Make Your Story An Easy Read – Some simple suggestions

Editing After The First Draft. Here are some simple suggestions to help you clean up that first draft.

The storyline in anything you write—whether fiction or nonfiction—needs to be written in a language and style that enhances the reader’s experience. My own first drafts rival the work of a first grader—messy, scrawled notes in the margins, scratched-out words. Here are some simple suggestions to help you clean up that first draft:

—Choose every word carefully. Prefer strong verbs to weak nouns. Check for the correct conjugation and tense of verbs. Use a simpler word in place of one that’s extravagant, not instantly defined, and/or hard to pronounce.
—Always prefer brevity over verbosity or wordiness. Cut any adjectives and adverbs not needed, and eyeball as suspicious even those you’ve spared in your prose. And take care where you place every word, particularly active verbs. Placing them at the end of your sentence gives your prose a little punch, keeping that particular word fresh in the reader’s mind, and can also be an effective lead-in to your next sentence.

—Punctuation is important, too. If you start seeing too many commas, it may be time to shorten or completely rewrite that long-winded sentence. Go easy on the exclamation marks. Same thing for the em dash (not to be confused with the en dash or the hyphen)—as well as typing in caps for emphasis. Be creative AND sparing in your prose.

—The bottom line (clichés should be avoided as well) here is to not clog your reader’s mind with superfluous fluff. It will slow their pace at reading, delaying the story, and just outright annoy them, maybe even get the pages to your masterpiece shutdown. If a single word or punctuation mark can’t carry its full weight on the page, take out your editor’s knife and start carving. And no matter how much that extraneous part of your work screams at you to be left alive, don’t fall for it. Have no sympathy. Keep cutting without mercy–and snuff those little darlings.

—And finally, If you can say what you want to say in ten words or three, choose the three-word option. Remember, you want brevity, clarity, and in the end, an easy-to-read story for your reader. Your task as a writer is to create and communicate effectively, in short, to take the single, flat dimension of a page and turn it into a three-dimensional world that your reader wants to be held hostage to.

This post is contributed as Guest post by R.E. Vaughn

Proofreading can drive you crazy!

I love the restructuring and the copy editing but for me getting that manuscript into a perfect state hurts my eyes and drives me nuts.

I’m not a person who enjoys poring over detail which will be a relief to all those law and accountancy firms I never worked for!  It would be easy to think that, as a creative person, especially a writer that all you have to do is produce a compelling storyline or share your expertise in non-fiction and your job is done.

Having completed my first novel, I sent it out for an editorial critique to find it marked and circled in red with the words…. Punctuation!  Typo!  Clumsy wording! How come? I’d proof read it before sending it out but there’s a lot of room for error in 80,000 words.

I might not have the patience to scoop up every last error but I am a perfectionist. I want to show that I’ve spent a lot of time and care to get things just right. Apostrophes are my biggest bugbear. They morph into insect droppings on the page as I struggle with a major decision… leave in or take out.

If you want to impress an agent or publisher, then it’s imperative you spend time eliminating as many errors as possible. I enlisted the services of a small team to read individual chapters. That seemed to work for me but odd errors continued to smack me in the face when I read the final draft.

So I talked to other writers about how to make this painful process easier.

Read it backwards so you don’t get engrossed in the story, read it upside down (huh?), read it aloud, read it slowly, print it out and point to each word as you go. Maybe these suggestions work with a short story or an article but a full length novel?

I’m a believer in doing what you do best and finding someone else to do the rest. Professional proof readers are worth every penny to have  your work read by someone with no emotional interest in your creation.  They are often trained to a high level and have years of experience and know the tricks of their trade.

Some writers find proof reading fun. That’s great. I love the restructuring and the copy editing but for me getting that manuscript into a perfect state hurts my eyes and drives me nuts.

Proof readers, you are worth your weight in ( seeking to avoid cliché) … um.. coffee?

This post is contributed as Guest post by Angelena Boden



Delving Deep: Diversification while building a new life

I kept writing. Novels, poetry, short stories, essays galore, all above and beyond anything required of me at school. Also all gone, but some still remembered, including one recently re-written and now being considered by a publisher.

I didn’t start writing because I wanted to be an author. I started writing because I really liked words and enjoyed storytelling.

Words were extraordinary tools, and with them I could not just shape some of the world around me, I could build whole worlds inside me.

I was also an artist. I was drawing before I could walk. My art was more obvious, so it got more attention, but behind the scenes, I wrote. My first novel of roughly 20,000 words was put together by the age of ten, all patiently hand-written in school exercise books. All gone, thrown away by parents needing more storage space on the bookshelf for school books and proper things. Oh well.

I kept writing. Novels, poetry, short stories, essays galore, all above and beyond anything required of me at school. Also all gone, but some still remembered, including one recently re-written and now being considered by a publisher.

My life has revolved around my art more than my writing, but a serious breakdown a couple of years ago, subsequent financial ruin and now seriously bad health has condemned me to the house and a reorganisation of my priorities and goals for generating an income. I still make my art, but I’ve looked to writing as a possible means of earning a living. My problem is it all takes so long to sort out, so now I’m delving deeper into the literary world.

Being an artist and one-time graphic designer and desktop publisher, I thought about offering authors inexpensive cover art design, page layout and even editing services. My first novel I self-published, so I went through the process of formatting for Createspace and Smashwords, covering both printed and e-book, meaning it’s now released on Amazon as well as Kindle and all the rest. I made mistakes, learned, fixed things up and sent material off that ended up looking fine and passing all the technical checks. My cover art isn’t some cheap-looking thing even though it cost me only $40, and all up I considered it professional and attractive.

So now, still as poor as a church mouse but with a few tools at my fingertips, I figure I might give writing “post-production” a go for those looking to self-publish, and even provide outsourcing services for publishing houses. I can beta-read, edit, format for print and e-book, create cover art, do some illustrations if necessary (though not kids books stuff, more – say – maps for fantasy novels), manage uploading and sorting out any technical hitches along the way.

I have to do something, because welfare is not where I want to be, and the prospect of working again is a positive I need in my otherwise despondent life.

I’ve carefully explored what I can do online without having to spend money I don’t have. I have a WordPress blog for my writing, a Niume blog for my art, a Facebook page for both, a presence on the Australian Writers’ Forum and a Twitter account, which is tied to a shop on Etsy used to sell my art. So far so good, but folks are reticent to spend money on art when there are elections and wars and all the fear, uncertainty and doubt being bandied around at the moment, so literary services seems a logical next step.

We shall see…

This post is contributed as Guest post by Rob Munro