Five Tips for Revising and Editing by Michael Pryor

January 17th, 2013

Tip 1: Use Word’s ‘Find’ feature (or ‘Advanced Find’ in Word 2010) to highlight words you use too often. Plug in the word, click on ‘Reading Highlight’ and then skim through your ms to get a stark visual overview of how often the word appears. An abundance of yellow might mean you need to vary your vocab a little.

Tip 2: Try editing from back to front. After working through my ms a number of times, I get the feeling that the first chapters get the most attention. I know my attention shouldn’t flag but I’m sure it does. The chapters toward the end probably don’t get the same scrutiny. Therefore, near the end of the process, I do a backward edit – I start with the last chapter, then when I’ve finished with it I go to the second last chapter and so on. It re-frames my revising and it’s remarkable what I pick up.

Tip 3: Use Word Lists. I have a number that I use when revising/editing. One is a list of words I tend to overuse (see Tip 2). Others are lists of contextual vocabulary – historical slang, technical jargon, foreign words – that can be added while revising.

Tip 4: If your habit is to revise/edit on a print out, try one pass through on screen. And vice-versa. If your practice is to revise/edit on screen, try a pass through using a print out. Working in a format you’re not comfortable with or accustomed to can put you on your mettle.

Tip 5: Read your dialogue out loud. There’s nothing like this to highlight whether your characters are talking naturally or not. If you find yourself reading in one character’s voice, uninterrupted, for five minutes – you might have a mouthpiece instead of a character.

–/=\–

To find out more information on Micheal Pryor and his work, please visit his website.

graphology4

Advertisements

Reading-Writing Nexus by Michael Pryor

May 2nd 2013

Reading and writings go hand in hand. I wanted to be a writer because I loved reading so much. I wanted to do for other people what writers were doing for me.

In a presentation to a large group of teenagers, I was once asked about the connection between reading and writing. An eager looking young girl put her hand up at the Q&A part of the session, got hold of the microphone and asked: ‘Do you have to read if you want to be a writer?’

Dozens of answers flashed through my mind, but I went with the first: ‘Yes.’

Her reaction? ‘Oh, bummer,’ she said, downcast.

I’m not sure if she suddenly saw her entire career path flying out the window at that moment or what …

Part of my mission in life is to turn non-readers into readers. It makes them better people, for a start, and it might help me stay in a job. When I was still working as teacher and writing part time, one of my colleagues was a physics teacher who would proudly declare he hadn’t read a book since he finished Year 12. And, as an aside, isn’t it interesting how some people say that proudly, as a badge of honour? I would have thought it to be a secret shame, but there you go.

He was my special case. I wouldn’t let it drop. I nagged, and I cajoled, and I wheedled, and I blustered. I don’t know what worked, but one day he sidled up to be and said, ‘Get a look at this.’

And he thrust a library card under my nose. It had his name on it.

‘I thought I’d give it a go,’ he said. ‘Just to get you off my back.

And he wandered off. To bounce some lights through prisms or stare at an oscilloscope, no doubt.

I left it. Didn’t want to pressure him. But I was worried after a few weeks because I hadn’t heard anything.

Then one lunchtime, a month after the LCI (Library Card Incident), he finished his salad roll (no beetroot) and speared me with a look. ‘I’m up to D,’ he said.

‘What?’

‘I’m up to D.’

He explained. Being a methodical man, and new to this reading fiction business, he’d done the only natural thing and started his reading journey with the authors whose names started with ‘A’.

I didn’t burst out laughing. So help me –thanks to my superbly toned diaphragm – I didn’t burst out laughing.

He was quietly pleased with his progress, and we discussed Douglas Adams and John Bunyan and Patricia Cornwell (‘a bit gory’).

This rapport established, from then on, he’d give me little updates: ‘The Fs aren’t much chop’; ‘Liked the Js’; ‘Not many Qs, are there?’

He left the school before he reached the end of the alphabet, and I often wonder where his reading journey took him. Did he get to the end of Z and start again at A? Did he work backward? Did he start reading by title rather than author?

Reading. It’s good for you, and can help you learn the alphabet.

–/=\–

To find out more information on Micheal Pryor and his work, please visit his website.

graphology4

Being Edited by Michael Pryor

October 17th, 2012

After reading Keith Stevenson’s thoughtful piece on the importance of editing, I began thinking about this process from the point of view of a writer. That is, I wanted to share some thoughts with you not on the subject of editing, but on the subject of being edited.

This is timely for me as I’m in the middle of editing what will be my thirty-second book. There are certain things – like stubbing your toe – that don’t get easier with practice. Being edited is one of those things, but at least with editing there is the promise of something bright and good at the end. Not like stubbing your toe.

Before I start, though, there is one thing I have learned from going through this process thirty-one and a half times. It’s something that I think every writer needs to have tattooed on his/her forehead, backwards so it can be read the mirror: SOMETIMES, YOU ARE NOT THE BEST JUDGE OF YOUR OWN WORK.

Realising this is a vital, epiphanic moment for all writers. The sooner it comes to you, the better. No matter how much you know your work (and it should be pretty well, really), no matter how well you know your characters, your theme, your settings and the vast transformative arc of gobsmacking awesomeness that is your book, sometimes, in fact, you are the worst person to judge it.

For a start, as the writer, you cannot be the reader. The very things that made you the writer – the knowledge of everything that went into the book and everything that didn’t – means you cannot be the fresh, wide-eyed reader who has simply picked this book up because of (ahem) the wonderfulness of your previous work. Or because the cover had a picture of a cat on it. If you strain really hard you can perhaps be aware of a potential reader’s expectations or even their experience in reading your work, but you cannot really put yourself in their shoes. It takes someone else to do that. It takes an editor.

There is also the numbing effect of familiarity. You, after all, have been working on this book for some time. It has – I hope – gone through a number of versions as you’ve revised and improved, taking your first draft and polishing it until it gleamed. The downside of this experience is similar to repeating a word over and over and over until it not only loses all meaning but you begin to doubt its spelling and your sanity. Repetition does strange things to the human brain. Just ask any Las Vegas act where after 10,000 consecutive shows, the front man isn’t sure if he’s saying ‘Hey, anyone here from out of town?’ or ‘I condemn you all to a life of damnation, blood and hellfire! Release the demons!’

A fresh set of eyes. If an editor brings nothing else to the process but this, he/she would be worth their weight in gold. A little bit of distance from the work is a magical thing. After all, writers achieve a closeness to their work that can only be measured in units usually reserved for sub-nuclear particles. Femtometres, stuff like that. In the end, though, you can’t sit with each and every one of your readers, waiting for a tell-tale brow furrowing and then jumping in and saying: ‘Don’t worry about that. It’ll all become clearer in the next chapter.’ Your work has to stand on its own two feet, without you there to provide background notes while the reader reads.

Understanding all the above should help a writer come to terms with the confronting, bracing, revealing process of being edited, but it’s only a start. How do you approach that moment of truth, the time when the first editorial report lands in your lap?

The first step is to read the report carefully – and don’t respond to it straight away. Almost inevitably, the report will be a moment of great ego-testing. The work you spent so much time and effort on, so much sweat and emotion, so much of your brain and heart and spirit has been judged and it’s not perfect! You thought – or hoped – it was and someone is disagreeing!

It’s time for some deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths, perhaps until those little black dots in your vision announce that you’re overdoing it. Whatever you do, don’t immediately pick up the phone or launch into an email response, especially anything beginning with the words: ‘How dare you …!’ Go for a walk. Sleep on it. Let things lie fallow for a time.

After this pause for reflection, re-read the report – with a pencil or highlighter this time. Make note of all those points that, deep in your heart, you knew were issues. Things like that particular plot point you fudged and hoped no-one would notice. Or that beautifully written, but slow, chapter you thought you could get away with. Or that trenchant political point you thought you’d disguised well enough. Writers, here’s a heads-up: editors notice! They’re really, really, good at noticing. They’re professional noticers. They’re so eagle-eyed that eagles have a phrase to describe sharp sight: editor-eyed. And, yes, you saw that one coming.

So on this calmer, more considered re-reading of your editorial report you’ll see a whole bunch of stuff that you really knew anyway. No, you haven’t been found out. All that’s happened is that you now have a second opinion. A very good second opinion that you need to take seriously.

In a way, these points – the ones you suspected anyway – are easy enough to take on board. It gets harder after you accept these and work through the rest of the report.

This is where you come to where the editor has identified weaknesses that you didn’t suspect. Many of these will make you wince, or cry ‘ouch!’ or do both – but that’s okay. If you react like this, you’re probably agreeing with what the editor has pointed out, especially if you slap your forehead and mumble something about ‘What was I thinking?’

After that, though, there are more parts of your book that ‘may need attention’. These range through the whole gamut of ways that a book can go wrong. Pacing issues. Character motivation and inconsistencies. Failures of logic or plausibility. Inadequate backgrounding. Too much explanation. Not enough explanation. Internal contradictions. Errors of fact. Authorial intrusions. And I really wish I hadn’t started this list because it’s endless and if I stop now I’ll privilege (ahem!) the preceding weaknesses over the ones I haven’t mentioned and I don’t want to do that so instead – look over there! A bear!

After you’ve sorted out these challenging issues, you’re probably left with a handful where you really don’t agree with the editor’s view. And I mean, REALLY don’t agree. When you first read the report you probably disagreed with most of the points therein, but once your wise author-sense kicks in (that’s like ‘spider sense’ but you don’t have to get bitten by anything to achieve it) you generally end up seeing the editorial wisdom in identifying these issues. At the end of this journey of self-discovery, however, there are likely to be a few points that you simply feel are wrong, or misread, or off the beam. This is where you have to trust yourself and to know what you’re trying to achieve with your work – and here’s where I’ll contradict myself without a blush: sometimes you are the best judge of your own work. The tricky part is knowing when you are and when you aren’t.

Right. Once you’ve read and understood the catalogue of issues in the report, it’s teeth-gritting, loin-girding and soul-searching time because you need to change your story. You’ll be looking for fixes. Quick fixes (yay!) and more complex, time-consuming and headache-making fixes (boo!). You’ll be doing some large-scale work, ripping out walls and knocking over fences and you’ll also be doing some very delicate scalpel work. Much the same as when you wrote your first draft, really. You’ll have brainwaves that will have been prompted by something the editor noticed and when you follow this through you won’t have just propped up a saggy bit of the narrative, you’ll have introduced a whole, new, fascinating character arc. You’ll have to make hard decisions about that secondary/tertiary character you loved writing because of her sassy comebacks and curious choice of hair colour and you’ll end up deleting her because the book worked better without her. You’ll sweat over how to bring those two characters together because the book was unbelievable without such a meeting. You’ll gnaw a knuckle trying to figure out the best way to make that bank teller – the one whose fate will affect the whole town – a bit more appealing than the cardboard character you hoped was an everyman type.

My particular worry here is similar to what computer programmers face. When fixing one error, it’s easy to introduce another … Making a change in Chapter 3 to remedy that shonky character backstory infodump can have a ripple effect, necessitating that you track down the consequent issues it causes, and to fix all of them, too. Sometimes, a fix that appears quick can have the sort of knock-ons that make you sit bolt upright in the middle of the night and scream out: ‘But he can’t do that! He’s her nephew!’

It’s painstaking stuff and it can make you rethink everything about the book you began writing so long ago, but this is the craft. Step by step, working hard, to improve something you created.

Is this easy? No! Is it worthwhile? You bet. Naturally enough, it’s made simpler if your editor is on your wavelength before the process starts. It also helps if the process becomes a dialogue, a discussion with give and take, a free expression of views. Sometimes copious amounts of wine are involved, sometimes not.

Having gone through the process as many times as I have, I know that when you reach the other side of it, once the editing, revising, reworking and rewriting is finished you will have a better story in your hands. And, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Remember: a good editor makes you a better writer.

–/=\–

To find out more information on Micheal Pryor and his work, please visit his website.

graphology4

Domain of One’s Own by Erin Elizabeth Long

March 26, 2013

Every writer needs a website. This is non-negotiable, and especially critical for indie authors. Even if you don’t have web design expertise (or a publishing house willing to build a snazzy site for you), you can create an attractive, effective site in a weekend for less than $20.

Choosing a Domain

A .com address is best. It’s the oldest and most common top level domain; most people assume that a website is a .com. You can purchase one for less than $12 a year from somewhere like Godaddy.com.

Try to get yourname.com or as close as possible. If your name (or pen name) is already taken, you may have to get slightly creative. Example: belindawilliamsbooks.com.

WordPress/Blogger or Self-Hosted?

I started off as girlnone.wordpress.com. Then I shelled out $18 for a custom URL and became girlnone.com. Then I got tired of ads and a lack of custom plugins and switched over to self-hosting with Bluehost using the wordpress.org platform. There are tons of articles weighing the pros and cons of self-hosting, and I won’t try to replicate them here.

It comes down to how involved you want to be with the technical aspect of running your site. I like to tinker, and I don’t like being limited in what I can do with my own site. During  the Discover Indie Authors blog hop, a couple of the participants were frustrated because they couldn’t embed the rafflecopter giveaway directly into the post. WordPress.com blogs don’t allow you to embed custom HTML or Javascript.

If you’re not particularly tech savvy, your best bet is going through wordpress.com and adding on a custom domain. You can still make your site look like website rather than a blog (check out YA author Brenna Yovanoff’s wordpress-hosted site), remain plugged into a network of other bloggers, and allow wordpress to do all the heavy lifting.

Elements of a Great Author Site

The Bare Minimum:

  • A list of your books (including reading order, if you write series) and links to buy them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Your picture and a short biography
  • Other ways to connect with you (Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, etc)

Even Better:

  • A regularly updated blog that gives readers a glimpse of your everyday life and creative process without verging into TMI. Nobody wants to peek behind the curtain only to learn about the Great and Powerful Oz’s bunions.
  • A digital press kit with high-resolution images of your book covers and author photo, a sell sheet for each of your books, sample interview questions, reading guides, etc.
  • Contests, giveaways, or free content for fans such as advance chapters or short stories.

Design Tips:

Aww, look! The dolphins are friends!

Keep it simple yet aesthetically pleasing.

Fit in with your genre. If you write sexy urban fantasy or erudite historical thrillers, then your site shouldn’t look like a Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper.

Integrate design elements or color palettes from your most popular book or series.

The navigation should be easy to find (a bar at the top of the page, for example) and intuitive to use.

Feature your books prominently; don’t make visitors dig.

Common Mistakes

Amateurish design. If your site looks like a relic from the mid-90s, it’s probably time to redesign your site. If you don’t know how, hire someone to do it for you. Check out this gallery of terrible fantasy author websites.

Too many bells and whistles. Flash animation looks cool, but it can also take a long time to load or fail to display at all. The longer visitors have to wait for something load, the more likely it is they’ll simply leave.

Don’t add sounds, music, or videos that auto-play. People hate that.

Excessive self-promotion turns people off. You should offer value to your visitors–insight into your life, news about upcoming events, freebies related to your books, or information related to the subjects you write about. If all you’re saying is BUY MY BOOK IT’S AWESOME BUY IT NOW!, you’re more likely to lose readers than gain them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Author Websites

Oh dear. I know that Suzanne Collins–author of The Hunger Games–or her publisher can afford a better site than this, so the question remains: Why is her site so dreadful?

Stephen King’s website is very clean, professional and easy to use. My only complaint is that it’s not, well, scary.

Eclectic and vintage-inspired without being fussy, Rachel King’s website is a nice balance of aesthetics and functionality.

Philip Reeves’ site looks amazing but the amount of flash animation makes it difficult to navigate and slow to load.

Mega-bestselling author Patricia Cornwell’s site looks cool, but it’s hard to navigate and it makes lots of annoying noises.

I really dig Lesley MM Blume’s site with its eclectic typography and Erte-inspired illustrations.

Fantasy author Garth Nix’s homemade website is…not good. The publisher-created sites for his series are much more professional.

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin’s website is embarrassingly dated and inexplicably periwinkle.

Kami Garcia’s site perfectly captures the Southern Gothic charm of Beautiful Creatures series she co-authored with Margaret Stohl.

Leigh Fallon’s site is lovely, simple, and easy to navigate. Then again, I’m a sucker for anything with a crow on it.

-=/-\=-

You can find more information about the author and the original post on Erin Elizabeth Long’s website.

graphology4

Writing Tip: Version Control by Michael Pryor

April 4th, 2013

Most Important Writing Tip Ever:  Version Control

This could be the most important writing tip you’ll ever read. I’ll settle for second best, I suppose, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be in the top five. Easily.

Computers are wonderful and they make a writer’s life easier in many ways. But computers can make a writer’s life harder, too, and this super tip addresses a subtle aspect of this.

Scenario: a writer finishes a first draft and saves it, full of satisfaction at having nailed down a vital part of the writing process, first drafts being what they are. Then, the next day or the following week, our writer opens that file and dives into reworking it, deleting, changing and polishing it until it shines, a common enough sequence of events, and conscientiously saves it at the end of her first rewriting session.

Bad. Very bad. Our author has made a common but potentially disastrous mistake.

When our author finished her reworking and saved the file, she may have consigned some of her first draft writing to electronic oblivion. If she has deleted chapters, say, from her first draft and then saved and closed this file, she cannot recover those deleted chapters, not without some super-wizard level computer geekery. You can’t undo changes once you’ve shut down the document. When you reopen it, all the changes you made, even if it was only seconds ago, have been wiped, forgotten from its undo memory.

Consigned to electronic oblivion.

This is why, by the time I finish a novel, I end up with multiple versions each with its own separate file. The Subterranean Stratagem is my latest novel. In its folder, I have ten separate files – ‘SS1.doc’, ‘SS2.doc’ and so on to ‘SS10.doc’, the final draft. Each one represents a new draft, a new version. When I finish a draft, I take a copy and re-name it as the next in the sequence before starting work on it.

A lot of trouble, maybe? Perhaps, but the benefit of this method is that if I’m working on Draft 4 and have the suspicion that I’ve actually made things worse rather than better (it happens …) I have a pristine Draft 3 (or Draft 2 or Draft 1) to fall back on. It needn’t be a wholesale rethink, either. I could simply regret deleting a snappy dialogue exchange and then shutting down the draft I’m working on. No need for regrets. That snappy dialogue exchange is saved in one of your previous draft files.

Now, this is different from backing up, something that probably deserves its own article, because when you backup you still only have the last version you saved. Yesterday’s probably. Anything earlier has gone. If you keep good version files (and back them up) you will have access to everything you wrote, just in case. It’s a belt and braces sort of thing.

With good version control you can rewrite with confidence. You can experiment, make drastic changes, turn your story upside down perhaps leading to a brilliant new take on your initial approach. You can do all of this knowing that you can backtrack and restore any babies you’ve thrown out with the bathwater, which is inevitably a good thing.

See? That’s got to be right up there in any Top Five Writing Tips. Top Ten, at least.

–/=\–

To find out more information on Micheal Pryor and his work, please visit his website.

graphology4

March 7th, 2013 News & Update

Hi, gang! It’s been one week since Silk Screen Views went live and a lot has happened! Find out what’s going on and some of what SSV has planned for you.

  1. Two Great Reviewers Join SSV
  2. Silk Screen View’s Gazette is Born!
  3. 100th Blog Post: A Handful of Book Review Sites
  4. Review Directory is now LIVE
  5. News on 100th Review Celebration

Two Great Reviewers Join SSV:  Say Hello!

Darth Val and Snarktastic Sonja have joined the SSV ranks with their great personalities and creative minds. They will be sharing their love of books and posting reviews on the many stories they enjoy reading. You can find my co-conspirators on Goodreads or contact us by emailing silkscreenviews at gmail.com or by leaving a comment on the Nexus page.

Silk Screen View’s Gazette is Born!

With the rapid growth and adventures of SSV, we decided to establish the SSV Gazette! At the Gazette, you will find interesting articles, author interviews, book releases, promotions and other fun book related events and information.

100th Blog Post: A Handful of Book Review Sites

The first post in SSV’s Gazette and the 100th post made on the site. The article will be about some book review sites and a small look behind the scenes into the people that make it happen.

Review Directory is now LIVE!

There are numerous ways to find out what kind of book reviews are on the site but I thought I would go a step further and make a directory. Now you can go to the Review Directory and easily browse down the list to see what you can find here on SSV. You can also use the search bar to look for a book by author, title or series name. Maybe you don’t have a certain book in mind and you can see what we have to offer by clicking on one of the categories on the Book Review menu or the Category List on the right column.

News on 100th Review Celebration

Guess what’s coming up? Pretty soon, we’ll be making our 100th Review Post and we have a treat in store for you. We’re starting an Author + Book Review Series. We’ll be making a dual post of an author interview and a book review. To kick of the series, Keri Lake, the author of Soul Revenged, will be joining us here at SSV with surprise guests for an interview. We will release a review of Soul Revenged and the Author Interview at the same time. Stay tuned to find out when.

If you’re a fan and you have any questions you would like SSV to ask Keri Lake, please email us or use the comment form on the Nexus. We welcome your suggestions! Be sure to come back and join the fun! As soon as we know the release date of the 100th Review + Author Interview, we’ll let you all know.

===/=\===

Contact Us ~ We would love to hear from you!

Email – silkscreenviews at gmail.com   OR   Fill out the Contact Form on Nexus.

SSV Links: