Friday, June 10, 2011

The writing process (part 2)

Continuing from where I left off.
  • Revision
Before I actively started writing, I considered revision and editing to be one and the same. I learned that they are actually very different things. I wrote the first 15,000 words of Immo1 as free writing. I didn't have names, locations were scattered around an inconsistent map, and details were very skimpy. I took a day off of writing to go back and fill in the missing names and make a real map. It ended up taking me half a week. I didn't understand the difference in revising something and editing it. Revision is where things are rearranged, removed, and replaced. I kept finding spelling mistakes (big surprise), extra or missing commas, gibberish, and random things that I didn't remember writing.

After speaking with a few writer friends, I figured out that I was attempting to revise and edit at the same time, which can be difficult and time consuming. They told me that a lot of people do it that exact way though. Since I was on a time crunch, I had to force myself to stop editing, and just worry about the story. Does this flashback make sense right here? Shouldn't he say that sooner? Four chapters ago, this town was in the north, so why is it sitting in the middle of the southern most lake now? I fixed those kind of details at certain milestones in the story, after meeting a word count goal, or when I didn't feel up to continuing the story right then.
  • Editing
The bane of my existence! Editing, oh how I hate you. I mentioned that I am really bad at spelling. Like, not in the sense of my fingers type faster than my brain and type something wrong. I honestly cannot spell worth a damn. I understand homonyms and that ilk. I certainly try to use words correctly. But I still spell a lot of words by ear. I also like to make up words. Yeah, it is a terrible habit. Editing is a nightmare for me.

Thankfully, I have a really great friend that has devoted countless hours of his (and his wife's) life to editing my writing. He can tell when I find a word that I like, because I'll use it seventeen more times in the next three paragraphs. He catches my grammar mistakes (there is so much green in my Word .doc! Ugh!). He is the lord of prose and has helped me improve dialogue and descriptions when they were not quite right.

If you aren't lucky enough to have someone in your personal circle that seems to enjoy (blech) editing... and is good at it... then you have to buckle down and do it yourself. I do edit my work. I just hate it. Mostly because a good majority of the time, it looks right to me. I could spend three hours editing a 5 page paper, give it to my friend, and it'll come back with a ton of missed commas, corrected words, etc in thirty minutes. Really. There are a lot of really great people online that will edit your work for you as well, either on a trade basis (you read and critique my story and I'll edit yours) or for a fee. I have seen editing fees from individuals that are just passing time to be relatively cheap to outright exorbitant. The same goes with professional editing services. Do your homework before you pay anyone for anything, especially online.

My editing process also includes readers. I call my readers my alpha readers and beta readers. Alpha readers just read for the story. Does it make sense? Is it exciting? What do you love/hate about it? My beta readers come in after several edits and revisions, based upon alpha suggestions and my feelings on the story. Did you find anything repetitive? Did you understand the story? Was the writing clear and easy to understand? Any glaring grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes? A fresh set of eyes on a project really helps!

I also find it incredibly hard to edit on the computer. I print it all out, edit by hand with a highlighter and red pen, and then edit page by page in the digital file. It may seem that it takes longer, but for me, it is actually faster. I could spend two days doing it by hand and then another day entering the changes into the document, or I could spend two weeks editing it in the digital document and miss half the changes that I would have found when doing it by hand. I get distracted way too easily.
  • Publishing
This is the last step in the writing process. If you've made it this far, congratulations to you! Most writers finish countless pieces only to store them away in a cabinet, binder, or document file. You have to go out there and make your publishing dreams come true. It doesn't happen over night, and it will not just fall into your lap (unless you are a celebrity...)!

I shared portions of Immo1 with several writing groups, friends, and family. I submitted it to a few contests. I am currently finishing up the final details in order to publish it as an ebook. I want people to read my novel. I want them to wait in anticipation for the 2nd and 3rd. I have set up at night, unable to sleep because I sent off part or all of my story to someone and couldn't stand waiting to hear their response. I got a lot of really good responses. I got a lot of really helpful criticism. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Make your work available. Submit it to contests and magazines. Begin researching how to query and submit your work for consideration at big time agents/publishers if you want to go that route. Blog about it. Share some of your work with the online writing community. Get out there and claim your spot as a writer. You are part of an exclusive club; act like it!

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