Tag Archives: editing

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?

Nanowrimo/ NaBloPoMo/ Why so many November writing tasks?


Well, but of course, I have to do both…

So here’s my first of November blog about my first of November writing for Nanowrimo…

It seems like November is a good time of year for focused writing. Perhaps it’s the gloom setting in, the threat of winter, the darkening skies, the reversal of daylight saving time. It feels (in the Northern hemisphere) like it’s time for hunkering down, curling up with a pot of tea, and thrashing out some words. Any words. Good words, powerful words, words that prefer to lie flat, words that want to end in -ly no matter how you try.

One wonders, sometimes, how much utter dreck is created in the urge to complete tasks. I know, for example, that my Nanowrimo stuff tonight will be  a wasteland of first draftiness. Most of it will be tossed onto the floor and crushed with extreme prejudice, as they say, whoever THEY are. This blog entry is no doubt going to be rather dreary as well, I can already tell.

I’ve spent the day in training for leading the Stanford University course (the local iteration) on Chronic Disease Self-Management, you see. A whole day reviewing how to set goals and how to be physically active. A whole day sitting in a room talking about managing a chronic disease when all of us had one and really needed to move/lie down/sleep/exercise. We have three more days like this coming, and the leaders cheerfully tell us, “Oh, Day 3 is the WORST. It’s all lectures and you’ll have trouble staying awake.”

So, ya gotta wonder, who put together the course in this way? My chronic disease is demanding some care and feeding. Already.

My only hope is that the extra hour of sleep on Sunday will bail me out and keep me from saying something I shouldn’t. I have a tendency to lose my inner monologue when tired. Things that I thought I was saying in my head come right out of my mouth and lie there like toads of the poisonous variety.

But I’m determined to keep writing despite this, to put in my time to get those 2000 words done a day for Nanowrimo and here. Why? Well, I like a challenge. I hate to be beat. And I know I will need to write after talking all day. My brain will need emptying.

So, off I go, tra la, to empty my mind into my novel. Maybe there’ll be some gold among the dross. Good luck fellow November writers!

PS: for those who want to do editing after Nanowrimo, I just found a great editing site if you are feeling wealthy after all the house spent typing and not eating or entertaining or going out… Autocrit editing wizard. You can try out 500 word segments a day for free. It catches all your over-used words, clichés, adverbs, etc. Worth a look. I might just invest myself. Apparently it finds the word “just” so you can take it out…

Editing with the Kindle (or other ereader, I would imagine)


http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/19/editing-kindle/

Another blog well worth following!

Mental Health Days


Before I went back to work, when I was spending my days playing with my kids and doing seemingly endless piles of laundry and arbitrating fights and driving people all over the place, every once and awhile, I’d see that we were getting stressed to the max with school and other commitments. So I’d give us all a mental health day. I’d call the schools, tell them that the kids were sick, and we’d all lounge around in our pyjamas all day and watch Disney movies and eat popcorn and just be messy all day.
It was lovely, especially in the depths of winter when it was too much trouble to get dressed for the weather some days. It’d be -40 or something and the thought of wrapping all of us in the required 10 layers was too much.
Or we’d all be tired and grumpy and a holiday day was a welcome respite for all of us.
I loved those days. Mind you, I loved excuses to play hooky with the kids anytime.

My novel

I still like the playing hooky days, but they are creeping to an end. I have a novel to brush up for June 1st. It needs its hair done, some primping, a lot of education about tenses and structure and plot and characterizations and all that.
What I really want to do is tell it to play hooky with me, to just sit around with it and talk to it and have fun and share secrets. A lot of my writing happens this way.
Every once an awhile, though, I need to tell it to get tidied up and presentable. Like my kids, my novel isn’t all that keen to take to work. It likes being messy.
One of my sons used to live in a pile of his precious items. We argued over it, and I finally told him he needed to tidy it up one day a week so I could vacuum and such and thus prevent bug infestation. He grudgingly agreed. He’d tidy it all up, I’d whip the vacuum through, and within five minutes, it’d be all layered again, looking just the same as before, but less dusty.
It worked for us. He felt more comfortable in the clutter.
Maybe I can tell my novel this – tidy up now, just til June 1st, and then we can play-write again, wallow around in our mental pyjamas, vegetate. I don’t think it’s buying it, though. I think it knows now is the time to grow up.
No more mental health days, not for the moment.
Dang.
On the good side, I can dress in my writer clothes, which are designed to prevent me from being seen in public. Comfy, messy, unattractive. All good.
Time to get to work.
Now, I just need a little Queen to inspire me…