Monday, May 17, 2021

One Writer’s Editing Process

 By Debra Dupree Williams


The editing process is one we either love or hate. I don’t mind the edits, it’s the revisions that often stump me. Once I’ve written something, I struggle to change it. Wasn’t it perfect the first
time?

 

Hardly.

 

We fall in love with our words, and it hurts to cut them or change them. But change is necessary if we want our work to sing.

 

As a musician, auditions are required for all manner of groups, from my high school choral groups to the most professional of church choirs. Even though I’d studied singing for years, those auditions were necessary to create the most harmonious, well-blended group possible. Some singers were cut. There were times when I was one of those.

 

The same holds true for our written words.

 

We spend years learning to string together coherent thoughts and then we sweat over each one as it appears on the blank page before us. Eventually, they form a story, or a blog post, or an article. But is every word necessary? Is each one required for a harmonious story?

 

Likely not.

 

The editing process is necessary to make our stories the best they can be. As a fiction writer, I found an excellent editor to help walk me through my manuscript before I submitted it to agents or publishers. She found and saw things I never would have found because my work was too familiar to me . . . too close to my heart.

 

My advice to any writer, but especially to new writers … write from your heart. Then invest in good books on self-editing. When you’ve done all you can to make your work the best it can be, hire an editor who will make it even better.

 

The process my editor and I followed was simple. I submitted three chapters per week, she read over them, and sent them back to me with Track Changes within Word. At that point, we met via telephone to talk about what she changed and why. It was a learning process for me for sure. This was my first novel, after all, and I had much to learn.

 

The entire process took around twenty weeks, and the manuscript became a 265-page book. To me, the money spent was so worth it. Without a doubt, the finished product was so much better than it would have been without the help of a professional editor.

 

It can get expensive to hire an editor, but I still urge you to find the best one your budget can afford. If you can’t afford one, be sure you are in critique groups where many of the members are editors or seasoned authors with years of experience. Word Weavers and ACFW are two groups which have all manner of aids for the writer. If you’re a beginner, these are the places for you. Find your local chapter and join.

 

But first thing to do? Pray over the work of your hands and heart.

 

But then you still need to edit. Not one of us is perfect.

 

 

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

 

TWEETABLE

The editing process is necessary to make our stories the best they can be. via @DDuPreeWilliams(Click to tweet.)

 

Award-winning author, Debra DuPree Williams, tells stories of faith and family set in the deep south. Debbie’s debut novel, Grave Consequences, A Charlotte Graves Mystery, has earned praise for its authentic voice, setting, and characters. A classically-trained lyric coloratura soprano, Debbie’s first love is Southern Gospel. Debbie and her husband have four sons, a beautiful daughter-of-their-hearts, and two perfect granddaughters. When not writing or in search of an elusive ancestor, Debbie and her husband enjoy life in the majestic mountains of western North Carolina. 

https://www. DebraDuPreeWilliams.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Writing Fiction for the Joy of It

 By Emily Golus

 

Some time ago I was at a wedding and struck up a conversation with another guest. When I mentioned that I was an author, he quickly found his wife and introduced us. “She’s wanted to write for years now,” he explained. “She has all of these story ideas in her head and wants to get them down.”

 

His wife—a classically trained musician who made her living performing—agreed. “I think about these characters all the time,” she said. “It’s just that I don’t have any training in writing. Is it worth it for me to start?”

 

My guess is that her real question was this: Is it worth investing the time if I have no guarantee of professional success?

 

“Do it,” I told her. “If it’s in your heart, then write. It doesn’t matter if you ever get published—do it because it’s good for you.”

 

Because here’s the thing: you don’t have to “go pro” for fiction writing to be worth it. The main benefit is to your own inner person.

 

What’s Art Good For, Anyway?

Yes, I know most of us reading this blog want to polish our manuscripts so they’re professional enough to get published. But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves why we’re actually doing this writing thing in the first place.

 

As fiction writers—especially when we’re first starting out—we sometimes take ourselves too seriously. “What’s the point of writing this book,” we ask ourselves, “if it doesn’t become a beloved bestseller that changes the fiction world?”

 

But art isn’t just about the final product. It’s about the process and what it does for you.

 

If one day my son wants to learn guitar or piano (or heaven forbid, the trumpet), I’m not going to tell him, “That’s a nice idea, but you’ll never be good enough to appear on the Billboard Hot 100, so what’s the point of trying? Just give up now.” Or “Don’t bother to learn how to paint, kid. You’ll never get your art into a museum, so why even learn?”

 

Most of us recognize that art—whether it’s playing an instrument, dancing, painting, or you name it—benefits us personally. Expressing our creativity through art is deeply satisfying and can even help us work through our problems.

 

Art makes our daily life richer, whether or not it ever makes it to the stage or into a gallery. You don’t have to be a professional artist—or even a good artist—to reap the benefits of creativity.

 

A Reality Check

We tend to think of the day we get published and hold that book in our hands as the I Have Arrived moment, where the Happily Ever After begins and the movie credits roll.

 

But that’s not typically the case. If you do get your fiction published—which is by no means a guarantee—you may find the response to your work is underwhelming. Also, now you have a new hobby: marketing that book and working hard to get traction.

 

Even if a published book is fairly successful, if you divide the money the book brings in by the hours spent writing it … well, let’s just say there are far more profitable ways to make a wage. The wild success stories are the exception, not the norm.

 

And consider this: if you have a message to get out, fiction is a far less direct tool than a sermon or article or another medium that takes much less time to create.

 

So why do it? Why spend all that energy writing and editing and getting critiques and attending conferences and getting that story just right, when there’s no guarantee it will go anywhere?

 

Because the process sparks something inside of you. Because you can’t not write.

 

The Joy of Fiction

Writing fiction fires up your imagination, filling it with delightful characters and taking you on vivid adventures that you get to enjoy, even if no one else does. It can help you organize your thinking, making you wrestle through ideas and come to clarity—or else help you realize some things are more nuanced than they seem on the surface. Fiction writing can sharpen your observational skills as you glean ideas from the world around you, and make the world a more interesting place. 

 

And if you join a critique group or attend writers’ conferences, you’ll not only learn to be a better writer, you’ll get to connect with fascinating people you may never have met otherwise.

 

We write primarily because we love the art form. Publication is a great bonus that may or may not happen, but it’s not the WHY.

 

I remember holding my finished manuscript for the first time—nearly four hundred sheets of printer paper crudely bound together, the labor of more than ten years. And at that moment I realized: if I never got this book published, it still would have been worth all the time and energy I’ve spent. The process made my life richer and more interesting, and was even a means of God’s grace in my life.

 

So, if you’re at the beginning of your writing journey and aren’t sure whether you’ll be good enough to “go pro”—start anyway. Do it because it’s good for you, and enjoy the adventure.

 

(Photos courtesy of Emily Golus, FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)


TWEETABLE

Why spend all that energy writing and editing and getting critiques and attending conferences and getting that story just right, when there’s no guarantee it will go anywhere? via @WorldofVindor (Click to tweet.)

 

Emily Golus has been dreaming up fantasy worlds since before she could write her name. A New England transplant now living in the Deep South, she is fascinated by culture and the way it shapes how individuals see the world. Golus aims to create stories that engage, inspire, and reassure readers that the small choices of everyday life matter.


Her first novel, Escape to Vindor, debuted in 2017 and won the Selah Award for young adult fiction. Its sequel, Mists of Paracosmia, followed in April 2019.

Golus lives in Upstate South Carolina with her rock-climbing husband, an awkward cat, and two adorable little boys.

Keep up with Vindor news at WorldofVindor.com and EmilyGolusBooks.com, or find her on Instagram as WorldOfVindor.

 

 

 

Monday, May 3, 2021

No More Excuses

 By Andrea Merrell

 

I’ve heard all the excuses. To name a few: I can’t. I don’t know how. I’m afraid. I’m not ready. I don’t have the time. What if I fail?

 

As writers, we all wait for doors to open and opportunities to present themselves. But sometimes when that door opens, we hesitate and lose the chance to move forward. 

Author Jon Mason says, “Opportunity is often lost in deliberation.” We can spend so much time thinking about whether we should go for it, the door slams in our face. 

Another writer says, “Opportunity is a visitor; don’t assume it will be back tomorrow.”

 

As the old cliché goes, Strike while the iron’s hot.

 

Over the years, I’ve met with many folks at writers’ conferences who presented devotions and stories that were excellent. I asked them to send me a proposal to look over. Surprisingly, only about 50 percent responded. The others did not, for whatever reason.

 

I’ve done it myself. Neglected to respond to a request from an editor or publisher. It’s not ready. I need more time. What if they don’t like it? What if it’s not the right fit?

 

When God calls us to write for Him, He equips us with whatever we need: words, ideas, training, passion, writing buddies, tenacity, time—and opportunities. But those doors won’t stay open forever. When we feel Holy Spirit nudging us to walk through, we need to put the excuses aside and move forward.

 

  • Have you been asked to send in a proposal? Send it. The longer you hesitate, the harder it will be to let go.

 

  • Is there a contest you’d like to enter? Enter it. It’s a great way to grow and learn how to meet deadlines.

 

  • Is there a certain conference you’d like to attend? Make sacrifices. Save your money and go.

 

  • Has someone asked you to do a guest post on their blog or a live video chat? Do it.

 

  • Is there an anthology calling for submissions? Write that story and submit it.

 

  • Has someone given you feedback on your writing and made suggestions for making it better? Heed that advice. It can only make you a better writer.

 

When we sit back and make excuses, we never get anywhere. God has so many wonderful things in store for us, but we have to do our part.

 

Whatever is in your heart … just do it. In other words, carpe diem. Seize the day. Make the most of the present time, and don’t think so much about tomorrow. You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. And always keep your eye out for those open doors.

 

What excuses have you made? What are you putting off until tomorrow? We would love to hear from you.

 

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles. )


(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.)


TWEETABLE

Writer, seize the day. Keep your eye out for open doors of opportunity, and take that chance. via@AndreaMerrell (Click to tweet.)

 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Why Perfection Is the Impossible Dream

By Ramona Richards

 

In a fair land far away (Tennessee in the ’70s), I majored in English. Twice. The first time I had a minor in Modern European Studies (multiple classes in history, politics, and foreign languages) and an emphasis in grammar and composition. I took advanced classes in both. I can diagram sentences from James Joyce (yes, that was one of the exercises). I loved it.


Repeat that. Loved it. Correct grammar became a passion. People were afraid to write me letters. I became a grammar dictator.

 

The second time, for my master’s degree, I had to take a foreign language. German. Which taught me even more about grammar (German and English have similar Indo-European roots). By the time those degrees were in hand, I had Harbrace, and Turabian, and the Chicago Manual of Style, and Strunk & White memorized. I had a red pen grafted to my left hand. I was ready for publishing.

 

Then … I actually got a job in publishing. And here is the first lesson I learned in publishing: There is no such thing as a perfect book.

 

Not that I absorbed this lesson easily. I still remember that first letter of correction from a reader. I was devastated, even though I’d had nothing to do with the book. It had been published long before I even graduated from college.

 

My boss, however, was quite nonchalant, with her “no such thing as a perfect book” lesson. “Ramona, if you get upset over every mistake in a printed book, you’re going to spend your life in a tizzy,” she said gently. “Humans make mistakes. And grammar changes.”

 

Wait. What? Grammar changes?

 

Definitely not something I heard back in that fair land far away. I was just beginning to learn how far away it was. I soon began to read publications like The Editorial Eye, which covered the ongoing changes in grammar. Now I read grammar blogs and CMOS Q&A pages. I went from being a prescriptivist (one who dictates how grammar should be used correctly) to a descriptivist (one who describes how current grammar is used correctly). And I discovered that editing content, editing story, is far more satisfying to me.

 

Above all, I began to truly appreciate the overwhelming beauty of this whackadoodle language we call English. It’s fluid and flexible with rules that guide yet shift. It allows for different stylebooks to flourish (Associated Press is not CMOS is not APA style, and serial commas are not universal). It allows new words to be added and old words to change or vanish. Words are allowed to evolve. Nouns become verbs, and vice versa. Googol, a noun, inspired Google, a proper noun, which became a verb.

 

In fiction as well as nonfiction, English allows for the development of an author’s voice through selective syntax, dialogue, and dialectal phrasings. And I’m always amused at people who desperately fight some usages until they’re added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Then they’re OK, accepted by the “authority” of the OED, which has always been a descriptivist publication.

 

So what’s my point?

 

My point is that every book has mistakes (even if you don’t catch them) and some grammatical “mistakes” aren’t actually mistakes. When reading a book, try focusing on content, on story, not on the occasional trip-up by a copyeditor. Because if you let a few grammatical mistakes or typos upset your reading of a book, then you are going to overlook some of the most beautiful and well-written (if not well-proofed) books in our language.

 

Don’t get me wrong; in some ways this attitude (books must be perfect) is helpful to authors and publishers. We do take emails about mistakes seriously, and often readers find things that should be corrected. And, once upon a time, complaints about things that are not, in fact, wrong used to have little impact. (I once had a woman complain to me about the use of parentheses in the King James Version of the Bible, since nothing in God’s word is parenthetical. I had to explain to her the evolution of parentheses as punctuation and that in older versions of the KJV, they were perfectly acceptable.)

 

But now we have the internet, where a campaign against a mistake can cost an author a career.

 

Think I’m exaggerating?

 

A publisher I worked for was startled when they were notified that Amazon had pulled the “Buy” button from one of our books because of one reader’s complaints about the “mistakes” in the book. They sent us the list. Of all the “mistakes” on this reader’s list, one was a typo. One was a continuity error. The rest were not mistakes at all, but out-of-date grammar or the author’s voice in dialogue. So, no, these weren’t going to be changed, no matter how much one reader protested. They weren’t wrong; she was.

 

But even though this reader was incorrect on most of her complaints, she cost the author sales. And she has a platform to continue to complain. This was not justified nitpicking; this was just mean.

 

So, I beg of you, when you see mistakes in a published book, don’t grab a red pen and a platform. Don’t wail and jive in Amazon reviews about the lousy copyediting. Be biblical—go straight to the source first. Contact the author or publisher (we’re online everywhere these days), and alert them to the problem. Give them a chance to respond.

 

And if your grammatical knowledge is based on what you learned before 2001, please do not mention split infinitives. They’ve been acceptable since at least 1983, if not before.

 

Or to quote a CMOS Q&A column: “In this day and age, it seems, an injunction against splitting infinitives is one of those shibboleths whose only reason for survival is to give increased meaning to the lives of those who can both identify by name a discrete grammatical, syntactic, or orthographic entity and notice when that entity has been somehow besmirched.”

 

Another reason to love the CMOS folks.

 

It really is OK for us “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

 

And other places.

 

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and digitalart.)

 

TWEETABLE

There is no such thing as a perfect book. When you see mistakes in a published book, don’t grab a red pen and a platform. via @RamonaRichards (Click to tweet.)

 

Ramona Richards is a forty-year veteran of the publishing industry. She is the author of 12 books, including Tracking Changes: One Editor’s Advice to Inspirational Fiction Authors, from which this post was adapted. She is currently an editor with Iron Stream Media and is working on books 13-17. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Confusion of Words

 By Andrea Merrell

 

It’s been said that the English language is the hardest to learn and understand.

For instance, most languages only have one word (maybe two or three at the most) to describe a happy emotion or something extraordinary. We, on the other hand, might say words like awesome, incredible, amazing, fantastic, astonishing, breathtaking, remarkable, wonderful, fabulous … 

You fill in the blank.

There are words with a negative connotation like rude, inconsiderate, impolite, disrespectful, discourteous, thoughtless, insensitive … shall I go on?

Then there are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Words like your and you’re; their, there, and they’re; its and it’s; who’s and whose.

And while we’re at it, why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway? But I digress …

No wonder it’s hard for other cultures to grasp the meaning of our words. But many times it’s hard for us as well.

As writers, it’s important for us to have a good working knowledge of words—both the meaning and the spelling. If you’re writing about a man who went to sea, you wouldn’t say he went out to see. See what? Big difference, right?

If your protagonist needs her husband to pick up a pear at the grocery store, you wouldn’t want to write a pair on the list. A pair of what?

Maybe your antagonist is peeking around the corner at his prey. You certainly don’t want him peaking (or piquing) around that corner at his pray.

These may sound like silly examples, but as an editor, I see these mistakes often. Just like a comma can make all the difference (Let’s eat, Grandma vs. Let’s eat Grandma), misspelled and misused words can derail our writing and irritate our readers.

Do we all make mistakes? Absolutely. Are we going to get everything right all the time? Of course not. But we need to do the best we can, especially when writing for the Lord.

Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others. For we know that we will receive a reward, an inheritance from the Lord, as we serve the Lord Yahweh, the Anointed One! (Colossians 3:23-24 TPT)

When in doubt, get out your dictionary or do a Google search. You’ll be glad you did—and so will your readers.

What particular words do you struggle with? We would love to hear from you.

 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

 

TWEETABLE

Misspelled and misused words can derail our writing and irritate our readers. via @AndreaMerrell (Click to tweet.)