More Advice from Gail Bowen

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In one of last month’s G.O.T.H. posts, I shared an excerpt from Sleuth, the latest release from Canadian mystery author Gail Bowen. This informative and entertaining guide provides excellent advice for writers of all genres.

In the Editing chapter, Ms. Bowen adds the following insights to “expert” rules:

1. “Vigorous writing is concise” (William Strunk Jr.). Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style will always be a writer’s best friend. Be concise; be concrete. Cut until you can cut no more. Almost every piece of writing can be improved if you cut it by a third.

2. “Try to leave out the parts people skip” (Elmore Leonard). Deep-six your prologue. The material there is generally back story and can be worked in later. Your first task is to bring your reader into the world of your novel; start the action and write an opening that will keep your reader reading.

3. “Using Adverbs is a mortal sin” (Elmore Leonard). British writer Esther Freud’s advice is even more draconian. Freud instructs writers to cut out all metaphors and similes. I’m with Leonard on adverbs, but when it comes to metaphors and similes I’ve been known to indulge myself. I always feel terrible the next morning, but nobody’s perfect.

4. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be” (Mark Twain). Amen!

5. Don’t explain too much. Give your readers credit. Allow them to be come part of the creative process. If you’ve done your work as a writer, then your readers will do the rest.

6. Read aloud passages in your novel you suspect might be problematic. If there is a problem, then rereading the passage aloud will reveal it.

7. January 24th is the feast day of Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists. I understand he’s available 24/7.

8. Enjoy the ride. Ann Patchett says, “Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.” Most people have to say goodbye to their imaginary friends when they start kindergarten; writers get to keep their imaginary friends forever.

9. Ray Bradbury says the most important items in a writer’s make-up are zest and gusto. I agree. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer. Stay the course.

Source: Sleuth by Gail Bowen, pp. 142-143.


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It’s OK to Fall Out of Love

We can all recall that magical moment when we typed the last words of our manuscript and lovingly glanced at the neatly piled pages on the desk. Head over heels in love, we could easily visualize literary agents and publishers emailing us within hours of receiving the manuscript.

That is the fantasy.

The reality is very different.

That first draft is never ready for publication. Some manuscripts require major surgeries such as changing POV and adding more sub-plots and characters. Longer manuscripts with over 100K words may need to be pared down. All manuscripts need to be checked for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


A Matter of Logic Vs. Creativity?

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Catherine E. McLean to this blog. Today, Catherine discusses the importance of self-editing and shares her latest release, Revision is a Process.

Here’s Catherine!

One of my favorite quotes is by Yoda of Star Wars, who said “Do or do not, there is no try.” This adage was driven home to me when I attended a workshop where the instructor had us “try to pick up a pen.” Well, you either pick up the pen or you don’t. There is no “try” or middle ground. It’s do or do not.

This adage can be applied to self-editing. There is no trying to edit, you have to ruthlessly self-edit. If you don’t, the reader, editor, or agent cannot interpret what you wrote or form the same images in their mind that you envisioned. As a result, your story won’t be enjoyable or marketable.

Okay, so most writers would rather write story after story than “get the words right.” However, getting those words as right as possible shouldn’t be equated to a root canal. What has to change is the writer’s perception, which means understanding that revision is a process. That process can be made simple, effective, and efficient.

The next step in self-editing is to put some time between the creation of the tale and the self-editing. You see, once a story has been drafted, most writers cannot distance themselves from the enjoyment of their own plot and characters. When they go to edit, they lapse into reading and enjoying the story anew. So, how much time should pass between draft and edits? For some writers, it can be days, for others it might be months or years.

It should also be understood that there is a war going on between the right-brain’s creativity and the left-brain’s logicalness. Here’s the thing, logic will always — ALWAYS — win over creativity. That’s because creativity is chaos and the human brain strives to make sense of things (and not go insane). And never forget, your reader is a very logical person that must be convinced to suspend their disbelief in fantasy or fictional worlds and premises.

So, how do you switch from creativity to logic when you need to self-edit? Consider attaching something physical to reinforce the desire to edit. For instance, wear an “editor’s visor,” which is green and was used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by copy editors. Those visors are now called Casino Poker Dealer or Croupier Visors, costing under $10 (for colored ones, look at golf and sun visors). Then again, a paper hat will suffice (and you can write “EDITOR” on it for more emphasis).

Another method is to have a special place set aside for strictly editing work. That place is where the imagination is not allowed to create story. For instance, I have an office upstairs where I craft my stories. I go downstairs to my dining room to edit. I now a writer who takes his work to a bookstore to edit (and have coffee, too!). Another writer takes their work to the library. Having such a specific place bolsters the desire to edit, not create.

I’m a curious person. How do you switch from being creative to editor-mode?

Links for REVISION IS A PROCESS

Table of Contents | Excerpt

Buy Links

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Bio

Catherine E. McLean’s short stories have appeared in hard cover and online anthologies and magazines. Her books include JEWELS OF THE SKY (sci-fi adventure), KARMA & MAYHEM (paranormal fantasy romance), HEARTS AKILTER (a fantasy/sci-fi romance novella), and ADRADA TO ZOOL (a short story anthology). She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes tales of phantasy realms and stardust worlds (fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal romance-adventures). She is also a writing instructor and workshop speaker. Her nonfiction book for writers is REVISION IS A PROCESS – HOW TO TAKE THE FRUSTRATION OUT OF SELF-EDITING.

Links

Website | Website for Writers | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Email


It’s OK to Fall Out of Love

broken heart

We can all recall that magical moment when we typed the last words of our manuscript and lovingly glanced at the neatly piled pages on the desk. Head over heels in love, we could easily visualize literary agents and publishers emailing us within hours of receiving the manuscript.

That is the fantasy.

The reality is very different.

That first draft is never ready for publication. Some manuscripts require major surgeries such as changing POV and adding more sub-plots and characters. Longer manuscripts with over 100K words may need to be pared down. All manuscripts need to be checked for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Continue reading on the Soul Mate Authors blog.