Tag Archives: editing

Creating a book map


https://plottr.com/features/

As a determined pantser writer, I resist the outline and prefer to thrash out a mini version of my opus in the format of the 3DayNovelContest. Then, once I get it all down, I go back and create a structure around the blathering I’ve just completed. It takes a long time, but eventually I get everything laid out.

With my latest book, Spit and Polish, I found I was getting mired down in the historical tidbits and varied storylines. I had my main character’s arc, but it was…thin. I needed some other story arcs to wind about it to make the plot and characters more dimensional.

So I logged in to Plottr, something I highly recommend for this sort of thing. They have a variety of templates of story structures in the program that guide where you put events, show you where you need events, indicate whereabouts crises and climaxes and resolutions and so forth should fall. It is infinitely adaptable, has separate sections for character descriptions, location descriptions (good for if you forget what that place looks like by page 50), other notes, research, images, etc. You can create timelines for each character or even local/world events, helpful when writing historical novels. It is fantastically rich, though I wish I could easily print off the timeline.

Normally I use Scrivener for all things writing related. It’s way cool, and allows for separation of your project into sections that can be easily moved about or edited, and even eventually compiles all your precious thoughts into an acceptable format for submission. But I find the timeline feature of Plottr was terrifically helpful to have open along with Scrivener so I could slot in various events (historical, for ex) and then take them down to Scrivener to write the actual section. There are note cards in Scrivener, but I wanted a timeline that wasn’t all included in the text.

In Jane Friedman’s excellent blog, she recommends creating a book map for both fiction and non-fiction. The article, and indeed everything on the blog, is worth a read. Book maps help keep you from the dreaded middle languishing, a common problem with longer works. I’d like to have a plot wall with stickies all over it as illustrated on the blog, but a. I live in an apartment with limited wall space and b. I have tiny T-Rex arms that limit my reach and don’t relish all the step-stool climbing I’d have to do to include everything. So Plottr and a second display it is.

In other software I find helpful, I am seriously in love with ProWritingAid as it finds all of the times I write the same phrase, identifies my tendency to passive voice, catches my bad typing, and tells me gently when I’ve started the past several sentences the EXACT SAME WAY. It gets pushy, sometimes, and occasionally I have to push back to maintain my voice, but it’s a good serious look at what I’ve written.

Sweetly, all of these programs can work together, though it’s best to start with Plottr, go to Scrivener, run everything through ProWritingAid, then back to Scrivener or Word for assembly. With my pantser approach, I go back from the first Scrivener round to Plottr, which can get confusing. I plan to change that approach for my next book. Maybe it will save me some time.

So why not try a book map for your next writing project, if you aren’t already? I have to admit, a book map sounds more fun than an outline. It seems more adventurous somehow…like you are heading somewhere exciting with dragons around the edges…

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Cutting cutting cutting


Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

It seems to me a lot of my life is spent cutting – physically, as I clip threads and cloth, virtually as I edit my writing and try to help others with theirs. I like to to throw a bunch of material on a table, pull off a long stretch of fibre, toss as many words around as possible.

Trimming at first seems easier, once the ideas are in place. But that’s deceptive. It’s easy to end up with too much to handle, to have threads and yarns and stories get tangled in knots as you try to work with them. Teasing out sense from the resulting mess can take longer than choosing words, threads, fabric properly the first time. Hard to do when you are just learning, difficult habits to break even as you gain experience. Thank heavens for editing, and the chance to rework.

Just ran across an excellent article by Jason Hamilton with the Kindlepreneur folks, listing the words you can and should minimize if you want to be read (writing for yourself is always a good idea, but some of us don’t feel validated until our reading is read by others and cheered or booed), and it threw a bit of salt on my writing wounds. I just know I simply use too many of these words all the time, repeatedly, inappropriately, and when I sit down at my computer I can hear them trying to escape into my writing. (as they just have, by way of an example).

“Just” is a pernicious weed in my writing. I pluck it out, it creeps back in. I overuse “felt”. Looking over my recent creation my ever helpful ProWritingAid told me I had my poor heroine say, “She couldn’t help herself” do something many many times, surely not the approach I wanted for a strong female character!

I have trained myself to flinch at adverbs, but I kindof like playing with run-on sentences. They are dangerous friends, though, easily transforming themselves into sets of wrongly linked clauses. Unplanned hilarity can result. And while I am all for unplanned hilarity, it is hardly appropriate in a death scene. Well, most of the time.

And so, and so, like the boy in Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, I must grab my Vorpal sword, gird my loins, and get cutting.

One, two! One, two! And through and through 

      The vorpal blade went (goes) snicker-snack! 

It’s going to take me awhile, and golly I do wish I hadn’t sent my inelegant MS out to be looked over already. I have hopes, though, that one day, like the aforesaid boy, I’ll be able to cheer “Oh frabjous day! Callow! Callay!” and chortle in my joy.

And maybe, just maybe (she says, violating already her hard fought principles) someone else will chortle with me.

(On a side note, I highly recommend ProWritingAid. It catches the most amazing things, like when I start every sentence in a paragraph with the same thing, or when I babble on vaguely. It’s worth the investment, IMHO. Of course nothing helps more than a good editor, an outside set of eyes, particularly an understanding set. If you’re looking for one, check out Somewhat Grumpy Press, where I work with another great editor to help others avoid these problems and others.)

Happy writing!

Learning Editing


I’ve recently decided to use my writing and editing experience and years and years of writing classes and conferences to start a side hustle of editing. Well, it’s not really a side hustle. Since I’ve been sidelined by MS, my regular hustles have faded into the mists of time, and while I’m just finishing up my second novel, that doesn’t bring in the millions I’d envisioned as a writer in grade 4. Royalties are somewhat less…

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So editing will have to be a main hustle.

I’m the sort who wants to ensure I have the right qualifications to do a job, so I’ve been taking classes from the Editorial Freelancers Association, and I’d like to highly recommend them. They make my brain kick over and that’s a good thing.

Those of you who do editing know how lovely it can be to edit someone’s writing who writes well. Just a couple of nudges here and there, mainly facilitated by the fresh set of eyes, and it’s all happiness and light. I love that.

But editing the bad writer – well, I’ve had experience with that, too, and it isn’t as happy as the above. It’s so hard to apply correction without sounding like that Grade 8 teacher who demanded you copy their discussion exactly. It’s also hard not to take over sometimes, try to fix things, especially when the writer you are working with is begging you to do so.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

I edited a friend’s book recently and inserted in the document this comment, “Consider adding more to this activity to raise the tension”, only to get the revised document back with my exact words typed into that space. Sigh.

Of course this is an easy way to see whether the author you are working with actually is reading your comments, I suppose. And there is the joy of taking a manuscript forward to make it better, especially when the writer sees it themselves and charges forward on their own. I love that, too.

In any case, this course I’m taking on Developmental Editing has given me all sorts of tips about how to tackle stories good and bad. It’s changing my own novel, too, as I apply the techniques to it. I’m adding the things I’m learning to those I’ve gathered from my existing experience writing several published articles and stories, editing several novels, and judging contests for Bony Blithe, the 3day Novella, Atlantic Writing Competition, and more. Outside of my fiction work, I’ve written and edited non-fiction, research reports, press releases and media campaigns. I’m also a retired nurse and epidemiologist.

Need some writing edited? I’d love to help you out! Contact me at dorothyanneb at gmail.com or through Somewhat Grumpy Press.

Taking editing in the spirit in which it’s intended, or Humber week three


rocks1-2Back many years ago, I used to work for a boss who was capable of rendering me incoherent. I don’t know what it was, but when I would bring something I’d written into her office, she’s cut and thrash all of what I’d done and I’d go all quiet and destroyed and sad and broken and, silent, head back to my humble desk and plot revenge. In a passive aggressive way.

I was a published writer, I thought to myself. I had the clips to show for it. I wrote regularly for the US ARMY Times, I had articles in magazines all over. How dare she tell me how to write??? The gall.

But after a while, I realized she was right. I wasn’t writing in the right style. I was sloppy and overconfident. She edited and edited and I learned and learned. Eventually I learned to take criticism, to sacrifice my darlings without a qualm. Mind you, when I was sending things in to the magazines I was pretty easy about things, too, but they were paying me for my story and I was so over the moon I smiled and thanked them even as I signed over copyright in perpetuity for $100.

It was harder when I was writing stuff for work – for some reason it seemed more serious and I hated losing control of my output.

Later, I had the pleasure/dread of editing for others. It’s so easy to find a way to write things better, so hard to find a way to say things for the first go-round. It was hard to restrain myself editing for others, and I tried to remember how it felt when I’d get my things back covered in corrections. Not always successfully.

So this Humber thing is an interesting experience. I asked my mentor to be firm with me. I respect her, and love her writing. I want true feedback from her. So I’ve sent in a few things so far, and she’s been firm with me. Or so it seems…

I admit to a certain feeling of despair when I get my writing back covered with corrections, but on the other hand, I’m totally thrilled. I’m getting exactly what I wanted from this program, not false praise or that “great job!” stuff that is so common in writing programs, but real, good, concrete advice.

I also know I have a lot of work to do. What fun! Looking forward to it.

Maybe I’m growing up at last.

Indie publishing from the owner of Smashwords


http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/61116-hugh-howey-and-the-indie-author-revolt.html

Interesting article in Publisher’s Weekly about the ongoing increase in indie publishing.

Key points:

– professional editor

– professional cover design

and key to all:

– great story!

Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths


Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths.

Excellent post by Jane Friedman. Writers should subscribe.

Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published


Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published.

Wonderful blog post with all sorts of good info and links. Fantastic job!

So, how do you DO a good murder (story) these days, anyway?


I remember once having a lengthy and somewhat gruesome chat about how you would dispose of a body in these recycling focused days. Would you drop it by the medical school? Dissect it and put the hip joints and such in either the plastic or metal recycling containers? Take the head and the mercury fillings to the harmful waste dump day?

It’s a conundrum.

Likewise, how do you learn to write about murder most foul? Merely calling up your local cop shop and asking for tips  might lead to awkward questions and notes home from school asking you to please not offer to chaperone the next field trip. Calling a local psychiatrist and pretending to be a psychopath isn’t recommended, either – unfortunately, so much psychiatry is based on first impressions you might end up with way too much time to write and too many drugs to be coherent.

The obvious choice is to read read read read mysteries, following the excellent (if somewhat dry) Francine Prose’s guidelines to Reading like a writer. Well, I’ve done that, and I have a problem with that approach.

If the mystery is good, I get all wrapped up in the story and race through, barely noticing the plot techniques while I get pulled along. If it’s bad, I only notice the things that hold it up, ruin the credibility.

OHI0129-CritiqueRule1I remember once being so disenchanted with a book that I dropped everything to see if the plant the author had described actually grew in the place she’d put it. (It didn’t).

I know a book has missed the mark for me when I get that fussy.

So I take courses, rub up against “real” writers, shop my stuff to contests and unsuspecting friends, try to get critiqued. This last bit is harder than it looks. Even in writing groups, there’s the tendency to be nice.

Or horrified.

One of my stories involved a pedophile that I apparently described so well that people didn’t want to read my stuff anymore. So I had to play nicey nicey and write nicey stuff for a bit.

Inside, the seething dark looms.horrifiedwoman

So, instead, I send things to contests. The ones that give you feedback. I figure I’m paying someone my entry fee to have a close, uninvolved reader have a look.

Sometimes the feedback is useful, sometimes it’s just a line or two.  Sometimes it is harsh, sometimes it’s helpful. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to turn it around and offer my comments on other’s writing. I can only hope I’m the helpful type.

In the meantime, I’ve had help from:

Gotham Writer’s Workshop

Crime Writers of Canada

Sisters In Crime

Bloody Words

Canadian Authors Association

and my favourite resource for ways to kill people and those awkward dinner table silences:

D.P. Lyle. Check out his books. Best way to find stuff out without getting asked questions you can’t answer…

It’s almost National Crime Writing Month!


Now, finally, a blog topic that won’t involve endless self-examination and revelation and such. Phew.

Because I haven’t done any crimes.

Okay, I remember ONE TIME where I stole something. I was in grade 5. I STILL feel guilty about it. Ashamed, bad, totally awful. I’d make amends to the harmed party but I am too embarrassed to admit I did it.

So picture what would happen if I killed someone?

As it is, even a gentle thought crossing my mind about whether I’d like to kiss someone or potentially push them under a car – well, it’s all printed on my face. I’d never be able to lie about myself.

As a nurse and a writer, though, I can lie about other people. Thank heavens. Even if the lie is, ultimately, the truth – or at least it would be if I write as well as I hope.

In the meantime, head on over to the National Crime Writing Blog by the Crime Writers of Canada, and read how some pros handle criminous thinking/writing/acting. It’ll be worth your time…

And that’s no crime….

Overwhelmed with reading others’ writing


In Desiderata, the author tells us to avoid comparing ourselves with others as it will leave us either vain or bitter – there will always be those greater and lesser than ourselves.

How right, how true. Especially when it comes to writing.

Sometimes I wander through a bookstore or see what books are being launched every week and am humbled, defeated by all those wonderful stories out there that others are telling much better than I ever could. My writing seems unnecessary except to me, unimportant, wasteful of time and resources. My friends, when they see me in despair, say “why are you doing this, anyway?”, and then there’s always Dorothy Parker and her advice to tell budding writers to give it up while they are still happy.
I become bitter by turns, think hateful thoughts about successful authors, grumble to myself.

And then I read some stories and can feel glee and schadenfreude creeping over me.
“Oh, this is perfectly horrid,” I think. ” I KNOW I write better than THIS!”
Suddenly I feel inspired, right to write, even feel I must write if only to help repair the damage done to literature by these sloppy attempts.

I sway between these points, always awash in despair or joy. Madness.

But can I share a pet peeve?
I am so so tired of people thinking that merely putting things down on paper is writing. That it requires no practice or training or editing or research or even (gasp) reading.
Sheesh.
Sure, there’s such thing as inspiration. I have that a lot. It’s easy to come up with little ditties.
Putting together a coherent story?
Well, that takes practice and damn hard work.

I am agog with admiration at those who succeed at this. And frustrated beyond belief by people who throw a few words down on a plate like a pile of spaghetti and think they are on the same level.

Not that I haven’t done some of that myself, mind you. I apologize to all of you out there who have had to read my messes. You have my sympathy.

But hey, for a moment, didn’t you think, even to yourself, how happy you were about your writing, in contrast to mine?