Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oops, did I write that?

About fiction editing with an opinionated advisory.

Fiction writing is difficult enough. Now, with all of the good and not so good people in the marketplace doing everything possible to entice new writers to spend money on their products and or services, writing has become more challenging.

Magazines, ezines, bloggers, newsletters, and the so-called experts all want what writers have too little of, money and time. You have to wonder why, what will you receive?

I subscribe to newsletters from several sources that cover the gambit from editing services to querying and beyond. Most have strings attached, which might include requiring the writer to give out personal information. Beyond an email address, this should be ignored and avoided. Why do they need to know when you were born? Simple, they want to sell the information to sponsors who then will track and target you with advertising. They do not really want to sing Happy Birthday to you.

I wonder about professionals who expend hours every day blogging and firing off Tweets to followers. Where do they find the time to do their jobs? How can anyone feel confident that they will put forth their best effort with each project when a vast amount of time is expended with online activities that primarily are self-promoting?

My advice is simple. Stay away from them. There are a finite number of things a writer needs to know, and by finite, I mean few, very few. Once you know them, start writing.

If you do not know, what I am writing about, take a fiction writer's class, and learn. Buy one book recommended by a professor about fiction writing, which should include advice on editing and rewriting. Do not waste time and money on offer after offer, book after book, blog after blog. They are all telling you the same thing.

Once you have learned the basics, you are ready to write. So shut down the digital world and do it. Forget about writing what you know. Fiction is, well, fiction, imagination.

Writers should write several hours per day. If not several, at least one or two hours. Find the time. Get up earlier, stay up later. Put away the cell phone, PDA, get off the Internet. Writing is a craft. The more you work it, the better the result.

Of course, if you are not writing because you love to write, you will not want to sacrifice the time. Moreover, if you do not love writing, then you will not be happy with the small amount of income the average fiction writer receives.

Writing provides its own satisfaction.

First, always write the complete story from the first to the last word before you seriously edit and rewrite. Always edit and rewrite several times, waiting at least a few weeks or even months between rewrites. The span of time will allow you to seriously step away from the story and when you look again, you will find problems you failed to notice before.

A good example is something I do too frequently. Rewrite a sentence, and miss removing a word, or a comma not needed in the new version. On occasion, I will miss an error repeatedly, until I finally catch it on the fifth or sixth, or whatever reading, hopefully.

Also, do not depend on spell check or grammar check. If you feel you must, click Options at the bottom left corner in the spelling and grammar box in Word. Then check everything. This will give you the best the program has to offer.

Oops. Do not check: Hide Spelling errors in this document, or Hide grammatical errors in the document. Set it to Grammar and Style. These settings will make you grind your teeth, but it will help.

Obviously, a writers group would help with this, too, but not all writers will want to critique as line editors.

I think the absolute best way to rewrite a story is to read it aloud. If this makes you uncomfortable, answer this. How often do you talk to yourself aloud? I will bet the answer is, more than you think.

What is the difference between that and reading your story aloud? The potential of criticism, which you avoid by finding a place where no one will hear you or waiting until you are alone. I used to read aloud in the car while parked at the far end of a huge parking lot. This proved difficult in winter, but I needed to do it. Now, I read in a closed room.

Reading aloud will also help you find sentences that do not work, or sound weird, convoluted, rambling. If the sentence does not roll off your tongue while speaking, it will trip up a reader.

Never, ever, write something that interrupts the plausibility you carefully crafted into your story so your reader will want to turn the next page, or read the next paragraph. If you do, they may not finish.

Do not expect perfection. The most successful writers hire editors. If you can afford to, hire one, but expect to pay around three to eight cents per word. Otherwise, find a friend, or several friends to read your story and ask them to give an honest opinion.

Remember, constructive criticism will help you become a better writer. Destructive criticism is just that, and you will know it when you step in it. Scrape it off and forget about it.

That is it for now. Do not just sit there, create something.
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