Posted in Writing, writing advice

Writing Methods: Revision

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Part of of the Writing Methods Series. Previous articles in this series:

Part One – Planning Process

Part Two – Environment and Rituals

Part Three – Approaches to the First Draft

Part Four –Different Types of Editors

Editing can be the bane of a writer’s existence. It doesn’t matter if your writing style is structured or unstructured or if your strength is content or copy editing. Knowing which editing approach works best with your writing style and strength lessens the inevitable pain of editing your work.

Want to further improve your impact? Walk away. Give yourself time and space away from your work. This improves your objectivity.

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Your strengths also dictate what you do. If you have an eye for content editing concerns, then you could start editing your draft by yourself and know what it needs. If copy edits are more your area of expertize, send it to some friends you trust with an eye for content or join a critique group to learn what your manuscript could use some work on.

You can edit as you go, reading through what you wrote the day before and perfecting it, or you can edit once you have the entire rough draft written.

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As an unstructured writer, your needs are different from a structured writer. Let’s compare your needs and editing strengths to improve your revision process. 

Lack of Structure and Copy Editing Strength

Editing requires structure.  Read your draft from beginning to the end, taking notes of anything you could improve upon, like description, setting, character development, relationship development, plot, etc. While listing your desired changes, also document your timeline for each scene. An outline helps you feel less overwhelmed.

The outline could be on Post-its, index cards, a word document, in a notebook, or a storyboard. The best method is the one that allows you to see the bigger picture and make changes easily.

Once you have a rough outline, look through your novel again. Look for plot holes, structure, grammar, issues, and other story killers. Part of being a writer is killing your darlings. Keep a file of scenes you have cut for possible reuse elsewhere.

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Go through each scene and figure out what your character’s goal is. Are the goal, motivation, and conflict clear in each scene? If not, make it clearer.

If you truly have no idea what to fix, join a critique group with other writers. Ask them to help you or hire a content editor to help tame your manuscript. Have friends or family beta read and give you feedback.

Fix the outline first, then the manuscript. Once you are… [Read More]

Posted in Writing, writing advice

Writing Methods: Drafting

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So far, we have talked about things you can do before you write. We have talked about planning your story, whether that’s outlining or pantsing, controlling the surrounding environment when you write, and rituals you can do to kick start your brain into writing mode. But what about the actual drafting process?

There are several ways you can approach the first draft. These range from how you write sentences, how fast you write the draft, and whether you revise before you finish writing the draft.

Mind Barf vs. Careful Construction: Writing Sentences

If you write more lyrical prose or your training is in poetry, chances are you think about every word before you write it. You craft the perfect sentence, or at least a deliberate one, before moving on to the next.

Other writers type or scribble whatever comes to mind as fast as it enters their brain. I like to call this mind barfing onto the page. The only limitation here is how fast your fingers move.

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You may be somewhere in between these two, depending on what you are writing, how fast your brain works, and how many times you edit the words in your head before you write them down. Some writers outline only the major plot points, while others only outline the characters. This is a good way to get the major events in a story without always having to rewrite a detailed outline over and over. For more information on these types of outlining, check out the first article in this series: Outlining Vs Pantsing.

Turtle Writers vs. Rabbit Writers: How Fast Do You Write?

If you fall into the careful construction of each sentence category, you are probably a turtle writer. This means you may bang out a couple of hundred words of your project daily and call it a day. You take a lot longer to finish the first draft, but it’s more polished than those who mind barf every thought. You may produce more words than a couple hundred when you write, but you take a lot more time to get the same amount of words as your mind-barfing counterparts.

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If you are in the mind-barf camp, chances are you can bang out a couple thousand, if not tens of thousand words a day in a relatively short amount of time. Your fingers fly over the keyboard or your handwriting is on the messy side because of how fast you scribble just to get everything on the page.

Old School vs. Tech: How Do You Write?

Some writers enjoy using pen and paper for their first drafts. It feels great to write this way. Plus, when you type everything up into your computer, you automatically have a more polished draft because you edit as you go. The feeling of crossing things out, drawing circles and arrows, and other such revision processes are satisfying. A lot of turtle writers and construction writers like to write by hand.

The downsides to writing by hand is that you have to count your words manually. You could lose a notebook and all of that work is just gone, without a backup. Handwriting is usually slower than typing up your work. This method also hurts your hand if you’re not used to it.

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Others like the feeling of typing because you can get your words out quickly and save it in several places so you’ll always have a backup of your work. Also, you can copy, paste, cut, delete, and move things around more easily without crossing things out. It’s much cleaner than writing by hand. It’s also easier to change the formatting to meet publisher requirements and you don’t have to take that extra step to type it all up. Mind-barfers tend to end up in this camp.

Downsides to typing include eye strain, the expense of having to print things out, and losing things if you don’t save regularly or have auto-save set up.

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Goal Setters vs. Go-With-the-Flow People: Do You Set Deadlines?

Setting deadlines, such as finishing your book by a certain date, writing a certain number of words each day, or … [Read More]

Posted in Writing, writing advice

Writing Methods: Outlining Vs. Pantsing

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This is part one of a series about different writing methods. I will share different approaches you can try to unlock your creativity. This week I will talk about outlining versus pantsing.

Creativity is a fickle thing. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Many times, each project uses a different method. Experimenting is the best way to figure out what will work best for you and each of your projects.

Outlining

Plot

This is the best-known writing method. When most people think of outlines they remember the detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph plan we had to turn in for research papers in school. The truth is, outlining can be as comprehensive or as sparse as you want it to be.

Some writers describe every scene in detail from the beginning through the end in a scene list. Others put these scene descriptions into a table that tracks the point of view, characters, timeline, and word count for each scene. Still, others fill out all the major plot points in a beat sheet, while some know only the beginning and end before they start writing.

For an example of a beat sheet, read Save the Cat or Save the Cat Writes a Novel. You can also use any number of beat sheets available online. A beat is a plot point. There are various methods and numbers of beats you could choose to plan. Some beat sheets calculate the approximate page number where something should happen depending on the target word count of the project.

Shop around and see if you can find a beat sheet or outlining method that might work for you.

Character

So far, I have mentioned outlining methods that focus on planning out the plot. Some writers sketch out their characters in addition to, or instead of outlining plots. There are many techniques for building characters.

For example, [Read More]