Tag Archives: revising

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?

 

Advice, and Results

My sixth novel has been a struggle. No question, it’s been much harder than any of the others. Writing a couple of chapters a week has been more chore than fun.
But I took my own advice, what I’ve written about before in this blog: Write.
I kept writing. I worked at it as I’d work at any other job, as I worked at teaching. No matter how I felt back then, I knew I had to face 150 or so teenagers the next day. Middle school teenagers, at that, 13 or 14 years old. They’re merciless…you’d better be prepared or they’ll let you know what they think.
Not middle school students now, but I have a self-imposed deadline to meet. I have readers, and some of them let me know they’re waiting for the next book.
I expect much of myself too. I understand that I can do it, I just need to dig down and get the job done.
That’s what I’ve been doing, working my way chapter by chapter through the first half of the new book. As soon as I finished a chapter, I sent it off to my patient editor. We’d be swapping emails, discussing changes, rewriting when I had to. But…
Yesterday I turned the corner. The joy came back. I worked my way through what might have been writer’s block, finally got past that. I wrote two chapters yesterday, one this morning. I’ll write another this afternoon. That’s about 7500 words so far, plus I also edited two chapters for a friend, worked on edits for a chapter of mine, sent off a submission to a marketing firm.
One thing that’s changed: I’m spending less time on Facebook. I usually read news reports, comment often, but I’m resolved that there will be less of that in the coming year.

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?