Connect the Dots – Editing Tip

First draft writing is a blast. For me, it’s usually full steam ahead, word count racking up, while I’m in a cloud of creative bliss. Except, for those moments when there’s a the screech of brakes and I’m staring at the screen pecking out a word here, a word there, back spacing more than entering.
It’s the flag on the play for me. Time to stop and back track. How did I get into this dead corner?
This situation is not only a first draft problem, it is second, third draft problem. Any time in early editing where wrinkles in the plot are still being ironed out (as opposed to improving sentence structure, filling in emotion, description, nourishing a solid story).
The cause for me is typically related to trying to connect scenes, going from point A to point B and getting lost in the process.
For example, my two main characters, Maisey and Tyler have just been taken against their will (again) and have been locked in a basement rec room. I’ve been languishing over their time stuck in this place trying to build a sense of impending doom but also taking the opportunity to have them bond, reflect on the previous events and put them in position for the next big scene. When the red flag was thrown, i.e. I couldn’t get in the flow and pretty much hate everything I’ve managed to type, I took the necessary steps. Cut right to the chase, a few sentences that build suspense, a few of Maisey and Tyler maybe about to have a moment, then boom, right into the next crisis. What a relief to get past that road block. I just need to trust, that action and drama trump prose that starts to feel like characters are living normal, pain free lives. Honestly, “Kill Words” is not a literary novel. It’s commercial fiction with I hope some depth that raises it above silly, entertainment. It needs to keep moving along and weave intensity around the action which is a skill of its own.

So here’s the point of this post, if your story seems stuck between scenes, or there’s a ‘dead’ scene loaded with character interaction and what may seem as essential scaffolding to the next scene, consider cutting it all out. Connect from A to B directly. Try it. See how the story reads (recommend putting it aside for a few days). If you’re excited again about what’s happening and unstopped the plug, write on!

Counting on Success

Repost due to yesterday’s glitch

I’m a numbers person. Not math, strings of numbers. It gives me pleasure when a number is assigned to a record by the system and it has order like, 828928, or if I look at the clock and it says:11:11. Don’t get me started on dates. Every month last year, the month plus 20/20 made me want to check a box. I don’t make much of this wacky joy. There are so many things to bring worry and anxiety, why look too deeply into something that puffs a little positivity my way?
It’s easy though to get caught up in the numbers game with blogging. How many ‘likes’ on a post, how many followers, how many posts in a month? Keep it light, keep it fun, that’s what I say.
I’m preparing a query letter for my current WIP and I really want to get it right. Writing query letters is as strenuous as writing beginnings of novels for me. I revise a thousand times and still go back and read it a week later and want to spit for how terrible it sounds. I can’t even get out of the gate with a few sentences that show case how great the story is if someone reads to at least page fifteen. I’ve tried cutting straight to page fifteen with marginal success. Anyway, off topic.
Numbers. In my study on a better query I came across a chart of expected word count for the type of novel I’m pitching. This particular article said it should be 80-90K. Forget the query, I need another fifteen thousand words! If I don’t have the word count right, that could be the end of my query even if I manage to nail the three sentence summary.
Adding fifteen thousand words does not make me sick, not at all. I’ve learned that if I carefully read through my story, I will find great big gaps that in my haste to get through to the next scene, I’ve summarized without realizing it. It’s happened so many times that even though I was sure I had the best final draft (before a professional editor gets ahold of it), there are pockets of story missing.
Did Tyler and Maisey really just walk up to the car and boom someone came behind them with chloroform saturated clothes? So quick, so easy to get them in the clutches of their enemies. There’s a nugget of five thousand words to push in there. Now if I could just stop cutting words from the beginning, I might one day get it right!

Anyone notice yesterday’s wonderful date? 012121. So nice.

Did you see yesterday’s post at Entylerywords?

NaNoWriMo 2020 Novel – A Walk Through Editing

At 40K words, I shared my opening paragraph of my NaNoWriMo novel – “Kill Words” . Below I have shown it again and explained the edits I have made so far. The first sentence of a novel is hugely important but the first paragraph in my opinion is usually the ‘make or break’ that determines if a reader goes on reading. That is the case for myself. When I open a “Look Inside” on Amazon, if the tone and intrigue is not there in the first paragraph, I’m not likely to go on. Sometimes I’ll open a random chapter and see if it catches me, but not often.

BEFORE Edit; First Draft, opening paragraph:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

The Edits and why:

Removed – “The revered matriarch of the family” – Telling; I don’t need to state this; that is clear by what follows.

Removed – “They called her Gerty,” – Telling; it works better to just start calling her “Grandma Gerty”

Changed- “I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes” – ‘I guess’ is soft compared to the revision ‘the truth is” since this is establishing the character’s belief and state of mind; it needs to be stronger.  ‘even then’ not as defined as ‘when I was born’ – again this is a judgement she feels she’s been under from day one; a key point to make.

Changed – “She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens” – the sound of ‘upstanding citizens’ seemed out of character voice and telling. Adding in how grandma herself was a success (a point needed further in the story) works better.

Changed the accomplishments of some of grandma’s children to be more descriptive — this all may get cut; still on the fence if it pulls the reader out of the story. Let me know what you think.

Added in another statement of the character’s main concern in life at the start of the novel. This of course drastically changes!

AFTER Editing opening paragraph:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

I hope you have found this editing session helpful in your own editing adventures. Let me know what you think. You’ve “Looked Inside”. Do I need to edit again?

Hangers for Sale

Minimalist thoughts hiding in the closet

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’m in a phase where I want to set free anything I have that I don’t really need or really want. Maybe it’s a side effect of 2020. I’m working remotely three days a week and those I go in for, the dress is mega- business casual. It’s caused me to look around and ask why did I feel I needed all this stuff? It’s amazing how perspective can change just by taking a break from the ordinary. Of course, writer’s know this. Every time I put a WIP away for a time, I catch a new vision of where it can go. I’ve applied this new view to my office at work. I accumulated all kinds of stuff that apparently I don’t need because I only have access to it twice a week. That was just the beginning. Naturally the next wilderness of excess was my closet. I looked around and decided to challenge myself to pick fifteen articles of clothing to donate. 

Now, you all need to keep in my mind I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to clothes. Once upon a time I did not have fifteen items and most of what I did have were hand me downs or thrift shop specials. 

So once I could afford to buy more than what I need, that’s what I did. Years later if it was good quality or I remember it was a super good deal, I had a hard time getting rid of it even if it didn’t fit anymore or I wasn’t sure if I liked the look. Well with fresh eyes, I didn’t stop at fifteen. 

I’m not going to say it’s liberating because really things are not the reason we keep ourselves bound, however, clearing out what doesn’t serve any purpose does allow space to mentally breath better.  

The key is not to get high off of the initial thrill of having less stuff. That fades fast. It is what I kept that gives me the greatest joy. Each item has been selected for a reason. Some I know will only last a season and then they’re gone. Some are in for the long haul, good quality, rarely used, but I never want to have to buy again. Others I’ve had in my wardrobe for years and they still get the job done, sweaters, a pair of black pants that never look old and always fit no matter what weight I am (I’m wondering if they’re magic – sounds like a story) and slinky jacket that turns any dress into evening-ware. The goal is not to be minimalist but elitist, only the best and most loved stay.  You know where I’m going with this! What would happen if right now, that word, scene, or character that you’ve gotten used to seeing in your work was set aside? Would you miss it? Try it with your possessions, do it with your writing.