The Editing Style Guide

Here are some great tips for those of you who are editing your novels, I hope it helps.

Nerdy and Wordy

Look, editing is hard. I’ve said it many, many times. When you’re starting, it can be incredibly confusing. One person tells you to do this, and another tells you oh God no. Do this. Do that. It’s hard. I can’t tell you what’s right for your story, but as far as I can tell, there are a couple basic things you need to know.

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One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity (but you probably won’t like it)

If I told you there was a magic pill that increased your concentration, sparked the imagine and improved perseverance, would you take it? I bet you’d do it, I certainly would!

What if I told you that exercise could do all those things for you? I can hear your groans, and feel your annoyance. Irritating isn’t it? 

Most of us would rather not need to exercise. We’d rather eat what we want and have the perfect, slender, magazine ready body, without having to slip on our trainers. What a wonderful world that would be. The sad fact is that to keep our bodies healthy we need to exercise. It’s a non-negotiable (trust me I tried to negotiate my way out of it for years).

I never loved exercise, couldn’t catch without shutting my eyes and was hopeless at running. I hid in the shower room during PE. However, after avoiding exercise until the age of twenty-four, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness where the primary treatment was exercise. Every time I stood up the room span, and I almost fainted. The only option for me was to start exercising lying down until I grew strong enough to stand and exercise without fatigue. It was hellish, to begin with, but now I am the fittest I have ever been and have found whole hosts of benefits I would like to share with you. (Also my condition is completely managed, and I can live normally again – Hooray!)

Exercise increases your energy levels – It’s counter-intuitive isn’t it? I previously assumed that since you expend energy during exercise, that you are tired out from it. While that is true in the short-term, in the long run, you are more energetic. Early mornings are easier (potentially late nights for others). Finding time to write gets easier if you have more energy.

Exercise improves your sleep quality – Perhaps one of the reasons you have more energy is that you sleep better. Tiring out the body helps sleep and sleep produces a clearer mind. Hello clarity, nice to meet you, please come and assist me in my writing.

Exercise allows imagination to flow – When you are peddling away on an exercise bike or stomping your way on the treadmill your body is occupied, but your brain can wander. You are a captive audience. You can’t remember that urgent chore and go away and do it. You can’t phone that friend you’ve forgotten to contact. Your mind can soar into the realms of creativity and imagination, and your practical body is occupied – it can’t drag you away.

Exercise gives you confidence – I’m actually not talking about body confidence here, but confidence in your own mental strength. There is something incredibly satisfying in achieving something you never thought you could. It takes dedication, commitment, and, let’s be honest, pain to get physically fit. We need all those things in writing, and the skills learnt in exercise do translate over.

Exercise prevents “Writers Neck” – Is it writers neck or back for you? I get neck pain when I type for too long. Exercise keeps our backs healthy (especially pilates) which is a real bonus for those of us who write for extended periods of time. The pain may be manageable now, but we want to write long-term, don’t we? Exercise is one way to secure our future as writers.

The most important thing I would like to say is that this post is not meant to guilt trip anyone. I would hate for anyone to read this and leave feeling condemned because they don’t want to exercise. You be you, and what works for me may not work for you. There may be some out there, however, who are missing something and may want to give exercise a try. 

I would love to hear from you in the comments section whether you agree or disagree. I love a good discussion!

How to Create a Consistent Writing Habit

Writing seems so easy when we start out, doesn’t it? When an idea hits you square in the forehead, and you are in awe of your imagination. You picture yourself tucked up in the corner of a cosy cafe, latte steaming, and with pages of magnificent prose on the laptop before you.

I wonder how long it takes the average writer to realise their idealistic views will not materialise? We all reach the point where our coffee sits beside us, stone cold, and we despair at the task ahead.

When this happens, it is so easy to let our motivation wane and to put our writing on the back burner. Stopping when writing gets hard is pure folly. Think of writing like building muscle in the gym. If you were to stop exercising the moment you felt a prickle of sweat, there’s no growth, no improvement, and no point even starting. It’s the same with writing. You will never write a novel if you give up when it’s hard. 

So how can we keep our motivation levels high and build a consistent writing habit?

Set aside dedicated time – If you only write when you fancy it, eventually you will stop altogether. Let’s face it, sometimes an hour watching Netflix is preferable to an hour spent writing. You can generally find something else you’d rather do than write (sleeping in for instance), so you need dedicated time which is devoted to writing and nothing else.

Celebrate mini victories – Celebrate when you hit a word count milestone, or when you’ve written every day in a week. Reward your hard work, and don’t let progress go unnoticed.

Push through the wall – When you sit down to write, and everything you attempt to write seems wrong, keep going. Just write the rubbish that comes to mind and keep going, after all, you can fix things later on. If you push through, most of the time the words will start to flow in earnest.

Ensure you have enough fun in your life – If your whole life is writing it might just kill the joy of it. Personally, I have to ensure I spend time with my friends on a regular basis, because I am an extrovert and writing is quite an introverted activity. For others, it may be running, or painting or computer games. Just make sure that you plan in fun time. Not only does it energise you, but it also gives you more ideas about what to write.

Make yourself Accountable – Find someone who will ask you how your writing is going, and then answer them honestly. This could be a spouse, or a writing coach, perhaps even another blogger. Just make sure that someone is keeping you accountable.

Best of luck fiction writers, I hope that this post has helped you. I would like to leave you with some wise words written in a comment on my blog earlier this week by Stephen R Gann

“Consistency builds connection, which leads to a strong, concise completion.”

The Importance of Empathy when Writing Fiction

You can’t write a book unless you are empathetic. 

I bet some of you adamantly disagree with that statement. Of course, you can write an instruction manual or perhaps Non-fiction, but can you write fiction without empathy? I don’t think so.

The Oxford English dictionary described empathy as –

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

What have feelings got to do with writing fiction? Well, if you think about it, quite a lot.

The old saying goes “write what you know”, but as I’m sure you’ll be relieved to find out, most thriller novelists don’t know what it feels like to murdered in an alley. They haven’t been in a high-speed car chase, and they certainly haven’t lived the life of a serial killer. So how are they able to write about these topics?

They have empathy.

Many people think that this is a wishy-washy, bleeding-heart characteristic that isn’t of any real value unless you are a counsellor or a priest. Empathy is actually incredibly useful in many situations, especially in fiction writing. You can imagine and understand how your characters would feel in a situation you have never been in.

So next time you read a novel about violent murders or abuse, don’t panic, you are only reading the result of the writer’s empathy, not psychopathic tendencies. If you are a writer, I would advise one of the best ways to create authentic characters, is to learn to empathise with as many people as you can. It will transform your prose.

 

On Writing Novels: The things no one warns you about

Shock horror! How DARE she? What kind of writer does that make her? You mean you don’t LOVE every second of every minute that you are writing? She’ll never make it!

That’s what I imagine people will think when I admit there are things about writing that I hate. I mean hate, not just dislike. However, part of me wonders whether there isn’t something that every aspiring (or even, god forbid it, published!) authors can’t stand about writing. So, I’m going to let brutal honesty flow onto the page, and I’m hoping that it will encourage others who feel the same.

Getting up so damn early

When your alarm sounds and you’re shaken from blissful sleep three whole hours before you start work, just so that you can write. You hate the commitment, you hate the sacrifice, but most of all, you just plain hate being out of your warm, cosy bed. You sit, bleary-eyed in front of a computer screen, yawning, and dislike the practice intensely. Any other early morning writers feel the same?

When the words come faster than your fingers

When you are on a roll, and it seems as if the story is playing out in front of you, without any control on your part. Everything is so much better in your head and ideas are springing up left right and centre. Even though you’re a very fast typist, you still can’t keep up, and little gems of descriptions are lost into the big wide world.

Verbs that should exist, but don’t

You know the moment when you can see an action so clearly in your head, but there just isn’t a verb that you know of to describe it? When your mind is crying out for you to use an adverb, but you know that’s the lazy way, that there must be the perfect verb out there, so you try to find it. You sit for an age staring and tapping your fingers, and then you give up and use the adverb anyway, because, you can’t for the life of you find the perfect verb.

Lack of Confidence

That feeling that pounces when you are midway through a sentence, where your stomach drops and your heart beats faster. The little voice in your head which asks “are you really good enough? Why would anyone want to read what you have to say?”. It’s soul destroying, and it takes a person with real grit to shake off the thought and carry on regardless.

There are many reasons why writing a novel is hard, it’s the equivalent of a Marathon if writing were a sport. It takes training, dedication, and sacrifice, but despite all that, we love it. No matter what we achieve, writing a novel is worth the pain. For all the things we hate about writing, there are abundantly more things to love.

 

 

 

 

How Not To Write… A Novel

This is a brilliant post about how to write a novel – I found it very encouraging and I hope you do too.

How Not To Writte

They say everyone has a book inside them (and we don’t mean in the ’embarrassing visit to A&E’ sense). We all have a story to tell, a journey to share or an idea that sounds like it could be worked into a passable novel.

But if you’ve just come up with the best idea ever for a chick lit flicker – featuring the forbidden love between a chocolate company owner and his down-at-heel cleaning lady – how do you get this blockbusting idea out of your head and into 100,000 words or tear-enducing literary prose?

Do:

  • Commit to writing, a LOT, and then some, and then some more, again… and wash, and repeat.
  • Learn the basics of editing skills. You don’t need swish software but you DO need patience and – in our opinion – rewards for getting your edits done. Chocolate works well (Ed: there’s a theme emerging here……

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5 Tips for New Writers

So, you’ve decided to write a novel. You have your story burning a hole in your chest, and you can’t wait to get it down on paper. Setting the pen to the notepad, or the fingers to the keys, you set off with speed and passion. Before long, however, you find that this isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. Shame fills you as you realise that you aren’t nearly as good as you hoped you would be. Don’t worry, it happened to me, and it happens to us all. 

Here are a few tips I have picked up from my first ten months or so of writing, I hope they help. Keep going, you’ve got this.

Read as much as you can

The chances are, that if you want to write a book, you love to read. The temptation to stop reading when you are writing is immense. You may find yourself comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate, or you may even analyse technique so much that you lose the magic of getting lost in a story.

Don’t do this! Read for pleasure and forget about writing. You will absorb technique and form subconsciously so don’t stress about analysing things too deeply. Enjoy reading, and keep doing it. N.B. this is a tip which Stephen King gives in his fantastic book “On Writing”.

Experiment

Don’t panic about getting everything right. You will make mistakes. Big ones. Just write, keep writing, and make mistakes as you go. If you wait until you feel you are getting everything right before beginning your first draft you will NEVER begin.

Have some fun, forget about grammar (until you come to edit), forget what’s good and bad practice and just let the words flow. Let the crazy in your mind come out and run with it.

Change things up

If you start something and halfway through you realise that you’ve written it in the wrong tense, or your main character isn’t working, stop. Just stop and restart. There is no shame in leaving a pile of unfinished drafts behind you or rewriting a story ten times before you actually decide how it ends.

You will learn so much in your first few months writing, as I have done. You will find you’ve been making huge mistakes all the way through. Wisdom says to go back and change things.

Let your imagination go wild

Play with your characters, put them in the most dramatic and unlikely scenarios, just for fun. I’m not saying this will make an excellent book, although perhaps it would, but it will spark a passion in you for pushing boundaries. Who knows? Maybe the next great idea for a novel comes out of letting your imagination run free. Be silly, have fun, and enjoy yourself.

Be bold

Don’t be afraid to write what you mean. The best writing is not timid, it is deliberate. Don’t say “James opened the door angrily and shouted” when you could say “James wrenched the door open and bellowed.” Don’t say “He replied sadly” when you could say “His lip started to tremble as he answered, and a tear slid down his cheek.”. When you are bold, you use forceful verbs instead of adverbs, and you describe the physical traits emotion rather than just telling us it is there. This technique makes for excellent prose.

These are my own, humble, opinions, and I’m sure others will have many more tips and advice. I would love to hear from anyone else who would like to impart some wisdom, I am always on the hunt for it!