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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Self-Editing, the Andy Way * Part Five * The Final Cut


     I really appreciate the comments and connections with other writers as I have worked on this series.  What becomes clear to me is that Andy shared a great deal of wisdom at Chautauqua which has continued to inspire other writers to try something new in their editing process.  It certainly has helped me.  I am very grateful for Andy and his support and to be able to share this with you.

     I have three more editing tips that I have found very helpful.  The first is to go through your manuscript and rate you paragraphs.  A number 1 means this feels good. A number 2 means not bad. And a number 3 means this has problems.  Looking at the numbers helps to clarify problem areas and make your writing more concise.

    The second process is to lay out all your pages and look at the pacing.  When I do this with one of my manuscripts, I look at the physical form of the story.  Being a visual artist, I can pick out flaws easier by doing this.

    Then, the third editing process is to put a slash mark after each sentence to see how the length of your sentence structure is. You do not want it to be choppy or even, including in a picture book text.  This really helps me to look at if I am using variety in my sentence structure.

    Finally, it all comes down to the simple goals you need to have to make your writing a great piece.

  • clarity & reader understanding
  • concise 
  • flow or smoothness
  • vivid, said with style and voice
     Thanks for following these Highlights Chautauqua Tidbits.  I will see you at the end of October.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Self-Editing, the Andy Way * Part Four

 Now that you are done with the 101 questions a writer needs to ask themselves when editing, we are  ready for the another pass.  This time let's look at our dialogue.

    Well written, dialogue moves the story a long and reveals the character.  I had the pleasure of working with Mitali Perkins in a workshop on dialogue so this blog has a little bit of Andy and a little bit of Mitali expertise. You get two experts through my filter.

     When you edit dialogue, always read it a loud and have someone else read it.  Then try reading only one character at a time.  Ask yourself if you can make sense out of the one sided dialogue?    Another way to see if you have strong dialogue is to get rid of the tags and read it through.  How does it sound?  Dialogue should always be natural sounding.

     Dialogue busters have to do with words, pacing, dialects, and not needed information that bust a great dialogue and ruin your story.

  • Annoying dialogue tags.  Try reading with and without.  The best dialogue does not focus on said.  It may be written but it feels invisible.
  • Abounding adverbs do not trust the reader.  Get rid of them.
  • Badly placed beats.  Beats speed up the pace or slow it down so get it right.
  • Random reactions that do not belong.
  • Pesky pauses that may take the reader out of the moment.
  • Disturbing dialect.  Write to be real and only as if your character has 20 seconds to answer.
  • Irritating information.  Dialogue is meant to be overheard by the reader so leave only the important information.
     Remember dialogue adds to the mood.  It can give the scene a different perspective. It has to be well paced and natural sounding.

    Next week is my final blog on editing.  I will wrap up with a few final ways to get out of your patterns and look at your work.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Self-Editing, the Andy Way * Part Three

As we continue with the self-editing process, Andy suggests that you go into your document, save it as a copy and change the font.  I did this, and it worked great. 

Choose a font you are not use to typing in or reading. Print it off and read it through, again.  

Same story, different font is like the same image with a different style or look. It changes the way we see something and allows us to look at it differently.  Sometimes it shows us the major flaws. Lets look at this past weeks Harvest Moon to illuminate this point.

It is time to ask some serious questions.  They are not in a specific order. Feel free to rearrange them. Remember, editing is the craft part of writing and you have to question everything, or not.  Someone will ask the questions. Who do you prefer asking the hard questions?

   Are your ideas clear and logical?

   Does the story make sense?
   Are all scenes required?
   Is the sequence still logical?
 Are there gaps that need to be filled?
   Are there unneeded or repetitive scenes that fail to advance the plot?
Are there unneeded or repetitive scenes that fail to develop the character?
   Are your character’s motives and actions clear?

   Do all actions provide insight into the character?
               Have you given the necessary background?
                 Is your character or their actions repetitive with another character?
                   Is the writing suitable for the audience/reader?

           Is the main theme expressed well?
                Is it lively and interesting?
                  Is there too much showing before a critical moment? 

I think that will keep you busy for a bit.  Check back for part four of my five part series.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Self-Editing, the Andy Way * Part Two

     In the editing process, this step is sometimes one of the hardest parts.  Just like my fisherman, you have to be patient and let the story sit or lay.  Put the story away.  Tuck it into a drawer and forget about it for a while.  How long?  Now that is a personal question. If you have a hard time doing this then go fishing or sit on your hands, write another story, or take a nap in the sun.

     Have you pulled  something you wrote out several years later and wonder who wrote this?  I cringe when I look at some things that have sat for a long time.  When you take a break from your work, your head and heart get out of your way.  You are not as attached to your work and are more able to see where there may be issues.  


     When your ready to pull out a piece and start the editing process, print out a hard copy and make sure it is double or triple spaced.  Read the whole thing through once without actually doing anything.  Sorry, you are not done yet.

     Next, it is important to look and see if you actually have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Simple as it sounds, starting the real story too late will loose your reader.  Ask your self some questions about your three parts and make some notes off to the side.

    Grammar comes next.  Correct your grammatical errors.  It does not hurt to have someone else read just for grammar.  This is where my critique group, Pens & Brushes gets an A++.  They see blatant errors that I have missed multiple times.  

    My last suggestion in this post is to take adjectives and adverbs that the story does not need.  We storytellers love to embellish and often we bore and do not allow our readers much room to participate in our stories.  We dumb the reader down.  Let's give them a break and trust they understand.  

    I bet you knew all this.  It is nothing new to most of us. How often do you skip through or over parts of your editing process?  This is where I believe having a systematic approach like Andy does is helpful.

     Tune in next week for some serious questions to ask yourself about your writing.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Self-Editing, the Andy Way

     Taking time to review and revise all those words, sentences, and paragraphs as an author is either a part of the writing process that is enjoyable or not, mostly it falls in somewhere in between.  For myself, I have had to learn not mixing the creative writing process up with my editing process. 

     At Highlights Chautauqua 2011, writer and editor, Andy Gutelle gave a wonderful talk on self-editing that really helped me to take my writing to the next level.  My next several blogs will be dedicated to what I am calling Self-Editing, the Andy Way.  What I am sharing is coming from 4 pages of notes that I took so the information is more about what I heard than necessarily what Andy said.

     Editing is a personal process.  Everyone has they’re own way or style, likes and dislikes.  What works for one writer does not always work for someone else.  I found it helpful to add some of what I learned to what I already do to create a system that works for me.

     Editing should not begin until you are done writing.  This is a hard one for me because I like to change words as soon as another one pops in my head that I like.  I think this is really part of my creative process as a very random thinker.  Words and ideas pop into my head from what seems like nowhere.  For others, this could be editing or changing things that are part of the creative process.  Which way is it for you?  I think it is good to know if you are creating or getting in your own way.

     Writing is creative, subjective, personal, sub-conscious art that involves no questioning about what is getting put down.  Editing is the objective, non-personal, conscious craft that involves questioning everything. 

     So why don’t you join me as I start my next picture book and write, write, write.  At the end of next week, tune in and see the first steps in Self-Editing, the Andy Way.