Quick (yeah, sure) thoughts on round 1 of #QueryKombat 2017

I’m participating in #QueryKombat this year. If you’re not familiar, Query Kombat is an annual competition run by this writer and this writer and this writer, where you submit your query and the first 250 words of your novel. For the first round, 64 selected Kombatants are paired off to go one-on-one (shout out to O.C. Shaw, who is a friendly and gracious writer whose book I want in my life). Judges read your entries, offer constructive criticism, and declare a victor. Get enough votes and you move on to the Agent Round where literary agents review your entry and decide if they want to ask for more pages, and then round 2. Entries can be updated before the agents get to see it.
Continue reading “Quick (yeah, sure) thoughts on round 1 of #QueryKombat 2017”

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}

Friday Morning FYI – 3/3/2017

Welcome to your Friday Morning FYI (it’s probably easier to write these every week than having to do three at a time to catch up, but I’ve been busy so whatevs edition) – my chance to share observations/wisdom/rants in short, easily consumed form.

I’m a huge believer in enlisting beta readers for your work (more on this in the next few FYIs, too). They find big plot holes you didn’t know were there, and also the small details you missed/omitted/denied, which, if you agree need addressing, sharpen your story with minimal changes. I had one of these in my new novel, around a character smoking at the beginning but then never having another cigarette. I had a reason for that, which I thought I made clear, but obviously hadn’t. Good catch, easily fixed, and potentially quite important. Let’s have that be our FYI for this week:

I’ve seen writers say to their beta readers, ‘Just look for big stuff’. This is a mistake because it’s often the little details you, as the writer, think are meaningless that pull a reader out of your story. This happened to me, in a published book I was reading a few months back – one detail about a subject with which I’m quite familiar, that was dead wrong. I found its wrongness so distracting I abandoned the book. That might sound dumb, and maybe you’re thinking I should have let it go (and you might be right), but the fact is, as a reader, it made me walk away.

So, writers, don’t restrict what your beta readers can report, and don’t dismiss out of hand the little details they find confusing/wrong. Readers aren’t always right, but at least you’ll get to see what they’re seeing and have the chance to make a choice on the matter.

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}