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How to Easily Edit your First Draft

Congratulations, you’ve written your first draft!! There’s no doubt about it, writing a complete manuscript is hard. So I’m here to celebrate with you… woo whoo!

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, you’re probably wondering what’s next? Let’s face it… editing a novel is a daunting task. You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed and baffled by this next stage. As I embark on editing my fourth novel, I’m feeling the stirrings of dread. But fear not, I’m going to break things down into bite size tips to get you started.

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After completing your novel, set it aside. Yes, you heard me. Don’t immediately start editing. You’ll be too close to the story and characters to objectively see plot holes, weak characters or blundering scenes. So save your work and close down the files. I suggest a minimum of a month break, but longer is fine too. In the meantime start a new project, read books and maybe (just maybe) catch up on some housework… nah, I didn’t like the last idea either.

Grab your notebook and some fancy pens. Its time to take stock of your story. Read through the whole manuscript, let the story settle in your mind along with your ideas for change. Then repeat the process, but this time a little slower. Recount each chapter with a brief sentence or two.

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On a separate page, take stock of any red flags, structural changes, things that need cutting or rewriting. I personally also like a printed copy for this stage. I underline sentences that don’t flow, or sound repetitive and jot things in the margin. In the past I’ve made the mistake of only doing this. But when it came time to make changes, an arrow pointing to a section with ‘WHAT?’ or ‘add more’ did nothing to help me. Yet armed with my trust note book, I could look back and find the appropriate reference.

Now that you’ve made a chapter by chapter recount of your story it will be easy to reverse outline your story. Only think of the structural elements of the story and begin to deconstruct and then reconstruct. Don’t waste your time on surface editing. You need to focus on the fundamental changes first. Besides, there’s no point polishing your voice and cleaning up the grammar if your only going to cut the scene.

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Once you’ve tackled the big stuff like structural changes and plot holes, its time to work on through the remained of your notes. Focus on the surface editing, such as; sentences that didn’t make sense, the flow of your story and of course polish your Voice. Work in stages; a chapter at a time. This keeps you accountable for the work you’re doing, without overburdening yourself. Remember, edits take as long as they take. That’s why small goals help us to stay motivated throughout the process.

Yay! Pat yourself on the back, the hard graft is done. But before sending your work out to beta readers, check formatting, grammar, spelling and punctuation. This stage is also a great time to check for crutch words and anything repetitive, including repetitive body gestures that your characters use. In my first drafts, I tend add a lot of shoulder shrugging, and body parts. Cut it back or alter the overused words to make your writing flow.

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Now it’s time to send your work to a couple of trusted beta readers, or if your lucky like me, a critique partner. Use their feedback to edit your manuscript again. You can work in stages, one beta at a time, or with a small group. Remember, choose what feedback you use to alter your story, not all of it will apply. You’re the architect of your story, so you get to decide what advice to follow.

And there we have it, you’ve edited your novel! Tell me fellow creatives, what writing stage are you at? And are you a lover or hater of editing? Personally, I’ve grown to love this stage. I learn so much from working with others.

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Don’t forget to leave a comment and share your thoughts. You know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2021.

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Improve your Writing by Removing Crutch Words.

Completing a rough draft of a novel is a huge success. However the real work comes from revising. Working with critique partners to help develop the plot and character arcs. But what happens after you’ve done a few rounds of revision? Where do you go next? How can you sharpen your manuscript?

We all have words that we over use, words that we rely on to tell or show the story. Words that we’ve peppered our page with. Soon, you and your beta readers will being to notice the words you rely on, and with diligence you can begin to remove them from your work.

Because I write fantasy-romance, I tend to over use body parts; eyes, mouths, certain gestures for my characters like shrugging or curling their hands into fists. When over used, our readers pick up on them, which brings them out of the story. These become our crutch words.

A great tip is to create a checklist sheet. Jot down a list of your culprits and search your document, preening them out. Don’t forget body parts, facial expressions, or words that you identify as over using. Then edit out the crutch words. Try rewriting the sentence using different words? Ask yourself – do the words adding any meaning to the sentence? Will its removal, alter the story? Can the crutch word be replaced with an alternative description? Thus eliminating the obvious eyesores before your readers identify them.

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#TIP. Word document has a Find tool that searches and highlights the specific word in your manuscript, making it easy to alter or remove.

Air caution, when using the thesaurus. While its function is invaluable to us authors, it runs the risk of stripping our unique voice from the story. I must admit to replacing a word for a recommended substitute and losing the original meaning by not understanding the definition.

A rough idea, is to limit those pesky crutch words to just once per page. Of course, you don’t have to stick to that. Changing a lounge, to a front room, mid-scene is going to be jarring. As would using flowery prose to describe a lagoon, just so you don’t say water too much.

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Some genres – I’m thinking romance – expect to have an emphasis on certain body parts. Eyes in particular, because it shows emotions, and builds tension. Reading in your genre will help you identify those crutch words that have become acceptable to use.

My last tip is to read your work aloud. We’re often too close to our work to see fault. But by sounding out the writing, our brains have the ability to process the information, thus picking up on crutch words.

Yes, it’s tedious hard work, but with persistence and a thorough revisions your writing will improve. I believe in you!!

What is your main crutch word? Don’t be shy. I love it when you share your thoughts and opinions.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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How to Revise your Manuscript Using a Reverse Outline – Review of Jeni Chappelle’s webinar.

Hello my fellow writers and welcome! This week I’ve completed my fourth manuscript; a speculative fiction called Entangled of around 90’000 words. Finishing the first draft is a fantastic moment, but it’s also only the beginning of a novels journey to completion. I’m currently in an odd position where I have three novels all at different phases of the revision process. I must admit the task of tackling a first revision is still as daunting as it was the first time. I recently attended a webinar by editor Jeni Chappelle who has a wealth of experience, so I thought I’d share it with you.

The first part of editing may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s vital: Put the MS down and forget about it. Leave it on the hard-drive or locked in a draw and focus on something else. When the time comes, you’ll want to be as objective as possible. You’ll want to forget about the subplots and character arcs. You’ll need to switch your brain from being a creative writer, to an analytical observer. Time and distance from your WIP will help.

Jeni talk us through the three phases of revision, the first one is to look at the structural elements of your story. The plot and character arcs are the foundations of your novel. It’s fundamental to do this type of revision first; the set up if you like, to see if the novel works.

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While I’ve always started my process by reading through the whole manuscript, making notes on the things I want to change or clarify – Jeni opens up a whole list of vital question to ask during this process. Jeni gets us thinking about the internal goals and conflicts of the characters. The webinar gives the key to unlocking all of the hidden workings behind a successful story.

I found Jeni’s friendly approach not only welcoming but also easy to understand, despite the in-depth scope of the lesson. During the half an hour webinar, Jeni helps distinguish the importance of identifying the plot and pacing, and much, much more.

Jeni teaches writers how to Create a reverse outline. If you’re having heart palpitations at the thought of this, trust me, you’re not alone. A reverse outline is an overview of your novel, enabling the writer to structure their novel. Stories should follow a novel structure, their are many to choose from, but I prefer to model my stories on the three act structure.

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Once we’ve identified the gaps in our manuscript its time to start editing. Perhaps your MC needs clearer defined goals, or the pacing is too slow to start. Maybe some of the scenes need to be switched around to enable the story structure to flow.

The process will be different for everyone, the important part is trying. That’s where you’ll learn and grow as a writer. Once you’ve finished the first round of revision, you may choose to ask a critique partner to help out. They will be able to point out any areas you may have overlooked.

Send your work out to beta readers and return the favour by critiquing their work. This is the stage I’m at with my third MS Crown of Lies. It’s a valuable chance to put into practice the knowledge you’ve gleaned from revising your own work. While it can be daunting, it is undoubtedly the most valuable skill you’ll learn as a writer.

If you’re stuck and you’re searching for professional feedback, you may want to work with a developmental editor, or simply get feedback of your submission package. (This is the stage I’m at with my second novel, before I query again.) Today’s post has been influenced by one of Jeni Chappelle webinars. She is a co-founder of #RevPit over at Twitter. Check her out – subscribe to her newsletter. Not only does she have great content and she’s also a fantastic editor too.

What resources do you use when editing? Do you like to use the reverse outline method, or do you tackle the issue in a different way. I’d love to hear all about your process, please share your experiences with me.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.

Querying Agents: Should you Hire an Editor First?

So you’ve completed the first draft of your novel, edited it the to best of your abilities and now you’re ready to query. Maybe you’re further along than that – perhaps the rejections have started rolling in and you’re wondering if you should hire a professional. And here is the important question: Would hiring an editor help you get representation from an agent or perhaps even lead to becoming published?

After my recent one-to-one with an editor I’ve battled with this question. Some of the advice I received resonated with my gut instinct. Great. Whilst other parts I’ve debated with my betas, toyed with changes and generally procrastinated over. Who’s opinion should I trust more, someone in the industry for 20yrs or just little, blundering novice, me.

On Friday I attended a writing conference with a fellow blogger from Uninspired Writers and we had two agents from Greene & Heaton give us their opinion on the matter. Working with any professional can be a costly matter, which may well be outside of many writers grasp.

But a far more interesting point was; agents are used to working with writers who have a rough draft, it’s their job to know how to edit a manuscript to make it shine. Provided your MS is polished to it’s best and has no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. By implementing an editor’s changes you’re effectively adding a third persons subjectivity to the mix. You may end up editing out parts that the agent would have loved and add elements they hate.

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These points aligns with previous advice I’ve heard, which is, by working with an editor before submitting your manuscript, it is no longer authentically yours. Because it has been enhanced by someone else. The agents may well assume your work is up to scratch only to discover that it is not.

I think these pose an interesting conundrum. Who amongst us wouldn’t want to jump the queue and get ahead? But is that really benefiting us in the long haul. On the other hand, having areas in our manuscript highlighted as weak by an editor, critique partner or beta, especially if we had a niggling feeling it was, can only benefit us.

Remember advice is subjective, an agents preferences is subjective, heck this blog post is subjective.

Listen to that inner voice and have faith in your journey. If you want to work with an editor, do it and learn from it. If you’re struggling with someone’s feedback, because you believe those elements are integral to your story, listen to your gut instinct and leave them in your story.

You are the master creator of your world – in fiction and reality.

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Have you heard similar advice from professionals? Or have you worked with an editor and known in your heart their changes would help or hinder your story? If so, share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Writing The Perfect Opening Chapter… and what not to do

The first chapter of your novel is important; its where you’ll hook your reader, introduce your protagonist, hint at the antagonist, reveal their goal and introduce the stakes. And that’s not all, writing the first chapter will set up the rest of your novel, linking all of the plot points together.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am. I thought I knew how to write a great first scene. Turns out, I was wrong and in today’s post I’ll tell you why.

We’re constantly told not to open with a clique start: No starting in the middle of a battle scene, waking up from a dream, or with lots of internal monologue while your character does something mundane like washing the dishes.

But we’re also told to show the character in his ordinary life, just before a pivotal point which will start the story and raise the stakes. BUT make sure it’s not the inciting incident, because that comes a little later. What?

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The first chapter should focus on your main character, don’t clutter the scene with secondary characters, unless they play an important role. Eeh?

Make sure you give the reader all the details; age, weather, time of year, appearance, their fears, a goal and, of course introduce the stakes. BUT don’t bog down the scene with exposition. Right?

World build: Know the rules of your magic system and adhere to them. BUT don’t throw too much at the reader and confuse them.

Start with an action scene to hook the reader, something to show the character actively engaging with the world around him, be careful not to write a passive character that gets led alone. BUT remember the reader doesn’t know the character yet, so why should they care if they get killed in battle.

Please, no prologues. Unless it adds to the story, them yes give the reader a prologue.  Ahh, screams at the conflicting advice and throws a fluffy pillow across the room.

Whilst wending my way through the S**t storm of conflicting information, I wrote a great chapter, but I also got it seriously wrong. I did not ask, Why should the reader care about my Main Characters?

You see, I’d used the checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, but completely forgot the power of empathy. We need our readers to become invested in our characters, right from the start.

And there we have it writer friends, there is no one-stop-post to fix your first chapter. It takes persistence, a continuation of building upon your craft, getting honest feedback, and practice, practice, practice.

Never give up, my writer friends. I believe in you.

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Please share your experiences of writing that all important first chapter, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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The Five Stages of Receiving Editorial Feedback

As much as we desire the truth about our writing it can be painful to hear the truth about our work. Of course, it can help us grow and become better, it how we learn and develop our craft. It’s a necessary part of the experience. If I’m being honest, I feel as though I’ve passed a benchmark in my journey, because I’ve dreamed of working with an editor, I just hadn’t expected such clarity from a brief one-to-one at a book fair.

Here’s a fun infographic poking fun at a writers experience of receiving critical feedback from an editor and the emotional process they go through. I hope you enjoy.

What have your experiences with editors been like? Good or bad, let me know if it helped you grow as a writer, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.