Category Archives: Proofreading

Z is for… Zenith & Zeal

Well, I made it. We made it! Well done. We have finally reached Z, the zenith, the pinnacle, the summit, the climax of this a to z blog challenge. Hazaar!

For the whole month of April, bloggers everywhere  have dedicated their time to writing a daily blog and if I’m honest, I wondered if I’d have the staying power to see it through to the end. I wondered if I’d actually find something to write about for each letter of the alphabet pertaining to my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ but it turns out actually I could. Who’d have thought heh?

I guess though, when you have spent two and a half years submersed in something, it becomes such an integrated part of you, it becomes second nature to talk/write about it.

I thought I’d reached the zenith of my work in January. I really thought I’d done with it – this time. It was as good as it was going to get, wasn’t it? But as you will know if you read my D is for depth post, I discovered a lot more work needed doing if a publisher is going to take it on.

As a result I recently re-worked the prologue and the first five chapters (originally three chapters) which the publisher had seen and then asked some people if they’d mind beta-reading it for me. Six great people volunteered and then of course as soon as I email them I think of things which could be better and find things which need altering and so now those people have one version and I have the slightly altered version, and they’ve only had it a week so they have had no chance to even give me their thoughts before I’m tweaking! I need to leave it alone and wait for feedback because I will only have to change things again based on what they might say.

Anyway, this is where we come to the zeal part of today’s post.

The one thing taking part in this blog challenge has done for me personally is help me to renew some zeal for my WIP. It has forced me to look at the whole thing through fresh eyes which is why I am forever tinkering with it. Also because writing about the different characters and places and other things related to the story reminds me of my love for what I’ve managed to create in my mind. However mad-cap it all seems. I found every time I wrote one of these blog posts I had more enthusiasm for sitting back down and editing and re-writing parts which I knew didn’t cut the mustard. I would suddenly have light-bulb moments over certain things whilst writing blog posts. Yes my zeal was real. I had a renewed passion for my story… that was until last night .

I know exactly what caused my fear and sudden lack of zeal and it goes like this.

I was reading a bedtime story to my little boy. Something I do every night, so why last night should be any different I don’t know. Anyhow, I was reading the book and doing the character voices, as one does, when it suddenly occurred to me that, as my book is for children, albeit older children, then it is possible it will be read aloud to children so I figured I should read it a loud and see how it sounds. (I have done this when drafting earlier versions for proofing but that was a while ago.)

And therein lay the problem. It (okay I’ve only done the prologue so far) sounds…well, crap for want of a better word. I couldn’t hear, out loud, what I’d written in my head.  I couldn’t hear the character’s voices. The ones I can clearly hear in my head when I’m writing. Out loud they sounded like me on a bad day and this is not because I am  a monotonous reader. It’s always been the one thing I enjoy and have always been good at in  my job teaching; reading a story to the kids. But uurggghhh. Mine sounds awful and the worst thing is I don’t know how to fix it. I really don’t. It sounded bland and flat and well to me just uuuurgghhh.

So after having a whole month of feeling fairly positive, upbeat and, yes even zealous, about my work I now, as we have drawn to the end of this blog challenge, loathe it. I don’t feel my writing is good enough for children, or anyone actually. I also now have six people who are in receipt of the first few chapters and I’m cringing. I didn’t give it them expecting rave reviews. Far from it, I  know there’s stuff wrong with it but it’s now a case of not been able to see the wood for the trees. I needed others to see it to help me see where I can improve or more importantly for me how I can improve. I’m not scared of constructive criticism. I just feel embarrassed by what I’ve given to people. Some have shown interest in it purely through this blog challenge and so I feel I have let them down as it won’t live up to their expectations.

They hear my voice on this blog and probably and rightly expect the same in my fiction. But I’ve discovered, my voice is here on my blog but not in my WIP.. This is me talking. Writing a piece of fantasy fiction and writing it well is an altogether different skill and one , it may be time for me to admit, I’m not really cut out for. At least not yet.

So the upshot is, I think I might just go and hide away under a rock, or possibly even down in the depths of Trelflande for a few months/years until, hopefully, the great people who have any version of my WIP (as there are a few versions floating around with different people) forget they have it in their possession and until such a time as I’ve learned how to craft a story properly.

Not quite the tone I was wished to end my challenge on, but there you have it. If you set about something in the unplanned spontaneous fashion I do most things (i.e this challenge, and my WIP) it’s never going to follow a straightforward path is it? (I would like to point out that this fear/self doubt, whatever you wish to term it, is all part of the writing life cycle. I cannot honestly see myself jacking it all in, even if I feel like it right at this moment, I’m just writing what I feel now.)

However, I am pleased to have taken part in the challenge. I am glad to have made it to the finish line. It does feel like an achievement. I’m also happy to have taken part for the following reasons:

1) It’s been fun to delve into my WIP and, when I’ve had a little break from it and hopefully had some feedback and done some more writing practice, I can take all these posts and listen to my own advice!

2) I’ve come across some great new blogs to follow, so that’s great. 🙂

and

3) I have mostly enjoyed a daily read over at Graham Milne’s blog : Find it here. It is awesome. Graham was actually the exact opposite to me and planned his A-Z challenge out! A true pro. It has been a total joy to read his posts, each one a song which he has linked to a story about his life. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend you do. His writing is sublime and real. But I’ll warn you now to take a box of tissues with you, because some of them are just beautiful and unless you are made of ice you will shed a tear or two. So go now and read if you’ve missed out. For shame.

Finally I’d like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings, which were not at all planned. I’d particularly like to say thanks to those  of you who have commented with sound advice and  words of support and encouragement. It’s weird to think  that people actually read this stuff, so thank you.

And now I’m off to sleep.  Regular service will be resumed in due course.

Closedown.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz .

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Filed under Editing, General Rambliings, Proofreading, Writing

Nothing’s Changed…Everything Changes

Okay so back to blogging about the writing journey after a couple of random Christmas related posts!…

This time last year I was hurtling towards finishing the first draft of Prophecy of Innocence. I’d been working on it for 14 months, in between life – you know how that tends to get in the way. But as 2012 came to a close I was determined I would complete the entire story by January 1st. And I did. (If January 1st is January 3rd, but what’s two days between friends?)

Yes! I’d finished. So now what?

Well someone would have to proof read it obviously. It was perfect (!!!) except, I was sure, for  typos and errors in punctuation and spelling which I’d not be able to spot myself.

Ha ha ha ha ha! How I laugh (and cry) at my stupidity and naivety. I thought I’d have it published by December 2013.  Oh how glad I am that I’m generally the sort of person who is very hard on herself.

You see 2013 has seen nothing, and yet every thing, happen.

Firstly, the book is not published as I had envisaged. People keep asking when it will be, but they don’t understand how complicated this whole business is. How can they?  I didn’t. Until I began to look at how to publish. And it was only at  that point when I started the revision process.

Despite some minor revisions before I was brave enough to allow another human being to see it, I still cringe when I think of the poor people who had the ‘pleasure’ of reading that first rough draft. My mum, who pointed out  my grammar was all over the place and rewrote whole passages for me! Turns out it wasn’t my grammar which was the actual problem. The story didn’t read well simply because I hadn’t learned to show a story instead of tell it. (This I had learned from extensive research on various blogs.) I  also pity the children from the school I teach in who read it and I should apologise to them as they should  only be subjected to high quality texts, not the drivel which was my first draft!

So what have I been doing in 2013? How have things moved on?

Well I am now only days away from completing the final revision of Book 1. (There will be three books in total for the story, there have probably been ten times that many revisions on Book 1!) I would actually be happy now for a publishing house to read it. I know it is a whole lot better than it was. If I were to compare this final draft with the first, I’m not even sure how many of the original sentences would be exactly as they were!

Of course this year I also started this blog and set up a Facebook page which has been a good way of keeping track of the journey and encouraging me to keep on at it, even when there have been  times I felt  like giving up.

I also joined Twitter this year and this has led me to finding a whole group of other writers whose support, advice and general camaraderie has been inspirational and kept me going on this journey. Some of the wonderful people I am in contact with have been kind enough to read some of what I’ve written and given feedback. Twitter has led me to blogs where I have discovered how to self publish and indeed have learned how to write. This time last year I didn’t know how to write! I had no idea how to edit. This year I have moved on a lot.

Of course amid the revision of book 1, I did find some time to write the first 6 chapters of book 2. I say write, I mean draft because I know now from experience I will revise it numerous times. Writing is like chiseling a piece of granite. Ask anyone who writes anything. It’s hard and there’s always a little part you can chip at a bit more to smooth out and improve. I have also started to set up another blog site which will be aimed  more at promoting the book for children when the time comes. Also this year I delved into the world of formatting for self publishing and bought a package. This will be more difficult I feel than the actual writing or rewriting.

As regular visitors to the blog may know, I’ve also entered the first chapter into a writing competition for the opening 2000 words of a  children’s novel. The closing date for this is December 31st. I don’t know if I will receive feedback on my entry – I hope to, even if I should not win.

Finally a few weeks ago I was approached by a small publisher interested in my work. For the moment I have turned down sending in a query letter, for the reasons I gave on one of my previous posts on self publishing. However it was exciting and flattering to be asked, the editor only having read a page on my blog. Who knows I might still pursue the traditional route, but if I do I would like to have Book 2 at least drafted in full.

So what’s the plan of action as 2014 dawns?

1) First I’ll see what happens as a result of the competition. Winning would mean I could afford to get a professional edit done on Book 1 which is what I really would like.

2) I would then like to ask some beta readers to read the final draft and then I’ll edit to meet any given suggestions.

3) Have the final edit professionally  proofread. Again this will cost so being dependent on funds may increase time frame.

4) Format the finished document for publication. (aaaaaaarrrrrghh!)

5) Have my brother complete the cover art for the book. (Employ use of whip for this stage!)

6) Promote through local schools to begin with as well as through this blog, Twitter and the children’s blog I have started on.

7) Publish and continue promoting. (The thing I know least about.)

As we all know though, plans are just that and only offer a general guide. Things change and evolve, much like the book itself. However I really do hope 2014 is the year I finally get this out there. It will be 3 years in the making and I’m guessing letting go of it may be the hardest thing I’ve had to do yet on the project.

Wishing you all the very best for whatever your dreams and goals are for the coming year.

Thanks for reading, and remember you can always ‘Sneak a Peek’ and leave any comments you may have on the start of chapter 1 here right on this site.  I welcome any suggestions for improvement at all times. 🙂

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Filed under Editing, Proofreading, Publishing, Writing

What I wish I’d known about writing before writing: 8 Handy Tips

Who knew there was so much to writing?

Well not me for one.  Surely you have a creative idea or just something interesting to write about,  then just put one word down on the page after the next, make sure your punctuation and grammar stacks up okay and hey presto! Done.

Of course this is not so.

Since  finishing the first draft of Prophecy of Innocence back in January, I have discovered numerous focuses for editing and I keep finding more. Every time I find a new one, I have to go back  and re edit.

So for any other novice authors out there, here are 8 really useful tips  for writing which I’d wish I’d known before actually writing, complete with links to the original blogs I found help and advice. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

Number 1: That or which?

I never even knew I had a problem with this until it was pointed out to me by a relative who read my story. Apparently I used “that” excessively (over 700 of the blighters in a 70,000 word document)! It was only after having it pointed out to me I could see plainly how dreadful my work sounded (see point 2).  Co-incidentally, shortly afterwards I found the following blog on this very topic. I am now far more enlightened and it was the first error to be subject to my editing axe. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/which-versus-that.aspx

Number 2: Proofreading aloud. 

I have already blogged on this very subject (see Reading Aloud) and perhaps if I had followed the advice to read my manuscript aloud in the first place, I maybe would have spotted the terrible overuse of ‘that’ much sooner. But this tip was part of a wider set of tips on proofreading aimed actually at blogging. Nevertheless the principle remains the same for writing a novel and it works!  http://www.problogger.net/archives/2013/05/22/7-steps-to-proofreading-like-a-pro

Number 3: Verbs.

Ah. To be or not to be? Well I avoid it like the plague where possible because, although I do know the difference between been and being (theoretically) I still never seem to choose the correct one 100% of the time. Or even 75% of the time if I’m really honest. Luckily for me, the entire rest of the world can do this and so anyone who has  read my work for me has spotted any errors in this department!

However the use of strong verbs is always one of the first edits to be done as when I write I just write whatever verb comes into my head first and then I use a thesaurus to search for stronger verbs if they are needed or if I have repeated the same one too much.

http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2013/05/writing-exercise-flexing-your-verbs.html

The main issue I found with verbs was some advice I found on using the past tense. The blog basically stated that wherever you had used  a verb ending in ing replace it with the past tense. Strangely I had peppered many sentences with present tense verbs, thinking I was enhancing the variety of my sentence structures (here comes the teacher in me!) but this very straightforward advice has really improved my story.

Verbs for dialogue are another interesting conundrum. Overuse said and is it boring? Overuse it and are you patronising or distracting your reader? I find writing a children’s book tricky as I feel it is almost my duty to introduce them to an array of interesting verbs. But perhaps this is the teacher in me surfacing again rather than the author. The following blog  touches on this area.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/10/04/dialogue-mistakes

and brings me to the next editing issue:

Number 4: Dialogue.

As the above link demonstrates, writing dialogue is in itself a huge challenge. Personally I prefer it to description which I consider to be my weakness, nevertheless I have edited the dialogue endlessly to ensure it propels the story forward, gives insight to motives and actions of characters and makes sure I have not overused the character’s names either in speech or in dialogue tags. I have had to edit how some characters show their accents or give them a quirk which makes them different in some way. The other elephant in the room when it has come to dialogue is the overuse of adverbs after or preceding speech.

Number 5: Adverbs/Show not Tell/Head hopping and Point of view. 

Once again the teacher in me felt compelled to pepper my story with adverbs. Surely (yes, I have just used an adverb) they make a sentence come to life and enhance the verb we have used? They build a picture in our head don’t they? They show us how a character feels? No they don’t. Well at least not sufficiently enough to allow our writing to come alive.

First of all they encourage telling rather than showing and I discovered eliminating most of the adverbs I had used really forced me into thinking about showing the actions and emotions of characters in more detail  rather than telling the reader about them. Using adverbs also encourages head hopping form one character’s point of view to another which is confusing. I’m not sure I want to be responsible for confusing children when they read my story!  Furthermore, I  read somewhere else that Stephen King avoids the use of adverbs where possible.  Apparently they are the sign of a ‘lazy’ writer. I think they serve their purpose well enough in first draft, but they definitely need to be used wisely and sparingly (no irony intended there).

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/04/28/writing-emotional-wreck

Number 6. Semi colons

Does anyone really know when to use a semi colon? I had used a lot of them. Largely because whenever a green squiggly grammar line appeared on my screen, popping  a semi colon in seemed to eradicate it! So it seems even Word doesn’t know when to use a semi colon. Then I found the following blog. I’m not sure I still fully understand the intricacies of their use but I will be using this to help me edit those pesky punctuation marks. (As well as  ignoring Word’s squiggly green lines!)

http://expertedge.journalexperts.com/2013/06/18/editing-tip-of-the-week-semicolon-usage/

Number 7: Back stories.

All characters have back stories. But do their back stories need to be told explicitly? After having read the blog on the following link, uh oh – here was another mistake I’d made – thankfully, I had not delved in too deep and so the subsequent edit was not as painful to do as others have been. I  personally like back stories told in novels. I like to go back in the story and find out why a character has acted in a certain way but I realise this is something which is very tricky to achieve without stopping the flow of the main plot.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-weave-backstory-seamlessly-into-your-novel

and finally

Number 8: Self editing.

I thought to myself: “I can’t be cut out for writing a book if I am having to learn all these things and go back and change them and change them again and change them again. Consequently, there have been  so many times I have been ready to give up. Then I read the following blog and immediately felt more positive about the whole process.  Even established authors with editors often edit their own work numerous times first. It was this blog which has helped me to focus on a timeline for editing and proof reading before I begin to delve into the murky waters of self publishing.

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2013/06/how-i-self-edit-my-novels-15-steps-from.html

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Reading Aloud

I have read on many writing blogs it is a good idea to read your work out loud when editing and proofreading. I cannot say I relished the idea and have tried to avoid doing so! However, I have just tried this for the first time as I thought it would be a good idea to read the prologue aloud before publishing it on this site. Although it felt a little weird sitting talking to myself, it really worked to sharpen up the writing, particularly in relation to the placement of punctuation or finding repetitive phrases or words. (I have just removed an entire chunk which has been there for 18 months!)

I now have another 17 chapters to do this with (daunting!) but I finally realise from doing this activity that scrolling up and down the computer screen, or even reading a printout in your head, is no match for this type of proofreading.

Imagining I am reading to  a class of 10 year old children who need their attention holding is definitely the way forward. Luckily I have plenty of experience with this…

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