A to Z Challenge: ZzzzzzZzzzzz

And…. We’ve reached Z! Congrats, lovelies!


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Steven King wrote in his epically awesome book On Writing that you should aim to take at least a tenth (or something like that) out of your story when you edit. While I’m more of an editing adder, I see the reason behind his words. That 10% of what we wrote are all the boring bits.

The things that our readers will skip in order to stay awake for the rest of the story. The bits that add no value to the story.

They all have to go. Every. Single. One.

Getting rid of some of those scenes really hurt, sometimes. Some of them might even be favorites. But if they don’t add to the story and if they’re just boring, they have to go.

My rule of thumb when it comes to getting rid of boring scenes:

If they’re more than 70% boring, you have to get rid of them, redistributing the 30% so that they have meaning in the story. If they’re 50-70% boring, you need to cut out the bits that make the scene boring.

Once your work is zzzzz-free, you’ll see most of your pacing issues disappearing. As will a lot of sagging middle problems. AND! Your story will be more exciting.

Win-win, right?

Look Out for These:

1) Crit partners of betas pointing out boring parts.

2) Any parts that were dealt with earliers and that reveal nothing new that’s of importance.

3) Any parts that don’t fulfill a valuable function in the story. You don’t have to get rid of all of them, but if the read is stalling, you might want to cut out a few of these.

How do you spot boring bits that have to go?

A to Z Challenge: X Things to Remember

Today I’m just going to do ten things worth remembering in edits/revisions. Yes, I know. Genius use of the letter X.



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i) Always take time away from your ms before starting an editing/revision round.
ii) Crit partners can be the difference between an okay ms and an excellent one.
iii) Parents, best friends and other family members are great for support, but not for critiquing.
iv) Edits/revisions are a lot of work, but are rewarding. But only if you remind yourself of this fact.
v) Know where the story is headed by revisions.
vi) Revise first, then edit, starting with the big things before going to the small.
vii) Make sure you keep the original of every edit round before you edit. If you don’t like the new changes, you can track back.
viii) If your written words look like gibberish, it’s time for a break.
ix) No matter what someone says in a crit, you know more about what’s right for your story. Go with your gut.
x) Yes. Edits do come to an end. Promise.

What’s your advice when it comes to edits?

A to Z Challenge: World Building

Almost as promised, here’s the post on World Building.

I believe that whether or not you write a form of speculative fiction, you will have to engage in some degree of world building to make your story believable. You might have to create a fictional town. Or disguise a real one (Gotham City, anyone?). Otherwise, you might simply bend the real world rules a little in to make them fit the purposes of the story.

Because of this, I’m going to address two types of world building. Spec fic and non spec fic.

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If you’re not writing spec fic, or only want to gloss over reality a little, you’ll need to put time in to research as much about the location and time of your story as possible. Especially if you don’t live in the location or time that you’re writing about. And the more you research, the better.

BUT remember, you’re looking for a feel for the place/time so that you can write a piece of fiction. You’re not writing a text book. So if you’ve written blocks and blocks of information with minute details of everything, you might have to cut back. It’s sort of similar to what I said about using senses. Characters aren’t going to list the histories/descriptions/cultural impact of every single thing the see and experience. Rather, we the readers want to feel everything through the character. Show the impact of certain things. Show what they mean. Don’t list them and go on and on about minute details.

Special bonus for historical fiction writers: Anachronisms are incredibly annoying, so make damned sure that the things used/referred to by characters existed/happen in the time of your story. NOTHING annoys me more than reading a western where badass gunslingers use the colt peacemaker three years before it existed. And yes. I know when it did or didn’t exist. Other people will too. Keep your dates straight. If you absolutely must bend the dates to suit the story, please remember to make note of it in a foreword or something. That way, you show that you’re not an idiot, and (possibly more importantly) that you don’t think the reader’s an idiot.

Spec fic, on the other hand, sets world building on a whole new level. More often than not, the world of your fantasy/steampunk/sci fi/urban fantasy/dystopian/horror/etc. etc. story will be foreign to your readers. And if your readers can’t place themselves in the world of your story, you already lost the battle.

When it comes to my spec fic stories, I try to know more than what goes into the book. Note: MORE. Not everything. Every single thing doesn’t have to go in. Important things go in. And not always in a clearly outlined way. Let’s say that amongst other things, your world randomly loses gravity. I wouldn’t suggest that you necessarily go into the depths of why, unless it’s important. The same for the cultures that you create. Remember, most spec fic characters already live in the world that you’ve created. So they won’t be explaining things to themselves or others. At least not all the time. There’s a fine balance between enlightening the readers and boring them with too much detail. Make sure that you stay on that line.

Taking the world rules a little further…. Natural laws should exist as natural LAWS. Same with the rules of your magic system. Or your cultural norms, rules and regulations. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES let your characters break any of the above without them being aware of the fact, without an explanation, and without potentially huge (and hugely negative) repercussions. Especially, don’t let them do it to save the day. If you do, you’re undermining the credibility of your own story. These rules should be the frame that keeps everything in your story structured and believable. You can’t ignore them for convenience sake. It will make your story collapse like a house of cards. If the world rules create a problem for the story, you have two options: either rewrite the rules (and revise the whole story to fit them) or go look for a solution that fits and even comes out of the rules. See my P post for more info on that.

On a lighter note, having a fantasy world helps to set the mood of the story, if you use your world right. You have the joy of creating something special and unique. It’s one of the few forms of pure creation. So have a blast!

Look Out for These:

1) In both: Over-telling on the world/time, boring the reader and making everything seem unrealistic. Under-informing the reader, making them wonder how things work.

2) Non-Spec fic: Anachronisms, not knowing enough to get the feel of the time/place right.

3) Spec fic: World rules that are broken.

What do you love/hate about world building in your genre?

A to Z Challenge: Will do the real post early tomorrow

Hi… yes, I know that this isn’t something to do with the A to Zs of edits and revisions, but for some reason, I’m not able to string together the thoughts required to write the post I want.

So rather than doing something useless, I’m letting you know that the real post will be on world building, and that it will be online tomorrow morning, in approximately 8 – 10 hours. So don’t miss it. 😉

A to Z Challenge: Verbs

I know I know. V is for Verbs is not very original when it comes to the A to Zs of editing and revisions. Still, it’s way too important to skip. In fact, the way I think of verbs in edits is sort of a massive category, so we’ll have to see how much ground I can cover. I think to keep things… relatable, I’m going to do this by function – according to my convoluted thinking, at least.

Firstly, verbs indicate action. Actions by your character, actions to your character. Yes people, I’m talking about active vs. passive sentences. Far be it from me to say that passive tense must NEVER be included anywhere in a story. (I guess I should have mentioned with every post that nothing is written in stone… oops.) But. Too much passive tense will have the reader wondering why they’re rooting for a hero that lets the universe randomly do stuff to him when the baddie is out there doing things. If you read through your work and notice too many: “Something WAS done BY someone/something else.” sentences, you might want to work on getting more active tense in. Remember: put the emphasis on the most important thing. More often than not, that will be your characters. So put them first in the sentence.

No. I am not saying “‘was’ is evil and should die a slow death”. In fact, ask my CPs. I adore “was” in all its forms. But verbs also describe actions. And sadly, “was” is… somewhat generic. As are verbs like: look, walk, have, say and so on. Yes, these verbs tell us what someone is doing, but are they telling us how? No. And that’s why adverbs sneak into writing, because suddenly they’re necessary to describe how the character is doing something. Do you say something angrily? No. You grind it out between your teeth. Do you walk insolently? No… you saunter. So make sure as many verbs as possible carry enough weight to describe as well. Get it? Got it? Good. Next. (Notice: I’m not saying adverbs are evil.)

Next, verbs can indicate time. Yep… There is more than one way to use a past tense. So if your story is written in past tense, make sure that things happening before the exact point in your story are referred to in past perfect. I.e. not “I ate” but “I had eaten.” Or better. “I had munched.” if that’s exactly what your character did. There are many other little changes that happen when characters or narration have to refer to something happening in the past, so I strongly suggest that you familiarize yourself with them when editing.

In addition, verbs agree with their subjects. So no “He say’s” or “They does’s” unless it’s in dialogue or you’re going for a specific flavor in your narrative.

Verbs also lend meaning to a sentence. So sometimes, the way you use a verb can change what a sentence means. For example: “I remembered to do my homework.” and “I remembered doing my homework.” Yes, they might look like they mean the same thing, but depending on context, the first implies that the homework isn’t done, while the second implies that it was done (possibly at some point in the more distant past). This can depend on context and feel a lot, so keep an eye out.

Finally, verbs can indicate things happening at the same time. “Doing one thing, he did another.” Nothing wrong with that, but I find that sentence structure addictive. It’s a lazy way to show things happening at the same time. As supposed to being more inventive. So… those sentences can riddle a writer’s works like weeds. Another one (and I’ve heard that it can be a red flag for agents) is when a writer indicates two things occurring at the same time, when they’re physically impossible. “Standing with his cup of coffee, he sat down.” or “Driving home, he got out of the car.” Those ones, you have to look out for, because they’re incredibly annoying to read.

Look Out for These:

1) Generic verbs and repetition that lessens the depth of your words.  

2) Passive tense and gerunds changing the meaning of a sentence or story.

3) Tenses and concurrent happenings that don’t make sense.

What is your vice when it comes to verbs?

A to Z Challenge: Use All Senses

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There’s more to telling a story than simply relaying events to a reader in chronological (or whichever you prefer) order.

No, readers need to be drawn in. They need to share experiences with the story’s characters. That can’t really be done if the reader can’t get a sense of what’s going on around the characters.

Where are they?

What are they seeing?

Touching? How does it feel?

What are they smelling?

What are they hearing? How clearly?

I’m not saying that I’m looking for five pages of pure description. But still, hinting at a characters surroundings would be good. Otherwise we readers have nothing but a thick white mist around the characters in our mind.

So how does one do that? Especially since writers can’t use pages of description?

By having the character notice things. Not a million things at the same time. Just the most immediately pressing ones in tense situations. So seeing and feeling, most likely.

If a situation is more relaxed, people tend to notice more. And so should your character. Only don’t make it obvious. Think of how you perceive things. Do you make a point of making a list of every single thing about a new room? Most likely not. But certain things will catch your eye. Like a window glinting. Or a scatter cushion being out of place. Something like that.

The same for the other senses. Your character won’t try to take stock of every tiny little thing. But something will stand out. A high pitched whistle. The smell of unwashed bodies. The dry, almost gritty taste of smoke.

Always remember two things:

1) It’s about balance. Never focus on only one sense at a time. But don’t use all of them at the same time either, unless the situation is overwhelmingly strong. Or if you character has keen powers of observation.

2) Quality over quantity. Too much description can slow a story to a halt, so rather go for well chosen and well blended moments that mean more and put a reader firmly in the story.

Look Out for These:

1) “White” scenes where the characters don’t react to or interact with their surroundings.

2) Pages and pages of meaningless description.

3) A lack of certain senses in description. Especially taste and smell, since they seem to be neglected the most.

Which senses do you forget about in description? Do are you a minimalist when it comes to description? Or do you have to restrain yourself?