You finish your story and it’s the best. book. ever. Much cheering. Confetti Cannon. It’s all over! YAY! Let’s slap it in an email off to an editor or upload for self publishing, etc.
Hold the phone, my friend.
You’ve completed what’s called the rough draft. There’s this whole other round of cleaning up and tweaking to do called edits.
In the awesomeness of Social Media, I’ve been contacted by writerly types from all experience levels and walks of life. The conversations are enlightening and, occasionally, frustrating. So I’ve listed the five things that cause the most amount of grumbling when I start talking about edits and why they’re important. Please keep in mind, as always, this stuff works for me. Take from it what you will and discard the rest.
1. Spellcheck is not a substitute for proofreading.
This is NOT a problem for everyone, but it has become the most argued discussion topic I’ve had in the past year or so.
Don’t believe me? Check out Owed to a Spell Chequer. I’ll highlight one of my favorite passages for you:
And now bee cause my spelling
is checked with such grate flare
Their are know faults with in my cite
Of nun eye am a wear
Spell check and grammar check programs are designed as tools to help assist your writing. They are not substitutions for understanding the use of the English Language.
2. Continuity checks are a PITA, but necessary.
I’m notorious for this, and trust me, it drives me nuts when I read it in someone else’s book. If Debbie B Herogal can blow the head off Werewolf badguy and superbrother with a sawed off shotgun on page one, I’m going to have trouble believing her issues with killing things later. Likewise, if the door to her house is blue, make sure it doesn’t turn red somewhere else down the road without a damn good reason (ie, let me paint this door since it’s marred and scratched after my altercation with the werebrothers).
How do you figure out if you have them? Read through the book. In a notebook (specific to editing this particular book or series makes it easier to keep the notes in one place) write down every interaction with an object you see the protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters use. I can hear the screams of frustration now. It’s okay. Go ahead. I’ll wait. lol.
Feel better? Me neither, but it’s necessary. WHY? Well, if you’re submitting to an editor, you’ll have to fix them anyway. If you’re submitting for self publication, you won’t find out where, exactly, you went wrong until the first bad review rolls in. That’s what an editor/editing service is for! See the first reason. You’re going to have to fix them anyway. Might as well do it now.
3. Timeline. Curse you timeline. CURSE YOU!
Debbie B Herogal wakes up at the crack of dawn and yawns, big and bright. With a quick shower, a breakfast of supercharged coffee, and a change of clothes, she’s ready to tackle the day. This lady is bad. ass. With elegant precision she locks and loads her Kimber .45, sheaths it in her bag, and steps out the door to admire the vibrant slash of a West Texas sunset.
Timeline continuity is just as important as the props your character uses in the story. Jot down notes. It can be as specific as 2130: Police arrive at the scene or as vague as Evening: fight to death with two Werewolves. Police arrive at sunset. You’re already reading the book anyway. Keep track. Headaches saved later.
4. Deliver the promise.
While you’re writing down all these little things, you have to objectively observe your characters. Is this a romance? An action adventure? Urban Fantasy? Contemporary mainstream fiction? Military Thriller? Horror? The list goes on.
There are three things we ask of every main character in a book no matter which genre it’s in.
How did you get dragged from your ordinary life?
How did you handle the life altering event thrust upon you?
Did you learn something/change from that life altering event?
The things/events that occur in the story are the heart of your character’s changes. For the better, we hope. Your chosen genre has specific promises of character growth. The event usually revolves around the genre, itself.
Here are some generic promises based on four of my favorite genres:
In Romance, love (or lack thereof) has to be a catalyst for the character’s change.
Action Adventure, the object/goal being thwarted is the catalyst.
Urban Fantasy/Dark Fantasy, the fantasy element going wrong while intricately tied to the character forces their change.
Horror, the horrific event is reason for change.
But wait! I have a romantic suspense story. It has mystery and romance.
True. It does. So you get to track both arcs for each of your characters. 😀 So you have to evaluate how the mystery/suspense affects the hero/heroine. Then evaluate how their relationship affects their willingness to love again. THEN you get to evaluate how the romance strengthens their resolve to face off against the villain in the mystery/suspense arc. Nice. Right?
You have to deliver what you promise. To the editor. And. To the reader. If you ask the character questions above and find your character is back at square one, having learned nothing, you may want to reevaluate the character arc.
In the past six months I have nearly come to blows over this one multiple times. Publishers have formatting guidelines. This includes self publishing ventures like Amazon. Every publisher has their own set for a reason. Many supply a template for your use. Almost all of them have their requirements listed on the site. This includes Amazon, btw. Amazon even has a free ebook available for download which lists exactly how to format for publishing, create coverart, etc.
If you don’t know the difference between an em dash and an en dash, take a second to browse youtube or do a google/bing search for the word ’em dash’. Take the extra time to do proper formatting before emailing your manuscript off or uploading it to your self publishing location. Please. The eyes of all your readers (to include editors) will thank you.
In order to do a proper edit of your manuscript, you have to do a read through. Cover to cover. There’s no way around it. Should you start working on it immediately? Some do. I’ve found that I need one to two weeks between completion and a readthrough to prevent me from screaming like a banshee in my mind.
But, now you know. LOL. Time for the Round of Words in 80 Days Update.
Thunder and Roses edits and submission. I received T&R back from my beta reader with some hefty notes on continuity. I broke the 190k novel down into four (mostly) equal parts. Each quarter of the book took 1-2 days. I’m now down to the final day of edits. So draining. Once I’m done with my final run of 48 pages, I’ll take the book, strip it of formatting and paste it to my publisher’s template. The novel, you see, had been changed, adapted, and edited in four different word processing programs. Mine. My writing partner. Both beta readers. Since this has been an issue in the past, I have to take this little extra step (little. TRY MONSTROUS). To prevent italics from being lost, I put a $ in front of all italics and an * after. That way, when I’ve pasted the plain text to the new document, I can do a search for “$” and set italics again.
If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.
I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.