Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Thursday, October 14, 2021
For the past fifteen years I read and heard, “Don’t do any revising or editing until you have finished writing the whole story or book.”
What! That goes against common sense and everything I’ve learned in all the years I studied, wrote, taught, and read. The reasons I disagree are several, but a main one (and I have seen examples of this too many times) is if an author waits until after he finishes and then changes something toward the start, he often forgets a later part of the story affected by the change but not adjusted. A story develops from the beginning to end, and once written, any change at the beginning makes differences later in the piece, changes that are easy to miss. Thus cohesion and coherence become weak and faulty.
I know some “writers” who think any major editing should be done by an editor. Let me share something I found in the August issue of The Writer. According to Sam McCarver, the author of six John Darnell mystery novels,
In the time-intensive world of publishing, you may have only one
opportunity to intrigue an editor with your writing, your main
character and your story. And you must often do than within pages
– or the first few sentences – of your manuscript.
Editors are pressed for time and very perceptive in identifying good writing,
interesting characters and gripping stories, so they move fast through
McCarver goes on to say that an author must write the best story or novel possible: edit it, polish it, enhance it. Then he should read and make final changes – all before ever allowing anyone else to read it. Yes, before allowing anyone else to read an manuscript, the author should have spent hours improving a rough draft.
Writing a story or novel is only half the job: Revising is the other half, a most important half, of writing. Ernest Hemingway, E.B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald all admitted the need to revise and rewrite. Hemingway admitted he cut as he wrote, yet, he would take weeks to revise a book.
McCarver’s article “How to revise your FICTION” gives eight steps for editing a person’s work. I happen to agree with his points, especially the one which states that delaying all editing until the manuscript is finished is a mistake.
However, let’s examine this author’s ideas, as well as those expounded in many composition text books and believed by me:
1. Accept revising as the other half of writing. E.B. White stated that the best writing is rewriting.
2. Adopt good editing procedures. To produce a better first draft, one should begin revising with the first word written, making improvements as he goes. As a writer completes a day’s production, he should study what’s on the screen, if using a computer. If he sees a need for any changes, he should make them while they are fresh in his mind.. Then he should print what is finished.
According to Chang-rae Lee, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, he tries to polish as he goes because what leads him to the next sentence is the sentence before. "I find that it's hard to move on unless I've really understood what's happening, what comes before and where it's heading."
3. Review printed pages. Writers should print out the pages finished and set them aside to “cool.” Then they should read the printout with a pen in hand, noting corrections or revisions that will improve the writing. After making changes on the computer, writers should reprint the pages, adding to the pile of finished pages. Each day’s, or period’s, work should be the same: writing, rereading, editing, and making changes as one goes.
4. Identify errors and correct them. According to McCarver, three procedures are critical in the revision process: correcting mistakes, improving content, and enhancing the story.
The first attention needs to go to spelling and punctuation errors, typos, grammatical mistakes, and inconsistencies in tense or point of view. Although such mistakes may seem minor to the author, editors expect manuscripts to be virtually free of any errors.
5. Improve content. “What you say and how you say it also must be polished to the best of your ability,” states McCarver. “Improving content also includes considering the structure and sharpening your word choice,” as well as re-examining characters for consistency, making sure the plot hangs together, that scenes are compelling and dialogue natural, and that all loose ends are tied up.
Word choice is a topic for another editorial, but it is a vital part of good writing.
6. Concentrate on enhancement. Enhancement goes beyond making corrections and improving content and style: It means increasing the quality and impact of the writing. A techniques given by McCarver are as follows:
* Inserting foreshadowing for greater event impact later.
* Increasing the emotion in dialogue and thoughts in scenes.
* Adding or strengthening subplots.
* Intensifying the consequences of actions and events.
* Adding twists to the plot.
* Shortening flashbacks, if used, and including action in them.
* Making characters seem more real, depicting their actions, dialogue and thoughts more naturally and powerfully.
7. Do that final revision. After finishing the whole manuscript, revise again.
8. Take one last look. After revising the complete manuscript again, the author should reread the printed pages before mailing them or sending a query letter. All errors and last minute changes should be made.
All authors want to impress editors by providing a story that the editors cannot put down. Each author, through a manuscript, has only one chance to make a great first impression.
Note: “How to revise your FICTION” by Sam McCarver in The Writer, August, 2005, provided research material for this editorial as did several composition text books and notes from my files.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Join along with Katie and Panther as that curious black kitty gets into all sorts of mischief.
Sunday, October 3, 2021
Several years ago, my grandson, 10 at the time, was trying out for the All County Band in his area. He told me the piece he had to play was difficult. I told him that practice is a powerful tool. Just 10-15 minutes a day will help tremendously.
Obviously, the more practice the better, but my grandson, like so many kids today, has ADHD. Reducing the amount of time on practicing doesn’t make it seem overwhelming – it’s doable.
This philosophy will work for anything, including writing.
What does it take to have a flourishing writing career?
1. Learn the craft and practice it.
To be a ‘good’ writer, an effective writer, a working writer, you need to know your craft. The only way to do this is to study it.
If you’re starting out, take some courses online or offline or both. You should also read a lot of books on the craft of writing. Get a strong grasp of the basics.
We’re all familiar with “practice makes perfect.”
There’s a reason that saying has lasted. It’s true.
Writing coach Suzanne Lieurance says, “Writing is a lot like gardening because it takes constant pruning and weeding.”
You need to keep up with your craft. Even as your get better at it, keep honing your craft. Keep learning more and more and practice, practice, practice
So, what does it mean to practice?
Simple. Write. Write. Write.
An excellent way to improve your writing skills is to copy (type and/or handwrite) content of a master in the niche you want to specialize in.
This is a copywriting trick. You actually write the master’s words and how to write professionally mentally sinks in.
Now, we all know that this is just a practice tool. We should never ever use someone else’s content as our own.
A second way to improve your writing skills is to read, read, and read some more. Read books in the genre you want to write in particular. Study the books.
2. Focus in on a niche.
Have you heard the adage: A jack of all trades and master of none?
This is the reason you need to specialize.
You don’t want to be known as simply okay or good in a number of different niches. You want to be known as an expert in one or two niches.
This way, when someone is looking for a writer who specializes in, say, memoirs and autobiographies, you’re at the top of the list.
I would recommend that your niches are related, like memoirs and autobiographies or being an author and book marketing.
Along with this, focus produces results.
According to an article in Psychology Today on focus and results, Dan Goleman Ph.D. says, “The more focused we are, the more successful we can be at whatever we do. And, conversely, the more distracted, the less well we do. This applies across the board: sports, school, career.”
So, practice and focus your way to a successful writing career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.
You can connect with Karen at: