Renee Writes

Posts tagged editing tips

Weekly Fantasy Fix: Who Am I?

 

For the indie author, this is a frequent and persistent question, especially at first. There isn’t a publisher to tell us, “you fit here and this is where we’re marketing you.” So we have to figure it out on or own, and it isn’t always easy. We end up going through this existential crisis of a sort; what did I just write, and where does it belong? Where do I belong as an author? Sometimes we get too caught up in worrying about where readers think we belong, and we get dragged down all sorts of dead end paths trying to market to every potential reader, in every dark corner of the universe. It can be exhausting, deplete our limited resources, and still get us nowhere.

And it’s no wonder we’re confused—some genres, like fantasy, are so huge it’s easy to get lost. When you search for fantasy books on Amazon, you get 739,684 returns! Who could possibly search through all of that for a new book to read? It’s completely overwhelming. Renee’s March 4th article talked about how the fantasy genre has now been split up into many different sub-genres, presenting both benefits and challenges for everyone. For the writer, it can make that existential question where do I belong even harder to answer, particularly if our work fits equally well into more than a couple of categories. But it can also help us finally settle in someplace—find a cozy corner to call home, where we can quietly build up a loyal fan base and gradually expand from there. It sure beats drifting around the book marketing universe like a hobo, holding out our collection cups to anyone who passes by, hoping for some reader to take pity on the poor indie author.

And that’s pretty much what we do as new, inexperienced authors. We chase after every new marketing gimmick, trying to imitate the top sellers without having any understanding of the huge amount of plodding groundwork it took to get them there. We try to copy the mechanics of their journey in the hopes it will take us along the exact same road, instead of going through that painful existential process of figuring out who we are, and forging our own path. We read all the author self-help books written by people who claim if you just follow steps A-Z you’ll become just as successful as they are. But no two authors are alike, and no two journeys are either. They might offer good advice, but we need to take it with the understanding that it will most likely work differently for us, and that’s OK. Eventually we all grow tired of chasing the wind and come to realize our biggest successes have come about when we’ve just been our truest selves.

It took me a few years, but I think I’m finally settling into my small corner of the indie book world. It’s actually pretty comfortable—not particularly flashy or high profile, but it suits me. Readers are finding me, and my book sales are slowly but steadily growing. When I first published in 2011, I couldn’t imagine the place I’m at right now. Humble as it is, it seemed so far out of reach. Since then I’ve had plenty of dreams to keep me working hard, and those dreams grow every day. I hope that in another 5 years, I’ll be able to look back and say, “I couldn’t imagine this place I’m in right now—and I’m so glad I’m here. What’s next?”

 

Also included in this issue:

  • Medieval Menagerie: Criminals
  • Book Spotlight: Give Up the Ghost
  • Self-Editing Tip: Good Writing isn’t All About Grammar
  • Fantasy Art
  • And more…

Read the Full Newsletter

 

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Weekly Fantasy Fix: Heroes and Villains

Weekly Fantasy Fix

 

In my last Inspiration Sunday post I mentioned that in the process of working out some things for the third book in my series, I’ve been thinking about the very different motives and actions of my heroes and villains. Where my story goes from here largely depends on their inner battles, and how those translate into actions that have world-wide consequences. What is each side trying to ultimately achieve, and in what ways are they trying to get there? Are they staying one step ahead of their enemies, or are they simply reacting as each new thing gets thrown at them, never really gaining any ground?

But even beyond that, what makes heroes and villains who they are is not just their inner conflict, but their inner character. The best heroes aren’t perfect people—they are just as flawed as the rest of us; sometimes more so. And yet what makes them different? Sure they might have special abilities—those can be squandered. They might be more desperate than most. Desperation can also turn to bitterness that produces nothing good. And we’ve seen time and time again how the same set of circumstances can turn one person to darkness and another to the light.

I found the answer in a quote from C.S. Lewis. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.”

Our heroes have to accept their flaws, allow themselves be deeply wounded by them, yet still have the strength rise to action…even when that action is self-sacrificial. They have to care about something larger than themselves, and to care, a heart capable of love is required. So where does that leave our darkest villains? By contrast, they are cold and selfish. Their flaws do not make them vulnerable to heartache—they won’t allow it. And while they might also care about something larger than themselves, it is only to the extent that they will greatly benefit in the process…and they have no problem sacrificing someone else to get their prize. They worship none but themselves. Over time, our villains’ hearts grow increasingly incapable of love until, to use Lewis’ words, they become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. Those are the true villains that our heroes must rise against—the ones worth risking everything to defeat, because if they win, there will be nothing left worthy of living for.

For those of you who are writers, forget for a bit the mechanics of the plot you’re building, and look deep into the eyes of your heroes and villains. What lies hidden deep down in their hearts and souls? What, and who, do they really, honestly care about? How do their vulnerabilities impact their character, and what are they willing to do to achieve their goals? For all you who are readers, which heroes and villains stand out as the most memorable to you? What made them real?

Also in this issue:

  • Medieval Menagerie
  • NaNoWriMo
  • Self-Editing Tip: Who vs. That
  • Fantasy Art
  • And more…

Read the Full Newsletter

The sign up below for 3 Free Ebooks from the Weekly Fantasy Fix Authors

How to Self-Edit to Save Time and Money by Fiona Skye

Today I’d like to welcome Fiona Skye to Renee Writes. She’s sharing a post she wrote about self-editing. I hope you find it as informative as I have.


“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of
waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
― Patricia Fuller

apple-473629_640-353x500A not-so-well-kept secret is that I’m also a freelance fiction editor. In the two years that I’ve worked at this job, I’ve edited a score of manuscripts, most of them from brand-new, baby authors. These are usually my favorite clients because they’re starry-eyed and timid and so desperate to learn. They’re like snuggly little puppies and I adore them. But they’re often difficult to work with, too, because their talents are so raw and unrefined and some of them are resistant to change. They’ve picked up certain habits, either through other writing blogs or through MFAs in Creative Writing or through some long-distant memory of high school writing classes, and are unwilling to part with them. These clients make me want to cry, pull my hair out, and scream, “WHY DID YOU HIRE ME IF YOU’RE JUST GOING TO ARGUE OVER EVERY LITTLE CHANGE?!?!” I mean, I am a professional. I have degrees and loads of experience with this stuff. I know what I’m doing, for Heaven’s sake. You hired me for a reason; trust me to do right by you.

But I digress.

I base my fees on a small section of a book, usually 2,500 words from a middle chapter. Why not the first chapter, like most editors and agents request? Because it doesn’t give me an accurate read of a potential client’s work. Most first chapters are polished until they gleam. The rest of the book? Sometimes not so much. When I first started out, I accepted far too many manuscripts with a gorgeous first chapter while the rest of the book was an absolute nightmare, and that made me question my life choices. I ended up charging these authors extra for the added stress. So now, to keep my Zen-like editor’s calm, I take middle chapters so I know what I’m getting into.

Anyway.

How can you make sure that your manuscript doesn’t damage your editor’s calm and save yourself some money at the same time? I’ll let you in on a little secret: Macro edits and Micro edits.

MACRO EDITS

This is big-picture stuff, the sorts of things you should look at during the very first revision of the very first draft. (Oh, by the way, how many drafts should you do before you consider your work complete and ready to publish or start querying? Four: first draft, beta readers draft, professional editor’s draft, and cleanup or proofreader’s draft.) These items require rewrites–sometimes heavy ones, the bane of every author’s existence. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Attention-grabbing first sentences
  2. A beginning that starts with the inciting incident–the event or decision that kick-starts your story’s conflict
  3. A great protagonist–is she introduced quickly enough? Do you establish his point of view immediately? Does the first chapter reveal her goal and motivation?
  4. Clear stakes that are high enough
  5. Interesting and likable characters
  6. Formidable, well-balanced villain who is not a caricature
  7. Unnecessary characters who are just hanging around, cluttering things up
  8. Character development in both the villain and the hero
  9. Interesting, memorable settings and story world
  10. Infodumps–they’re bad. Remove them.
  11. Slow pacing, plot holes, and a laser-like focus on the hero’s goal
  12. Unrealistic or wooden dialogue
  13. A believable, logical story with enough tension and conflict to keep readers hooked
  14. A logical story timeline
  15. All questions and conflicts are solved by the end of the book

MICRO EDITS

These are small, fiddly bits that can wait until the absolute last draft of your book. What to keep in mind:

  1. Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  2. Typos that may not be caught by a spell-checker
  3. Word choices appropriate to story tone and mood, setting and time-period
  4. Vivid descriptions that involve all five senses
  5. Crutch words (that, seem, frown, sigh, really, very, etc.)
  6. Weak and awkward sentences, or confusing and unclear sentences
  7. Cliches–avoid them like the plague. (See what I did there? ;))
  8. Varying sentence structure, good rhythm, and appropriately-sized paragraphs for the pacing of the scene

There you have it. Take care of these things before handing your manuscript off to a professional editor and you’ll save money AND become her favorite client in one fell swoop!


Fiona Skye is a fantasy author, currently living in the deserts of Southern Arizona. She shares a home with her husband, two kids, three cats, two rats, a betta fish, and a Border Collie.

Fiona’s passion for storytelling began early in life. She loved playing make-believe and inventing elaborate fantasy worlds to explore. At age twelve, she wrote her first short story, which was based on a song by a 1980s hair band. After giving it to her English teacher for editing and rewrites, she learned to love the entire writing process and has dedicated her life since then to story craft, only to be occasionally distracted by her insatiable love of yarn and crochet, and the dogged pursuit of the perfect plate of cheese enchiladas.

She counts Diana Gabaldon and Jim Butcher as her favorite authors and biggest influences. Joining these two on the list of people she would wait in queue for a week to have a coffee with are Neil Peart, Kevin Hearne, and Brandon Sanderson.

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