Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

This is the time of the year when most individuals sit down to write out their goals, or their resolutions for the upcoming year. From my own experience as an author and an editor, I know that many writers’ resolutions start out with a list, which might include some or all of the following: 
  • Write a novel
  • Attend a writer’s conference
  • Learn to market

These goals are noteworthy, inspiring, and, well, a bit daunting. To tell the truth, I’m finished before I ever begin this small list. I’ve looked at the entire picture, and I’m lost in a swamp called, “I Don’t Know Where to Begin.” Translated: I’m as lost as those poor saps who went down in the plane on the popular television show from a few years back.

Don’t toss those goals away, though. They’ll make for a great end to a journey that starts this coming year. Like every good trip, getting there should be part of the fun, and that’s why breaking the lofty goals into smaller steps will help an author focus on the entire picture without breaking into a sweat and giving up before getting started.

I placed “write a novel” purposely at the top of the goals because I believe that’s where many new writers or even more advanced writers who have never published, and well, some published writers, want to place most of the focus.

The truth is, the other two goals mentioned need to be accomplished before or while a novel is being written. For example there are steps to producing a novel. Research may have to be done. Plotting or laying out the premise of the work should be completed before the writing begins. When the basic structure seems in place, a writer may need to look for a writers’ group, critique group, or partner to help sharpen the prose.

Finding both a writers’ group and a critique group that matches a writer’s needs, and a place where the writer can prove equally helpful to other members, isn’t something done overnight. Time should be taken by a writer to target such groups for not only a match in genre or writing or critique styles, but also personalities. Nothing destroys new relationships like personality clashes.

Break “writing a novel” into several goals, including research, plotting, planning, finding groups or individuals to assist, etc.

Then there’s the goal on many author’s hearts, and so it should be. Writers’ conferences are where authors meet agents and editors and other industry professionals and get a foot in the door. However, it might surprise some authors who have never attended conferences that not all venues are created equal and not all such events suit the needs of every writer.

Some conferences make an author feel as if they’re the little servant girl invited to the prince’s gala, and the royalty are the editors and agents who wish to meet the writer to whom their glass slippers fit. Other conferences may invite the same editors and agents, but the ambiance there is down-to-earth friendly, and writers come away from the conference feeling as if they’ve made friends in the industry. Some conferences focus solely on fiction. Others on non-fiction, and still others on both sides of the coin.

What works for you? That needs to be considered as a writer sets smaller goals for the overall resolution of attending a conference. Put in some research. Even the servant girl benefited from her time at the prince’s ball, but if you’re intimidated by that type of gathering, avoid it. Writers should attend conferences where they will meet their targeted editors and agents in an atmosphere that is conducive to making the writer comfortable. 

Next in our list of worthwhile goals is marketing. Authors often realize they need to attend conferences so that when their work is completed, they may have doors opened to them to send the work along. Many new authors, and some of us older ones, fail to realize that marketing is just as important at the beginning of the novel-writing stage as finding a venue for the work.

Marketing groups are a great way to learn how to get the word out about your product. While writing the novel, authors should research what works and does not work in promotion. Marketing groups may or may not be what an author needs. A writer might be surprised at the unscrupulous or annoying behavior of certain groups or practices touted. Spend time during the year researching what works in marketing for your genre. Then work toward possibly finding a like-minded group and learning how to build a platform that will raise your product above the rest. This may include setting a goal to begin a blog or finding blogs that welcome guest bloggers. Again, though, break this into tiny steps. Target your audience with interesting and worthwhile posts.

Goals are great to set, and writers should be encouraged to set viable resolutions and work toward success. Write out the larger goals first. Put a deadline sometimes in the future, say by the end of the year. In between now and then, write down smaller steps that will help to accomplish the greater resolutions in the time set.

Small steps conquer big challenges.

God bless you in the New Year and may you follow God's path for your life not only in the upcoming year but for years to come.

And happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ - Monday's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

Summer in a national park
A flat tire
A mural on the side of a building

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Christmas is around the corner. After Christmas is the time when I stock up on books on my three favorite subjects: storytelling, grammar, and punctuation. So, for your bookseller gift-card buying spree, may I recommend the following:

Recommended Reading
Punctuation and Grammar

Nitty-Gritty Grammar (A Not-So-Serious Guide to Clear Punctuation)
Edith H. Fine and Judith P. Josephson
Painless Grammar
Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D.
The Elements of Style
William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White
Merriam Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
Renni Browne and Dave King
Punctuation: Plain and Simple
Edgar C. Alwaard and Jean A. Alward
The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier
Bonnie Trenga
Lapsing Into a Comma
Bill Walsh
Write (Or Is That “Right”?) Every Time
Lottie Stride
Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Trips for Better Writing
Mignon Fogarty
Grammar by Diagram (Book and Workbook)
City L. Vitto
A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
Noah Lukeman

Recommended Reading
The Writing Craft

Point of View
Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come to Life
Alicia Rasley
Showing vs. Telling, Dialogue, Characters, Conflict & Pacing
Writing Fiction for Dummies
Randy Ingermanson
Plot and Structure,
Revision and Self-Editing and
Conflict and Suspense
James Scott Bell
The Fire in Fiction
Writing the Next Break-Through Novel (Book and Workbook)
Donald Maass
Getting into Character
Brandilyn Collins
Creating Characters
Techniques of the Selling Writer
Dwight V. Swain
Building Believable Characters
Marc McCutcheon
The Plot Thickens
The First Five Pages
Noah Lukeman

 Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ - Monday's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

An antique Nativity scene
A silver Christmas tree
A character who hates Christmas, but learns to love it at the end of the story. :)