My penultimate post so time to remind you all once again about the looming deadline of the 30th Sept and to urge you to not leave submitting your entries until the last minute – just in case there are any technical issues at either end!
Before you do send off you work you might just want to cast one final eye over your precious baby and make sure there isn’t a soft downy lock out of place on its head by considering the following advice on editing:
* Adverbs and adjectives – do you really need them? Can you use better/more powerful nouns and verbs that mean you can do without the adverbs and adjectives?
* Modifiers – very, really, rather etc. do you really need them?
* Metaphors and similes – use them sparingly and avoid extended pieces of imagery that are overly poetic and not moving the story on.
* Speech tags – often you can do without them, especially if it is a two person dialogue or use action instead to illustrate who is talking.
* Clichés – usually they can just simply go. If you are really saying something with them you will need to think of an original turn of phrase to replace them.
* Repetition – don’t be tempted to repeat yourself by showing something then telling it as well. Trust the reader will understand the first time.
* Dialogue – often this can be pruned. Remember not to go overboard with making it imitate real speech.
* Actions – you don’t have to show every single movement e.g. getting up, opening the door, walking through it, closing it behind you, getting out a key, locking the door, walking down the drive, unlocking the car, getting into the car, fastening the seatbelt etc.
* Detail – important but better to be specific with one or two things that show every single detail e.g. when describing a room. Be selective and only mention things that are important to the story like a gun on the table but not a plant on the windowsill (unless is it deadly nightshade and hence the murder weapon)
* Vary your vocabulary – watch out for repeated words close to each other.
* He/she – make sure it is clear who is being referred to.
* Avoid overly long, complex sentences that are confusing to read.
* Avoid fragments that are not complete sentences. While this does save words it can make the writing stilted.
* Don’t use capital letters to indicate when someone is shouting. J. K. Rowling does it and it is annoying to most readers.
* Consistency – check that you don’t contradict yourself.
* Anachronisms – if you are writing a piece with a particular time setting make sure you have researched accurately.
And don’t forget to ‘kill your darlings”!
Yes, editing can be a draining process but it is all part of the work of a writer and probably the part that will make the biggest difference to your chance of having success with a piece. We can all come up with great ideas but writing is all about the skillful execution of those ideas, finding the “best words in the best order” and really bringing that story to life. So keep going with it and be honest with yourself about what is working and what isn’t in your writing.
It has been a great pleasure to be part of your writing experiences during Crossing the Tees and I have very much enjoyed reading the entries sent to me for mentoring or hearing the little extracts read out during the writing workshops. So, as a way of returning the favour, I would like to invite anyone following this blog to join me for the launch of my second novel.
The novel, Herself Alone in Orange Rain, is part two of my Celtic Colours trilogy. It tells the story of one young woman’s fight for freedom and independence for her homeland and herself. The launch is Friday, 13th October (hope you aren’t superstitious!), 7pm at Drakes Bookshop, Silver Street, Stockton on Tees. It’s a free event and there will be free refreshments provided so if you’re at a loose end that night and want the chance to grill me about my writing (put ‘teacher’ in the spotlight for a change) then just drop me a line so I can have an idea of numbers (Drakes is a cosy little shop).
And if you can’t make the Stockton launch never fear – I am also doing ‘An Audience With…’ at The Word, South Shields, Saturday, 4th November, 2-3pm where you will be able to head me read from and talk about parts one and two of my Celtic Colours trilogy. This is also a free event but you do need to book the The Word’s website. And I’ll have copies of both books there so it’s a good chance to grab a signed one then, if I become mega famous, you can flog it on Ebay for a fortune!
Hope to see some of you at one or other event. Next week – the big, tear-jerking goodbye…