Even More Editing Hacks

I took too long of a break between writing the 1st draft of the current novel I’m working on. I’ve about 1/3 of the way through it and hit the dreaded Writer’s Block. Say what you will about the mighty Block (I did here), whether you believe in it or not, whether you let it control you or not, or maybe you just ignore it altogether… when it does sneak up on you it is no fun.

So now I’m back at it, trying to get back into the flow, trying to figure out what it is that I’m doing. And trying to fill in the gaps of an outline that I didn’t realize had any gaps in it until I started writing.

Well, I’m almost at it. You see, I’m somewhat breaking one of my rules about editing before the draft is done. In rereading the early chapters of the book I notice things. Nothing big, but enough where I want to tweak, add, subtract, you name it and I’m trying to do it. So I’m both reading and editing in an effort to get back to where I want to be with the book.

But I notice the little things and it makes me realize that putting things off until the end can work for a while… until it doesn’t want to work anymore.

Character Names – I use placeholders for names of characters. Who the heck knows if the girl is a Jennifer or a Celeste? I don’t always know that when I start writing them. So they get a placeholder name. And that works pretty well until it becomes time to figure out who they are supposed to be, and you still don’t have your main character’s last name (just “YYY”). It is annoying and bothersome and forced me into some true decision making about a couple of names.

Skipping around and writing chapters out of order – A great way to ensure productivity for the evening is to jump around with the manuscript. You write the first 6 or 7 chapters and then when you get a tiny bit stuck, just jump to the big action scene or that one scene you’ve been looking forward to for forever. It keeps the writing crisp and gets you closer to writing The End. The only problem is that if you don’t finish everything up you are left with huge gaps where you’re either not sure what is going to happen or you are 100% sure, but may not want to actually write that piece of the narrative. Because you’ve already written that “exciting’ section, the rest sometimes feel a little mundane.

Outline – This is the best. You may think you work better pantsing, but you just don’t know the power of the outline. It’s great.

And then you realize that the outline isn’t complete. You’ve left out a huge plot point which occurred to you while you were writing. You forgot some set piece or character moment or something. And now you’re stuck again. Repairing this thing that you’re not sure you really needed or just the thought of what good is it to lay everything out if you are just going to go off script anyway.

Or maybe that’s ok. Maybe it is just the basic roadmap, but it doesn’t have to have all the possible stops. It may not mention the big ball of yarn, but if you want to include it – it just means that maybe you need to update the outline.

Get to the keyboard and just type – Really, this is the only hack I need to remind myself of. Sitting down and do it. The words are going to flow one way or another, but you won’t capture them sitting on the couch.

 

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

June Grab Bag

Sometimes I only have the barest nuggets of ideas for the blog. Things which wouldn’t fill a full post, but maybe have passed through my mind in, and I need to get them out of there so that new ideas will take their place.

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I’m just tired of the lie. Not a month goes by without me hearing the lie, and it has now gotten to the point that I don’t know if anyone realizes they are lying anymore. But I have to call BS on them all.

Stop saying when you were young people didn’t get participation trophies.

Just stop it! Stop lying to the world or to yourself for whatever reasons you think you might have. I grew up in the 1980s and had a handful of baseball and basketball trophies for… that’s right: PARTICIPATION!

trophy

And unless you are in your 50s or older I’m guessing you did too. But somewhere alone the way you’ve forgotten. Or perhaps you haven’t forgotten and need to make some point or another and it fits your narrative.

Just stop it! Enough is enough!

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Why is “sleeping in” considered lazy but going to bed early is considered the “thing to do” by society? If I’m up until 3 in the morning writing or even if I’m goofing, and then sleep to noon it’s something that people might talk about. However, you getting up at 6 in the morning – read the paper, watch the morning news – effectively “goofing”, but going to bed at 9 at night is awesome? By my count we’re awake the same amount of hours.

alarm-clock

The only thing I can come up with is staying up all night is associated with the young and carefree days of your teenage years or your twenties, but waking up early is something adults do because they must go to work.

You’re not more responsible, and I’m not less responsible (well at least not because I stay up late at least).

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After going to Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC this year, I’m amazed that Atlanta doesn’t have a Comic Book Convention of comparable size. And no, Dragon Con is not it. It might have been twenty years ago, but it has morphed into more of a Geek/Nerd Culture Con (and I go every year, so I’m good with it). I’ve watched as Heroes has slowly expanded over the years, but it still seems to have an impressive turnout not only from dealers but from the artists and writers themselves. So many Independent creators are there. It is always nice to be surrounded by such a room full of talent.

 

But every time someone seems to get the idea of doing a dedicated Comic Con here it lasts for maybe two years before disappearing into the ether once more. Some kind of Halley’s Comet of Conventions. I just don’t understand.

***

Editing is for suckers. That’s my thinking. It sucks, and I don’t want to do it anymore. It is soul crushing and never ends, and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Crap. I have two books still to edit, and now I’m starting another.

What is wrong with me?

writing

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Character names. Like many things they are either there, fully formed in my head before I put one letter onto the page or they simply don’t exist. In the later’s case, I find myself searching through various name databases in order to squeeze something so that I can start calling the characters in my new book by something other than XXX, YYY, & ZZZ (and that XXX is a spitfire, let me tell you).

Of course, it can’t just be any old name, but it has to be one which fits the character… that many times I haven’t quite figured out myself. I mean, this is the thing that I’m going to saddle XXX with, I need to make sure that it represents what I want it to represent… that’s a lot of pressure on something which could be picked willy nilly.

But, yeah, the current book doesn’t have ONE named character yet. Luckily I’m only a chapter in. Unluckily I am a chapter in and no one has a name yet.

Well, at least I know what they look like and how they act.

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Rants done. Random thoughts registered. Brain cleared.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Killing Your Darlings or Editing My Over-used Words

I’m in the process of editing right now. It is honestly my least favorite part of the writing process. Mostly because the act of that first draft is very freeing, if you allow it to be. I’m not one who needs every line and every word to be in its right place during the initial stages. I’m more than willing to just put it all on the page and hope for the best.

Now that’s not to say I don’t have a game plan or outline, but it means I allow myself to make mistakes. I don’t really self-edit as I go along. Really the only thing I will do is fix something’s spelling… and that is mostly so I don’t have to bother doing it later.

writing

So I finish up the draft and much celebrating is done because you should be celebrating writing 90,000 words or 60,000 words or a million words or, hell, 2 words.

But…

It also means that there is a lot of fixing needing to be done on the second pass. Though, to be honest, while it’s time consuming, I don’t mind that pass too much since most of it is manipulating words and phrases, deleting things which no longer belong, or adding things in to foreshadow something later in the book. In fact, this is “writing” more than “editing”.

This is not where I’m at with The White Effect. No, I’m at that next pass where I need to start making sure the stupid stuff isn’t screwing me up. The, gulp, grammar stuff. You know, all that crap they went on and on in English class and you spent the entire hour doodling in your notebook? Yeah, that.

Sigh.

Not only that, but it is also the point where

Luckily (or at least I think it is lucky), I have begun to figure out my crutch words and phrases. So that 3rd pass is really about systematically eliminating all those “bad” words. A true Seek and Destroy style mission using your word finder and the delete key a far amount (note, this doesn’t always apply to dialogue – people do not speak “correctly”).

dart-board-25780_1280

Adverbs – Anything that ends in “ly” is fair game for elimination. However, as with all of these words or phrases, I do a reread of the paragraph and see if it really warrants extinction. Sadly (hey, there’s that “ly”), adverbs most of the time don’t add as much as we think they do.

For example: “The girl ran quickly.”

Well, how else might she run? Typically if I wanted to imply that she was really pouring it on I’d opt for something like: “The girl sprinted.”

That – This is my absolute favorite one to get rid of. Most of the time the word “that” can be eliminated. Flat out. Read your sentence with “that” and then read it again without “that”… no difference (I’d say 75-80% of the time).

Nodded, Smiled, Laughed, Sighed, Shrugged, Shook, and Grinned – These are really more like placeholders for me on that first pass. I can’t always think of great things for someone to do, so I slot these in initially, and it is on this pass I begin to alter them into something a little… classier maybe. “She grinned.” vs. “She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.”

I just need something different that 1000 instances of “grinned” and “nodded”.

Just – I probably use this more in my dialogue than in my prose, but it does sneak in there as well. Another word to be deleted.

He said aloud – Another placeholder, waiting to grow up and become something better.

Cliches – These vary from project to project, and I’m not going to claim to find them all, but most of the time I try to avoid them: Needle in a haystack, grasping at straws, get out of dodge, and fast and furious have managed to infiltrate my prose on more than one occasion.

That’s just some of them. I have a word document full of them.

The best thing is that each project I’ve managed to eliminate some of my tendencies. The bad thing is that sometimes exposes a new one.

That’s all for today, back to hunting.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.