Tag Archive: editing


A little bit of potted “wisdom” based on my own experience of receiving edits and critiques

When confronted with edits, you invariably won’t like what the editor has suggested. They may have changed the meaning, or the tone of a sentence in a way you don’t like. But, don’t get upset or angry over it (or not for too long, anyway), because you don’t have to accept their solutions.

Instead, take a step back and look for why they thought the edit was needed. Figure out the problem they were trying to address. You might not agree there is a problem. In which case reject the change and fight your corner. You have your own reasons for wanting it that way and so long as you can justify it to yourself there are no wrong ways of writing.

More likely you’ll see where they were coming from, and while you don’t like their idea of how to fix it, you’ll agree with the need for a fix. Often, in these situations, a better solution will jump out at you. It might even be a sentence that you’d struggled with before, and seeing their suggestion will trigger something in you and you’ll suddenly figure it out.

So, when you receive edits you don’t agree with, don’t get emotional, get to work. Unpack each edit and let it guide you, one way or another, to improving your writing.

On Author Voice vs Editors


What is your author voice? How do you develop it and bring it to the fore?

It’s a tricky question and one many authors struggle with. I myself struggle to reconcile what I know to be good writing practice with injecting distinction and personality into my writing.

I went to a fantastic seminar at the Hay Festival earlier this year, which really helped me explore the notion. The crux of the seminar, hosted by the BBC Writer’s Room,  was “first, know yourself, then, put yourself in the writing”. Easier said than done, granted, but it’s a starting point. The goal is to achieve “specific” and “distinctive” writing, and avoid “bland”. Bland is bad.

What I’ve been trying to do to meet this challenge is go with my gut instinct a little more. Rather than strictly following the “rules”, I’m trying to go with what I feel works best, especially where I can pinpoint why I feel that way.

Red pen editingI felt like I was making progress on the concept of author voice vs technique, but recently I had a little setback.

I submitted a short story for a collaborative anthology and got some edits back to consider. Now, really, I ought to be happy with the fact there were only a few small edits per page. I know this. I should be ecstatic. Some of the edits were genuine mistakes and I was happy to accept these, but the rest, well. It almost felt like they targeted everything I’d purposely done to make the piece more interesting and more distinctly me. Here’s some examples:

  • There were a number of adjectives deleted as superfluous. I tend to use them sparingly anyway, so where I have used an adjective it’s because I wanted to enforce a point, make something stand out.
  • There was one particular place where I’d used “then” at the beginning of a paragraph, on purpose, to give a stronger sense of a break from what came before it. I could have gone for “But, then,” but I thought “then” was enough. What I didn’t want, as the editor has suggested, was to continue the action without that pause to actively draw attention to the difference between the before and after, and the fact that the after has alleviated the before.
  • What probably disappointed me most was the re-wording of a couple of past continuous sentences to past perfect. If I’ve used past continuous it’s because I want to convey a sense of continuous action or movement! The two tenses are different and one is not inherently better than the other.

When I first started out, these types of things could be found all over my early, amateurish work, and I learned to look out for them. In fact, I became quite hung up on them. I would strip out any adverbs that crept in, stick to past perfect unless I absolutely couldn’t see a way around using another tense and I would search my work for “was”, “then”, “just” and a bunch of other “banned” words. Passive voice? Nope, not allowed.

At first it was a great way to improve my writing, but after a while it started to turn my writing into something I didn’t recognise as mine. Obviously I understand the need not to flood my writing with such things, but everything was coming out the same and I didn’t know how to inject that sense of character or author voice into it. If we all rigidly stuck to the same rules all writing would be the same.

Which is where the advice from the seminar and my own realisations come in; I needed to relax and go with the flow. This piece was one of the first where I’d put that philosophy into practice. So, having the things I would previously have hunted out myself, but actively chose to keep in, picked up on by someone else undermined my confidence a little. Perhaps I was going at this the wrong way?

Thankfully, at the same time as wrong footing me the feedback gave me the opportunity to analyse the examples. No writer can ask for anything more than the chance to think things through from a fresh angle and learn from every setback. I took the story away and went through each and every edit in detail and found a way to improve the problem sentence or paragraph. I can honestly say the result was a better piece of writing.

Camp NaNoWriMo – update

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 official posterIt’s two thirds of the way through April and Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m slightly behind on my targets. Although I’m not technically behind on average, I have less time to write over the next week and a half, so hitting my 60,000 word goal is going to be a stretch. Nevertheless I shall give it my best shot.

The re-write of my novel Mime is progressing well. I have a clear list of the missing material that I’ve made good progress checking off. I did however want to be further ahead with re-writing scenes which need major changes by this stage.

My additional challenges of 30 pieces of micro-fiction and 3 short stories have received less attention. I’ve had less time to write than I’d hoped this month and my priority has always been the novel edits.

I’ve got a much better idea of my concentration levels and the amount I can get done in any one sitting. Going forward I think a more modest 30,000 target for each month will be very achievable and give me something to aim for outside of NaNoWriMo.

Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo? How are you doing? Do you think you’ll reach your goal? What have you learned during the process?

My main goal for Camp NaNoWriMo is to spend at least 50 hours editing my novel, Mime. I currently have an incomplete rough draft of 70,000 words.

Now I say edit, but a more accurate term might be revise, more accurate still might be re-write but let’s stick with revise. Whichever the case, 70k is a lot of material to work with. It takes me several hours just to read through it.

My strategy, as advocated in Theodore A. Rees Cheney’s Getting the Words Right, will be to start at the macro scale and work down to the micro scale. I don’t intend to get to the micro scale within April, but the strategy is the same.

Here, in all it’s nerdy glory, is my plan. Complete with weekly buzzwords.

WEEK 1 – RE-STRUCTURE

  • Identify the major changes that need to happen and start moving things into place.
  • Start filling in the gaps with new material.
  • Start marking up the material with smaller changes to be implemented later.
  • Create a new outline which reflects the new structure.

Week 1 objective

To have a strong idea of the final structure and how to achieve it, and to have started making the required changes.

 

WEEK 2 – REBUILD

  • Finish implementing the major changes identified in week 1.
  • Focus on drafting new material to fill in the gaps.
  • Progress with marking up the smaller issues.

Week 2 objective

To have a substantially complete draft with a clear plan to generate the remaining material.

 

WEEK 3 – CONSOLIDATE

  • Finish drafting incomplete or missing scenes.
  • Focus on resolving issues created by the re-structuring process and smoothing transitions.
  • Take another look at pacing and make changes to fix any major issues.
  • Continue marking up problem areas.

Week 3 objective

To have a complete draft with no missing scenes or awkward transitions. The novel should now be one complete piece, ready for more detailed editing.

 

WEEK 4 – IMPROVE

  • Work through the new draft focusing on the smaller issues identified earlier.
  • Improve character voice, scene tension and overall pacing.
  • Edit for sentence structure, style, grammar and spelling.
  • Create a new chapter structure.

Week 4 objective

To have a complete, revised draft in which most issues have been addressed if not resolved. This draft should be ready for review.

Camp NaNoWriMo - Finding our Stories

Do you have a plan to acheive your camp goals? How are you going to break it down?

There’s less than 1 week until writing starts at Camp NaNoWriMo!

My challenge during April

  • 50 hours of editing time on my novel, Mime
  • 10k words of new material in the form of short stories, to include…
  • 30 pieces of micro fiction

That’s a whole lot of work but I am really determined to do it.

I’m working hard to clear my schedule as much as I can to give myself the best chance. Nevertheless, April will still include The Day Job,  a family visit, a two-day road trip and the start of a 7-week writing course. So a clear schedule is a relative thing in my book. Key days for me will be Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

A big part of making time will be to pre-load as much content as I can on my blogs.

Over the next six days I have 5 pre-camp goals to achieve

1. Prepare a plan of action.

2. Re-familiarise myself with my manuscript by reading it through.

3. Prepare a tracking spreadsheet.

4. Get into the habit of working whenever I have time and start recording that time.

5. Organise my computer files, back ups and paper notes.

How are you preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNoWriMo - Finding our Stories

%d bloggers like this: