Monday, August 15, 2016

Write Now! Series: Final Editing



 Write Now!

How to Write a Book in Your Spare Time, Even if You're Busy!

VII: Final Editing:

After the revisions have been made and you have checked your manuscript for foreshadowing, flashbacks, and the proper balance of dialogue and action, then you will move on to the final editing process. This is not to be confused with the preliminary editing we have discussed prior to this section. This section is dedicated solely to the final edits of your book. The final edit of your book is probably the most important step in publishing your book.

Proofread It Yourself:
You always want to put your best foot forward when first meeting someone in person. It’s no different with your writing. A book that is not edited properly will earn you lots of negative reviews, regardless of the content. You, not the editor, are the final gatekeeper of your manuscript. Therefore, before you send you book off to the publisher or editor, proofread it one more time.

Look for grammatical errors, smooth transitions, spelling errors, plot bunnies—I will discuss this in a bit—and the smooth flow of your book.

Once when I was reading an Amazon bestseller, I was reading the book and the heroine and the hero were in a room full of people. The very next paragraph they were doing unspeakable things to one another and the people in the room had suddenly disappeared. These are plot bunnies. Give your book a smooth flow and smooth transitions. Do not leave it to the imagination of the reader to know “what you meant to say”. This just will not work in novel writing. Once your book is published, you are a professional. So, make sure that your manuscript looks like it was written by one.

Also, check to make sure that your book isn’t rushed in places and isn’t lagging in other places. Your book must have a steady pace. As was stated before, I usually vacillate between an action scene and a downtime scene. Don’t get me wrong, the downtime scenes are just as important. This is when the feelings or character of your characters—essentially who they are—are revealed. Also, use downtime scenes for the characters to interact with each other.

Oftentimes, writers think that the action must stay heightened throughout the book. I once read a book written by a gifted, but inexperienced, writer who wrote like this. The story line was wonderful, but was filled with action scene after action scene. I advised him to add in down time.

Books such as these are very exhausting for the reader. And if the reader becomes exhausted, they will stop reading. Reading a book should be an adventure and a pleasurable experience for the reader, not a relay race from one scene to the next.

Also, writers often think that the editor will catch any mistakes. They are human, too, so make sure you catch as many mistakes as you can before sending it off to a good editor. As I said before, you are the final gatekeeper of your work. In fact, go over your book several times before sending it off to the editor—and after. Also, as I said before, make sure to read your manuscript on your Kindle, too.

Again, finding your Kindle e-mail address is easy. On Amazon, go to Your Account. Next, go to Manage Your Content and Devices. Click on Settings, and then scroll down to Personal Document Settings. The e-mail address here is your Kindle e-mail address, and will end in @kindle.com. Last, e-mail your manuscript to this address, and again, type convert in the subject line. It will then automatically convert it to EPUB format for you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make the Cuts!
I stated this before, but it’s worth stating it again. Do not be afraid to make cuts in your manuscript. Remember: if a scene doesn’t move the story forward, then it goes—no matter how masterfully written the scene is.

This is the hardest thing for new writers to do. New writers want to save every word that they write. However, don’t be afraid to let it go when you need to.

When I wrote my first book Cambria, the beginning was lagging in the original manuscript so I decided to condense the first five chapters into one chapter and got to the action quicker. The result was a much tighter, cleaner manuscript.

Again, as an unknown author, you have one chapter to grab the reader’s attention. If you don’t do this, the reader will close your book. Before sending your book off to an editor or publisher, make sure that you have introduced the characters, setting, and conflict up front in the first chapter. If your manuscript doesn’t grab the reader right away, then throw out the access baggage that is bogging it down. Start your book off in the action.

Have Your Book Professionally Edited:
Oftentimes, writers think that they can edit their own books themselves. This is so far from the truth. No one, not even professional authors, should do the final edits of his or her own books, even if they are professional editors. The reason is that no matter how good an editor you are, no one ever catches their own mistakes. For some unknown reason, we tend to overlook our own mistakes. However, the same person may be able to catch every flaw or plot bunny in someone else’s manuscript, but the same editor will never catch all of the mistakes in their own work.

So, invest in a good editor. This doesn’t mean that you must spend a fortune to have your book professionally edited. I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to have manuscripts edited in the past and they weren’t nearly as well edited as another editor I found who charged less. When looking for an editor, go with someone that you can afford that is good and that you feel comfortable working with. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample edit if you have never worked with that editor before.

Also, if an editor is trying to teach you how to write and not catching the mistakes and grammatical errors in your book, then find another editor. I once had this happen to me. I quickly found another editor and she actually did her job by catching the mistakes, including grammatical errors and plot bunnies, in my work. An editor is completely different than a teacher. A teacher teaches you how to write; an editor finds your mistakes in your writing and makes you a better writer.

When you get your manuscript back, don’t be afraid to ask your editor why certain corrections were made. A good editor will gladly tell you the rule that he or she followed, or will explain his or her reasoning to you. As a result, you will become a better writer.

Now days, many editors make “in-line edits”. This means that their edits will be in red within the manuscript or will be in parentheses. Go over the edits and if you agree with the edits, keep them. If you don’t agree with an edit, then don’t keep it. But before discarding an edit, ask the editor to explain it to you. Most likely, you will keep the edit when you are working with a good editor. But if you still don’t agree with the edit, then take it out. Again, no editor is perfect and you are the final gatekeeper of your manuscript.

However, working with a publisher is different. The publisher will have their in-house editor go over your manuscript, then the publisher will go over the edits with you. Once they give you back your final manuscript to peruse, go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and look for any corrections or edits that you can find.

It is important to note that finding corrections that need to be made is different than rewording. Do not just reword your manuscript. When authors do this continually, I write “Rewording” on the Revision Template and will not make the change. The time to rewrite your manuscript is during the Revision Stage, not during the Final Editing Stage.
Getting back to revisions, if the publisher agrees with the corrections that you wish to make, they will make the change. If they don’t, they will explain why. Keep in mind that when you work with a publisher, they have the final word. Never argue with a publisher; it’s bad form. Also, you don’t want to get a bad reputation with publishers. If you don’t work well with a publisher, they will not work with you again, no matter how good your book sells. After all, publishers know their craft and have been doing it for a long time and they have plenty of other manuscripts that they can publish instead of yours. So, don’t be hard to work with. If you have questions, a good editor or publisher will gladly explain why they did not make a certain correction or change. This brings me to the next section: publishing. 
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 Join me tomorrow when we talk about publishing. Happy writing!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Write Now Series! Add and Double Check Mechanisms

Write Now! 

How to Write a Book in Your Spare Time, Even if You're Busy! 

VI. Add and Double Check Mechanisms:

It’s important to know about adages and the correct way to use mechanisms in your writing. Here are just a few.

Show, Don’t Tell:
If you’re a writer—which you are or you wouldn’t be reading this book—then I’m sure you have heard the old adage, “Show, Don’t Tell” hundreds of times. However, many writers really don’t know what this means.

Mark Twain once said, “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” What Twain meant by this was to put the reader in the action through well-written dialogue and action.

When a writer tells what happened in the story, he or she is essentially drawing the curtain across the stage for the reader and then telling the reader what is happening behind the curtain. As a writer, we must pull the curtain away and let the reader experience the action for themselves.

That isn’t to say that every scene must be verbally illustrated for the reader. But if a scene is important to the action, then, yes, it must be illustrated, so much so that the reader can experience it for themselves.

Here’s an example. You can tell the reader that a teenage girl, who cares for her younger brothers and sisters, comes home after work and rocks her younger sister to sleep. But, instead, show the girl walking in and the little sister crawls into her lap, then end the scene with her rocking the baby and forth in the firelight while singing to her until she falls asleep. The second is much more powerful and gets the message across to the reader with clarity.

Don’t rob the reader of the opportunity of experiencing your book, or your world, for themselves. Show the action with descriptive details and dialog. So, break down the door for the reader and bring him or her into your world to experience it for themselves.

My wonderful editor, Genevieve Scholl, brought up a valid point. She often tells writers, “Don’t write as if you are compiling a list of events. Write as if the events are happening right then and there. A book is not a grocery list.”

This is so true. Never list events in order, once after the other. Instead, the story line should go up and down, connecting the dots—or points—along the way. Never stick to just your main points in a straight line. Be true to your characters and let them lead you on the adventure that is your book. As life is not a straight forward, go from Point A to Point B existence, neither should be your book’s plot.

Flashbacks:
Flashbacks—showing action that already happened in the lives of your characters—should be used sparingly. When used, it should be clear to the reader that they are now going back in time with the character. However, make sure that the flashback is relevant to the story and moves the story forward. For that reason, flashbacks can be an effective writing mechanism when used correctly.

If the villain of the story is from the character’s past, then it’s necessary to go back to that time and show the reader why that person became the present-day villain. Keep in mind that not everyone is completely bad or completely good. Even a villain has a reason why he or she is after the protagonist, etc. In this case, it’s necessary to show the reader why. Just telling the reader that the protagonist had involuntarily offended the antagonist—villain—isn’t as good as going back in time to show what happened. Then, make it clear that the reader is now going back to the present. However, when they arrive they will have a better understanding of both the villain and the hero’s motives.

Here’s an example. In a vampire-fantasy, there is an evil vampire after the hero. However, the reason why is that the hero slept with his wife years before, even though she had seduced him. The hero lost his best friend in the process, which he always regretted.

In this case, the reader has a better understanding of the villain and the hero. The antagonist—villain—must have a reason why he or she is after the hero. Is the villain wanting to blow up the world and is the protagonist standing in the way, such as in the Die Hard franchise? A flashback of the villain’s brother being killed in Iraq by an American soldier could explain his motivation. Is the protagonist afraid of water? A flashback of a near drowning accident as a child could explain it to the reader.

But whenever the flashback is used, make it relevant to the story. It’s not necessary to show the reader every detail of the protagonist’s childhood. But showing the seventh birthday party of the protagonist in the movie Project Almanac was relevant to the story, hence, moving the story forward. In present day when the protagonist sees an image of himself as a teenager in his dead father’s old VHS recorder, the protagonist understands that time travel was possible. So, yes, a flashback to the protagonist’s seventh birthday party moved the story forward.

As I said before—and, yes, it should be restated—flashbacks should be used sparingly. This said, I once read a manuscript that was submitted to my publishing company and that was riddled with flashbacks, one after the other in a short time frame. Needless to say, I closed the manuscript and never finished it. I couldn’t see how the story was moving forward. In fact, if the past was that relevant to the story, then the story should have started in the past, say eight years ago to show the event, and then jump in one swoop to the present day. It would have been a much better read and much less confusing for the reader. In this way, beginning the story with the subheading “Eight Years Ago” in italics and then a few chapters later “Present Day” is, indeed, hence, moving the story forward. It’s also much less confusing to the reader. But the continual use of flashbacks, one right after the other, never works. Flashbacks should be used sparingly and with purpose.

Also, the use of too many flashbacks gives the reader the illusion of living in the past. Always, always, always keep the story moving forward. In the example from the movie Project Almanac, the flashback was necessary and definitely moved the story forward. After all, if the protagonist sees himself at an event in the past, doesn’t that mean that time travel is possible? In any event, this flashback has one purpose—moving the story forward.

Foreshadowing:
On the other end of the spectrum, foreshadowing is the art of giving the reader subtle hints of events that will unfold later in the book. Foreshadowing can be done as you write the book or can be added in during the revision process after the first draft of the manuscript is finished.

But foreshadowing should be subtle and used sparingly. Foreshadowing can be just dropping small hints to the reader along the way or it can be a bit bigger, but it should always be subtle.

In my book Cambria, I used a reoccurring dream of the protagonist that changes a little each time that he has it to foreshadow events to come later in the book. This form of foreshadowing is more pronounced but is still foreshadowing and is effective.

Conversely, saying that the protagonist is afraid of water adds more impact later in the story when she jumps in and saves her best friend.

Also, foreshadowing events to come will keep the reader guessing as to what it means or what will happen. Good foreshadowing should be so subtle within the manuscript that the reader ends up saying, “So, that’s why that happened!”

Keeping the reader guessing will keep the reading right where you want them—reading your story. Horror films do this all the time. The scary music cues and the protagonist comes around the corner and … a cat jumps on her. Then, she turns around and the villain grabs her from behind and shoves a knife to her throat. You knew something was going to happen, but you didn’t know when. This was done well in the original Terminator movie. Sarah Conner is in the kitchen, the music plays, and an iguana jumps on her. Later in the movie, after Sarah leaves her apartment, her best friend is listening to her headphones while the Terminator is obliterating her boyfriend in the other room. She dances down the hallway toward the bedroom, none the wiser, until her boyfriend is thrown through the bedroom door right in front of her.

The whole time the girl is fixing her sandwich and dancing down the hallway wearing her headphones, the audience is saying, “No! Don’t go back to the room! Take your headphones off! Run!” This keeps the viewers on the edges of their seats.

Then, later in the movie when the Terminator and Kyle Reese see Sarah in the bar, the viewer has no idea which one is after her and which is going to save her until the action explodes—literally. This is the way Sarah Conner felt—and the viewer did, too, right along with her. James Cameron did a great job of bringing the viewer into the movie along with the protagonist. The viewer isn’t just watching the movie; the viewer is experiencing it themselves.

This is the way it should be in your books, too. Keep the reader guessing. Foreshadow, but don’t give away too much until it’s necessary for the reader to know. In real life, the hero has no clue of what’s happening until the events unfold. This is also how you should write. Treat the reader as on a need-to-know basis. After all, if the reader knows everything that will happen in the book before he or she reads it, why should they keep reading?

Equal Amounts of Dialogue and Action:
I recently read a manuscript that had a good story, but it primarily consisted of dialogue. This makes a manuscript flat, as well. What’s more interesting? Example A or B?

Example A:
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“What’s the matter? Didn’t you miss me?”

Example B:
“What’s the matter?” he asked as he flung his suit coat over a nearby chair.
She raised an eyebrow as she pushed out her lower lip into a seductive pout. When she slinked across the room, the silk fabric of her dress shimmered in the dim light with every calculated movement. She ran one of her long, red fingernails across the thin fabric of his white linen dress shirt. “What’s the matter? Didn’t you miss me?”

As you can see, Example B is much more interesting and reveals much more of the scene to the reader. It also reveals the characters themselves. In real life, people get meaning not only from what people say, but also from their actions or subtle facial expressions. These should be included in your writing, too. Not to include action within your writing is essentially robbing the reader of experiencing the world of your book.

Also, the actions of the characters can easily reveal their personality and motives, as well. In the above example, the reader will sense that the woman is up to no good or will make the effort to seduce the male hero. This is made clear through her actions, not through the dialogue.

Conversely, having too much action and not enough dialogue is problematic, as well. To tell the reader that the hero of your story enjoyed the banter as they sped down the expressway in her partner’s Porsche is not the same as actually experiencing “hearing” the banter for themselves. This is also a great way to develop the relationship between two characters.

Remember: everything that happens in your book must be for a reason and to move the story forward. And, yes, the characters must go from Point A to Point B in the story, so why not add some dialogue as they are driving? Just like you may banter in the car with your friend or partner in real life, you must have your characters do this in your novel, as well. But remember to show an equal amount of dialogue and action. This makes for well-rounded characters and a believable story, too.
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Join me Monday as my Write Now! Series continues! Also post your success stories in the comments below! 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Write Now! Series: The Writing Process

Write Now! 

How to Write a Book in Your Spare Time, Even if You're Busy! 

V. The Writing Process:

I know that this seems like an old adage, but it’s so important to know the writing process. In order to make your novel the best it can be, the writing process must be followed. Some writers just write their book and publish it right away … and it shows. Writing your book is just the beginning. Then, the real work starts.

Here are the steps in the writing process and what each step entails:

1. Pre-Write:
This stage is for brainstorming your book. Whether you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, or an in-depth planner, this stage is for igniting your creativity and planning your book. Actually, I’ve written books both ways and they both work. But whether or not I actually write it down, I always have an outline in my mind or on paper.

However, when I write a nonfiction book, I plan, plan, plan and create a mind map with Click Charts prior to writing. It makes the writing process go so much smoother. By using Click Charts, you can brainstorm prior to writing, adding to your mind map when you think of something and planning out your book. If you haven’t used it, it’s a wonderful tool.

But when writing fiction—which this book is dedicated to—I write either a paragraph outline or a points outline. You can also create a Mind Map with Click Charts, too, capturing the main points, or events, that will occur in your book. But don’t worry if you don’t know every little detail that will happen when you first sit down to write. Usually, I know the main points that will happen in my book—say about six. But what makes writing wonderful is the process of connecting the dots when you write, connecting the important points into a cohesive novel.

But if you are an intensive planner, use your pre-write as a guide. Remember that writing should flow and is in no way rigid. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your pre-write or add to it, as long as it keeps you on track while you write. But no matter which method you choose to organize your thoughts, make sure that you know your characters, your setting, the conflict, and that you can see the world that you have created clearly within your mind before you begin to write. But don’t worry. If your characters aren’t fully alive to you when you first sit down to write, you will flesh them out as you write. During the writing process, your characters will reveal themselves to you, coming alive on paper. In college, one of my professors once commented, “Theresa, your characters are real people to you, aren’t they?”

My response? “Yes! Of course they are!”

They will come alive for you, too.

*NOTE:  I have included a character creation guide, a story map, an example of a paragraph outline, an example of a points outline, and an example of a chapter outline at the back of this book under Appendix. I have also included a Mind Map of this book as an example of what you can do with Click Charts.

OUTLINING: Outlining is an important step in the writing process. When writing novels, I find that using a scene-by-scene outline helps me to stay focused, and helps my writing to go much quicker, too. With an outline, you don't have to stare at a blank computer screen, trying to think of what you will write. With an outline, you know what you will write and when. 

But if a brilliant idea hits you while you're writing, don't be afraid to deviate from your outline a bit. Use your outline for what it was intended for: a guide. 

For outlining novels, I use yWriter. It's an absolutely wonderful writing tool that I use for outlining only that helps me to stay focused and organized in my writing. It can help you, too. You can write in yWriter, as well, but I continue to write in Microsoft Word and use yWriter to outline only. It works really well, my writing is focused, and I'm able to write more. 


2. First Draft:
This is when you write the first copy of your book. When you finish, it’s your first draft. And if you’ve followed the steps I’ve outlined so far, it will be great! During this stage, take your time writing your book, but don’t worry about making it perfect. Just get it down on paper during this stage and enjoy the process. Take off your Perfectionist Cap until later. This stage is for writing and creating! Enjoy it!

As you write, make sure to follow your pre-write frame, even if it’s a mental outline. Use it as a guide, but do not be governed by it. When a great idea strikes you while writing, don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan. But, then again, don’t go so far off your plan that you lose your way. When writing, it’s very easy to go off track. Make sure to stay focused on your basic plot, and then connect the dots along the way, which brings me to my next point—connecting the dots.

As I said before, when I start to write a book, I know the main points that will happen at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. But it is in connecting the dots when writing—writing scenes that tie the plot points together—that makes writing wonderful. Make sure the scenes connect together until all of your plot points are connected into a cohesive, well-written novel.

Also, let the characters lead the way, but to a point. Sometimes, characters can get bossy and want to take over your story. Let their actions lead the story, but to a point. The writer must stay in control of the story.

But be open to creativity! If a great idea strikes you while writing your book, then include it. You can always take the scene out or move it around later to ensure that it moves the plot forward. The most important thing to do when writing your book is to enjoy writing! Give yourself over to your creativity at this stage of the writing process. After all, this is why we write, right?

It’s important to note that there should be an equal amount of dialogue and action in your book, too. Make sure that the story is revealed through dialogue and action. Do not tell your story, show it. As the old adage says, “Show, Don’t Tell”. When taking a writing course, an instructor told me that when the writer tells the reader the action, it’s as if the writer pulled the curtain across the stage, blocking the reader from “seeing” for themselves what is happening within the story. Pull back the curtain and allow the reader to experience the book by writing compelling dialogue and action that grabs the reader and won’t let go until the satisfying end.

Also when writing dialogue, action can be used instead of the attribution—in essence, who says what. Use action to tell who is about to speak, and then write the dialogue. It’s much more effective than filling up your manuscript with a lot of “he said”, “she said”. Here’s an example:

Sam walked into the room and moved the blinds aside before turning to the platinum blonde woman sitting at the table. “What are you doing here?”

Use action to set up the scene, making it clear who is speaking. Then, an attribution isn’t needed. However, that’s not to say that an attribution is never needed. But a good mix makes the writing flow better and the manuscript becomes less bogged down.

3. Revise, Rewrite, Rearrange, Delete:
Yes, as the title of this section states, this is the revision stage. But this stage is much more than just revising.

Okay, now it’s time to take off your Creativity Cap and put on your Revision Cap. Now, it’s time to look at your first draft with a critical eye. Reread your manuscript to make sure that the story flows, complete with transitions that lead the story from one scene to another while moving the plot forward.

Which brings me to my next point—deleting. Oftentimes, new writers fall so completely in love with his or her writing that they don’t want to let go of their own words. But it’s actually quite liberating to delete a scene that isn’t working. But if it’s the most spectacular scene ever written to mankind, then save it for later. Who knows? Maybe you can add it back to a place within your book where it will move the story forward. While you are wearing your Revision Cap, if a scene doesn’t move the story forward, it goes. Look at your story with a critical eye as if you were the reader seeing it for the first time. Put your ego aside and take yourself out of it. This is about the story and making it the best that it can be.

As writers, we give birth to our books and want what is best for them as they grow. Just as you wouldn’t stand in the way of your child developing and growing, do not stand in the way of your manuscript. Allow it to grow and become the best that it can be. It’s your baby, after all.

Also, rearrange scenes when needed. Again, during this stage, read your manuscript with a critical eye. If a scene would work better in another place to better tell the story and to move the story forward, then rearrange it. Don’t be afraid to place the scene in another place in the manuscript for better effect. Again, take yourself out of it; your manuscript is not a part of you … well, technically, although our manuscripts definitely become a part of us and our characters live within us. But, for now, put that aside. During this stage, be ruthless: cut what needs to be cut, rearrange what needs to be moved, and rewrite scenes that need to be rewritten. Does a scene need more dialogue? More action? Then rewrite it.

Conversely, if more is needed to flesh out the story, then add it. Don’t be afraid to add or flesh out a scene when needed, but don’t add fluff. Again, stick to the adage that if a scene doesn’t move the story forward, then it goes. The same is true when adding scenes: if it doesn’t contribute to the story, move it forward, or work to develop a character, then don’t add it.

However, if when you are reading a scene, if it seems flat, then flesh it out. Fleshing out a scene is adding action and dialogue to a scene to make it more rounded, more real. Just as characters can be flat, scenes can be flat, as well. Make sure that your story is just as rich and full as your vision for it.

IV. Edit:
This is one of the most important aspects of writing—editing. I’ve seen it too many times that a writer finishes his or her work and then sends it straight off to the publisher. Yikes! When you finish writing and revising your work, go over it once more with your Editor Cap on this time. Of course, these are not your final edits. That will be discussed in a later section. In fact, the final edits are so important that it warrants a section of its own.

This is your preliminary editing. During this bout of editing, go through your manuscript with a critical eye. This is not the same as revising. When editing, look for grammatical errors, misspellings … technical errors. Don’t worry; no one catches all of their own mistakes. In fact, no one should do the final edits of one’s own work, but looking at your manuscript with a critical eye and doing the primary edits is a must. In fact, many publishers will get annoyed if there are too many simple errors, will close the manuscript right away, and will send you a rejection notice. Also, books that have not been edited correctly are oftentimes hard to get through and the story can become lost.

As for grammar, when in doubt, go to the Internet. There have been many times when I have logged in two phrases with “or” between them and a question mark at the end, and my question is immediately answered. Here’s an example: shutter or shudder? When you log this in on the Internet, the correct definition of each is given. So, when in doubt, log your question into the Internet and an immediate answer will be provided.

Here are a few other good books that I use frequently when I have questions. The first is Harbrace College Handbook. If you don’t buy any other book for yourself, buy this one. I assure you that any and all grammatical questions you have will be answered in the pages of this wonderful reference book. Two more that are great and that I use frequently are The Copyeditor’s Handbook, and The Associated Press Stylebook (AP Stylebook).

It’s important to note that the AP Stylebook is a book primarily used by journalists, but when you have a grammatical question, the answer will be provided within this book. Keep in mind that the rules of journalism and novel writing differ in subtle ways. But when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the AP Stylebook.

After you have edited your book, then send it to your Kindle app and look for more mistakes. An author friend of mine does this all the time and now I do, too. You would be surprised at the amount of mistakes that you will find. There is something about seeing it on the Kindle app that makes the mistakes stand out. Then, you can make the corrections on the computer as you go. By the way, you can download the free Kindle app to your phone or computer.

Downloading to the Kindle app is very easy. First, go to Amazon and click on Your Account. Then, click on Manage Your Content and Devices. Next, go to Settings. Scroll down to Approved Personal Document E-mail List and add your personal e-mail to it. Next, scroll up to Send-to-Kindle E-Mail Settings. The e-mail address there is your Kindle device e-mail address. It will end in @kindle.com.
When you e-mail your book to your Kindle app from your personal e-mail account, type convert in the subject line and it will automatically format it to the EPUB format for use on your Kindle app.

V. Final Draft:
After you have completed the edits and revisions of your manuscript and have buffed and polished, then it’s time to write our final manuscript. However, if you have written and made changes to your manuscript on your computer, your final manuscript will be completed once you have made your last edit.

However, there is a professional way to format your manuscript which will make you look professional to a publisher. In today’s highly-competitive world, you want to put your best foot forward when sending your manuscript to a publisher or an editor. In the writing world, take every edge that you can to get your manuscript read.

The first page of your manuscript should include your contact information, approximate word count, the genre of your book, the audience for whom your manuscript is intended, and the name of your book in all caps and bolded in the center of the page. Begin the first chapter of your manuscript on the next page, with a page count in the top left hand corner. Also, your manuscript should be double spaced with a .3 paragraph indent.

A good rule is to check the submission requirements of the publisher that you intend to send your work to prior to sending it. Publishers always have their submission requirements posted on their Web sites. Check this and format it as they ask. If your book is not formatted properly, then the publisher will think that you just didn’t want to bother with checking their requirements. This won’t make a good first impression.

An example of the way your book should be formatted is at the end of this book under Appendix.
After your final draft is complete, then look over it one more time to check for errors. The more you go over it prior to sending it off, the better. Again, no one can do the final edits of their own book, but you want to put your best foot forward and try to catch as many as you can prior to sending it off to the editor.

There is a New York Times bestselling author that I know. I love her books, but her book is not professionally formatted and have not been professionally edited, which takes away from the book. I guess she thought that since her undergrad degree was in Journalism that she could edit her own work … but she was wrong. Do not fall into the pit of thinking that you are such a great writer that there is no need to send your book off to an editor. In fact, even Stephen King has had the same fabulous editor for years. There will be more about publishing and professional editors later, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for your book to be edit free before sending it to your publisher.


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Join me tomorrow as the Write Now! Series continues! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Write Now! Series: Write Your Book

Write Now! 

How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time, Even if You're Busy! 

IV. Write Your Book:

Now that you have your writing time, your writing plan, and writing goal, it’s time to do none other than write! (Surprising, right?) But seriously, now it’s time to focus on the content of your book. Yes, the above is all very important, but if your book isn’t compelling or structured correctly, it won’t sell.


When I first started teaching, I taught middle school. Teaching narrative writing to my students forced me to take a good look at the writing process and content. After all, in order to teach writing, I needed to research how best to do it through—yes, again—digestible bites, which brings me to Freytag’s Plot Pyramid.

Freytag’s Plot Pyramid:
I stumbled across Freytag’s Plot Pyramid while researching the best ways to teach my students how to write. It’s the best and simplest way to teach students how to master writing the short story. The same diagram is used to write novels. After all, they both have the same elements. Novel writing is just longer. Keep in mind that the same elements of writing are used when writing both short stories and full-length novels. But when writing novels, you have one chapter to grab the reader’s attention, whereas in a short story, you only have just a few paragraphs.

When I found Freytag’s Plot Pyramid, I added a few more things. Then, my narrative writing structure was complete.


Here is Freytag’s Plot Pyramid with my additions:
Exposition/Introduction: In the introduction, you introduce your characters, setting, and conflict. Hit the ground running! (More about that later.)

Conflict: There are many types of conflict. In fact, I could write a whole section—or book—on conflict alone. But in essence, conflict is a problem for the protagonist within the story.

Rising Action: This is the stage when events happen that forces the protagonist, or main character, to change a little at a time. Something happens that creates tension, then something else happens, etc.

Climax: When events happen one after the other, it creates tension. The climax is when the tension is so great that a change must happen. The climax is the turning point in the story that causes the protagonist to change.

Falling Action: After the climax, there is no more conflict and no story, so the story must end. Falling action is when the loose ends of the main plot and/or subplots are tied up.

Resolution: The resolution of the story is just as it sounds—how the conflict is resolved.

Denouement: This is the end of the story. What happens to the protagonist? Does he or she live happily ever after? Do they go their separate ways, never to see one another again? This is the denouement.

As you can see above, I’ve added “Conflict” and “Resolution” to Freytag’s model. The conflict is perhaps the most important thing in a story. For without the conflict, there is no story. Also, once the conflict is resolved, there is no more story. After the conflict, start wrapping up the loose ends of the story.

It’s important to note that Freytag stated that three-fourths of the action happens on the left side of the pyramid; whereas, only one-fourth of the action happens on the right.

Another element that I added was the resolution. This is different than the denouement. The resolution is how the conflict is resolved. The denouement is how the story ends. Therefore, I felt that it was important to add the resolution, as well.

Hit the Ground Running:
Yes, this is a strange subheading for a writing book, so let me explain.

Often times, writers feel that they need to tell the character’s whole life story, or back story, in the first chapters of his or her book. In fact, several famous authors do this. One very famous author in particular writes wonderful books, but she used to spend the first five chapters on back story. If you could make it through these chapters, then the story was great. However, the story didn’t actually start until the fifth chapter! Now, she spends the first three chapters on back story, but it’s still a lot to wade through. But when you’re a famous author, you have the luxury. Writers still making a name for themselves do not have the same luxury.

In reality, you risk losing the reader if you don’t hit the ground running right away. A good writer will start the story in the action. Introduce the characters, conflict, and setting right away in the first chapter. Then, tell any back story as you go along on a need-to-know basis. The reader doesn’t need to know every detail that happened in the five years after the protagonist’s wife left him for another man, or that he has spent every weekend of the five years since she left eating ice cream straight from the tub. Boring! Instead, start the action off with the protagonist running into his future love in a chance passing at an elevator. He notices her, and then in the elevator he remembers that his wife left him for another man and that he spent most nights drowning his sorrows in a tub of ice cream. But get the action going right away.

I just read a book that did just that—started off right in the action, The Wind Guardian, by: Frank Scozzari. The author grabbed the attention of the reader right from the beginning and didn’t let go until the end. The book opens with a couple rolling in the hay. He watches the clock, preparing mentally for a visitor while thinking of going to work at his regular job in a nuclear power plant. However, there is a knock on the door early. He dresses as he heads toward the door. When he opens it, he recognizes the man, but it isn’t who he expects. He greets him, asking him, “What’s up?” And then he gets blown away—literally. Talk about grabbing the reader’s attention! As the story unfolds, Scozzari gives information to the reader on a need-to-know basis. You should, too.

My undergrad degree is in Communications, News Editorial sequence. When writing newspaper articles, the writer has just one paragraph or two to grab the reader’s attention. When writing a novel, we have just one chapter. If the action doesn’t start right away, and if the characters, conflict, and setting aren’t introduced right away, the reader will most likely move on to the next book. Therefore, you have one chapter to grab the reader’s attention … and keep it.

Cliffhangers:
Another way to keep the reader reading is to use minor cliffhangers. As I said, use minor cliffhangers. This doesn’t mean to literally leave your protagonist dangling off a cliff at the end of every chapter. No, just one sentence will do.

At the end of each chapter, just a one or two line cliffhanger to keep the reader turning the page. The art of the minor cliffhanger is not using major cliffhangers all the way through the book. Again, just one line will be fine to keep the reader turning the page.

Again, most writers don’t have the luxury of procrastinating. So, grab the reader’s attention right away and don’t let go. Then, keep the reader turning the page until the satisfying end. Using minor cliffhangers in your story will do just that.

Write a Compelling Beginning, Middle, and End:
When writing your novel, it’s important that you write a compelling beginning, middle, and end. Yes, it sounds very basic, but you would be surprised. The worst thing you could do is to have a great, compelling beginning of your book that loses steam halfway through. Believe me, in this case, the reader will quickly move on to the next novel. Although I don’t agree with it, Amazon was smart to start paying people by the number of pages read on Kindle Unlimited. You would be surprised of the amount of books that lose steam hallway through. In fact, some authors put their best in the beginning and at the end of their books. However, if you want to write a great novel that will keep the reader turning the page, the middle of a novel is just as important.

But if you follow Freytag’s Plot Pyramid, creating rising action that creates tension and builds throughout the novel, the reader will be so enthralled that they won’t be able to put your book down.
Also, if you build up to a dynamic fight scene, then make sure you give the reader their money’s worth. Give them a fight scene they will remember. When editing books for other authors, I’ve seen this more than once. There is a great buildup in the novel and then the fight scene is a letdown. In these cases, I work with the author to create the best fight scene imaginable. One famous author and book franchise did the same thing. There was a great buildup to a fight scene and then they talked it out. It was a big letdown to a lot of readers.

When creating fight scenes or love scenes, slow down the action within your mind so you can write the scene effectively. What is happening? What do you see, feel, or hear? What is the protagonist feeling, seeing, or hearing? Include as many descriptive details, filled with color and life as you can and the reader will not be disappointed.

Also, some authors feel that the action must be elevated throughout the whole book. These books are exhausting to read. A good adage to maintain when writing is to have action followed by a bit of down time, and then more action followed by a bit of downtime again. Alternating the action and downtime will give the reader the opportunity to catch their breath and savor the book before the whirlwind action begins again.

It’s important to note that “downtime” does not mean “boring” by no means. Here’s an example. In my book Thou Shalt Not Kill—a book about teens and war—there was a scene where the main characters went to their school at night and stole some supplies after the attack on their school.

Of course, it wasn’t easy for the characters and there was action. However, when they all got back to the cave safely, one of them had grabbed tubs of ice cream, so they passed out spoons and dug in, having a moment of camaraderie. This allowed the reader to see the teens being teens, and allowed the characters to bond, as well. In the process, the reader was able to catch their breath before the action started again.


Downtime also allows the reader to see the inner turmoil of the main characters, too, avoiding the danger of becoming flat characters. Make sure that your characters—both the main characters and secondary characters—are well developed. Giving the characters little quirks can make them seem more real. Just as no human is perfect, no character should be perfect, either. Creating characters that are too perfect will result in unbelievable, flat characters. 
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Join me tomorrow as the Write Now! Series continues!