Review of “Burning Depths” by Madeline Stanford

Publications on Functionally Fictional, Writing
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This is the final book in the trilogy, for now. Let’s just say Stanford left the ending in a satisfying way that wrapped up the major plot that spanned the first three books, so any new books in the series would tackle a new set of problems. It was satisfying but open-ended, which made me hope for more.

But some more things about the book: Alex and Flynn and their friend group have survived the bloody war in the last book with minimal casualties and some pretty big bombshells being dropped. Now, they are stuck with three sides to a looming war, the Azure Loyalists who want things to go back to the way they were with Attis as their leader, the Azure Rebels, led by Flynn and Alex, who want to overhaul the system and do what is right, and the Depths, run by Samuel, who want death and destruction and power.

There are some surprising deaths in this book and some twists and turns, not all of which I liked. At one point, Flynn told Alex that he needed her to be his moral compass. I didn’t approve of that. It made me feel as though the characters had become too dependent on each other, and some of the things that Stanford brought up in regards to Alex’s moral compass made me… [Read More]

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Writing As A Coping Mechanism: Processing Emotions Through Fiction

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Have you ever written something that you never planned on publishing? I start most of my articles this way. Sometimes I even start a novel that I have no intention of publishing because the real-life events I wrote about are too recognizable. I worry the people involved might realize I was writing about them.

Why would anyone write something with no intention of publishing it?

For one, it takes the pressure off and allows creativity to flow. Think about journaling. People write down their thoughts and feelings and lock them up, hoping no one ever reads them without permission. It’s a record for us to revisit all our painful and joyous times whenever we want.

Yes, most of my fiction has elements of truth, some more than others. Still, there is a reason I don’t journal as much as I write fiction. When I am journaling, there isn’t enough distance between me and myself.

What do I mean by “not enough distance between me and myself”?

When I am journaling, [Read More]

Jealousy: A Poem

Poetry, Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing
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I stand there, watching you walk with her.

You hold her cheek in your hand,

Kiss her lips

Tenderly

As if she’s breakable and

Precious.

 

My heart drops.

Hot anger flows through my veins.

I see red.

 

My fists clench and I shake with

Rejection,

Broken dreams,

And lost hope.

My stomach is full of rocks.

My chest is empty and tight.

 

How am I supposed to deal with what I feel?

 

I want to be her.

Have you look at me like

[Read More]

Change: A Life Update

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This article is an update on events in my life right now, regarding to the theme of change.

Change is hard. It’s a huge part of my life right now and the uncertainty is driving me crazy.

For one thing, one of my favorite Facebook groups for writers closed down. The admins had too much on their plates and couldn’t keep up with it. My heart hurt to see it close, so I decided that I would take over as sole moderator. It’s a small group, only twenty-seven people, but it’s a huge responsibility since I have to respond and interact with everyone on a daily basis.

Another change in my life is getting displaced out of my room because I have to get the ceilings fixed from Hurricane Irma. I need to pack up all of my things and move them somewhere else out of the way and private but still accessible. I hate having my “nest” disturbed.

Getting the ceilings fixed sets into motion the process of…[Read More]

Review of “The DUFF” by Kody Keplinger

Publications on Functionally Fictional, Writing
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The Duff has a very sarcastic narrator. It makes the book very entertaining, despite the fact that the narrator is very secretive and treats her friends like crap throughout most of the book. It’s understandable why Bianca treats her two best friends like that, though. She deals with a lot of crap. It starts with her mother always being gone, her parents getting a divorce, her dad relapsing into drunken rages after eighteen years of being sober, and her ex boyfriend, who treated her like crap and was dating someone else at the time, is back in town, engaged.

She complains about everything, but it’s in a humorous and entertaining way. Bianca is an intelligent, smart-arse character whom I loved. She starts sleeping with the school’s notorious playboy, Wesley, who helps her quiet her brain and escape her life and problems. They start falling for each other and find that they have more than a no-strings-attached sexual relationship.

I was surprised by [Read More]

A Revision of My Relationship with My Mother

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You may have read my articles “Why You Won’t Get A Mother’s Day Card: An Open Letter To My Mom” and “How 10 Months With My Grandma Taught Me More Than 20 Years With My Parents.” I want to revise the statements made in these articles.

Both of them were written in anger after a harrowing argument with my mom. I harbored a lot of resentment and anger toward her, and I wrote those articles as a response. It was wrong of me to make those public, and for this I apologize. I’m talking to you, Mom.

I have a habit of thinking in extremes, black and whites, and vilifying or making heroes out of people. I was further encouraged in this way of thinking by my grandma, who has the same habits, especially in regard to how she thinks about others.

I want to give reasons I was in the wrong during those arguments. I also want to explain why my mom is awesome.

One of the main ways I was wrong is for publishing something written in the heat of the moment. It was also wrong of me to vilify her. I simply had expectations of her she couldn’t fill. We’re still struggling to figure out how to navigate the stages between the parent-child and the parent-adult relationships, as most mothers and daughters do around my age. I still have an idealistic view of the world and what my parents can and cannot do. I’m learning to see them as human and accept their limitations without faulting them for it.

And now, for ways my mom is awesome: [Read More]

Kanban Boards: An Organizational Tool

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Photo by Hayley Green

Do you struggle to stay organized? Do to-do Lists just feel too plain and don’t motivate you enough? A kanban board might help you stay organized and get all of your responsibilities and goals done.

What is a kanban board?

This begs the question; what is a kanban board? It’s an organization system that helps you see at a glance what you need to focus on during the week and see what you’ve accomplished. There are three sections of the board: Goals, This Week (Do it Now), and Accomplished.

Goals

The goals section should take up half of your board. This is where every task goes at the beginning. You can color-code the Post-its to match the goals. On my board (above), purple is my writing goals, hot pink is schoolwork, orange is my internships, yellow is my critique group, blue is a newsletter, and pastel pink is miscellaneous things. You can do the same thing based on your goals.

This Week (Do it Now)

Move the Post-its here when you need to focus on them during the coming week. It should be the middle quarter of your board. It helps you to know exactly what you must do. You can move them around as needed. My “week” is fluid, and often these tasks are completed as needed because I have flexibility. If you crave more rigidity, then put the deadline in the corner of the Post-it and get the task done before it’s due.

Accomplished

Congratulations! You finished a task. Now you can move the Post-it to the accomplished section on the bottom quarter of your board. Not only does this give you a rush of dopamine, but also it’s incredibly motivating to see everything you’ve accomplished stack up.

Refreshing the Board

The board goes through cycles of being…[Read More]

Review of “Black Ice” by Becca Fitzpatrick

Publications on Functionally Fictional, Uncategorized, Writing

 

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In this book, the main character, Britt, finds herself stuck in the wilderness with two fugitives. She is on spring break with her best friend, Korbie, in the mountains. She hopes to encounter her ex and Korbie’s brother, Calvin. Unfortunately for her, on the drive up the mountain she misses a turn and gets stuck in a snowstorm and must find shelter.

Britt and Korbie hike through the snow for a while until they see a cabin with the lights on. They knock on the door and find themselves in the company of two men, Sean and Mason. Britt realizes something isn’t right when the cabin is dusty and hasn’t been stocked with food. She finds herself held at gunpoint and has to find a way to make herself useful in order to stay alive.

She has a map of Calvin’s that she secretly uses to guide them off the mountain, but things go awry when they encounter a dead body, someone kills Sean in cold blood, and Mason and Britt are stuck in the wilderness together facing a bear and the elements. Feelings between Mason and Britt grow, but she starts realizing he has been keeping secrets from her, so she makes a run for it.

With a whodunit twist, this story was… [Read More]

Review of “Rising Depths” by Madeline Stanford

Publications on Functionally Fictional, Writing

rising-depths

Rising Depths is the second book in the Vicious Depths trilogy by Madeline Stanford. It is a young adult dystopian fantasy that I have fallen in love with since I read the first book while it was still titled Like Hell on Wattpad. That was before Stanford took it down to self-publish the series.

Warning: If you haven’t read the first book, this review contains spoilers for that book. Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know what happens in the first book.

Now that Alex has been exposed as a traitor and she and Flynn have escaped to the Azure, she is looked to by the residents to figure out a way to defend themselves against the oncoming slaughter the Depths are planning. The Senatus members and Seth are still locked up in the depths, and the Azure is split between loyalists for Attis’s rule and those who want a new order. Even the Sentaus have committed crimes, lied, and betrayed their own residents. Things escalate as incriminating evidence against the Senatus is found, Samuel starts sending threats to the Azure with Isaac’s body parts, and the war looms nearer.

With equal parts…[Read More]

Review of “The Selection” by Kierra Cass

Publications on Functionally Fictional, Writing
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There will be spoilers at the end of this review that are marked clearly. Stop reading if you want to know what happens by reading it.

Do you remember when The Hunger Games came out and for several months afterwards Hunger Games knockoffs were being published? This falls into this category. Sure, it was okay. But I’ve read better The Hunger Game knockoffs.

Set in a post-United-States-America, the government is a monarchy. If there is a royal princess born, she is married off to other royalty from different countries. If a prince is born then the whole country gets a reality TV show called “The Selection.” It is like The Bachelor; girls from each province are selected to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage.

This story centers around America, named by her mother after learning a bit about the histories of countries past. America is already in love with another boy before she is sent to The Selection.

Everyone has a caste in this book. The lower the caste the less food and money you have. If you marry a caste below the female becomes whatever the male is. America is in love with a six, a labor worker, while she is a five, a musician. Birth control isn’t available to the lower castes which results in large families that can’t feed all the hungry mouths. As a part of The Selection your family gets a large check during the time you are competing.

It’s basically the more [Read More]

How To Get Your Creativity Back On Track

Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing
Creativity: A lightbulb, two pencils and an eraser on a blank page

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A lot of people in the writing-focused Facebook groups I am in have mentioned they’re depressed and don’t feel like writing. One of the most common questions asked is, “How can I get my creativity back on track?”

What I have found is the advice one person gives doesn’t always work for someone else. You must try many different things to find what works for you.

Here is a list of different tactics you can try to get your creativity back on track:

  • Take a walk, exercise, go outdoors, or run errands. Movement can help spark your creativity.

Exercise can help your creativity

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  • Take a hiatus. Take as long as you need. A hiatus can last from a few hours to years. I took one for four years, from 2013 until 2017.  The four-year break gave me fire and passion to not give up on my writing. I was so tired of not writing that I needed to write.
  • Work on another creative task: baking, cake decorating, sewing, cross stitching, knitting, crocheting, drawing, sketching, playing an instrument, singing, redesigning a website, using Photoshop or graphic design software, or whatever you feel like doing. Often, doing another activity can kick-start your creativity somewhere else.
Other creative endeavors can help you get past a block

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  • Set an amount of time you will allow yourself to feel blocked, then force yourself to get out of the slump. Don’t let it control you, but… [Read More]

NaNoWriMo Slump Survival Tips

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It’s the third week of National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the world are thousands of words behind on reaching their goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Muses everywhere have gone on vacation and left no notice of when they will return. The NaNoWriMo slump is here.

How do we survive the slump week of NaNo? Here are some tips to get writing again.

Make a Catch-Up Plan

If you are thousands of words behind, it doesn’t help to try and catch up in one day. That’s an easy way to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, pull out those calculators and figure out how many extra words you need to write per day to catch up by November 30th. Aim for that new goal every day.

Write Out of Order

Did your manuscript hit a wall? Do you not know what to write next? Did you write yourself into a corner? The easiest solution is to write out of order. Write the scene that happens later in the book. You know, the one you’ve been dying to write. Work your way backward from there. Or, rewrite the novel starting from the scene where you last felt inspired and create a new sequence of events. If you don’t know what to write next, spend some time reading through what you have, but don’t edit. This may help you figure out where to go next.

Be a Rebel

You can count anything towards the 50,000-word goal. I have counted journal entries, notes I’ve taken from articles or videos on writing craft, and this article. You can count grocery lists, homework, or social media posts if you want. It’s up to you. Make sure to type these up in a word document so you can verify your word count. You could also work on several different projects if writing out of order doesn’t help bring your muse back from his or her sudden vacation.

Participate in Word Sprints

Go on Twitter and follow [Read More]

Lone Girl

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A girl quietly pads over to her window in the dark of night. She separates the curtain with a quiet swoosh and perches on the wide windowsill. She looks up at the lighthouse on the far shore. Its beam of light illuminates her room and face every other minute. The harbor is silent as she starts to think.

What is she doing here, all alone on a Friday night? She has no friends; people say she is too deep a thinker for them to understand. Or maybe she is just weird, for liking school as an escape from her home. She’s not one to stand out from a crowd, but nor is she one who blends in. Instead she is a part of a different crowd, one she has yet to meet.

She sits alone, hoping that one day she will find someone like her, maybe someone nearby, who sees her in all her beauty. Looking over the harbor she scans the water for any sign that she will find that one person.

As she sits in silent solitude, she hears a footstep followed by another and another. Her breath catches in her throat, as she sits silently, waiting for the steps to subside, hoping against hope that they would not reach the stairs before she could close the curtain, get into bed, and regulate her breathing.

Unfortunately, that does not happen. The steps go quickly up the stairs, thump, thump, thump. She struggles with the curtains. One sticks. As the curtain finally moves, she starts to hop into bed, but too late. The sliver of light that falls over her face makes her freeze. She is frozen when she hears her father’s voice.

“My daughter…what are you doing up so late?” He is genuinely concerned, but she hates these nights. The concern is suffocating, every question of worry pushing the pillow harder over her face, the air becoming thin and scarce. Every question of why she has no friends, why she is always alone and prefers it that way.

But that was the problem. She didn’t prefer to be alone; she was just searching for someone like her, and as of yet, she had found not one person she had even a remote interest in.

“I am just looking over the harbor, father.”

“Nothing more? No thinking, sulking, or in any way hurting yourself?

To each question, she shook her head and looked him in the eye. She never understood why he had to ask such things. She had never hurt herself, and though she had sulked she didn’t do it often. And she never saw why thinking was so bad. She was a morbid thinker sure, but she wasn’t annoying anyone else, so what was the big deal?

“Okay…well, good night.” He reluctantly walked out the door and looked back with every step until the door was closed. The girl waited until the footsteps faded and then crouched by the vent. She always listened to her parents’ conversations and she learned a great deal about what they thought of her, without all of the questions posed toward her.

“I’m really worried about her Ellen. What are we going to… [Read More]

Depression is Winter: A Poem

Poetry, Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing
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Cold temperatures, lethargy,

Snow that blankets everything.

Only deeper as the season continues,

Barricading in the safety of isolation.

 

Excavating the emotional avalanche

Like brushing feet of snow off the windshield

Chipping away at ice, the shell of protection,

Reopening emotions.

 

Potholes deeper, cracking souls.

Patches of asphalt fill holes.

[Read More]

Review of “Vicious Depths” by Madeline Stanford

Publications on Functionally Fictional, Writing

Vicious Depth

Vicious Depths by Madeline Stanford is a wonderful YA dystopian fantasy novel. The ideas of heaven, hell, and purgatory are uniquely turned on their heads in the world Stanford created.

Everyone is given a red test score when they die, doled out by the rulers of the Azure. These rulers are called the Senatus, and they have a mission for a girl named Alex Muir. With a red test score of 50, Alex is one point away from joining the Azure. In order to do so, she must be sent to the Depths and spy on the ruler of the underworld, Samuel, to find incriminating evidence for the Senatus.

The more she gets accustomed to the depths, the more she likes it. She finds friends among the vivacious Megan and the soft-spoken Seren, the trusting Isaac, moody Patrick, and loving Everett. She also has a mutual interest in the mysterious and notorious Flynn Cooper, the only person immune to the Inflamers and the only person with a red test score over 40 to join the elite Ember Circle that rule the depths.

The relationships and characters in this book are [Read More]

Growing Up in a Cult: An Interview

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What is a Cult?

When people think of cults the Jim Jones incident of the 70s comes to mind. He laced Kool-Aid with cyanide and convinced his followers to commit a mass-suicide. But cults are a lot more common than that.

Cults usually have several defining characteristics. These are:

  • Members display zealous and unquestioning loyalty to a central leader, whether alive or dead, and follow his beliefs and ideas religiously.
  • Questioning, doubt, and other forms of dissent are discouraged and sometimes punished.
  • Meditation, speaking in tongues, and other mind-altering practices are used to expel doubts about the group and its leaders.
  • The leaders determine how members should think, act, and feel. This could be controlling which jobs or schools members should go to, who people should marry, and other personal life practices.
  • The group is elitist.
  • The group has an “us versus them” mentality and message.
  • The leader isn’t accountable to authorities in society today.
  • The group has a mentality of “the ends justify the means” that often results in lying to family members or collecting money for bogus charities and other ethically questionable behavior.
  • Peer pressure and other methods are used to control members with feelings of shame or guilt.
  • Members are often encouraged to cut ties with family or friends to make them dependent on the group for all of their social needs.
  • Recruitment of new members is a top priority.
  • Making money is also a top priority.
  • Members are expected to focus the majority of their time on the activities the group holds, regardless of previous obligations.
  • The most zealous members are completely dependent on the group and can’t imagine a life without it.

This list is paraphrased from this website.

Interview with Ripley

One of my friends, Ripley, allowed me to interview her about a religious cult she grew up in.

What was it like growing up in a cult? Specifically, before you noticed something was amiss?

It was nothing odd because it was all I knew. All my friends and their families did it so it was normal for me. I went to a small school within the church. All of my friends were a part of it. When I was young, I had church once every week. Then, in middle school, I had events several times per week. It was normal for me because of what I’d seen with others. It was really apparent something was off once I started opening my eyes, though.

When did you start to notice something was wrong? Was there a certain moment you realized? 

Probably in the fourth grade. We were in Bible class at school and I started asking questions. The teacher shamed me, basically giving the impression to me and the other kids that asking questions wasn’t okay.

Another time, in middle school, my mother was struggling to pay tuition to keep me in the church’s private school. I almost had to go to public school, which I had been excited about. All of a sudden the money appeared. It turns out everyone had offered to help pay so I could stay. That struck me as odd.

Then, in high school, I had to go to public school. I was able to evangelize to my classmates at that point. They moved me from a middle school bible study group to a high school group early. It was almost like training me. In high school, we had even more meetings for the church. We had meetings three or four times per week.

What kinds of things did you notice were wrong with their teachings or attitudes?

It wasn’t very loving. It was very instructional. Religion shouldn’t be taught as if it has a handbook. It was like, “Here’s how to share your faith. Here’s how to share how God changed your life.”

They sent us to a retreat in the 8th grade to groom us on these things. They made us [Read More]

 

A Book to Read for Sarcasm Month: “Frat Girl” by Kiley Roache

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“Frat Girl” by Kiley Roache is a chick-lit book about a rebel. Cassie Miller is a girl who has aspirations to go off to her dream college in California. In order to do that, she needs to get a scholarship. The one she’s applied for needs her to propose a research project that relates to her major.

She’s a women’s gender studies major, so she proposes a project to join her father’s frat as a legacy. The frat has been in trouble for misogynist posters during a party. She proposes to expose the frat for its terrible behavior and disband the frat once and for all.

At first, things are going as planned. She wins the scholarship, rushes the fraternity, and survives all of the pledge tasks. She writes journal entries detailing their despicable behavior. But then things start to change.

Her frat brothers become [Read More]

Finding Time To Write

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All of us have busy lives. Full-time jobs, family, and school are some common ones, but there are many more. How can we find the time to write when we have so much going on in our lives?

Track How You Spend Your Time

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The first step is to track how you spend your time. Take a week to record every activity you do during the day and the approximate time of day you do them.

For example, mine would look something like this:

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Wake Up/Morning Routine/Breakfast
  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Social Media
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11 a.m. Writing Time
  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Homework for School
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Writing Time/Reading/Appointments
  • 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Social Media/Free Time
  • 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Cook/Family Dinner/Wash Dishes
  • 6:00 p.m. -7:30 p.m. Meetings for Groups
  • 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Wind Down/Bedtime Routine/Reading
  • 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Try to Fall Asleep

This works for me because I need plenty of time to fall asleep because of my insomnia. I don’t have many responsibilities, either. Yours may look different.

You may ask why I am qualified to help you find time to write if I have no responsibilities. I’ve worked, gone to school, and finished the first draft of a novel at the same time.

This exercise is about tracking how you spend your time. Don’t judge what you are doing. Just record what you do and when.

Find Potential Writing Time

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Now that you have a week’s worth of records, the next step is [Read More]

Romance Writing: Creating Characters Who Are Meant To Be Together

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As an avid reader of romance, I have read numerous novels where the hero and heroine fall in love for no reason. It simply serves the plot. This is not what we want as readers. We want characters that fall in love because they are meant for each other. They have to be perfectly matched and have complementary traits. For most writers, this is hard to achieve. However, the solution to this problem is simple.

Character Creation is Key

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If you don’t spend time getting to know your characters before you start writing, it is a lot harder to achieve the kind of relationship readers want. Writing before you know your characters requires a lot of editing to get their relationship to where it needs to be.

Trying to fit characters to a plot has the same hindering effect. The choices characters make in a given situation are because of their personalities. It is a lot harder to fit a character’s personality to actions instead of figuring out what a character would do based on who they are.

Build One Character at a Time

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By focusing on one character at a time, you are better able to [Read More]

Five Truths of Editing Fiction No One Tells You

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Red Pen for Editing

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This is my latest on Coffee House Writers. You can find the full article here.

Five Truths of Editing Fiction No One Tells You

I’ve been chronicling my experience with editing here at Coffee House Writers with some of my past articles. “Starting Over: Mirroring Kristin Cashore’s Writing of Bitterblue” was about how rewriting the whole story was my original plan. “An Editing Process for Pantsers” mentioned a very analytical way of evaluating each scene and figuring out whether it was worth keeping.

I have been indecisive about how to edit, to say the least. This is, in part, because of the editing everyone talks about versus what it will actually look like.

We need an honest conversation about what the editing process entails.

When someone says the word “editing,” what do you see? A red pen fixing punctuation errors, awkward wording and grammar? That’s what I imagined. I didn’t realize one of the biggest secrets of editing: editing is, at its heart, rewriting.

Because of the common misconceptions about writing, I decided to list out the truths of editing. I stumbled across these through editing my novel.

Truth #1: Editing is Rewriting

In truth, everything after the first draft is editing. You must rewrite scenes, add scenes, delete scenes, and everything in between to get to the polished-draft phase. Everything you write after the first completed draft is editing, even if you are writing a completely new sequence of scenes for the first half of your book.

Truth #2: You Will Cut 90 Percent Of Your First Draft

I wrote 61,000 words for my first draft. The first 42,000 words will be completely rewritten. Some of the later scenes [Read More]