Tag: amediting


Suggestion 3: Don't Let the Demons Win

I’m sure there are writers who don’t suffer from self doubt. There may even be some writers who never write a terrible sentence, let alone a terrible paragraph, or a terrible entire middle of the book. If you are one of these writers: good for you!  I’m not.  A variety of demons live in my head. Some whisper, some shout, some just drone on and on. I used to fight with them, but I’ve discovered that simply identifying them for who they are and accepting what they say lets me get on with things. Somewhat counterintuitively, my acceptance has softened their voices. When Overwhelmed Ophelia (that’s what I call her) screeches there is no possible way I can make all the PoV changes I need to make before my deadline, I accept her anxiety because it’s realistic, but I remind myself that I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. Here’s what my wise (and very kind and supportive) fellow Miss Demeanors say on the subject of those pesky writing demons: Paula: Writing really is rewriting for me. Because for me, the first draft can be an angst-ridden slog. But once I’ve pounded out that first draft, I can relax a little and enjoy the process of making it better. Now I have something to fix. Fixing is fun. Fun being a relative term. Susan: I have an idea of how I want something to sound. And it doesn’t. Or I’m trying to get a handle on a character and she just sounds like a cliche. And I torture myself going over and over it, but I’ve come to realize that if I’m patient enough, I’ll probably figure it out. Sometimes it will take months. At night I’ll think about it so that my dreams can help me out. I’ll read writers I like and see what they did. And then invariably the solution does pop into my mind. I guess an advantage to getting older is that I have a certain amount of trust in myself, or the process. I just have to force myself to wait. Of course deadlines are a whole other thing. Good luck, Alison! Michele: I’ve just realized after listening to and reading Walter Mosley’s writing advice that my first draft is really my outline. That makes sense to me as a pantser, and it explains why rewriting is so important. I’ve come to enjoy rewriting as a way to improve each draft, an opportunity to write a better book. The demons in my ear are often voices that conflict with my instinct. I think it takes a lot of experience to know how to distinguish sound writing advice from suggestions that may interfere with your voice, your originality, and your willingness to risk taking a chance. The best way to handle doubts about who to listen to is to learn who you can trust. On one occasion, an editor made suggestions to me that I knew were ill-advised. I asked our swell agent and she confirmed my doubts. Robin: I agree with the sentiments about rewriting. It’s the fun part. But there is one thing I agonize over and that’s pacing. Too slow is an obvious problem but too fast is just as bad. Am I missing opportunities to draw out tension? Am I drawing it out too much? What are secondary characters doing at the same time main characters are in focus? Is a subplot heightening the tension or too distracting? Do I need a distraction for the reader to catch their breath? With early drafts, usually the first or second, I storyboard the scenes with an eye on action and pace to literally see how it flows and look for gaps. On later drafts, I’ve been known to print out manuscripts and place each chapter on the floor of my living room then physically move them around to see how order adjustments impact the pace. It can turn into a weird game of Twister. One time, my dog played. I stood looking over the piles of paper and she walked across them. Out of curiosity I sorted the chapters in the order her paws hit them. It didn’t work out but it would’ve made a great backstory, wouldn’t it? 🙂 Tracee: So many good ideas here. I think I’m learning to edit in waves. Meaning, spend time perfecting every sentence and it is harder to cut (or re-cut) a big swath of the story, so don’t try to do it all at once. Maybe what I’ve really learned is each edit is for a different reason. Tone, pacing, character, continuity, etc. I agree with Michele that the first draft is likely an outline, regardless of whether you are a pantser or plotter. If I think of it as an outline then it’s easier to make the (likely necessary) big changes. After all, it was only an outline. I believe it is Amy Stewart (author of the Miss Kopp mysteries) who turns randomly through her finished manuscript and on that page picks the weakest sentence and tries to make it sing. She keeps a check list and does each page that way until finished. I like this idea. I also believe in the looming deadline….. fear and panic can be helpful as long as you’re in the final stretch. On that note, good luck Alison!          

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Suggestion 2: Plan Your Re-write Attack

This is hard. Even writing about it is hard. I’m not going to lie. When you have eighty thousand words, give or take, and editorial pages critiquing what works and what doesn’t, making a plan can seem overwhelming. Don’t let it be.  For me, there are four basic steps to the rewriting process.  Step 1: Check the calendarCount the number of days you have until your deadline. Be honest about how many days in the week you can work. Is Sunday impossible for you? Take it out of the rotation. Is there a family wedding? Be honest about how much time you can sneak away from family obligations. There is no right answer, there is only a truthful one.  Step 2: Attack the big stuffBy “big stuff” I mean the major plot issues. In Blessed be the Wicked, my editor had wanted a minor story line to become more central. She was completely right. I ended up writing a handful of completely new chapters developing the relationship between Abish and her brother. I had always adored her brother and I knew Abish and her brother John were close, but none of that made it into the first version of the book. My editor was right to push me on it. It was natural. The writing came easily because it was what the story needed.  Step 3: Make a master list of all the small stuff.It’s easy to forget the little stuff, so I make a list of “global changes” that I literally check off as I go through the manuscript. This is something that is ongoing, but by the time you are at your deadline, every item should be checked off. This list consists of everything from language tics (I use the word “just” too much, so I search the entire document and eliminate every non-necessary “just”) to checking times and dates (if the murder happens in the late morning and your detective has spent hours working, you don’t want him to then meet someone for breakfast…unless you explain the time lapse). The main point here is to not lose track of the details. Suspense and mystery because readers are a very observant lot.  Step 4: Let everything else in your life take a back seat.This step has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with writing. You have creative energy, that’s why you write. When you are on a deadline, you need to manage that creative energy in the most exacting way. If that means shifting your exercise routine, do it. If it means ignoring the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, ignore them. Let your dear friends and family know that you are working and will be back to your normal self soon enough. After you’ve finished your revisions. Good luck on your re-writes! See you tomorrow for a discussion with my fellow Miss Demeanors about writing demons and how to make friends–or at least learn to tolerate–them.

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CritiqueMatch: An interview with CEO Mike Cavaioni (and how to find your perfect writing critique partner)

Drum roll, please. Today, I’ve managed to corner Mike Cavaioni, the CEO  of Critique Match, a new platform that allows writers to find critique partners. It’s a beautiful website, but, more importantly, it’s easy to use and fills a gap in the writing universe: how to find yourself the right critique partner. Alison: Providing a community for writers to swap work is simply genius. How did you come up with the idea for CritiqueMatch? Mike: I’ve been a blogger for a couple of years now, writing on
technical subjects, such as artificial intelligence. I can’t tell you
how many times I’ve edited a blog, passed it through
Grammarly, and yet, my lovely wife still caught errors! I
realized one always needs a second pair of eyes, someone who
can give honest, constructive feedback. Yes, one could rely on
a professional editor, but a critique partner goes beyond a professional service transaction. Writing is such a solitary journey. The encouragement and companionship a partner can provide are crucial to keeping one’s momentum going. So I knew critique partnerships were crucial to writers. The next question was: where do you find the right critique partners? And how do you know if they are any good? Hence, the idea of creating a community of writers who can easily find each other and rate the critiques they receive. Alison: For someone who hasn’t seen the website, can you give a quick description of what CritiqueMatch offers writers?  Mike: Sure! Our platform is currently in beta mode and free to all users. It helps writers connect and exchange critiques securely and privately (we are not trying to be the next Wattpad, where an author’s work is shared with all users and anyone can comment on it). On our platform, you can find writers based on multiple search criteria that match your preferences. Additionally, down the road, we want to allow those writers who have demonstrated strong critiquing skills to complement their income via giving paid critiques.   Alison: The website is beautifully designed and so easy-to-use (even on my phone!). What went into creating it?  Mike: You are too kind, thank you! The creative portion was a lot of fun! I’m an engineer and, unsurprisingly, I love to build things from scratch—from software to homemade bread! So I knew
from the beginning that I wanted to create a fully customized platform, instead of merely using a pre-made template like WordPress. Overall, it’s been an iterative process that started with the basic need for a directory of writers with different searchable characteristics, such as their genre, sub-genre, location, etc.
But was that enough? Would a telephone directory be enough to help you pick a restaurant? I didn’t think so. Instead, what if the writers rated each other, and just like a restaurant, you could see first-hand accounts of how good someone’s critiques were? I interviewed many writers as I was developing the first few features and got constructive feedback that I incorporated them into the site. I had to put my ego aside and quickly adapt to make this work. I still encourage users to give me suggestions! There were many technical aspects, including creating wireframes, hiring software developers, until here we are, live and growing every day, with plenty of critique partner matches already! I hope years from now we’ll be receiving those types of messages from writers celebrating their critique partnerships that started on our site in a retreat somewhere beautiful, like Iceland. Alison: When I browsed through the members, it looked to me like there were writers from all over the country and the world. What are you seeing in terms of who’s using CritiqueMatch?  Mike: According to Facebook, there are 40 million users who have listed ‘writing’ as an occupation or a hobby. That’s just in the US and Canada! I think that writing, as with many other forms of art, has no geographic boundaries and people should find those sharing the same passion, no matter where they live. Someone in a remote cabin in Iceland, like the one shown on our home page, might be the perfect partner for a New Yorker. We are thrilled that our user base is already a melting pot of people from all over the world! So far, we’ve seen users connecting based on the specific sub-genre of their interest. For example, for those writing a police procedural mystery, like your book Alison, Blessed Be The Wicked, they could find a critique partner or beta reader in that exact sub-genre, instead of broadly in mysteries. The granularity of the search is what makes CritiqueMatch unique. Alison: I can’t let you go without asking you what you’re reading right now, and what’s next on your TBR list?   Mike: Does the “All summer long” script I’m reading for my acting class, count? I’m joking… I typically mix and match various art mediums. I have To Kill A Mockingbird on my nightstand at the moment. This classic had escaped me up until recently when I saw the incredible Broadway performance based on the
book. Maycomb, Alabama of 1936 is more relevant today than ever. But that’s a whole other discussion…
In non-fiction, I love listening to the How I Built This podcast for inspiration on how to grow a business. Because you’ve been terrific, I will spare you the details from the artificial intelligence papers lying on my desk! On behalf of writers everywhere: Thank you, Mike and CritiqueMatch! 

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