an abandoned city at night, on opposite sides of the battle. The girl skids to the ground and falls. The boy reaches his hand out to her. When their fingers meet, a flash of electricity pulses through the two of them – and then the dream ended. Kristy woke up and knew she had to tell the story of these two young lovers. Although the electric jolt has since been removed from the novel, this fundamental scene became the crux on which the entire first book rests: when Remy and Vale meet again for the first time in three years, on opposite sides of a battle with enormous ideological consequences. 

 

RW: So your Kristina has the idea, she brings it to you and your sister, what did you do next?

 

AMIRA: After Kristy decided she really, really wanted to write this story, she and my sister Elena sat down and drafted what ended up being that scene. Then they went back and wrote what eventually became Chapter One of THE SOWING. They showed both chapters to me, and I was really impressed. So impressed that I sat down and wrote Chapter Two, but this time, I wrote it from Vale‘s perspective, instead of Remy‘s. The dueling protagonist narrative was something we’d never seen before in a novel, but we wanted to tell both sides of the story, so we took it and ran with it. My sister and I went back and forth like that for a while – she would write several chapters from Remy’s perspective, and I’d write a few from Vale’s. We kept going that way, plotting out the next few chapters, but without a fully-conceived idea of where the book was going and how it would end. In a way, it was a stroke of good luck that the first draft came out as well – and as coherently – as it did. I think we were all a little surprised when we finished writing. We kind of looked at each other and said, “Well, now we have a book. What do we do with it?” 

 

RW: So it sounds like there really wasn’t any outlining really or even really the seat of pants writing, but as technical as THE SOWING is how did you make the book flow considering there were two writers?

 

AMIRA: We didn’t really outline in THE SOWING, although we always tried to make sure we knew what the next few chapters would be. It was kind of like driving at night – we could only see as far as our headlights, but we always knew there was more road ahead.

 

RW: And the research?

 

AMIRA: Most of the actual research we did came in draft two, when we focused on perfecting the science and making the world believable. When you’re dropping words like ‘hovercar,’ ‘airship,’ ‘DNA encryption,’ and ‘genetically modified’ on almost every page, we knew we’d have to do a fair bit of research to make the science at least feasible. I like to think we succeeded.

 

RW: How did the writing go for THE SOWING, was it smooth and just come easily for the first draft?

 

AMIRA: It was very smooth. The first draft was, in many ways, radically different from the book that we eventually published. For example, Remy had superpowers – we called it “bird vision”, and she could see in frequencies that no one else could. But we threw that baby out with the bathwater – we didn’t want to write another superhero novel, and we wanted our protagonists to be powerful because they are good, strong people, not because they have superpowers. But the first draft came very smoothly. We just went back and forth, chapter by chapter, until we came to a good stopping point and we said “I guess that’s that!” 

 

RW: You mentioned writing the book with your mother and  sister, how easy or difficult did that make the initial creation of the book?

 

AMIRA: The initial creation was so much fun! Working with Elena and Kristy was a thrill, as both of them bring unique abilities to the table. We all complement each other. For example, Kristy is very imaginative, and is really good at filling in plot holes. A lot of the times, when Elena or I were stumped about how to move forward or to make a chapter work, Kristy would come up with a really good idea and Elena and I would just be like, “Why didn’t we think of that?” Elena, by contrast, is a very emotional writer. She spins these gorgeous phrases that just knock you off your socks and make you totally empathize with the protagonist. Also, both Elena and Kristy tend to be much better at writing humor. My own writing is starker, and more serious. I’m also the one who brings the “science” to the “science fiction”. I’m not a scientist (though I do work in a laboratory!), but I do tend to be the one who makes sure everything’s correct, consistent, and yet readable for a layperson. 

 

RW: Let’s say you have your first draft done, did all of you walk away and leave on the shelf for a time like so many say to do?

 

AMIRA: Yes. We did, and I think that was enormously helpful. I recommend it to everyone who’s editing a novel. We finished writing the first draft of THE SOWING in November of 2012, and we handed it to some trusted friends and writers for a beta-read. The feedback we got was not only really encouraging, but also critical to shaping what the book eventually became. This interim period was when we came up with one of the most critical elements of THE SOWING, which was the mystery of the DNA encryption. Without giving too much away, the DNA mystery became a driving force in the first novel. We dove back into editing two months later, in January of 2013, and that was when we shaped the book into, essentially, what it is today.

 

RW: How many drafts did you do for THE SOWING?

 

AMIRA: It’s hard to say, because we did so many different stages of revisions. I would approximate that we did five major drafts. Three of those were re-writes for structural changes, and the last two were line-by-line edits for language and style. 

 

RW: Who did the editing for your book?

 

AMIRA: All three of us! And boy, was that a challenge. If writing the first draft with three people was smooth sailing, by draft three, we’d hit stormy seas. We all had very strong opinions about the book and believed passionately in the story, which meant that we were willing to fight tooth and nail to get rid of parts we thought weren’t good enough and to keep our favorite parts in. Editing with two other writers is a humbling experience. You realize that not every word you’ve written is gold, and that your opinion is by no means the right one. It was both an honor and a challenge to write with two other equally talented authors at my side. 

 

RW: Is there a favorite “darling” you had to “kill”, and can you explain to some of my Friends what it means to “kill your darlings”?

 

AMIRA: For me, killing your darlings means sacrificing parts of the story or phrases you love for the improvement of the novel as a whole. It means prioritizing the big picture over that scene you wrote one night that you absolutely love. One of my darlings was a scene I wrote early on in the story where Vale accompanies a squadron of soldiers on a ‘training’ mission to show him how to be a commander. In this chapter, Vale watched a fellow soldier die, killed by poisonous flowers planted by the Resistance, and his reaction was one of righteous anger and a desire to take revenge. At the time, I loved that scene, because I thought it helped justify Vale’s passion at the beginning of the novel, and it upped the ante on both sides of the war. But in the end, it didn’t fit in the overall narrative. We neither had space for it in the beginning, when we really needed to get to the heart of the action, nor did it make sense for Vale’s character arc. We cut it, and it was definitely the right choice. 

 

RW: How long did it take from the idea to the final in the hands of the publisher of THE SOWING take?

 

AMIRA: We really started writing in January of 2012, and we had a published book by August of 2013. So, almost exactly a year and a half. 

 

RW: Once the publisher had your book, how long did it take to make it out to the masses?

 

AMIRA: Well, our publisher was us! We self-published the novel, a choice I’m still proud of. It gave us more control over the art and the story, and it allowed us to get the story to the public much more quickly. We had a finished book in mid-July, and we published the whole thing in early August. So our turn-around time was about three weeks. For most books, the time between when your agent sells your book and the finished product actually hits bookshelves is around eighteen months to two years. So the fact that we put the book out a mere three weeks after finishing it is frankly pretty amazing. 

 

RW: What has been the most difficult part of the whole novel process from idea to actually selling your book to the masses?

 

AMIRA: People aren’t joking when they say that writing the book is the easy part. Marketing, and learning how to sell in this new, strange world of digital books and independent publishing, is one thousand times more difficult than writing. I love writing – it’s something that comes naturally to me, no matter how tired I am or how burnt out I am on a story. But marketing, selling, advertising, spreading the word – that’s the hard part. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about marketing a book on social media, it’s simple: Just be yourself. There’s a writer on Twitter I very much admire named Ksenia Anske, and for a little while, when I was new to Twitter, I tried to emulate her. I was at my most boring, then, when I was trying to be her instead of myself. My follower count started jumping (not that it’s anywhere near hers) and people started really listening to me when I decided to stop being her and to start being me instead. (It was a lot easier, too!) 

 

RW: When you had those moments of frustration, exhaustion, almost burnout, what did you do as an escape?

 

AMIRA: Whiskey. And beer. And wine. No, I’m not joking, and I’m not trying to play the ‘tortured artist’ card, either. Food, drink, and good conversation with good friends, has always been my escape during times of stress. And since my co-writers are also two of my best friends, it’s easy to find an escape in a bottle of wine and a heated debate over environmentalism or economics or whether an IPA is a better beer choice than a porter. 

 

RW: What gets you pumped to write?

 

AMIRA: Music! When I’m lacking in focus, I’ll close out all my social media tabs and turn up the music. I’ll listen to everything from classical piano to jazz to indie folk to classic rock. 

 

RW: Who is your favorite author right now?

 

AMIRA: That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t know that I’ve had a ‘favorite author’ since I was much younger. I’ve been trying to read books by a lot of different authors, instead of delving deeply into the works of only one. But I will say that the book that most recently blew my head off was INFINITE JEST by David Foster Wallace. The book is enormous, and it took me almost six months to finish, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so overwhelmed by how thoroughly a writer inhabited so many different writing styles. DFW is like a shapeshifter for writers – he transitions effortlessly between countless voices. I was astounded. 

 

RW: What book are you reading now, or the latest book you read that you really enjoyed and recommend?

 

AMIRA: Right now, I’m reading IRONWEED by William Kennedy. So far, so good. The most recent book I would recommend is THE VAMPIRE LESTAT by Anne Rice. Technically, it’s a prequel to INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, but you don’t need to have read Interview in order to understand Lestat. I didn’t expect a book that was so enormously popular and ‘hip’ to be so philosophical, or so emotional. But it was both. It really resonated with me as a story about trying desperately to make connections in a world where loneliness is so prevalent, and about trying to understand the world from an outsider’s perspective. 

 

RW: What writing resources would you recommend to my Friends, including sites, anything?

 

AMIRA: Joanna Penn’s website on publishing and writing is fantastic: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/, although to be honest, I haven’t read very many books about writing. Personally, I’ve found that the best way to learn how to write is simply to read a lot and write a lot, and that if you don’t do those two things, no amount of writing ‘advice’ is going to help. 

 

RW: What is your favorite beverage?

 

AMIRA: I’ll take a really nice Riesling or a whiskey sour, depending on my mood. Also, dry rose wine, which is chronically under-appreciated in the United States, is the perfect drink for sitting on the patio with friends and family. 

 

RW: What is your favorite munchy food while writing, and if you don’t while writing what is it anyway?

 

AMIRA: Cheese and olives. 100%. Cheese is manna from heaven, and olives are the perfect complement. 

 

RW: Would anyone be surprised if I told you she had some Greek in her? What is your favorite word and why?

 

AMIRA: Oh, but I have so many! Recently I’ve been really digging the word ‘loquacious’. It’s just so weird, and I love weird words. Look at it, how weird it is. ‘Loquacious.’ It means ‘talkative’, but I can’t help but think of lollipops and Dr. Seuss whenever I think about it. I don’t know why.

 

THE REAPING COVER 8.13

RW: And a Bonus Question: When can we expect THE REAPING, the next of the THE SEEDS TRILOGY to be out?

 

AMIRA: We are shooting for October 15.

 

I hope everyone likes the cover of THE REAPING. It was revealed Friday, and I had to sit on my hands not to let everyone see it early as I was able to get a peek at it early. I thank Amira for the trust.

 

I want to thank Amira for doing this interview. Hearing her experience from beginning to end was a learning time for me. I learned that my thoughts and ways of doing things aren’t completely off the mark, and I see how you have to keep working. Even if you had a publicity machine behind you, you still have to keep working. Even walking away from your draft doesn’t mean you aren’t working on another project, you best be.

 

Amira has agreed to come back for an Author Interview when The Reaping is released. Who knew a simple follow on Twitter would turn into a great friendship. I just wish the time zones were the same.



 

Amira didn’t ask for all the links and the like in the interview and she definitely didn’t ask for the below but I wanted you to have everything in one place. By clicking on each book cover below you can go to the Amazon.com site for each book showing. THE SOWING is in both kindel and paperback.

COVERTHE SOWING - Book One of the SEEDS TRILOGY

The Seeds Trilogy Facebook Page

TheSeedsTrilogy.com

Follow on Twitter

 

Much Respect to Y’all

Ronovan

 

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