Checking my novel

Over recent weeks I have been rewriting my novel for children.

It is now in its 8th draft in which I changed from the third person to the first person. So far, so good. I think it has been worth the effort. While I was at it, I made some significant changes to many phrases and sentences, including cutting out whole paragraphs – but also adding quite a few words and phrases here and there. The nett result is an increase of about 500 words over the whole manuscript while at the same time cutting at least a thousand words.

Now this week I am going over the whole manuscript again – this time meticulously. I’m looking for typos, spelling errors, punctuation mistakes, redundancies, and especially the misuse of pronouns, a problem which occurs when one changes point of view. All this editing and checking is wearying but essential.

It is essential because I want this book to be the very best I can do.

Good writing.

I’m back: Editing my novel

I’m back!

It has been a while since my last entry here.

Sorry about that.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed with life for a while now, but things seem to be getting back on track again, one step at a time. I have several large projects on the go which are taking – no – demanding my attention. I’m starting to chip away at them but the task sometimes looms far too large.

Having one of the coldest periods on record here in South Australia is not helping either. It is very tempting to linger in bed on these crisp, frosty mornings… and then linger some more. And my good wife spoils me by bringing me a hot cup of tea in bed some mornings. Bless her.

One of my major projects at present is finishing off my novel for children (I’ve written extensively about the process here.) I am currently working on the 7th draft and it is getting near to the final shape and form.

The editing and rewriting I am doing in the 7th draft comes from the comments made on my manuscript by my supervising lecturers. Both are experienced writers and editors and their help has been invaluable in shaping the novel into its present form. One thing I have found interesting is that their comments and suggestions are remarkably similar, even though they read the manuscript independently. They have been very picky, very critical of every word, sentence and even the whole structure of the story. This is good because it is helping me to produce the very best writing I can achieve.

Find a good critiquing friend

I would recommend that every writer find a trustworthy friend who knows about writing and how to do it well. Then get this person to critique your work. It could be a fellow writer, a neighbour, a member of a writers’ group or even someone who does this for a living. Paying someone to do this can be money well spent. I haven’t had to do that yet, but I have received much help from my lecturers (who get paid to do this) and from my writers’ groups (They do it because they like me! And I “pay” them by commenting on their writing).

Find a good editor

Along with finding someone to critique your writing I would suggest that your writing will benefit from good editing. You need to find a good editor. It can be the same person who critiques your work doesn’t have to be. I’m not talking about editors who work for publishers here. That stage comes later, after you’ve submitted the very best work you can do, and the publisher has accepted your piece for publication. I’m talking about someone with a good eye for picking up typos, spelling errors, punctuation boo-boos, grammatical blunders and structural flaws. Such a person can help you polish your work until it is perfect – or as near to that as you can. Publishers are more willing to accept your work if you make the effort to get it near perfect – so their editor has as little to do as possible.

Further reading:

  • Writing a novel – the process I went through to write a novel for children as my thesis paper for my Master of Arts.
  • Editing – more articles from my archives about the editing process.

Good writing.

Learn the craft of writing

Many would be writers fail before they start.

They fail because they have not learned the basics of the craft of writing. They assume that they can write a best seller on the basis of their ability to string together a few words. They have not done their apprenticeship in the craft of writing. Then they get upset because their manuscript gets rejected the first time they send it to a publisher.

Time for a reality check.

I read recently about a successful editor working for a large publishing company who stated that at least 80% of manuscripts fail in the first page or two and deserved to be rejected. That’s a staggering statistic. Novice writers are almost all rejected because they fail to study or understand the writing and publishing process.

This editor made some simple to follow observations:

  1. Follow the publisher’s guidelines to the letter. Most writers don’t bother to do this basic first step and so their manuscript will be rejected. That is the harsh reality whether they like it or not.
  2. Format the manuscript correctly. Presentation is everything. MostĀ  publishers have their own way they require a manuscript to be presented. Find out what that is and follow it.
  3. Check the grammar. A poor grasp of the English language, its structures, formalities and conventions will make it easy for the editor to reject a manuscript. If you lack confidence or knowledge in this area get someone to teach you – or find a book or course to help you.
  4. Check the spelling. Spelling mistakes can and must be avoided. Check every word, recheck and check again. When writing my current novel I’m on the 7th draft and I’m still finding typos.
  5. Check the punctuation. Again, check, double check and then some more. Get someone else to check the manuscript for you. Pay a professional copy-editor to check it for you. You will be amazed at how many simple errors can creep in under the radar.

In short – give yourself the best possible chance of having your manuscript accepted for publication.

Good writing.

Writing critique groups

Over recent days I have been working hard on editing and rewriting my novel for children. I am going over every word and sentence, making each one earn its place in the finished work. Some words were deleted. Some were added to make the text flow or to add to the meaning.

Yesterday I presented the totally reworked first three chapters to my critique group at university where I am doing my Master of Arts. I thought I almost had these chapters licked, though I did admit I wasn’t entirely happy with the opening chapter. Three of the group had never before read any part of the manuscript, others had read some or all of the earlier drafts. Even after working on the 7th draft, readers still found little things to comment on, and many valuable suggestions for improvement. Is there no end to this process?

That last statement seems very negative. One of the important lessons I have learned during my course and while writing this novel is that I needed to change. I was threatened by the scary prospect of sharing my writing with others. Strange as that idea appears, many writers have this fear. We want our words to be read – but we are often too scared to show them to anyone!

I have learned to welcome my words being read and critiqued by other writers. My precious writing can be scrutinized by others whose eyes are not rose coloured. They can see the good parts and the parts which need improvement, changing or even eliminating. All in a pleasant, constructive way, of course.

Belonging to a writers’ group is an excellent way of improving your writing skills – and your chances of getting published.

Related articles:

Editing my novel

At long last I have returned to do some concentrated editing and rewriting of the children’s novel I wrote last year. This is the novel I am writing for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree. It is now in its 7th draft (and counting).

You can read about how I went about the process of writing it here, including some articles outlining some of the background research, some of the considerations I needed to address and some of the problems encountered.

I had attempted to complete the novel and hand it up for assessment late last year but illness got in the way. Continued illness has hindered my progress so far this year too. After a break of over three months I am finally in a position to make a run for the finish line.

At the moment I am going through my supervisor’s notes and making changes where necessary. In many cases this involves changing a few words here and there, eliminating unnecessary words and phrases (and some ponderous sentences) and paying close attention to punctuation. It is painstaking work but very necessary. Not only do I desire a good mark but I also want to impress a publisher so much that there is no option but to snap up my manuscript and publish it.

Today I have been looking at the first few chapters. I want them to be the very best I can do. In many cases you have to win over the editor and the reader in the first chapter – sometimes even in the first page.

Some writing hints:

  • Pay close attention to all punctuation marks. Get it right.
  • Get rid of unnecessary words.
  • Eliminate anything which does not advance the plot.
  • Vary the length of your sentences.
  • Make the opening scenes and chaptersĀ  memorable in order to hook the reader into turning the pages.

Good writing.