Reading out loud for a final edit

The kids are all back at school, Marc is out of town, and I have reserved this week to do a final edit of my manuscript.

“But how do you do that?” my son asked me last night at dinner.

Behold the new "Red Pen"

Behold the new “Red Pen”

“Well,” I told him, “I start on page one and I begin to read the entire thing out loud.”

And then, I explained, I look for areas where there are continuity breaks. For example when I was working on a chapter yesterday I noticed that I had written about “taking Motrin *again*” and yet I hadn’t mentioned any previous times that we had taken it. Oops – I went back and added that first instance.

Gone are the days of using a red pen, now I read out loud from the screen to find words that have been dropped and spellings that made it through spell check but were the wrong word. (Form instead of from.) All edits are done using my computer.

If I come across a passage that is particularly clunky and I can’t think of how to fix it, I highlight it to remind me to come back to it and I move on.

Quotation marks that weren’t added because they are a pain in the neck when you are brain dumping your story need to be added to dialogue.

When you read out loud, you “hear” the areas where your voice might have changed. Where you (I) might have added a snarky bit that doesn’t add anything to the story – out it comes.

When I read out loud, I also hear where I might have gone a little too light on descriptions. I stop to recall what it was I saw and felt and I add in those details.

I also hear some of the repetition that I didn’t seem to catch when I wrote the piece. When spoken, those words jump out front and center.

Reading out loud isn’t for everyone, it’s a slow process and I have to have absolute silence which is why this week is so good to do it – Please don’t interrupt me when I’m deep in my story.

But for me, it’s the best method for a review.

How about you? How do you do a final edit?

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Planning Your Writing Life

So, to beat a dead horse, I’m a planner. I maintain both digital and paper planners. Digital is great on the go, but there is just something about pen to paper that makes things connect in my head. I’ve also discovered the value of specific planners for specific aspects of my life. For example, I have one notebook dedicated to weekends. I have found this helps me eliminate the noise from work tasks and focus on home and family life.

Three planners: Plot Your Work 2017 AuthorLife, WriteMind Planner

Recently I found 3 different planners designed specifically for writers and our writing projects. I like sitting down and capturing all the tasks related to a particular project, but I also find I’m easily overwhelmed. Pulling tasks from a planner dedicated to writing is much cleaner that keeping them all in one place. This way, I look at the writing planner, grab the tasks I need for that week and, gently close the cover and keep my focus on what really needs to be done.

2017 Author Life Planner

The Cover of the 2017 AuthorLife PlannerBria Quinlan

http://briaquinlan.com/2017-authorlife-planner/

Available in 2 formats

Download $9.99

Via Amazon Direct print $15.99

Bria Quinlan knows writers and the writing process. She should, she is a USA Today Best-Selling author who writes romantic comedies. It wasn’t always that way at one time, she toiled in corporate America as an HR director. She’s combined her skills to create The AuthorLife Planner. A two part program designed to help writers identify their goals and devise a plan to achieve them. Part one is a 40 page workbook based on Quinlan’s Zero to Planned workshops. I printed this part, because you know, the whole brain connections via pen to paper thing.

Through a series of detailed exercises, Quinlan walks you through identifying what you want to do, what you are currently doing, who you are doing it for (in other words who are your core readers) and whether you are on the right path. Once you’ve figured out these key aspects, she helps you identify where you should spend your time to get the results you desire. Once you’ve figured out where to spend your time, the AuthorLife Planner helps you map the tasks out weekly in the 160 page calendar and regularly evaluate your progress.

Not gonna lie, the process is a smidge daunting, but in the exciting “oh the potential” kind of way. As someone who wears many hats, I’m hoping it will help me focus and hone in on what I need to do to accomplish the goals I’ve set.

Plot Your Work

img_4992The Writer’s Project Planner

C.J. Ellison

http://www.plotyourwork.com/

Cost $29.99

Available Mid-December 2016

New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling Author C.J. Ellison combined her background in sales and marketing with her writing experience to develop Plot Your Work – The Writer’s Project Planner. You already have a plan hell, you have SEVERAL plans, but you need a way to stay on track with multiple projects, then Plot Your Work is for you.

Plot Your Work helps you manage up to five writing projects with

  • yearly project spreads,
  • quarterly task planning,
  • monthly and weekly task breakdowns and,
  • weekly reviews to keep you organized.

I bought a the beta version that quickly sold out. The full version is scheduled to be available this month with shipment in January. Customizations are in the works to track marketing efforts, launches, sales etc.

While there are similarities between this at the Author Life Planner, this one is particularly useful to the writer who is juggling multiple projects and doesn’t want anything to slip through the cracks.

WriteMind planner

img_4994An all-in-one, customizable idea management and project organizing system for authors.

http://perryelisabethdesign.com/writemind/

Digital Download Edition $19.99*

Disk bound system $26.99* plus shipping.

*The system is customizable so additional modules available for extra cost.

Are you a pantser who needs to capture ideas as they present themselves?

Or, are you a planner who needs to work out all the details before you sit down at the keyboard? Either way, the WriteMind Planner is for you.

The WriteMind Planner touts itself as “An all-in-one, customizable idea management and project organizing system for authors.” You can either download the modules or buy a printed disc-bound version. I went for the disc-bound version. The disc system lets you organize things the way you like. It’s also expandable and or collapsible if you want to keep things simple.

The basic WriteMind planner contains:

  • 8 black binding discs
  • An artistic, cheerful cover page 
  • “Please Return To:” page
  • 30 To-Do list slips
  • 30 Idea Worksheets
  • Wordcount Tracking Calendars
  • The Ultimate Self-Publishing Checklist
  • Contacts
  • 50 sheets of lined paper
  • 5 Tabs

There is a place for comments or special requests on the order form. For example, I don’t like college ruled paper, so I asked that my note pages be wide ruled or plain white. They were very responsive. You can customize your planner by adding different modules. I added 2 folder pockets. I’ve been using this to capture OOOH SHINY, the random ideas that intrude when I should be focusing on my WIP.

Any of these planners would make great gifts for the writers in your life. Maybe even a gift to yourself to help you get on track and stay on task in 2017!

Have you tried any of these systems? Do you have a different way of managing your writing projects? Share in the comments.


The opinions expresses are my own and may not represent those of my fellow NHWN bloggers. I was not given any compensation nor are the links an affiliate links.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently typing her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

A little bit of bribery often does a writer good

 

I’ve been writing up the walk I took this summer with my son, but it’s going slow. I found out that each day took about 3-4 posts to complete. What I was doing was writing the post, editing it and then getting it up on my blog.

Then I’d go have lunch.

Seriously. A single post expanded to the time I allowed it to have – which was all morning.

In reality, that’s not so bad, I mean it was a way to get the work out – slowly but surely.

But the problem is I have other projects that I want to start, other stories that I want to write.

So I’ve begun bribing myself.

I take myself to the beautiful library the next town over (that has a quiet room) and I sit my butt in the chair until I write up a full day from my walk. This morning I finished Day 9 (of 16.) It takes about 3.5 hours to write up each day, but in that time I get almost a week’s worth of posts. And it will soon free up my time to write other pieces.

You would not believe how my mind tries to get out of sitting in that chair.

  • My back hurts.
  • I need to get up and stretch.
  • I wonder if I locked the car.
  • Maybe I can stop early and then tack on what I need to do to tomorrow’s writing session.

Here’s where the bribery comes in. *If* I can finish a full day’s write-up (about 4,000 words total) *then* I can have lunch in a nice restaurant. Trust me, when you work out of your home and lunch usually consists of leftovers from the night before, a good lunch is tempting.

Tempting enough for me to finish what I need to do.

While my wallet is getting lighter, my manuscript is getting larger and that sits well with me.

So if you find that you’re stuck, if you feel like you’d rather do *anything* than sit down and write, try a little bribery.

I can personally recommend the Massaman curry just around the corner.

My favorite.

My favorite.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

“Well duh” and “Show don’t Tell”

 

You know that old writers’ adage “show don’t tell?” It’s an incredibly important piece of advice. As important as tight lug nuts on the wheels of your literary car.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best one, but you get the picture. “Show don’t tell” means that you include enough imagery, enough action and dialog for the reader to figure things out on their own. It’s as important to your progress as wheels staying on your car.

colferI recently picked up a book by Chris Colfer – he played Kurt on Glee and it turns out he’s quite the writer. I like him. I think he’s funny and talented.

But my praise for him falls short in his most recent book. The Land of Stories – an Author’s Odyssey Book 5. Granted I hadn’t read the previous books (shame on me for not paying attention when I bought this book) and granted it’s written for a young (middle school) audience but Geeze Louise!  Just take a look at the following passages.

“I’ve brought you all here to witness the birth of an era,” the Masked Man preached. “But before we achieve a new future, the ways of the past must be destroyed  and the leaders of the past are no exception!”

The Masked Man gestured to a large wood platform below the balcony, on the lawn between the palace and the dried lake. A very tall man in a long black cloak climbed to the top of the platform and placed a large wooden block in the center.

A dozen flying monkey pulled a wagon out from behind the place. It carried all the former kings and queens of the fairy tale world…(long list of names)

The tall man on the platform withdrew a large silver axe from inside his cloak. The civilians began screaming and shouting in horror once they realized the purpose of it – the Masked Man was going to have the royal family executed!

It’s that last sentence that I object to. Colfer had done a great job to that point of showing his audience what was happening. The characters in the story even figured it out, but then he threw in a sentence to make sure we were told what was happening.

Look at the passage again and remove that last italicized part of the sentence. It leaves us hanging with horror and outrage, an appropriate response. It does not leave us with an exclamation point of excitement. This is an excellent example of how showing is so much more effective than telling.

I read that passage out loud to my daughter emphasizing the italicized sentence.

“Well duh,” she said “it’s an execution.”

Little bit of writing advice here – writers NEVER want their readers to say “Well duh.”

A few pages later, we read about how a trap door opened and how the entire royal party managed to escape by way of horses and a carriage hidden underneath the execution platform.

“To his horror, he saw Goldilocks on Porridge and Jack on Buckle! The couple steered the horses and the carriage into the forest beyond the palace, knocking over dozens of Winkie soldiers as they went. The execution had turned into a rescue mission right before the Masked Man’s eyes!”

Again, “well duh.”

Once again, remove that “telling” sentence at the end (and while you’re at it get rid of about half of the exclamation marks he uses) and you end up with a tighter, more vivid story that relies on the reader to connect the (very obvious) dots.

Now granted I haven’t read the first 4 books and this may be Colfer’s style. I know that his audience is young readers, but please – as writers you must give your readers credit. If you’ve done a good job with the descriptions, action, and dialogue you shouldn’t have to spell out *anything*. Your readers should be able to figure it out on their own.

Next time you hear “show, don’t tell” think of this example. When you write, it’s your job to set things up clearly enough for your readers to “get it.” If you haven’t, then it’s also your job to go back, figure out why not, and then strengthen your work so they do.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing

 

I was recently asked by a student – “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

My answer to this question is – Behold the power of time.

clockThere are so many instances where I’ve budgeted time to write and then *something* happens. The kids need a ride, I get a call in the middle, I’ve clicked on one too many articles on the internet, etc.

I’ve learned that if you want to write, really want to write, then you have to write. If that means closing a door, so be it. If it means going somewhere else to write, setting a timer so you stay in your seat to write, if it means you do anything you can in order to write then so be it.

Because you can’t be a writer if you don’t write.

I’ve also recognized that a written piece needs its own time. Time to mix and muddle – until its purest essence comes out. When I was in college I never did much more than 1 draft (why should I? I knew my writing was already amazing.) Now with years of experience behind me, I know that I have to do at least 3, if not more drafts on every publishable piece. Turns out I’m not as amazing as I once thought I was. You’d be surprised at how many typos I catch (my mind is already racing to the next sentence that it knows is coming.) And how I can whittle a piece down when I have some distance from it and I can begin to see redundancies and areas that need clarification. I’m a much better writer when I have reflection.

I’ve also realized that some pieces take longer than others. As a journalist I’m used to working on deadline.

“Wendy, have a 1500 word article in to me by end of day.”

“Yup, you got it, getting started on it right now.”

While I can do articles and assignments fairly quickly, (they follow a familiar template) my own creative writing takes a little longer. It needs to be coaxed and sometimes even pulled screaming with protest from the depths of my soul.

Different types of writing take different amounts of time.

So my answer to that question is -Time. It’s what I’ve learned is the most important thing about writing. You have to have it and you have to manage it well.

How about you? What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

How Janet Evanovich Writes

 

I recently picked up a copy of Janet Evanovich’s (with Ina Yalof) How I Write – Secrets of a Bestselling Author (2006.) The book is written in question/answer format which makes it a little tough to read (no real continuity) BUT if you can stick with it, it’s filled with tons of good information from a very accomplished (and fellow Granite Stater) writer.

janetI have yet to go to see an author without someone asking if the writer is a “pantser or plotter” A pantser writes by the seat of their pants and a plotter outlines and plans what they will write (for the record I am a 100% plotter.)

It’s the question everyone wants to know – how do you do that voodoo that you do so well? Read how Janet answers this question in her book:

  1. Q. How do writers set up their books? Do you outline them first, or do you just have an idea in your head and then spin the tale?

JANET. I have lots of writer friends, and we all have our own system. I know people who make detailed fifty-page outlines before they begin, and I know people who start on page one and just wing it. I’m somewhere in between. I start with the characters. I do a short character sketch for each of my major characters. Next, I pick a location and then I decide what the crime is going to be.

Once I have those elements down, I make a time line of the action. This means that I know the beginning and the end and a bunch of things that will happen along the way. The time line is usually about five pages long. It gives me some plot points and a definite direction. The details come to me as I write. As it turns out, I usually stick to the original outline, but I don’t have it carved in stone. I try to be flexible when I need to be.

How I Write is actually a brilliant little book that has, for the most part, flown under the radar. Sure some of it’s dated, but it’s filled with lots of time-tested little nuggets about the whole writing experience from conception to pitching to selling. It is well worth the read to find out exactly how a bestselling author ticks.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Big Magic and Get to Work

I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and while it is a book intended for “creative souls.” It really hits home for writers. She talks about creativity and harnessing the spirit needed to bring forth a creation.

big magicIn her book, Elizabeth tells the story of having a great idea with a South American plot for a book. This was an idea that had never been covered before (involves people from Minn., murder, and developers) and she “just felt” it would make for a good book. Problem was she kept putting it aside, things interfered and the story never got told.

One day she meets Ann Patchett and they embrace – soul sisters in writing. A few months later, they have lunch and Ann tells Elizabeth she is working on a new book about South America.

“Well isn’t that funny,: said Elizabeth, “I was working on an idea like that, but then let it go.”

Ann asked Elizabeth to describe her plot line and it turned out to be the *exact* same plot line that Ann was working on.

Co-incidence? Trends? Timing? Who knows? But you have to admit, it is a little woo, woo hair raising.

Elizabeth uses this as an example of Big Magic (as in there is a creative force that surrounds us.) She puts forth the intriguing idea that creative ideas can “visit” us and then choose to leave if we don’t nurture them.

I’ve seen this in my own writing. I’ll have a great idea for a story, not be able to devote the time to give to its “birth” and then I’ll see that someone somewhere else picked up the ball and ran with it. In a way, this philosophy of “visiting ideas” makes it easier – it falls into the “if you love something let it go, if it was yours…” It’s a way to make lemonade out of lemons – guess that idea was never really mine to keep.

But it’s also a cautionary tale. Great ideas need to be nurtured and they need work, lots of work. If you have a fantastic idea then you absolutely need to set the time aside to work on it so that it can grow and mature.

Because if you don’t it’s very likely that someone else will.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

How to Write an Excellent Book

 

Quick post today because some of the best advice is often short and sweet.

Last week I had the opportunity to see best selling author Joe Hill at our local Barnes & Noble. We were treated to a reading, a sing-along (complete with kazoos), and an open discussion/question session. It was truly a delightful and informative evening.

Note: if you ever have the opportunity to see a visiting author, please grab it with both hands, you won’t regret it.

During the discussion/question period a young girl in the back row raised her hand. “How is it that you can always write so excellently?” she asked.

Joe thought and then replied. “The answer to that question is that I don’t write excellently. My strategy is to write one good sentence and then follow that up with another good sentence and then another one. Pretty soon I have a whole pile of good sentences and that’s my book. I’ve never been perfect. I just write one sentence at a time.”

This is what you get to do when you write one good sentence after another

This is what you get to do when you write one good sentence after another

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Your story’s logline and roadmap

 

This weekend I gave a writing workshop for teens on story development. It was sponsored by Adaptive  Studios  – a company that takes old screen scripts, turns them into novels (primarily YA) which are then turned into movies (I know, it’s kind of like YA Inception.)

The workshop starts off with the assumption that you already have a story and it walks you through creating a logline. The logline (a term that is typically used when talking about movies and scripts) is a 2 to 3 sentence description of your story. It must answer:

  • Who is the main character (protagonist)?
  • What is the inciting incident?
  • What is the protagonist’s quest?

Note: Adaptive also suggests that you include the film’s genre, but for obvious reasons I’m leaving that out of this discussion – although you should always know your writing genre and who will be your reading audience.

I spent much time on this part of the workshop. For many of the young writers, it was a new concept. A few of them questioned why you needed to know this information at the beginning of your work. Couldn’t you put it together very quickly when you were done?

I took a piece of paper, drew a few lines and showed it them, saying “This is why you need the logline.”

bullseye

This one looks a lot better than my scribbled example.

A logline is the essence of your story. It is the backbone of facts from which you can then create the body of your work. “How on earth,” I asked the group, “can you hit your target if you don’t know where your target is?”

The logline created at the beginning of your work gives you a place from which to start.

Let’s say you want to write a story about a young girl (protagonist) who doesn’t appreciate her home and what she already has (quest). Her house gets washed away in a flood (inciting event) and she meets friends who help her discover that she really wasn’t missing anything in her life.

Okay, so you’ve got the log line, you can start writing. You create your characters, the landscape, the inciting incident and then… you hit a brick wall.  You have writer’s block (which is another term for “I’ve gotten lost in my story’s roadmap.”)

Because a house washed away in a flood is a house that is *probably* destroyed. And a house washed away in a flood is *probably* a house that didn’t travel that far away from the problem.

Hmm, you go back to your logline, that initial target. What if, you say to yourself, what if I turn the flood into a tornado and the house gets lifted intact and is then dropped somewhere that is far away?

Not likely, but it *could* happen right?  But now you’re talking, you’ve gone back and refined your initial premise to something that is more specific and more helpful to the quest.

You get back to writing.

As you can see a logline is not cast in stone – *especially* at the beginning or for a work in progress, but it does show you the initial direction you need to go. It points you to your ending, your target.

Take a few minutes to figure out the backbone of your story and write a logline. Write it on an index card and then tape that card to your office wall to remind you of your story’s path. Look at it often.

Because, not to get all zen on you or anything, in the end, you can’t know where to go, if you don’t know where to go.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

How Julie Writes A Book, aka Our Summer Vacation

red-hands-woman-creativeOn Sunday night I had the great good fortune to be a guest on The Writer’s Chatroom, hosted by our own Lisa Haselton aka Lisa Jackson. I loved answering questions about my writing process and the publishing business. Though hardly an expert, I do know a fair amount. Right now I am deep in the weeds of writing book #3 in the Clock Shop Mystery series (working title, Chime and Punishment). It is due to my editor at Berkley on July 15. Book #2 in the series, Clock and Dagger, is coming out August 2. That means I need to get blog posts prepped for guest spots, work on a social media campaign, and possibly plan some public appearances.

I am so, so fortunate to have a publishing contract. But with that good fortune comes the pressure of producing a book a year for three years in a row. Though at this point in the process, the pain of forcing those words out of my brain onto the keyboard is real (my friend Hallie Ephron said it is like putting a log through a meat grinder) I’ve done this twice before for this series, and three times before for books that haven’t been published. I know I can do this. It may not be pretty, and I may not sleep for the next five weeks, but I can do this.

This summer I am going to write about my book writing process. I won’t make it genre specific, though I can write a post about that if it is helpful.  Posts will include how I plot, writing a series, the editing process, pitching your book, and promotion. What else would you like to know more about?

I post every other week, so two weeks from today we’re going to talk about plotting. I am a plotter, not a panster, and I’ll walk you through my process, how it helps get the first draft done, and what’ I’ve learned by putting it into practice.

Your homework, should you want to play along, is to think about the story you want to tell. Think about these questions:

  • Who are the main characters in your story?
  • What launches your story? “A Day in the Life” can be dull. “A Day in the Life After XYZ Happens” is a novel.
  • What is the overall theme of your story?
  • What else happens?
  • Where is it taking place?

Over the next two weeks, mull your story over. Think it through. Write ideas down. We’ll tackle plotting in the next installment of this simmer series.

Happy to hear any ideas you might have!

*********************

ClockandDaggerJulianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mysteries. Clock and Dagger will be out August 2.