Friday Morning FYI – 2/2/2018

Welcome to your Friday Morning FYI (I’m-in-Sao-Paolo-Brazil-recovering-from-a-beef-hangover edition) – my chance to share observations/wisdom/rants in short, easily consumed form.

Last week, I FYI-ed my writer chums about being patient with revisions, relaying how it’s taken me nearly a year to revise my latest book. A friend reached out and recommended I take that post down because “You shouldn’t post about your writing or revision process. Agents are going to reject you if they read that and think you do things you shouldn’t.” If you’ll indulge me (if not, close the tab now) I’d like to address that concern.

First, no matter how much some perpetuate the myth, agents aren’t heartless monsters combing the interwebz for reasons to reject you when you eventually query them. Nuff said.

Second, I don’t plan to take a year revising any book I’ll write going forward. For the two books I queried before my current novel, I made mistakes in both the writing and the revising (and so, subsequently, the querying). Taking extra time with book three allowed me to identify where I’d gone wrong process-wise with the first two. What I learned will prevent me from now making certain mistakes in the first place, and write/revise smarter and more efficiently.

Last, writers should blog/tweet/whatever about their experiences, because we can all learn something from each other. We’re all students and teachers in this mad escapade of trying to line up 100K words in a pleasing order. Play nice and share.

Oh yeah, I need an FYI. Hmm. Maybe this… :

Don’t be afraid of agents, grow beyond your mistakes, share what you know.

That’ll do.

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}

Friday Morning FYI – 1/26/2018

Welcome to your Friday Morning FYI – my chance to share observations/wisdom/rants in short, easily consumed form.

I’m not generally one for broad catch phrases, but ‘It’ll be done when it’s done’ is one I like. As both a writer and trainer, I see a lot of impatience. Writers make up deadlines for finishing revisions, folks think they can be trained to an expert level on something in a day, etc. Were I not such a well-rounded human, it would be upsetting.

Still, I feel for those who impose unrealistic deadlines, writers in particular. I know how stressful that can be, because I used to do it. I wrote a book a year for three years straight. Queried the first two way before I should have, because I declared them done before they were, and because ‘I had to’ according to some dates I’d made up. I finished the first draft for the third in late 2016, and still haven’t sent it out wide. Some will call that dragging my feet, but I’ve worked on the book the whole time, doing everything I can to make it great rather than rushing it out the door at ‘good enough’ just to get rejected because it wasn’t.

And it’s so much better than it was a year ago, or six months ago, or three.

That leads us to this week’s FYI:

Sure, deciding to finish a first draft in six months is a good idea (here’s another phrase: ‘Just finish it’), but first drafts are normally a mess anyway. Revising your novel (one more: ‘Writing is re-writing’) will take much longer. Accept that.

You aren’t going to take your book from mess to awesome after one beta reader and a couple weeks of edits. You’re not.

No, you don’t have to query in February, or any other month for that matter. That’s in your head.

No, you shouldn’t pitch your book if you finished the first draft a month ago. Or two. Or probably three.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t rush (last one: ‘A writer’s worst enemy is impatience’). If you’re story is badass, agents and editors will love it when it’s razor sharp. Don’t risk them passing it over when it’s butter knife dull.

Huh, I guess I like catch phrases more than I thought.

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}

A little editing example

Wow it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything! Let’s remedy that.

Ah, editing (or revising, if you prefer).

I was just reading something I wrote years ago, feeling nostalgic, wondering how bad my writing was back then compared to now. As I went along, I spotted a paragraph that could benefit from some obvious edits, and remembered I always wanted to write a post where I show how I pick apart my writing based on well-known writing rules (if such things exist).

So here we are.

Here’s the paragraph as I found it:

As we walked, it seemed to grow brighter and hotter by the minute. I took off my coat and slung it over my shoulder, letting the skin on my arms feel open air for the first time since the fall, then pulled my John Deer cap tightly down on my forehead to shield my eyes. As Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters, I became aware of the fact that he was guiding me back toward the road and away from his house.

I’m sure you seasoned writers/editors will spot the problems right away (probably more than I can, too) but the below is what I see:

As we walked, it seemed to grow brighter and hotter by the minute.’

The way I’m using ‘seemed’ is weak. It implies the speaker’s perception rather than making a definitive statement.

Edit

As we walked, it grew brighter and hotter by the minute.

‘I took off my coat and slung it over my shoulder, letting the skin on my arms feel open air for the first time since the fall, then pulled my John Deer cap tightly down on my forehead to shield my eyes.’

That’s a long-ass sentence right there. If I was going to keep it as is, I should use ‘and’ instead of then, but I think the sentence should be broken up.

Edit

I took off my coat and slung it over my shoulder, letting the skin on my arms feel open air for the first time since the fall. I pulled my John Deer cap tightly down on my forehead to shield my eyes.

‘I pulled my John Deer cap tightly down on my forehead to shield my eyes.’

Did the speaker pull the whole cap down? How could he pull the whole cap down on his forehead?

Edit

I pulled the bill of my John Deer cap tightly down to shield my eyes.

I could also have gone with ‘… my John Deer cap’s bill down…’, but that feels awkward on my tongue. That might just be me.

‘tightly’

This adverb (like most) is not needed. A strong verb would be better.

Edit

I yanked the bill of my John Deer cap down to shield my eyes.

‘the fact that’

There are a lot of problems with the last sentence, but ‘the fact that’ just screams at me. There’s almost never a reason to use it. It slows down the writing. If a character says it, it can be acceptable as part of their voice, but other than that it’s just not necessary. You might keep ‘that’, but that is often also unneeded.

Edit

As Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters, I became aware he was guiding me back toward the road and away from his house.

‘I became aware’

I don’t have a problem with ‘I became aware’ as a rule, but it feels clunky here.

Edit

As Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters, I realized he was guiding me back toward the road and away from his house.

‘back toward the road and away from his house’

Sometimes when something feels off, it may just be the order. I think that’s what’s happening here with ‘toward… and away’.

Edit

As Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters, I realized he was guiding me away from his house and back to the road.

If you’re thinking, “Hey Ron, do you really need both of those conditions? Jack can’t guide the MC toward the house and the road,” you’d be right! What you can’t know just from this snippet is there’s something going on at the house, so I have ‘away from the house’ in there to hint at that and set Jack’s intention (another reason to have ‘away’ first). If an editor told me to pull it, I’d be fine with that.

‘As Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters, I realized he was guiding me away from his house and back to the road.’

Finally (told you this sentence had big problems), I could break the sentence into two sentences to increase readability. This would be especially helpful if I left the previous sentence as bloody long as it was when I started.

Edit

Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters. I realized he was guiding me away from his house and back to the road.

So after all that, this is what I have:

As we walked, it grew brighter and hotter by the minute. I took off my coat and slung it over my shoulder, letting the skin on my arms feel open air for the first time since the fall. I yanked the bill of my John Deer cap down to shield my eyes. Jack and I talked about tractor maintenance, irrigation, and other farming matters. I realized he was guiding me away from his house and back to the road.

Not perfect, but better.

Final thoughts

editing/revising is critical, but you need to be careful not to overdo it. If you do, you run the risk of losing the voice. I may have done that here a smidge, but I think the trade off works. In the end, some will always find fault. Just do the best you can 🙂

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}

Friday Morning FYI – 3/17/2017

Welcome to your Friday Morning FYI (prob never gonna get one of these done on a Friday again edition) – my chance to share observations/wisdom/rants in short, easily consumed form.

This week, I sat down with my final beta reader (lucky #6) for my latest novel. We had a few drinks, some pizza, a few more drinks, and talked/laughed/debated about/over my book for around two hours. It was a fun time, and I got some good feedback, as always. That brings us to this week’s FYI:

Writers, you’ve seen me write this before, but I’m going to beat the drum again: Beta readers are important. You’re too close to your story, even if it’s been locked in a drawer for a while. Fresh eyes always see things you don’t/can’t, providing perspective you don’t have. Before you query, give your book to people whose opinions you trust (yes, even people you suspect might not like it) and ask them for their brutally-honest opinion. Once they ‘ve provided that, honor the commitment they made to you by spending time considering their feedback. They won’t always be right, but they don’t need to be. Just getting you to look at something the way they saw it can expose problems you never recognized.

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}

Friday Morning FYI – 3/10/2017

Welcome to your Friday Morning FYI (it’s like we’re going back in time edition) – my chance to share observations/wisdom/rants in short, easily consumed form.

Not only do I heart my beta readers, I also enjoy beta reading for others. It’s an honor to have people ask me to help improve there stuff, and something I take seriously. Over the last month, I’ve beta read two novels and a bunch of short fiction. I’ve got another novel coming my way shortly, which I look forward to savaging reading and annotating. Let’s make that our FYI for this week:

No one’s writing is perfect. Don’t be afraid of that, either as someone showing your work to someone else or as someone reviewing another writer’s story. As much as you may need to hear what’s wrong with your story so you can fix it, you need to tell others what’s wrong with their work for the same reason. We’re all just trying to get better. Honor that with honesty (without being a d!ck) and forthrightness (but not abuse), and ask for the same.

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}