Writing And Editing: Five Problems to Avoid in Your First Novel

by http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/03/writing-editing-first-novel/

The first novel is definitely the hardest! You think you have internalized how a story works as a reader and then you discover there is so much more to learn.

writingIn this article, Natasa Lekic from New York Book Editors takes us through five problems that are common in first novels and how to avoid them.

The experience of writing your first draft can be a roller coaster.

However, once you write that final page, you’ll relate to Zadie Smith:

It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

For most first-time writers, this is followed by a straight dive into the publishing process.

After all, you did the work, now it’s time for your story to get out into the world – right?

Not yet. A crucial second phase is involved: the editing. Today, many novels go through an editor before they even reach a literary agent.

At the company I founded, NY Book Editors, we specialize in the editing phase, so we’ve worked with hundreds of first-time novelists. Our team of experienced editors—which has worked with authors ranging from Stephen King to Paulo Coelho to Haruki Murakami—say writers often stumble on the same things.

Here are the common issues writers deal with in their first outing:

1. Where’s the conflict?

Stories must have some form of tension, or conflict, at all times. First novels often start with long descriptions of place or character. The exposition may be beautiful, but prose is never enough to keep your reader interested.

Take even a quiet novel, such as national bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In the opening scene, it’s an ordinary morning in Harold and Maureen’s household, but something seems wrong.

He’s sitting at breakfast, she’s vacuuming, and then, “The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter.”

The letter is for Harold. As he absentmindedly reacts to Maureen’s request for the jam, she says:

“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”

Harold discovers that the letter is from an old friend, letting him know she has cancer. Maureen changes her tone. She says she’s sorry to hear the news and tries to make a positive remark about the weather.

It seems she’s not just a crabby old woman. Her attitude is more complex than that.

On the surface, we’re reading about an ordinary breakfast and the delivery of a letter. But from the beginning, the reader can see there’s much more going on. This is what keeps us interested.

As an author, you know the central conflict of your story, the main arc, but remember it’s built up gradually through every little scene.

Your novel should never become a catalog of events. Instead, it should always include tension and conflict, which continue to engage the reader. This is the engine that drives your story forward.

2. Are your characters interesting?

As a reader or a movie goer, how frustrating is it when a character doesn’t turn out to be more than they seem? It means the writer didn’t have any insight into the inner life of this person or their world.

When a character has depth, we want to spend time with them – regardless of whether they’re good or evil, sympathetic or not – we’re drawn to their story and compelled to find out more.

One effective way to make sure your character is rich and multi-dimensional is to write their backstory.

This backstory is written outside your novel, and it should tell the character’s individual story—where they come from, what drives them and why—along with details about their life.

You can think of it as a mini history, and ask yourself what you might write if you were doing it for a family member or friend. You might include details about where they were born and who their relatives are, along with defining moments in their life, and tidbits about what they like or dislike.

In other words, you would include the big things, along with quirks that make them unique.

You might scratch your head and wonder why this is necessary. It’s not going to be in the book after all. Who cares about their backstory?

Jenna Blum in The Author at Work explains:

“Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg showed in fiction—your reader will see only what is above the water—but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg. And that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.”

The intimate understanding you have of your character will bury its way into your novel without you even noticing it. The reader, however, will be able to tell the difference.

3. Is your prose too beautiful?

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

Georges Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.” Simenon went on to say that he learned, after working with one editor, that sometimes style can overwhelm a writer’s content.

He explained:

“When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

Or, as one of our editors put it, overuse of things like descriptors can bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning of a sentence and continue reading.

4. Has someone else read your manuscript?

Every writer should reread their own work and self-edit repeatedly – until they feel they’ve done everything they can for their manuscript. But at a certain point, a writer losses the ability to look over their own work honestly and objectively.

When he was younger, one of our editors completed a Master’s Thesis. Once he felt it was as good as he could possibly make it, he sent it to a friend to edit.

The document was returned in a sea of red marks. The most distressing edits, however, pointed out sections in which he had left out entire sentences.

“I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and so when I read it, I wasn’t reading the words on the page. I was reading what should have been there. My brain was filling in the gaps.

If I hadn’t had that person read it, I would have turned in something that in no way represented what I meant.

There comes a time when your writing is just too familiar to you. It all makes sense to you, so you can no longer see the flaws.”

That’s when a beta reader or a professional editor can really help. They’re approaching the manuscript for the first time, and they’re going to pick up on things you would never have noticed.

5. Be original

I know what you’re thinking—this is from Captain Obvious! But unless you have a masterful command of how to write in your genre, you run the risk of being predictable.

Consider Adele Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.; it’s about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman and has been compared to the work of Jane Austen. However, unlike Austen’s work, Waldman’s novel is written from the point-of-view of a man.

At its core, the story is familiar. There’s nothing original about the concept of this book, which became a national bestseller. However, because Waldman took the unconventional approach of telling this tale in the first person from the perspective of the man, she made something old feel wholly new.

Having a woman write a romance from the perspective of a brilliant young man gives rise to psychological observations that make the book feel revelatory.

In your genre, ask yourself how your story differs from other books. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre (Nathaniel P. is, after all, a novel about relationships), you also need to surprise them.

Keep in mind that fans of sci-fi read a lot of sci-fi, fans of chick lit read a lot of chick lit, and so on. They’ve seen many variations of the same story. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, but a fresh voice or a new approach to a tried and true formula will delight the reader.

As a bonus, if you’ve done this well, it will also be much easier to describe your novel to readers. Everyone gets excited by discovering a fresh approach to a genre they know well.

 The last piece of advice is – don’t stress!

Writing a novel is an immense undertaking. By taking the time to craft your story, your unique perspective of the world, you’re embarking on a difficult but endlessly rewarding journey.

When you make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every author you’ve ever admired (alright, alright except Shakespeare) has lagged here and there, learned from their hiccups, and gone on to write the books that shake you to your core.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your craft. You’ll get there.

Did some editing today.

It’s really interesting to see how your work continues to take shape as you work on the various parts of it. It takes some time though. But can’t complain too much, for I am seeing it take shape.

I have given myself until about this months end to complete check through of about 40,000 words, before giving it to someone else to have a read. So right now its just me doing my self edits (and feeling sleepy).

Writing And Editing: Five Problems to Avoid in Your First Novel

by http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/03/writing-editing-first-novel/

The first novel is definitely the hardest! You think you have internalized how a story works as a reader and then you discover there is so much more to learn.

writingIn this article, Natasa Lekic from New York Book Editors takes us through five problems that are common in first novels and how to avoid them.

The experience of writing your first draft can be a roller coaster.

However, once you write that final page, you’ll relate to Zadie Smith:

It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

For most first-time writers, this is followed by a straight dive into the publishing process.

After all, you did the work, now it’s time for your story to get out into the world – right?

Not yet. A crucial second phase is involved: the editing. Today, many novels go through an editor before they even reach a literary agent.

At the company I founded, NY Book Editors, we specialize in the editing phase, so we’ve worked with hundreds of first-time novelists. Our team of experienced editors—which has worked with authors ranging from Stephen King to Paulo Coelho to Haruki Murakami—say writers often stumble on the same things.

Here are the common issues writers deal with in their first outing:

1. Where’s the conflict?

Stories must have some form of tension, or conflict, at all times. First novels often start with long descriptions of place or character. The exposition may be beautiful, but prose is never enough to keep your reader interested.

Take even a quiet novel, such as national bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In the opening scene, it’s an ordinary morning in Harold and Maureen’s household, but something seems wrong.

He’s sitting at breakfast, she’s vacuuming, and then, “The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter.”

The letter is for Harold. As he absentmindedly reacts to Maureen’s request for the jam, she says:

“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”

Harold discovers that the letter is from an old friend, letting him know she has cancer. Maureen changes her tone. She says she’s sorry to hear the news and tries to make a positive remark about the weather.

It seems she’s not just a crabby old woman. Her attitude is more complex than that.

On the surface, we’re reading about an ordinary breakfast and the delivery of a letter. But from the beginning, the reader can see there’s much more going on. This is what keeps us interested.

As an author, you know the central conflict of your story, the main arc, but remember it’s built up gradually through every little scene.

Your novel should never become a catalog of events. Instead, it should always include tension and conflict, which continue to engage the reader. This is the engine that drives your story forward.

2. Are your characters interesting?

As a reader or a movie goer, how frustrating is it when a character doesn’t turn out to be more than they seem? It means the writer didn’t have any insight into the inner life of this person or their world.

When a character has depth, we want to spend time with them – regardless of whether they’re good or evil, sympathetic or not – we’re drawn to their story and compelled to find out more.

One effective way to make sure your character is rich and multi-dimensional is to write their backstory.

This backstory is written outside your novel, and it should tell the character’s individual story—where they come from, what drives them and why—along with details about their life.

You can think of it as a mini history, and ask yourself what you might write if you were doing it for a family member or friend. You might include details about where they were born and who their relatives are, along with defining moments in their life, and tidbits about what they like or dislike.

In other words, you would include the big things, along with quirks that make them unique.

You might scratch your head and wonder why this is necessary. It’s not going to be in the book after all. Who cares about their backstory?

Jenna Blum in The Author at Work explains:

“Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg showed in fiction—your reader will see only what is above the water—but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg. And that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.”

The intimate understanding you have of your character will bury its way into your novel without you even noticing it. The reader, however, will be able to tell the difference.

3. Is your prose too beautiful?

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

Georges Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.” Simenon went on to say that he learned, after working with one editor, that sometimes style can overwhelm a writer’s content.

He explained:

“When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

Or, as one of our editors put it, overuse of things like descriptors can bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning of a sentence and continue reading.

4. Has someone else read your manuscript?

Every writer should reread their own work and self-edit repeatedly – until they feel they’ve done everything they can for their manuscript. But at a certain point, a writer losses the ability to look over their own work honestly and objectively.

When he was younger, one of our editors completed a Master’s Thesis. Once he felt it was as good as he could possibly make it, he sent it to a friend to edit.

The document was returned in a sea of red marks. The most distressing edits, however, pointed out sections in which he had left out entire sentences.

“I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and so when I read it, I wasn’t reading the words on the page. I was reading what should have been there. My brain was filling in the gaps.

If I hadn’t had that person read it, I would have turned in something that in no way represented what I meant.

There comes a time when your writing is just too familiar to you. It all makes sense to you, so you can no longer see the flaws.”

That’s when a beta reader or a professional editor can really help. They’re approaching the manuscript for the first time, and they’re going to pick up on things you would never have noticed.

5. Be original

I know what you’re thinking—this is from Captain Obvious! But unless you have a masterful command of how to write in your genre, you run the risk of being predictable.

Consider Adele Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.; it’s about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman and has been compared to the work of Jane Austen. However, unlike Austen’s work, Waldman’s novel is written from the point-of-view of a man.

At its core, the story is familiar. There’s nothing original about the concept of this book, which became a national bestseller. However, because Waldman took the unconventional approach of telling this tale in the first person from the perspective of the man, she made something old feel wholly new.

Having a woman write a romance from the perspective of a brilliant young man gives rise to psychological observations that make the book feel revelatory.

In your genre, ask yourself how your story differs from other books. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre (Nathaniel P. is, after all, a novel about relationships), you also need to surprise them.

Keep in mind that fans of sci-fi read a lot of sci-fi, fans of chick lit read a lot of chick lit, and so on. They’ve seen many variations of the same story. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, but a fresh voice or a new approach to a tried and true formula will delight the reader.

As a bonus, if you’ve done this well, it will also be much easier to describe your novel to readers. Everyone gets excited by discovering a fresh approach to a genre they know well.

 The last piece of advice is – don’t stress!

Writing a novel is an immense undertaking. By taking the time to craft your story, your unique perspective of the world, you’re embarking on a difficult but endlessly rewarding journey.

When you make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every author you’ve ever admired (alright, alright except Shakespeare) has lagged here and there, learned from their hiccups, and gone on to write the books that shake you to your core.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your craft. You’ll get there.

Writing And Editing: Five Problems to Avoid in Your First Novel

by http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/03/writing-editing-first-novel/

The first novel is definitely the hardest! You think you have internalized how a story works as a reader and then you discover there is so much more to learn.

writingIn this article, Natasa Lekic from New York Book Editors takes us through five problems that are common in first novels and how to avoid them.

The experience of writing your first draft can be a roller coaster.

However, once you write that final page, you’ll relate to Zadie Smith:

It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

For most first-time writers, this is followed by a straight dive into the publishing process.

After all, you did the work, now it’s time for your story to get out into the world – right?

Not yet. A crucial second phase is involved: the editing. Today, many novels go through an editor before they even reach a literary agent.

At the company I founded, NY Book Editors, we specialize in the editing phase, so we’ve worked with hundreds of first-time novelists. Our team of experienced editors—which has worked with authors ranging from Stephen King to Paulo Coelho to Haruki Murakami—say writers often stumble on the same things.

Here are the common issues writers deal with in their first outing:

1. Where’s the conflict?

Stories must have some form of tension, or conflict, at all times. First novels often start with long descriptions of place or character. The exposition may be beautiful, but prose is never enough to keep your reader interested.

Take even a quiet novel, such as national bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In the opening scene, it’s an ordinary morning in Harold and Maureen’s household, but something seems wrong.

He’s sitting at breakfast, she’s vacuuming, and then, “The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter.”

The letter is for Harold. As he absentmindedly reacts to Maureen’s request for the jam, she says:

“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”

Harold discovers that the letter is from an old friend, letting him know she has cancer. Maureen changes her tone. She says she’s sorry to hear the news and tries to make a positive remark about the weather.

It seems she’s not just a crabby old woman. Her attitude is more complex than that.

On the surface, we’re reading about an ordinary breakfast and the delivery of a letter. But from the beginning, the reader can see there’s much more going on. This is what keeps us interested.

As an author, you know the central conflict of your story, the main arc, but remember it’s built up gradually through every little scene.

Your novel should never become a catalog of events. Instead, it should always include tension and conflict, which continue to engage the reader. This is the engine that drives your story forward.

2. Are your characters interesting?

As a reader or a movie goer, how frustrating is it when a character doesn’t turn out to be more than they seem? It means the writer didn’t have any insight into the inner life of this person or their world.

When a character has depth, we want to spend time with them – regardless of whether they’re good or evil, sympathetic or not – we’re drawn to their story and compelled to find out more.

One effective way to make sure your character is rich and multi-dimensional is to write their backstory.

This backstory is written outside your novel, and it should tell the character’s individual story—where they come from, what drives them and why—along with details about their life.

You can think of it as a mini history, and ask yourself what you might write if you were doing it for a family member or friend. You might include details about where they were born and who their relatives are, along with defining moments in their life, and tidbits about what they like or dislike.

In other words, you would include the big things, along with quirks that make them unique.

You might scratch your head and wonder why this is necessary. It’s not going to be in the book after all. Who cares about their backstory?

Jenna Blum in The Author at Work explains:

“Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg showed in fiction—your reader will see only what is above the water—but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg. And that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.”

The intimate understanding you have of your character will bury its way into your novel without you even noticing it. The reader, however, will be able to tell the difference.

3. Is your prose too beautiful?

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

Georges Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.” Simenon went on to say that he learned, after working with one editor, that sometimes style can overwhelm a writer’s content.

He explained:

“When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

Or, as one of our editors put it, overuse of things like descriptors can bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning of a sentence and continue reading.

4. Has someone else read your manuscript?

Every writer should reread their own work and self-edit repeatedly – until they feel they’ve done everything they can for their manuscript. But at a certain point, a writer losses the ability to look over their own work honestly and objectively.

When he was younger, one of our editors completed a Master’s Thesis. Once he felt it was as good as he could possibly make it, he sent it to a friend to edit.

The document was returned in a sea of red marks. The most distressing edits, however, pointed out sections in which he had left out entire sentences.

“I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and so when I read it, I wasn’t reading the words on the page. I was reading what should have been there. My brain was filling in the gaps.

If I hadn’t had that person read it, I would have turned in something that in no way represented what I meant.

There comes a time when your writing is just too familiar to you. It all makes sense to you, so you can no longer see the flaws.”

That’s when a beta reader or a professional editor can really help. They’re approaching the manuscript for the first time, and they’re going to pick up on things you would never have noticed.

5. Be original

I know what you’re thinking—this is from Captain Obvious! But unless you have a masterful command of how to write in your genre, you run the risk of being predictable.

Consider Adele Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.; it’s about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman and has been compared to the work of Jane Austen. However, unlike Austen’s work, Waldman’s novel is written from the point-of-view of a man.

At its core, the story is familiar. There’s nothing original about the concept of this book, which became a national bestseller. However, because Waldman took the unconventional approach of telling this tale in the first person from the perspective of the man, she made something old feel wholly new.

Having a woman write a romance from the perspective of a brilliant young man gives rise to psychological observations that make the book feel revelatory.

In your genre, ask yourself how your story differs from other books. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre (Nathaniel P. is, after all, a novel about relationships), you also need to surprise them.

Keep in mind that fans of sci-fi read a lot of sci-fi, fans of chick lit read a lot of chick lit, and so on. They’ve seen many variations of the same story. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, but a fresh voice or a new approach to a tried and true formula will delight the reader.

As a bonus, if you’ve done this well, it will also be much easier to describe your novel to readers. Everyone gets excited by discovering a fresh approach to a genre they know well.

 The last piece of advice is – don’t stress!

Writing a novel is an immense undertaking. By taking the time to craft your story, your unique perspective of the world, you’re embarking on a difficult but endlessly rewarding journey.

When you make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every author you’ve ever admired (alright, alright except Shakespeare) has lagged here and there, learned from their hiccups, and gone on to write the books that shake you to your core.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your craft. You’ll get there.

How To Write and Revise a Novel (From a Newbie’s Perspective)

By: @DianaUrban.

The Summary of My Novel Writing Process

  • Step 1: The Outline
  • Step 2: The Vomit Draft
  • Step 3: The 2nd Draft – Editing for Story
  • Step 4: The 3rd Draft – Editing the Copy
  • Step 5: The 4th Draft – Close Beta Feedback
  • Step 6: The 5th Draft – All Beta Feedback

The Details of My Novel Writing Process

Step 1: The Outline

The outline is imperative. Some writers like to free-flow their writing and let the story form as they go. However, a solid outline lets you:

  • Understand how your story ends. How will your character get from page one to the finish line? Your characters should have some major obstacles to overcome starting from chapter one. Your outline is a map to their “survival.”
  • Keep track of your characters. My favorite novels have more than just a couple characters (think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, etc.), and my novel has quite a few as well. It’s important to keep everyone straight and what their role will be throughout the novel.
  • Keep your characters on course. Your protagonist will need to change in some way, for better or worse. An outline lets you plan their progression.
  • Ensures you don’t forget anyone. Don’t forget about any of your characters that should have a presence throughout the whole book. You don’t want your main supporting character to go missing for six chapters (unless, of course, that’s part of the plot).
  • Keep the facts straight. As you progress through your novel, it will be easier to remember the events of earlier chapters, so you don’t have to sift through thousands of words to remember where/when something happened.

Even though I highly recommend creating an outline, there are a few points I kept in mind to keep myself from going crazy:

  • An outline is more of a guideline than rules.
  • Your novel will adapt as your characters adapt to the situations their in. And that’s ok.
  • Your ending may be completely different from the one in your outline. Again, that’s ok.
  • It’s ok to add scenes to your outline after you get started. Create your outline on your computer, rather than using pen and paper, to make it easier to insert stuff.

I did not write detailed character sheets, scene/location descriptions, etc. That’s a little too much planning for my taste, but that’s just me! I did, however, list out all the characters’ names (first and last) for easy reference, even if I never mentioned a character’s last name in the story.

Step 2: The Vomit Draft

WRITE WRITE WRITE. Get your novel out. Let your characters tell the story through your fingertips as you type away. Many authors find the blank page intimidating. IT IS. But it’s also exhilarating. Your story is yours to craft. You’re in control of this whole world and what happens to your characters.

Some helpful tips for the vomit draft:

  • Set a character target but don’t obsess over it. I set my target at 80K words. I ended up at almost 85K words by the end of the 4th draft, but my vomit draft only ended up at 74K words. In your later drafts you can add detail and color to your world while cutting a lot (we’ll get into that later).
  • You don’t have to write every day. Some authors like to set 1K or 2K word count targets per day. I didn’t. I was on a mission to write the vomit draft within one month, which I did. But I got through it with marathons and days off. Every writer is different, but after a long and stressful day at work, there were some days I couldn’t muster up the strength to keep looking at a computer monitor (and I’m not a morning person). I did most of my writing on the weekend; I wrote something like 30K words in one weekend — it was the last 3rd of the book, including the climax, so it was easy to just keep going.
  • Don’t believe in writer’s block. Staring at a blank screen is the worst. So don’t let the blank screen happen. How? Don’t skip step #1. Your outline is your first line of defense against writer’s block. If you don’t know how to start one scene, skip to the next until you get inspired. Never use writer’s block as an excuse for not writing one day. There are plenty other things in life that will get in the way

Quick note about Steps 3-5: they can happen simultaneously. For example, I did not complete draft #2 of the entire novel before proceeding to draft #3. Sometimes I did #2 and #3 of the same chapter back-to-back. Sometimes I’d do #2 of five chapters, then #3 of those five chapters. Other times I’d do #2, #3, and #4 of the same chapter at once.

Step 3: The Second Draft – Editing for Story

Some writers advise you to put down your novel for six weeks before proceeding to the second draft. I did not do this, and I personally wouldn’t recommend it. I wanted to continue while draft one was fresh in my brain, and I could remember all the changes I knew I wanted to make by the time I reached the end.

This draft is all about fixing the story, eliminating plot holes, adding detail to characters and scenes, and deepening dialogue. It’s not about perfecting sentences or fixing your typos. During draft two, I often rewrote entire chapters, or entire action sequences, or entire conversations. My writing had improved by the last third of my vomit draft, so I rewrote a lot of the first half of the novel.

The second draft is also where you can “show, don’t tell.” If you find a paragraph (or five) explaining something that happened between now and your last chapter, nix those paragraphs and craft a scene or dialogue where you make that thing happen.

Step 4: The Third Draft – Editing the Copy

Now that your story is set, it’s time to add detail, but more importantly, CUT words. This is pretty time-consuming and takes several hours per chapter. I will get into more detail in future posts, but here are the basics:

  • Eliminate needless elements. Cut sentences or paragraphs that don’t further the story, provide extra detail, or make sense.
  • Make your verbs stronger. Did your character walk into the room? Or did they stride into the room? Or amble into the room? Or tripped into the room? Making your verbs stronger will help you eliminate pesky adverbs that slow down your writing.
  • Cut the he said she said. The context of the dialogue should let the reader know who’s speaking. You can also add action between the dialogue.
  • Cut weak words: just, probably, that, definitely, literally, certainly, absolutely, etc. etc.
  • Cut character points of view that slow down the story. Don’t say, “Bob looked in the window and saw that Mary was watering her plants.” Instead, say, “Mary watered her plants.”
  • Cut passive voice. Most of your sentences should have a subject followed by a verb. Don’t say, “The apple was picked up the girl in the yellow frock.” Instead, say, “The girl in the yellow frock picked up an apple.” Or better yet, “The girl picked up an apple, her yellow frock whipping in the wind.”

These are cheesy examples, but you get the point. More details to come in later posts! In this draft, you should also fix any typos and grammar mistakes you find.

Again, my target length was 80K words, my 1st draft was 74K words, and my 3rd draft was 85K words. I cut a LOT from the 1st draft during the 3rd draft, but I added detail and conversations (“show, don’t tell”) in the 2nd draft, which is why my 3rd draft ended up being 11K longer than the first.

Step 5: The Fourth Draft – Close Beta Reader

Find someone you trust to be your first beta reader. This person should:

  • Be willing to invest some serious time in reading your chapters as you finish the third draft within a short timeframe.
  • Be accessible to you. Ideally, live nearby, or be available by phone on a regular basis.
  • Be good at giving critical, honest feedback.
  • Have a solid grasp of the English language and/or English literature.
  • Be a good writer themselves (not required, but helpful)

In my case, my first beta reader was my husband Bryan. Here was our process:

  • I sent him each chapter as I finished the 3rd draft in a Word doc.
  • He used track changes to provide comments, make typo edits, etc.
  • He emailed each chapter back to me and sat with me as I read through his notes, asked questions, etc. We’d talk about plot points and whether things the characters said made sense, how to make the scene stronger, etc. Having someone to bounce ideas off of made my story so much stronger.
  • I manually made all edits in Scrivener (so I never used the track changes “Accept Change” feature).

Step 6: The Fifth Draft – All Beta Readers

Yesterday, I sent the novel to eight beta readers (including my parents, in-laws, a couple friends, and a fellow writer). They will help me find typos and give me any other feedback they come up with so I can make my novel as strong as possible before sending it off to the agents.

Next up will be agent research and writing the queries, and then I’ll complete the fifth and final draft based on my beta readers’ feedback. I’m all about efficiency. I hope this helped someone out there! Please feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

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Writing And Editing: Five Problems to Avoid in Your First Novel

by http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/03/writing-editing-first-novel/

The first novel is definitely the hardest! You think you have internalized how a story works as a reader and then you discover there is so much more to learn.

writingIn this article, Natasa Lekic from New York Book Editors takes us through five problems that are common in first novels and how to avoid them.

The experience of writing your first draft can be a roller coaster.

However, once you write that final page, you’ll relate to Zadie Smith:

It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

For most first-time writers, this is followed by a straight dive into the publishing process.

After all, you did the work, now it’s time for your story to get out into the world – right?

Not yet. A crucial second phase is involved: the editing. Today, many novels go through an editor before they even reach a literary agent.

At the company I founded, NY Book Editors, we specialize in the editing phase, so we’ve worked with hundreds of first-time novelists. Our team of experienced editors—which has worked with authors ranging from Stephen King to Paulo Coelho to Haruki Murakami—say writers often stumble on the same things.

Here are the common issues writers deal with in their first outing:

1. Where’s the conflict?

Stories must have some form of tension, or conflict, at all times. First novels often start with long descriptions of place or character. The exposition may be beautiful, but prose is never enough to keep your reader interested.

Take even a quiet novel, such as national bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In the opening scene, it’s an ordinary morning in Harold and Maureen’s household, but something seems wrong.

He’s sitting at breakfast, she’s vacuuming, and then, “The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter.”

The letter is for Harold. As he absentmindedly reacts to Maureen’s request for the jam, she says:

“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”

Harold discovers that the letter is from an old friend, letting him know she has cancer. Maureen changes her tone. She says she’s sorry to hear the news and tries to make a positive remark about the weather.

It seems she’s not just a crabby old woman. Her attitude is more complex than that.

On the surface, we’re reading about an ordinary breakfast and the delivery of a letter. But from the beginning, the reader can see there’s much more going on. This is what keeps us interested.

As an author, you know the central conflict of your story, the main arc, but remember it’s built up gradually through every little scene.

Your novel should never become a catalog of events. Instead, it should always include tension and conflict, which continue to engage the reader. This is the engine that drives your story forward.

2. Are your characters interesting?

As a reader or a movie goer, how frustrating is it when a character doesn’t turn out to be more than they seem? It means the writer didn’t have any insight into the inner life of this person or their world.

When a character has depth, we want to spend time with them – regardless of whether they’re good or evil, sympathetic or not – we’re drawn to their story and compelled to find out more.

One effective way to make sure your character is rich and multi-dimensional is to write their backstory.

This backstory is written outside your novel, and it should tell the character’s individual story—where they come from, what drives them and why—along with details about their life.

You can think of it as a mini history, and ask yourself what you might write if you were doing it for a family member or friend. You might include details about where they were born and who their relatives are, along with defining moments in their life, and tidbits about what they like or dislike.

In other words, you would include the big things, along with quirks that make them unique.

You might scratch your head and wonder why this is necessary. It’s not going to be in the book after all. Who cares about their backstory?

Jenna Blum in The Author at Work explains:

“Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg showed in fiction—your reader will see only what is above the water—but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg. And that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.”

The intimate understanding you have of your character will bury its way into your novel without you even noticing it. The reader, however, will be able to tell the difference.

3. Is your prose too beautiful?

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

Georges Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.” Simenon went on to say that he learned, after working with one editor, that sometimes style can overwhelm a writer’s content.

He explained:

“When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

Or, as one of our editors put it, overuse of things like descriptors can bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning of a sentence and continue reading.

4. Has someone else read your manuscript?

Every writer should reread their own work and self-edit repeatedly – until they feel they’ve done everything they can for their manuscript. But at a certain point, a writer losses the ability to look over their own work honestly and objectively.

When he was younger, one of our editors completed a Master’s Thesis. Once he felt it was as good as he could possibly make it, he sent it to a friend to edit.

The document was returned in a sea of red marks. The most distressing edits, however, pointed out sections in which he had left out entire sentences.

“I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and so when I read it, I wasn’t reading the words on the page. I was reading what should have been there. My brain was filling in the gaps.

If I hadn’t had that person read it, I would have turned in something that in no way represented what I meant.

There comes a time when your writing is just too familiar to you. It all makes sense to you, so you can no longer see the flaws.”

That’s when a beta reader or a professional editor can really help. They’re approaching the manuscript for the first time, and they’re going to pick up on things you would never have noticed.

5. Be original

I know what you’re thinking—this is from Captain Obvious! But unless you have a masterful command of how to write in your genre, you run the risk of being predictable.

Consider Adele Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.; it’s about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman and has been compared to the work of Jane Austen. However, unlike Austen’s work, Waldman’s novel is written from the point-of-view of a man.

At its core, the story is familiar. There’s nothing original about the concept of this book, which became a national bestseller. However, because Waldman took the unconventional approach of telling this tale in the first person from the perspective of the man, she made something old feel wholly new.

Having a woman write a romance from the perspective of a brilliant young man gives rise to psychological observations that make the book feel revelatory.

In your genre, ask yourself how your story differs from other books. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre (Nathaniel P. is, after all, a novel about relationships), you also need to surprise them.

Keep in mind that fans of sci-fi read a lot of sci-fi, fans of chick lit read a lot of chick lit, and so on. They’ve seen many variations of the same story. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, but a fresh voice or a new approach to a tried and true formula will delight the reader.

As a bonus, if you’ve done this well, it will also be much easier to describe your novel to readers. Everyone gets excited by discovering a fresh approach to a genre they know well.

 The last piece of advice is – don’t stress!

Writing a novel is an immense undertaking. By taking the time to craft your story, your unique perspective of the world, you’re embarking on a difficult but endlessly rewarding journey.

When you make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every author you’ve ever admired (alright, alright except Shakespeare) has lagged here and there, learned from their hiccups, and gone on to write the books that shake you to your core.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your craft. You’ll get there.

The Writing Process.

the writing process

By Ali Hale

 

Whether you know it or not, there’s a process to writing – which many writers follow naturally. If you’re just getting started as a writer, though, or if you always find it a struggle to produce an essay, short story or blog, following the writing process will help.

I’m going to explain what each stage of the writing process involves, and I’ll offer some tips for each section that will help out if you’re still feeling stuck!

1. Prewriting

Have you ever sat staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank document on your computer screen? You might have skipped the vital first stage of the writing process: prewriting. This covers everything you do before starting your rough draft. As a minimum, prewriting means coming up with an idea!

Ideas and Inspiration

Ideas are all around you. If you want to write but you don’t have any ideas, try:

  • Using a writing prompt to get you started.
  • Writing about incidents from your daily life, or childhood.
  • Keeping a notebook of ideas – jotting down those thoughts that occur throughout the day.
  • Creating a vivid character, and then writing about him/her.

See also How to Generate Hundreds of Writing Ideas.

Tip: Once you have an idea, you need to expand on it. Don’t make the mistake of jumping straight into your writing – you’ll end up with a badly structured piece.

Building on Your Idea

These are a couple of popular methods you can use to add flesh to the bones of your idea:

  • Free writing: Open a new document or start a new page, and write everything that comes into your head about your chosen topic. Don’t stop to edit, even if you make mistakes.
  • Brainstorming: Write the idea or topic in the center of your page. Jot down ideas that arise from it – sub-topics or directions you could take with the article.

Once you’ve done one or both of these, you need to select what’s going into your first draft.

Planning and Structure

Some pieces of writing will require more planning than others. Typically, longer pieces and academic papers need a lot of thought at this stage.

First, decide which ideas you’ll use. During your free writing and brainstorming, you’ll have come up with lots of thoughts. Some belong in this piece of writing: others can be kept for another time.

Then, decide how to order those ideas. Try to have a logical progression. Sometimes, your topic will make this easy: in this article, for instance, it made sense to take each step of the writing process in order. For a short story, try the eight-point story arc.

2. Writing

Sit down with your plan beside you, and start your first draft (also known as the rough draft or rough copy). At this stage, don’t think about word-count, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Don’t worry if you’ve gone off-topic, or if some sections of your plan don’t fit too well. Just keep writing!

If you’re a new writer, you might be surprised that professional authors go through multiple drafts before they’re happy with their work. This is a normal part of the writing process – no-one gets it right first time.

Some things that many writers find helpful when working on the first draft include:

  • Setting aside at least thirty minutes to concentrate: it’s hard to establish a writing flow if you’re just snatching a few minutes here and there.
  • Going somewhere without interruptions: a library or coffee shop can work well, if you don’t have anywhere quiet to write at home.
  • Switching off distracting programs: if you write your first draft onto a computer, you might find that turning off your Internet connection does wonders for your concentration levels! When I’m writing fiction, I like to use the free program Dark Room (you can find more about it on our collection of writing software).

You might write several drafts, especially if you’re working on fiction. Your subsequent drafts will probably merge elements of the writing stage and the revising stage.

Tip: Writing requires concentration and energy. If you’re a new writer, don’t try to write for hours without stopping. Instead, give yourself a time limit (like thirty minutes) to really focus – without checking your email!

3. Revising

Revising your work is about making “big picture” changes. You might remove whole sections, rewrite entire paragraphs, and add in information which you’ve realized the reader will need. Everyone needs to revise – even talented writers.

The revision stage is sometimes summed up with the A.R.R.R. (Adding, Rearranging, Removing, Replacing) approach:

Adding

What else does the reader need to know? If you haven’t met the required word-count, what areas could you expand on? This is a good point to go back to your prewriting notes – look for ideas which you didn’t use.

Rearranging

Even when you’ve planned your piece, sections may need rearranging. Perhaps as you wrote your essay, you found that the argument would flow better if you reordered your paragraphs. Maybe you’ve written a short story that drags in the middle but packs in too much at the end.

Removing

Sometimes, one of your ideas doesn’t work out. Perhaps you’ve gone over the word count, and you need to take out a few paragraphs. Maybe that funny story doesn’t really fit with the rest of your article.

Replacing

Would more vivid details help bring your piece to life? Do you need to look for stronger examples and quotations to support your argument? If a particular paragraph isn’t working, try rewriting it.

Tip: If you’re not sure what’s working and what isn’t, show your writing to someone else. This might be a writers’ circle, or just a friend who’s good with words. Ask them for feedback. It’s best if you can show your work to several people, so that you can get more than one opinion.

4. Editing

The editing stage is distinct from revision, and needs to be done after revising. Editing involves the close-up view of individual sentences and words. It needs to be done after you’ve made revisions on a big scale: or else you could agonize over a perfect sentence, only to end up cutting that whole paragraph from your piece.

When editing, go through your piece line by line, and make sure that each sentence, phrase and word is as strong as possible. Some things to check for are:

  • Have you used the same word too many times in one sentence or paragraph? Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.
  • Are any of your sentences hard to understand? Rewrite them to make your thoughts clear.
  • Which words could you cut to make a sentence stronger? Words like “just” “quite”, “very”, “really” and “generally” can often be removed.
  • Are your sentences grammatically correct? Keep a careful look out for problems like subject-verb agreement and staying consistent in your use of the past, present or future tense.
  • Is everything spelt correctly? Don’t trust your spell-checker – it won’t pick up every mistake. Proofread as many times as necessary.
  • Have you used punctuation marks correctly? Commas often cause difficulties. You might want to check out the Daily Writing Tips articles on punctuation.

Tip: Print out your work and edit on paper. Many writers find it easier to spot mistakes this way.

5. Publishing

The final step of the writing process is publishing. This means different things depending on the piece you’re working on.

Bloggers need to upload, format and post their piece of completed work.

Students need to produce a final copy of their work, in the correct format. This often means adding a bibliography, ensuring that citations are correct, and adding details such as your student reference number.

Journalists need to submit their piece (usually called “copy”) to an editor. Again, there will be a certain format for this.

Fiction writers may be sending their story to a magazine or competition. Check guidelines carefully, and make sure you follow them. If you’ve written a novel, look for an agent who represents your genre. (There are books like Writer’s Market, published each year, which can help you with this.)

Tip: Your piece of writing might never be published. That’s okay – many bestselling authors wrote lots of stories or articles before they got their first piece published. Nothing that you write is wasted, because it all contributes to your growth as a writer.

Conclusion

The five stages of the writing process are a framework for writing well and easily. You might want to bookmark this post so that you can come back to it each time you start on a new article, blog post, essay or story: use it as a checklist to help you.

If you have any tips about the writing process, or if you want to share your experiences, tell us in the comments!

 

Original post:http://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-writing-process/