Redrafting the manuscript…again

A few months ago, I hired an editor to take a look at my novel. This was a big step for me, to look beyond beta readers and go for more professional advice. I took my time to find the right one and with their help, picked the right services.

Once the first step had been completed, I took some time to think about the feedback I’d been given and how I could best make the changes needed to address the points I wanted to – some were points left intentionally to work into the trilogy as a whole.

Now, I’ve finished my part of it and I’m ready to move onto the next step.

Taking some time to process things

I’m fortunate that I’m used to receiving feedback. Hell, I look forward to it. I always want to do better and improve my craft and my stories.

That’s why I was able to take the feedback on board quite quickly and start making a plan. Most of it was positive, and I decided that fewer smaller changes would do much better than a few larger ones. This meant I’d have to pay attention to smaller details and the ramifications of those throughout the manuscript but, even now it’s done, I stand by that choice.

I spent a chunk of time wondering if I’d done too much, or not enough, but in the end, I’ll see what the next phase of this process throws at me and what needs to be done next. Either way, I’ll be more aware of this going forward with the next book.

Even then, the feedback I didn’t expect didn’t knock me down too much, either. Some of it related to things I want to address in further books to make them more connected, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore it entirely here.

I can see now the benefits an expert’s eye can bring.

Dealing with distractions

As you might know by now, I tend not to stick around in one place for too long. The last year saw me stick to Wellington, with work and Covid both playing a part in that decision.

I had hoped that my last few weeks at Wellington would let me go through the manuscript and get it ready for the next service I need to have done, but as usual, life had other plans.

I managed bits and pieces but there were friends to see and say goodbye to, work to finish and packing to do. I’m the kind of person who likes to set aside time and get on with things, but given my nomadic lifestyle, I don’t want to miss out on life, either.

That means I had to take some distractions and finish the work this week, while in my current home of Queenstown. It’s been a good balance; explore, do things and write. I can’t complain at all, so far, and it’s worked out nicely, if I do say so!

Overwhelming relief

Having got it done, there’s a sense of relief.

Don’t’ get me wrong, there’s still more to do. Another round with my editor, Rachel, is coming early next year and even beyond that, there’s the work to get everything ready to self-publish. That means that while I can relax a little and take a little breather, there’s no time to let up.

Not only that, but books two and three are looming. Their first drafts are done but I don’t want those redrafts to take as long as this one has.

Even with my travelling, I’m going to have to get better at managing my time.

But for now, I’ve got another project that demands my attention.

Tackling Lethargy

Lethargy. It’s something that I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in suffering from from time to time. Yes, that is why I’ve been silent recently. I have the ideas but not the energy or motivation to work on them. Sorry about that.

I’m aiming to change that. I still have the lethargy but the only way to beat it is by getting organised and doing things (I say this while not swimming, which I should be doing right now. One thing at a time.) that I do want to do anyway.

Master of Procrastination

Yes, yes I am. It’s very easy to waste time. Facebook and social media in general is good for this. Fear of missing out (or FOMO) means we’re glued to the news feed whether at home or on the go. We don’t want to miss out on anything that MAY happen. Before you know it, three hours have passed and it’s almost time for bed.

Binge watching TV with the likes of Netflix is another way of losing time. Pottering around the house/flat/home. Basically, anything you do when you know you have other things to do wastes that time. I’m especially bad when I have to do the cleaning. Sigh.

Becoming more organised

As it stands now, I don’t have much in the way of free time during the week. An 8 hour day at work as well as three hours – minimum – travel time means I have about four hours after work to do things. There are the daily chores and tasks that must be done, eating, showering etc.

I swim twice a week, which takes up a good amount of time on those nights too. I like to read and play games too so finding the balance that allows me to do these things, as well as write and/or edit for a while every day.

That means a schedule.

It’s not fun to stick to a routine but it does seem a part of normal life these days. It lets me manage my time and hopefully get the best out of myself. I can appreciate the limited time I have and make sure every day has work, writing and some sort of enjoyable activity.

It does mean some sort of sacrifice. Something is going to have to give. Social media is the first thing to go. It’s still there – you might have found this on Facebook or Twitter and such – and I’ll check back every now and then, but until I can make some sort of progress, it needs to stop distracting me.

The proverbial kick up the backside

Sometimes, we need something else to get back into the swing of things. Whenever I submit any kind of writing to something/somewhere/someone, I always ask for feedback. In most cases, it doesn’t happen but occasionally it does, and it can sometimes be that kick needed.

I was told this particular story had basically no chance of going anywhere without serious work – a complete overhaul of the story. I’m not sure what exactly that overhaul needs yet, maybe I never will, but that’s okay.

There was something positive to come from it. I was told my writing is good. The form, the technical ability, the style etc – overall, I’m a good writer. I know that, or I wouldn’t have made it this far but it’s good to hear, and from a stranger. Every so often, we need that compliment and I know there are better stories in me, already in the works. If I get them done, I may just have a chance to make a real career out of this!

Return of the Writer

Once again, ladies and gents, you have my apologies. I had hoped to get back into the swing of things long before now but the book took a lot more out of me than I first thought. I really needed some time to recover – mentally more than anything – and to be able to look at all three books with a fresh mind.

Now, I feel like I’m finally at that stage. Oh, and I like puns. You should know this by now (and in case you didn’t get it – shame on you – that’s a Star Wars reference at the top. Can’t believe I explained that).

I’ve not been sitting idly by, however. Some things have been going on. So, my friends, join me on what, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a riveting tale. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, probably not but bear with me.

Where have I been?

I’ve been here and there, keeping busy without exhausting myself further. Or trying not to. I tried reading but that was a little too close to home and I found that even gaming wasn’t as appealing as I’d thought it would be. I did keep up with swimming, other than last week where I had other exercise plans (dodgeball – don’t ask but I do have a medal!). Hell, I even tried quitting smoking.

The one thing that is worth noting is that over the last couple of weeks is that it was the fifth Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I’ve volunteered at every single one to date and this year was no exception, although following the pattern of the previous two, I’m not as involved as previously but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it all the same.

It’s fantastic to see so many children getting involved with reading, writing, performances and much more – anything creative and wacky! It’s been a pleasure to see the festival grow since 2010 and I’m looking forward to next year already.

Expect a more detailed post on this in two weeks. I wouldn’t want to break tradition now, would I?

Finding motivation

One thing that I think has been really lacking for me is motivation. Since finishing the first draft of the most recent novel, I’ve been finding it hard to come back – for whatever reason. Life can work for or against us and we subconsciously associate that with actions, activities, emotions and such. I think when I’m not happy with something big in my life, it stops me from wanting to write as I feel that should be fixed first.

It doesn’t apply all the time but it does have an impact.

I also had a conversation with a friend about writer’s block, which I’m still not convinced actually exists as a thing but yet I’ve yet to encounter a writer who hasn’t used this term when they struggle. That seems to be more to do with ease – we all understand it, from varying sources – so it doesn’t need explanation. Despite that, why is it a thing and is it only a thing because we make it so? I don’t think I’ve had writer’s block as I write at work and generally. Hey, I’m writing a blog post right now! It’s an interesting thought, though.

Actually, I think this is a topic for a full blog post next month. Look out for that!

Putting together a plan

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other
My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have three projects to edit. The novella is first up, and I’ll be starting that at the weekend. I like it’s length but the ‘professional’ feedback (from agents and publishers) suggest it would work better as a novel. I’ll decide that as I go through the draft but I’m not convinced yet. There are other things that need to be fixed, however.

After that, I’ll start on one of the novels. The sci-fi project is up first, as it’s more recent and I think it needs less work. The story is well rounded, it just needs to be padded out in places, with a few more explanations and sub plots, supported by a little character development. That might sound a lot, but it won’t be as bad as you might think. Of course, after that comes the nit-picking of later drafts.

Finally, I’ll work on the fantasy novel. That needs a fair bit adding to it for me to be happy. The good thing is, I know what to add, the big question is where it should go. I have some ideas but the edit will help identify weaker areas and the plot holes that I know exist.

If I can get all that done over summer, I MIGHT just have one ready to send out by the end of the year.

If I’m lucky.

It’s time to…edit!

I hoped to post this last week but, according to my schedule, there are still two weeks until the next post so I’m safe (the glory of a five-week month) for now. I teased previously about why I’ve been so quiet lately, with a lot of things on the go and now I’m finally ready to show you what I’ve been working on.

So, here are my three babies manuscripts. Aren’t they pretty…?

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other
My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

What are they?

From left to right, there’s a novella in third draft, a novel in first draft and another novel in first draft (yes, that’s a long way of saying it but I’m enjoying my words. Hush). I feel like it shouldn’t have taken this long to get this far but then I remembered life easily gets in the way. That’s a whole different topic.

I hope they’re all published one day, obviously, but I’m proud of reaching this stage. I’ve covered fiction, fantasy and science fiction (in that order, respectively) so not completely in my comfort zone but trying something new is always harder than anything else. Maybe that’s why it’s only a novella right now, but who knows what could happen.

If you want to read them – tough! They’re not ready yet but when I’m looking for readers, I’ll let you know.

What’s next?

Editing! The novels are only in first draft and need a fair bit of work. There are plenty of inaccuracies and continuity errors – and that’s not counting the grammatical issues. Who said writing was easy? Then again, I like a challenge. I’ll distract myself with redrafting some short stories in between as there are plenty of competitions to enter. When I find them, I’ll put them up here as normal.

Blogging resumes as normal (I promise) in two weeks. Updates on the editing will come as and when there is something to report. Until next time!

So, You Want to be a Writer?

Some of my favourite books
Some of my favourite books – I’d love for my name to be here one day. Don’t you want the same?

You poor, poor fool.

I’m just kidding. Kind of. Regardless of how old you are, where you’re from or what you currently do, you’ve got a burning desire to tell stories and that just isn’t being fulfilled right now.

Maybe you’re writing something in your spare time; novels, short stories, poems, scripts and such. Maybe you want to but don’t know where to start. Well, I can’t tell you I’m an expert on the subject since, you know, I’m (at this stage but if you read this years later I may be) not a published author right now.

What I do have are experiences, insights and tidbits of information that may help in some way. I’m going to share these with you here. They won’t make you a writer but if it helps you pick up that pen or open that word processor, I’m counting it as a win.

What a better way to start 2016’s blogging than this? Precisely.

You’re a writer. Deal with it

Not everyone has a problem with this but it can come up every now and then. Calling yourself a writer – or having someone else call you it – is fine, but actually feeling like one is something completely different.

Maybe it brings a sense of pressure to produce or do something. Perhaps you feel guilty because it doesn’t feel like a job or bring the same stability other careers do. Or, you might just find it frees you and you can relax at last.

Whatever it is, you’re going to have to deal with it. It comes down to feeling comfortable with who you are, maybe not your entire being but this aspect of it. It might strike early on or later, but just remember, you’re not alone. Proof of being a writer doesn’t mean you have to be the next Tolkien, King or Rowling – far from it. Just be yourself, write the way you want to and, most of all, enjoy it!

Plan, plan, plan and plan some more

It’s dull, it’s boring, it’s mind numbing.

Sound familiar? Then you’re doing it wrong. Planning your work is the first step of a challenging, rewarding and enjoyable process. I love writing books but at the same time, short stories and blogging are hugely enjoyable. Each needs different levels of planning and it’s different for everyone.

My novels need a lot of planning. I develop characters, settings, plots and subplots usually before writing anything (although sometimes I write little extracts that do or do not feature in the story later). Once I understand the world I’m writing in, I start. My plan is usually a list of points per chapter and I play connect the dot. Whether you storyboard, mind map (or whatever the PC term is for it now) or use audio notes, it helps keep you on track.

Short stories need less planning but just as much research. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise. On the flipside, if you get a flash of inspiration, go with it and then come back to your plans later, then work out how to use it.

Writing is actually fun!

Yes! Yes, it really is. It’s the most enjoyable part of it, but if you’re doing this solely to make money, turn around right now and pick another career.

Don’t get me wrong, we all (those of us who choose this) want to earn a living as a writer but if you’re writing for money, your writing will suffer because it’s not what you want to do. People are smarter than you think and they can see through the façade, so write honestly, about something you like and are passionate about, and the success will come.

I’m a great believer in the best job is the one you love doing, day in and day out. If you enjoy writing, whether its books, poems, web content, blogging – whatever – you’ll write better, build a bigger and more genuine audience and achieve the goals you want.

Don’t put undue pressure on yourself

It’s the ‘p’ word again – no, not publishing/ers. Pressure. It’s one of the biggest killers to any good story or project. If the pressure mounts up and you can’t deal with it, you’ll come across that infamous writers block.

I’m no believer in ‘writers block’ although I do use it as an umbrella term. There are a number of reasons why you might suffer from it. Pressure is one, tiredness and stress are others. A lack of focus or concentration, illness and many other factors can all stop you in your tracks.

Social media can be a big one. Too much time mindlessly clicking on Facebook’s timeline or Twitter’s newsfeed can destroy hours and days and – whoops – you’ve lost a week, then a month. That’s when the pressure builds. It’s a vicious cycle but if you put small steps in place to build a routine, you’ll get there.

Don’t get me wrong, some days you’ll write 20 words and others 5,000 but that’s okay. I try to write for at least one hour every day. The routine helps.

Find real feedback

This is tricky. Real, constructive feedback is essential to help you grow as a writer, and to develop your work. Other writers are great but they can often be busy. Readers are good but a reader doesn’t always make for good critic.

AVOID family and friends. They’ll have the best of intentions, no matter what you say to them beforehand, about what you expect and would like from them. You’ll get a “it was really good” or “I really enjoyed it” and that’s about it. Occasionally, you’ll dig and dig and dig and get a little nugget but it’s not worth THAT level of effort.

Find a writing group, in person or online – they exist everywhere. Follow the rules and be respectful. You won’t always like or agree with what they say but it’s for you to decide how to use that criticism. Throwing it back in someone’s face and going in a huff won’t help you and you’ll find feedback disappearing.

There are rules. Follow them or don’t – it’s your call

Every genre of writing has rules. So does every medium or format. Some people will tell you to stick to them at all costs while others will tell you not to worry and break them whenever you want. In the end, you have to decide.

It depends on what you’re hoping to achieve with your writing, the genre, context and so much more – it’s why planning and research are important. It will help you figure out which rules to follow (if any) and feedback will help prove or disprove your decisions. Be willing to adapt to meet the story and expectations of your reader to an extent. It’s a very fine line.

At the end of the day, it’s your call.

Editing…

It’s. So. Much. Fun.

Not.

However, it’s essential. You’ve written your book or script or poetry collection and you send it off straight away, so proud you’ve done it. Now you just have to wait for the phone to ring for hours on end with publishers offering you deals. Right?

Wrong.

You’ll make mistakes – spelling and grammar included, no matter how hard you try to spot them – and there will be plot holes, lines that don’t make sense to anyone but you. This is why you need to edit your work. Read it over and over and over again, and then get someone else to proof it as well. The repeat. Iron out those mistakes BEFORE you send it anywhere. It might take a full year to do this. Be patient.

Publishing, agents and rejection

There’s so much to say on this but you are going to face more rejection than you are success – at least, early in your career. The worst thing is, it’s not always just plain rejection. Sometimes you hear nothing at all in the months you’re waiting. It’s awful but that’s the way it is.

Get used to ‘no.’ It might be in a nice way but that’s what it is. Dust off and try again. It takes many, many tries to get someone to even acknowledge you. So many writers have what could be successful books or stories and give up after a few no’s.

Bear in mind, a ‘few’ in this instance can be hundreds. It only takes one yes, however.

Further Reading

Hey, look! Homework!

There’s so much reading you can do, from people like me to the ones who have done it. It’s important to remember that you’re not me, and you’re not them. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else so don’t get caught up on an idea if it doesn’t work out.

That being said, it can’t hurt to know about what people have gone through and use it to help, if you can. I’ve started you off, or given you some encouragement (or maybe I’ve put you off entirely – sorry!).

Either way, it’s a long and hard journey ahead of you. Stick with it and you’ll get there. Honest.

I read this article recently, on how to smash through seven writing roadblocks writers come across at various times. It’s quite interesting and worth a read, either now or later.

Good luck!

The Joys of Editing

So, as I mentioned last time. I’ve been kind of here and there lately. I lost my job in June and spent the summer getting another one. That’s done and while it’s a very good job and I’m really enjoying it, it is causing challenges.

The time it takes to travel to and from work is much longer now than I’ve been used to since finishing uni…actually, since I started working eleven years ago! This is tiring for me and I don’t want my life to be work, write, sleep and repeat. I’m still trying to get that balance.

One thing I have been doing is writing.

I’ve been putting off editing my novel thus far – I’m just not ready. So, when I’ve finished the draft of my current project (which involves a fair bit of editing) I’ll come back to it and take another look and decide whether the time is right.

After discussions with a few friends and writers, it’s interesting to see the different ways of editing a project so I thought I’d take a look here.

Digital vs print

When it comes to editing, I find it very difficult to do on a screen. I find that my eyes start glazing over after a while, which makes me miss even the most obvious mistakes. When I notice this happening while I’m writing, I know it’s time to take a break since, for me, it’s easier to get on a roll while writing compared to editing. It’s a big problem.

My method is generally a quick once over to spot glaring mistakes and then I print it. In its entirety. I find a pen (of any colour though red is a popular choice) and make notes. Scratch out words and letters, put arrows to rearrange things, make notes to re-write parts and a lot more. I find this is also good to help me escape the increasingly digital centric world we live in.

It’s amazing the things I can spot – and often ask myself how thick I am to make such a silly mistake in the first place!

I’ve found a lot of people actually agree with me on this and do something similar although some handle editing digitally better than me. Kudos to you all.

It leads on to the second part of the discussion, however.

How long should you wait?

This is actually more fascinating and there’s a much bigger divide here.

So, let me pose you the question: how long should you wait upon completing your draft and beginning to edit it again?

Unless I’m faced with a tight deadline (possibly due to being lazy or a change of plans) I try not to edit anything without giving it at least a month’s breathing time. This is because I feel like I’m too close to it. When I read a book and pick up mistakes, it’s because of a fresh set of eyes. The more often I read a book, the less mistakes I notice. I become used to it, and know what to expect.

Editing is a ruthless business and I can’t afford that luxury. Every word is at risk, as is every letter. When I finish a draft, for both writing and editing, I put a reminder in my calendar for a month later as that’s when I can go back to it.

Other people are different. I’ve been told by people who don’t wait and dive straight in. Their minds are still on that level and they feel more comfortable keeping it there. I’ve tried it but it’s not for me. A few people have told me they send it to others after every draft. That can slow things down and I only do that when I’m at a stage where I don’t mind people reading it.

It’s very interesting to find out how we all work.

Going forward

In the end, I know what works for me and that’s the most important thing. Every writer is different but it can take a long time to figure out what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try something new – especially at different times as we don’t stand still for long.

The blog has been left alone recently and I apologise for that but I’m starting to get my act together. Having a plan/schedule makes a huge difference! Be sure to keep checking back for the latest news and thoughts.

I’m writing a lot more short stories at the moment and there are a lot of competitions coming up over the remainder of 2015 and going into 2016. I’ll be sure to share the best ones with you soon so you know what to start working for.

As always, good luck!

Regarding NaNoWriMo

I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every year for the last ten, eleven, twelve years or more. This year, however, I won’t be getting involved. I just don’t have the time or energy to commit to it.

While I would use it as a kick to keep on with my current project, I’m hoping to have it done by November (wishful thinking) and I’m happier going at my own pace now.

I’ve completed it once, back in 2010, and that was a great feeling but since then I haven’t had the same level of motivation, which is a shame. I’m not even entirely sure why yet. Maybe it was the challenge of doing it? Who knows.

If you’ve ever thought about, I’d definitely recommend getting involved. Find people in your area doing it and get involved with the meet-ups. You’ll meet some people you won’t forget any time soon!

Coping with Feedback and Criticism

Apologies guys and gals, I’ve been pretty lax recently. I wish I could say that writing is my priority – I want it to be, definitely – but life likes to throw curve balls. Call it destiny, fate, karma, chance or whatever. It happens.

It happened to me a few months back. I was made redundant, at just what I felt was the worst time as I had just about gotten out of most immediate debt and was making plans going forward. Well, those got scrapped.

Now, fast forward a couple of months and I’m working full time again. Brilliant. However, there’s more travelling and adapting to a new workplace and job and this takes time so while I’m trying to keep up, it’ll take a while until I’m back to ‘normal’ again.

A little inspiration

Before this all happened, I’ve been trying to get my novella out there and hopefully published. Needless to say, it hasn’t gone amazingly well so far. I’m not surprised by this – I expected it and if you read my post on dealing with rejection earlier this year, you’ll know that. If you haven’t, go back and it read it now.

I sent it out somewhere else over the summer thanks to a friend who pointed me to it. With everything that’s been going on, I completely forgot about it but when a reply came, it actually gave me a little hope!

Receiving feedback

Now, I’ve done a post last year on group feedback but I want to go a bit further, and look at this in a different way here.

Whenever I submit my novella I always ask for feedback. Sometimes you’re told not to but if you don’t ask then you don’t get and this time it paid off. Despite the fact that this was, in essence, another rejection it didn’t actually matter. Receiving a reply is good because you get closure on that particular submission but getting feedback means I have something a bit more concrete to go on.

So, what was I told? Well, the first point was the topics that I’m writing about are “really interesting and certainly meaty enough for novel material” and that is a huge boost. While not everyone will like everything, knowing that is like a fundamental thumbs up for what I’m working on. Now, I’ve been doing this as a novella, as I feel it’s a lot sharper and more concise but the “novel material” comment has opened up a whole new can of worms.

I COULD make this into a novel but would I be able to carry over the tension and emotion through an entire book? That’s an interesting idea – and what about my ending? Would that work or would I need something else.

What I need to work on, in this person’s opinion, is making things less explicit and letting the reader, you, figure it out for yourself. That is something I generally agree with but in this case, I’m wondering if I’ll lose part of the character by doing so as he is quite direct and the novel is from his point of view.

There are a few other points but I’m keeping those to myself. You get the idea, however.

Reacting and dealing with it

Dealing with feedback and criticism can be hard at times. When you’ve spent hours, days, months, weeks – maybe even years – on a project, whether it’s a novel, a screenplay, a piece of art, music or anything else, the last thing you want to admit to yourself is that there are things wrong with it.

That’s a natural response.

To really improve though, that outside perceptive is essential. I have a couple of people I can count on to proof what I’m doing and offer feedback but even then, I have to weigh up what they say with what I feel, want and know. It’s a hard balance to find.

When an expert gives you advice and feedback, you have to grab it with both hands and really think about it. For every sentence, note, brushstroke or whatever it is you use to create your masterpiece, compare it with what they say. They’re an expert for a reason and if you want to be one, you need to learn from them.

The problem isn’t getting over your pride, though; it’s getting over your fear.

The fear that by editing it further, especially based on the words of someone else, that your project becomes less what you wanted and more of what someone else thinks. You lose the core or essence of what you are trying to achieve. It ceases to be what you want and becomes something else.

It’s incredibly hard and by denying we do this, we give it more power. It’s another wall we don’t need to put up but it’s almost instinctual for any creative person to make sure that we can identify with our work, that others can too and that it represents the best of what we can do in that moment.

Deep stuff, huh?

So, what’s the answer?

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have an answer to that. I’m not sure I ever will.

What I do know is that one person’s opinion doesn’t mean that you should abandon everything you think or feel. What I do know is that sometimes there are people who know more about what you’re trying to do than do you. What I do know is that you need to be able to adapt to anything that happens, in life, love, work – anything.

I’m not saying that I’m going to change my entire novella based on one person’s feedback but I have to take on-board what I’ve been told. I’ve gone to them because they’re the expert and I’ve been fortunate enough to get some real advice. I’d be a fool not to consider everything carefully before going forward, right?

Sounds like a good life lesson in general, if I’m honest.

‘Till next time!

Proofing and Editing: Five Tips to Keep You Focused

I’ve been fairly quiet on the blogging front this month – sorry about that! I do want to give Kat a big shout out for her guest post – it seems you guys really liked it and I’m super happy about that! Hopefully I’m going to have more for you all later in the year.

So, why have I been quiet? Well, as you guys probably know, I’ve been working on my novella for the last year or so but the last two-three months has seen me ramp it up and keep on with the editing and proofing of it, getting it to this stage where it’s almost ready to submit! Exciting stuff!

It’s got me thinking though; editing is often seen as the most boring and tedious parts of writing – and I agree to an extent. So, I’m going to share some of my top tips to get you through it without losing any quality. Aren’t you guys lucky?

You can thank me later.

Don’t read off a screen

Okay, I’m not going to lie that I’ve never been a fan of reading on a screen and e-readers in the past, I often find my eyes glaze over after a while and I have to go back and re-read things. The same is true for editing; it’s so easy to miss things on a screen compared to being on paper.

So, my first tip is to print it off and read a physical copy. You will be able to focus easier and your eyes won’t get tired as quick, which is a massive help.

As a side note, I think e-readers, Kindles and tablets in general have gotten a lot better over the years – especially the ones designed to mimic paper – and I do have one myself but not for editing purposes and I still prefer a good old fashioned book!

Use a pen and get messy

Following on from my last point, if you have a printed or hard copy you can make notes as and when you spot them. So many of my old drafts are literally covered in notes in all different pen colours (I have so many around that I use whichever one comes to hand first) and I use these notes to help me make changes in future drafts.

Never lose these drafts because you might want to look back to your old versions later to see the changes you’ve made and be sure they work better. Whether you keep digital copies or hard copies – or both – doesn’t matter. Make a note of everything, it’ll make you a better writer each time you edit something.

Be ruthless

This is probably the hardest part for many writers; deciding what exactly to take out, change or add. I’m not going to lie to you guys, it isn’t easy – and there isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer. Sorry.

In the end, you’ll have to decide what works best. The beauty of writing on word processor or similar program is that changes aren’t final (and this is why you should always keep your drafts somewhere safe).

To keep it simple though, if you have any doubts about a particular word, sentence, paragraph or entire section – get rid of it. You might need only small changes to make it work but you’ll know this straight away. Whatever the specific part is you have doubts about, remove it and see how it works. You can then add something else in. Don’t be afraid to try new things, it’s how we learn and grow as writers.

Set realistic targets

This is also really important. Unless you have a full day, don’t say to yourself you’re going to proof and edit 5,000 words every day – it won’t work. If, like me, you have a job to manage too, work out what’s manageable but make sure you have breaks where you put it aside for the day/night.

My latest project had chapters of around 2,000 words. The first few edits I did 1,000 words a night or so. By the final edits I was doing an entire chapter but I was only picking up final mistakes and changes – nowhere near as much as the early stages.

Editing is mentally exhausting – more so than the actual writing. There’s less creativity and more focus and thought so you need to take that into account. If you have other responsibilities, maybe make it 500 a night or even say 30 minutes. You might come back to it later that night and do another 30 but these are bite size chunks you can handle without sacrificing your focus and quality.

Reward yourself

Finally, give yourself a break every now and then. Watch an episode of your favourite show, some chocolate, buy a little gift (I stress little or you’ll be bankrupt in no time) or something that you can enjoy before getting back to work. Every time you meet your targets, do this and you’ll be more inclined to do it again.

Even if you don’t meet your targets in that period of time, make sure the rewards are there. Give yourself an EXTRA reason to do this on top of getting your writing done. It will help, trust me.

Obviously, this is by no means exhaustive so please share your own tips and methods if you have them. These are just the main thoughts I keep in mind and work to when it comes to the editing stage of any project. Happy editing!

Deciding What to Write and When

This is something that happens every so often for me, and I’m hoping other writers too! I’m bad as it as – I usually have multiple projects on the go so that if I get bored or need a change, I can switch quickly to something else until I’m ready to go back to it. This is very useful but as with most things, it has disadvantages too.

Changing projects mid-way through

I often get told this is quite a bad thing to do and I can see why a lot of people think th

at. If you’re in the middle of writing something, whether a short story, a poem, a novel or anything else and you switch to something different in the middle, then you are at risk of losing what flow and momentum you have. Coming back to it later is also hard because you need to find that flow and tone, which can lead to some writing that’s ultimately scrapped. I get that, and if you have the dedication and will power to stick it out, great.

My workspace
This is what my desk looks like most of the time. It can get a lot messier…

The problem is, I don’t always have it and it depends on what I’m writing and how I feel.

I keep a lot of detailed notes about each project. This covers character profiles, histories, plot points, settings, overall plans and any lore related to that world or story. Most of it will probably never be seen by anyone other than me so that information has to play a part for everything to make sense for the reader.

However, I can jump back into projects whenever and waste very little time by going over what I’ve done and these notes. There may be discrepancies but I can fix that during the redraft and editing stage. My logic is that I’ve become bored or hit a block and I’m wasting my time when I could be writing something else for a while instead. There’s nothing worse than not writing when you really feel like you can – you just need to be on the right project.

When inspiration strikes…

I’m one of those people who will have pen and paper almost all the time. It’s so frustrating when things click and you have no way to record it. Sure we have smartphones now but it’s not really the same, is it? It would work, I suppose but maybe I’m just old-fashioned – I’m not huge on kindles and e-readers either (that’s another story, maybe next month).

So, let me present you with a situation that happens every so often, and one I’ve been stuck with more recently too. I’m working on a project that is taking longer than I’d wanted and then an idea hit me, one to do with another short story that I worked on during university (so, about two years ago). I knew it had potential but I wasn’t sure how to use it.

Until now.

So, I had the dilemma; stop working on the current project temporarily and risk losing the little flow I had to start work on another project. Now, you might think that’s an obvious call but I have three or four big length pieces on the go at the moment and adding a fifth was not something I wanted to do.

The idea, while good, wasn’t amazing enough to beat off the ones I already have and so the debate began. Which project should I be devoting my time too, what do I feel like writing and how can I divide that time best?

I aim to write for at least an hour a day but that can easily turn into a three or four-hour session if I really get into it.

Finding the balance

It’s all about the balance and finding what works for you. I won’t have more than three or four big projects around at a time, and they have to be at different stages to make it easier on myself – although once these are done I’m going to cut it down to two. I occasionally take breaks for short stories and I’ll revisit these every few months to see how happy I am with them.

I like to stop and start – if the flow isn’t there then I won’t write or keep anything. That’s important to me as I’ve read a number of novels where the story just doesn’t flow but it’s a great idea or the characters are fantastic. It’s a pet hate and one I hope my work will never suffer from.

What I’m really interested in is hearing from other writers and finding out where they stand on this. Do you switch between projects half way through? What do you do when inspiration hits and when you have a project going? Get in touch and let me know!

Group Feedback is an Important Part of Our Writing

Sure, there are times when you may work in a group to get some writing done – whether that’s for ideas or actually scribing and contributing or something else entirely doesn’t matter – but for the most part, writing is seen as a solo activity. This is something most writers accept, we know we’ll be sat in front of a screen or notepad for long periods of time, probably with plenty of snacks, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes or whatever other vice we succumb to.

There are times, however, that we could use outside help. Getting a fresh pair of eyes to look over our work can help us find the most obvious mistakes, as well as the most hidden problems.

Finding feedback

You can look at the same sheet of paper or page of text all you want, but chances are you’re going to miss something. I’ve always found that unless I’ve given myself enough of a break between edits and redrafts, I can’t spot the mistakes that are glaringly obvious all the time. Fresh eyes can help, and for those times when you don’t have time to wait, other people are a great choice if you trust their editing skills.

I know a fair few writers now, thanks to social media platforms such as Twitter and, of course, my university course, where I met a great number of talented writers. Thanks to them, I was able to grow a lot. It took a while to get the brutally honest feedback I like, but it proved invaluable when it arrived.

I’m always welcome to this criticism for my work. It helps me grow but it has to be positive and constructive, otherwise it’s just someone attacking you (or your work) with no benefit. This is a fine line for some people and this is why writing groups are useful.

Writing groups

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a number of writing groups over the years. Some have been great, others haven’t been as worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as putting in what you want to get out as you’re relying on others but if you find a good group of people, even if you don’t see each often or in person, then you’ll get more honest feedback – and that’s key.

Most writers I’ve met have some form of ego – that’s not a bad thing, we need it. To be successful, we’re going to receive a lot of rejection and criticism and it won’t all be positive. That ego will help us keep going but it’s important to keep it in check and use it to help ourselves and other writers, not act superior to others and put them down. If you find a writing group that does that, then walk away and find another.

These groups can help you meet people, you’ll gain inspiration and grow as a writer and a person. They’re not to be missed and the thing is, they’re everywhere! They’re hard to find but once you do find them, you’ll see the benefits very quickly.

My big tip; try not to be shy about your work – we’ve all been there.

Other resources to consider

There are two great resources that I’d like to share with you guys.

The first is Writers & Artists, which has a number of services that can be of assistance should you want to make use of them. If you don’t, or the money isn’t there, then there is a fantastic community with regular blogs and articles that can help you get the most out of your writing. These are both informative and enjoyable and will give you an idea of what to look out for from real writers who have been or are in similar situations. Joining the community lets you answer questions, share experiences and help others too. Finally, they run fantastic competitions which are always worth checking back with.

The next resources is one I’ve only discovered fairly recently, so I’m still exploring it’s features and getting to know it better but what I’ve seen is very interesting! It was recommended to me by a recent Twitter acquaintance so I’m passing it on.

It’s called WritersCafé and is another community that is great for getting feedback on your work. You can post full pieces or snippets at various stages, include notes and allow others to review it and offer suggestions and feedback. These people don’t (or will rarely) know you so you can expect honest feedback and by doing the same, you can improve your skills in this area and meet new people. It’s a win-win all around.

Hope these can be of some help to you, guys!