When to Tell Your Inner Editor to Shut Up!

We’re not supposed to tell people to shut up. We’re supposed to be polite and considerate.

 Icon Design by Creative Freedom  All copyright for Shimmer Icons belongs to Creative Freedom Ltd.  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/
Icon Design by Creative Freedom
All copyright for Shimmer Icons belongs to Creative Freedom Ltd.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/

I’m here to tell you that sometimes we need to tell our inner editor to shut up.

I’m not saying we don’t need to edit our work. On the contrary, I even wrote this post, 7 Tips for Self-Editing, but there is a time and a place for said editing.

When you’re writing your first draft, I strongly advise you not to edit. Let your ideas flow. If you try to edit now, you may never finish your novel. Or worse yet, you’ll stifle your creativity.

There is another voice, one that may or not be your inner editor. The one that tells you this isn’t any good. Why on earth did you think you could be a writer? You should just give up before anyone discovers you can’t really write.

These, my friends, are the voice of the enemy. Do not believe his lies.

Recently, I heard these words burn through my mind. When you begin to hear the lies, turn to our source of truth. Pray that God’s voice would be the only one you would hear. Ask Jesus to silence everything that is not from Him.

I’ve started doing this every time I sit down to write. It is making a huge difference. We can choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

If you’re trying to write your first novel or first draft of a new project, focus on getting it all out on paper or the computer screen. It’s fine to check and make sure your book is keeping in check with your outline and overall story and character goal, but don’t try to make it perfect.

Have you ever had to tell your inner editor to shut up? Do you have any tips to keep yourself going when you feel like giving up?

What is “Good Enough”?

just got back from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas. This is an annual event and is the largest gathering of Christian fiction writers anywhere. Close to seven hundred (that’s right– a reverse 007!) writers attended. I know because my good friend’s name ends with a Zw, and she was 688/688.

Amazing.

While there, I attended a talk given by a MAJOR Christian publisher about a relatively large survey they did on Christian fiction readers. Don’t quote me, but the survey included over 200,000 participants and focus groups were conducted in three large cities. Just to say a lot of people participated–not just me and Grandpa Joe.

Since many of you may be salivating over some of those results, I’ll share a few here. The largest categories selling are: #1 Amish (shouldn’t be a surprise, just look at any CBD catalog and they are leading by 5-10 pages), #2 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller (my eyes glazed over with excitement right here!) ,and #3 Historical Romance. The romance categories were split among three genres: Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, and Romantic Suspense so if all three were lumped together, the romance category may have had a higher overall percentage.

They asked “what would you like to see more of in Christian Fiction?” and the intriguing answer there was gritty is okay. Not everything needs to be wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. Dangling questions are okay.

What surprised me was when one of the presenters said, “Should we move away from highly curated content to just good enough content?”

To be honest that floored me–in a bad way.

What is the purpose of a traditional publishing house? Some say they are gatekeepers. I like to view them more as museum curators. What is the benefit of having a museum curator? It’s so that my seven-year-old’s finger art isn’t next to Rembrandt. That when you pay your money, in the form of a museum ticket or as a book on the shelf, you know someone somewhere who gets exposed to LOTS of art and books picked the very best ones. And you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

Are there some self-published authors who are putting out high quality novels? Yes, absolutely. Are they the majority? No. If we are honest, they are not.

Can you buy a horrible, traditionally published novel? Yes, but it should be edited to near perfection. That’s the other part you pay for.

Proof, my debut medical thriller, went through four rounds of edits. Are there typos–yes. But I can guarantee there are fewer in the whole novel than in the first chapter of a few self-published novels I’ve started to read.

What disturbs me is when a curator/publisher says perhaps we don’t need as many editing runs. Perhaps “good enough” is okay for the masses. They won’t notice the difference anyway. Those are my words–not hers.

But isn’t that the implication? There are so many “so-so” things out there that we really don’t need to be consumed with quality anymore?

To me the quality of the editing is the one thing differentiating traditional and self-published books in many cases. So, if that’s gone, the strive to put the best product out there–what will be the difference then?

Will traditional publishers actually place the last nail in their own coffin if they adopt such an attitude?

What do you think? If you’re published, do you think there are too many editing rounds? Would fewer be better? How should traditional publishers continue to offer value in ways other than editing?

Hashtags can help….

So…. What’s a #Hashtag?

How can a simple #hashtag help me to promote my book?  Well in many, many ways.

#Confused?

First lets define what exactly you are looking at…. #pleasehelpme.

You probably first saw them on Twitter, that is where a #hashtag originated.

It’s a simple marker of sorts.  #Hashtags over the last year have migrated from Twitter to Instagram, and Pintrest. #clever.

A #hashtag is a marker of sorts that drives you to people’s posts, and drives people to your posts. You can click on any #hashtag and it brings up all other posts with that same tag in… simply put, if you want to promote your book to strangers, a #hashtag will be one of the best tools you can use for social media platforms that utilize #hashtags.

What topics are important to you? Make a list of words that are important to you selling your book.  What words describe your book? How can you find like-minded readers, by strategically #hashtagging words that are specific to you! #buildingabrand #books. If you know what SEO is, Search Engine Optimization, #Hashtags work.

Some simple rules for #hastagging. Never put spaces between words or the #symbol. Use words that are relevant to your tweet/pin/pictures.  A great way to find more followers is to use hash tags on both sides. You do it and other people do it in searches as well….  Find people that are #hashtagging things that you care about and get involved in their conversation. #smartthinking.

Here is a simple straightforward article in the Twitter Help Center, which could help you.

Remember, that #hashtags are fun.  Don’t over use them, but do use them to find like-minded readers.  It could open many doors for you… people will find you and you will find people.  #hashtags  #winning.

Top 5 Self-Editing Tips: Character

This month, let’s concentrate on an aspect of self-editing that writers spend little or no time examining as they go through each successive draft of their novel: character. The people who populate a novel should seem real to the author, and yet, readers often notice that characters are stereotypes—cardboard cutouts.

To explain the importance of knowing your characters well, let me use an example from the relationship between the famous editor Maxwell Perkins and the well-known author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote The Great Gatsby.

After reading the manuscript for The Great Gatsby, Perkins wrote a note to Fitzgerald about one of his characters, which read:

 “Among a set of characters marvelously palpable and vital—I would know Tom Buchanan if I met him on the street and would avoid him—Gatsby is somewhat vague. The reader’s eyes can never quite focus upon him, his outlines are dim. Now everything about Gatsby is more or less a mystery, i.e., more or less vague, and this may be somewhat of an artistic intention, but I think it is mistaken.”

Last month we talked about how every scene should have intention, but so should every character. Characters need motive. They must seem credible in all they do, as though they truly exist—as if they live down the street.

Fitzgerald, no slacker when it came to building characters, reexamined Gatsby through the eyes of his famous editor and wrote a note back to Perkins:

“I myself didn’t know what Gatsby looked like or was engaged in & you felt it. If I’d known & kept it from you you’d have been too impressed with my knowledge to protest. This is a complicated idea but I’m sure you’ll understand. But I know now—and as a penalty for not having known first, in other words to make sure, I’m going to tell more.”

To fulfill Gatsby’s intention, Fitzgerald needed to make him an enigmatic figure, but to accomplish his purpose, the author also needed to know Gatsby’s history to make him real.

A reader doesn’t need to know who Gatsby’s grandmother was, but Fitzgerald as the author should know if and how she shaped his character. Do you know your character’s history, or did you begin your novel with a vague sense of what kind of character needed to occupy a certain place in your plot?

My suggestion is to keep a notebook on every character, making notes throughout your writing on character development. As you self-edit, you can then look back at your record of their motives, history, and tone of voice to make their dialogue and actions consistent, intentional, and credible.

To make your characters come alive, remember they are more than the sum of their physical traits. Characters possess social, psychological, and spiritual uniqueness as well.

 

What method do you use to develop your characters?

Do You Need to Schmooze an Editor or Agent?

I’ve attended over 7 writers conferences since walking the road of an author. One thing I’ve come to observe at these conferences is they way we interact with one another.

Editors and agents are seen as the gate keepers to our dreams. They are the ones who will accept our book and validate our work.

Janalyn Voigt and I at Northwest Christian Wrtiers Renewal

This is sort of true and sort of not. Editors and agents will let you know if your work is ready. They’ll let you know what you need to work on. They do not hold your dreams. You do.

Having our work published will not validate us. Only Jesus can do this. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your worth is measured by a contract and sales figures.

I’ve seen some writers completely crushed when an editor/agent declined on their pitch. I’ve been one of them. Jesus gently reminded me that He is my agent. And He’s yours if you’re willing to give your writing over to Him.

I don’t mean He will do everything. We still have to hone our craft, build our platform, and continue learning.

At conferences, I’ve seen editors and agents hunted down by well-meaning enthusiastic authors. They couldn’t get an appointment with the agent/editor they wanted, so they stalk them at meal times, breaks, in line at the bathroom….

I’ve had some wonderful chats with editors/agents at meals and in the hallways. But I’ve also seen a weary trapped look in their gaze.

We should never become so focused on what other people can do for us and our careers that we forget they are people and children of God first and foremost.

Take the time to ask them how they’re enjoying the conference. Chat them up like you would meeting someone at a neighborhood barbecue. Take the time to get to know them a little. They’ll eventually turn the conversation towards writing. After all, they’re there to discover great writers.

Even if they turn your project down, they’ll remember a friendly person. Later, circumstances may be different and your project will be the one. You can never go wrong investing in people and relationships.

You should spend some time schmoozing at conferences. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If we look at every person and situation with the attitude of how we can help them, instead of how they can help us, we’ll get much further.

Have you ever made new friends at a conference? How have you helped someone else and had it benefit you unexpectedly?

Top 5 Self-Editing Tips: Intention

In my first post last month on the topic of the Top 5 Self-Editing Tips, I covered in detail how a novel is structured and how you can be more aware of how to build the structure of your novel.

This month, let’s concentrate on an aspect of self-editing that writers rarely hear much about:  intention.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines intention as “(1) a determination to act in a certain way: resolve; (2) import, significance; (3) what one intends to do or bring about.”

The definition of intention includes other topics, but for our purposes, we can examine the synonyms for intention and determine how we might find intention in a piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. Synonyms: intent, purpose, design, aim, end, object, objective goal.

Once you finish your first or second draft, ask yourself, “Did I fulfill my overall intention for writing this piece, and did I achieve my intention in each scene or section?”

Whoa! That sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? You might be thinking, how long am I supposed to spend on an edit? The answer: as long as it takes. Because if you have not fulfilled your intention in writing your book, then how can your reader know what you were trying to say?

Let me make this a little simpler by starting with a chapter or even a part of a chapter. Did you intend to make your character unsympathetic in this scene? If not, then you have not communicated the soul of your character to the reader. You have not fulfilled your intention. The reader might even think, “Marsha would never say that. Why is she being so rude?”

On a greater scale, your story or your non-fiction book should have an over-arching aim or goal. It is the road that connects you to the reader and pulls the story along. Yes, even a non-fiction book is more successful if it tells a story that persuades your reader to believe in what you’re writing about.

Your road will twist and turn in a novel, but you, as the author, should always keep the goal in mind. You don’t want to tell your reader up-front what your intention is, but you should know where you’re headed. If you take readers down a rabbit trail and nothing of significance happens, they will soon stop following you through the brush.

Only you know what you want to achieve in your book. If you’re leading your reader down a “road less traveled,” the trip may be leisurely or it may zip along. You may travel on a super highway, on a country lane filled with potholes, or you may walk with your reader down a garden path.

But if you veer off that highway/road/path just because you have a sudden inspiration, your book may be filled with pointless arguments (non-fiction) or characters who pop out of nowhere to deliver a useless piece of dialogue (fiction).

My intention in this post is not to say that plotters are better writers than pantsters. You can write your book as you please, but if you know your beginning and where you aim to end—intention—then the journey will be that much sweeter.

To be continued…

How will you self-edit your novel or non-fiction book to make sure your intention is clear and that you have achieved your goal in every chapter? 

Three Ways to Focus on Editing for the Web

“Real writing begins with re-writing” (James A. Michener).

I began blogging in 2008, and I’ve visited many websites to determine the most effective way to communicate online. I developed a helpful web-editing checklist below from my research for a writing workshop using three photographic terms—the panoramic, macroscopic, and microscopic viewpoints.

Panoramic View. Begin the editing process by determining the overall, or broader view, of contents and evaluating your audience, purpose, context, and the design elements.

  • Read aloud from the reader’s perspective (not the writer’s).
  • Find main point and sub-points. Can you summarize your piece easily?
  • Examine benefits for reader (take-away value).
  • Use appropriate fonts (not fancy or distracting to your content).
  • Use subheading in boldface type to introduce more points.

Macroscopic View. Take a closer look at paragraphs, word usage, and tone.

  • Place main topics near beginning of each paragraph and sentence.
  • Limit each paragraph to one main idea.
  • Use shorter units of text with more breaks.
  • Use an introduction for a “teaser” paragraph (preview for content).
  • Avoid long texts that break content into several pages.
  • Provide a brief summary or table of contents hyperlinked to each section for text over 500 words. Use lists, hyperlinks, and extra white space for a long document to break up dense patterns of text.
  • Avoid slang, jargon, and inappropriate humor.
  • Use nondiscriminatory language (e.g., bias based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality, disability).
  • Use common words (appropriate for target audience).
  • Avoid vague words.
  • Use key words to describe the site in the first 50 words of text.
  • Build verbal bridges to connect text (transition).
  • Use action verbs rather than passive.
  • Incorporate single links into content (embedded into the text).
  • Make short, bulleted lists of links.
  • Use “Find Out More” links, when details are needed.

Microscopic View. Zoom in on the elements of grammar, mechanics, and punctuation.

Self-editing should distance you from your piece, so you can examine it without the emotional attachment. You can see your actual words, rather than just intentions. Consider these final ideas to help you edit for the web.

  • Create style sheet/guide with some common problems, to avoid repetitive research of the editing rules (e.g., grammar, mechanics).
  • Find someone to read and edit your work (e.g., critique group, another writer).

Remember: “You write to discover what you want to say. You rewrite to discover what you have said and then rewrite to make it clear to other people” (Donald Murray).

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you have any tips for editing for the web?

Dumpster or dumpster? Important Editing Skills That You Need to Know

The first time I really became aware of style concerns in a novel is when I read Dumpster, not dumpster, in my book of the week. I think I was in high school or college. Did you know that Dumpster is a proper noun because it is a brand name? Neither did I.

As book authors, you all have to follow specific conventions based on the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). Even if you are not aware of all of the editing conventions, your editor is, and he or she will call you on them during your revisions.

Here are ten interesting rules that writers of books must follow when using CMS.

  1. Include an ‘s’ to indicate possession after words that end in ‘s’. For example:  Uncle Thomas’s garden produced several large vegetables. Other style manuals indicate that it is okay to not include the last ‘s’, but CMS does not recommend it.
  2. Do not include “scare” quotes. In other words, do not do what I just did. When you include a term that is not really your term or your character’s term, do not include quotation marks around it. Simply write it as is.
  3. CMS prefers a.m. and p.m. So, that means no am, pm, AM, PM, A.M., or P.M.
  4. These are a few of my favorite things. You must use the Oxford comma when writing a list. In other words, if your character is going to the grocery store, he needs to buy milk, eggs, and orange juice. He should not buy milk, eggs and orange juice.
  5. “What about using dialect in my writing?” you may ask. Fortunately, you’re in the clear. CMS specifically states issues of dialect fall outside of the scope of its manual. Still, be consistent in your use of dialect. Also, your editor may have some good tips for writing appropriate dialect. Follow those guidelines.
  6. Spell out numbers zero through one hundred for non-technical documents.
  7. I often see this mistake: When you combine two independent clauses (complete sentences) with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet,so–FANBOYS is a great way to remember them), always include a comma before your coordinating conjunction. For example: I like cats, and I like dogs. Books are fun to read, but they are not as fun to read as magazines. Note that you would not include a comma if one part of the sentence was not complete: Books are fun to read but not as fun as magazines.
  8. If there is a mistake in the final version of your novel, you are ultimately the one responsible. “In book publishing, the author is finally responsible for the accuracy of a work; most book publishers do not perform fact-checking in any systematic way or expect it of their manuscript editors unless specifically agreed upon up front” (chicagomanualofstyle.org). That said, most of the editors that I know are excellent fact checkers and editors. However, do not assume that just because you have an agent or an editor that he or she will take care of the errors in your book. Take ownership of your work.
  9. If you are writing for a newspaper and you are talking about effective punishment methods for three-year-olds, you might use the word timeout. However, if a character in your novel is throwing a temper tantrum, he or she needs a time-out.
  10. And, finally, although this is not an error that I see too often any more, do not include two spaces after a period. Two spaces used to be necessary because typewriters were not formatted to handle a period followed by a T, for example. The left side of the T would overlap the period. Now, computers handle all of the spacing issues for us, so we do not have to worry about hitting the space bar twice.

Now, let’s put some of your editing skills to work. Find the error. Its nearly impossible:

AAA
BBB
CCC
DDD
EEE
FFF
GGG
HHH

Do you know of any other CMS differences of which writer should be aware?

%d bloggers like this: