Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tips To Help Shape Up Your Manuscript

This is some of the hardest work any writer confronts - Rewriting and Editing, but there are some methods you can use to help you stay focused and work through with a continuous hand.  First off, I am not a teacher or a paid professional coach, I just know what works best for me, and used advise I was given from various sources.

Most of us do free writing on the first draft.  This is when we let our imagination go wild, and we let our 'muse' do its best.  Many writers use NaNoWriMo for this first draft, and it helps to keep focused on result.  You can do this yourself anytime, by setting up word count objectives each day.

After we finish the first draft we have a mess of jumbled up ideas.  You can at this point go to an editor to make sure your story thread rings true, but you still have to do the rework yourself.

Now pull up your sleeves and work through your draft.  If you went to an editor consider all their points as you rewrite.  Don't be afraid to delete where appropriate, and add where more information is needed.
Here are some steps I try to follow:
  • Read your entire manuscript through once without stopping, and then set aside for it to incubate a day or so.
  • Go back and make a complete outline of each character - know who they are and how they react, what they like, dislike, do and say.  If you did this already with the draft's outline, revisit to make sure you caught everything.  Some things may have developed as you wrote the draft, and need to be added.
  • Go back to manuscript and read it out loud, one chapter at a time, to make sure it sounds correct, especially when it comes to dialog, and fix wherever needed so your true character rings through.  Make notes where you need to change things.
  • Go back again, and make sure each chapter has the correct tension, using a set goal with actions that lead to a disaster or some form of hook to keep the reader wanting more.
  • If you do not use Scrivener or some form of software with outline capabilities, use the board approach for this part.  If not, then consider creating an excel sheet to track each scene, and list the main idea for each scene - by doing this you can see how the entire piece works and flows.
  • When you have the scenes outlined by goal - reactions - disaster/hook, look it over and see where you might need to add tension or details to keep the flow smooth, and the tension correct.
Go back to manuscript again, this time looking for offenses some of us (including me) most often have scattered throughout:
  • Watch out for head hopping (jumping from one person's thoughts to another) and make sure the POV for each scene is only one person.
  • Correct verb tenses, make sure everything is consistent.  This gets tricky if you are using flashbacks etc.
  • If you have used a spell checker in your document, go through again manually.  Sometimes a word is spelled correct but its the wrong word, (like of instead of off).  Some say this works best if you go backwards and start at end - I think you just need to proceed slowly and don't read, just look.
This so far has gotten you to a pretty good place, and you hopefully have read through your manuscript at least half a dozen times by now.  - This is the point where your may want to go to an editor again.  Put it aside for awhile - and then after a week or so.

YOU GUESSED IT - go back and read your manuscript again, this time with a highlighter and pencil, if you have it printed.  I like to do a quick conversion to an eBook format, and then I read in my reader and use the highlight feature of my kindle or Ipad.  (anyone can do this with Calibre or similar software)  Highlight anything that sounds out of sorts, make notes (you won't remember).  Then go back to your manuscript and make the changes.  For this part I like to do it chapter by chapter...

By the time you have finished editing you should have gone through the story at least half a dozen times, but most likely closer to over a dozen.  The last part, I actually repeat many times over.  Maybe some can get this all done in one sweep, but I know for myself, I read my manuscript at least fifty times (I lost count).

The thing is, as you set your work aside and incubate, you may come up with some new ideas to add.  If you do - go for it.  This is how we get the extra twists and turns, the symbolism, the ideas that are threaded throughout.  These writing techniques don't just happen with our original idea, they take time to turn over.

One more suggestion I very strongly believe you should use - Beta readers.  Get feedback from others, even if you use an editor.  The feedback will be enlightening.  When someone else who is objective reads your work, they will see things you missed.  Listen with an open ear, and consider their points.  This will make for a better story overall.

So you say "This is a lot of work!"  Yes it is.  This is the meat that makes up writing.  These steps are crucial to any manuscript.  Bottom line, it takes a lot of time, patience, and reworking, to have a manuscript turn into a novel.  Don't get overwhelmed - but instead take it step by step, one section at a time.  Your work will reveal a well written story for others to enjoy, and that is the goal.

Keep reading - Keep writing!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Our Basic Need To Be Heard - Writing Is Therapeutic

The past few weeks I shared Part One of a story I was developing.  That is back on my desk to edit and rewrite.  In the meantime, I wanted to touch upon a few other thoughts concerning writing.

There are many people who consider themselves writers, and many who don't and probably should.
We have been trained to think that writers are authors who get published in books -
Well I never liked being told what to think or do!
So if you please, JUMP out of that box with me for a moment.

Yes authors are writers, but there are more.  Being a writer is more than are a writer if you write to express yourself or an idea, and if you
  • you write everyday in a journal
  • you are part of a team at work that summarizes projects
  • you blog 
  • or any other type of consistent writing platform
Then you are a writer - YOU write to express yourself or an idea.
In our society writers tend to be the people who seek out:
  • organization
  • making sense of the world around them
  • need for balance 
  • seek the finish line -
  • they can envision the end goal in their mind

Anyone can pick up the pen, pencil, keyboard - and start writing.  If you are disabled there are other software out there to assist, so no excuses.
Everyone can benefit from writing, and here are a few benefits already recognized.

WRITING is therapeutic. 
  • proven helpful for patients with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress)
  • therapy for children who suffered from abuse or traumatic events
  • growing pains in general 
  • writing love letters have saved marriages
  • writing diaries have helped individuals discover themselves

Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing.
Guidelines for writing therapy

The physical act of writing out our thoughts, our fears, anxieties, and situations we are struggling with, helps to heal us inside.

One of the most human of all needs is the NEED TO BE HEARD.  We seek out self expression in many ways, but writing is one of the most expressive and healing of all.

The act of writing connects the two parts of the brain at the same time.  While we are immersed in the physical, it connects with our conceptual side, bringing them together to make one final harmonious thought.  What could be more beautiful than that? of Anne Frank

This July there are many people out there who are participating in the NaNoWriMo July event.  Check it out for the next round, and challenge yourself to some robust writing.   

It just may help you discover something new about yourself, or the world around you.

Keep reading - keep writing!  and have a great weekend.