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Editing

It’s time for me to start editing my NaNoWriMo project, Dragons At Dawn. I have put it off until now on purpose, because I wanted to get some distance from the first draft. It has been two months now since I wrote it so hopefully I’ll be able to look at it more objectively. I have also been thinking about it a bit over the last two months, and I think I know how the story can be improved. It is also one of my ROW80 goals and we’re already past day 30 so I had better get started.

This is my first attempt at editing. I’m not really sure what to do, so I’m kind of making it up as I go along. Here are some of the things that I have done or am planning to do.

  • Ask other people to read the story and critique it. Done. I have given the story to most of my family as well as four friends. Most of them liked the story, and at least one of them had some worthwhile criticism that I can use to improve certain scenes. Other comments were on my writing style, and will be useful to help me improve my craft.
  • Break down the story. In process. I have started a new Scrivener project and copied the first draft into it. I had previously broken down the story into chapters. They are now organized into individual days and I will go from there to break out each individual scene.
  • Describe the scenes. To do. Once the scenes are sorted I will go through each one and make notes about what each scene is about, what characters are involved, and the setting.
  • Break down the plot and subplots. To do. Once I have a better picture of the individual scenes I should be able to examine the main plot and fill any holes. The same applies for any subplots.
  • Trim the fat and fill the gaps. To do. After I dissect the scenes and plots I should be able to identify which scenes aren’t needed and what holes need to be plugged. I can cut the scenes that don’t work and plan new scenes where necessary.
  • Flesh out the characters. To do. Once I have identified all the characters in the story I want to go through and make detailed notes about each of the characters, describing not only their physical traits but their personalities as well. This will make it easier for me to bring them to life for the reader.
  • Detail the settings. To do. As with the characters, I need to bring more detail to the settings. Once again, this will make it easier for the reader to lose themselves in my world.
  • Edit each scene. To do. I will need to go over every scene individually and rewrite it as needed. I will use the notes I have made on the plots, characters, and settings to add detail and description to each scene. I am guessing that I should add at least 20,000 words before I finish. Possibly more.

So that’s what I have planned. Please comment with any tips you have on editing. I am especially interested in knowing if you have any books on the subject that you recommend. Wish me luck!

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Finding Your Story

I have said before that the best reason for you to become a writer is because you have a story that demands to be told. But what do you do if that isn’t the case? What if you suffer from the dreaded writer’s block? I have always felt that I had a story that needed to be told. The problem was that I didn’t know what it was. Sometimes I still don’t, but I write anyway.

I only recently started writing seriously. I loved to read, and wanted to write, but I didn’t think I had a decent plot idea. I would read tons of books and love the stories of others, but then I would think that either my idea had already been done, or it wasn’t nearly as good as someone elses. It’s pretty easy to see how this type of thinking makes it impossible to be productive.

When I started writing I still thought that the plot wasn’t very good. But it was a plot, and I had made a commitment for NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words, so I started writing anyway. And as I wrote, I found that the story started to take on a life of its own. Things started happening in the story that I hadn’t thought of before. And I started thinking of other ways that I could have started the story that might have been better. As I look at the completed first draft now, I know that the story is good. It just needs a bit of polish before it can be published.

When I started my second story I was only thinking that I wanted to do a paranormal romance. It took a while before I figured out what the “paranormal” part of the romance was going to be. But once I did it was a bit easier to come up with the rest of the story. The very nature of the character determined most of the story. I even had the ending figured out before I was even halfway through. Now all I have to do is fill in the middle.

I am currently working on a Young Adult novel that I started for the sole purpose of having something to write on Sundays. My only thought was that it should be spiritual. Something that reflected my faith. I have now written over a thousand words of this story, and I still have no idea what it is about. I am constantly asking myself, “What am I doing?”

So how do I answer this question? How can you push past the uncertainty and self-doubt to find your story?

The best advice I have read about writing is that the best way to be a writer is to write. Write something every day, even if you don’t have anything to write about. If nothing else, it is a good way to hone your skills until you do find that story. Sometimes your characters will start to tell you their story on their own.

The other thing to remember is that stories are everywhere. You can find a story watching television, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, watching your neighbors, parking your car, at work (it doesn’t matter what the job is), literally everywhere. Eavesdropping is fun. A great way to find a story is to listen to only half of a conversation, because then you can make up the other half of the story on your own. When you see someone on the street, you don’t need to know what they are doing or where they are going, you can make it up yourself.

So what am I going to do about my YA novel? I am going to keep writing. I am going to keep thinking about my characters and eventually they will tell me their story. I know it’s a good one, and I can hardly wait to find out what it is.

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Writing a Series

One of the questions that I have had to deal with is trying to decide whether or not my story is worthy of being a series. Most of the books I read are part of a series, and it is really tempting to think that maybe I could write a series too. So let’s discuss this a bit. What makes a good series? What makes people pick up not just one book, but several? In a row? There are really only two reasons to write a series.

  1. Story. There are a lot of stories out there that are just too big for one book. Examples of this that I have enjoyed include Harry Potter by J K Rowling, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan, Sabina Kane by Jaye Wells, and Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. If you have a large, complicated story then you might want to consider breaking it up into a series. The number of books all depends on how big your story is. There are many series that are three books (a trilogy), but you can always use more if needed. Harry Potter had seven volumes, and L Ron Hubbard once wrote a series that had ten volumes.
  2. Characters. Some stories are only enough for a single book, but the characters in the book have more stories to tell. Examples of this that I like are Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich, Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane, and Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher. Sometimes you might think that you only have one story to tell, but if people love the character you might try to write a follow-up. Just try to remember that you can’t force it. Trying to force your character into a story that he doesn’t want to be in is not going to be any good for you as an author or anyone trying to read it.

It can be easier to sell a series to a publisher, as they are just as eager to have more than one book to sell to your fans. However, this can make it even harder for the author. Story based series will have to be able to keep the plot going over several books, with the readers eager to find out what happens next. Character based series can be even harder because the reader will have to love the character, and they will expect a level of growth from the character between the books.

I would love to write a series, but I’m not sure if I should. When I first started writing Dragons at Dawn I was thinking that it might be a good story for a trilogy. I still think it has the potential, but certainly not as it was originally written. I am writing Finding Valhalla as a one shot book, but as the story develops I keep thinking that maybe it is going to be too big for one book. I don’t think the heroine would be used for a sequel, but I could definitely see writing about a different Valkyrie at some point in the future.

Please leave a comment about how you feel about writing a series. Have you written any yourself? If so, what obstacles did you run into?

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