Anonymous asked: This is an incredibly imperative question. I finished my first draft some months ago and I am starting back on my second draft. I have been trying for weeks, but I can’t bring myself to write all of the way, but I feel like it would be best to write important scenes in as my second draft, and on the final draft, use those scenes, re-write them, and thread them together with filler. Would that be okay or would it be best to write all of the way through?
You could try writing the major plot points first and then connecting them later. If it doesn’t work, then you could try writing straight through chronologically. I think both methods are valid.
What I disagree with here is the word filler. KeyboardSmashWriters has a great article on this word. I think you should read it. Basically, if any part of your story is filler, get rid of it. If you think it’s boring to write, your audience will likely think it’s boring to read.
You might also find these articles useful:
Thank you for your question! If you have any comments on this post or other questions about writing, you can message us here!
(read Part 1)
by This Crazy Industry (June 28, 2011)
A new commenter, Sym, in a comment to my long-ago post on How to Become an Editor, posed the following excellent question:
I’m also aware that editing is so much more than just taking care of sentence flow and typos at that level, but includes the need for an ability to look at the storyline itself and decide where it’s too drawn out, where it needs to be beefed up, which characters might need to be brought forward or pushed back more- all of which is most definitely my weak point. Plotting is my archnemesis, so to speak. And there are other skills, too, bits and pieces that maybe I’m not even aware existed. So I suppose my question is more- what’s the best way to learn these skills? Is it something that can be taught, and I just don’t know what class name they’re lurking behind? Or is it something that I ultimately will or won’t be able to do, simply because my brain doesn’t work properly?
Here’s the thing: it’s rare for one editor to do all that. Sym is absolutely correct that a good grasp of the mechanics of language at the sentence level does not always translate to an ability to grasp the mechanics and techniques that make a compelling story. This is why most publishing houses separate these functions.
by This Crazy Industry (March 26, 2005)
Because it comes up frequently in my various editorial forums, I’ve decided to put all the tips I have for breaking into the editorial profession in one place.
Disclaimer: Because there’s no single definable path to professional editorship, it’s entirely possible that none of these observations or tips apply to your situation. I’m writing from my experience. Please feel free to add your own in the comments.
I asked the same question, back when I was trying to figure out what to do with myself. I was sitting having a coffee with a friend who was a freelance editor, and asked her “So, if I were to want to become an editor, how would I go about it?”
She replied “Well, there’s no real way to become an editor. You do some editing, and eventually you hang out your shingle and say ‘I’m an editor!’ and people give you work.”
I didn’t find this at all reassuring. I wanted a clear path—something like “get a junior job at a publisher, and start off proofreading, or counting words, or something, and you’ll get to watch Real Editors at Work, and learn.” I still think it would be nice if it worked that way. I’m told in some cases it does. But for every editor I meet who found an entry-level job at a publisher, and followed a clear path, I meet at least a dozen others whose paths, like my friend’s, and like my own, weren’t that direct.
As I went about becoming an editor, I learned the truth behind what sounded like truly Belgian waffling to me when my friend said it: There’s no way a person becomes an editor. One simply decides that one is, and sets about doing it.
somedamngoodpancakes asked: Hi! I know you don’t normally answer fan mail, but I need to know if you have any lists of powerful words like Elysium, Guardian, ect. and if you had any place to direct me to a cheap editor on tumblr? Thanks!
As far as I know, we don’t have a list of powerful words anywhere. I’m not even really sure how to go about looking for/compiling something like that. Maybe these links will help:
As for cheap editors, I know of betas. Check out Finding a Beta Reader for more on that. Does anyone else want to chime in on the betas/cheap editors question?
Writers rarely like to revise, but revision is a reality of the writing process—and more important than the initial draft. Without revision, you can’t realize the true potential of the story you envisioned, and it will likely never be published. Here are seven self-editing questions to ask as you begin revising your short story or novel:
1. Where does the story really begin? Reread the first two to three pages of your story carefully. Where does the action start? A major fault with many first drafts (mine included!) is too much background material at the beginning, before the conflict is introduced and the characters finally take over the story.
In my case, I can almost bet that my story doesn’t really begin until about halfway down page 3, so out go the first two pages. If the material I have cut is essential for the reader to know, I find ways, through dialogue or my characters’ thoughts, to get the information to the reader later. The late additions are never as long as the original two and a half pages, and the story gains needed speed.
2. Is this adverb necessary? Chances are, if you are using a lot of adverbs, you are telling and not showing. Think about the character that has just won the lottery. Rather than have her yell “joyfully,” why not have her jump up and down screaming so loudly that her cat runs under the bed in terror, and it takes her 20 minutes to get it out? Maybe she runs to her closet and throws all of her old clothes in the garbage while blasting “If I Had a Million Dollars” on her CD player. Both of those pictures show how the character reacts instead of telling, and they are certainly livelier than the word “joyfully.”
3. Is this adjective doing its job? Look for empty adjectives and replace them. Instead of relying on “amazing,” “interesting,” “exciting,” “awful,” “ugly,” “beautiful,” “nice,” “scary” and other similar adjectives, use sensory details that bring to life what you are describing. Find places to get the readers’ senses working; it means you are making the story real for them.
4. Whose problem is it? Your main character has the primary problem at the center of your story, and your main character needs to solve it. Make sure that your protagonist remains the chief actor in the story and doesn’t become solely the reactor to another character’s influence. Sometimes, in longer pieces, characters other than your lead can nab your attention and your imagination; this can be especially true of villains and comic sidekicks. Be careful that these characters don’t become so charming that they threaten to steal the book from your hero or heroine.
5. Are the grammar and spelling perfect? Yes, I mean perfect. Your story will compete with a host of other stories, so don’t blow your chance with poor spelling and grammar. Of course, publishers have editors who will help polish your copy, but you need to show your best work up front.
6. Have I read my story aloud? One of your best proofreading tools is the sound of your own voice. Reading your story aloud is a great way to find awkward or incomplete sentences, clumsy phrasing, and inconsistencies in verb tenses and pronoun agreement. If you hesitate when you are reading, or if you have to reread a sentence or phrase, then you may need to rewrite that part of your story.
7. Have I applied the Stephen King rule? In Stephen King’s On Writing, he shows a before-and-after example of how editing can improve a story. His revision rule is:
2nd Draft = 1st Draft - 10%
We have a tendency, as writers, to believe that every word we write is precious, and we are reluctant to cut our material—after all, we remember how hard it was to get it down on paper. However, editing is about making our prose lean and exciting, and compelling the reader to turn the page. See what you can do with 10 percent fewer words.
Finally, consider revision a reward. Remember that if you are revising, you have finished a project—how neat is that? Try these seven questions to kick-start your editing and begin your pursuit of a great final product.
by Caroline McMillan
Like most newspaper reporters, I got into the biz because a) I love writing and b) I’m pretty good at it. But it’s a sobering profession. You file your masterpiece, only to find your editor thinks it’s two dozen “tinks” shy of publishable. Repeat this scenario a couple hundred times, and you’ll find you’ve grown some thick skin. You’ve also gotten pretty darn good at self-editing. So, I’m here to impart some wisdom on the art of quickly perfecting your own work—how to hone, trim, and morph clumsy words and phrases into a clear, concise message that will wow your audience.
It could be a company memo, a PowerPoint presentation, an email, or a report—but no matter the medium, these quick editing skills will always come in handy. Some other bonuses of good self-editing skills: People are less likely to misunderstand you, and bosses and peers will pay more attention to the meat of your message.
So here we go. Let’s say you’re working on a personal assessment for your annual performance review. You’ve written the first draft, but you want to make sure it’s in perfect condition before you submit it. Here’s your game plan:
In the article Less is More, I wrote that unnecessary words—pleonasms—should be omitted from sentences. Today I’d like to describe specific types of words to avoid.
While adjectives are often necessary, they are best avoided when possible. When you use the right verbs and nouns, adjectives becomes pleonasms — words that can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Consider, for example: “Trog polished his sword to a sparkling, bright gleam.” We could remove the adjectives “sparkling” and “bright” and simply write, “Trog polished his sword to a gleam.”
Often, adjectives can be removed by using the proper verb or noun. Consider the sentence, “Trog moved at a quick pace down the narrow street.” We could remove the adjectives “quick” and “narrow” and write, “Trog hurried down the alley.”
Adjectives are sometimes necessary. Whenever possible, I avoid them.
As with adjectives, adverbs are also best avoided when possible. Adverbs can be avoided by choosing a stronger verb. Instead of “said quietly”, write “whispered”. Instead of “ate ravenously”, write “devoured”.
Replacements for Said
I often find myself replacing “said” with verbs such as “growled”, “opined”, “shouted”, etc. I try to avoid this as much as possible. When used too much, these verbs not only become annoying, they interfere with our interpretation of the dialogue.
Consider the following bit of dialogue:
“I’m tired,” Alice complained.
“So go to bed,” Fred suggested.
“But I’m hungry!” Alice whined.
“So eat something,” Fred grumbled.
“But I don’t have any food,” Alice lamented.
I’ve seen some writers avoid “said” as if trying to impress us with their array of synonyms. These days, “said” is the preferred verb to use in dialogue; most editors will reject a manuscript which uses too many “said” alternatives. It’s almost always better to use “said”, a neutral verb, and let the dialogue itself convey the tone.
Giving critique can be just as daunting as receiving critique, but learning how to give feedback teaches writers how to read critically and identify issues and state them poignantly. This helps us look at our own stuff with a more critical eye and become better writers.
The key when starting out is to look at what other people say in their critiques, as this helps to sharpen the senses when reading critically. Sometimes certain issues are easy to identify, such as flow, consistency, transitions, and so forth. Some things are more conceptual or require a bit of deeper thought. Whatever the case may be, there’s going to be a definite learning curve.
Here are some tips on giving critique:
Ask what the writer is looking for. Some writers will want you to take an axe to what they wrote. Some writers will want you to critique the story and not the narrative. It depends on the writer and it depends on what stage of the revision process they’re on. If you’re on a forum or a writing website, the author may have prefaced their story with thoughts or questions, so make sure to check that out first.
Start out offering smaller critiques if you’re nervous. Writing forums and websites are perfect for this, and then you can see how other reviewers think about the same story/passage you read. It’s also helpful to pay attention to how the writer responds to their reviewers.
Don’t piggyback. At these writing communities, it’s easy to take whatever another reviewer said and say, “Yeah, that.” It’s fine to agree with other reviewers, because then the writer will know that more than one of their readers had the same issue, but it’s crucial that you think of something else to add.
Be positive, but don’t hold back. Unless a writer specifically says all they want is the cold, hard critique, then throw in comments about what you enjoyed. Positive reinforcement is a good thing, but don’t let that keep you from giving honest feedback. Holding back on your critique can only hurt the writer.
Be precise. “I didn’t like the way you said this.” That doesn’t help the writer. “The way you said this isn’t consistent with your character’s overall voice and here are some examples.” That can help the writer. State the issue you had and find concrete examples to support it.
Sometimes vague happens too. Sometimes something bothers us and we’re not sure what it is. All we can do is try to explain what our feelings are about a particular part of the story and how it didn’t work, but we can’t explain why. “I didn’t like how the characters interacted here.” That doesn’t help the writer. “I’m not sure why, but the way the characters interacted here didn’t feel natural because…” That might help the writer. Make sure you explain this as clearly as you can, because the writer might take it to another critique partner who’ll say, “Oh! I know why!”
Be objective. You’ll have your own personal preferences, especially when it comes to style. When you think you’re giving good critique, you might just be telling the writer to change their style so it’s more like your own. “I liked the way you described this, but I think it could be better if you did it THIS way instead.” Don’t do this.
You might have tics that aren’t necessarily wrong. I personally loathe the semicolon; to me, there’s nothing worse than a sentence that is both and neither something; I’ll work my magic to try and woo a writer against using it; ultimately, however, the decision is stylistic and completely up to the writer. Be aware of this, offer your suggestion, and don’t let yourself get frustrated or worked up by it.
Don’t be a jerk. No one likes a jerk. Sometimes you think you’re giving honest feedback that the writer needs to hear in order to become a better writer. You might not be. You might be phrasing your feedback so it sounds like, “I’m a better authority on this than you are, so I’m going to tell you that you did this particular thing totally wrong, and I’ll talk down to you as well.” This sort of tone sets up the writer to ignore any possible feedback you have to give, whether helpful or not.
Don’t be a jerk. So nice, you say it twice.
Make good on promises. Creative types don’t often work well with hard deadlines, but if you make a commitment, then you have to hold up your end. Know how you work and set realistic goals for yourself to read so much per day if you have to, but whatever you do, don’t wait until the writer comes to you like “???” and then shove all the reading into one night. You’re cheating the writer of the best critique you can give.
All critique is biased. Even yours. The writer might receive critique from someone else that completely contradicts some feedback that you gave. Fear not. You’ve done your job as fully and honestly as you could, and it’s up to the writer now.
(Also read tips on taking critique!)