Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Editing Checklist

One of my friends is an artist who paints. When I told her I was working on my second rewrite for Emma: A Latter-day Tale, she told me that she would never re-do a painting to please anyone. I couldn't decide whether to be jealous of her or not. It would be so nice to not have to change anything--to just write and be done with it. On the other hand, I love being able to go back and fix things. Good writing involves a lot of rewriting. My current editor has been great at helping me to strengthen my story with a lot of rewriting.

Writers have a saying: "Kill your darlings." That means your favorite lines are usually the ones you need to delete. There's been a full-on masacre of my darlings this week as I've tried to make Emma more likeable. All of Emma's judgmental and sarcastic lines have died a quick and merciless death.

I think every writer has their own weaknesses that they need to focus on while revising. Here's the checklist I went through as I was going through my "final" revisions, which turned out to be not-so-final:

Check to make sure all the main characters have clear character arcs. What are the internal changes in each character? What does each character learn?

Is your main character likable and endearing? How can you help the reader relate to him or her?

Do you learn something new about each of the main characters in each chapter? Can you answer most of the questions on a character worksheet like this one?

Have you researched all necessary details, such as characters' professions, medical situations, locations, etc.?

Is each setting interesting? Add details to make sure readers can visualize each setting. Use the five senses.

Excitement and Emotion
Does your first chapter hook the reader? Can you eliminate any unnecessary details?

Does each chapter draw the reader in with a hook in the first paragraph?

Does each chapter end with a hook to keep the reader interested?

Can the reader feel the tension during the climax chapters. Are the characters suffering enough? Can the reader feel their emotions?

Can the reader feel the emotion during the final resolution?

Nit-picky Things
Read the whole thing out loud, looking for missing words, unrealistic dialogue, and other errors that stand out.

Do a search and replace to eliminate double spaces.

Check for words writers should delete (see this post.) I also check for the words I use too much: just, that, sort of, really, then, kind of, and actually.

Spell Check

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Author Anniversary

It's been a year since Persuasion came out, and I'm still a little reluctant to call myself an author. When I signed my contract almost two years ago, I thought I'd be lucky to make $50 from this whole author gig. Lucky for me, Persuasion has sold well. It's been fun to hear from readers who've enjoyed Persuasion. I've loved going to signings, meeting great bookstore peeps, and meeting people who've already read my book.

Another great thing about being an author is meeting other authors. Authors are loving, happy people (and I'm not just saying that because I am one.) I had kind of an epiphany at my last writers' conference. When we all brought out our stuff for the potluck lunch, everybody brought about the same thing I did—there weren't any fancy jello salads, homemade pastries, or crockpot casseroles. Nothing was homemade, and people actually ate what I brought. It was so life-affirming.

The absolute best thing about being an author is that I now have an excuse to write every day. Yep, I'm a published author now, so it's my professional duty to sit down at the computer and create a story. It's not too hard since I'm addicted to writing. You could call it my drug of choice.

There is a downside to publishing, of course. That is that you never know quite what to expect. Sometimes it's kind of like being in a French prison. In case you don't already know, in France, the prisoners don't know when they're going to get out—they just sit in there day after day not knowing. That's why people hardly ever go back to prison in France. They hate the not-knowing. Being an author is sometimes like that. You wait and wait to hear about your sales numbers, wait to see if your next book is accepted for publication, wait to hear if your rewrite is okay, wait to hear back from agents, etc.

That brings me to my last point--the one thing that's even cooler than getting to write every day. That is knowing that God is on my side. There's a Michael McLean song about adoption that's called "From God's hands to my hands to yours." I feel that way about my writing. It comes from God first. As I was stressing out about my submissions last summer, I said a prayer and told God how worried I was about getting this next book published. The answer surprised me in a way that assured me it didn't come from me. It was essentially this: "It's my book, too, so don't worry about it." Of course, I'm not the only author who feels that way. I've met a lot of others who also feel that writing is their mission. God needs a mountain of clean, uplifting books. He needs an army of writers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Write a Love Note

Captain Wentworth writes his famous letter.
I love a great love note, and Valentine's Day is a great day to give or get a love note. Of course, love notes aren’t just for lovers. I’ve written love notes to my parents, my kids, my friends, and my siblings. Everybody loves a love note. It’s the perfect recession-proof valentine’s gift. It’s also a great way to rekindle a relationship that’s gone a little flat.

One of the advantages of marrying another writer is that my husband is great at writing me notes. I have a notebook full of them. I think it's one of the things that's strengthened our marriage. During the early years--when things were sometimes a little rocky--I often had to write down a list of the things that bugged me about my husband then throw them away before writing him a love note. It sounds weird, but it must have worked because we’ve been married for eighteen years now.

It’s like a Thank-you Note

You can think of a love note as a sort of thank-you note. A good way to start is to list some of the person’s good qualities, saying things like:

  • "Thank you for listening to me,"
  • "You're great at making me laugh," or
  • "I love how you work hard every day."
It’s a way to Remember Good Times

You can also talk about fun times you’ve had together:
  • "I’ll always remember our kayaking trip,"
  • "I really enjoy our early morning runs," or
  • "I always look forward to watching old movies with you."
It’s Unique 

It’s important not to limit yourself. Don’t worry about making your note a certain length. A good love note can be really short or really long or somewhere in between. If you want to draw a picture, go ahead. Your note doesn’t all have to be original either. If there’s a song or poem that reminds you of that person, write down the lyrics. One of my favorite love notes from my husband is a collection of quotes that reminded him of me.

The classic love note in literature is usually a confession of feelings that haven’t been obvious up to that point. This is, of course, the most risky and most romantic love note. Chances are, though, that most love notes you write go to people who already have a clue about your feelings. That doesn’t mean that they won’t love to see them in writing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Slender Man Doesn't Scare Me

Have you heard of Slender Man? It's a hot topic of conversation among pre-teen boys right now. And, as you may suspect, it's a video game. Here's what happens in the game: you wander around in a dark wooded area with only a flashlight. The whole time, you're looking for slender man. Then, when you least suspect him, he's right there--a tall man, wearing a suit. He actually looks a lot like my husband, but his arms are longer. His arms turn into a whole bunch of tentacles, reaching for you. Then the screen goes to static. The boys like to brag to each other about how the game doesn't scare them at all. Not at all. Yeah, right.

Since my boys started playing this slender man game, they've developed some irrational fears. For example, one of them will no longer take out the trash if it's dark outside. That leaves me with a stinky kitchen in the morning. My seven-year-old is the worst, though. He will no longer go to the basement by himself, take a bath by himself, or go to bed by himself, even when all the lights are on. Funny thing is, neither one of these boys is scared to play on the computer, where they might actually see slender man.

My boys are way past the age for monster spray. They've also lost interest in playing Slender Man, so banning the game wouldn't do any good. Last night, I told them they needed to just grow up and get over their fears. Then I started thinking--who is it that wakes up in the middle of the night because she's scared about silly things like car repairs, stinky kitchens, and remodeling projects? Oh, that would be me.