Tag Archives: editing

Improving Writing

“…Brevity is the soul of wit…”–William Shakespeare
Indeed. It’s also the soul of good writing.
I own to failure in this respect; my plots meet my standards, my writing does not. Simply put, my prose is ‘fat’. It contains too many words, too much repetition, redundant words, phrases, even sentences. We owe it to our readers to do better.
I’m sure you writers have heard similar advice. If you haven’t, you haven’t studied the art and craft of writing nearly as much as you should, but at least I’m willing to share what I’ve learned. I’m going to give concrete examples.
I just finished editing The Trek for Audiobook production (it will be available in about a month). Taking a break, I began reading a series by Evan Currie (recommended; he’s good!) and noticed many of my mistakes in his books. They’re probably in yours too.

Names: don’t repeat too often. Often, ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’ will work just as well and improve flow.

‘That’ is used FAR too often. You can often remove it without changing the sentence’s meaning in the slightest. Try it; read a sentence, read it again without ‘that’ and see for yourself.

‘to ….’; you can usually replace this with a better choice. Rearrange the sentence, use an active verb.

‘of them’ or ‘of us’. Redundant, usually.

‘all’; redundant. Try eliminating it.

So there you have my observations, taken from my own writing. Look critically at yours; you may find the same mistakes or mistakes unique to you.
Grammar is the writer’s toolbox, and among Indie writers too many of us have allowed our tools to rust or become dull.
I’m sharpening mine; how about you?

 

Talent

I finally got Talent posted on Amazon for sale. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Talent-Paranormal-Thriller-Wizards-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00MJ5LBL6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1407528707&sr=8-3&keywords=jack+l+knapp

So what does it take to publish a book?

YMMV; but I design a set of scenes in very rough outline, more paragraph than actual outline. It’s basically a list of things a character might do during the course of the novel. For example, in Hands (to be written; part of chap 1 is written in draft), the hero does something fairly innocent and by the end of that scene, he’s had his hands lopped off by the baron’s executioner. Much adventure follows, and there will be several characters introduced; each of them will bring his own concerns and ideas to the story. This creates threads I’ll weave together, and I’ll tie most of them up by the end of the book. Some may continue to later books for resolution. Shorty, a minor character, was introduced in the epilogue to Wizard at Work; but he’s a major supporting character by the time Talent ends. And the thread that brought Shorty to the final scene was planted early, reinforced by another thread later. This is typical of how I write.

I begin after the outline with a blank page, type in Chapter One, and format that. After that, I’m off and running. Begin with the outline notes, see where the characters take me.

I have a guy who’s a cross between an editor and a copy-editor. I also have a consultant who advises me on military infantry matters and conflict scenes, fights and such. As soon as the first chapter is done, I send it off to PC and Jake.

Both reply quickly. But I sometimes don’t wait; I begin writing the next chapter before I get the suggestions back. I frequently write two books simultaneously; no writers block there; if I draw a blank on one, I just switch and start writing the other.

The book is beginning to take shape. I’ll start a book compilation using the title. I’ll format the front matter, the title page, copyright, and dedication (if there is one), then set up the interactive Table of Contents. After that, chapter one (after I decide to edit, or not, following the suggestions of my editor/consultant.

Finally the last chapter is written, I can type ‘The End’; if it’s not finalized, I’ll put ‘Continued in Book 2).

After that, I add end content. I frequently add an excerpt to generate interest in one of the other books or series.

Then it’s time for Books by the Author (that’s always a thrill, seeing five novels and a short story on that list!) and About the Author.

Then comes the work. Despite having been edited, the prose isn’t done. It’s time to do one final flying edit, looking for what was missed, editing for flow and continuity, sometimes even for widow-and-orphan control, removing those incidences where three or four sentences didn’t fit on the previous page so they went onto a following page. That’s not good, because it generates a blank page when you use a Kindle.

One final check for format: I run my Word prose through Calibre and convert it to MOBI, Amazon’s format. Take that, run it through Amazon’s free previewer to see how it looks. If it needs changing, back to the Word document. Make the changes, back to Calibre (deleting previous attemps) and reformat. Recheck through Kindle Previewer. If it looks OK, go to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publisher. There are others, Smashwords (difficult, supposedly) and D2D (easy). Each has advantages and disadvantages, for another column sometime in future. But Amazon has two pages of information to fill out, including uploading a cover photo (also another post), the MOBI version, and rights/pricing information.

Then wait. Amazon will publish in a few hours, and voila, you’re a novelist!

Easy, right? It’s a heck of a lot of work, but I love it. Note all that editing I’ve done? I put the best product up for publishing that I can, and I have no problem charging $4.99 for books under 100 000 words and $5.99 for longer novels.

Not everyone agrees; but as Kindle Unlimited takes over, price becomes less of an issue. And I think my books are worth rereading several times.

You would-be writers, get your noses to the grindstone and your fingers on the keyboard!

Writing, and revising

Writing’s easy.

Decide what’s going to happen, who’s going to do the action or be affected by it, then decide if other characters are involved. Are there unexpected side effects?

Newton rules, sort of; for every action, there’s a reaction. Not necessarily equal, not necessarily opposite, but things don’t happen in a vacuum. In my books, those unanticipated effects add flavor to the plot. Murphy is a participant, even if not by name. Almost nothing works perfectly, at least not the first time.

So I begin. Type a chapter number, save the page. I’m working from a one or two sentence idea in the beginning; some of the things I know, so there’s no need to write them down. Events grow from previous events and involve the same characters. I often write a chapter that’s between 2000 and 3000 words long. This is my preferred length, but I violate this often enough that it’s not a ‘rule’. Usually the chapters run longer what that happens. Stop, put it aside. Let it jell.

Read it again later. I have no need to read it aloud, as some have suggested. Or revise, starting at the end of the chapter and working toward the front. Instead, I begin and see if the sentences make sense. If not, revise. Then look at the paragraph structure; keep it the same, or combine paragraphs, perhaps separate a long one?

Send it off; I’ve got an editor, a proofreader, and an adviser who’s reasonably expert in matters military and combat-rrelated. Does the story flow? Are there typos? Should words be changed, does the logic make sense? They’ll tell me. I’ll discover a lot of it myself.

But I”m my own primary editor. As I look at their suggestions, I’ll cut/splice/reword. Their suggestions are usually adopted, but by no means always. Meantime, I’ve gotten new ideas from reading their comments and I incorporate those.

Finally, it’s down to just the two of us, my editor and me. I’ll send him the revised chapter. He sends it back with more changes to the changes, sometimes with new stuff to consider.

More revision, more returning, more back and forth. As an example, Chapter 22 of Darwin’s World (one of our current projects) was revised 6 times, this time through. An earlier, simpler, revision was also done, probably 4 or 5 times. And the previous chapter got the same treatment, but it took 7 revisions before we moved on. In total, the chapter was probably changed more than 10 times.

Writing is fun. Revising is work. Formatting for all the different e-publishers is different work, and can be frustrating.

And then there’s assembling the chapters together. Finding a cover photo that doesn’t violate copyright. It should be reasonably reflective of what’s in the story. I’ve been unable to get exactly what I want, but perhaps I can at some point if book sales justify spending money on a cover photo. Meanwhile, I’ve got a good camera, a Nikon DSLR. I take portrait-oriented photos and crop them lightly, or I crop heavily from a landscape-oriented photo. New Mexico has varied terrain, suitable for the settings my writing uses.

Finally, send the manuscript in and wait. Perhaps revise as mistakes come to light. Indie writers typically do it all, or at least I do.

Still think you want to be a writer?