Update on Editing Epic Fantasy Novel Scattered Stones

EditingLate last week, I completed the first serious edit on Scattered Stones, the second book in The Castle Keepers series.

First, let me define serious. The dozen or so edits that occurred before focussed on over-all story, aligning the characters and the plots, and removing unnecessary material that would never play into future books. I edited large sections at a time, but never from start to finish, and I didn’t focus on each particular sentence. Non-serious edits are quicker. I can do a page every five minutes or so.

My serious edit focussed on each sentence individually and at times, it took an hour to do a page. It looked at every verb and weighed it to see if it was the right one, the strongest one for the situation. If there were two verbs in a sentence, I evaluated them both to see if they were necessary. The weaker one—if unneeded—was removed, shortening and tightening the sentence.

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Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 10

Dust, UnsettledThis is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.

This story takes place in the late 1980s. I’ve decided to keep it there instead of updating it to 2016.

The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.

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Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 09

Dust, UnsettledThis is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.

The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.

Word Count Comparison

Original: 428

Edited: 331

Difference: 97

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Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 08

Dust, UnsettledThis is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.

The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.

Before We Get Started

There’s a heap of swearing in this segment—lots of F-bombs. This word is a billion-dollar word for me now because I know overuse of it weakens it.

This fact was proven when I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; the first time she used it, it caught me off guard, and it was so funny I laughed out loud. The second time wasn’t so funny. After the third time, I wondered why she stooped so low…you get the picture.

Writing feeds the SoulBy the way, I don’t recommend the book to writers with fragile minds unless they want to die a miserable death by writing after anguishing for decades. Her version of writing is comparable to suffering from syphilis in the late 1400s.

I feel the complete opposite about writing. It’s a joy, it breathes life and I love it. If I was Lamott’s therapist, I’d tell her to work at Tim Hortons instead; less stress on her brain.

I considered removing the F-bombs from the original version to save innocent eyes, but then I wouldn’t be true to this exercise. So bear with me.

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Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 06

Dust, UnsettledThis is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.

The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.

Continue reading

Editing a Western Romance Novel “Dust, Unsettled” 04

Dust, UnsettledThis is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.

The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.

Continue reading

Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettled” 03

Dust, UnsettledThis is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.

The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.

Continue reading

Transforming a Paragraph

EditingAs many know, I’m editing the second book in the Castle Keepers series Scattered Stones. When I began, the fantasy novel contained 161,435 words. It currently sits at 160,522 words. My goal is to reduce the novel to below 150,000.

To reach this goal, unnecessary words need to go. To do this, I evaluate each sentence. This is a long process, and after 13 days, I’ve completed only 63 of 271 pages. Mind you, I only get to work on these edits about two hours a day.

This morning, as I worked on a paragraph, I got lazy—blame it on the late nights and early mornings. I let a few ‘was’ words slide without putting in effort to see if I could eliminate them. Not all ‘was’ words should be removed; there is a place for them, but laziness isn’t that place.
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Editor for Hire

I have a confession to make. Over the past two years, I’ve been editing on the side. Writers have been contacting me and asking if I could ‘take a look at’ their stories, or they’ve come right out and asked, “Will you edit my manuscript?”

Editing has exposed me to many styles of writing. Each one is unique in their own way. Many are far from mine, and that’s perfect. No two people should write alike.

These writers have found me online or in person without advertising but now, I’m ready to reveal myself as an editor.

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Passive Was Words

EditingBefore I re-publish Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove through CreateSpace, I decided to read through and correct errors I had made in 2010. This book was the first book I self-published.

Initially, I went through Blurb to create paperback copies. They were fairly expensive, and this 31,000-word story geared towards kids between the ages of ten and fourteen cost me almost nine dollars to get to my door. With the US / Canada dollar exchange, it would cost a little more today.

Fast forward to CreateSpace, and now this same book will cost between four and five dollars.

Before I reprint it though, I want to improve the reading experience. After all, I’m a better writer now than I was six years ago. I have learned a lot about storytelling and editing. This novel was also my first experience working with an editor, and perhaps I may have not fully realised what should and shouldn’t have been changed.

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You’re Not Illiterate; You’re Blind

A few days ago, I received the manuscript for Twistmas – The Season for Love back from my editor. Once again, I was reminded why editors are vital to making you not look illiterate. Or more accurately: why someone other than the author of the story must edit the manuscript.

I do a lot of editing for writers. I’m not familiar with the stories they’ve written; I’ve not read them dozens of times for years on end, tweaking the characters’ personalities, rearranging scenes and ensuring the plot runs in a logical manner. So when I first read a sentence in their story, if something is missing, I can immediately see it isn’t there. That’s right, what isn’t there.

Sometimes what isn’t there is a word, a complete, obvious, full-blown word, such as ‘you’. My editor noticed it wasn’t there in this sentence and added it for me.

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The Confusion of Had

I learned a lot about proper writing (punctuation, spelling, grammar) in school back when the education system thought it was more important to be able to write well than to dissect a literary story.

Over the past sixteen years, I’ve relearned a lot of these rules and honed my skills with the written word, so I could write well, be understood by readers with various education levels and tell a good story.

Still, writing is a big ‘process’. It’s full of intricate details we need a life time to explore. Sometimes I think it’s impossible to know it all. Each aspect of it must be scrutinised individually to decipher how it works.

One of those instances for me is the proper use of ‘had’. I know the basics, how it might be used and how a sentence sounds better when it is included. But I admit, it’s a challenge when the nit-picking begins.

I was faced with this today when I once again, faced with the dilemma of using ‘had’ or leaving it out. Here’s the paragraph in question (Scattered Stones; Book 2 of The Castle Keepers):

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Dimwit’s Dictionary

EditingMy kids chuckled when I brought this book into the house. Who wouldn’t? The smart remarks flew like germs in a sneeze. All I could do was stand there and take it. I couldn’t deny their claims: It was a great dictionary for me, one that would help with editing my stories.

The Dimwit’s Dictionary5,000 overused words and phrases and alternatives to them by Robert Hartwell Fiske is a very interesting book and one I proudly display in the reference section of my bookshelf. I’ve had it since 2008 (Second Edition) and have used it many times.

This is the perfect book for finding and eliminating common phrases from your work. For example: When William received the news, he raced around the grocery store like a chicken with its head cut off.

You can look up that common phrase and see what it’s called. In this case (like a) chicken with its head cut off is referred to as an insipid simile. You’ll also find words to replace the phrase: agitated, crazed, demented, deranged, frantic

It’s your job to work a replacement word into the sentence.

When William received the news, he raced around the grocery store frantically.

When William received the news, he raced around the grocery store in a demented state.

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My Editing Process

EditingIf you missed my post yesterday about editing, you can read it here: The Importance of Good Editing.

First the meaning of First Draft: The version that has never been edited, just written without thought of little else but getting the words down on paper. Mind you, after all these years of writing, I try to write correctly the first time. In other words, I properly edit and spell on the fly as much as I can. Don’t confuse this with rereading passages to edit before proceeding to the next scene. I’ve met writers in the past who don’t perform basic editing while writing, simply write incomplete sentences with very little punctuation. This makes editing the manuscript that much more labour intense. If you know quotation marks go there, put them in as your write.

As promised in yesterday’s post here are the steps I take to edit my manuscript after I’ve completed the first draft.

1. Read the manuscript for consistency, to see how it feels as a whole story. I ask myself the following questions:

  • Does it make sense to me and will it make sense to readers?
  • Does the time frame work? In other words, is a character five years old in one paragraph and eight in another even though only a few weeks passed? Or is it snowing in one chapter and summer in the next with only a few hours passing?
  • Is every character necessary, are they consistent and are their names correct? I don’t want the side-kick to be called Freda in chapter one and Betty in chapter six unless there is a darn good reason for it.
  • Is there enough action/plot/character development for it to be a complete, interesting story?
  • Do the chapter divisions make sense?

If I find issues with any of these items, I fix them before moving on to Step 2.

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The Importance of Good Editing

EditingEditing. That’s the mammoth task every writer must face in the process of publishing a book. I know some writers don’t bother—you can easily spot their eBooks like you can an elephant in your corn chowder—but editing is the one essential task that must be done and done to a specific professional level to gain success and respect in self-publishing. It can’t be half-assed, sped through or done with no knowledge on how to do it.

Readers will notice. Other writers will notice too. Even my ten-year-old can spot a spelling mistake.

Unedited books also become fair game to reviewers. Some will politely tell the author there are mistakes or that “this is a good first draft” or “it has potential”, but most will not be so kind.

Here are a few actual one-star reviews from Amazon

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