Four years ago...I was new to the world of fiction writing. An inexperienced and unpublished writer with little knowledge of critiquing, editing or the publishing process. In fact, I had little knowledge of digital publishing and I didn't even know what a CP was!
As a high school principal, I hadn't even heard of Romance Writers of Australia, however I joined and the world of the craft of writing fiction opened to me.
Now I receive emails daily from authors seeking advice from me! The journey over the past four years has been amazing, and I have learned so much about the process and the industry. It has taken me over editing hills, through deadline tunnels and into the ocean of euphoria on each release day. It has helped me establish a successful editing business where I mentor new writers in between writing my books. My clients have had success in gaining contracts and getting to publication too!
Just over four years ago I timidly asked a friend to read my first book - Winter of the Passion Flower and it was almost like handing over my first-born child. The thought of someone else reading the words I had put down made me shiver. Would they come back and say it didn't make sense? Would they say it was a story that didn't engage them? Would they laugh? I had no doubt about the structural quality of my work. It was the process of handing over my story that concerned me. My private thoughts, my emotions and my words being read by another person.
Fast forward to today
It has been a journey and a half...I now have eighteen books available digitally and all are also available on Print-on-Demand. My first traditionally published print single title, Kakadu Sunset will be in the stores in 42 more sleeps!
I am an obsessive compulsive ranks checker and like all authors…I am delighted when someone buys my books. I have moved a long way from dreading that first feedback from a person who I eventually learned was called a ‘critique partner’ to now reading daily reviews of my books from readers all over the world. It has been a magnificent journey. I am fulfilled when readers read my work. I take the bad reviews on board along with the good.
The more experienced you become at writing, the more you learn and the easier the journey becomes. The major impediment to my writing productivity each day (aside for the evils of social networking) is that pesky inner editor who sits on my shoulder all day long and slows me down. The inner editor who makes me go back to the beginning of my book each morning and edit it from the first word before I commence writing can give me great joy, yet can be extremely frustrating. My steepest learning curve has been how to keep that voice under control and when to give me inner editor free reign.
So how is it possible to move from a solid 2000 words a day to a much greater total when a deadline looms? The answer for me is to turn off that pesky inner editor. That editor is the most time consuming part of my writing life, but also the gate keeper who ensures that the manuscripts that leave my computer to go flying through cyberspace to my editor are the best I can produce.
When the inner editor is constantly on my shoulder, my output is grammatically correct, my descriptions are detailed, my dialogue is sparkling but my productivity slows to a crawl. I become frustrated and then it isn't long before creativity flies out the window.
But, self reflection is a marvellous thing!
Instead of giving up and bemoaning this constant nagging voice, I analysed the changes I make as my inner editor talks to me each morning.
What did I find?
My chapters were stronger and the plot was a lot tighter. Dialogue had improved. Reading back over my changes, I realized that my inner editor steps in, in a timely fashion and saves me hours of work at the end. And then I am able to put my fingers to keyboard and start flying again
What does the inner editor get me to do every morning?
I read through my work with a fresh eye, as though I am a reader picking the book up for the first time.
I check my goal, motivation and conflict sheet as I read and ensure that every action, reaction and word spoken by the characters is in line with their GMC. I rewrite and strengthen as I go. As the chapters I recheck every morning increase as the book progresses, this rereading and tweaking is an excellent tool to strengthen characters. As I go along and check the content, I am on the lookout for structural problems. I search for:
- repetitive words, cumbersome dialogue and action tags and jerky or unnatural dialogue.
- the over use of garbage words such as ‘that’, ‘just’ and ‘really’. Generally you’ll find yourself using the first four as modifiers, trying to add emphasis to a word. Example: it was really heavy. But “really heavy” can be subjective. I might find lifting a large bag of fertiliser really heavy, but you might find two litres of milk really heavy.
- filter words which puts a level between the action of the character and the reader’s experience. These are words that you probably use, not even realizing that you’re using, which filter the character’s perceptions/experiences instead of delivering them directly to the reader. Getting rid of some of these words can help make your writing richer. This isn't as simple as deleting words; however, it forces you to rewrite sentences. It may also force you deeper into your character’s point of view and make the reader feel what the character is experiencing
- extra words and short words. Trimming your sentences of excess words can help tighten your writing and help it appear more polished. Look for words such as: the, a, an, of. These words are sometimes unnecessary and act as extra filler within your sentence.
By the time I go thought this process each day, when my manuscript is complete my first draft is as perfect as I can make it. And because I have become so immersed in the book through the daily editing process, it puts my head where it needs to be to create the day’s words.
Often we blame the inner editor for a lack of confidence and use it as a reason to procrastinate and not write. However, there are times when the inner editor should be listened to and can direct your writing in positive ways. It is a skill that comes with experience.
So a good lesson learned. The more you write, the more savvy you become when dealing with that pesky inner editor. Put it to good use…but keep it in its place or you will find the writing process very slow.
Coming soon (very soon!): Kakadu Sunset...the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.
Pre-order here in print or e-book... and have it in your hand on your kindle for Christmas reading