Monthly Archives: June 2008

A Self-Editing Quiz

Since this is the last post for our June Topic of Self-Editing, I thought I’d throw in a little spelling quiz. One of the major editing problems besides grammar is spelling. Let’s see how well you do.

Directions: Choose which word is spelled correctly.

1.     a. Perserverance                      b. Perseverance

2.     a. Commitment                        b. Committment

3.     a. Label                                   b. Lable

4.     a. Afterwards                          b. Afterwords

5.     a .Costumer                            b. Customer

6.     a. Guard                                  b. Gaurd

7.     a. Grammar                             b. Grammer

8.     a. Next door                            b. Next store

9.     a. Protray                                b. Portray

10.  a. Summary                             b. Summery

11.  a. Vinegarette                           b. Vinaigrette

12.  a. Yurn                                    b. Yearn

13.  a. Abundance                          b. Abundence             

14.  a. Souvenire                            b. Souvenir

15.  a. Unnecessary                        b. Unneccessary

 

Answers:

1.b,2.a,3.a,4.a,5.b,6.a,7.a,8.a,9.b,10.a,11.b,12.b,13.a,14.b,15.a.

 

Join us tomorrow as we begin our new topic for July: Goals.

 

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

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Editing Part 2

I have already given five suggestions on editing your manuscript before sending it out. Here are five others. I hope they will help you create material that is the best you can make it. You owe it to yourself, and to the agents and editors to whom you send the material. Make your work the best it can be!

6. Is there a conclusion to your story? I don’t mean it has to be “happily ever after” but make it as powerful as you can. I once threw a book across the room after I read the last pages. I hated the conclusion but I have never forgotten the book! Ramblings do not a story make. They are simply, well… ramblings.

7. Do you have sub-plots? There should be one major plot in your story with a few sub plots. Your story may be about a boy’s goal to be on the football team. Other sub-plots could be a bully who wants to see he doesn’t make the team. Another could be about his family going through a difficult time because the father has lost his job. Remember, these sub-plots should not be your major emphasis. They are only their to add dimension to your story. Do be careful that you don’t have so many sub-plots that your reader gets confused.

8. Has your protaganist changed by the end of your story? Does she/he learn something, grow in some way, or accomplish some goal? If they do, it leaves the reader more satisfied.

9. Have you tied all the loose ends up? If you write a character into your story who is running for an office in school, you must make some kind of conclusion to this before the story ends. If you don’t your reader will be saying, “But, what about (add name)? Did they win the election? Leaving loose ends frustrates your reader. It can also make them pass on reading any of your other books.

10. Does your story have drama? The likelihood of getting published spike dramatically if you are adept at adding drama and suspense to your story. Go through the chapters of your book. Does the story compel the reader to turn the next page. If not, they probably won’t.

While all these things take time and effort on your part, they are essential to your manuscript being sold. Get sloppy and not edit your material and see how many of those manuscripts wind up in a box in your closet or a drawer of your desk. What a waste of your time and effort that would be!

Editing so I can craft the best story, Gloria

P.S. There are at least three error in this post. Can you find them? If you find more, maybe I should add another to our list. Let someone else read your manuscript to find errors you miss! 😀

 Contributed by Gloria Stockstill

Self-Editing 2

Serious writers are constantly trying to strengthen their weaknesses and even their strengths. Dialogue comes easier to me than many other writing areas, I think perhaps because as a child I carried on countless conversations with imaginary characters in stories from my head. Sometimes I acted out stories from the ever-present library books that filled my room. When I began writing down my stories I wrote as if I were the speaker. The main problem with that is that there was too much similarity in dialogue. Everybody sounded the same, well—like me. Kids pick up on trendy expressions at early ages, and of course we try to avoid the trendy because it is quickly outdated. But even kids have different personalities that we can bring out through dialogue. With dialogue we can “show, don’t tell,” in interesting ways. So in self-editing I make a specific check on these points.

We have to watch the dialogue tags, and try to avoid repetitive patterns. Conversely, being too creative with the tags can be destructive. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the good, old-fashioned, “said.” But I try to vary sentences with characters’ action, making tags sometimes unnecessary. Children need to be reminded more often than adults who the speaker is. Writers of adult novels sometimes goof and lead us astray. I dislike having to come to a stop in my reading and backtrack to see who said what. Several lines of speaker changes in a row can even lead to error, as I recently discovered. Children can become frustrated easier than adults. Another check-point.

I think my most glaring weakness in fiction writing over the years has been in weak characters. As in dialogue, my characters all sounded alike. Writing biographies of my characters was a tremendous help, and having them printed out and propped up where I can glance at them from time to time enables me to keep them the way I painted them. Sometimes new ideas pop into my head that will improve a character, so when I edit I scan my manuscript if I make changes to ensure that I have been consistent. The story itself has been my first thought, but I see now that plot and character are both needed for strong fiction.

When I attended the Northwest Christian Writers’ Conference/Alaskan Cruise in 2007 author James Scott Bell and Harvest House editor Nick Harrison had a pretend debate on which was more important—plot or character. One mentioned Gone With the Wind for the terrific plot. The other replied, “Yes, but where would the book have been without Scarlett O’Hara?” By editing I can ensure my characters are worth reading about. If not, time for a major overhaul!

Another thing we have to watch with characters is how they grow and change by the end of the book. Character change is important, including in a short story, and should be more or less subtle, leaving the reader figuring out the change herself, not a declaration by the author as “So Charlie learned that telling lies was wrong.” Even Scarlett matured and made changes that enhanced her character. And yes, with all the marvelous history and great plot, where would that book have been without her?

I don’t try to delude myself into thinking I can construct another Scarlett O’Hara, but with careful work and even more careful editing, I can bring interesting, funny or thought-provoking characters onto the printed page to bring enjoyment to others, especially children, my favorite readers.

-Contributed by Shirley Shibley

Be Like a Barber and Snip!

Dudley the dog chased his favorite tennis ball. He took a nap in his happy spot—a square of sunshine just in front of his doghouse. He played tag with his friend Cleo the Cat and asked advice from Polly the Parrot who sat on her perch. He practiced how to sit for his lessons at doggy obedience school…

And then the story was done.

How much fun I had creating another story! It was about one of my favorite characters, Dudley, whose antics appear from time to time in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. Now that the story was finished, however, I knew it was time to get out my imaginary scissors and cut. Why? Because the word count for the assignment was 800 words and the story I’d crafted was a whopping 1600.

But hey—that’s a frequent occurrence when I write! Now that it was time for the self-editing stage, I was ready to chop, chop, chop.

Why did I let the story get so long if I already knew my word count? It’s because first I had to tell the story and get it down on paper. Believe me, I kept the word count for this assignment front and center. It helped me not get carried away and write a 5,000 word story! But I also kept the word count issue far enough away from my brain to allow the creative juices to flow and type the story on my computer. That’s often the hardest part of writing—getting the first draft completed and the story told from beginning to end. Still, it’s only the first half of writing. The second half involves self-editing. And for me, that means cutting it down to size.

First I saved the story in its entirety. You never know if one day the same story could be expanded into a longer version—so since I already had that version on my computer, I saved it. This also gave me more freedom to chop since I knew I wasn’t losing my favorite parts forever—just giving it a trim to look good in its magazine market debut.

The first thing I looked for was “chunks.” Any big block of text that I could remove went in one fell swoop. An introductory paragraph that wasn’t really needed to tell the story, a bunny trail about the game of hide-and-seek that Dudley and Cleo played that didn’t really further the plot, and several sentences describing the different antics Dudley did while learning to sit just weren’t necessary. So chop, chop, delete. Away they disappeared into cyberspace. This lowered my word count drastically.

Then I went through and tightened. If I used five words and could say the exact same thing in two, I now did. If dialog seemed a bit wordy, I now tweaked it. From the top of my manuscript to the bottom, I went through and tightened the story as best as I could.

Then I did a paragraph search. I looked at each paragraph by itself. If the paragraph really could be shorter, I cut. If a sentence really wasn’t necessary in that paragraph, I deleted parts of it or even the entire sentence if the paragraph still said what I wanted it to say.

And finally, to cut my last 50 to 100 words, I incorporated the topsy-turvy approach. I started at the bottom of my manuscript and worked my way to the top! Sentence by sentence, I made it my goal to take out one word from each sentence. It’s amazing how effective this technique is.

By the time I was finished, not only did I have a story with the correct word count, now I had a story that was tightly polished and honed to perfection. Dudley looked like he’d been to Paws and Claws for a bath and a trim. He was ready for submission and on his way into the hearts of his readers.

-Contributed by Nancy I. Sanders
Art by Dave Clegg, DUDLEY’S HAPPY MORNING, February 2004, Clubhouse Jr.

How My Characters Help Me Self-Edit

“Hey! I would never say something like that! Don’t you know me by now? I’m the main character in your story.”

“Oops! I did it again. Sorry,” I say. “You’re absolutely right. That was out of character for you. Thanks for reminding me.”

At times I can almost picture my characters standing with arms crossed, scowling at me and saying, “Where did you put my character description list? Forget to post it next to the computer AGAIN? You need to get to know me better if I’m going to be in your book. You’re leaving all the good stuff about me, OUT!”

Editing so that I stay true to the character descriptions I’ve created is a must, but sometimes I slip up. When I do, my characters are quick to remind me that I’ve gone astray. Like my character said, I’ve got a list, and getting to know that list is what makes them “real.” If I pay close attention as I self-edit, I’ll stay on target.

Here are a only a few of the things my list includes:

  • A physical description
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Likes and dislikes (foods, sports, books, etc.)
  • Favorite expressions
  • Special talents
  • Habits or quirks
  • Imperfections
  • Most treasured possessions
  • Serious or funny
  • Leader or follower
  • Daring or cautious
  • Etc., etc., etc.,

After reading through several chapters of a manuscript I’m working on, I was aghast when I realized that my character who loves to crack jokes even in tense moments—DIDN’T!

If my character is one to take a leadership role in scary or dangerous situations, but instead becomes the passive follower, then it’s time for a rewrite. Without it my character will refuse to go on!

If my character keeps a messy room and is mighty proud of it, why would I have him hang his favorite hat carefully on a peg, or line his shoes up at the end of his bed like Mr. Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective? My character description reminds me that he throws all of his hats (even the favored one) in a corner. Another corner is for his pile of shoes! If he’s known to be messy from the start, I can’t portray him as a neat freak in one or more of my chapters.

The characters we create are our friends. If we don’t continue to get to know them, we’ll forget what they’re really like. So, occasionally sit on the grass under a tree with your characters. Drink lemonade together. Talk and laugh, and ask them everything you can think of. Have a great time getting to know your friends (then hurry back inside the house and write it all down on your list!)

Mary was like a little lamb,
her character—meek and mild,
but when I didn’t check my list,
I wrote her loud and wild!

Make your characters and your readers happy. Stay true to your list and you’ll stay true to your characters (who will always help you self-edit.)

Copyright 2008 Sheryl Ann Crawford

A Writer’s Alphabet

Here is the rest of my writer’s alphabet, started on my last post on 6/5/08.

 

N is for Non-Paying Markets…occasionally placing stories and articles with non-paying markets can boost our self-esteem.

O is for Office…right now my office is a disoraganized mess.  How about yours?

P is for Persistence…persistence (and patience!) are the keys to success.

Q is for Query Letters…not much fun to do, but they’re essential…and get results!

R is for Rewrites…all writing is rewriting, so they say, and I actually enjoy it.

S is for SASE…self-addressed, stamped envelope, one of the first rules of free-lancing, although with e-mail, not as crucial as it once was.

T is for Thick…the kind of envelope we don’t  want to see in our mailboxes…it usually means a returned manuscript.

U is for Universal Theme…a story with a universal theme has the best chance selling.

V is for Verb…the backbone of any story…action words make it soar!

W is for Word Count…paying attention to each publication’s specified words is an essential part of writing…and selling.

X is for Xerox…before computers and printers, we depended on Xerox copies.

Y is for Yes…the word we all want to hear about our manuscripts…often!

Z is for Zinger…many stories and articles can be improved by ending with a zinger!

 

I hope you had fun reading this writer’s alphabet.  I enjoyed working on it.

Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

Don’t Edit Your Journal . . . until later

I recently wrote about the Four Steps to Successful Revision. The advice still stands: add, subtract, substitute, rearrange. But it occurs to me that there is another kind of editing that adds an extra dimension to creative writing. The editing of ideas involves instant replay, form, and focus. In my case, it has always started with journaling.

 

Journaling is journeying . . . traveling through introspective space . . . a trip without reservations! When my husband and I traveled, I wrote, and Bob took pictures. I carried a journal (nothing fancy, simply a thick notebook), and I scribbled along as we rattled in questionable transportation along bumpy roads. There was no time for traditional editing. I recorded quick descriptions that consisted of mostly nouns and adjectives. I also wrote directions and necessary details, such as road names, opening and closing times for special stops, and entrance fees. We were, after all, planning Step-by-Step travel books and articles for England, Italy, and other not so familiar places. We had contracts, and up-to-date details had to be collected on the spot.

 

Memories are flighty things, and I often heard fellow travelers ask, “What was that place we visited yesterday?” “What were those spreading trees called?” “Can anybody remember the story about the castle?” We couldn’t afford faulty memory. But details in my journal weren’t enough. That’s why every evening, without fail, we collaborated, practicing instant replay. We talked about the day, tried to recapture moments in time – visions, smells, sounds – before they got away. Remembering, brainstorming, checking the journal for accuracy, and brainstorming again was not easy – or convenient – but it was a must.

 

We discovered that our best, and most easily sold, articles were those that were formed on site. On one trip, we visited the infamous Devil’s Island, the former French penal colony about 11 kilometers off the coast of French Guiana. After hiking from shore to shore through the overgrown jungle, we wanted nothing more than to relax with a cold iced tea, maybe even two. We did get the cool drinks, but we didn’t relax. The island was fresh in memory. Beauty and brutality. Hell in Eden. We sat under a coconut palm and, without even taking out our notes, we began to discuss the feelings, impressions, locations that had assaulted our senses and taken us back in time to when this tranquil place was filled with sickness and pain. A rough outline emerged (form). Then we brought out the journal and compared our memories to what I had written on the spot. These memories served as fillers, the joints that connected the whole. But the meat of the story, the focus, was in the emotion of the moment.

 

Of course, we used traditional editing methods. But I believe that editing our ideas by zeroing in on instant replay (recalling sensory experiences that captured moments in  time), form (using journal memories to connect emotional impressions with factual details), and focus (finding the heart of the story) was what made the difference between a journal entry and an article in print.

 

Contributed by Marilyn Donahue