Editing Tip Tuesday on Wednesday

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Life happens.

I let a Tuesday go by without offering an editing tip. Sorry about that. I remembered at 4 am that it was Wednesday and I hadn’t blogged.

I decided that would be my tip. Life happens. Don’t beat yourself up. We all have goals. Daily writing goals, blog posts, newsletters, social media expectations, deadlines. We plan and plan. Then life has a hearty laugh at our expense.

That’s been my whole week. Two sick kids. My work schedule for Monday took a turn when my son came down with a stomach bug minutes before the bus came. Put the brakes on and reroute. Because it’s not just my writing and editing I have to think about. There’s the food shopping, the house cleaning, the dog, doctor’s appointments and the health forms the high school requires incoming Freshman to submit for continued admittance. Not as simple as that sounds, believe me. I live in New Jersey. This state loves its regulations.

The other kid caught the bad cold knocking her school mates on their butts and now she’s home too. Deep breath. I can still juggle it all. Right?

Probably not, which is partly why I missed my own deadline.

This post might not be full of technical information to make your novel better, but knowing its okay to shift gears and start over goes a long way. I’m giving you permission. Go ahead, take that deep breath, walk around the neighborhood, drink that glass of scotch. Your writing will wait for you.

When I was writing my third novel in my middle grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain, I struggled with the plot the whole way through. I sent the book to my editor and even with her suggestions the story didn’t feel right. I ditched the entire novel and started over. Life happens. The story is better for it.

 

Don’t fight it. Today might not turn out the way you planned. Just keep going. Don’t give up. If you don’t make your goals today, there will be tomorrow and maybe those scenes will better than you thought. Or find small snippets of time, like waiting in the doctor’s office or waiting for your kid’s dance class to end, to jot a few sentences down. You might get closer to your word count than you thought.

I’m shifting my goals today. A blog post. More pages in the novel, but I won’t be typing “The End” today. There isn’t enough time. My son returned to school and he needs to be picked up at the end of the day. It’s also Back To School Night. Can’t forget about dinner……

Life happens.

What is Your Fetish?

“Hello, my name is Stacey. I have a handbag fetish.” There. I said it. It’s my first step to recovery. But who really wants to recover from loving handbags? I’m not hurting anyone. Why should I stop? Of course, it’s not just in the loving. It’s in the buying. I own 30 bags of all different sizes, shapes and colors. Those bags do not include luggage, canvas totes, beach bags (3 I used to live at the shore, remember), duffel bags, backpacks, computer bags (2) or lunch boxes. (I just bought a really cute lunch box that looks like a satchel with black and pink stripes.)

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Cute, right?

I have never given away a handbag I have owned. Unlike clothes, books, comforters, and furniture, which I have donated when they no longer served me, but have plenty of life left to help someone else. I can’t part with my bags. I have the very first Coach bag I ever owned bought for me as a birthday gift from the Coffee King 25 years ago. I can’t get rid of it. One it’s a Coach bag. Two it was bought for me by my super cute then boyfriend. Handbags, baby, are romantic.

Just yesterday, I was in Kohl’s buying a birthday present for my ninety-year-old grandmother. I swung by the handbag department and found a really cute bag with lots of pockets. I love a bag with lots of pockets. Do you know how much organizing I can do with all those pockets? And it had a pouch that pulled out for separate use. Fun! I refrained from buying. Handbags were not my goal. I bought my gift and went home.

Only to keep thinking about that bag. How useful it would be when I attend a writer’s conference next month. Not that I needed it, mind you. I have bags for that. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I looked at the bag online just to make sure I still liked it. The bag was on sale and I had two coupons.  Someone told me once, ask myself “Do you love it?” when making a purchase. If you can’t say yes, don’t buy it. By 7:30 last night I was back in Kohl’s.

Handbags have been around since the 1500s. Men and women used them because clothes hadn’t been made with pockets yet. By the end of the 16th century, and the invention of pockets, bags were mostly used by women from then on. You can learn more about handbags at The Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam. Can you believe there is a museum for handbags? Guess what’s on my bucket list!

The things that we like and don’t like really define who we are. It’s no surprise I like something where I can put things. I like wicker boxes and baskets. I love cubbies, built ins, and my jewelry box that has two levels stacked together, the top one with lots of different square sized cut outs to hold necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. It also came with a travel size box with multiple compartments. Everything in its place. To me, that means peace.

So, I can’t attempt treatment for my handbag fetish because handbags are the treatment for my compulsion to organize. Clutter gives me anxiety. Ask my family. They hear me yell.

In my current manuscript, my main character is a woman fondly referred to as “Miss Hospital Corners.” I bet she likes handbags too. I never asked her and she never told me, but I’d take a guess and say yes to that one. Should I give her a few?

What is the one thing you can’t live without? Can’t pass up? What does it say most about you?

 

Editing Tip Tuesday

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Edit with heart.

Here’s the best advice I can give you: write a novel from your heart. Don’t worry about what’s popular or trending. If your book doesn’t move you, it won’t move anyone else either.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you must feel your book deep in your soul. The message of your story has to be a message you feel passionate about otherwise it’s just another vampire story.

Here’s another piece of advice: learn your craft. Just because you want to write a book doesn’t mean you know how. I wanted to be a writer since I was seven. I wrote my first novel when I was twelve titled Just the Six of Us. I still have it. I’ve been a veracious reader my entire life. When I sat down in my thirties to write my first real book I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. It showed on the page. I’ve written six books and I’m working on number seven. Now, I know what I’m doing.

But knowing what I’m doing doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes. I do. A lot. That’s why I have critique partners and an editor. You can’t edit your own book. You can make it better by yourself, but you want it to be great? You need experienced eyes on it. Don’t give it to Aunt Carol because she runs the library’s Thursday night knitting book club. Beta readers are for when that book is almost polished. I’ve used them too.

Any questions?

Magic Mirror

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“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” Don’t ask. Especially when you’re looking into a lighted magnified mirror. As a matter of fact, don’t do that either. I beg you. JUST DON’T DO IT.

I asked my mother for a magnified makeup mirror for my birthday. She did ask, “Are you sure you want that?” She knew. I didn’t listen. I should have. I’ll never be the same again.

The problem was the lighting in my bathroom wasn’t good enough for me to see every little thing on my face.(Why did I think I needed to see every little thing on my face? Have I lost my mind completely? Don’t answer that.)  I don’t see as well as I used to in a dimly lit environment. It’s not easy to climb up on the sink, get right against the mirror, and see the ugly little unwanted hairs hanging out on my face.

So, I thought one of those magnified mirrors surrounded by light would be great to have at my house. My mother granted my birthday wish and now I had a mirror of my own. The mirror might even help me blend my makeup better. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Do you know what I saw? Something right out of Stephen King novel, that’s what. I saw lines deep and endless mapping a path along my face and long, uncontrollable hairs reaching out their tentacles to grab me and drag me to the other side of that mirror where the evil stepmother lives. I saw every pore, red spot, and broken blood vessel laying claim to my skin. I jumped back, heart hammering in my chest. When I glanced in the regular mirror, the monster had disappeared, drawn back to its place of hiding just waiting for me to peer into the darkness of its depth.

There I was, staring into the regular mirror, for the time being. The me I recognized, but I knew I had to glance back into the swollen world inside that lighted mirror. I had to rescue my appearance from those hairy tentacles and uneven landscape. I couldn’t let my skin be at the mercy of those monsters. I had to be brave. I looked again.

This time I was prepared. Tweezers securely held between my fingers. Makeup blending brush at the ready. I held my breath and attacked. Searching for things that did not belong, yanking and removing. I focused only on the task at hand and didn’t dare search out anything else until I was done. Allowing my eyes to wander in a magnified mirror only made me nauseous. It’s too much like spinning in the tea cups.

I brushed, covered and applied. The heat from the light brought beads of sweat to my lip making my work slip and slide around my face. Entrenched so deep in facial warfare I was uncertain of when it would end. Had I missed anything? Who would notice? And had they noticed before but were too polite to point out the hairs of my chinny, chin, chin?

Scarred and battered, I was done. The fight was over. The makeup on. It was time to pull out of the magical makeup mirror, bright with light, and glance back into the poorly lit bathroom mirror.

“Not so bad,” I said, but I was blinded by light and exhausted from battle. What did I know? I knew only that horrible mirror would be shoved deeply inside the cabinet and only looked into when the choices were few or before an important event.

 

 

 

Editing Tip Tuesday

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I teach a creative writing workshop to middle school students about writing in the active voice. Active voice gives writing more punch. Passive writing makes writing weak. Even if you don’t write fiction, all writing can benefit from active voice.

The easiest way to learn how to write in active voice is to avoid the passive. Stay away from the verb “to be” and all its conjugations. Am, are, was, were, be, being, been. In passive voice the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. In active voice the subject does the action.

“I am getting a divorce.” vs. “I divorced his sorry behind.” See the difference? Using active voice will also tell a lot about the character speaking. What kind of words does this person choose to use?

You might be sitting there saying, “Stacey, I absolutely must use a “to be” verb in this sentence.” If you can’t live without “to be” in a few sentences, leave it in. I would encourage you to rewrite the sentence until it is active. A way exists. (As apposed to: there must be a way to write a better sentence.)

Using the passive voice also makes sentences wordy. See sentence above. Active voice will trim your words making each one work hard for you. You want your words sweating by the time you’re done.

You can do a search and find for all “to be” words in your document or read it out loud. Your words will surprise you.

Any questions?

I still have two spots available for anyone who would like the first five pages of the WIP edited for free. Comment below and I’ll send you an email with more details. I love hearing from you. Happy editing.

 

Editing Tip Tuesday

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There are many ways to do it. (That should have your attention.) Of course, I mean editing. You could read fifty books, attend conferences and you will hear a hundred different ways to edit. Basically, they’re all correct. You just have to find the way that works for you. Having said that, even with all your experience going through draft after draft you still need a professional editor to take a pass through. If you are traditionally published, your publishing house will provide said editor for you, but if you’re going the self-pub route then you need to hire one yourself. It’s worth the money. You want your novel to be as good as possible and we can’t do that by ourselves. Not even us control freaks.

So how should you go through your first draft and polish it up? I’m slightly anal retentive. (You should see my organized cabinets and I wrote tariffs for phone companies for several years, which spoke right to that side of me. It was a really boring job, but I learned a lot about grammar, how to write an outstanding letter and I got the color code to my heart’s content.) I like to apply those skills to my editing process.

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Yup, this is an example of my cabinets. 

I have printed out the entire novel, three hole punched the pages and put it in a binder. Then I used color coordinated sticky notes to identify the POV characters and made notes on all my stickies. That allowed me to see each person’s story line individually. I liked the color coding, but it was time consuming and I was still a baby writer at the time so I don’t think I benefited enough because I didn’t know enough.

I also love my red pen. Ask my critique partners. I have printed out the novel and red penned myself through out. Like grading papers. That might be okay if you’re righting a very linear story. I made tons of notes in the margins of the pages and added pages then went back and fixed all that I had marked up.

For my last two novels, Welcome to Bibliotheca and Welcome to Skull Mountain I outlined each chapter on a note card. I did this by hand, but if you write in Scrivener (which I’m thinking about switching to. Thoughts?) the program will outline for you. All you have to do is print, cut and paste. I hung each card on my wall with tape so I could move them around. I used different colored pens to identify plot layers that needed to be fixed, holes that needed to be closed. The note cards helped me identify when I dropped a story line, repeated myself (a real disappointment when that happened) or when I needed to add to a story line. I tend to need to add in draft two.

For my current WIP, a women’s fiction novel about home and family, (like my middle grade fantasies, by the way) I’ve got the note cards ready, but this time I’m going to put them on a binder ring so I can take the cards with me. (I got this idea from a blog post about editing. I couldn’t find it to share. Sorry.) I’m also thinking about using small colored sticky notes to identify plot layers that I may have dropped or need expanding on or deleting all together. Never be afraid to delete. Just cut it out and place it in another document. You might be able to use the work later. Or not, but at least you have it. I haven’t used any of the work I’ve deleted so far, but it’s still available to me.

Some authors like to use white boards so they can visualize the entire story at once. Great idea. Some authors only use sticky notes because they like the idea of moving the notes around to rearrange chapters. I love an idea that allows me to “see” what I’m doing. I’m a visual person so colors and pictures are big helps. My story line in Welcome To Skull Mountain had a gigantic plot hole in it and I was having trouble fixing it. I grabbed brown paper bags, the kind we used to cover books with, cut them open and spread them out on my kitchen island. (I didn’t want to waste time running out to get big sheets of paper.) But I had to see what was happening, so in the form of a family tree graph I wrote out the plot line and what branched off from it. This allowed me to see the plot holes, which I also identified in different colored pens, but I knew where to take the story when I didn’t before. I hung that project on the wall too.

I am sure there are many other ways to edit and I’d like to hear about them if you do things differently. As a matter of fact, I want to hear about it so much and in celebration of my new editorial business, the first four people who comment on this blog post will get the first five pages of their novel edited for free. Unfortunately, I don’t edit picture books, early readers, or short stories. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Happy Writing!

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Do any of you remember that Staples commercial for school supplies where the Dad takes the kids to the store, the shopping cart is full of school supplies, the Dad is riding the back of the cart down the aisle the way kids would, one foot in the air, and his two children are dragging up the rear, heads hung low? The music playing over the commercial is the Christmas Carol, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” One of my absolute favorite commercials ever.

It’s that time again and I love it. I love school supplies. It’s a weird fetish, I realize, but I can’t help it. When I was in school I couldn’t wait to purchase new notebooks, pencils and pens, a Trapper Keeper and on and on. I loved having folders or a binder to organize myself. New school supplies meant a whole world of new possibilities. I might turn out smarter, maybe the cool kids would like me if I had the best binder, ah, my imagination would run away with itself. Let me tell you what, there is nothing like a brand new notebook just waiting for you to fill it!

When I didn’t have kids and was no longer in school I’d still browse through the new school supplies bursting out of the aisles and buy myself a notebook. And then when I had kids that needed school supplies? Well, look out. The fun was back. I never say no to school supplies. While they searched for the right pencil case, soft with a zipper, I secretly looked for things I could buy for me. I did it again this year! I’m addicted to notebooks. I can’t help it. All that empty space just waiting for stories to tell. A blank screen in Word can’t hold a candle to a blank page in a notebook. Then there’s the sound of my pen scratching across the page as my hand soars from line to line. I’ll take that sound over the clacking of keys any day.

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This year’s purchase.

As a matter of fact, I can’t wait to go to Staples because I need note cards to edit the new book I’m working on and hope to have published next year. It’s all I can do to control myself from running out when I should be writing. Though, Noodge 2 said just last night she needs additional supplies for schools. Yippee!!! I’ll be looking for those note cards for sure.

The start of the school year brings about so many emotions especially as my kids get older, but this time of the year is something like a birth. Everything brand new and smelling good. Endless chances to do it right. A clean slate. New experiences.

It is the most wonderful time of the year. (Next to Christmas, of course.)