Writing a novel is much like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got lots of pieces laying around, whether they’re in an outline, written free form scribbled on a napkin or just floating around in your brain. You might start with an idea, or just a character. Maybe you only know you want to write something with a specific theme. Those little pieces have to come together to build the big picture that is your story.
When working on a puzzle we think may a piece fits somewhere but at second glance, it seems a bit off. The color might work but maybe the fit isn’t tight. You wouldn’t throw that puzzle piece away, would you? No! Without it you won’t have a complete image. Sometimes in the editing process we find better places for those pieces. Places where they fit snuggly and help make the clearest image for your reader.
When I was writing Heavyweight I originally had the story start differently. It wasn’t until I read it at a writing seminar that it was suggested to me that I change where the beginning started. I was able to rearrange things without cutting out what I thought was important information and it made the story much stronger. I really think it had a lot to do with selling my book to my publisher.
Yes there will be appropriate times to cut out information. We tend to add a lot of extras (especially in our early days of writing) that aren’t really necessary and will most likely slow down the flow of the story, but many times you will have beautifully penned prose that you can’t bear to lose. Most likely, with some rearranging of the pieces in editing, you can find the appropriate place for that section.
Don’t be afraid to move things around. If the beginning seems slow because you’re front loading the world building, break it up and add it as the story goes. You want to engage and hook the reader, not have them flipping ahead to see when the “real” story starts. Move those story pieces until you get the picture completed, each part fitting tightly with its neighboring parts, creating a seamless story.
When editing, do you just cut big parts or do you try to find new places in your story for them?
When I started writing seriously, I found I would stop and research certain phrases and spellings of different words. In my Googling, I found that I had a tendency to use the UK spelling of many words, especially towards, backwards and theatre. Well, theatre I knew, but I reserved that spelling for plays/Broadway type references and theater for the movies.
I was surprised. Towards and backwards just sounds right to me. It seems stilted with out the S on the end. While I was self-publishing, I just let it ride. No one really ever called me out on it and I decided if they didn’t care, I could get away with it. I figured, unless someone was a Grammar Nazi or an Anglophile, it wouldn’t bother folks.
It was all fine and dandy until I signed with Harmony Ink Press and their editor got a hold of the manuscript. When I got it back to accept and/or reject edits, I saw the poor editor had to change every towards to toward, dropping the S. I was shocked to see how often I used it. It was so bad that I left a little comment apologizing for all the extra work. It was something I could have easily corrected with the Find & Replace before querying.
It goes to show, just because you like how the word colour looks with a U doesn’t mean you should use it if your book doesn’t take place in the UK or Canada, even then, if you have an American audience it probably wouldn’t fly. I’m not sure if editors would let it pass in dialog from a character who hails from those areas either. Maybe…maybe not.
Will I start using the American spellings? Probably not, it’s ingrained in me now, but I will definitely try to remember to fix them before sending it out so some poor editor doesn’t have to correct them all!
Do you use unusual spellings in your writing? Have they gotten you in trouble?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got unfinished manuscripts hiding on hard drives or in drawers and binders. They could be 20 pages long or over 50,000 words. Either you got stuck, got busy or got distracted by a bright, shiny new idea. It happens to us all at some point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and finish it.
It could be years old or just a few months. Regardless of the time, you will need to refresh your memory and re-immerse yourself in the world you were creating. Turning it into a PDF means you can easily load it to your e-readers or tablets or even your phone if you have a Kindle app. Re-read the story just for content. Let me repeat that:
Don’t start with the editing. Make quick notes if need be about plot issues to change (color of character’s car changes from chapter to chapter, Mom’s name changed, etc.) but don’t start fixing your spelling or wording yet. Get to the end and get excited about your story.
As a PDF, you can also set it up to read the story to you, which would help keep you from editing while listening but would allow you to easily jot notes and ideas along the way. You can even put it on a CD and listen while you’re on the go!
If you find you’re not raring to go to finish the story after the re-read, you may want to put it back away for a while and try something else. I will admit there are stories that will just never get done. If you’ve lost the passion, it just might not be your story to tell, but it’s worth it to re-read because you’ve already put time and effort into it.
What do you do with unfinished projects? Have you ever picked on back up and finished it?