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!
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.
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!
I love the fact that people find inspiration in the strangest of places. Recently I won NaNoWriMo (as if you could not tell!) and in the dark times my inspiration came from the strangest place. I headed back to my homeland of Guernsey to visit family just before NaNo started. As it was the first time some of my family were meeting my six month old daughter I got showered with gifts, well they were all for her or her three year old brother! One of the gifts was a pink bear that played music, I have since searched on the Internet to find out is it the Chicco First Dreams Baby Bear. There is a blue and pink version, we have pink but that adds nothing to the story! The bear projects stars, that change colour, onto the ceiling and plays classical music. We put it on each night when we rock my daughter to sleep. Not that inspirational at the moment but something magical happened and I did not realise it at first. There was one tune, a soft melody that made me think of sadness but with hope. It was not until about a week into NaNo that I realised it was creating images in my head, these images were ones from the novel I was writing but it was more than that, it was like I was sat waiting for my wife to start a DVD. There was the main menu playing this tune and on the screen were parts of my story playing out like a move. Each night it seemed to be about what I had just written or what I was about to write. That bear, that melodic tune got me out of a few sticky situations, when I did not know how to link two sections of the book together or how a certain character would react to a situation. As soon as it came on, and still now as I finish the novel I started for NaNoWriMo, I wanted to write, I had the itch, I had the ideas. I just had to get my daughter to sleep first!
The only frustrating thing is that I do not know what the song is called and I can not find anywhere on the web that tells you. I am not going to sift through every classic song to find it. One thing I do know is that if my novel ever becomes a film and we are about to release a DVD (probably will all be blu-ray by then!) I will want that song as the tune on the menu. I can see it now, sat in a meeting about the movie with a child’s pink bear blurting out songs till we get to the right one. “That one,” I’ll shout, “that’s the menu song!” Suppose I better stop dreaming and finish writing the novel then!
For the second time in my short life I have completed NaNoWriMo. In 2013 this was a race to the finish on the last day, this time I was the epitome of just hitting your word count every day. When I started I was worried about work and family commitments but this time my planning was so detailed that I did not find it too hard to complete. I do feel that if a Dad with two young children and a demanding job can complete NaNo then anyone can!
So now I can sit back and relax, or rather not. When I started I thought that I might not have enough content for 50,000 words but after about five days it became clear that 50,000 words was never going to be enough to tell the story I wanted. Now I have two choices, take a break from writing for a bit or plow on and get my first draft finished. I am in the writing zone now but I thought after thirty days of constant writing I would want to stop for a bit, however I am actually excited about getting my first draft finished. I don’t think I have ever felt so excited when writing, maybe the book isn’t going to be that bad after all. So here are my plans for the rest of the year and into next…
- Finish the first draft of The Fifth Coin
- Design a cover for A Close Shave with Destiny
- Edit A Close Shave with Destiny
- Release A Close Shave with Destiny
- Edit The Fifth Coin
- Release The Fifth Coin
So a lot to keep me busy then. But if NaNo has given me one thing it is hope, I don’t know if I will have anything released by the end of the year but at least I am moving forward with my writing once again. Right, I am off to open door one of my Lego Star Wars advent calendar, yeah I’m just a big kid really!
Two pieces of good news regarding my writing, this using my phone and Google Drive is really helping me to get more words down, you should try it! Anyway, here is the news…
- ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ first draft complete – yes, I have done it. The story that was started in October last year as a 5,000 word short story for Movember is complete, well the first draft is. It is now a little under 40,000 words and has turned into a novella. My next job is to edit it and create a front cover. I have decided that I will put it up for sale for Movember. I intend to make a hard copy using CreateSpace, as well as a Kindle version, and will donate any money I make to Movember. It may not be up for a little while because of good news number two…
- I’m doing NaNoWriMo again – with the use of Google Drive on my phone I feel a lot more
confident about doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I have a really exciting idea about a story, it does involve a lot of research though. I have started the planning process and have more than enough information to write 50,000 words. I have even created a cover for the book already! The story centres around a fourteen year old called Daniel Phillips whose father is in an accident. He gets given an old coin from his father that gives him powers. It turns out that there are others with coins and powers and that they have intervened in historical events. However, there are dark forces out to gain access to the coins. The novel will be for young adults and flips between historical events and present day. It is entitled ‘The Fifth Coin.’ I will keep everyone aware of my progress via twitter.
I’m not sure about you but I am very excited.