Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Editing Hat

I've put my editing hat back on this week, as I proof the galley for When Mike Kissed Emma. And I'd forgotten how different copy editing is from critiquing or reading double checking your work for continuity and things like that.

Lately I've been doing a lot of critiquing, since I'm in two critique groups. This is a general kind of edit - for function and story and things like that. This is big-picture stuff. Sure, typos and grammar issues can (and should) be pointed out, but that's not the main focus of the critique. The main focus is to see if the story makes sense, if it's coming together as it should, if there are outstanding questions for the reader - that kind of thing.

Self-editing of a manuscript tends (for me anyway) to be about making sure that word choices are correct, that the characters are true to themselves, that scenes are where they should be, that the story flows and makes sense. This kind of editing often involves lots of cutting and pasting and whole new scenes being inserted.

Copy-editing is a different animal all together. This isn't a time for the big changes. This isn't when you want to decide that maybe you really should have put this paragraph before that other paragraph. No - this is the nitty gritty, the nuts and bolts, the stuff you hoped to never have to worry about once you got rid of those grammar text books in high school. This is are the commas in the right places, is everything spelled right, are stylistic conventions upheld throughout (for example: if you italicize your characters thoughts - did you do it every time). This is the time to figure out if that is two words, or a compound word, or a word with a hyphen. This is the time to realize that when you read quickly you imagine the right word in its place - and maybe that word isn't really there - or the wrong word is there.

I've found things like "more" that should be "move", "of" that should be "off" and "if told" should be "if I told". What's interesting is that so far no one else reading this has caught those. I think it's because our eyes put in place what we're expecting. If we expect the word to be "off" and we see an "o" and an "f" we kind of fill in that last "f" automatically in our brain.

This is a slow kind of editing - at least for me. I need to pause between pages, between chapters - between sentences sometimes, to make sure that what I'm seeing is what is really on the page.

And each time I read it through I find things I didn't find the other times (or don't find things I did find earlier). And I'm sure I'll find more things now. I only hope that I catch everything. (Or that someone else who is reading it will catch what I don't.)

Because I have experience with errors making it into print. For years I was the editor of a cruise guide. Okay, saying I was the editor maybe doesn't give the full picture. I was the writer and sole editorial staff for an annual 800-page directory. Oh, and I did a fair amount of the production work too. And every year, when I'd have my brand new copy in my hands - after writing, editing, proofing, double checking, reading blue lines and everything else - I'd invariably open the book up to some mistake or other. It got to a point where when I got the new book I'd just sit and admire it, but not open it up.

So, my editing hat is firmly in place. And I'll check as carefully as I can now, but when I have that finished copy in my hands, that editing hat is staying put away so I can simply enjoy my new book.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Opening Lines

We struggle over those opening lines. Wanting to capture just the right tone, grab the readers attention and make them want more. We write and re-write and agonize over those words.

And then I glance at a scrap copy of something my eleven-year-old is writing. I see the first few lines:

She stared out the window nervously. "He's bound to come soon. To take him away." She sputtered, wringing her hands.

Now I don't know what that story is about - but from that first line, I sure want to. If I were helping my daughter edit, I'd tell her that she can leave out the word "nervously", that "wringing her hands" conveys that quite nicely. But I think she's got a great opener here. I'll have to find out what the rest of the story is about.

And one more from my daughter - another opener that makes me want to keep reading.

"Sir, will we have to go to the chessboard?" I asked weakly.

"Yes, of course. It's another battle, isn't it?" The king asked me, peering over the rims of his wiry glasses. His crown was slipping off of his oily head, and with fat fingers he tried to catch it.

Peeking ahead I see that this is a story told from the point of view of a pawn on a chessboard. These lines make me want to find out more. How about you? What grabs your attention, makes you want to read past the first line? And conversely: what kind of first lines make you fee like putting the book down right away?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Interview!

Beth Revis over at Writing it Out was kind enough to interview me for her blog. So go on over and check it out!

Thanks Beth!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My First Interview!

Today over at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Liz B has an interview with me discussing the first steps in my road to having a book in print!

As she mentions in the interview we have known each other since fourth grade. It's great to have someone you've known for that long. We've been reading each other's stories since then. What she doesn't tell you is that it's because of her that When Mike Kissed Emma got written at all. She was reading a draft of another story I had and she said "Um, Chris, don't kill me, but I think you have a whole story within a story here". She then proceeded to pull out the pages that had that story line, put them all together in one file and show me where I had the complete story arc of an entirely separate story.

Many edits and revisions later it all came together! So Thanks Liz. You can truly say you were there at the beginning!

cross-posted at The Simple and the Ordinary.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's the Theme

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So, what do these three things have in common?

They were all bookmarks my daughter was using the other day. All for the same book. All at various times. I don't know if there is a bookmark in the book now or not.

I've heard about the strange things librarians find as bookmarks including a piece of bacon (!?) but what are some of the strangest things you've used as bookmarks?

I know I've used band-aid wrappers, junk mail, and I believe once or twice another book to hold my place.

What about you?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A First Draft

Spurred on by the challenge of NaNoWriMo I did something I didn't think I could ever do. I wrote the whole first draft of a book in two weeks. Yeah, granted, not much else got done, but the fact remains that in less than a month I have a whole first draft.

It is very much a first draft. There are scenes that are probably unnecessary and scenes that should be there but aren't. I'm sure there are places where I use the same descriptive phrase twice in close proximity.

There may be threads of the story brought in early on, but never followed through on. There may be inconsistencies in characters and descriptions.

But all of these things can be fixed in revisions.

The first draft is the skeleton. It's more than just an outline - the whole structure is there. But now I get to flesh it out and make it pretty.

I totally credit participating in NaNo for spurring me on to this. I just finished up some revisions on another story and am expecting an official revision letter for When Mike Kissed Emma (coming soon from Wild Rose Press) and I could very easily have taken these couple of weeks and written nothing.

Instead I have a whole book.

So the lesson to be learned from this? Write! You never know where it will take you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Handwriting vs. Typing

Once upon a time I used to hand write my stories. That was most convenient when I was writing my stories in notebooks during class - when I suppose I should have been taking notes or something.

But once computers came on the scene I did much more of my writing on the computer. For awhile I'd write things out and then type them up. But that seemed redundant and I started typing everything.

I used to use WordStar as my word processing program. Anyone remember that. Ahh... nostalgia.

The upshot is that I've become a very efficient typer - but my handwriting has suffered dreadfully.

If I'm writing a lot by hand I use my own little short hand. Things like a straight line going down below the line I'm writing on means the word "if". Many letters go missing when I write by hand - perhaps it's the same kind of shorthand people use when texting (don't know, don't text). This of course means I can write faster. Unfortunately it also means if I don't transcribe it quickly (like within the hour) I often have no idea what it is I wrote down.

And that right there is the reason I use the computer instead of hand write my stories.

What do you do?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Writing Wednesday - NaNoWriMo

I haven't been blogging a lot because I've been writing a lot - plowing ahead with my new WIP for National Novel Writing Month.

And you know what? It's fun.

I've had this idea for a story brewing in my head for many years. I started it once way back when, started it a second time a bit later, but I never got into the meat of the story. And the thing about this story (unlike so many ideas that pop into my head) is that I knew how I wanted it to end.

The middle was a little unclear. But that's okay - that's where I am now - and I'm figuring it out as I go. The story took a few twists I didn't expect. And I'm thinking in re-writes there are some factors I need to explore more deeply. But the great thing about NaNoWriMo - it forces you not to worry about the re-writes yet. You think this part or that part could be better? Great - you'll take care of it next time around. For today - just plunge ahead. And I've been plunging.

The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in the month of November. I'm up to 32,000 so far and trying to figure out at what point I start the downward slope toward the end of the novel.

I'll confess that I love revisions. I love knowing a story so well that you can really focus on making it the best it can be. But this is the second first draft of a story I've written this year - and I'm really enjoying this part too.

What can I say - I love it all!