Thursday, April 6, 2017

Creating Diamonds from Coal (or self-editing your Speedbo Manuscript)

with guest Iola Goulton.

So you attempted Speedbo? Well done!

But now you’ve got a manuscript or part of a manuscript, and wondering what do to next.
If you’re like me, panic, then procrastinate. Then I need quiet. And caffeine. And chocolate.



I’m from New Zealand, so I’ve brought my favourite Kiwi chocolate biscuits—Mint Treats. A Mint Treat is a plain round biscuit (cookie) with mint crème on top, and covered in dark chocolate. In my unbiased view, New Zealand makes some of the best chocolate in the world.

Once you’ve got those essentials, it’s time to grab a red pen (real or virtual), find your quiet writing space, and get to work.

It’s tempting to start with the ‘easy’ stuff—polishing our spelling and punctuation, the changes that make our manuscripts look better. But that’s not the best place. Think of your manuscript as a lump of coal. It has the potential to be a diamond, but polishing coal is only going to give us shiny coal, not a diamond.



To get a diamond, we need to put our manuscripts under pressure. We need to make sure every chapter, every scene, every word, carries weight. We need to examine our manuscripts, and eliminate the flaws. We need to cut, to get a manuscript that’s the right size and shape. Finally, we can polish and produce a book which shines.  
Let’s get to it.


Putting on the Pressure 

Our first step is what editors call developmental editing: putting the pressure on our plot and characters to make sure we’ve got a novel with the potential to shine:


  • We need to make sure we’ve got a solid plot and structure, with constant tension and problems in the right places to capture and maintain our reader’s interest.


  • We need an interesting character with a clear goal, and ongoing internal and external conflict which makes it difficult for them to achieve that goal.

Plot 

First, we need a plot—an overall story arc that takes our characters (and our readers) on a journey and answers a story question. As humans, we’re resistant to change. But novels are almost always about change—internal, external or both. Does your story have this big-picture plot? 

Structure  

Next comes structure, which applies at two levels of a manuscript. First, our overall novel needs a structure:


  • Act One introduces the protagonist, antagonist and other major characters, presents the time and setting, and includes a change that pushes the main character into the story (often called the inciting incident). Act One usually ends with an event that changes the character’s plans. 
  • Act Two develops the conflict, and deepens character relationships. The main character faces a turning point somewhere near the middle which forces them to change from reactive to proactive. Act Two finishes with a major crisis or discovery.
  • Act Three includes the black moment where the main character thinks all hope is lost, and the climax, where the main character is victorious (or defeated. Personally, I prefer victorious). It ties up loose ends, except for those that will be covered in a sequel. 

It’s tempting to include lots of backstory in Act One, to explain why our characters are acting as they do, but that’s a bad idea. Too much backstory can mean our plot drags. And that's not good! 

Some writers don’t like the idea of working to a defined structure. They say it feels formulaic. Yet formulas (formulae?) work. Think back to your Oreo cookie or my Mint Treat. It’s made to a formula, and I’ll be disappointed if my cookie is missing the mint filling. We don’t want to disappoint our readers. 

Scene Structure  

As well as an overall novel structure, each scene has a structure. There needs to be a character with a goal, and facing some conflict they must overcome to move the story forward. At the end, there is some disaster which prevents the character reaching their goal. 

You’ll then either have a short transition to the next scene, or a longer (but still short) sequel, in which the viewpoint character has an emotional reaction to the scene which results in them thinking and forming a new goal. 

This decision and goal plunges them into the next scene and the next, each following a pattern of goal-conflict-disaster-reaction which ensures we don’t disappoint or (worse) bore our readers. 

Many writers (including me) find conflict difficult to write. But no one wants to read a nice novel with nice characters who only ever have nice things happen to them. Not even me.

Adding Conflict  

Readers read for conflict and tension, and as authors, we need to make sure there is conflict in every chapter, every scene, every page. As part of her EDITS system, Margie Lawson suggests printing out your manuscript, and using an orange highlighter pen to go down the right-hand-side of the page, highlighting every line that has some conflict or tension. 

A page without any orange highlighter needs revising to increase the conflict. This could be external conflict—a disagreement with another character, or an external event such as a train crash. Or it could be internal conflict, where the character wants to do something they know they shouldn’t do (e.g. not eat another Mint Treat). This internal conflict might come back to the character’s overall story goal.


Characterisation

Then we get to our characters and a question that’s the writer equivalent of chicken-and-egg:

Which comes first, plot or character?  

Writing instructors such as James Scott Bell are convinced you need a clear three-act structure with a pivotal event at the midpoint which forces the character to change. Others such as Jeff Gherke teach that character drives plot, and you need developed characters with clear goals and motivations to drive the plot forward.

I think you need both, although the balance may depend on genre. If I’m reading women’s fiction, I’m subconsciously looking for a story that’s driven by compelling characters. If I’m reading suspense, I might not notice the characterisation if I’m being carried along by a fast-paced plot.  

The big challenge with character is that every character is unique, just as every person is unique. There is no three-part formula to creating the perfect character. We don't even want our characters to be perfect—we want them to be real and relatable and authentic. This could mean a character facing a challenge they don’t want to face. It could mean a character with a secret.


The Next Stages 

Once you’re confident the overall plot hangs together, that you’ve created compelling characters with goals and fears, and each scene drives the plot forward, then it’s time to drill down into the next stage of the process.

Examining the Diamond 

A diamond expert examines their rough stone to discover the flaws that need to be cut away. The most common flaws I’ve found in manuscripts from unpublished writers are inconsistent point of view, and telling where we should be showing.


Cutting the Diamond 

The first stage of cutting a diamond is eliminating the waste. Most first drafts have a lot of waste—repetition, weasel words, unnecessary dialogue tags, and general wordiness.  This needs to be trimmed before the final stage: polishing. Sandra Leesmith and Rachelle Rea Cobb talked about this last week here at the Seekers.



Polishing 

Finally, we need to check our spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the overall flow of our writing. 

And then we’re done--for now, at least. Which means it’s time for another Mint Slice!

Writers, what’s your blind spot when it comes to making your manuscript shine? And what’s your favourite writing or editing resource? (Apart from Seekerville!)

Readers, how does insufficient editing affect your enjoyment of a book? What would make you put a book down?

For More Information 

It’s impossible to cover everything in one not-so-short blog post, so I’ve put together a free pdf download which covers examining, cutting and polishing our diamond. Visit www.christianediting.co.nz/Seekerville to claim your copy and a free bonus.



Iola Goulton is a reader, reviewer, freelance fiction editor and aspiring Christian romance author. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in marketing and is a member of the Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network, Romance Writers of New Zealand, and American Christian Fiction Writers. She won the 2016 ACFW Genesis Award for her novella, Play On, Jordan, and is currently working on the rest of the series.


Today Iola is generously giving away an e-copy of fellow Kiwi,  Kara Isaac's RITA finaling book Close to You, to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.



123 comments :

  1. Welcome to Iola! SIXTEEN BIG HOURS ahead of EST!

    So you are just clearing the dinner dishes. And you get to avoid the majority of the online social media madness!!! WOOT.

    I actually went online to find your mint cookies. Yes. I did. I brought Arnott's Mint Slice to Seekerville for your visit. So pleased to have you join us.

    The post Speedbo timing is PERFECT!!

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    1. Thank you for having me! It's a pleasure to visit you all.

      If you can't get a Mint Treat, then the Australian Mint Slice is a great substitute. They're both the perfect after-dinner treat.

      Seekerville posts go live at 4pm my time, so we've now finished dinner, done the dishes, and it's time to relax before bed. Maybe read a book or a few blog posts.

      Delete
  2. Iola has created some links that are JUST FOR SEEKERVILLE. They may go live her time, not ours. So be patient.

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    1. Links are all working now. Thank you for your patience!

      Delete
  3. Iola,
    Fun to have your image of polishing a lump of coal. I do that when I procrastinate.

    Your materials provide a clear road map that I need. Self-editing is new territory for me.

    My critique partners are so accomplished that I do get discouraged. Having specifics as a guide is great.
    Thanks!!

    Laura

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    1. Thank you, Laura! I'm pleased to help.

      Every author makes different mistakes, so don't be discouraged. Just keep pushing forward, and practice!

      Delete
    2. Iola,
      Thanks for the encouraging words.

      I tried to receive the seekerville pdf by signing up at your website and received an empty message saying welcome seekers! 😟
      Could you let.me know where I went wrong? Thanks

      Delete
  4. Everyone needs to be passing the mint treats to Iola. She's currently trying to find the diamond in the coal that is my current manuscript :)

    Also, I'm with Jeff Gerke. I will put up with a lot of craft/plot issues in a book if I'm engaged with the characters!

    (No need to put me in the draw. Funnily enough, I happen to own a couple pf copies of this one ;-) )

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    1. Plenty of diamonds in your manuscript, Kara! They just need a little polishing :)

      I do agree it's important to engage with the characters. I've just finished a book which was just as you've described - some craft issues, but the characters were so interesting, the issues faded into the background.

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  5. Iola. Iola. Iola....

    This was stinkin' brilliant. This is a diamond of a lesson, told in succinct and clear prose.

    This is what folks need to hear (and I read it with your ACCENT and that made it even better! If such a thing is possible!!!!)

    Thank you for articulating this! We had a mint cookie like that here... but I don't see it now.... so a trip to New Zealand is clearly in order!!!!

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    1. SIXTEEN HOURS TO MINT COOKIES!! But there are recipes on Pinterest thank goodness!

      Delete
    2. I have no idea how you read it with my accent!

      And you're welcome to visit New Zealand any time. I'm easy to find - I live halfway between Bethlehem and Judea, and about an hour from Hobbiton. And if you've read Close to You, you must want to visit Hobbiton.

      Delete
  6. AND A PDF AND BONUS!!!!!

    The joy magnifies.....

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  7. Iola, welcome to Seekerville! Thank you so much for the PDF and bonus. Those Kiwi chocolate biscuits sound delicious! May have to come to New Zealand to check it out! Thanks for this great post. I have printed it out to keep!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Okay, now we have a field trip started!

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    2. I'm packed and ready to go! When do we leave?

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    3. Next Retreat: New Zealand and Australia. I vote YES!!!! Go big or stay home, right???

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    4. One of the best ways to do the New Zealand field trip is via a cruise - I (and friends) recently had the privilege of welcoming Candace Calvert to my home port of Tauranga. I'd love to welcome other Seekers who visit!

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  8. Such great tips that I'll have to remember if I ever get to type "the end". And those cookies look delicious. No way I could resist those! Thanks for being here, Iola!

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    1. Glynis!!! How far until the end? We can get you there, girl!

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    2. The Mint Treats are hard to resist. And they don't last long once the packet is open!

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  9. I'd love to read this book! Great tips, thank you.

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    1. It's a great book - a virtual holiday in New Zealand!

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  10. Good morning, Iola! Thank you for your post. My blind spot is missing where I've misplaced a turning point in my own manuscript. That's why I need critique partners. It's always easier to see it in other people's work. My favorite editing resource is Story Fix by Larry Brooks.

    ~ Renee

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    1. Really? This one is new to me. Must go check it out, Renee. My favorite is editing software.

      Delete
    2. I agree with you on the importance of critique partners, whether at the brainstorming phase or at the end.

      I'm currently reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, and it's excellent. I guess Story Fix is next - thanks for the recommendation!

      Delete
  11. What a great post! This is about as clear cut and step-by-step as I've seen in the editing process. Really appreciate the help, Iola.

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    1. And don't forget to download that PDF!!

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    2. You're welcome, Cindy. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  12. Great post! I love the analogy. I already have the book (loved it!) so no need to enter me in the draw.

    Per your questions…

    Even if I know I have plot in my story I still struggle to start every scene with a goal. My tendency, I think, is to start with emotion, which sometimes only provides a static circumstance rather than forward momentum.

    My new favorite resource (besides Seekerville, of course) is K.M. Weiland's website, “helping writers become authors” (www dot, those words all strung together, dot com). In particular, her book on “Structuring Your Novel” was a real eye opener for me. Before that, I think I turned my nose up at story structure. Per the ongoing character vs. plot debate, Weiland opened my eyes on that too. Who a character is determines how they react / what they do in response to external events, so (I now believe) that plot and character are inextricable (or at least that's something to shoot for).

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    1. Lara, I, too, have been learning a lot from Weiland's books lately. Very helpful!

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    2. On my wish list! Thanks for sharing, Lara!

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    3. Structuring Your Novel is one of my (many) favourite craft books. I haven't yet read KM Weiland's book on characters, but I must add it to my growing pile. Thanks for the recommendation, and enjoy the virtual chocolate!

      Delete
  13. Printing off this to add to Tina's course I am auditing. Thank you!

    Your Kiwi Chocolate biscuits sound awesome

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    1. I'm doing Tina's course as well - editors need editors as well. See you there!

      Delete
  14. Yesterday I was in Georgia to have a medical test done. While in the waiting room the TV was on the news which of course was all weather. I was praying wile I watched for all of you in Georgia that you would be kept safe from the storms. I survived the test and we were kept safe while traveling through them back to NC and of course weathering storms here as well. The Lord was good.

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    1. Wilani, it was awful here yesterday! I'm glad you got back home alright. We are fine here at my house. Just branches down and yard debris. I was worried for our windows last night while hail hit them, but they're fine. Today the wind is crazy. We'll be hoping no trees or big limbs fall.

      Delete
  15. Thanks for this great post, Iola! I am currently working on revising my opening so I can submit the critique I won for Speedbo. It is truly a lump of coal and will require a lot of work to become a diamond. Thanks also for the download.

    Please enter me for Kara's book. It looks good!

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    1. But you never give up, Sandy. That's was impresses me about you!

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    2. Sandy, we won at the same time. I'm taking advantage of this, polishing my first scene like crazy. What an opportunity!

      Marcia

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    3. Thanks, Tina. I am trying. Marcia, it is a great opportunity. My problem right now is I haven't had much free time to work on it. When I am subbing at school it was easier for me to write my words because I just wrote without a lot of thinking. Now I have to really concentrate so need a lot of time not at school to do that. But I will get it done.

      Delete
    4. Yes, it requires a lot of work to turn our coal into diamonds. But it's worth the effort :)

      Congratulations on winning a Speedbo critique! I'm sure that will provide you with lots of great ideas for taking your manuscript to the next level.

      Delete
  16. Hi Iola
    Thank you for this good post. I especially appreciate your clear explanation of the 3 Act Structure. I struggle with the percentages that certain plot points should occur. Your explanation took some of the pressure off. Now my hands can quit sweating.

    My big helps (other than Seekerville) have been the super people at ACFW. They're such good teachers. And Tina's class.

    Thanks for taking the time to write your helpful post and for the pdf.

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    1. Barbara, I agree about her 3 act structure explanation being helpful!

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    2. So glad, Barb. I think we all have different moments where the light bulb goes off, so we simply must find those moments.

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    3. Barbara (and Missy), I'm pleased you found my explanation of the 3-act structure useful. It's based on James Scott Bell's explanation from Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, revised based on feedback from my critique partners, Jessica and Nicole (who said my original wording was boring. They were right).

      As the Seeker ladies tell us, it takes a village :)

      Delete
  17. Iola, welcome! What a great post! You touched on all levels of revising. My personal weakness is the big picture plot stuff. I really need critique partners for that.

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    1. I agree. Critique partners are great at picking up the things I don't see.

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  18. Welcome, Iola, and thank you for this step-by-step guide to revising and polishing! I love how you contrasted polishing a lump of coal with applying pressure to turn it into a real gem.

    My personal blind spot? Probably characterization. I don't always see where my characters have acted inconsistently or are verging on becoming unlikable or unrelatable.

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    1. The inconsistent characterisation is a hard one. If you're a plotter, you know your character has to do something to move the plot forward. But we learn new things about our characters as we write, so our original plans might not work out.

      I wonder if God ever has the same thoughts about us?

      Delete
  19. Iola, I commend you for such a comprehensive and clear presentation of the self-editing essentials in a blog post. I think my blind spot is the overall plot--making sure it's an arc, not just a series of events.

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    1. I write espisodically myself, Dana, unless I am very focused to ensure that Goal, Conflict and Disaster occur in each scene, pushing toward the overall GMC. Most challenging part of the process, PERIOD!

      Delete
    2. so in agreement with you Dana. And you have to make sure that conflict is in each scene. sigh Hang in there.

      Delete
    3. I've read novels (published and unpublished) where there is a series of events but no overall arc. They are good, but I always finish them feeling they could have been better. Fortunately, you can make an unpublished manuscript better.

      This, I think, is where we need to remember and apply Goal-Motivation-Conflict (on the overall plot level) and Goal-Conflict-Disaster (at the scene level).

      I also love Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure for the way it shows the link between plot and character.

      Delete
  20. I am going to share this with a friend who has written her first book and she asked me to read her rough draft. Our local Girl Scouts sell Thin Mint cookies and they are a favorite!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Good for you! Support your local author and Girl Scouts.

      Delete
    2. New Zealand is a great country, but our Girl Scouts (which we call Girl Guides) don't sell Thin Mint cookies. Such a shame.

      Connie, I hope your friend finds this post useful. She should also get my download, which goes into detail on the top issues I see in manuscripts from first-time writers.

      Delete
  21. Hi Iola, Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for sharing such a comprehensive self-editing list. Always a good thing to have after speedbo. Enjoy your day and thanks again for joining us.

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    1. My pleasure, Sandra. It's wonderful to be here!

      Delete
  22. Iola is still sleeping! It is now 4 am in New Zealand. I vote for a Seekerville retreat to see her and eat mints.

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    1. Count me in on the NZ road trip. Although I'm not sure about that long flight!

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    2. Think of all the reading we could get done.

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    3. No, the flight to New Zealand isn't a lot of fun. But it's great when you get here! Beaches, mountains, Hobbiton, boiling mud ...

      Delete
  23. Hmmm daytime here so night time there I bet. Well you will have a lot of fun posts to comment on when you arise. smile Again, thanks for sharing across the Pond. We love hearing from our friends so far away. The Internet brings us all so close.

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    1. Agree! I originally got on Facebook to maintain contact with the people I knew from when I lived in London. But social media and the internet has introduced me to a whole world of wonderful Christian fiction fans!

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  24. WOW, IOLA, WHAT A GREAT POST!! Welcome to Seekerville, and girl, you sure did your homework!!

    You said: "Others such as Jeff Gherke teach that character drives plot, and you need developed characters with clear goals and motivations to drive the plot forward."

    Mr. Gherke and I have been on opposite sides of the opinion fence before, but I have to say that I couldn't agree more with him -- or you -- on this particular statement.

    Characters are the most important component for me as I am one of those authors whose plots arise from the characters themselves. I think that might be the tendency for most pantsters, I suspect, which I basically am. I suppose that's why I'm not generally a suspense reader although I know the genre is all the rage today. I think in suspense, the plot is more important than the characters, although both are critical, I'm sure.

    VERY informative post, Iola -- thank you!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Thank you, Julie!

      Yes, I'm a character-driven reader. I enjoy romantic suspense, but I can get picky about the straight thrillers/suspense novels I read. A lot of the authors focus exclusively on the plot, with little character development.

      Have you read If I Run and If I'm Found by Terri Blackstock? Non-stop suspense, but also a wonderful character who is drawing closer to God as the stories progress. It's great to see her change in the midst of her circumstances.

      Delete
    2. No, Iola, I haven't, but I will definitely check it out, so thank you!!

      HUGS!!
      Julie

      Delete
  25. Hey, Iola, you asked:

    "Readers, how does insufficient editing affect your enjoyment of a book? What would make you put a book down?"

    Oh, WOW, it pulls me right out of the story and if it's an eye-roller? DOUBLE WOW -- it sucks the credibility right out of me, both for the book AND the author, making it hard-won for me to give it a good mental review.

    I seldom put a book down as I like to finish what I start, but there have been one or two that were just so dull, that I simply did not care what happened to the characters, so I ditched them and the book.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. I also hate having to put a book down, but I've learned that if I'm rolling my eyes by the end of Chapter One, I need to ditch it because otherwise I'll want to smash my Kindle by the end.

      And that's hard when you're also a writer, because you know what effort went into the book. It's especially hard when there are the bones of a good story, but the book is more polished coal than brilliant diamond.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
    2. LOL ... I haven't smashed a Kindle yet, but I have thrown a book, so I'm close. ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

      Delete
  26. Iola, thanks for being with us today...or is it tomorrow in NZ?

    My neighbor moved home to Christchurch and I miss her. If you run into Chris Smith give her a hug for me! :)

    Great blog post, Iola! I love the idea of turning that lump of coal into a diamond. Revisions and edits can make the dullest manuscript shine. Thanks for providing all those wonderful tips and how-to info!

    Reaching for a Mint Treat! YUM!

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    1. Christchurch is a long way from me ... well, a long way by New Zealand standards. And it's in the South Island - I live on the North Island (and it's a New Zealand peculiarity that we always say "the North Island" and "the South Island" never just North Island or South Island).

      Delete
  27. On the first round, I always add too much detail to my openings as if I need to know all that info about my characters before I can get started. Then I cut...and cut...and cut. Trying to find the gem, right?

    I'm at that beginning point in my WIP and wondering if it will ever come together. I'm thinking BLING! Nice and shiny! Glittering in the sun! That's what I want for my opening, but I'm so not there.

    Back to cutting...

    And reaching for another Mint Treat!

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    Replies
    1. Exactly. I always say it takes me until chapter 5 to really know the story.

      Delete
    2. The pressure to have a great opening ... I hear you. I'm sure it will come together, but it can be difficult to examine that rough diamond and work out what has to be cut to make it glitter and shine.

      Enjoy the biscuits!

      Delete
  28. Iola, do you and Kara critique together? Sounds like a winning team. ACFW Genesis winner and RITA finalist!!

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    1. I'm currently editing Then There Was You. I think Kara's planning to release it in June. It's a fun job!

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  29. Iola, such a great post. What I loved most was the truth that polishing coal only gives us shiny coal. :) This reminds me of what one of my mentors says: Writing is re-writing. Great truths here today!

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    1. And shiny coal might be almost pretty, but it doesn't have the beauty or value of a diamond. Good luck on the rewriting!

      Delete
  30. Thank you, Iola, for such a perfect post and your freebie. Very generous! As a writer I struggle with keeping my characters POV's straight and writing them as in-depth as possible. And getting that micro conflict in every scene. When I'm starting a story I have to put in that "info dump" to remind myself of what I want to include and then have to go back and edit it out and re-work the scene. Thank goodness editors and agents don't have to see the first or second drafts! :) As for things that've helped me, besides Tina and the wonderful ladies here in Seekerville, books like "Self-Editing for Writers" and "Wired For Story", along with everything by KM Weiland, have really helped me up my game. Personally, the first draft is hard for me but then I get in to the swing of the story and can start re-writing it closer to the vision that's in my head as I write. And that's the fun part of the job. :) Hope you're waking up to a beautiful day in NZ!

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    1. I think I've memorized half of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers", and if you liked "Wired for Story", you'll love "Story Genius"!

      Yes, it's a lovely day in New Zealand today. Well, at least where I am. Some parts of the country are experiencing more of ex-Cyclone Debbie.

      Delete
  31. FANTASTIC post, Iola! Your comparison of a story to a lump of coal, and needing to put it under pressure so it will shine, hit home with me. I'm good at polishing coal -- need to improve at applying pressure.

    It's 6 a.m. Friday where my long-distance friend lives in Auckland, so thanks for getting up so early -- or staying up so late :-)

    And thanks for the pdf!

    Nancy C

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    Replies
    1. It's now 9am on Friday ... I'm in the future!

      Yes, applying pressure is the difficult part. But it needs to be done.

      Delete
  32. I am late to the party today. Too much New Roman and not enough Time, if you know what I mean (and only a writer would). Thanks Iola, I desperately need to edit my Speedbo manuscript. I think I changed the color of the heroine's eyes at some point, which is something I have never done before. I have an Easy Editing Tips worksheet from Debby that I usually employ, but I can't find it, may have to print off another one, probably in the archives.
    One of my issues, especially in writing romance, is the conflict and tension. There's enough of it, but my characters tend to suffer silently, it's the New England in me, and I need to bring that out more. It's a learning curve.
    It's raining here and may flood, so I'm not going out. Will be working on my Revise and Resubmit tonight, which is about half ready.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. I hear you on conflict and tension! My family were English, and had the same issue about suffering silently. But that means too much interior monolgoue ...

      Thanks for visiting today!

      Delete
  33. Iola, editing simply explained...just what I need! Sometimes, I think my light bulb is burned out. I struggle with adding enough conflict and trying to remember an argument isn't conflict. Also, dialogue is a stinker for me. Sometimes my characters won't let me in their heads to pull out that dialogue, and that's where it sounds contrived. Learning something new everyday about this writing business.

    Would love to read Kara's book!

    Marcia

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    1. Easy to explain, harder to put into practice. It's like Paul said - we know what we should do, but do what we don't want to do.

      Kara's books are great! I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

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  34. Thank you Iola!

    Please enter me in the drawing - looks like a great read!

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Yes, Close to You is a great read (and Can't Help Falling is even better, although it doesn't have the advantage of being set in New Zealand!).

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  35. Thank you, Iola! Just the right info at the right time. I've joined your mailing list. Now I'm set to turn coal into diamonds. Blessings!

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    1. Thank you! Please let me know if you have any questions!

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  36. Iola, this was fabulous information. Thank you so much! I know I've got a ton to learn about the whole process. I print my MS, go through it, read it outloud, go through it again, and again...and again...since I'm still pre-published, I have opportunity to re-re-edit to my little heart's content. Or I hate the book. Whichever happens first :)

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    1. I think that if you revise and revise and revise until you hate the book, that's your signal it's time to let it out into the big wide world of contests, agents, and editors. Because that's when you've got to the point you can't do any more to improve it, and you need fresh eyes to see what you can't.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  37. Is that plate, the first picture, a plate of coal? Because it looks like some molasses cookie I bake and they're delicious.
    And now I promise to turn my attention back to editing.

    Great post and the perfect time for it! Thank you!

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    1. It's a plate of Mint Treat biscuits. Maybe I should have taken a bite out of one so you could see the creme filling :)

      Good luck with the editing (but your next comment has me worried. Gunfire isn't enough?).

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  38. I need to do something meaner to my characters right now. Gunfire isn't enough sometimes.

    Mulling it over!

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  39. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. I just ordered the free download and look forward to checking it out. Please throw my name in hat for Kara's book.

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    1. I hope you enjoy the download - let me know if you have any questions!

      Thanks for stopping by today!

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  40. As a writer, I tend to skimp on the setting at times. Yes, I have talking heads. What I'm often called out on is transitions, and I guess that is sort of related to setting? My favorite writing guide tends to be the one I'm currently reading lol. Most recently, the book is "Story" by Robert McKee. By the way, I'd love to win a prize. :)

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    1. I think it's easy to ignore setting, especially in the first draft, partly because we can 'see' the scene playing out as we write it but we forget the reader can't. But it's good you've identified setting as an issue. If we know something is an issue, we can work out a strategy to fix it. We can't fix what we don't know is wrong.

      I haven't yet read "Story". It's on my list, right after the other seven books currently sitting on my writing craft to-read pile :)

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  41. Your timing is perfect, lola!Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I'd love to be entered for the drawing.

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    1. Good luck! Close to You is an excellent novel, and a deserving RITA double-finalist. I'm crossing my fingers for Kara!

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  42. My problem with self editing is that I don't see my own errors. I think my writng iz prefetc.

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    1. Oh, yes. I look at old blog posts I've written and find spelling mistakes and missing words, and wonder how I didn't notice them.

      This is why we need editors (and beta readers. And critique partners. And more editors).

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  43. Iola, I loved this when I read it this morning. I am editing my book and since I always seem to struggle with conflict, this post spoke to me. Thanks so much. Tension on every page is a great takeaway, and I am working hard on o layer that in on this go around.

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    1. Tension on every page is easy to say ... harder to do. But at least if you know what to do, you can work out how to how to do it.

      Thanks for visiting!

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  44. Lots of useful tips, here. Now I just have to finish writing my manuscript!

    Punctuation errors are probably my largest blind spot in editing my books, commas are my bane. But unnecessary plot points? Yeah, those are a close second.

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    1. Even editors can't agree on commas (personally, I love the Oxford comma but not everyone agrees). The important thing is to be consistent.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  45. My weak spot is characters, particularly female ones. I can't understand women in real life and it makes it hard for me to write them.

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  46. LOL, Walt, so you're man, what do you expect??? Does your wife critique your female characters for you?

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  47. Iola! Thanks for being with us! When will you make your next trip to the states for a conference? We'd love to meet up with you and swipe some cookies.

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    1. I'd love to visit the US for a conference! No this year, I'm afraid. But I am going to (and speaking at) conferences here in New Zealand, and in Australia.

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  48. Iola what a great post! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Jackie! It's a pleasure to be here.

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  49. I always enjoy a post that's specific. A good reminder of where to begin after Speedbo. I'm mentoring a writer and plan on going over these points with her. Put my name in the drawing. And thanks for sharing and the free pdf.

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    1. Thank you! Do tell your friend about the free pdf as well - there is a lot more information I didn't have space to share today.

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  50. One of my dad's first cousins married an Iola -- the only other time I've seen your name. I was at their farm when I fell head first into a goldfish pond.
    I've always wanted to visit New Zealand. Great post and even better PDF bonus. Thank you, Iola.

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    1. It's an unusual name all right! I've never met another Iola in real life, but I've met a couple on Facebook.

      My version of the name is Welsh, and means 'valued by the Lord'. I like that :)

      Look me up if you ever visit New Zealand!

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  51. Thanks, Iola! Very informative with some great ideas how to improve my WIP. I tend to go for the easy/obvious punctuation and grammar part first, lol. And whilst I'm a pantser at heart, I did sit down and write out an outline using the three-act structure. It was very helpful, and I realised a few scenes would be better placed elsewhere to keep the tension rolling. I like the idea of highlighting the tension in my manuscript too. I will give that a try.

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    1. I hear you! It's easy to start with the "easy" stuff, like spelling mistakes. But if we're not convinced we've got a solid story, then it could end up being a waste of time - and none of us have time to waste. Thanks for stopping by!

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