You may know that I also write for another blog; a small collective of three writers, me, the very talented Richard Kefford, and poet John Watts share a blog called ‘The Moving Dragon Writes’. As well as posting our own work and thoughts, we open up the blog to anyone else who would like to post there and we have many fine writers who have been kind enough to share their work.
Some time ago, Richard found a most interesting article about different types of blogs and blogging in general; it listed seventy-three suggested subjects for blogging and he has begun to tackle the challenge of trying to write on each of these seventy-three… well, good luck to him! … Good luck, and yesterday, feeling that maybe I too should take up that challenge – not in competition, but just to see if I can do it. I started
First of all I had to decide, should I start with No. 1 on the list and work my way through? Should I choose the easiest and train myself up to the most challenging? Choose a topic I’m familiar with and already often write about or select one at random? In the end starting with the first suggestion seemed the equivalent to starting at random as they were in no particular order!
So, here is the first on the list, and what I wrote yesterday:
- Tutorials and How-to Guides
How to edit what you have written (according to Brimdraca, aka Lois Elsden):
Recently I have been thinking about the process of editing stories – in my case it is novels; I am not at the stage of having to think about editing with my current novel, provisionally called Saltpans, but having recently read an interesting article about editing, it has been on my mind. I write fiction, and I write novels, but I think there are aspects of my self-editing processes which apply to any piece of writing. certainly when I do write a shorter piece, or a factual piece or an article about something, the same principles of checking, correcting, improving apply
You have finished your story…
- congratulate yourself and feel very proud of your achievement – don’t have negative, apologetic or pessimistic thoughts about it. You set yourself a challenge and you have completed it so that is a success!
- flex your editing muscles because you are going to make your work better than it is in its raw state – don’t think ‘I’ve finished writing, that’s it’ – you want to make it the best it can be, the same as with anything
- take time away from your work; it might be only a cup of coffee or tea’s worth of time, it might be a day, a week, a month – Stephen King recommends six weeks – but you need to disengage yourself so you can be objective
- spell-check – run your spellchecker/proof-reader/spelling and grammar checker before you do anything else to get rid of those silly errors and typos, spelling mistakes, careless grammatical inconsistencies, repeated or omitted words, etc
- first read through – your time away from your work should help you see it with fresh eyes and things should jump out at you straight away which need attention
With the next suggestions there is no particular order, I might work my way through them in a different way from you, I might omit some or add in a few idiosyncratic personal ones of my own – and so might you!
- write out the plot and subplots – this helps with continuity and sequencing,, it also helps you rearrange episodes if you need to. If you are a person who meticulously plans your work before you even start then you will probably have done this already – ditto a lot of the other suggestions below!!
- write character profiles and descriptions – you may even write family trees, family histories, back-stories which never appear in your piece (you can always use them later for something else!) Doing this ensures consistencies, that your character’s eyes don’t change colour for example or her ex-husband’s name doesn’t change
- scenery and setting – if your story is in a real place then you might need to check out the location again, you might also want to enhance your story with more details and descriptions. If your setting is fictional make sure your reader can ‘see’ it. You may need to write a little private ‘history’ of the place with notes.
- read your whole story/article out loud – when I say ‘out loud’ I mean ‘out loud’; I don’t mean mumbling or whispering it to yourself, I mean reading it as if to someone else – if you have someone else to read it to, even better – and if that someone else will read it out loud to you, then even better still! This will throw up things you want to change large and small and will highlight those errors which escaped your spell-check/proof reading from above. This will also highlight boring bits, parts which are too abrupt or not properly explained, repetitive parts, and worst of all – those precious, beautifully crafted, lovingly polished episodes which are actually ludicrous or embarrassing or make the reader burst out laughing (or if it’s supposed to be funny sit there with a pained expression because it’s so dire) On the positive side – reading it out loud will really highlight the great bits, the lyrical bits, the hilarious pits, the tear-jerking bits – you will be impressed by yourself in a way you can’t be reading it in your head!
- winnow, slash, cut, delete, reduce – like all of us, carrying a little extra weight (or in some cases a lot of extra weight) isn’t good. As with extra calories, it can be the little things which make a story flabby and unfocused. I think all of us have words which we use more than we should – ‘just’, ‘about’, ‘very’, ‘almost’ etc… each of us might have a favourite word which we trot out – it can be something unusual like ‘pellucid’ or ‘lambent’ which will seem poetic and original the first time, but annoying, distracting and laughable after seven or eight or more times. I found myself using ‘virtually’ too many times, then it was ‘actually’ and ‘actual’, and then utterly…
it isn’t just single words – it can be whole chunks which are just plain boring; it can be a detailed description of a simple act ‘he stretched out his cold hand, his long, brown fingers tentatively touched, then more confidently slid over and firmly grasped the smooth, shiny brass door handle…’ Once might be effective, but if the whole thing is padded out with this minutiae it is just plain boring.
back stories are important but the reader doesn’t want to be wading through a whole lot of stuff which actually has no bearing on the main story – for the most part, saying someone was married before is enough, we don’t need to know what they wore on their wedding day, had to eat at the reception, went on their honeymoon etc!
- repeats – as above; telling us a character has piercing blue yes is fine, repeating it next time we meet her might help us remember her eyes, but we don’t need to be told every-time she comes into the story – unless of course there is a very specific reason
- reread the whole thing – yes again – if possible, read it in a different medium, on paper on an e-reader, in bed on a laptop or tablet… this will help you be objective and stand back from your creation.
- find a reader – if you have a friend whose judgement you respect, ask them to read it (you can bribe them with beer, wine, chocolate, a trip to the theatre) and ask them for their honest opinion. They may be complimentary, but if they are a true friend they will also point out things which don’t work, don’t make sense, seem silly or boring or soppy. You will have to think about what they say because after all, you have already decided you respect their judgement; however you don’t have to agree with it! Your augments for whatever it will make you more sure of yourself… but you might actually think there is some point to what they are saying, and you might find their advice helpful! I’m not suggesting you compromise, but in justifying what you have done you might want to tweak something!
- read it backwards – this advice is mainly for longer stories or novels; obviously I don’t literally mean you read it backwards, but read the last chapter, then the penultimate, then antepenultimate and so on. This is a brilliant way to check plot lines are consistent, make sense and nothing is missed out
- … and finally… begin to think about what should happen next to your story; is it for your writing group, a competition, something for a friend or family member, submit to an agent/publisher, self-publish – possibly on Lulu or Amazon KDP or in paperback form… these days there are so many possibilities!
© Lois Elsden 2017
Here is a link to my books:
… and Richard’s:
… and the 73 blog list:
…and to our Dragon blog: