Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fatal Dose is with First Readers!

Bookmarks made by Suzette Young
There are milestones when writing a book, and getting the manuscript finished enough to share is one of those.

A week ago I mailed a bound copy of the manuscript to each of my three first readers. I should have felt a huge relief, but instead, I was in high anxiety. All that work, a year and a half of trying to piece together a readable, enjoyable story – was now out of my hands. What would my first readers think about what I have written?

It is part of the writing process that is nerve wracking, but I thank God every day for my caring and talented friends who offered to take on the job. It is not one to be taken lightly.

A first reader has to take off their “friend” hat and put on their hard core professional one. This is a job. They have to dissect the story. Are the characters developed enough? Is the setting developed to the point where the reader is drawn into the location? Is the plot interesting? Do the story lines come together at the end? Are the questions answered? Does the protagonist change/grow by the end? Does the theme weave through the book?

And then there is formatting, point of view, typos, repeated information, and on and on.

When all this is done, first readers put on their “friend” hat again, and present their findings to the author in a way that doesn’t hurt or discourage, but instead encourages the author to make the story stronger, better, utilizing their suggestions.

I am blessed with first readers that are experts at doing all of the above, and I’m energized by their comments.

Keep writing and enjoy the journey.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

ProWritingAid Editing Tool

Through the Sisters-in-Crime self-published authors' Yahoo! Group, I learned about an editing tool, Prowritingaid.com. I am cautious by nature and definitely do not have money to waste, so I checked this site out several times before I decided it might be the right editing tool for me.

The site provides layers of editing. There is no download of software, which I like. Instead, you upload your project onto their site. From there you can run a summary report which tells you things like overused words, how many long sentences, readability level, spelling issues, grammar issues, number of “sticky” sentences, number of same sentence starts, clich├ęs, pacing, and more. When it reports overused words, or adverbs, it tells you the words and by how many you should reduce.

The software prefers smaller amounts of text, as opposed to an entire 81,000 word book, so I uploaded one chapter at a time, ran a summary report, and with split screen, adjusted my manuscript on the spot. I then put the chapters through the various diagnostics, i.e. grammar, style and sticky. I didn’t need to do readability or pacing, as I was in their “green” zone for those. And just to make you feel good, on the areas where they find issues, they’ll tell you how much better you are than the rest of the users! Like, you are 67% better than …

The website allows you to do a free test on a 500 word document. I tried it out on the first couple of chapters of my book, and was amazed at the helpful hints the site provided. I decided to purchase a license from them and for $40 I have use of this site for a year.

I highly recommend this site for all writers - for those who write for newspapers, newsletters, periodicals, magazines, as well as full-length books. I had no idea how many times I used the word “knew.” He knew, she knew, they knew. Prowritingaid.com picked-up on this usage for almost every chapter. I then went through with the Find feature in Word and found those little buggers!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Editing: Chapter Check and Word Count

I’m almost ready to send the manuscript to first readers, but before I do, I did a Chapter Check. During the writing process it is normal to add chapters, move chapters around, and even delete chapters that don’t pull their weight. Doing that means chapter numbers might not be correct. That is why a Chapter Check is imperative.

The Chapter Check also included writing a short synopsis of each chapter. When that was done, I scrolled through the synopsis and identified each day in red to make sure I was consistent with the timing of events.

And I’m glad I did! It didn’t take long before I ran into the first glitch. After reviewing Chapter Four, the next numbered chapter was eight! As I went through I had to adjust the chapter numbers. 

But that’s not all. I decided to do a chapter word count. That, too, was a good exercise. I found a couple of chapters that had well over 2,000 words. Those chapters I divided up to be consistent with the other chapters.  Of course we don’t want chapters to all have a similar word count, so this process helped me to monitor that.

Editing takes many steps, and I’m learning new ones every day!