I often see blog posts and tweets promoting good editing techniques, however a lot of these require money. As a hobbyist write, I want to make my work the best it can be but not by spending a lot. My main job is being a teacher, I am also a husband and father. Writing, though important, sometimes needs to take a back seat. With plenty of things that need money spent on them (food, days out, car, house etc.) I try not to spend money on my hobby when I can do a lot of the work for free. So, to those people in my situation, and any others that want to listen, here is how I edit. Is it a foolproof plan to success and great final drafts? Not by any means, it just makes me feel like my work is the best I can do on my own. Anyway, on with the show…
- Once I have written my first draft I have a read through on-screen, this is basically to see if there are any plot holes or issues I need to address. Sometimes this may be moving chapters/sections around. I generally find I do not have too many issues; as I do not get to write a lot I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, asking questions like, what would the character do in that situation? How can I get the story from a to b without missing key details? What would x look like in that situation? I also plan a lot before writing so have already done a lot of the world building and mapped out major plot points, although the bits in-between can change a lot. Therefore, this part of the editing process often does not require many changes, either that or I am rubbish at seeing plot holes!
- I read through a second time, this time looking for grammar and spelling issues. I can often fix many but a lot slip though the net. Writers are notoriously grammar blind, they read what they wanted in their head and skim over the fact the comma is missing, they have spelt the word incorrectly or have forgotten ed or s at the end of the word. That is where step three comes in…
- Now this is the only place in the whole writing space where I have spent money, and it is not even my hard-earned money! No, every year I get asked what I want for my birthday and every year (well the last two), I have asked for money to renew my subscription to Pro Writing Aid. This year I got enough birthday cash to do a two-year licence so will be able to spend my birthday money on more tat next year! It is only about £30 for a years license. Pro Writing Aid is a program you can download or add as an extension to other word processing programs. You can definitely get it for Microsoft Word but I use it with Google Docs. You can run a range of reports then go through the results to edit your manuscript. Where there is an error, it highlights and you get a choice to ignore or make one of a list of possible changes. There are lots of reports but I tend to look at writing style, grammar, overused words (I never knew how much I use the word was until I got Pro Writing Aid!) and consistency. It can take ages to run a report on a whole manuscript, and then you need to go through every change which takes many hours. I always copy sections of about one A4 page into a different document and run the reports on those then copy them back when done. A simple bit of changing text colours shows me what I have run through Pro Writing Aid, what I am working on and what I have yet to do. I suppose I should say, to be balanced, that there are other editing programs out there, I just really like Pro Writing Aid.
- The next step is the print read through, I often find that I spot different errors when I read my work on paper. I, therefore, arm myself with highlights and a pen and go through a page at a time. It is generally commas that I have missed. I then update my online manuscript as I go so I know that once done I can get into formatting.
- The final step is to get some beta readers, so far I only have one, but that is better than nothing! They read through, give you comments and point out potential mistakes. Once they are done with it I can format the book and get it out there.
What am I missing?
There are only really two steps that I think would make my editing process even better. There are…
- Paying a professional editor – These are rather expensive and I would never see any return on my investment due to not spending money on marketing. I would really have to go for it, moving from a hobbyist to telling myself I am an actual author and throwing my weight behind my claim. I am not confident enough in myself and do not want to bankrupt my family, so am not going down this route. If a publisher came along and offered me a deal then I would happily get a professional editor; I can dream!
- A critique partner/partners – This would be great, to have someone to look at my work and give me advice. The two problems here are that I do not have lots of time to meet up but, worse than that, I do not think I have the time to read other people’s work in a critical capacity, therefore would be letting them down. I have not searched for a critique partner but have thought about it. If someone approached me then I would give it a go, but for now I am happy to just say I wrote a book! Also no-one is telling me my story is rubbish, which it probably is!
Where am I with editing current projects?
Before the two projects I am currently working on, I did not have Pro Writing Aid. Also previous work I have done is either short stories or collections, so I basically read through them twice and looked for errors. Needless to say, there are still errors in the books! Of they two projects I am on, my novella, ‘A Close Shave with Destiny,’ is almost ready to go. I jumped the boat, getting over excited by people seeing my work, so have already sent it to my beta reader who got back to me. This was before I had even used Pro Writing Aid. Therefore, I am doing my final print check then it will be released. My other project, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ has been read through twice and is sitting waiting till I release ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ I will then run it through Pro Writing Aid, do a print read and get some beta readers. An interesting development is that I won a competition for a query letter edit so I may have a good query letter for ‘The Fifth Coin.’ I may actually submit it to publishers! As you can expect, working full-time and having a young family, it takes me ages to edit. I am also writing a serial, ‘Islands of Hope,’ which I update every week on wattpad. This is to show that I am releasing work. Here I read through the section twice and run through Pro Writing Aid. As updates are anywhere from two hundred to a thousand words it does not take long, a sort of editing as you go type affair.
Anyway, there we are. That is how I edit, whilst trying to spend as little money as possible. I hope reading this blog post helps you with your editing. If you have any questions or advice then please do contact me. Cheers!
So here we are, it is New Year’s Eve and I am at home. Not because I am some sort of loser (I am but that is by the by!) but because I have children and all my friends who live near me have children and there is no childcare. On top of that I always feel New Year’s parties are a bit of enforced fun so do not mind missing out, although I will go if I ever get invited!
Anyhow, it is the last day of 2017 and so it is the time to do one of those reviews of the year. Nothing like a good self-indulgent blog post to end the year! So here goes…
A few year ago I noticed that I was not hitting targets set for myself; work and family life are so busy that I never get anything done in the time frame I expect. I decided for one year to say that my target was just to write. That year was last year and was my most effective year of writing. I decided to do the same this year and, guess what? Yeah I have written even more. So much so that I cannot review in just a few built points so I am going to use different headings this time around…
I continued to write poems sporadically in 2017 and place them in my collection ‘Bad Poetry You probably never want to read.’ If you feel inclined you can read all my poems on wattpad. I managed five poems in 2017, the first of which was posted on the first day of the year (don’t expect the same to happen next year i.e. tomorrow!) and is about how my daughter keeps slyly stealing my glasses. It is entitled ‘The Glasses Ninja.’ I really wanted to move away from comic poems and my wife told me that my rhymes are a bit forced so I spent the longest I have ever spent on a poem writing ‘The Tale of the Vitae Plant.’ This poem was written for National Poetry Month and is about a great voyage, I tried to make a rhythm but it did not work so it really does dispense with many literary effects. I tried to evoke the feeling of an old poem set in the 1800s, I hope I achieved that.
With two children now running about parenting was getting difficult in April so I put my frustrations into a poem entitled ‘Parenting (or I love you but please leave me alone for five minutes).’ It is a tongue in cheek look at the stresses of being a parent and just wanting a little time to yourself. For the next poem I tried something a little different, I was trying to emulate Dr. Seuss as I had been reading a lot to my son, I therefore went for a nonsense poem about a farmer, where I created a range of funny animals. The poem is called ‘The Nonsense Farmer.’ The last poem of the year was in September and was released for National Poetry Day. I did not really like the theme of freedom that was given but tried to create something. Everything I thought of felt a little fluffy and unreal so I finally settled on an acrostic poem entitled ‘Freedom’ but linked it to being a slave to technology. I think that it is quite clever by you might not! The poems dried up after September due to another project which I will talk about later.
The First Flash of Hope
I had written a flash fiction story for publication in a free magazine the other year that did not get published. I enjoyed writing a story in only a thousand words so decided I would complete a book of twenty of them. As the first story was sci-fi I thought I would do all of them under the genre of sci-fi. I had made a list of some stories I could do but left it there. The plan was to release it only on Smashwords. However I realised I would never get it done unless I wrote them sporadically and updated slowly on wattpad. So this year I started releasing sci-fi flash fiction under the title of ‘The First Flash of Hope.’ The first was released in February and is the story that I tried to get published in a magazine, it is entitled ‘The Other Side of Mars.’ Even though I have a list of topics, the next flash fiction update, in April, was a new idea that sprung into my head. It is about a person who has a bionic arm fitted only for it to be used to hack information, unbeknown to the lead character. It is called ‘Bionic Hacker.’ The last flash fiction piece of the year was a little bit sillier, it looked at a planet that was ruled by ducks, a bit of a pastiche of Planet of the Apes. However, at the end all is not what it seems. The story is called ‘Planet of the Ducks.’ It was released in June and was the last flash fiction I wrote in 2017, again this was due to the project I will mention later.
A Close Shave with Destiny
If you have followed this blog you will know that I have written a fantasy novella set in a moustache entitled ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ I have been editing it for a long while as I intend to charge for it, releasing it in print and ebook, so want to make it the best I possibly can. This year I have finished two passes of it and got feedback from a beta reader. I am now running the book through my editing program, Pro Writing Aid. Once done it will, finally, be ready to release. I did manage to do something else I was very proud of this year, not only did I create the cover but I actually drew the image on the front. As I am a terrible drawer I am quite impressed with what I produced, you can see it here.
The Fifth Coin
Again, if you have followed this blog you will know that I have been writing a novel called ‘The Fifth Coin.’ This is a young adult novel that I won NaNoWriMo with last year, I did not take part this year due to time constraints. I am at the editing stage and have finished two passes of this but am not focusing on it at the moment, instead I want to continue with the other project and getting ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ released. You may or may not hear more about this next year.
Islands of Hope
The other project I have mentioned is ‘Islands of Hope.’ This came about after talking to a friend who told me of a serial novel he really enjoyed. I thought that by setting myself the challenge of writing something each week and updating it I could at least be releasing some of my work and building up a novel. I have been writing between five hundred and a thousand words each week and editing them using Pro Writing Aid then uploading to wattpad. The novel is a sci-fi one about a dystopian future where a company has taken over most of the world. A girl steals some bread and is taken in by the company then sold on as a slave only to be sold to the revolution. So far it is around thirteen thousand words long but is growing each week. You can read it by going here.
Right, so it appears I actually did quite a lot of writing this year! I suppose I should talk about plans for next year. It seems that the idea of ‘just writing’ works well for me. I will say this though, I hope to publish ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ and hope I continue to keep up the ‘Islands of Hope’ updates. Ok, so that is it, I hope I have not waffled to much. All that is left to say is have a happy new year and a great 2018 and here’s to more successes!
I usually weigh up the amount of time I have and the key ideas I have for a story then decide I can complete NaNoWriMo, even if it means neglecting my family. However this year I have decided to be a bit more pragmatic. I will not being taking part in NaNoWriMo, but not due to time available or lack of ideas. I have come to realise that I cannot keep starting new projects and leave myself with a pile of unfinished and unedited work. This year, instead of starting a new novel, I will be passing ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ through ProWritingAid as my final piece of editing for the novella. That should mean that I can get it realised for Christmas or just after. Unfortunately it will not be beta read as my beta readers all lead busy lives and have not managed to have a look at the book. At least, though, it should be one project I can tick off. I will still be writing ‘Islands of Hope’ so expect weekly updates to continue. All in all then, although I am not competing in NaNoWriMo this year, something good will come out of it.
It is about half way through the year so I thought I would do an update on where I am with writing, not that it is really interesting. It may seem like I am not releasing much other than the odd poem or piece of flash fiction, probably because that is true. However, despite my apparent lack of writing I am actually working harder than ever to get things ready. Yes work is hectic and yes I do have two small children but I have my phone at my side and a lot of the time it is in my hand so I can edit. This is really starting to annoy my wife who just wants to have a conversation with me! That and the fact I have recently got a Nintendo Switch and Call of the Wild means I am no more than an enigma at the moment!
Right, on to specifics. Firstly, if you did not know already, I have finished editing ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ It is now with my beta readers, I have three but they are not professional editors or beta readers for a living so are doing me a favour. They also have busy lives so feedback is coming in slowly. When they have read it and final changes made it will be published through CreateSpace and on Kindle.
The novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ is at the editing stage. I am about two-thirds through my first pass and am pretty happy at the moment. My new plan is to finish the editing then send it to a few publishers. When I get the obligatory rejection letters I will go ahead and publish it myself.
I have an idea for a children’s novel too but at the moment I am using all my willpower not to start it. Too many of my projects are half done before I flit onto the next thing. I am determined to get some writing finished so am focusing on editing before moving on. That said I do have ideas for more flash fiction to be included in ‘The First Flash of Hope.’ I am holding off on those as well until my first pass of ‘The Fifth Coin’ is complete then I can do a flash fiction or two before going on to stage 2 of editing my novel.
So there you go, I am still writing and I am being productive. With summer holidays coming soon I may even become more productive (although I will be spending most of it with the kids!). Just hang in there, I will be releasing stuff soon enough, I promise.
Well that took a long time! I am happy to say that the editing of ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ is finally done. It took time but I am happy it is over, now just looking for some beta readers then can get it out in the next few months. If anyone wants to be a beta reader then get in contact. I can only offer you a thanks in the final book, which will be released through Amazon via Create Space, and a signed copy. Be warned thought that given my lack of fame by signing the book I may actually be decreasing its value!
To celebrate, or rather get back into writing instead of editing, I have written another piece of flash fiction for my ‘The First Flash of Hope’ book. Not sure it is as good as the first but check it out and see what you think. It is called Bionic Hacker and you can read it on wattpad. Saying that, I did write a 2000 word short as well but I might try a magazine or competition with that one.
Short and sweet post but nothing more to say at the moment.
This is a strange post for me, never have I done one that is so image rich but I want to share a small triumph in my writing. As a hobbyist writer I am pretty tight when it comes to spending money on marketing or editing, this also includes book covers. As an ICT and Computing teacher I utilise what technology I have as well as my knowledge of computers to knock up some pretty basic covers. At present it has been a few filters on a photo, logos designed in Adobe Flash and imported into Photoshop or getting other stock images and making them one solid colour. I spend the most time choosing my font. The covers do not look bad but they are not particularly professional. I decided, therefore, that for ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ I would take a different approach. I would attempt to draw a scene. The only problem being, I can’t draw! However, in my excited state I bounded down to town and headed to The Works (it’s a UK shop that sells books, art supplies and games that are ex-stock and so now cheap!) and bought myself an A3 pad with pencils and a book on how to draw. This then sat on a shelf for about three months. Having completed NaNoWriMo and gone back to ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ to edit it, I finally picked up a pencil. Below are step by step stages of how I did, I am not saying the writing is exciting so feel free to just look at the pretty pictures…
Stage 1 – Basic shapes
I found out quickly that the art book I purchased did not actually give you many tips on drawing fantasy characters so I grabbed my phone and used the Internet instead. As my first proper drawing ever, I decided to take the three main characters and have them facing the reader, looking scared. Action scenes are a little too far for me at the moment. The story is set in a moustache so I wanted them standing above a depiction of one. I drew lines for the moustache and connected these up then used the characters head sizes to work out arm and body lengths. At this point things were going well!
Stage 2 – Body outlines
The next stage was to get the general outlines for the bodies, I was quite impressed with how I did this, using lines to link up shapes. They were actually starting to look like humans! They did all have massive heads though so the rubber supplied with my art set came in very handy! Also I could not get the leg width correct but that did not bother me at present as I could change that later.
Stage 3 – Faces
I cannot draw faces, as is clear from the image to the right! However, these are the best faces I have ever drawn. Again my wonderful drawing book was no help so I looked on the Internet and did a half copy, half reimagining job. I really like Wignut (the one in the middle) but the other two did not come out as well. I decided at this point that I was going for a rustic look so, despite a bit of editing, left them as they are. My wife thought the eyes on Wignut were the weakest but they are actually my favourite, along with his hair. I think it is because they look a little cartoony and that goes better with the ‘I can’t draw very well’ look.
Stage 4 – Wignut’s clothes
Guess what?! Yep, that’s right, the book was absolutely no help with clothes! Again it was an Internet affair, looking at different images of drawn medieval clothes and cobbling something together. But I am happy with them, I particularly like the belt and the way I have made the clothes look a little like fabric by adding lines and making seams billow a little. There is not much detail but it gives the gist. My original plan had been to do basic outlines of the characters and use a fineliner pen to thicken the lines so it was more of a line drawing, but I liked Wignut’s look so decided to just go with the drawings at this point.
Stage 5 – Svetta’s clothes
Svetta, if you have not work out by the fact she is the next one drawn in, is my female protagonist. I wanted her to look pretty but show she is a fighter and a quite good one at that. It was clear I could not draw pretty faces but maybe a nice outfit would make her character look better. Again it was on to the Internet to look at clothes. All the female medieval clothes were flowing dresses with lacey tie ups so I had to look at male warriors clothes and adapt them. Now I was not just looking at the characters outlines I could add some shading to my cover. That was in the art book but it had been so unhelpful up to this point I ignored it! If not as much as Wignut’s clothes, I do like the look of Svetta’s. She is clearly more than a pretty girl.
Stage 6 – Barnabas’ clothes and moustache
I found Barnabas’ clothes the easiest to do, I had learnt from both Wignut and Svetta and as he is the hero’s aid I gave him basic clothes. I was worried how the pack on his back would look so tried not to do anything complicated and draw stitching or have it open with contents spewing forth. I think it works though. I also did the moustache as well, I was worried how to get the texture right but by not using a fineliner pen I could add strokes to it from the pencil I was using. I changed to a thicker pencil do to this. I don’t know why, it just felt right. I had picked a 3B for the rest, who knows why? Not me! Looking at the final picture I was quite happy, yeah the faces could be more detailed and the arms seem a bit long but I had managed to make the legs look better and there is the rustic charm I was after, or rather consolidated myself with. It is the best drawing I have ever done after all!
Stage 7 – PhotoShop
The final stage was the one I was most comfortable with, popping the image into PhotoShop. Firstly I scanned the image then working out what size my book would be and set up the relevant canvas on PhotoShop. Using the magic wand and rubber tools I removed the background as best I could. I did need to clone some areas where there were imperfections from the scanning process as well. After this I found a font I wanted. The most annoying thing about cover design is finding a font that is free for commercial use. I wanted something to go with the hand drawn theme and found Mr. B. It is a little more like pen strokes but I can live with that. A little placement and thinking about a tag line and the cover was taking shape. It is amazing how hard it is to create a tag line for a story about heroes setting out to gather snot from a nose as they live in a moustache. I decided to ignore that and go with the humour of the book instead. After this I tried solid colour backgrounds but none worked, I then went for a pattern which looked even worse. So onto the stock photo sites I went, looking for paper and found the one I have. Again it is free for commercial use. All in all I am pretty happy with it. It won’t win any awards but it looks professional enough, it not up to the standards of Penguin or HarperCollins publishing houses but it will do.
So there we have it, a quick run through of how I made my cover. I could go into more detail but it gets a little dull after a while. So now I need to finish editing the book, which could take a month or more, then create the spine and back cover. Hopefully it will be out some time in the next few months, I wouldn’t hold your breath though!
So here we are again, at the end of another year and once more, like nearly all writers, I am doing a look back at the year blog post and, in terms of writing, what a year it has been. Right, after that really long sentence let’s begin.
I always start off by reviewing my targets from the year. I specifically kept them simple in 2016 to avoid disappointment and another year of failure, simply put all I planned to do was ‘do some writing’ and I certainly did that. It is probably clearer to look at my three successes…
Poetry – as you may know I am bad at poetry, but that has never stopped me writing it! I managed a whopping six new poems that included topics such as Nintendo, love, Star Wars and not being able to write well. I have never had a repository for my poetry so decided to make one rather that it just sitting on this blog. That meant that ‘Bad Poetry you probably never want to read’ was born. I popped in my older poems that were on this site along with the new ones. As it is a work in progress it is only available on wattpad at the moment. You can read it here. There was to be a seventh poem for the year but nanowrimo took over and it was abandoned. Please feel free to ignore my poetry but if you do read it can you leave a review? It can be good or confirm my belief that I am terrible at the medium.
A Close Shave with Destiny – I finally finished my first draft of the story I started in October 2015 for Movember. It turned from a 5000 word short story to a nearly 40,000 word novelette. I finished it just before the start of nanowrimo so it still needs a proofread and a cover created. Expect it out in paperback and ebook format in 2017.
The Fifth Coin – this was my story for nanowrimo, which I am happy to say I won thanks to sticking very close to the target daily word count. I really like the story and have pushed myself to keep writing it in December, although not at nano pace. I am now on 60,000ish words and only have three chapters to write to finish the first draft, two of which I am already half way through. I hope to have it out next year as well.
So overall nothing published but a lot of words down, the most in any one year. This is largely thanks to Google docs which allows me to write from anywhere. I often sit for five minutes and add the odd hundred words which does add a little to a novel and keeps you in the flow. In fact I am writing this blog post on Google docs on my phone whilst my daughter is asleep in my arms.
Right on to next year, there is a lot I would like to do but the ‘just write something’ idea worked really well this year so I am keeping it. That said, in an ideal work ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ and ‘The Fifth Coin’ would be published and I would have started work on something else as well as a few more poems being released. We will see though!
Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, I look forward to 2017 in the hope that it is good for writing. Thank you to new followers through the media hop set up by Raimey Gallant, I do look at your posts even if I rarely comment. I do hope you enjoy this blog and find it useful. Anyway, to every out there good luck in whatever you do next year, unless it involves hurting kittens, then I am afraid I cannot condone it!