S is for Self-Editing #AtoZChallenge

Self-editing is best done as a multi-stage process. Don’t expect to edit everything at once and be done with it. There are a great deal of articles written about this topic and here is a link roll of them!

Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

Self-Editing by Lori Handeland

How to Write Well: 10 Essential Self-Editing Tips

How to Edit a Book: The Ultimate 21-Part Checklist

19 Self-Editing Tips for Your Writing

Self-Editing: How to Improve Your Writing

Writing: How to Self-Edit your Novel

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

There are also an increasing amount of programs to help writers with their editing as well, beyond the simplistic red-lines of Word Documents.

Copy Editing Software for Authors

Want Help with Writing? Try Free Editing Programs

The Best Free Software for Writers in 2017

Editor for Windows (one-time $)

AutoCrit (subscription $)

Editor Software (licenses $) StyleWriter

ProWritingAid (subscription $)

SmartEdit (license $)

Hemingway Editor

Of course, editing software only suggests what you might overlook due to being tired or too close to the work or obvious grammar errors. Don’t automatically fix everything that a program suggests, think about whether it actually fits what you’re trying to accomplish with the writing. Basically, don’t expect to use any software as a crutch to avoid actual work when it comes to self-editing.

One of my favorite tricks when it comes to self-editing; start at the last word and work backwards with each sentence. Hold a piece of paper’s edge to distinguish which line you’re on. Be brutal in notes and decision-making.

Be honest about what works and doesn’t work, if you can identify an issue, then you should be able to problem-solve how to fix it. The answer is in there somewhere, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to identify the issue at all.

 

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L M N O P Q R #AtoZChallenge

I fell behind in the #AtoZChallenge some. For good reason, I’m busy with a few different things – exciting things – but things that are still in process.

So, flash time! For every letter, I will aim to write a few sentences and then move on about the topic. Not going to even edit! Quick, instant thoughts about each topic in reference to writing.

L is for Light

When writing in your own space, something to consider is what light you work best in. This will change from time to time, but you can manipulate your moods (and thus, the creative decisions you make) by what lighting you immerse yourself in. Beyond daylight, if writing in the evening or night (or a dark room), placing different colors in an overhead or hanging light can create an atmosphere of color. For instance, I make use of a green light and turn it on when I want an eerie (but calm) mood for writing.

M is for Meaning

The meaning behind a writer’s creative decision can range from completely spontaneous (no conscious meaning at all) to being highly thought-out (extremely consciously aware). Character names, appearances, personalities can all be metaphors with meanings behind them. The same can be said for nearly every creative decision possible within fiction writing, including world settings, plot choices, and more.

N is for News

News can sometimes inform stories and characters, but be careful when using news stories for ideas. A lot of news outlets have narratives and agendas, so what you’re looking at is cherry-picked examples of things that’ve happened that a wider range of companies want you to know about. When using news for ideas, it is better to scour obscure references like small-time news presses or historical articles or even fictional/satirical outlets because it should be about sparking creativity in your mind.

O is for Outline

Outlines are an indispensable tool for many writers and some swear that it is impossible to properly write without them. There are many frameworks for outlines and different approaches from beat sheets to overarching plot summaries. Outlines provide the function of seeing a work from a larger picture and catch potential plot holes or errors in characterization from a quick glance. It, also, provides the writer to not have to think so much about creative decisions while writing the actual story because they simply follow an outline they already have set out.

P is for Paragraph

A paragraph should not be forgotten when writing. Paragraphs can range from a single word for the more dramatic of lines to a multi-page soliloquy. Paragraph format tends to depend on the author and what they’re looking to accomplish. Similar to the aspect post I wrote, having variety for paragraphs helps readers stay engaged with the work. There are different suggestions when it comes to formatting a paragraph for narrative versus a paragraph for dialogue, as well. This can be played with by an author to find what works best for the flow of the reader’s eye.

Q is for Quality

What decides quality of literature and stories? Or more… who? It’s often been pointed out that high-quality and best-seller do not go hand-in-hand with one another. The same can be said for traditional publishing and what gets put on bookshelves by the Big Five. There are standards, a certain threshold of quality determined by editors, but top quality is not the top priority when it comes to actually marketing books to the masses. Understanding this can take some pressure off writers who are more perfectionist by nature (ala being me) and allow them to finish work that isn’t perfect quality, but the best that it can be at the time.

R is for Reading

It’s cliché and talked about so very much, but reading is considered a necessity for writers to keep up on the markets and literary techniques. The most important thing about reading as a writer is to maintain awareness when you see something you like in a way that you can deconstruct what is happening and why you like it so much. Being able to deconstruct and reconstruct literary elements can provide an understanding which will be applied to your own writing over time. Reading also happens in the form of research for actual topics (such as history) and genre-exploration when considering entering the market for a specific niche. Just remember to read for fun and enjoyment sometimes and keep a list of authors and genres where you can relax some.

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K is for Knockoff #AtoZChallenge

Originality is a concern of a lot of writers, especially when first starting out. Despite pitches being based on “it’s like X met Y and a little bit of Z”, some writers are terrified to be compared to other works in that way. It’s a worry that they’re just some kind of cheap copy of an idea already perfected by another creator.

There’s a lot of approaches to originality and that can be seen in the distribution of tropes that’ve grown over the years. Thanks to TV-tropes, the understanding of various storytelling techniques seem to be ubiquitous. With the advent of the Internet, writers can’t hide as much behind the ignorance of audiences. With enough will and a strong memory, most elements of stories can be seen in other stories.

Thus, some writers reach the point where they don’t worry about originality of ideas. It’s not about the idea, it’s about the presentation to them. The uniqueness of style and the way that an individual creator develops an idea. However, this relies on the fact(?) that all humans are the expressive conclusions of a mixture of differences… rather than there is the possibility that humans can and do express things in similar ways. It’s a large case study to look at. So people fall to anecdotes to comprehend humans as individuals and of course, they would write differently and make different creative decisions than other individuals!

I don’t know whether that is the case, but I understand that it can seem like that.

Anyways, there are times when people specifically make fun of being a knockoff. Here parodies are born. Parodies are usually meant to be sarcastic knockoffs of another’s creation. What’s interesting about parodies is that there are unique parodies that can be extremely funny, but then there are parodies that use heavy tropes to buy a few cheap laughs. Even in the parody genre, there can be knockoffs.

For people who say that there is no such thing as a knockoff, I beg them to look at the movies in the cheap bin at their nearest big box store (Wal-Mart, etc.). In these bins, one can find the most prime example of a knockoff; Disney clones that seem just a little… erm… off.

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Another easy example is in products. There is almost always a cheap version of a product in every big box store. For makeup, for cereal, for almost everything. So why is literature considered immune from this human tendency?

A writer shouldn’t be paranoid about using similar ideas that’ve been used in the past, especially if the ideas are general like “space war” or “magic school”. However, that doesn’t mean cross-referencing should be forgotten. Being aware of what ideas are within a work is a good way to develop creative decisions, though this is a preference for the individual writer to make.

Don’t aim for being ‘unique’, but do think about the decisions you are making and why they are right for what you are creating. Be wary of taking any idea/name/element for granted.

Personally, I constantly cross-reference. I don’t just check titles, I scour terms and names and more. It takes up a lot of time, but I wouldn’t be suggesting the points above if I didn’t live them myself.

When I encounter a similarity with a greater known work, I make a hard decision whether to keep the name/element/etc. (and be aware of the similarity) or to change it to something less known.

Of course, I don’t expect to be 100% in this process.

There are always going to be (obscure) works that strangely coincide with our own for whatever reason (collective consciousness?), but those type of occurrences can be fun and intriguing! They’re a lot funner when you actually did the work to be aware of parallels with existing works… and some readers can pick up on those otherwise unseen patterns.

I’ve run into more than a few with my works. Some even happened AFTER I started developing a project and I’ve had to choose to change/keep something in the midst of the creation. It isn’t about being unique, but it is about being aware and making choices for the direction of the story’s presentation.

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J is for Journal #AtoZChallenge

Journaling can be such an essential part of the writing process. Whether it’s taking notes every day, every week, or over the course of a month, I keep a specific notebook to pair with a manuscript, world, or story that I’m developing. This is in addition to personal notebook-journals as well.

The benefits of journaling are great, it can provide clarity, a venting space, a spot to collect lists and mind-maps. It’s no secret that private journaling can be therapeutic and offer relaxation, hope, and understanding to the writer. For instance, practicing gratitude affirmations in a diary can reduce anxiety and provide perspective to struggles when they arise.

One of my favorite journaling exercises is collecting quotes that I resonate with, usually at the top of the pages where I write entries.

Having a record of experiences lends to analysis of modes of behavior and how they relate to thought over time. It can be used to find similarities and differences between different states of mind and do what humans do best; discover patterns. Spiritual-minded people tend to wield journaling to track synchronicities, results of spellwork, dream collection, symbol analysis, and more.

The expressive act of deriving mind to literal words is also a freeing act, though one might consider being careful of where to store these journals and perhaps consider burning (or deleting if digital) them eventually… in case they worry if someone might read upon death or imprisonment. Some people journal specifically so their writing will be found in these cases.

Journaling and keeping a diary is also a way to work through traumatic stress and depression. It’s been suggested in studies that continually journaling about emotional or personal topics might benefit the immune system including antibody responses, liver function, lung function, and blood pressure. An interesting correlation is that people who practice journaling can be found to become re-employed sooner after losing jobs, missing fewer days of work, and more. (source)

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I is for Independent #AtoZChallenge

Otherwise known as Indie. This is a broad term that defines indie literature as any book published outside mainstream publishing (especially the Big Houses). Small presses are considered indie publishers if they make under $50 million in annual sales.

While small presses are different from vanity presses and self-publishing could be considered entirely different, it also could be said that all three are under the umbrella of independent work.

Self-publishing is incredibly independent, if not “indie”. Ebook self-publishing isn’t a rarity or an off-chance anymore, not with works like The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey. As Wikipedia says, “the key distinguishing characteristic of self-publishing is that the author has decided to publish independently of a publishing house.”

In 2015, indie-published sales surpassed the “big five” sales.

Times have changed. With the history of self-publishing, one has to wonder if all the assumptions about the act of self-publishing might be false narratives spread by the Big Five to keep control over the means of production when it comes to literature. PR damage control, so to speak.

Self-publishing is now nearly mainstream with many professional services catering to the different aspects of the process (Reedsy, Pronoun, Self-Pub Book Covers, etc.) and it is entirely up to the author how polished or rough their e-book will be.

With unlimited money, an author could outsource every aspect of the book except for the actual writing part (unless they get a ghost-writer, then they really are just an independent publisher!). This can result in an extremely high quality book.

I chose the indie/self-publishing route for a number of personal reasons. It seems the way to go. I’ve never had much of a dream of being published by major houses, though I used to think that was the only way to actually get a book out there. With Amazon and Smashwords and the like, that isn’t the case anymore.

While I don’t have unlimited money, thus forced to performing most of the tasks myself or finding helpers for free; I don’t want to stay that way forever. I plan to have budgets for my novels as soon as possible and spend those budgets accordingly on a team of creatives to bring my work to the highest quality and polish that I can coordinate.

Elements like illustrated book covers and advanced formatting with superior editing, that is my dream.

For now, I have to do what I can with the resources I have… and isn’t that the essence of being independent?

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G + H is for Gentle Handwriting #AtoZChallenge

As a writer who participates in NaNoWriMo sprints and has a long history of chat and forum RPing, it’s been a custom to type my prose… and type fast! My most recent WPM I tested at was 110+ WPM. I practice and keep up on knowing my keyboard as well as proper posture.

Typing on a keyboard while writing, when my momentum is going, feels like playing on a piano or something similar. It is both relaxing and energizing at the same time for me.

But sometimes, there is room to be made for the tactile opposite of typing; Handwriting.

Not just any handwriting, but Gentle Handwriting is a very specific term.

If you’d like to practice gentle handwriting, you’ll need…

  • a notebook or few pieces of paper,
  • a pen or pencil,
  • a comfortable seat to rest
  • something sturdy to place the paper on
  • (preferably beside a window or candle).

The goal of this exercise is to find a relaxed state of mind and body while writing as slowly as possible. Spend ten minutes on deciding what the first word will be. Don’t write it down until you’re absolutely sure of what you want the first sentence to be.

When you do write it, write slowly with the chosen writing utensil.

Give the letters some flourish, enjoy the feeling of writing.

Look out the window or stare at the candle some before scribing the next word.

Continue this and take your time. Think over the words and which to choose. You can think about where the story is going or you can simply explore your vocabulary and relationship with certain words and how to structure them into sentences.

Gentle Handwriting is a form of active meditation and can be incredibly relaxing. It can also spark inspiration and accomplish some interesting results to use later in writing projects.

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F is for Freedom #AtoZChallenge

Warning: Cerebral rant ahead.

Freedom is a word used by many people in various ways. As an American writer, freedom is a concept and value that I’ve been raised to not only consider, but defend and fight for freedom as an inalienable right. Yet freedom does not mean ‘actions without consequence’. There is always the chance of a result occurring due to an expressed thought or an action manifested from a person’s will.

Maybe in the future this might change, but within the modern-day, there is continual effort to destroy and hamper freedoms of the human individual. We have gained freedom, but some freedoms we have also lost or are losing. The process is occurring both ways. Even in the United States, there is a daily struggle to define and comprehend what freedom means.

As an author, freedom of speech is a major thing. The right to articulate an individual opinion or idea without fear of government retaliation or censorship is important. However, within the private sphere of capitalism between citizens, limits can be placed depending on the setting.

For instance, Amazon is able to restrict and limit the freedom of expression to certain extents. Almost every publisher online maintains boundaries, especially on the precedent of United States laws that have to do with obscenity.

In this way, the “free market” and private businesses regulate freedom of speech to suit their purposes and biases. This can be done blatantly (through banning/deleting) or subtly (through algorithms/searches, etc.). Then there are readers and audiences who will try to sway whether a work will be punished or rewarded (or completely ignored) for its freedom of expression.

So, while a writer could simply write whatever they want and post it anywhere until some consequence occurs (or print it themselves and distribute), many choose to abide by these boundaries and research what is acceptable and what is not. This leaves it up to the readers and an author can only hope for the best, that they are not targeted by someone’s hate and come only into contact with people who’re drawn to the story instead.

Age ratings are a form of restriction to freedom of speech built on societal choice of what is appropriate for what ages. This can change depending on era and who is involved despite many sites using age ratings as objective distinction to decide what is welcome or not for adults/non-adults. YA is a good example of this.

You might write a list of what a proper YA might be, what it might include and what it might avoid to keep in the parameters of being for the later teen/young adult ages… YA, after all, is not “Adult”. But if you pick out fifteen random YA books, you might be surprised to see what they actually include.

I’m often surprised by how modern YA books will focus heavily on (suggested) sexuality, blatant violence, and the framework for a mature HBO show without the visual nudity.

As a writer, I’ve never felt drawn to writing for YA, though I’ve considered it before. I simply do not understand the allure of the genre. While YAs can be enjoyable to read in the way a candy bar is sweet to eat, it isn’t ever the meal I crave or even a snack to tide me over; it’s just a quick artificial rush and maybe I’ll want another one later, but if I eat too much, my teeth are going to hurt and I’ll get cranky.

Metaphor aside, it is freedom that allows me to not bother with YA and focus on what I enjoy instead. I can make my own choices, but each choice will have its very own consequence and influence the path I walk upon.

The beauty of freedom, for me, is that later on… I have the freedom to change my mind. I adore being able to change, to contemplate something so deeply that I come around and embody something I didn’t think I ever would understand, to shift paradigms, to freely become a different person yet remain myself at the exact same time. The exploration of my internal self is something that if I had to repress such instinct, I would be miserable.

There are consequences to this freedom though, to giving in to my instincts. Changing my beliefs, values, thoughts, and actions continually is tough to explain to people on the outside who are not privy to my internal logic. It seems eccentric, sometimes wishy-washy, or baffling to acquaintances. I’ve learned to accept it because I honor my instinct and I choose my freedom to do so over attempting to be something stagnant and stale. I have the freedom to be happy or miserable. I aim to be happy.

Freedom is a wondrous thing, though it can be overwhelming – as is the case with anything awe-some.

Freedom to think, freedom to believe, freedom to understand, freedom to deny, freedom to actualize, freedom to lie, freedom to play, freedom to live, freedom to die, freedom to feel, freedom to work, freedom to consume, freedom to sustain, freedom to love, freedom to hate, freedom to theorize, freedom to build, freedom to create, freedom to purchase, freedom to travel, freedom to agree, freedom to disagree…

Freedom to write.

Freedom is a concept; the condition of being Free.

Individual freedom means there will be consequences, but anyone who is a believer and supporter of freedom should defend the right of anyone else to express their freedom just as they wish for themselves to do the same.

Complexity is born from different perspective realities overlapping and rubbing against each other while within this greater freedom state. Two individuals can define reality in completely different ways, most notably the conflicts between Objectivity and Subjectivity, as well as Dogma and Skepticism, or Determinism and Free Will.

Freedom, by its nature, does not favor one individual over the other – no matter how Objective or Dogmatic that individual might be. In the same, an individual is not made superior due to how Subjective or Skeptical they identify as. Either way, freedom is equal and the same for each as long as it does not infringe on a fellow’s freedom in turn. This is the direction of where freedom must go… otherwise the concept will decay and be lost until reasserted once more.

Perhaps it is not so important for authors and writers to understand this, but I find solace in contemplating the nature of freedom and exploring opportunities to delve into internal boundary creation through the process of manifesting my writing. It, also, provides consideration for world-building and how freedom might differ for the characters in my stories.

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kaomoji_set_2_14_67_by_megaman5000-d7dm4hu Kudos if you actually read that. Sorry if any typos, I’m exhausted, but wanted to post because tomorrow I will be completely offline to catch up on Camp NaNoWriMo; I’m only about 2000 words in, need to buckle down and get further along if I want to finish the manuscript by the end of the month. I might extend being offline for the whole weekend (if so, I’ll post G on Monday along with H) or I might get on Sat. just to post G’s entry instead. Will decide then.

What freedom are you grateful for?

D+E is for Developmental Editing #AtoZChallenge

Developmental editing is a form of editing that is incredibly thorough. Arguably, it is the most significant restructuring of a manuscript and can approach the work from all and any angles. It examines all elements of writing from the smallest word to the greater plot structure and style. Development edits tend to focus on plot holes, characters, and more aspects that might disengage readers.

A development edit for fiction novels can either be the same thing or overlap with the term Content Editing or substantive editing. While development edits can occur at any stage of a manuscript’s life (even before the topic is conceived), content edits usually are for post-first draft. According to Reedsy, an editorial assessment is more proper for when a draft is in the early stages instead.

However, an author retains control over the content and can choose to include or deny suggested edits. Balance between accepting suggestions or not is a necessary discernment for the author, especially when self-publishing.

The hunt for an editor is an important one. It is something that I am currently going through. While money is certainly an issue for the moment, it is becoming a secondary one. Ideally, I’d like to find an editor or two that I can trust and enjoy to help develop my works to another level that I couldn’t reach on my own. Someone who I respect and want to work with. I’ve started a small list of editors that I have my eye on, but I don’t know how approachable or realistic it is to work with them or whether I’ll go bankrupt doing so.

Therefore, in the meantime I’ll continue editing by myself and asking my partner to proofread/line edit for free. He used to work as an editor, so I’m lucky in that regard… but he takes forever. What’s that triangle formula? Cheap, Fast, Good? So, Cheap and Good, can’t have Fast.

A question I am currently dealing with is whether I want to build a team of editors over time. For instance, finding a particular editor (or two) that I can hire for developmental edits, but having another editor for line-edits, and an entirely different one for proof-reading.

The reason why I ‘m considering this is because I’m aware the more fresh eyes that read a manuscript, the more likely that certain mistakes or oddities will be noticed and mentioned.

I do not consider editors like gods or the breath-of-life or essential gates on the descent to publication (or is that ascension?), but I understand that they can offer fresh eyes and a separate mind to the work with a professional approach. Perhaps that’ll change through potential experiences while working with editors in the future, but I’ll leave myself the space to find that out then.

Out of all styles of editing, developmental editing is one of the most in-depth and comprehensive opportunities to polishing a manuscript for publication.

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C is for Chapter #AtoZChallenge

Chapters distinguish scenes, or a scene, as being a notable part of a greater story. There are many ways to break scenes into chapters, so the important aspect is to focus on what the chapter is supposed to accomplish for the reader.

Chapter breakdown is a common writing-advice topic. As a reader, the best chapters for me are the ones that start off immediately engaging me in something that’s happening – whether following from a prior chapter or a brand-new scene, then keeps me wondering through-out the chapter in the seat of an observer, and finally, ends with something that thrills me – whether through a sense of wonder, astonishment, pride, or suspense.

Chapters can also be like very short stories that make up a larger story when put together, similar to song tracks on an album. Don’t overtell, but share the reality of the world that’s being included in each chapter so readers stay engaged with what is happening. Each chapter is a chance to draw the reader in again and again, to make them fall in love with the characters, world, and story.

In this perspective, each chapter should have its own Beginning, Middle and End. There should be a chapter-based climax offered to the reader to continue that thrill of reading instead of demanding or expecting patience from an unknown stranger that they’ll drudge through a chapter where nothing seems to be happening.

Chapters are oft a necessary structure of fiction novels and provide opportunity for authors to present a long or complicated story in a discernible way that captures a reader’s attention and continues to engage their imagination until the conclusion.

A quick bullet-point list of checking whether a chapter is fulfilling its potential:

  • Is the first paragraph/page engaging? Active? Intriguing?
  • Is the world/aesthetic represented through additions woven into the narrative?
  • Does it keep the reader wondering about what is going to happen next?
  • Is the conclusion thrilling or astonishing?
  • Does it tie into the larger story? Does it evoke the reader-known past while also suggesting the future course of events?

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B is for Beat #AtoZChallenge

Beat is a word that has many different connotations ascribed to it. Even in writing, it can have multiple meanings. For instance; A beat sheet or the Beat Generation. 

A beat sheet is an outline structure used by writers in various different ways. It can be broken down into different types of points. Points like every scene or plot points or even all the way down to action by action, dialogue by dialogue. It is up to an indepedent writer how specific a beat sheet is. Whatever works best to get the story complete.

A meaning for beat is the rhythmic motion of an instrument. Apply this to writing an outline and you can figure how to find the beat of the story that you are creating. This will help in figuring out the flow and pacing of a story or plot outline before tackling or structuring the actual narrative itself.

Music is partly what inspired the term beat for the Beat generation, especially the beats of jazz music. The Beat Generation is an interesting influence to look at when considering to apply it to modern-day literature. It is an artistic way of approaching how to handle rhythm in writing and structuring sentences in ways that attempt to describe sensations of consciousness.

The influence of the Beat generation also suggests inclusion of spiritual matters when approaching, and relating to, our writing. To not just write for the identity of being a writer but writing to develop our senses, expand our minds, and delve into our own consciousnesses to further our understanding of reality and the worlds around us.

So whether in technical outline or in spiritual exploration of the self, the term Beat can inspire us to develop writing our stories.