Monday, December 20, 2010

Finish a Chapter

This week's tip is to forge ahead and finish a chapter. Some chapters are easier to complete than others. Some have ending paragraphs and sentences with just the right amount of a hook or lead into the next chapter. But others slip off the page like wet noodles and land in a clump of narrative garb on the next, with no element of suspense, surprise or even serendipity. This will invariably leave the reader uninterested or frustrated and you, the author, confused as to why the story isn't coming together. So here's the run down: One, finish the chapter. Two, start the next chapter. Three, read the last page of said chapter and the first page of the next chapter to see if it makes sense to have a chapter break at that point. Four, make sure the ending of one chapter and the beginning of the next are seamless yet purposeful. Try picking up a pile of your favorite novels and read the beginning and ending pages of each chapter, looking for interesting patterns and clues. Take special note of the last paragraph, sentence, word and punctuation of a chapter in relation to the first word, sentence, paragraph and punctuation of the next. If, for some unexplained reason, your stomach starts to growl, it could be the pasta. Your best plan of action at this point is to douse the page with your favorite marinara or pesto sauce and shovel it in, with a resolve to start fresh tomorrow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Embrace the Editing Process

When I originally wrote the Author's ABC's I stated E was for "edit again". I have since added "embrace" because it gives that added umph to the challenge. As a writer, embrace means to open your eyes, your heart and your mind wide enough to recognize just how unpolished the manuscript may actually be. I met a well known novelist at a writers conference who said he personally edits each of his novels 30 times! I wondered if he was exaggerating, or perhaps obsessive. But eighteen months, fifteen complete edits, and 17,000 less words later, I think I'm beginning to understand. Or maybe I, too, have become obsessive about my work.

The Dichotomy of Deleting

D is for "delete at least one sentence from each page of your manuscript." I'm not talking about rewording or restructuring a sentence but actually getting rid of it, never to be a part of the story again. This simple exercise is a powerful way to begin the editing process. It allows the writer to emotionally step away from the page and let go of unnecessary fluff'n stuff. Read each sentence with the following questions in mind: Does this sentence move the story along? Is it vital to the scene? Does it have a definite purpose? If the answer is 'no' to any of these questions, consider striking the sentence. If the answer is 'no' to more than one of these questions, absolutely get rid of the sentence. Here's another hint: there are likely many more sentences that need to be deleted on that particular page! It may sound brutal but it's really quite liberating. The dichotomy is that we can ask these same questions about our life. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, what can we delete that will make our story more real, more believable, more true to our character?