Winners! We put all the names in my lucky Law & Order hat and we have two winners. Winner of The Right to Write and chocolate is Elise. Winner of Murder is Binding, Demons are a Ghoul's Best Friend and chocolate is Jen. Ladies, please email your mailing addresses to darlene at darleneryan.com (change the "at" to @) Thank you everyone for your comments. Come back tomorrow to talk about finding the time to write and for two more giveaways.
Write the dang book. The entire book. All the way to the end. Finished. Done. Completed.
Go back and read Step One. Finished means the whole story has been written, not just the beginning and the ending, and some notes about the abyss known as the middle. All of it. It doesn’t matter how badly it’s written. You can’t edit what hasn’t been created.
So you’re working on the book. What happens if a third of the way through you suddenly realize Rick should be Rhonda? Or the cabin where you set the story needs to be by a river instead of a lake? Keep going making the change from where you are forward. From now on Rick is a petite blonde who hides tofu ice cream bars in the freezer and can’t walk in high heels, instead of a six foot three African-American with an addiction to
Once a book is finished I try to take two or three days off before I start any editing. That breathing room helps me look more objectively at what I’ve written. When I’m ready to edit, the first thing I do is look at my notes and see what things I need to fix. This is the point at which I go back and give Rick a sex change, turn the lake into a river, and do any foreshadowing I forgot in my outline.
I like to do my actual editing on a printed copy of the manuscript—for some reason I catch more mistakes on paper than I do on a computer screen—but before printing anything I run a spell check to look for grammar and spelling errors. And I use Word’s Find feature to search for words I tend to overuse, like very, just and almost.
Because I’m always looking for ways to use less paper I print this draft out on what I call scrap paper—pages that have already been used on one side. Then I sit down with my copy of the manuscript, a pencil, and a notepad.
As much as I can, I like to make all my notes on the printed copy of the manuscript. The one exception is notes about any new scenes I need to write. I’ll mark the manuscript where a scene needs to be inserted, but notes about the scene go on my notepad. For example, let’s say I decide I need to add a scene at the end of Chapter 3 that shows Rhonda’s fear of heights. In the manuscript, at the end of the chapter I’ll write “A.” On my notepad I’ll write A again but with an explanation: Scene with Rhonda in the attic showing her fear of heights. If I need to add another scene it’s labeled “B” and so on.
Once I’ve been all the way through the manuscript it’s back to the computer to write any new scenes and type in all my revisions. When I’m finished I run spell-check again and print out a new, corrected copy of the manuscript. This copy I read out loud. It’s the best way I’ve found for catching mistakes. I make corrections on the pages as I read and then on my computer copy.
I only use this step when there’s something that bothers me about a book. Maybe it’s just one scene that reads “wrong.” Maybe it’s an entire chapter. I copy the pages into a new file and send it to my friend Susan with a whiny email that says, “This sucks. I’ve forgotten how to write and I’m going to Wal-mart to apply for a job.” In a couple of hours I’ll get an email back written in the same tone one would use with the very young, the very old, and the very deranged, with a reminder that a blue vest would not flatter my figure and a suggestion such as, “Do you have to kill this character?” or “The transition between scenes was a little abrupt.”
And I realize she’s right. (She always is and I always smack myself in the forehead and think, why didn’t I see that?) I fix the problem scene, make sure the pages are numbered properly and everything is formatted the way it should be, and then send the book off to my editor.
Now right before your manuscript leaves your hands or your computer on its way to an editor, you may be hit with the urge to read it just one more time. I know a writer who ended up re-reading the first chapter of her manuscript twelve times looking for errors.
(Okay, that was me.)
Have confidence in your ability and try not to give in to the feeling. The best advice I've ever heard about writing came from Billy Crystal's character in Throw Momma From the Train: A writer writes.
For a list of more workshops to inspire you visit: Paperback Writer
There are two giveaways today. One for inspiration and one for entertainment.To inspire you:
If you'd like a chance to win one of these two giveaways, make a comment on this workshop (or just say “Hello” in comments) before eight PM eastern time today, August 2, 2008. The munchkin—who cannot be bribed, even with chocolate—will draw two names from everyone who comments. The draw is open to anyone, anywhere, even if you’ve won something here before. Good luck.
If you haven't checked out the Forgotten Books Project http://pattinase.blogspot.com stop by this coming Friday and read more about my favorite forgotten series, Meg O'Brien's Jessica James mysteries, and then look through the archives for more books you may not have read but probably should have.