Tag Archives: writing

Editing Tips: Making the Most of Your Hard Copy Review

I’ve posted some updates recently on my editing process for Footfall and have gotten a few questions about how I edit my book. In particular, I’ve had some questions about why I am reviewing a hard copy. While I primarily edit electronically, I actually really enjoy reviewing hard copies of my work, both for my day job as a technical editor and for my creative writing work. It also makes me a little sad that, in this day and age when we are blessed with the ability to do all revisions through out word processor, few people actually look at hard copies anymore and the real benefits can get forgotten. So, I’m going to cover some reasons why I like to occasionally review my work in hard copy form and how I get the most out of that review.

Why Review a Hard Copy?

While I do enjoy reviewing hard copies, it’s not feasible to do it after every draft. In general, what works for me and what I recommend is to print and review a hard copy at two stages in the revision process, the first being after you’ve settled on your major structure (i.e., right after your first or second re-write). Why? Well, personally, I get a bit too attached to my work, meaning I can either be too light with edits or I can be hypercritical and over edit or fall into a self-hate fugue. Neither of these options are great or helpful for the revision process, so I need to force a degree of separation between myself and what I’m writing. Reviewing a hard copy does this for me. I think switching formats (from computer screen to paper) makes my work seem different enough that I don’t feel as close to it. I find that when I review a hard copy, I see the big picture issues clearer, without falling into self-criticism. Plus, you can take a hard copy more places than a computer (coffee shops without outlets, your backyard, the beach, etc.) which means, for a little while, you can change up your location a bit, which is refreshing.

My final flagged hard copy, spiral-bound with plastic front and back cover (to protect it while traveling around).

The second time I like to review a hard copy is for proofreading and fine-detail editing. This is something I’ve found helpful in my day job but I often forget when it comes to my creative writing. I see more issues with sentences on the page when I’m looking at a hard copy. I don’t know why, maybe it has to do with that level of separation I mentioned earlier. Either way, I highly recommend this step before sending your book/story out for review or publication (particularly if you aren’t working with a professional copy editor). You’ll catch more typos and grammar/punctuation issues than just looking at the page.

How to Review A Hard Copy of Your Book

So, you’ve decided it’s time for a hard copy review of your book. Great! What’s next? Like any part of the writing process, there are some steps I like to follow for my review process:

  1. Printing prep and printing
  2. Review
  3. Comment/revision incorporation

I’ll go into detail on these steps below, but the important part to keep in mind is that each step builds off of the previous step, so even when preparing for printing you’re setting yourself up to make better edits and improve your work.

Printing

Before you hit that print button, take a moment to do some preliminary pre-printing checks and prepare your document so it looks the best and easiest to read in a hard copy format. Here is my checklist to help me ensure my document is readable and I won’t waste unnecessary paper:

  • Run spell check
  • Make sure the first page is a cover with the story title and my name — for fanciness and easy location if I leave it somewhere
  • Apply some paragraph level formatting to make it easier to read — I find this website offers good advice on formatting a manuscript, which is also helpful when querying
  • Scroll through the whole document one last time to make sure I don’t have any blank pages or extra spaces between paragraphs

After running through the preliminary checklist, it’s time to print the document. Now, you have a few options when it comes to printing. If you have your own printer, the decision may be easy: print it yourself! However, remember that if you’re printing a full, novel-length manuscript (50,000+ words), you could be printing hundreds of pages. That is a lot for most home printers to handle, so make sure you’ve got enough paper and your ink cartridges are full.

If you don’t have your own printer or don’t want to print yourself, it’s up to you where you want to go to get it done. I personally prefer going through a professional service, like FedEx or Staples, only because I can get it done quickly (same day) and have a lot of paper and binding options. These services can rack up the price for thick manuscripts, though, so if price is an issue, you should look into budget printing services online that will ship to you. I haven’t used any, but have seen Best Value Copy recommended. Lastly, you can always check in with your local library. Some small libraries have flexible printing options, and will do discounts for large print jobs, but you have to talk to the librarian first.

Finally, when you print your hard copy, keep a few things in mind regarding the print specifications:

  • Double or single-sided — Let’s face it, hard copy prints use a lot of paper. If you want to save a few trees, print double-sided, but choose a higher-quality paper so the ink doesn’t show through the other side.
  • Paper weight — Not everyone will care about this, but I like the tactile sensation of a good-quality higher weight paper. Most standard office paper is around 20 lb, which does not do well for double-sided printing (show through). I like something a bit heavy, like 28 or 32. Remember that card stock is 80 lb, so don’t go too high or your paper will be stiff!
  • Recycled paper — As mentioned, you will be using a lot of paper, and some might worry about the environmental impact. Luckily, it’s much easier to find recycled paper these days, particularly if you go through a professional service. Ask them what options they have.
  • Binding — If you’re printing your own or going to the library, you may not have many options here. I would recommend getting some big, heavy duty gator clips to keep your pages together. However, if you’re using professional service, I prefer spiral-binding over comb-binding because you can flip the pages all the way around, making it easier if the book is just in your lap. If you go full-on book binding, like you might through a publishing service, that’s awesome! I’ve never done it, but am curious about what that experience is like.

Review Process

Once you have your hard copy, it’s time to review! However, I would recommend figuring out a way to compartmentalize your comments. Sometimes it can be a bit daunting holding a 200-page manuscript in your lap and worrying about all the things you need to catch. To avoid overload freeze, I’d suggest deciding on a few categories of things you want to keep an eye out for while you’re reviewing. For me, I wanted to look for plot holes, worldbuilding holes, character issues, and general inconsistencies. I assigned each category a color and bought highlighters and post-its in those colors to help me flag the edits with the right category. I found this system to be SUPER helpful this time around, and kept me from feeling overwhelmed. I also used a very nice, smooth red pen to make notes between lines and in the margins. Obviously, a red pen is not necessary—use whatever color you like. I like red because it’s easy to see and I already own a lot of nice ones (again, I’m an editor at my day job).

I use my yellow highlighter for character consistency notes. I usually write my comment on the post it, so it’s easy to identify what I wanted to note or change.

Transferring Edits

One nice thing about the category system I mentioned earlier, besides that it makes the review process easier, it also makes transferring, tracking, and making edits easier. For Footfall, I’m transferring my hand-markups (color-coded with categories) into an Excel spreadsheet, which will serve as a list of edits I need to make. Each category will be included in the spreadsheet, and then I can filter my comments by category, allowing me to make much smaller, more manageable to-do lists, rather than trying to tackle the whole edit with everything I need to do swimming in my head. Also, I’m adding a column to flag items that are global (like name changes) and items that need to do more research on before making the edit (like characterization or worldbuilding holes). This further narrows my field of edits and helps me prioritize what I need to do first, again, making the process easier for me and less overwhelming. I’m just starting on this step myself, but already finding it much simpler than how I used to tackle hard copy edits (that is, having the hard copy in front of me and just transferring the edits to the story as I go).

You don’t have to use a spreadsheet format to get the same benefits of a comment matrix. A paper notebook or word document organized to your preference would work just as well for organizing your edits and comments.

I love doing hard copy markups. I know some people might cringe at the paper waste, but I don’t do very many (I think this is my third for Footfall, but that’s spread out over 6 years) and I think the value of the process far out ways the costs.

Anyway, does anyone else like like to review a hard copy? Or is everyone word processor only? I’m curious what everyone’s preference is, so please share in the comments 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing Advice

Four Things I’m Doing To Finish My Novel this November

Right, so last week I announced that I was doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year as a way to help me finish my novel. I mean, technically I’m not “doing” NaNo because I’m not trying to get to 50K words in one month. My novel is already over 50K, and I’m just trying to finish it. I need to write something like 30K this month (give or take a few thousand words, depending on how the story shakes out), and even 30K in a month requires a degree of discipline and some shenanigans to get through. After all, I have a full-time job, am trying to get back into running regularly, have a regular D&D campaign, this blog, and other stuff. So, what am I doing to set myself up for success and actually finish this thing?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are four things I’ve done to help me finish my novel.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under My Novel, NaNoWrimo

GeekGirlCon 2018: A Fangirl’s Debrief

This past Saturday I attended GeekGirlCon and I had such a blast. It was a good balance of panels and chatting with creators in the expo hall. I found myself feeling energized and inspired to tackle my own ambitions as a creator, and so I wanted to share what I did there and my takeaways with you guys. But first, let’s quickly cover what exactly is GeekGirlCon.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Update Post

Formatting Tips for Your Manuscript: First Line Indents and Double Spacing

So, last summer I received feedback on my manuscript, Footfall, from a published author. It was great feedback, very helpful. But one of the items of feedback that caught me off guard the most had nothing to do with the content of my story, but instead how it was formatted.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing, Writing Advice

Life Goals, New Writer Services, and Footfall: It’s an Update Post!

So, I’ve been posting a bit more regularly to my blog, and I realized it would probably be good to let you guys know what I’ve been up to. I mean, I’ve actually been up to stuff. Are you surprised? Wait, don’t answer that.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Update Post

Hello, there! I’m Back.

Hello, everyone. It’s been…. quite awhile. One year, four months, and nine days to be precise. Yikes.

What have I been doing over the past year? Not a lot, honestly. OK, that’s not true at all. I’ve been busy, I just haven’t been writing. That kind of sucks, but it’s also been good in some ways, I think. I’ve taken some time to re-invest in my physical, mental, and emotional health through travel and running; worked really hard and grown a lot at my job; and done some definite values reassessing. But let’s get to some specifics, yeah? And then I can share some exciting news with you all! Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under My Novel, Uncategorized, Writing

Creative Theft: 3 Great Writers Who Stole Their Best Ideas

It’s vital that all authors find their own voice and strive toward a creative approach to their story. However, it’s also a little ridiculous to believe that all works of fiction must be entirely new and original. For instance, I grew a little nervous when a friend compared the magic system in my book to alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist. But then, after considering historical precedent, I relaxed. After all, many of the great storytelling franchises relied heavily on past works. Here are three:

Screencapture - Fullmetal Alchemist (2003, directed by Seiji Mizushima

Screencapture – Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), directed by Seiji Mizushima

 

The Works of William Shakespeare
Assuming you believe Shakespeare existed (If you don’t, keep that opinion to yourself. This is a bard-friendly blog.), you are probably familiar with the fact that he did “borrow” the plots of most of his plays from other writers. One of those writers would be Geoffrey Chaucer. Like Shakespeare, Chaucer also borrowed many of his plots from other writers, including an Italian poet called Giovanni Boccaccio. A good example of this borrowing can be seen in Shakespeare’s play, Troilus and Cressida. Shakespeare’s plot was heavily influenced by that of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, which itself was influenced by Boccaccio’s Il Filostrato. So, even the great writers of history have stolen from each other from time to time.

Boccaccio

Engraved portrait of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen (1758-1833) after Vincenzo Gozzini and dated 1822 (Source: Wikipedia)

 

The Lord of the Rings
Sometimes seen as the father of high fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien is much loved and respected by readers the world over. I, too, love Tolkien; The Hobbit was one of the very first chapter books I ever read. It’s also well known that Tolkien based much of his world building on pre-existing cultures on Earth. Mythology too played a huge influence on Tolkien’s writing, a good example of which is displayed in Tolkien’s favorite plot device, The One Ring. Tolkien based his ring heavily off of Plato’s Ring of Gyges, a mythical artifact that turned the wearer invisible. Furthermore, the Ring of Gyges sparks a debate in Plato’s works between Socrates and another; they argue over whether that power would always be taken advantage of by the wearer, or if a just person could withstand it and resist his base desires. It’s pretty easy to see the link between the corruption of the Ring of Gyges and that of The One Ring; the biggest difference is that no one can resist The One Ring forever.

Plato

The School of Athens (detail of Plato). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Source: Wikipedia)

Star Wars
A cultural touchstone in its own right, many modern works owe a great deal to the Star Wars franchise. However, like the previously mentioned franchises, Star Wars owes much to other works. What resonates most with many fans of the original films was the blending of familiar elements (plots structures, character types) with futuristic settings. George Lucas pulled those familiar elements from mythology from around the world. For Luke’s journey in particular, Lucas relied heavily on the works of Joseph Campbell. And, lest I forget, I feel I should also mention the Japanese film The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa. This film is told primarily from the perspective of two bickering peasants (not so different from C-3P0 and R2-D2), and also features a battle-hardened warrior (like Obi Wan Kenobi) and a rebellion-leading princess (like Princess Leia).

While I want my books to feel fresh and original, I also have to be aware that borrowing from other works is not a sin. I do feel, though, that I should be aware of my influences. One thing I do admire about George Lucas is that he has never shied away from giving credit to his influences. If nothing else, it’s a good way to introduce younger audiences to time-tested works.

How do you guys feel about borrowing from works? Should it be frowned on, or celebrated? Is there a line between the two, and when have you seen it crossed?

4 Comments

Filed under Literature, Writing

My Favorite Poems

I love poetry, in all its forms. And guess what? April is National Poetry month. So, in celebration of this great art form, here are my favorite poems. My normal gig for listing my favorite things often includes my reasoning for each. However, I think I’ll withhold my analysis this week and just provide a simple list. For me, my experience of poetry is intimate and personal and sometimes it’s impossible to explain why I connect with a particular piece.

“And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” – Walt Whitman, “The Song of Myself”

 

Dulce et Decorum Est“, Wilfred Owen

Song of Myself“, Walt Whitman (read aloud here)

Ornithography“, Billy Collins

The Weary Blues“, Langston Hughes

Daddy“, Sylvia Plath

Early in the Morning“, Li-Young Lee

DSCN1023

A pretty flower in Germany.


As an extra present, here’s a link to 10 British poems being read aloud. They aren’t my favorite poems, but, for me, hearing poetry aloud is a true delight.

Do you guys have any favorite poems?

 

2 Comments

Filed under Literature

Two Approaches to Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is one of my favorite aspects of storytelling. Whether the story is fantasy, science fiction, or some dystopian future, a great world design can make or break a story’s credibility and inspire countless future stories. In celebration of this marvelous act of creation, I’m going to share two basic approaches to start building your new world.

But first, let’s discuss what worldbuilding actually means.

Forgotten_villa_by_CptHandel

Sometimes I like to start my world building by sketching . Here’s a building I sketched for one of my older stories.

Define: Worldbuilding
Worldbuilding is the creation of an imaginary setting, whether it be a small town or an entire universe. These imaginary worlds should have internal logic based on geography, history, biology, and so forth. They can be used for fictional novels, video games, tv shows, movies, and pretty much any other story-based media form. The best created worlds serve the story, enriching the setting of the characters and plot but not overwhelming them.

There are many aspects of a world you can latch onto when starting your story. However, I’ve found that there are two basic but reliable approaches to starting the worldbuilding process.

scan0001

This is Ofrina, an early map of a continent I created. I used political map because I was trying to decide the country borders.

Top Down Approach
A fairly common approach to worldbuilding is what I like to call the top down approach. The concept is simple: you start with the details of the world you want to build, and then work backwards, figuring out the world’s history and so forth to support the end product you want. For instance, say I wanted to tell a story where my main character was a member of a tribe of blue-skinned people. To build a world to support this idea, I’d need to work backwards, and ask myself questions about how this group of people came to exist. Are they the only blue-skinned people in this world? Were they created by a higher being, or did they evolve? From these questions, I can start to branch off these few details I know and create a fully realized world.

The top down approach has its positives and negatives. It works well because it allows for a clear picture of the end product. In this way, it’s easier to not forget the story and be overwhelmed by the immensity of an imagined world. It helps with early character creation, too. However, if the creator doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the world should look like when they start, the top down approach might cause more problems than it solves. If I change my mind and make my blue-skinned people have the ability to fly, I might have to go back to the drawing board. So, for people without a clear picture of what sort of world they want their story to be set in, it’s better to start with the bottom up approach.

The Bottom Up Approach
The bottom up approach begins with the very foundation of the world you’re going to create. Basically, you start with creating a world (earth-like or not) to serve as your canvas. To this, you add geography. What does your world look like? Also, it’s a good idea to decide how the sciences play out in your world. Some storytellers are happy saying that physics, biology, chemistry, and so on are just like earth’s. That is just fine. However, if you want to play around with those, feel free. Just make sure you research things so they stay internally logical. If you want to build a world where photosynthesis doesn’t exist, you better know what photosynthesis is and why it’s important for plants. Now is also a good time to decide if your world has some special aspect, such as magic or a unique energy source.

Once you have your foundation, it’s time to add the people/life forms that inhabit this world. How does this environment affect them? It’s probably not a homogeneous group (and if it is homogeneous, you better have a darn good reason why), so adding various cultural makeups is a good idea. From here, it’s a matter of figuring out details like language, politics, history, and so on before refining the final product to fit your story. It’s important to keep that internal logic you spent so much time crafting, but you also want to make sure you leave room for your story. Hopefully a this point your imagination is firing on all cylinders, and you’ve found a great source of conflict or a really interesting idea for a main character.

So, how do you guys feel about worldbuilding? I’m considering writing a second post with finer details about what we need to think about when we build a world, like infrastructure and political systems. Would that interest people?

P.S. Sorry I missed last week’s post. My husband and I were a bit under the weather, and also I’ve been trying to finish my latest draft of Footfall.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing, Writing Advice

My Characters and a Q&A with the Artist Who Drew Them

Oscar and Mary Drake. Art by Michelle Luise.

 

I’m so excited today. Why? Because I finally have a visual representation of my work-in-progress’s main characters, Oscar and Mary Drake. This picture is so beautiful. I love the lighting, particularly how it streams through the trees. I love how you can get a little glimpse of Oscar and Mary’s personalities just by seeing their faces. It’s just so AWESOME!

I’m also pleased as punch to say the picture was drawn and colored by artist (and good friend) Michelle Luise. She did such an amazing job. What’s more, she agreed to answer a few of my questions on her art and her process. I hope you guys enjoy this interesting insight into an artist’s world!

H: How long have you been an artist? Did you go to school for it, or are you self taught?
M: That’s a bit of a tough question! I’ve enjoyed creating art for most of my life, but I would say that I really started to draw consistently around 2001, so I guess about fourteen years at this point! I’m primarily self taught, though I did take art courses throughout my college career, as well as several courses over the past decade dealing with graphic design. It’s been in the last four years that I’ve begun to take art more seriously as a potential career path.

H: What is your favorite medium to work with?
M: My work is done primarily using digital means, and I would say that is my favorite medium to work with! I currently work with a decade old Wacom Intuos 3 tablet, and the bulk of my work is done using Paint Tool SAI, though I will occasionally use Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint for inking. Working digitally allows for me to cut down on art supply costs – while a tablet and art programs are expensive up front, I don’t have to worry about the costs for canvas or paper, etc. When it comes to traditional mediums, however, I do enjoy working with charcoal or graphite.

H: When you decide to draw a person or a scene, how do you start? Is the picture fully formed in your mind at the beginning, or does it take shape as you go?
M: It depends on the piece! A lot of time, when I’m constructing a piece, I do have one particular part in mind but not necessarily the entire image. I will often times know the expression that I want, or I know one tiny piece that absolutely needs to be included, and the whole image can be built around that. A recent piece I did, for example, was constructed around wanting to draw two characters clasping hands – from that point, I worked to figure out how the rest of the drawing would work in relation to that part of the pose. For the painting of Oscar and Mary, I decided early on that I wanted to position Mary facing the viewer, with Oscar behind her. Their exact poses changed a few times, but where they were in relation to each other stayed the same. Other times, I will have a set goal in mind when working – I want to use negative space effectively, or I want to use a particular color scheme. There are, of course, times when I have a full, complete image in my mind. Actually, at initial concept stages, I do almost always have a complete image. However, I try to focus in on what parts of the piece I consider the most important aspects and work around those, and I do try to be flexible, as sometimes the complete image I have in my mind does not translate to a drawn image quite how I envisioned it.

H: Are you strictly interested in producing portraits/drawings, or would you also consider working on cover art or book illustrations?
M: I would absolutely consider working on covers or illustrations! In general, what I most enjoy drawing is the human face and figure, but that by no means limits me to only portraits. I have actually done some work in the past with designing book cover images, and I’m currently working with a close friend on a short comic. Drawing more complete scenes and paintings is something that I am certainly interested in working on more!

H: Are you currently accepting commissions?
M: If I was answering this yesterday, I would say yes, but I am now actually fully scheduled with commissioned work! I will likely be opening up commissions again in the next few months.

H: Where can people see your art work?
M: I am currently working on putting together an online portfolio where people will be able to view my artwork, though I do not yet have this up and running. This is another thing which will be hopefully up and running in the next few months!

2 Comments

Filed under My Novel, Writing