Tag Archives: editing

Your First Novel: Why You Don’t Need an Editor Yet

Your First Novel: Why You Don’t Need an Editor YetYou’ve just completed your first novel. Everyone’s telling you that you need an editor. They’re wrong.

Here’s why. After writing your first novel, you’ve learned a lot. Getting to the finish line was a huge accomplishment, so kudos for that. However, at this stage, you’re much too close to your novel to see it clearly. You’re too attached to it — it’s your baby, after all. Since that’s the case, it’s unlikely that an edit will help you. Much more likely, it will hopelessly confuse you.

So, if you’re not getting an edit, what should you do?

Write your second novel

You need to write your second novel. Take a short break, by all means. But don’t make it a long break — start your second novel as soon as you can.

Here are the benefits of writing your second novel, immediately after you’ve finished your first:

  • Working on your next novel clears your mind. Once you’ve completed it, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve learned. You’ll reread your first novel, and you’ll immediately see how you can make it better.
  • You can use what you learned in writing your first novel, in your second. Your second novel will be better than your first.
  • If you’re working on something else, you won’t be heart-broken by anything your beta readers tell you.

I know, I know… you’re hoping for fame and fortune from your first novel, aren’t you?

Will your first novel make you famous?

Anything’s possible. It could. However, if you decide that you’re not working on anything else because your first novel is sure to be a bestseller, you’re in for quite a reality check.

Don’t sit around waiting. For one thing, you’ll be waiting a long time, and for another, you’re wasting valuable writing time. Even if your first novel is a HUGE success, you need something else for people to buy, so get on with it, and write Novel Number Two — start writing now.

I conducted a mini-poll among my traditionally-published friends. I asked them how many novels they’d written before they got one published. The results? These six novelists wrote between six and seventeen novels before one was published.

I asked my traditionally published friends, because today anyone can publish anything and can call it a novel. That’s huge freedom, and I’m all for it. However, now matter how you publish, you need to learn your craft. And there’s a lot to learn.

When should you edit your first novel?

After you’ve written your second. You’ll be able to see your novel more clearly. Edit it yourself. Once it’s as good as you can make it… you think it’s perfect… Hire an editor. At that stage (you’ll be writing your third novel at this point) you’ll be able to make the best use of any advice you get from an editor.

Your editor’s advice: remember it’s YOUR book, your name’s on the cover

When I got the revision notes from my editor on my first novel many years ago, I argued. I spent a lot of time defending my characters, my plot, and my word choices. From memory, I received around eight pages of notes on a 70K novel. My whining and arguments exceeded those pages.

That was long before email, so I didn’t send the letter, thank heavens.

I argued. I sulked. Then I slept on it. It took around a week, but I eventually realized that my editor was right in 80% of what she said. The other 20% I argued for, and won a couple of the arguments.

I’m telling you this story, because I finally realized that my editor made my story better. She also taught me a lot about structure and editing.

An editor makes your story better. However, you need to be able to put aside your emotions. You also need to be able to see your story clearly. If you’re working on a current project when you get an editor’s notes on your novel, it’s much easier to do that.

Keep writing. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

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You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell. More info →
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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

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I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

I’ve received some questions about fiction writing from new authors. Here’s the thing. In fiction, worry about the story first. You can sort everything else out later. Please don’t try to edit first.

Write first, edit later

I’m currently completing the final scenes in a romantic suspense novel. I adore the two main characters, so I’ve decided to create a series of three novels about them.

This means that a bunch of scenes — around seven, from memory — don’t belong in this book. I’ve moved them into book two of the series. They’ll wait there, until I’m ready.

It’s tempting to edit as you go. However, you’ll often find yourself in a situation where a few scenes become irrelevant, as in my situation. I need to write a whole new bunch of scenes so that the climax and ending fit my new writing goals.

That’s the primary reason you edit LATER — the scenes you’re sweating over may be deleted.

Your story always comes first

New authors tend to rewrite early chapters. That’s pointless. Nine times out of ten, you won’t even use the first few scenes of your novel. You’ll start the story later, or you’ll decide that you want to add something or other, and need to rework the first scenes.

Until you’ve got the STORY down, and have finished your first draft, there’s no point in rewriting, or editing.

Put stuff in, if it’s SHORT

I encourage my students to write their first drafts straight through. But what happens if you get an idea for something, and you want to add it to earlier scenes right now? Put it in, if it’s short.

In my romantic suspense, I came up with a cute McGuffin. I needed to write about it in my current scene. So I went back and added it to the first scene immediately, and mentioned in three more scenes.

Here’s why. I wasn’t sure how to play it. It was just an idea, and I wanted to see how (and if) it worked. It did. So I wrote a few hundred words, then went back to the scene I was working on when I got the idea.

If I’d had an idea for a completely new character, or an event, I would have made a note, and added it in the second draft. My McGuffin was short. Writing it took less than half an hour, and adding it didn’t disturb my forward momentum.

In your first draft, momentum is everything. If you linger, you may lose the thread of your story. Chaos and migraines ensure. Keep going — get the story down.

As a rule of thumb, you can add stuff in a first draft, if it’s immediately relevant, very short, and easy to add.

To repeat: EDIT LATER. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

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You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

Fiction Writing Basics: Point Of View Made Simple

Fiction Writing Basics: Point Of View Made Simple

Let’s look at another basic fiction writing technique: point of view. Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a short story, or a novel, the question of point of view (POV) needs to be addressed.

When you keep POV simple, you can write more

When you write fiction, you’re writing an entertainment. Entertaining your readers needs to be your primary goal. Choosing the appropriate POV makes writing easier, and you can write more.

POV isn’t complicated, as long as remember WHO you are — which fictional character, that is — in a scene.

Let’s look at my simple “rules” for point of view (POV.)

There are two:

  • One character’s POV per scene;
  • Limit POV characters in your short story or novel.

You can break these rules of course, as long as you know why you’re doing it. Generally speaking, I prefer to stick with one POV per scene, and rarely have more than three POV characters in a novel, no matter how long the novel happens to be.

Sticking with the two simple rules makes editing easier. Here’s why.

When it comes to editing, one of your challenges is: what does this character know at this point in the story? If you keep switching POVs within scenes, you’ll hurt your brain trying to work it out, and it makes editing HARD. If you know me at all, you know that I prefer to keep things simple. Then you can focus on writing, and pleasing your readers. (And on writing more.)

Wikipedia gives you a good outline of the various types of points of view, so I won’t repeat that information here. Read it. Study it. Study POV in the fiction you read.

A tip: write something first, then decide on POV

Let’s say you’re starting a novel. You’ve got a basic idea, and a concept. (We’ve discussed concept.)

Start writing. Don’t worry about POV yet. When you start writing, you’ll have chosen a POV instinctively. Nine times out of ten, your instinct is correct. Here’s how to tell whether it’s the correct choice. Ask yourself whether you’re comfortable.

If you’re writing easily — ideas come to you, and word flow effortlessly, you’ve made the right choice.

I don’t want to belabor POV too much. You’ve read lots of fiction. Your subconscious knows what you’re writing, even though you aren’t consciously aware of it. The big danger with discussing technique, and thinking about it, is that you’ll stifle your creativity.

First person POV is challenging

I enjoy writing first person POV — viz: “Late that night, I hurried to meet him. He’d left.” But I rarely use it, because it becomes tedious, especially at novel-length.

The big challenge with first person POV is that it’s constrictive. You can only show what your POV character knows, sees, hears and feels. That cuts off your options.

That said, if you find yourself trapped in first person POV, and need to escape, write a few scenes in another character’s POV. Why not? If your story needs it, do it.

Close third person is often the most useful POV

In close third person, you’re inside your viewpoint character; it’s almost like first person. “Late that night, she hurried to meet him. You can’t escape me, not this time. He’d left.”

Do what you need to do: it’s your story

Remember the two rules. They’ll keep POV simple and manageable for you. Beyond that, do what your story requires. And have fun — it makes you more creative.

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