Literary Engineer
Because reading and writing are my only obsessions

Archive for January, 2012

Editing Kinda Sucks

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Editing sucks, you know. Writing is the easy part, the fun part. The way the words flow out of your fingers. Editing is slow and tedious. And repetitive. It’s not so bad after the first read, maybe the second. But by the 6th or 7th, it gets a little old.

I’m not keeping track, but I’ve spent way more time editing Frosty than I did writing. (which took about a month.) Reading Frosty straight through might take 3-4 hours. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but I’d guess at least 6-8 times. And when I read for editing, it goes much slower of course.

It’s also a good idea to read the novel aloud. Hearing your words spoken helps you catch mistakes and shows you where things might be choppy.  But of course, reading it aloud is  a very slow process and can give you a sore throat if you try getting it done in one or two sittings.

Every week I seem to learn something new in my editing—which is why I started Sloppy Writing 101. There are so many words you don’t want to use/overuse. Therefore, the easiest way to find them is using search/replace. THAT is one of my overused/unnecessary words. With Frosty, I spent 3 hours searching for and fixing the THATs.

Yes, that’s 3 hours for just one word. (The lesson here is that in when I’m writing, I should not overuse THAT.) But I had to do it because I ended up killing about 500 THATs.

Of course, in the editing process, you hopefully delete more than you add. I did with Frosty. A critiquer told me Frosty was moving too slowly and that I was in my mc’s head too much. I deleted lots, including about ¾ of one chapter. In a few weeks I went from 64,000 words to 52,000. That is huge.

This ability to cut the words down with Frosty gives me hope with the first young adult story I wrote. It clocks in at about 95,000 words, which is high for young adult, especially considering that I’m an unpublished author. That is the reason I decided to pursue an agent with Frosty instead. And now I’ve seen how much I’ve cut from Frosty, I will get to editing on my other novel too, in addition to When the Mist Clears.

I’d much rather be writing, but if you want to get published, you have to edit, edit, edit. I have several ideas for new stories, but I don’t know when I can get around to them. As things sit right now, I have written enough novels to keep me busy editing/revising for fifteen years. Therefore, I have to choose which I like best and hope that might be the one.

At least now I’ll know what things to avoid when I’m writing, so that in the future, editing will not take so long.

I hope.

Sloppy Writing 101.01

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Sloppy writing is everywhere, did you know?

I did the same thing many other aspiring authors do. I queried with a manuscript that wasn’t quite ready and even six months into the querying process, I’m discovering that my writing still needs work (i.e. it’s sloppy).

So I thought I would try something new. A Thursday posting on writing mistakes I’ve made with my manuscript. It may be something I’ve learned from a critique. Or maybe from another blog. But many of these mistakes I’ve slowly discovered myself.

Unfortunately, unless someone points out this sloppy writing, you might not even recognize that you have a problem. I wish I could find a definitve list of everything you need to look for in your ms, but so far I haven’t. So I’m making my own list and my hope is that others can learn from my mistakes.

Sloppy Writing 101.1 – So you think you can write?

Go back to the third paragraph and note the first word. Now pay attention to the rest of this post. Using SO comes naturally to me and I use it WAY TOO OFTEN.

So here are four examples from my Frosty manuscript. A different character uses each of these sentences.

“So the big question was… who copied who? “ (And yes, I know it’s whom, but my character doesn’t)
“So I can’t say one way or another.”
“So I know all about being the different one”.
“So although it’s not a real breakup, it’s still tough.”

Strike-thorough all those SOs as completely unnecessary. I didn’t do a word count so I don’t know how many I’ve thrown out, but I’ve deleted almost all of the SOs at the beginning of a sentence. The only exception would be for the character, Dani, who uses them often. But that’s her thing, so it’s okay.

So that’s it. My first example of sloppy writing. And trust me, I have many more to come.

Five points to anyone who noticed all the unnecessary SOs in this posting. But it’s a blog post, so I really don’t care!

Wanted: Social Media Personal Assistant

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

I was thinking I needed a social media personal assistant—one who is knowledgeable about technology and social media. I consider myself computer savvy—as compared to the typical person and not a computer geek, but now there are so many things I’ve got to learn how to do.

My current list:
Try to get Google Friends Connect on my blog
Figure out Twitter and how to link it to this and that
Figure out how e-books work

That’s where a social media personal assistant would come in handy. Normally I depend on my friend, Modern Day Jane, but she’s so busy being a mother, a home-schooling teacher, a scrapbooker, a book clubber, a sewer, a blogger, a Facebooker and a Tweeter and more, she doesn’t have a lot of free time. Although she does owe me because she talked me into blogging and Tweeting. She’s so persuasive, she wasn’t even trying to get me to blog and Tweet, yet somehow she did. (I hope she’s smiling now). Btw: She has not talked me into an e-reader yet.

So unless someone volunteers to be my social media personal assistant, I will be one my own to figure out Twitter, Blogging and E-readers.

I don’t have an e-reader but I want to buy a book off Amazon. Once again I got lucky and won a critique through another blog. Melody Wright has another one of those great blogs with good information and fun stuff. She just got herself an agent for her and it seems like she did it in a short period without having to query a ton. Therefore, her book must be good.

Anyway, what I won was a critique by the author, Tawdra Kandle , whose debut fantasy YA e-book Fearless is being sold on Amazon. Even though the book is not available in print format and I have no e-reader, I’d like to get it.

And that’s why I need to look into how e-books work. If I can’t read it on my laptop, then I’m sure I can find a friend who might lend me their e-reader for a few days.

But back to the topic at hand. If anybody is willing to be my social media personal assistant (and work for free), please give me a ring.

Can You Hit a Perfect Pitch? Blogfest Contest

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

My entry for Brenda Drake’s Can You Hit a Perfect Pitch? Blogfest Contest.

Frosty
Contemporary young adult
60,000 words

Pitch
Sydney, a troubled foster girl, resents her wealthy classmates. Learning that the privileged kids’ lives are not so perfect thaws her cold exterior, but it may not be enough to open her heart to love.

Frosty
Snow swirled and wet hair lashed at my face as the wind whipped through my worn coat. My ears tingled from the frigid air, but I stayed outside. The caseworker thought I was nuts, but I liked the cold. It numbed me… relaxed me. Besides, I couldn’t smoke inside—those were the rules.

My nerves were calm now and as I finished my second cigarette, Jim pulled up in a dark Mercedes. Cool—none of my former foster families were wealthy.

He must have left Lana at home, along with Brooke, the daughter I hadn’t met. This time the caseworker suggested placing me in a family with a teenage girl. As if me and Brooke would be close friends and my senior year would be the best ever. I was smart enough to know that would never happen. I just needed to get through these last six months with the Claytons, and then I’d be on my own.

Can I hit a perfect pitch?

Friday, January 13th, 2012

On Sunday I am participating in my first pitch contest.

A pitch is a brief (one or two line) summary of a book.

This contest is put on by Brenda Drake, a ya/middle grade writer. On January 15th, you post your pitch and first 150 words of your manuscript on your blog. Then you jump around to the blogs of other participants and comment on their pitches.

At the end of the 2nd day, you may revise your pitch and the next day a literary agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, will review them. If she likes your pitch, she may request to see your manuscript.

By the way, summing up a novel in one or two descriptive and interesting sentences is not easy.

Speaking of contests, I have some other cool news. I won a blog contest put on by Gabriela Lessa, an editor, literary agent intern, writer and more. Her blog has good tips about writing and editing along with the occasional contest. I submitted my query and a few sample pages and she picked mine. As a winner, I get a 40 page edit and 30% off her editing services, which is huge. The 40 page edit is wonderful because it will give me a good idea of what might be wrong with my writing. I’ve very excited about it all.

That same day, another good thing happened. Some bloggers do contests/giveaways related to their blog, so of course you’ll often see writers doing book giveaways.

In honor of her first year of blogging, ya writer Monica Bustamante Wagner, did a contest/giveaway. All you had to do was post a comment, then say if you’d prefer the book or a 10 page critique. I didn’t win, but she decided to give 12 people the chance to send in their first 1000 words and she’ll do a critique. And I was one of the 12. A lucky day for me.

Remember when I talked about coincidences. Here’s another one. Of the two bloggers (Gabriela and Monica) I told you about, one lives in Brazil, one in Chile. Interesting, huh.

There are so many wonderful opportunities like this. Generous writers and agents who give you the chance to present your work. And even if you don’t win, you may still receive valuable feedback.

Coincidence or Sign- Part 1

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Just before Christmas I sat at my computer addressing a few Christmas cards. I got an e-mail from a friend asking for another friend’s address. It was weird, because I addressed a card to both friends not even five minutes before.

Things like that don’t happen often, but I’m running into those coincidences a lot more with my writing. Some of them are truly mystifying. I’d like to take these coincidences are a sign that I’m on the right track with my writing, even if nothing has come out of it yet.

Four times, this weird things have happened but I’ll start with the most recent.

In December, I set aside my current manuscript (ms) so that when I did my editing, I’d have fresh eyes. I then connected with someone who was looking for a beta reader for her story and I started doing that.

Just before I did this, I’d changed the name of a minor character because I had two guys whose names started with the same letter and thought it might be confusing. A few weeks later, I’m reading the other woman’s ms and one of her characters has that name too (except as a last name). She told me she’d added the last name, just before she’d sent me her ms.

We both have maybe 10-15 characters in our stories and having a name in common was a shocker. It’s not a common name and when I looked it up on the Social Security name ranking website, it doesn’t even show in the top 1000 names for the majority of the last ten years.

The second part though is even more strange. Halfway through her ms, I pick up a new book to read. To my surprise, the best friend of the main character has the SAME last name as the woman whose ms I am reading.

That stuns me. With all the millions of last names, I run into hers.

Coincidence or sign? I don’t know what it means, but I hope something good, for both of us.

I’m curious if these types of things happen to other people too.

Pogo-sticking in December-how unusual

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

In early December, when I was critiquing somebody’s manuscript, I had a question for her about the weather in the story. Although she never gave a specific location, it wasn’t anywhere close to here—I knew that because of the weather.

I asked her if the weather in her story could happen, high spring temperatures in a place that gets (albeit rarely) snow. I qualified that I didn’t know because up here we have 6 months of winter and I’ve never lived anywhere else.

And if we’re really lucky and snow comes in October, you could say seven.

Of course, until just this weekend, it hasn’t felt like winter because we’ve had no snow. I cannot remember one Christmas with no snow and this one was weird.

Coulee ice

Some of the unusual things.

Seeing motorcycles driving down the street.

No sledding. (Usually no sledding is because of minus 10 degrees with 30 mph winds)

Skating on the coulee without having to shovel snow.

Also, being able to see in the frozen ice. (Usually it’s cloudy)

Going for long walks without worry about falling on your butt.

Pogo sticking in the driveway. (No slippery ice)

When I suggested to my mom that Lincoln might like a pogo stick, I figured he could use it in the garage since it’s not really pogo stick season around here. But he’s gotten to use it outside many times already.

Warmer temperatures are nice, but the kids miss the snow. At least we have some now and I’m sure much more is on the way–we’ve still got four months of winter left after all.

Happy New Year to everybody.