Tag: rewrite

Professional in Need of Feedback

I’m a professional author. That means I write a story and send it off to my publisher. Right?

Wrong.

In most cases, most professional authors write a manuscript and return to it to rewrite, revise (not the same as rewriting), edit (not the same as revising) and polish (a cat of an entirely different color) as many as TEN times before sending it off to anyone. And often, their first readers are NOT their editors but a group of alpha readers, many of whom are writers in a similar genre.

Now that I’ve been a published author for four years, my manuscripts should be pretty close to perfect at the end of two or three drafts.

I wish.

My Process

Sadly, I don’t write a first draft that’s ready for public consumption. Not even by my Aunt Betty who dearly adores everything I write (because she loves me). Manuscripts I write have generally survived three passes from me before they go to my early readers.

  1. FAST DRAFT: Just as it sounds. I sit down with my character sketches, the major plot point beat sheets and write the story.
  2. REWRITES: A few weeks after I finish the first draft, I read through the manuscript and mark it with symbols. I mark where more detail is needed, where there is a plot hole, where I’m bored and where things don’t make sense. A week later, I sit down with that manuscript and rewrite all the troublesome areas. Usually, I will increase the word count by about ten percent.
  3. REVISIONS: Shortly after I finish the rewrites, I turn to page one and begin revisions. I start by making a scene chart. At the beginning of each scene, I ask what the goal of the scene is and whether it’s accomplished. If there is no goal, the scene is scrapped or rewritten to reflect a goal. I go sentence by sentence through the revised scene and cull needless words.

Now my manuscript is ready for beta readers. Generally, I send them a list asking them to look at specific aspects of the story, but I always invite them to comment about anything they like or dislike as they’re reading.


Once all the comments come back, my manuscripts get three more passes.

  1. MORE REVISIONS: First, I read-through the comments and make changes on a scene level as I see fit based on the beta commentary. Sometimes, I have to scrap or completely rewrite scenes. Other times, I need to add some meat. I may not work on EVERY scene in this pass, only the ones that needed work according to the readers.
  2. EDITS: I print out a copy of the manuscript and read it aloud. Yep, some people might find this crazy. I use a colored pen to mark up the manuscript. Usually I read a couple chapters and then return to my computer to input the changes. Sometimes they get changed again as I’m doing the inputting. This pass generally takes longer than any of the others.
  3. POLISH: I compile from Scrivener to a Word document. I do a few macro searches for overused words and change them out. Then I start at the first page and polish line by line, making sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are as perfects as I can make them.

Now, the manuscript is ready for my publisher.

This Story

This summer, Kindle Worlds closed down. I begged Melissa Storm, the author who owned the universe I’d published in there, to form her own small press. She did!

Sweet Promise Press is unique in that they are 100 percent shared series. Not only has she opened up the First Street Church universe that was the Kindle World, but she’s invited authors to pitch ideas for other worlds. Then she opens up submissions for these individual series.

As an author from her Kindle World, she invited me to the group right away. I submitted interest in two of the first five shared series, and I’m contracted to write a novella for the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers series in April 2019.

The novella is written. As I pen this blog, it is with an amazing editor for critical feedback about plot and character arc, as well as the style. Since I’ve never written this genre, I’m worried my sense of humor may get missed or not resound with readers.

One thing about Sweet Promise Press that was quite different from Roane Publishing (where my first fiction works were published)is that they only proofread. It is part of the author contract that a manuscript is line edited before submission.

This is NOT that edit. I’ve contracted the recommended line editor to handle that closer to publication.

My manuscript is with Kristen Corrects, Inc. for something more along the lines of a developmental edit. Except that would have cost about twice as much as what I’m paying her to do with the story. I’m hoping that I’ve got the story RIGHT and only need help with the comedic elements.


SO…I hope I sell enough copies of this story to offset the cost of TWO rounds of editing.

My Hope

I worked with Kristen on my first First Street Church novella, Love’s Late Arrival. She really helped me make that story shine.

I’m hoping she’ll be able to spot all the weaknesses in this new story.

In this case, readers deserve to get the best story. I know I can deliver a great story, but if I miss the mark on the humor, the reviews are going to scream it.

“Romantic comedy is supposed to be funny!”

Most of my stories have an edge of darkness. I always end on a hopeful note, but I’m a realist. I don’t write fluffy stories. My character face some hard issues, but they press on and find light at the end of the shadowy journey.

That’s not the case here. So I had to find lighter issues for my characters to face, but I didn’t want it to be trite.

If anyone can help me bring the story to a smile-inducing place, it’s Kristen.

What questions do you have about the writing or editing process? Are you surprised I spend so much time on each manuscript(and will still release three new novellas and two short stories this year)?

Road to Published – Polishing your Manuscript

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Revise. Edit. Polish. Repeat.

Any writer worth reading after will tell you the creative process of writing is more often about the concerted effort of perfecting previously written words.

To that end, I have a library of books on the subject. I follow blogs of respected authors who address pitfalls. If you’re a writer, you should do the same thing.

If you’re just a reader, wanting to ogle a writer in their native surroundings, you don’t care about that stuff. You want to know about my process.

One of Many

PlotA gaggle of books have been written on this topic. (Did I mention I own an entire book case of tomes on writing craft?) My process isn’t the only way to take a manuscript from first draft to saleable pages.

My method is derived from the process James Scott Bell describes in his book Plot & Structure. I’ve detailed that in an earlier post.

I use several books to help me make each pass through my manuscript count. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Mastering Showing and Telling are two of these books.

Self-Editing devotes a chapter to the most common problems found in fiction manuscripts. There are exercises at the end of each to help you hone your editing skills.

Marcy Kennedy’s book gives a list of search terms to use in MS Word during the revision phase. When they show up in your manuscript, it’s a good indicator you’ve entered the realm of telling.  And we all know readers want us to show them what happens.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of the process you choose, you’ll need to start at the beginning. You’ll need to face the fact that this revision, editing and polishing process is going to take longer than the actual writing.

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

That shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, experience writers tend to have a different view. After they’ve learned to effectively polish their manuscript, it helps them write a cleaner first draft.

Someday, you might write a cleaner draft, too. I know I haven’t reached that place with my novels, but when I wrote three short stories back-to-back, the third one had the cleanest of all first drafts.

I begin by printing out the entire manuscript. I read through it, line by line – aloud. I replace weak words using my thesaurus. Sentences that are clunky on my tongue get rewritten.

Those pages look like a mass of lines and scribbles. At the end of a chapter (or three), I take the cluttered pages back to my computer and enter the revisions while they are fresh in my mind. Sometimes, I revise these as I’m typing along.

Once I finish this, a minimum of three full days of work, I compile from Scrivener into a Word document. And let the searches begin.

I’m looking for all “to be” verbs and exchanging them for strong action verbs when possible. I’m eliminating adverbs and tightening all sentences to their barest.

After this stage, I usually walk away from the manuscript for at least a week. When I return, I can use the search function to eliminate repeated words. One of my published author idols tells how to do this in one of her posts. I recommend reading her whole “Gold Mine Manuscript” series.

When you’re finished – you’re NOT

Whew! All done.

Wrong.

Now, it’s time to reprint the manuscript. Read it aloud. Line by line.

Some people recommend starting from the end. I haven’t tried that yet, but if you’re already sick of your story, this might be a way to see it from a fresh perspective.

More scribbles appear on your crisp pages. Each day of grueling editing work is followed by the data entry aspect.

Eyes burn. Words swim across your vision. A woodpecker takes up residence inside your skull – rapping out a message in the middle of your forehead.

If you can convince someone else to proofread the manuscript once you finish this “polishing run,” your manuscript will be better for it.

Otherwise, plan to take at least a week away from it between the final red-pen pass and the proofing stage.

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. This mantra repeats over and over for every story, article, and book I breathe into existence.

Publishing isn’t just vomiting a story onto the page and sending it out to be loved. Writing takes work.

Before your story is ready to step onto the stage of being marketed to agents or editors, or be independently published, you will never want to read it again.

I’m serious.

What is your favorite step in this process? Least favorite? Does anything in my process surprise you?

So you think you want to write a book

Image courtesy of littlebahalia.com

No one who has actually ever written a book thinks they want to write a book. They like telling stories. They enjoy playing with words. Creating things using sentences and punctuation as opposed to brushstrokes and paint is very appealing to them.

When we sit down to write a book, we don’t think we’re going to write a book. We just have a story to tell. Things start going out onto the page. Generally someone else might get a hold of it read it.

“Wow. This is a really great story,” they say. “You should write a book.”

Shows what they don’t know about writing. Writing a book is not fun and games. Like everything else worth doing in life, it’s work. Yes, the terrible four-letter word: work. Writing a book is work. There, I said it.

I will admit there are times during the process of the first draft when the joy is welling over as the words spill onto the page. The story is so real, it’s like you can see the characters and hear their voices. You can feel the sunlight on your face.

Amazing! Incredible!

Then it’s finished. You think, “Okay let’s read this and see what I got.”

You know, anyone who thinks they want to write a book thinks when they read it, they’re going to think it’s awesome. I can’t wait for my friends to read this.

Another sign that they had never actually written a book.Windows Photo Viewer WallpaperWhat generally happens: I read my story and isn’t how I remember it being at all! It flowed in my brain and it made perfect sense. Not so on the page. What is this crap where my excellent words were deposited earlier this month?

Sometimes it takes other people to read the book before we see the flaws. Maybe they say they aren’t really sure what happened on page 10. Everything was going along smoothly and then suddenly it’s like we jumped in time, space, and place.

Why would someone want to read about this character? They’re a jerk. Was the point of this whole story just to entertain? Or just to get those words driving me insane out of my head and onto a page?

I’ve written a few books. I wrote my first in a green spiral notebook when I was nine years old. I have it in a box in my attic along with my second book, also written in a spiral notebook, and a whole bunch of journal from my teenage years. I have notebooks full of short stories and steno books of poetry.

I’ve been creating with words since I learned to write a sentence. I wrote a book and sent it to two different publishers. It got rejected. When I went back and read the book, years later after I learned a little more about writing, a light bulb turned on. “No wonder they rejected it,” I think. “This gal is too perfect; who likes her? What’s with the flashback on page five?”

Talk about a truckload of sophomoric mistakes. So, I wrote another book after studying craft and taking writing classes. It was the first of a series and I was so pumped.

I was determined to follow the formula for rewriting and do this one right.Halfway through the rewrite, I realized something was missing. It’s like my antagonist doesn’t exist. The conflict feels empty.

So, I took a class (notice how this is my answer to everything). I talked to a professional writer and editor. I had to scrap that book, too, along with the little darling that was its sequel.

Fine. Whatever. Throw it all out.

Next, I wrote this book that I didn’t even like, but while I was writing it, something amazing happened. I started liking the story again. I started figuring out what the character was going to be like and where the story should go.

So, hey, National Novel Writing Month. Millions of people are going to write a book this month. Yes, we’re all insane. 23 days later, I had 60,000 words in a file. A book. Better yet, the second book in the series.

I loved the story as I created it. The whole thing flowed from my creative center onto the page. I’m actually afraid to look back at it now. What if the thing’s a mess? I loved it when I wrote it. The idea of reading it now and being horrified by it just drains me.

So I didn’t read it, I wrote the third book in the series instead. Finished the whole thing. Then I read the first book (it was still bad), rewrote it and edited it. Afterwards, I sent it to six beta readers.

All of them did not like my main character. They didn’t think she was very sympathetic. The story needs more work. What this means is that I’ll be rewriting it again.

I guess if you think you’re going to write a book, go ahead. If you think your book will be worth reading, pardon me while I laugh or cry or just shake my head. Because writing a book might sound like a good idea, but it’s not as easy as everyone who has never written a book seems think.

Words of Power

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” – Proverbs 18:21

Langston Hughes spoke to me in his poem “A Dream Deferred.”  Many other words, written and spoken, altered my chosen path on the highway of life.

A similar conversation happened on the phone recently. I took a class from WANA International, which I recommend to those looking for inexpensive ways to learn more about the craft of writing. Part of the price was a one-to-one telephone conversation with Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA and instructor for the class I took.

Anticipation of the call is a mild understatement. “MY WRITING JEDI MASTER IS GOING TO TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE AND WAVE HER LIGHT SABER OVER MY MANUSCRIPT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.”

Have I mentioned what happens when we have high expectations? If so, it bears repeating. High expectations can only be dashed while low expectations might be met or exceeded.

Boy, that Kristen has a powerful light saber. She filled my ears with wonderful advice and my head with plausible options for the fantasy world I had created. My idea was good and the theme (once we found it) will be a powerful one.

Bottom line: scrap that manuscript.

Okay, there goes the months of writing and the weeks of revising. I knew there were problems. I begged her to reconsider and give me ways to fix my hours of blood, sweat and fears (not a typo).

The woman is a rock. “You don’t want Bond-o holding it all together,” not exactly Yoda-speak, but true nonetheless. The infrastructure was shaky and too many patch jobs were needed. In the end, it still might not be something that an agent would buy.

I pulled out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and skipped the first 50 pages. Actually, I skipped directly to the plotting portion. I promise to go back on read about character and theme. After all, according to Brooks, there are six elements in successful fiction and I want to master them all.

At this point, my job at the school district is looking better and better. Oh, right. I quit and they’ve hired my replacement.

Fine. All those emails I get from Career Builder and indeed.com will lead me to a new job. Instead of writing, I’ll fill out some online applications and send out my resume.

Writing is the dream. I’ve deferred it for too many years to list here and maintain the façade surrounding my true age.

I knew it would be work. The learning curve is steep. I thought college coursework was difficult? Ha! This is Mt. Everest to that Bunker Hill.

Kristen believes I have the foundation and that I’ll do the work. To encourage me, she offered to give me some names of people who could read and blurb my book ONCE IT’S READY TO PUBLISH.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda and Master Lamb, I bow to your knowledge of The Force. Time to get back to work writing.