What are Plot Holes & How to Find Them in Your Story

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Plot holes are arguably the most important thing to address first in your novel. Luckily they can be one of the easiest things to prevent, if you pay attention to your book as a reader would.

First, let’s look at what a plot hole can be.

Character inconsistencies:

Are descriptions accurate? Does your character act in accordance with her personality, and interact with others appropriate to her personality? Does she feel like a real person, or too “good” or too “bad”? Is your protagonist consistent in her personality, or does she seem to undergo a change from scene to scene? (This is reaction outside a character’s arc, which should be a gradual change over the course of the novel.) But pay attention to more than just your main character–are your supporting characters consistent and believable too?

Illogical or out-of-order events:

Does your character kiss a boy and then later say they never kissed? Or does she develop a crush on a boy that a girl with her personality should never like? Or does she discuss someone that she said she doesn’t know or never met but after she’s already met him? Pay attention to small details like that, but also larger, illogical events. Is she alone with the killer when she is way too savvy to end up in a one-on-one showdown with a strange man?

Dropped thread (I.e. Subplot):

Does that career subplot that started off strong in Chapter 2 just as suddenly go by the wayside? Best to fix that. Make sure each subplot you begin is adequately tied off. That means romantic, career, personal, family, friend, etc. You don’t want to have a lot of lingering questions, especially if they constitute a subplot. Even if you’re writing a series, you want to be careful with leaving loose ends, because too many and they can antagonize your reader to feeling manipulated to pick up another book just for answers. Too few, and your reader may not care to read on. Balance and moderation.

Setting errors:

Is the protagonist’s room in Chapter 1 painted green, and in Chapter 32 pink? Or do you have your characters start off a scene in one setting and then show up in a new setting half a page later? Or does your character say she’s never been to a place, only to show up in that place later on and know her way around like it’s her own home?

Supporting characters:

Do they each have arcs and resolutions? Do they have distinct personalities, way of speech? Or could one minor character be another and no one would care? Although this many not be a true “plot hole,” it’s well worth paying attention to inconsistencies in your supporting characters and make sure that they, like the main characters, are playing according to their logic, personalities, and rules.

Antagonist:

Is the defeat (or victory) of the antagonist likely? It can be (and arguably should be) a twist and/or surprise without defying rules of logic. In fact, upon inspection, it best be a logical, reasonable defeat–in retrospect–for the reader. If you have the antagonist defeated by something completely out of the blue, the reader may not buy it.

Okay. So now that we know what type of things we’re looking for (basically anything that doesn’t make sense or has been forgotten during the writing of your first draft), what are the steps you have to take in order to catch these plot holes? 

1. Reread your novel as a reader, but with a sticky pad handy.

And try to enjoy it like a reader would. (This is why letting your story rest is so important.) Where are you rushing through to get to the “good” stuff you know’s coming? And where are you slowing down, either to savor or because nothing is happening? What feels unimportant to you?

Note all those things and anything else that feels off to you as a reader. You have a lot of things on your mind with revision–so write it all down and make sure you have some level of organization. You never know when you get distracted and have to put your revisions aside for awhile before you can get to them. So make certain that you have a spot where you write down all your thoughts and observations, and file it somewhere you know will be safe, either a physical notebook or a digital one, etc.

Now once you reach “the end,” make a note on how you feel setting it down. Did it leave you with the emotions you were aiming for? Yes? Good. Consider if you could make the ending even stronger. No? Time to ponder why not.

But let’s back up a bit first. Before we look at your novel as a whole, let’s consider some more tips for what to pay attention to while you’re reading:

2. Focus on the big stuff.

This is a very important step–and it’s vital that you do not get caught up in the sentence changing, fine-tuning process. Instead, remind yourself to focus on the novel as a whole, and the scene as a whole scene, instead of word choice or sentence structure. That can and will be addressed at a later date.

Right now, the only thing that should be on your mind is getting your plot solid. (It’s not even about story structure–yet.)

Is the midpoint or turning point natural for your character? Or is it a forced decision that you, the author, is making for her? Does anything else seem unlikely? Too coincidental?

This used to be incredibly hard for me. The perfectionist in me cringed at every misused word, every rough sentence, every imperfection that I could find as I read the story I’d written.

I used to edit each paragraph and sentence every time I edited my WIP. Finally, after editing one of my WIPs to death, and getting so discouraged and tired of the story, I made the conscious decision to STOP IT. Stop the madness. Seriously.

3. Remove yourself from the ability to change your sentences.

As I said above, I used to be a hardcore, sentence tweaker. I wasted a lot of time on editing paragraphs and pages that I ultimately trashed. Now when I reread a work that is first or second draft stage, I do not fine tune. In fact, I remove myself from the ability to change sentences as I go–this means I put it into an ebook format where I cannot edit as I go. I can make comments (see #1), but I cannot physically rewrite the sentence. (On occasions, perhaps 5 times a book, I permit myself to suggest a “perfect” sentence that comes to mind as I read. But I try to keep that down.)

So how do I remove my ability to edit? I convert my manuscript into .mobi, .epub, or a PDF. I then open my manuscript on my iPhone or iPad and, like I am reading any other book, read it. Using an ebook app instead of printing out my manuscript makes writing comments difficult and annoying. Every time I highlight and have to write a note to myself, it is cumbersome; I have to really weigh the value of doing so. Is it worth the fifteen seconds I need to wait for the highlight to pop up, select the “note” option, then type and retype and fix typos on my iPhone as I read? Sometimes not. So I may leave a highlight (if that), and then move on.

I also ask myself if it’s something I will catch when I reread the book later. Is it a misspelling or an awkward sentence? I’ll catch that when I reread later. Is it a repeated word? Well…maybe. If I’m paying attention, I’ll catch the repetition. But most of the time, I’ll highlight the instances of the repeated words so that I know there’s something amiss.

4. Consider each scene with a critical eye.

Does every scene pull its weight? Does every scene pull double or triple duty? Does it advance plot but also reveal your character and create conflict? Now’s the time to check.

If your attention is wandering during a portion of your book, ask yourself why. Is it lacking action? Is it wandering from the plot? Are your characters too boring? Do you need to pump up the conflict?

But most of all, ask yourself if your story really needs this scene. What happens in it that makes it essential to the book? How, if you removed it, would your plot line suffer?

5. Consider your characters.

Sometimes characters don’t develop in the way we, the author, wants them to. Sometimes we try to force them into a square shaped hole when they are most obstinately not square shaped. No, they’re more like star shaped, especially some of those minor characters who steal the show.

That plain Jane on page 5 may be anything but that; instead she steals the spotlight from your MC. Now in some instances, that’s fine. A scene-stealing minor character can be great fun and provide comic relief or can distract from the plot and theme you wish to impart on your reader.

You may want your minor character to steal a scene and deflect from the MC in a moment when the MC is less than amazing or less than likable. However, you probably don’t want that to continue throughout the book. In most cases, your MC’s character arc should be the one whose arc takes front and center. And if this “minor” character is a sidekick, you run the risk of the reader caring more about the sidekick than the protagonist.

In nearly all cases, you don’t want your sidekick to be a better protagonist than your actual protagonist. So reevaluate your characters as you read, and make sure that the focus is where you want it to be: on the main story.

6. Consider the antagonist.

Yes, the antagonist is a character, and could fall into number 5. But he’s more than a character. He is everything your MC is fighting against.

As you read, keep your antagonist in the back of your mind–always. Is he there, wrecking havoc even when he’s not on the page? Is there a way to make his effects (and presence) felt more?

There is a lot to consider during revisions. That’s why there’s no way you’ll be able to address everything in one revision.

But don’t get discouraged. Multiple revisions are a name of the game, and if you get stuck, have a writing buddy read it for you and help point you in the right direction.

  
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Scrivener Tutorial #4: 7 Tools to Revise Your Novel in Scrivener

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As part of my ongoing Scrivener Tutorial series, we’ve reached number 4. Previously I’ve discussed how to Create a New Document and Work with Scenes, Making Document Goals, and Cool Tools in Scrivener.

Today in continuing with our Revision theme for January, I’m going to discuss how I use Scrivener when it’s time to revise, and why Scrivener is my go-to writing software for revision.

If you’re not sure of where to start with revising your WIP, check out the article I wrote on it back at the beginning of January: A Revision Checklist.

1. Compile/Export

At some point in your story’s process, you’ll want to put it in a program like Word or else convert the file into an ebook format. Scrivener makes this easy. Look for the “compile” button, or else click on “File” and go all the way to the bottom to find “compile.”

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This gives you pretty much any option you could need. I’ve not used most of them, but I have used the conversion to Word, epub, mobi, and PDF.

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I use this feature quite often when it’s time for rereading my story after I’ve finished a draft. It allows me to change platforms and reread my story with new eyes, thus allowing me to engage in a different reading experience.

2. Notes

This feature is also something you find in Word and Pages and other word processing software these days. It’s incredibly convenient though to have them available in Scrivener as well.

To use, simply select the text you wish to the comment to refer to (if you select nothing, the word nearest your cursor will be associated with the note), and hit the “comment” button. Alternatively, shift-Control-* or else under “Format” menu, select “comment.”

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One of the nice things in Scrivener is that if you don’t wish to write something in the comment, which I don’t always do, it automatically inserts your name, the date, and time you created the note. Sometimes, it’s too much effort to write a note when I’ll know why I highlighted it by the time I return to it.

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A comment will create a yellow highlight over your text, and then appear in your Inspector to the right of your document/scene–only when the speech bubble icon is pressed. However, if you’re looking at tags or snapshots or something else in that section of your screen, you won’t be able to view your comments, a possible down side.

Another nice feature of comments here in Scrivener is that if you have made a comment in the scene or document you are looking at, an asterisk will appear next to that speech bubble icon whether or not you have comments visible in your inspector section. So with just a glance over, you’ll be able to see if you have any comments you need to address in that scene.

3. Snapshots

This is one of my favorite features of Scrivener, and one that I miss the most whenever I cheat on it.

In a nutshell, snapshots prevents you from losing your original wording once you make changes.

I’m one of those paranoid writers who hates to delete anything I wrote–maybe one day I’ll realize the changes I made were awful and I want to go back to the original story. But if I wrote my story in Word and when I edited it, I simply deleted that scene without backing up my entire Word document, I won’t have it to go back to.

In Scrivener, if you took a snapshot, you’ll have it and will hardly have to go looking for it at all. Just like your comments, you’ll find the snapshots in the Inspector section in the right hand portion of your screen. When you click on it, you can cycle through all the snapshots you’ve taken and find the copy you want to return to.

You have the option to “compare” your versions like I did in the picture below.

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But you can also “roll back” if you find a version that you wish to revert back to. So if I liked my previous version better, and want to start over from that point, I can revert back to it–but I also have the chance to take a snapshot of the current version before doing so.

It’s a wonderful tool to use, and can allow you to revise without worry, as well as without juggling multiple files.

As a side note, under your “Scrivener” menu, select “Preferences” and under “General” make sure that “Take snapshots of changed text document on manual save” is highlighted. Now whenever you manually save your document (Command-S), any scene or documented you changed prior to that save will have a snapshot taken of it. (I LOVE this feature.)

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4. Revision mode

Did you know that there’s a “revision mode” in Scrivener? Yeah. It’s another pretty sweet tool I use while I revise.

There are five revision modes, which basically consist of five different colors for revisions you make. In other words, if I enter revision mode and select “first revision,” any text I write after that will be red. It’s a quick and easy way to keep track of what changes you make, rather like “track changes” in Word. However, this revision mode won’t show you what you delete, but only what you add or change (if you change fonts, for example, the entire text you changed the font for will become red).

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5. One scene at a time 

Something that is incredibly useful in editing for me is the ability to look at one scene at a time. Sometimes–okay a lot of the time–it’s overwhelming to look at the entire story or novel as a whole work. It’s easier to pick one scene at a time, maybe the first, maybe the last, maybe the midpoint, and start there.

Pluses of selecting only one scene at a time is that you can see exactly how many words make up that scene or chapter, you can look at your word usage stats for just that scene and perhaps realize you’ve used “glanced” or “gazed” too many times in that scene. Or maybe you simply need to fact check that scene and you can use the split screen feature to make sure the details in scene 1 correspond with scene 45.

6. Split screen

There is a nifty feature of “split screen” in Scrivener that allows you to have two scenes or documents open at once. This could be a character card and a scene which that character features in, or else two scenes that take place in the same setting and need to have the right details in, or a setting card and a scene, etc. The options are endless.

I often use this feature in revision, for that’s when I’m more worried about details being correct than in a first draft. First drafts are all about getting the words down. And for that, I’ll more often use the next feature…

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7. Full screen

Yes, Scrivener has a distraction-free full screen mode. It’s awesome, as is most things in Scrivener. But this is easy to access, and still allows you to have a few “distractions” up if you really need them, like your Inspector box and your word count box, etc.

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But it’s also personalize-able. You can use a favorite image for the backdrop, make the paper more or less opaque, zoom in or out, narrow or widen the paper width, put the page on the left, right, or center it; view the inspector, the keywords, how many words and characters are in your document, as well as use the “go-to” in order to enter a new scene without exiting full screen mode.

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It’s really quite useful, and can up your productivity when you need to forget that your computer has other applications on it. (Well, it works sometimes…but I don’t forget about the Internet all that often, unfortunately.)

Bonus 8. Word usage stats

See my earlier Scrivener Tutorial #3, link below, for information on this as well as using goals in Scrivener.

But a short version is that it will tell you every word you use and how many times you use it in your scene, chapter, or manuscript, whichever you have selected.

It’s well worth using to discover any “crutch” words or over usage of a character’s name or emotion, etc.

Previous Scrivener Tutorials:

Scrivener Tutorial #1: Creating a New Document & Working with Scenes

Scrivener Tutorial #2: Making Document Goals in Scrivener

Scrivener Tutorial #3: Cool Tools in Scrivener

Weekly Writing Tip 2

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This week’s writing tip regards one of the final steps of revision: proofreading.

There are few things more annoying than a simple error that a casual proofread would have caught. So…

Proofread. Proofread everything.

I can’t stress enough how important proofreading is. It can be the difference between looking like a professional and looking like an absolute amateur.


From an editor’s standpoint, proofreading is the last editing to take place, after developmental, line, and copy edits. So this type of editing is focused not on grammar and facts, rather on formatting and appearances.

Proofreading services include (but aren’t limited to): checking page numbers, photo captions, headers and footers, consistency in formatting chapters and other font changes, table of contents being correct, etc.

From a simple standpoint though, proofreading is your last chance to get things right. It’s your final chance to make sure that your name isn’t misspelled, or that you don’t have an embarrassing autocorrection on page twenty, or that your dedication really is to “Rachel your true love” instead of “Rachelle your true love.” (Try explaining that one to your spouse Rachel.)

Even in writing this blog post, had I not proofread, I would have had several mistakes, including “From and editor’s standpoint.” But proofreading this post kept me from making that mistake. It’s a quick and simple thing to do. Do it.

Don’t skip this very important editing step. Always take the time to reread an email before pressing send, and even a text. You won’t regret catching that typo.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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Weekly Wrap-Up

Whew. The first full week of 2016 is behind us. How have you been doing on your resolutions, writing and otherwise?

I’ve actually managed pretty well, but there have definitely been some touch and go days! (Everyone’s entitled to that, it’s a matter of how you pick yourself up after them that counts!)

My personal goals include running 1000 miles this year, and cutting out soda from my life (I’ve only relapsed once on that one!)

My writing goals include editing Spurn the Moon and supplying it to Beta readers, editing my novella after feedback from beta readers, finishing a short story I’ve been working on for several months, as well as self-publishing a short story I’ve previously written. It should be a busy year as I look into the pros and cons of traditional versus self publishing for my novel, and debate querying it around for awhile.

What are some of your goals for 2016? Or just goals for January?

In case you missed them, here’s the blog posts from this past week.

Monday: Week 1 Writing Tip

Learn the rules well. Then you can break them.

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Wednesday: A Revision checklist, or IWSG January

 

Saturday: How to Revise More Effectively

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If you couldn’t tell, we’ve embarked on a revision theme for the month of January. This month I hope to continue this theme with discussing tips on revising in Scrivener, what a plot actually is, how to find plot holes in your first draft, and how to use story structure to pump up your story. I also may go into more depth on the aspects found in the revision checklist from Wednesday’s IWSG post.

Is there any revision topic that you’d like discussed this month? Let me know in the comments below! If I get a lot, we may spill over into February–but that’s okay! 🙂

How to Revise More Effectively

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 So revisions are tough, right? We’ve been establishing that. But you know what to do, right? Just go through your manuscript and make all the changes that need to happen.

Yeah, I hear you laughing. Don’t worry, I know it’s not that simple.

A part of what makes revisions so challenging is that once you’ve put all that time and effort into writing the manuscript–time and effort you weren’t sure existed–now you have to return to that manuscript and face it with critical eyes.

How are you going to find the energy for that?

Let’s be honest: Revision is not about knowing what you need to do. You know what you need to do. (If you aren’t sure about which revision steps to take, check out my blog on Wednesday containing a revision checklist.)

Instead, revision so often hinges on having the proper mental state to tackle changes to your manuscript. For me at least, changes take almost more energy than original writing, and it’s far from simple to delete 30K from your manuscript as I have recently done. (How do you decide what stays and what goes? More on that at a later date.)

Revision is never simple, and rarely easy. I think it’s one of the top reasons writers get burnt out. And, like original writing, how far you get depends on your energy and productivity throughout the task.

That’s why I’m going to use this post to tell you how to maximize your energy–with the help of a CNN article (link below).

When I read this article about productivity, I thought immediately of how it pertains to writing. If you’re like me, it’s a constant struggle to make time to write. You always have to weigh your to-do list and do what is most important each day. Can that pile of laundry really wait? Or is your underwear drawer dangerously close to empty?

We all want to make our writing more productive, get the most done when we have the time. If you’re a full time writer, you want to use your time efficiently so that you don’t spend hours in front of your laptop you don’t need to.

The interesting thing about this article is that it’s not about putting in more hours, or organizing yourself, or similar productivity tips.

No, what this article says is something most of us already know: It’s about the energy you give to a project, not time.

However, the trick is to realize that everyone is more effective at one time of day over another. We may call it being a night owl or early bird, but we each feel that there’s a certain part of day where we have more energy than another.

I’m probably a mid-morning person. I’m not an early bird, and by late at night, I’m too tired to think (especially after all day spent with a toddler). But once I’ve been up for an hour or two, gotten some coffee and sat the toddler down with breakfast, I have focused energy to devote to my writing projects.

That is the time where I have more energy and more motivation to accomplish tasks.

Being more productive does not mean working longer, but means making note of those times and scheduling my day so I can work during them.

Tips:

  1. Log it. Track your day and figure out when you have the most energy and feel most motivated. If you’re working during that time, how much do you get done compared to other times of the day?
  2. Schedule it. Look for ways that you can schedule your writing during that time of day. If you stay at home with kids (like me), can you shift nap time a little? Can you get up an hour before the kids to write? Stay up an hour later? Can you put the kids in front of the TV for a half hour while you write madly? If you work outside the home, same questions kind of apply, but could you maybe shift your lunch hour to coincide with a more productive writing time? Or cram in some writing on your 15 minute break? Can you wake up early and write at home? Or could you go by a coffee shop after work and write for a few minutes before going home?
  3. Prevent burnout. Don’t forget to take time for yourself every day. Take a 10 minute walk around the block (good for your health too!), or meditate 10 minutes, or read a book, or invest in an adult coloring book, or do something that relaxes you. Your body needs to be taken care of physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Do not neglect it.

And do check out the article below. It’s well worth the read.

via BBC – Capital – Why working smarter means conserving your energy.

 

Tell me: What time of day do you work best? Do you have any tricks you’d add to making the most of your writing time?

A Revision Checklist, or IWSG: January 2016

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Revision is hard. I get it. It’s really hard.

It’s one of the top reasons I think writers quit writing and give up on ever getting published. It’s also one of those top reasons that writers end up insecure. After all, if you shared your first draft with someone, most likely all you heard was criticism or useless praise.

IWSG badgeAnd because this is the first Wednesday of the month, it’s time for Insecure Writers’ Support Group–the first of 2016! So welcome to all those IWSG members here to commiserate with other insecure writers. If you’re here on your own and happen to be feeling a little insecure today, jump over to IWSG, where you can meet other real writers just like you, who might also have an insecurity or two.

But let’s get back to the real subject today. And let me start by telling you a little secret: Every writer has to revise. No writer writes perfect first drafts.

Even after multiple revisions, your story may not be ready to be published. But that doesn’t make it a bad story. That just means it needs a little more polish.

That’s why I’m going to be talking about revision this month. Because it’s usually not fun, and it certainly doesn’t give you the “high” that writing does. But it’s absolutely necessary if you want to publish a book.

The Why:

A lot of people participated in National Novel Writing Month last November. I was one of approximately half a million people that attempted to write a 50K word novel in 30 days, and I was one of about 40K that won. Does that mean that my story is publishable? Heck no. Absolutely positively, no. And you know what? I actually used NaNo 2015 for a second draft–and that second draft still isn’t publishable. In fact, I anticipate at least two more rounds of revisions. One after my beta readers are done with it, and one after I get it back from an editor.

We revise because it’s next to impossible to write a publishable first draft. (Now I say that assuming you haven’t written a 300-page outline prior to writing your 301-page book.) But writing is the fun part, the part where we engage our creativity and put down whatever enters our head on page 15 without a whole lot of thought for page 150. So when you do get all the way to page 301, and type “the end,” you may have a meandering pile of…well, you know.

So what’s a writer to do? Revise. Because if you ever want anyone to read it and enjoy it, you’d best have a plot that doesn’t meander all the way around the block when you’re just walking next door.

So we’ve established that revising is absolutely necessary. But how on earth do you start?

The How:

I’ve learned the art of revision the hard way. I’ve learned it by rewriting my drafts until I was sick of them and finally gave up on some. I learned it by writing a frantically fast first draft (NaNo anyone?) and then realized that by pushing myself through that draft, I didn’t do myself a lot of favors.

So over the years, I’ve created a revision checklist that I do every time I finish a first draft.

The Checklist:

1. Let it rest.

If you start editing as soon as you type “the end,” you won’t have enough distance from the story to make your story better. The only way to get fresh eyes for your manuscript is to walk away from it for awhile. If you let it rest (weeks is good, months is better if you have the time), when you come back, you’ll be astonished at what you see. Perhaps it’s good astonishment, perhaps it’s bad. But you’ll see it with clarity you never would have seen had you started editing right after finishing your first draft.

2. Reread the entire book with minimal comments or highlights.

This is the point where, after letting your book rest, you come back to the story and look at it with fresh eyes. Is there a gaping plot hole? Does your character have blue eyes on page 4 and hazel eyes on page 100? This is where you should be noting mostly the main things though, mainly concerned with plot and pacing.

Does the first half of your book really drag? Or is it too fast and does the second part drag? Why? Is it because of that career subplot you have going on that doesn’t advance the plot and is forgotten halfway through the book?

3. Make the developmental big changes that need to happen.

At this point it’s important to resist the urge to correct every sentence. There will be a time for that later. Right now, however, you want to get the plot and all the big stuff figured out. It’s possible that entire chapters will be cut, and you don’t want to waste a week making that chapter shine only to cut it later. Do pay attention to timeline issues, character development/arcs, character motivations, scene motivations, pacing, etc.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you are satisfied with the overall story and it feels strong.

Yes. Repeat. Every step. Until you’re happy with the overall story. Only then should you move on to step 5.

5. Read each scene and go through with an eye for details this time.

Here you don’t have to start at the beginning, nor do you need to let the story rest. Seek out clichés, over-usage of words, spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc., and make changes as necessary. Every writer has their “crutch” words, and they will probably be different for each story you write. But keep a list handy of the ones you tend to overuse (things like was, had, just, very, suddenly, among others), and cut them or reword them whenever possible.

6. Send to beta readers.

Finally. This is what you write for, right? To share it with others? Well this is the point to get feedback. Share it with a small part of the world–a part that you trust so that you can make your story even better.

7. Work on something else.

It’s best, while you’re waiting on responses, to work on something other than this story. Let it go for a little while so that you can face it fresh again after you get feedback (and so that the feedback doesn’t hurt quite as much).

8. Make changes from beta readers.

Undoubtedly, if you chose your beta readers well, they will notice some small (or big) things that need to be changed. Make those changes–if you agree with them. If you don’t agree with them, and there are plenty of reasons not to agree with every reader, then don’t make those changes.

9. Send to editor.

Even after all these steps? I hear you asking. Yes. Even after all these steps, all these edits. You still need a new set of eyes–one that is trained to notice weaknesses and strengths in a story.

10. Make changes.

Your editor, if you found a good one, should have plenty for you to change. Again, if you don’t agree with the edits, then don’t make the changes, or at the very least, question them. But you should weigh these edits with more weight than a beta reader’s.

11. Repeat steps 5-10 until your work shines.

Yep. Repeat. You’re starting to hate me, aren’t you?

12. Seek agent/publisher.

Here it is, the point you’ve been waiting for. Find those agents. Send it out. Wait for your responses.

13. Publish.

It’s so simple, isn’t it?

Obviously if you’re self-publishing, there are a lot of steps within this publishing point that you’ll have to tackle, but this isn’t the place to discuss that. Instead, at this point, you’ve done most of what you can (besides the changes your agent and editor want). Now it’s time to sit back and…wait.

This month, I’ll be tackling revisions in a couple of my works, as well as discussing the subject on my blog.

Revising is part of writing, and although I used to hate it, now I love to see how my work changes for the better after every revision. It’s encouraging to look at your novel along the way and see how far it’s come. No longer is it a diamond that only an expert would recognize, but it’s a polished, glistening gem that you’re proud to wear on your finger, around your neck, or in your ears. And, because you’ve spent so much time polishing it, it’s going to catch others’ eyes as well.

Weekly Writing Tip

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Last year I did a writing quote every Monday. This year I’m considering a weekly writing tip. What do you think?

Here’s the first:

Learn the rules well. Then you can break them.

And for your sharing convenience, here’s a picture.

I do feel this should have a bit of explanation though… Rules are great things to have in all walks of life, not just driving or for your children to obey. Rules are given to drivers for the safety and respect of other drivers on the road. Rules are given to your children to instill in them proper behavior for the sake of other people in the world. Rules in writing exist because, like drivers and people, readers have certain expectations of the written word.

The written word is slow to change, and messing too much with the “rules” can confuse your reader and ultimately ostracize them. Until you know what point of view is, you can’t experiment with it, and if you try, you’ll lose a lot of readers due to confusion.

Likewise with punctuation, when you’re a child, you don’t know the first thing about a comma’s purpose. But what you do know is that certain spots in sentences deserve a bit of a break before moving to the next part of the sentence.

A writer who doesn’t know how to properly use commas may throw a comma in without much thought, or omit them in their haste to write the sentence. But reading it aloud can show you where you’ve gone wrong and where a comma is needed. Yet there are exceptions to proper punctuation! Yes, there are. If you’re suggesting that your character is speaking breathlessly, omit the commas that would ordinarily be there, and you have a sentence that comes off as rushed because there’s no space to breathe. But you can’t knowingly do that unless you understand the purpose and proper placement of a comma first.

What rules do you like to break?

Weekly Wrap-Up

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This past week I took off from posting my typical posts so I could spend time with my family. I hope you found time to do the same thing. Sometimes disconnecting from online media & social responsibilities is the best thing for our personal lives, and I plan on doing it a little bit more often.

But I didn’t leave you hanging last week–I reblogged a couple of posts I found useful, and I hope you did too.

Lay vs. Lie from The Write Practice

Make the Back Cover of your Paper Book Work For You from Lit World Interviews

5 Reasons Why You Stopped Writing Last Year

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a very enjoyable New Year. I still can’t believe it’s 2016. I think I say that every year, but every year it seems like it flies by faster and faster.

I know I’ve got many things I want to accomplish this year. If you do as well, post them in the comments below and let us know how we can cheer you on!

5 Reasons Why You Stopped Writing Last Year

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Well, it’s happened. Another year has passed us by and it’s time to make those resolutions to get busy and look like we’re get working.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of goals this year, most of them involving my writing life and publishing goals.

I’ve talked about making writing goals before, and it’s something that, even if I don’t declare to the world or even write down, I often have a type of goal in my head at all times. But sometimes writing is overwhelming, and all too often it’s just too easy to quit. It’s difficult to think long term when long term goals are so big and overwhelming. After all, a novel wasn’t written in a day (well, I suppose it could be done, but most novels aren’t written that way).

But every year, people make the goal to finally finish that novel they have stashed away somewhere, and every year people quit somewhere along the way. Why is that? What is it about writing that makes it so hard to finish that novel? And what can you do to not give up?

Well, here are a few reasons I think people give up on their writing goals (and why you shouldn’t).

1) You got overwhelmed.

When you’re just starting out with writing goals or as a writer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at all you want to accomplish. You want to be a successful published author, you want to write that 100K word manuscript, you want to write a best seller.

None of those are bad goals. But trying to tackle them all at once is probably not the best route you could take.

Instead, break those big goals down into manageable pieces.

Want to write 100K words this year? How many words would you have to write in one day to manage that in 365 days? If you look at it from that angle, you’re golden to have a completed manuscript by 2017. (Only 274 words a day, by the way.)

Want to be published? What is it going to take to get that done? Obviously you must write the novel, revise and edit it, then find an agent, editor, publisher, and not necessarily in that order. But Rome wasn’t built in day.

The solution: What people who reach their goals have in common is that they do something to push themselves toward their goals every single day. Could you find the name of an agent to submit to today? Could you write 500 words today? Could you research publishing companies? Research cover design if you’re self-publishing? A little step, five minutes here and there every day will march you toward your overall goal.

2) It’s too hard.

I’m not going to lie to you. Writing is hard work. It’s something that you do, alone, in your own little world, until at one point you’ve done all you can and you’re finally prepared to share it with the world.

It’s largely done in secret with little encouragement until your manuscript is completed and then when you do share it, it may not be well received.

Nope, writing is not a “hobby” that is often praised–unless you write the next best seller. Then maybe once you publish people will be proud of their writer friend.

But until then, you’re pretty much in it alone.

The solution: If writing doesn’t feel fun to you anymore, then maybe it’s best to look at why you’re writing or what you’re writing. Or look into finding a writing friend, one who can mentor you or one you can mentor. Experiment with genres, writing prompts, etc. Or, if you need to, take a break from writing.

3) You think you’re not good enough.

Every writer starts somewhere. As with any skill, everyone starts out as a beginner. You must learn the skill, learn how to put a story together, how to write good sentences. The proper way to use a metaphor, know story structure in order to properly hold up your story.

No one is good enough when they start writing. What does every writer has in common? They started writing.

The solution: We all must start somewhere. So put your perfectionist streak aside and put down one word after another. That’s how a story gets written anyway: one word at a time.

4) Because it’s not over once you write the story.

You have to then revise.

It often seems that revision takes a lot longer than writing the first draft. (Now isn’t that depressing?)

A lot of times looking at a first draft is overwhelming simply because of how much work it seems is needed to make it suitable for another’s eyes. (There’s no way I let people read any of my first drafts. People don’t get to read them until third or fourth or later drafts.)

The solution: The only way to get through that is break down your goal (a readable final draft) into smaller, more manageable pieces. You want a polished, publishable novel, you must work toward that. And to do that, you must tackle revisions.

5) You got tired of rejection.

Whether you’re seeking a traditional publishing deal or going it alone with self-publishing, you’re going to deal with rejection. Life constantly hands you rejection, it’s a matter of what you do with it that counts.

Every author (and book) has its fair share of haters. You can never please everyone. Just like one person will never be friends with everyone, a book cannot please everyone. Nor should you try. So don’t even bother. That’s not to say that you should not try to produce your best work, you absolutely should. But don’t be worried if someone doesn’t like it–because someone won’t.

The solution: You have to develop a rough skin. Look to others who dealt with years of rejection but believed so deeply in their stories that they kept putting it out there, despite being told that no one else would ever want to read it. Persevere. Because eventually, if you believe in it enough, chances are someone else will too.

Why did you stop writing?