Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Develop a Self-editing Process That Works for You



There is a lot to be said about self-editing: find the best word, reduce repetition, be sure to show instead of tell, read your manuscript aloud so you can "hear" mistakes, etc. In the years I've been editing, for myself and others, I've also found it's good to find a process that works and stick to it.

Just like we don't all write the same, we don't all edit the same. I'm going to share my process in the hope that it sparks ideas on how to develop your own self-editing process.

Put it Down for a Few Weeks

It's important to step away from a manuscript prior to the editing process. You're too close to it otherwise. It's easy to gloss over errors and inconsistencies you would catch if you were reviewing your work with fresh eyes. My preferred time frame is a month. If it's possible, I put it aside for four weeks and work on something else so the manuscript feels new when I pick it up again.

Read it Aloud

My process is comprised of three separate and intentional reads of the manuscript. The first is where I read it aloud so I can hear how it sounds and pick out inconsistencies and obvious typos. When I find an inconsistency--the character's eyes are suddenly green when they have been blue for five chapters or a disconnect in the timeline--I stop instantly and search for the character's name or some keywords that connect in my brain to tell me there is a continuity issue. I also immediately correct any typographical errors.

Word Choice, Grammar, and Repetition

The next time I read the manuscript I am focused entirely on the words. Is this the best word choice? Can this adverb be replaced with a more powerful verb? Has the word "was" or "walked" or "said" been used too many times? Is this sentence grammatically correct? Is a fragment okay here? Is this showing or telling? What is being said? Is there a better way to say it? Now is also the time to trim back the excess description and unnecessary backstory.

Punctuation

Because punctuation is so important, one round of edits should be dedicated solely to making sure it's right. Is this the right punctuation for this sentence? Is another punctuation mark better? How would changing the punctuation affect the way the reader interprets what is happening? What conclusions will the reader draw about the character based upon how the dialogue is punctuated?

Then STOP.

Forget the manuscript exists for a day. Then make one final read through--I prefer to read it aloud--and fine tune it. You're guaranteed to find at least one thing you missed.

Here are some resources on self-editing that will also help:




New York Times bestselling author Jerry Jenkins supplies writers with a 21-part checklist on how to edit a book, which you can download from his website.

I'll end today with a quote by Newbery Honor winner Shannon Hale:

“I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”




Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Successful Writing Strategy: Know Your Intent

By Karen Cioffi

Intent is a crucial factor in success. But, what exactly does this mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, intent is an aim, a clear and “formulated or planned intention.” It is a purpose, “the act or fact of intending.”

Intent is a necessary factor on any path to success, including your path to writing success. You need to know what you want, what you’re striving for. And, that knowledge has to be clearly defined.

An unclear destination or goal is similar to being on a path that has very low hanging branches, an assortment of rocks that may hinder your forward movement, uneven and rugged terrain, branches and even logs strewn across the road; you get the idea. You kind of step over the debris, look around or through the branches, you don’t have a clear view of where you’re going.

A clear-cut goal is akin to walking on a smooth and clear path. No goal related obstacles to hinder your forward momentum or vision.

But, let me add to the sentence above, while intent is crucial, it’s an active and passionate pursuit of your intent that will actually allow you to achieve success. It reminds me of a passage in the Bible at James 24:26, “Faith without works is dead.”

While the intent is there, if you don’t actively take the needed steps to get from A to B, walk-the-walk, rather than just talk-the-talk, you’ll never reach your goal.

To realize your intent, it would be beneficial for you to create a list of questions and statements outlining the specifics to that intent.

A few of questions you might include are:
- What is your ultimate success goal?
- What does the obtainment of your goal mean?
- After picturing it, what does success look like to you?
- How will you reach your goal?

So, how would you answer these questions?

As a writer, perhaps your goal is to write for one or two major magazines. Maybe you’d prefer to be published in a number of smaller magazines. Possibly you want to author a book a year and have them published by traditional publishing houses. Or, maybe you want to self-publish your own books at a faster or slower pace.

Maybe success to you is to make a comfortable living, or you may be very happy with simply supplementing your income. Maybe you want to be a professional, sought after ghostwriter or copywriter. Maybe you want to be a coach, a speaker, offer workshops, or present teleseminars. These are some of the potential goals for a writer.

Whatever your vision of success is, you need to see it clearly, write it down (it’d be a good idea to also create a vision board), and take the necessary steps to get you where you want to be.

If you find you have a realistic success vision, and are taking the necessary steps to achieve your envisioned intent, at least you think you are, but you still can’t seem to reach the goal, then perhaps your efforts aren’t narrowly focused enough. Maybe your success vision is too broad.

Wanting to be a writer is a noble endeavor, but it’s a very broad target. There are so many niches within the writing arena that if you don’t focus on one or two in particular, you’ll be known as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’

Try narrowing down, fine tuning your goal. Remember, it’s essential to be specific and focused.

It might be to your advantage to create success steps that continually move you forward on the path to reaching your ultimate goal.

For someone new to writing, the first step on a writing career would be to learn the craft of writing. You might give yourself a year or two to join writing groups, take advantage of writing workshops or classes, write for article directories, or create stories. You should also be part of at least one critique group. This would be your first step to achieving your intent, your success vision.

Instead of trying to go directly from A to B, it might be more effective to go from A to A1 to A2 to A3 . . . to B. But, again, for each step, the intent, a clear-cut vision, and the driving passion all need to be front and center.

Get started today!

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
While there, be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

And, if you’re looking for an easy-read, middle-grade fantasy adventure, check out WALKING THROUGH WALLS.