Tag Archives: Writing and Editing

Pro-Tip: The Importance of Napping

9 Sep

Fair warning, today’s tip has nothing to do with the actual meat of your writing. This tip has to do with YOU.

I’ve read a lot of “How to Write” books, articles, blogs and all of them take considerable time discussing how vital it is to MAKE time to write. These how-to resources are quick to assume that aspiring writers are not full-time writers. I’m not saying this assumption is fully incorrect. Let’s face it; it’s very difficult to get by financially on the hope of future publication. For those who have not already started to earn a living by their craft, the reality is that writing is a part-time job, a late-night endeavor, a when-I-can hobby. Something else has to bring in the cash while we write toward that big break or perfect job.

So, while these how-to articles are not wrong to say that it is vital to plan a time to get the work done, they often neglect the person behind the task. I realize it’s difficult with jobs, families, and other obligations (plus the desire for a social life) to make time to write. What is even harder, sometimes, is to make time to relax. It’s easy to feel guilty for not using empty time for writing when all of these outside sources say that the best, easiest, only way to make writing a career is to force a place for it into your schedule. Sometimes, though, when you have free time, that’s exactly what you want to do with it. Be free. I call this post “the importance of napping,” but I don’t mean you literally have to nap—although I LOVE to nap. What it comes down to is avoiding the burn out or writer’s block that comes from stress.

Mind-fry is common when balancing so many facets of life, especially under the immense pressure for perfection that we put on ourselves as authors (see earlier Pro-Tip about obsessive revision). As important as it is to prioritize a part of your day for writing, it is equally important to prioritize some time (any time, even if it’s not daily) to mellow. Getting away from your writing can help you hash out new ideas, come back with fresh eyes, see mistakes you overlooked, and feel a general boost in motivation. How can you be excited to get started on something when you’re never away from it? Instead, it just stagnates.

So, don’t feel guilty or lazy or irresponsible for taking some time for yourself to nap, day dream, meditate, or take a walk. Not to sound cliché or sappy, but it’s true that if you don’t nurture yourself, you can’t nurture anything you’re trying to create.

Happy writing (and napping),

Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

Pro-Tip: Reigning in the Obsessive Reviser

4 Sep

Reigning in the obsessive reviser, also called moving on.

As authors, we are our own worst critics, and there will always be those features (in our writing and in ourselves) we’d like to strengthen. A piece of writing (or art of any kind) never feels completely finished in the eyes of its perfectionist creator. And let’s be real—authors, for the most part, are just like that by nature. I know I am. You may realize after adding more material, completing some revisions, or going through a total overhaul of ideas that what worked during an earlier iteration of your project no longer achieves the desired goal in the newest. So, if a story-line, character, sentence, or word isn’t doing the work you need it to do, change it. Just remember that, when revising, the goal isn’t to get it perfect or even good enough, but to make it good for now. Revision is a recursive process. You will do it again. And again.

If your text isn’t perfect after that one mid-write edit, oh well. Keep going. If your text isn’t perfect after that midnight revise, oh well. Come back to it tomorrow. If your text isn’t perfect after your 5-minutes-until-due-date scramble, oh well. Turn it in anyway. You must resist the urge to edit so fiercely along the way that you cease to write anything new and, instead, produce one-hundred versions of the same paragraph, page, chapter, without progressing or meeting deadlines.

I’ll say it again: Revision is repetitive, but it is not meant to achieve perfection—especially if that obsessive quest for perfection results in late or no submissions. That’s not perfect at all. The point is, you WILL have the chance to make more changes (even if you are working on a deadline). What I mean by this is that, if on a deadline, you get the text to a “good for now” status—the best work you can do in the time given—and you pry your pen out of your hand or off of the keyboard in order to submit it. If the compulsion to continue revising remains, go ahead and work more on your copy of the text knowing that the submitted work was good for now, as complete or concise or creative or accurate as it could be with the time and resources allowed, and just move on.

Pro-Tip: Dump the Junk

2 Sep

If something in your writing isn’t working, CHANGE IT. Don’t get too attached to the first version (or second or third) of something. Jot it down and save it for later before erasing it from your work completely. It may become useful again in a different area of the text. If not, it may apply to another project at another time. This is especially useful for those lines we write and really, really love. You know the ones. They’re hard to delete even if they’re no longer serving your purpose. Sometimes things get said just right. So dump the junk, but save it. Be a line-hoarder. Your literary house is spotless, but you’ve got that crammed closet your friends don’t know about. If and when they find it, you know what it’s there for. Like Monica says in the video link, it’s where all the things that don’t fit in belong.

Pro-Tip: Purpose

29 Aug

Every text begins with a purpose which its author must decide.

  • What do you want a particular piece to achieve?
  • What do you want your reader to get from it?
  • What’s the finished product for in terms of the type of text and the value/meaning of what’s said?
    • Examples: If fiction, is it meant to entertain? If research, is it meant to inform, call to action, argue or influence, etc.?

Answer these questions before you start writing, and check in with yourself periodically to make sure every choice you make works toward that goal you first set. If you’ve veered away from the purpose, get back on track. If your purpose has changed (and it’s fine if it does–it happens), make sure the entire text follows suit. It can’t seem as if you jumped ship half way through to begin on some new and unrelated adventure. The takeaways here are consistency and usefulness. The entire text must work toward the same general end result, and every single item mentioned must have a reason for being there, a job to do in the context of that purpose. If not, chuck it.

Questions or comments, chime in below! Happy writing.

Amanda Marsico

-Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

Self-Editing Tip #24–Cliches

19 Sep

The most basic definition of a cliché that I can give you is this: A cliché is any phrase that is so overused, hackneyed, and tossed about carelessly that it has lost all the power its meaning once had. Like I said, that’s a basic definition. Entire situations, settings, and plots can be cliché as well.

Give it the cliché test–When you read it, try to imagine the profundity and impact it made the very first time it was ever put on paper. If it doesn’t seem all that special anymore, it’s probably a cliché. If you groan when you hear it, it’s probably a cliché. If you lose faith in the originality of an author simply for its inclusion in the text, it’s probably a cliché. Or, you could also just go to this website and see if the phrase is on the list.

Phrase Examples:

  • “All over the map”
  • “Axe to grind”
  • “Fan the flames”
  • “Nice guys finish last.”
  • “Pay the piper”
  • “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

There are an abundance of clichés, but don’t forget that it’s not just what is said, but where it takes place and how that can make a reader want to put the text away.

Plot Examples:

  • Love triangle
  • Supernatural/fantasy creatures
    • Think about how innovative Tolkien’s creations were. He was on of the first true fantasy writers. Now think about what you see as soon as you walk into the book store—hundreds of teen fantasy books that differ only slightly. Even the covers look the same (check out BuzzFeed’s 19 Book Cover Cliches).
    • Bad guy change of heart
    • Break-up aftermath

This list could get extensive as well. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s hard to be totally original in plot creation, and there’s a good reason for it. We all write from and about the human condition and experience (whether our characters are human or not). Because we are human, these are the ideas that inform our creative process. In addition, there are only a fixed number of character interactions possible to create a plot. Carlo Gozzi and Georges Polti were creators of the list of 36 Dramatic Situations. So, most plots are cliché because there really is not a way to be totally original in our time. If you take something that is written about countless times, it might be boring, or it might not. It’s up to you. What makes it cliché is that the plot follows the same predictable path of unfolding events. Change things up and you’re set.

Happy writing!

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

www.linkedin.com/pub/amanda-marsico/7b/ab8/b/

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

Self-Editing Tip #18–Method: Reading for Errors

21 Aug

Track Changes and Comments

How do you read for errors? There are so many ways to do this. From using Comments and Track Changes in Word (my favorite method when editing digital text) to the Colored Pen/Highlighter Method , ideas not for the actual grammar errors to find, but for the way to read for them abound.

I thought today I would share a couple more of my favorite methods so that when you go to implement any of my Self-Editing Tips, you’d also have new ideas on how to mark it up.

The Repeat Read-Through

This is exactly what it sounds like, and it is best for short texts. Choose a type of mistake you want to find and fix. Read your text for only that kind of error. Mark the errors as you see them, or fix them as you go. I have no doubt you’ll see other types of mistakes as you read. That’s ok. Fix them when you see them if you think you’ll forget on your next go-round. If not, mark them in whatever way makes sense to you so that you can come back to it. It’s a great opportunity to integrate the Colored Pen Method into your multiple reads. Each read could get a different pen rather than trying to work with all pens at once.

If your text is really long, this might not be the most expedient option. I’m not saying to skip extra revisions on a large text like a manuscript. It’s never finished after one revision. I’m merely saying that you might want to look for any type of error every time you read it. The next method might be more your style.

Post-it Pages (My favorite method when editing print text)

Post-it Pages

For long texts in print, you can use sticky notes for errors that need revisiting. It’s like the paper version of Comments and Track Changes in Word. Mark small mistakes directly on the text with a red pen–punctuation, typos, misspellings, and the like—or whatever color works for you. For bigger issues that require time and consideration (plot inconsistencies, text that needs to be (re)moved, or topics that need to be researched in order to accurately reference them in the text), make notes on brightly colored sticky notes you’re sure not to overlook. Stick them directly under the line they reference. Remove the note when you’ve remedied it, or mark it as fixed so that you can ignore it on your next read-through. High priority issues get circled directly on the page and accompanied by a sticky note with an exclamation point. Leave these high priority notes hanging off of the page so that you can see them when the document is closed. No way to ignore them, now! Tackle them as time allows.

Dog Ears

For mid-sized documents in print, dog ear the pages you need to revisit. You can combine this with any of the other methods. If every page gets folded, this isn’t the option for you. That would be equivalent to the person who highlights every word in a textbook in the name of “studying.” It’s useless. If your document is in its final stages and there are minimal errors, this could work very well. Neat-freaks like me won’t be able to ignore a folded page among crisp, flat pages with no marks.

 

Side Note

Color Marking

The Colored Pen/Highlighter Method is also great for academic readings of literature for critical purposes, and is also called color marking. Rather than using the different colors to mark errors, the colors are used, based on a key of your creation, to mark themes, motifs, symbols, any number of literary/poetic/stylistic devices, and whatever else is deemed important in the context of your reading.

 

Happy Editing!

 

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

facebook.com/marsicowritesite

Twitter: @MarsWriteSite

http://www.pinterest.com/wordsnsounds

Self-Editing Tip #17–Writing Character’s Private Thoughts

20 Aug

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from chapter 3 of my novel Acephalous. In a private email, a reader questioned why a portion of the text was underlined. Here is that text:

“She had to give him a definitive explanation of her hesitations, now. As if I could really tell him… As she turned her car off, Jordan let his foot fall down from the tire he had it propped on.”

The underlined text above indicates the main character’s private thoughts—what she’s saying in her head in that moment. Normally, I would write this type of text in italics. That’s generally how I prefer to set apart character thought. However, when preparing a manuscript for submission, sources generally recommend removing italics from the submission-ready manuscript and replacing them with underlined text. In the publishing process, all of those underlined areas will be converted to italics upon printing. This is the reason I chose underlining versus italicizing.

There are other ways to set apart inner speech in writing. It’s really a personal and stylistic choice.

Start a new paragraph for the thought and change the font beyond just italics, underlines, or bolded text. Maybe choose a font that looks like handwriting, or one that reflects the character’s personality—prissy, stoic, fancy, sloppy, you get it.

Ex.

I wish I could tell you what Molly told me yesterday.

Start a new line and use asterisks above and below the thought.

Ex.

**********

It’s not like I have anything better to do right now…

**********

This method is better for large portions of thought like dreams, flashbacks, and letter-writing because having ********** every few lines will get very annoying visually.

Save inner musings for designated sections of the text, and then treat them like chapters and use the chapter title to indicate whose thoughts are to follow. Another similar option is the epistle form—letters, diary/journal entries, or blog/vlog posts written by the character (or any other method of self-recording).

Ex.—Journal

Chapter 11—Chris

It wasn’t like I really needed that job. More than anything, I just needed a place to go during the day where I would be around other people. People that I didn’t know. Staying in this building full of other guys my age is stifling. You’d think it would be cool living with your friends, going to school with those people, coming back home knowing they’re all still there. I thought it would be one huge party at first—like a frat house! Not so. There is no privacy. Boarding school sucks.

Ex.

May 5, 2013

I can’t believe senior year is almost over. It’s sad. Those statistics they read in class today say we’ll never see each other again in all likelihood. You grow up with these people, act like you care about them, then poof. Separate ways.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… you get the picture.

The last note I’ll leave you to consider is that these variations on setting apart character thought can be used for stories written in any point of view. Even if the plot unfolds in first person (where your main character says, “I,”) you can still have moments where that person thinks or talks to herself. Just because they say, “I,” this, and, “I,” that aloud doesn’t mean that they don’t have “I” thoughts they don’t want to say publicly. This is a way to help your reader get to know that character better by taking a look at their personal feelings. It’s also a way for you to write more realistically human characters. For creating characters that are two-faced, shy, lying, conflicted, or keeping any type of secret, this is a method of defining private and public for that character, just as we do in real life.

If I’ve left anything out, let me know! How do YOU designate private thoughts in your writing? Have you run across any point of view scenario where these ideas would not work well?

I appreciate your readership and your input! Read and write on!

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

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