Writing is hard. Writing succinctly - doubly so.
Many writers start with short stories. The length can vary greatly, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to say between 1,000-10,000 words (0-1,000 being “flash fiction”). They’re generally simple in structure, easy to read, and provide an instant insight into the qualities of the writer.
What writers often fail to realise is the importance of editing. Because there are so few words in which to develop context, character, and plot, every word should contribute to the narrative.
The writing process
It’s possible to compose a short story in a day, even in one sitting. You’re in the moment, thinking about well defined and fully formed characters, an interesting story and how to translate it to the page. You have the inspiration, the motivation and the keyboard. It’s going to be great.
A short while later you read back over the story and it’s exactly how you’d hoped that it would be. If so, congratulations. I have one word to offer you. Wait.
The importance of editing
You’re unable to read the story with an objective eye for the same reasons that you wrote it. You can see the characters in your head, visualise them in their environment. When you read back what you’ve written the words merge with your internal imagery. You have no way to distinguish between this hybrid and what others may see in the story.
Before you even start editing, the key is to wait. Wait as long as you can, until you can no longer feel that inspiration or visualise the scenes. Only then will you be able to read the story for what it is, and edit it with an objective eye.
What to look for
In the spirit of editing lets treat the above like a short story. It may only be a few hundred words, but I’ve always found that practical examples are better than theory. I wrote the above in one sitting, and decided not to edit what I’d written. Instead, I’ve outlined a few points I would edit and why.
● “Editing Short Stories” - Is this a suitable title? It was what I set out to write, but the key message of the post turned out to be about waiting. Perhaps I should rephrase the opening few lines to focus on the importance of waiting rather the importance of editing.
● Was the definition of a short story’s length really necessary? Maybe an opportunity to cut down the word count.
● I switched perspectives - the post started discussing “writers” as an abstract, then moved to “you”. Does the change benefit/harm the story?
● “I have one word to offer you” - “Wait” was actually the second word, after “congratulations”. Maybe rephrase to “I have one word of advice to offer you”.
● The post ends quite abruptly. The pacing may benefit from a summary sentence/paragraph highlighting a few of the key points.
● I forgot plug my own book/site. The post would have been the ideal opportunity to talk about The Locked Room - a series of impossible crime short stories, the first of which is available online for free. Oh well, I guess I missed my chance ;)
About P.J. Bergman
P.J. was born in Boston (the town in Lincolnshire, UK, not the USA version) and moved to Dublin, Ireland in 2011 to work for Google. He is currently writing the upcoming novel, The Locked Room, and launched the website of the same name to share progress, talk about the genre, and generally avoid actually writing the book.
Us writers have a fault: We are extremely opinionated. When it comes to story making this can be a good thing as we can inflict our ideas upon our characters. However, in the real world we tend to forget that we all have our own reasons for doing things, our own motives, and our own ideals.
For instance, I write for the pleasure of it. I am self-publishing because I don't care about money and would prefer to have more control over the finished product. Others wish to make a career from their writing and want to publish traditionally. Some people wish to self-publish but still wish to make money and hence think about things differently again. There are many ways of going about publishing (or not publishing if you prefer) and a multitude of reasons for choosing a certain path.
On social media, discussions, and online forums I repeatedly see the same arguments between writers. Pay for an editor, don't bother, get a professional cover designer, do it yourself, use a template, write what you know, don't write what you know… blah blah blah. At the end of the day all of these are merely opinions. Almost every post in this blog is an opinion. It is up to you as the reader to filter through all of this and then make your own opinions.
When a writer asks a question on a forum they will get a heap of replies from other authors either trying to inflict their methods upon the asker, or are trying to explain their method in order to inform. There is a fine line between the two. My message to authors on these forums is try not to force your beliefs down the asker's throat. Do not criticize their method unless they ask for that specifically. Always try to understand that the asker's goal in writing may not be the same as yours.
Share your opinions freely with peace and love.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the hot topics of discussion in the world of writing concerns the writer’s platform. Some ask, “Should I have one, even though I don’t have a book?” or “I’m fiction author, so is it necessary for me to have one?” Let’s look at both these questions and some related ones.
What Is a Platform?
In simple terms, and speaking from a material standpoint, a platform is a series of planks connected together to make a raised surface for an individual to stand on. In politics, a platform is a candidate’s basis for being elected; each plank is a promise that he makes to be elected. In writing, the platform is your place in cyberspace for people to find you and know who you are among other writers. Each plank is an outlet where you can be noticed and heard.
The Planks of the Writer’s Platform
I read articles that say a writer’s blog or website is the platform, as that is the hub of his or her activity. In theory, I agree with this. However, looking at the definition of platform, the blog is only one part of the entire structure. It may be the main section, but it is not the whole platform. When you add your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social media outlets, those the additional planks strengthen the entire platform. Author interviews, books blurbs, author bios, and book trailers are additional planks.
But I Don’t Have a Published Book
There are a lot of writers out there who claim they don’t need a platform since they don’t have a book to sell. I can understand this, but in the busy world of cyberspace, even with a book you may not be heard; it might take months—even years—to develop a fan base for you and your books.
Let’s look at this through the lens of a historical landmark event. Everyone is familiar with the moon landing in 1969. We are introduced to the astronauts, we follow them to the rocket, we cheer the liftoff, and then we rejoice as it lands and the astronauts walk on the surface. The significance of this (besides the event itself) is that we know a great deal about it before long before the rocket leaves the launch pad. In a speech on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy promised we would put a man on the moon before the decade was over. That was eight years before it happened.
Now, let’s suppose that you, the author, are an astronaut, and your book is the moon landing. NASA is your publisher (traditional or self-publishing). Your platform then is the announcement to the country that you are heading to the moon writing a book. The news travels around from one person to the next, interviews are posted in papers and on television, and this leads up to your departure into space book being released. If you release the book first and then develop a platform, it’s the same as landing on the moon first and then telling everyone about it. Imagine the disappointed astronaut on the moon’s surface jumping up and down and waving his arms at the people on earth—and nobody is paying attention.
Your platform sells you and your brand and allows people to get to know you and your style of writing, and from there you build a fan base of followers. That way, when the book is released, you already have the attention of a number of people who will buy your book and/or tell others about it, and you hope they will get on board and buy as well.
How do you sell yourself? That’s where the blog comes into play. Talk about yourself, the genre you write, the books you have read, and other basic things about who you are and what makes you tick. Have someone interview you asking these questions. There are bloggers out there who specialize in helping people get discovered even before a book is available. On Twitter, follow fellow authors of the same genre and pick their brains. Find out how they got to where they are right now. They may soon follow you, and from there you can develop a following of your own.
But I’m a Fiction Writer
I read an article that argued that only nonfiction writers need a platform. If this were true, I wouldn’t have met all the fiction writers I’ve met in the last three months. I truly believe all writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, should build a platform. Fiction writers have it a bit easier, though, as they can base their platforms on their stories, whereas nonfiction writers have to establish themselves as a type of expert to show why their particular book should be read instead of others on the same subject.
It’s Never Too Late
Even if you already have books published, it’s never too late to begin building a platform and getting people to take notice of you and your work. There are a number of people out there who are ready, willing, and able to help you get started. Just don’t expect followers and sales increases in a week’s time. You need to develop patience, as it can be a long process.
How Do I Begin?
If you look at your writing as a business, you’ll want to advertise yourself in every corner of cyberspace that you can. Without it, you’ll be the lone astronaut wondering why no one knows you’re on the moon.
One of the first things you can do is get both a Facebook and a Twitter account. Create a Facebook fan page that talks strictly about you as an author and/or your upcoming book. Provide links on your Facebook page, Twitter page, and other social media sites places that always draw people to one central location (usually your blog or website). Talk a little about yourself and provide links to your book (if already published.) If you’re still waiting to be published, talk a little about the book and the creative process behind it.
There are many articles and books available on this subject, but you don’t have to do anything exactly the way others prescribe. Your main goal is to market yourself and your writing, whether or not you have publisher (who may not be able to give you the support you want). If you want to get ahead in this industry, you need to be willing to step forward and make yourself heard.
What about you? What is your opinion of the Writer’s Platform? Share your thoughts and comments here, and let me know what you think.
About Christopher Mentzer
Christopher Mentzer has been interested in story writing since 1982, but it wasn’t until 2005 that he took it seriously. Upon entering his first NaNoWriMo competition, he wrote the foundation of his first Fantasy novel, which evolved into a trilogy. Nexus of the Worlds, book 1 of The Askinar Towers trilogy is now available as an e-book online. Sibling Rivalry, book 2 of the trilogy, is set to release on April 29, 2014. He is married and has two daughters. When he is not writing, he works in the retail industry. His daughters are the inspiration behind the main characters of the trilogy.
Check out his website found here...
Tales from the Fifth Tower blog--http://mentzer2150.wordpress.com/
“Write what you know,” is a famous quote often used in writing circles, and it is good advice.
I can easily tell a story about a South African horticulturist who has never left the country, and who is an only child. I’ve lived that life. I can get right into that character’s skin and really explore what it means to be them.
The problem is that ALL my characters in all my books can’t be horticulturist only- children who never leave South Africa.
Somewhere down the line. I am going to have to explore new careers, different countries, and experiences that I have never experienced. And that’s where research comes in.
Obviously if your novel is set on Planet Zog that has hundreds of pink microbes bouncing on green jelly, you can pretty much make up anything. But if you are writing about planet Earth, you need to get your facts straight.
And why should we bother? Because as writers, we need to have integrity. We need our readers to be able to believe us. It is a disheartening experience when we read a historical novel for instance, and realise that the author didn’t even try and get historical facts right, and that they completely changed the personality of some famous person because they were too lazy to do some work on it.
And what if we are writing children’s stories? Surely it doesn’t matter if the Little Speckled Hen doesn’t get the facts right. But that’s the worst of all. I work in a primary school library. Children for the greater part believe what they are reading, often without question.
Research is probably my favourite part of writing a novel. I get to learn interesting facts, meet amazing people and explore things I would never dreamed of doing normally.
So how does one research?
What would we do without the internet! Honestly, I am in awe of the writers who did research before Google. By exploring the web, I can decide that my character was an actress in a certain Broadway play in 1912 in the Moulin Rouge Theatre. I can even find a photo of the cast in the magnificent ice skating scene that took place on stage.
It might require nights of searching, using as many different combinations of words that we can think of, but the answers are out there, and if we can’t find them, there are countless people who are happy to give us advice.
Of course, nothing can beat first-hand experience. I have rubbed stinging nettles in my arms to get an accurate feel of what the sting was like. I borrowed a wheelchair and took it into a shopping mall to see how I could get around. (The lifts were horribly small) I have eaten wild berries and boiled leaves.
Ask your friend if you can go along to her pottery class or motorcross rally. Help out in a shop for an hour. Make the Hollandaise Sauce that your chef character cooks on his TV show.
Interviewing people in a very rewarding avenue of research. Just make sure you know exactly what information you need from them, and narrow it down to a few pertinent questions. People are normally busy, and you must be professional and efficient.
I’ve learned the hard way, that it is always best to tell people you are a writer. One young man thought I liked him, and came all the way to my work with a bunch of roses to ask me out. I felt terrible, as I had to tell him that I had only been interested in his job!
Always take note of your sources and give them credit for the information they gave you. Be creative and most of all, have fun!
About Julianne Alcott
I live in South Africa, and have been writing stories ever since I learned how to write.
My favourite things are...
Writing (obviously), dancing, and spending time with the people I care about. Next in line are reading, movies, food and exploring.
I look awful in most photos, and my hair is the thing I would like to change about myself. Most of the time it goes "boiingg".
I have the perfect job for me... I work in a primary school library. I get to teach Media Studies and really open the world up for children.
I write love stories that give me interesting things to learn about. My first sci-fi novel, The Ripmender, will be published by Wordsmack Publishers on the 6th May as an E book.
To pre-order, go to:
I was tagged by Emma Lindhagen whose own post for this blog hop is on her website (http://www.emmalindhagen.com). She was kind enough to tag me after I expressed interest in being a part of this hop. I love blog hops!
The rules are: Answer the four questions below, link back to the person who invited you, and name the people who will be posting the following Monday.
What am I working on?
Currently I have three projects in the works although all three are at different stages of the writing process. Firstly, my debut novel, Sky Stone, is in its final beta read and edit. After this run through I will be completing the cover, of which I already have a draft version, and publishing it on Createspace as both an ebook and as a soft cover print.
Secondly, comes the sequel to Sky Stone called Guardian Core. I have only recently completed writing the manuscript of Guardian Core and am now entering the editing process. Exciting! After working on Sky Stone for so many years, and this novel for around two so far, I feel my writing skills have improved and are on full display in this second novel of mine.
Thirdly, is a novel completely unrelated to my first two. My third novel currently is untitled and is still being outlined. This will be my first time writing a story based in the future and am excited about how my writing may develop as I nurture this novel into existence.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Such a difficult question to answer. My main genre of writing (in novel form) is Young Adult Fantasy aimed at young females. My novels present female protagonists who overcome overwhelming odds over the course of the book. I feel that my novels are different than others of its genre since the protagonist expresses a number of the emotions and circumstances (if exaggerated) that I experienced as a teenager. This is especially true with Sky Stone since I began writing it at the age of fifteen when I was in the midst of emotional turmoil, my protagonist, Skyla, expressing many of the same emotions I did as I wrote.
I am also not afraid to describe violent confrontations or sexual ones. These are both aspects of life that teenagers are aware are a part of life. I do not write horror nor do I write erotica but some may believe that my descriptions are too descriptive.
Why do I write what I write?
I I love to read fantasy and I love to write fantasy. Before I started writing Sky Stone I never believed would write a novel let alone one of the fantasy genre. I considered fantasy authors to be incredible and couldn't understand how their imaginations allowed them to create such unusual scenes. I had a dream, eventually wrote it down, and realized it wasn't that hard. Most importantly, I found out how fun it was to write fantasy. My reason for loving to write fantasy is the same as why I love reading it; I enjoy escaping reality. Fantasy novels are monuments to the human imagination. I'm not suggesting that we use more imagination than writers of other genres however. Fantasy writing allows me to savour in my wildest dreams, preserving them forever.
How does your writing process work?
My writing process has changed considerably since I first began writing novels but I will describe how I write nowadays. I now start with an outline; a comprehensive, detailed outline with notes about the setting, characters feelings and actions, and why those actions are taken. I keep a list of every character I introduce with descriptions about their appearance, personality and any other important facts. I explain the history of my setting in reference to the culture, social ranking, environment, and technology. Once I am happy with where my story will lead I begin writing.
When I am writing the manuscript I don't restrict myself to writing linearly, in chronological order. I write which ever scene is most vivid to me at the time be it at the beginning, middle, or end of the book. I do this so that my emotions and passion about this particular scene is at its peak and hence I will do my best writing. Once all of the main scenes are written I write the linking scenes in between.
Once the manuscript is completed I begin editing. I will try to edit as much as I can by myself before giving my manuscript to a beta reader. I don't have a set number of run throughs per novel merely a feeling of completeness, that I can't go any further alone. I try to catch as many spelling, grammatical, and structure mistakes early so that they do not distract from the content editing. I then attempt to read through my story without paying too much head to these small errors. This allows me to focus on whether the story itself makes sense and flows. It also allows me to notice which areas need more or less description. When this stage of editing is complete I will give the manuscript to some trusted beta readers who I instruct to be as brutal as they can. The more they point out, the more feedback I have to work from. I then sift through their comments and work on those which I deem would benefit my story. I repeat this process a number of times until I believe there really is not that much more to be done. Then it is time to publish.
I prefer the self-publishing route myself. Self-publishing gives me more control over how my book is presented to the public. I have skills in Adobe Photoshop and Indesign and can use these programs to design my own covers. I ask for feedback on my drafts to see whether my target readers would find it attractive. My purpose in writing is for myself and not for money. This is not a career to me but a hobby that I plan to pursue and grow better at. I don't care for being a bestselling author but to enjoy the act of writing and creating something I can be proud of. This is why I self-publish.
I hope this gave you a little insight about me and my writing. Now I’m passing the blog hop on to the following people:
Thanks for reading everyone. Check out Devin's post when it goes online next Monday.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Last night, I received some pretty harsh criticism from a close family member that made me question everything I've written. I'm in the final edits of my book. I've spent the last week polishing every last little detail before I hand it off to my editor. I've gotten fabulous feedback from several of my beta readers, and I have a few more I'm waiting to hear from, but so far, everything has been positive or constructive.
It was bound to happen. Negativity. This was the angry, debilitating brand of criticism that makes you wonder if maybe you should just abandon the entire project. This person hadn't even read the book. They'd just heard the basis of it, and decided before reading a single word that they wanted nothing to do with it.
My initial reaction was to brush it off like it didn't matter. Then it began haunting me for the rest of the evening. It tortured my thoughts to the point that I couldn't focus on making dinner or holding a chatty conversation with my husband. I began doubting the entire plot structure of my story. My mind raced with the ways I could fix my story to make this person happy. I mentioned my worries to my husband as we made pizzas together for our kids, and he knew exactly what to say to make me feel better. He told me that the best written books receive the most criticism. He used Harry Potter and Twilight as examples. How many conservative Christians still won't read Harry Potter because it contains witchcraft? How many people still read Twilight even though it's widely criticized?<a href="http://cindyhaleauthor.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/famous-books-graph.jpg"><img id="i-176" src="http://cindyhaleauthor.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/famous-books-graph.jpg?w=650" alt="Image" width="520" height="520" /></a>
There will always be that one person sitting in the back of the metaphorical room with a sour expression on their face and something negative to say. It's inescapable.
So how to deal with that?
Remember, just because the feedback is negative it doesn't mean the person is a sourpuss. Not all negative feedback is a bad thing. Some feedback is completely valid and could help you write a better book. Some is just a matter of preference. Maybe this person doesn't read your genre. Learn to recognize whether the feedback is coming from someone's personal preference, actual flaws in your manuscript, or if the person is simply a grouch looking to ruin someone's day.
Above all, keep writing. Never stop looking for ways to improve your work. And when the harsh criticism inevitably comes, give it some serious thought, but in the end, trust your gut.
About Cindy Ray Hale
Cindy Ray Hale lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and four children. In addition to being a writer, she's an avid reader and a social media junkie. At the age of 17, she wrote a short story, "Instant Harmony," which later appeared in the April 2000 issue of New Era, the official magazine for the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
Subscribe to my blog to receive email updates of my latest posts.