Ghoulish Grammar – The Line Edit Stage

You’ve polished up your plot lines, fixed all big-picture edits, and read your whole manuscript so many times you’re sick of it. What now?

Now comes the line edit stage!

What is line editing? As the name implies, you are poring through your manuscript line by line to make sure that there’s no awkward phrasing, spelling errors, or grammatical mistakes in your novel.

This tends to sound incredibly boring and tedious to most people, but for me, I relish it. Why? Because it gives the logical part of my brain something to work on.

Think about it. Writing a novel is an emotion and creativity-based venture. You’re stepping into another character’s head, while trying to make sure their dialogue is natural, the world-building is superb, characters have motives for everything they do…. etc. You get the point.

When you get to the line edit stage, you stop with all the dithering about ‘would my character really do that?’ and ‘does my story work as a whole?’ and focus in on the specific wording of each sentence.

Granted, I enjoy both, but this second part allows me to utilize a whole different skill-set.

However, yes, it can get tiring skimming through every sentence of a 40-70k book (assuming you write YA fiction, and if you write adult books, it’s even longer)!

What do I recommend? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Use apps! I personally have 3 websites I alternate between, all free.
    • The first is Grammarly, which is free and picks through your entire story for grammatical mistakes. It also analyzes story tone and other things like that, but for an added fee, so I just ignore that. One note is that I’ve found Grammarly likes correcting to the British spelling (i.e., colour instead of color), so watch out for that.
    • The second is Story Analyzer. This has the same function as Grammarly, but I’ve used it less, simply because of where I was in editing my novel when I discovered this resource. I believe this has Americanized spelling, so that’s a plus for it, but it doesn’t hurt to use both. (Here’s a link to the story analyzer).
    • The final, and most effective, is Hemingway App. It helps those writers that strive for efficient use of words in their writing. It highlights sentences that are worded weirdly, grammatical mistakes, AND tense changes. It is, by far, the most helpful of all the three on the list, for myself personally. 😉
  2. Break your story up into chunks, and do a little at a time. It’s overwhelming if you try to do everything at once, so don’t worry about that. Instead, pick small sections- and reward yourself for completing them.
  3. Enlist help! A fresh set of eyes can work wonders for a manuscript. While hiring someone is the best bet if you want to publish your book, a friend with a critical eye can also make magic happen.
  4. Work on writing a different story at the same time. This one is more controversial, because you should really be laser-beam focused on one thing at a time. However, if you’re working on a short story or a novella, it’ll give your creative juices a chance to thrive. Alternating between the two gives you a chance to use both sides of your writing brain!
  5. Bribe yourself, if needed. Say if you line-edit one chapter a day, when you complete the first half of your novel, you’ll go to the movies or buy something you really wanted.
  6. Lean on the writing community for support. Most of us have been there, and we’re more than willing to give you encouragement!

Good luck, you guys! Comment down below if you have tips of your own for the line edit stage.

~Rebecca M. 

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Guest Post by Natalie – Storytelling

One of the most important parts of storytelling is the story you’re trying to tell. Unfortunately, as writers (myself included) get really into the struggle of plots and characters and worlds, they tend to forget why the story exists in the first place. Granted, many stories spring to life because of a picture or a song or a cool character/plot line. These are valid stories and I have worked with many of them myself. Other times, however, a writer may begin a story because she has a message/story or an emotion that she wants to convey.

Some stories relate to a real life, everyday struggle. Even in fantasy worlds, there are still relatable aspects of the actual “story” or “moral” of the story.

Maybe you’ve based a character off yourself or maybe you created an antagonist that you see eye to eye with. Maybe your story is completely about you. Sometimes the best way to get through your own issues when you have no idea what to do is to sit down and write about it. Make it somebody else’s problem. See how they defeat it. Use their victory as courage.

This post is short, I know, but it has a purpose. It’s a reminder to every writer out there, even if they don’t know this applies to them. It does.

Remember why you’re writing. Remember the story. Think beyond your plot holes and dusty manuscripts (or lack of plot and manuscripts if you’re anything like me). Fight for your characters and fight for the people who could be touched by your message. Even a story you’re writing because of plots and characters means something. If it means something to you, chances are it will mean even more to someone else.

Until next time,

Natalie

 

Defying Stereotypes in Writing

Stereotypes. The word itself leaves a bad taste in my mouth.We all know the sorts of things I’m talking about.

A shy, quiet girl falling for the popular boy and the two of them ending up in a relationship. The hero or heroine of a fantasy being the object of a prophecy that makes it so they HAVE to complete their quest for motives that are not entirely their own.

What, guys? Why would you do this to your story? Your plot becomes boring, uninspiring, and- let’s face it- downright predictable.

And what keeps a reader reading? They want to find out what happens! If they already know what’s going to happen, what’s the payoff for the reader?

So now it’s time to subvert the reader’s expectations, rather than giving them another lesson about how ‘introversion is a flaw that needs to be overcome’, ‘girls will find love if they change themselves to accommodate the athletic idiot’, and ‘guys who express their emotions are girly’, or any other cliches.

How can you apply this to your story?

For myself, I write fantasy. The cliche is that it has to be set in medieval Europe (specifically, England), there’s no modern technology whatsoever, heroines are always featured in love triangles, and magic is innately given + has only smaller limits, such as not resurrecting people from the dead.

My latest story will be set near modern times, on an island archipelago where there’s modern technology, a heroine that does not waste her time dithering about who loves her or doesn’t love her, and magic is a talent that can be learned (despite some being predisposed to better use magic)… and on top of that, magic can only be used for an objectively good purpose, such as defending their country from invaders.

Am I saying you all have to be so extreme about how many differences you have? Of course not. Most writing advice is subjective, and what works for me, may not work for you.

But I urge you to take a close look at your genre and its’ expectations and make sure your read is unpredictable.

Best of luck.

~Rebecca M. 

Waking Nightmares Part 2 Group Story

See the first part of the story: Waking Nightmares Pt. 1

“You’re weak,” the wind whispers in my ear. “You knew better than to become so attached to the things of the world, and now you’re here away from it all.”

A memory flashes before my mind, me, empty-inside, putting my life into the electronic world.  My uncle, visiting, and me not even saying a word.

My mother had passed away only two years ago, and I was all that was left of her for her broken-hearted brother, and I ignored him for an imaginary material world. Is that why I’m here?

Had my selfishness blinded me so that I waded further into the abyss? I shuddered in revulsion at the person I had become.

The wind brushes along my side encouragingly as if I’m starting to get on the right track.

“Okay,” I muster up a somewhat calm voice. “What do I do to get out of here?”

The gentle wind halts, causing the arid desert climate to engulf me.  I choke on my own breath.

My eyes burn like acid has been poured down my face.  I can’t see.  Stumbling, I hold my hands out in front of me to catch me if I fall.

My body jolts as my hands crash into the splintering trunk of a tree.

Then I hear a strange noise behind me. I whirl around, but can’t spot anything.  

I extend my hands in front of me, searching for the tree, but all I feel is the gentle sway of a dress.

“Good present, my dear,” A melodic voice chants in front of me.

“Good present?” I question.

“Yes, dear, I can’t say good morning, good day or anything of the sort because we are not in a timely world; we exist merely in the now.”

I nod my head slowly as I try to comprehend what she means by that statement.

The woman takes a deep breath. “It means you are outside of time, love.” Her sarcasm is not easily hidden.  

“Are you the one who sent me here?” My voice rages with emotion.

“I summoned your spirit yes,” Her melodic voice wavers. “Your body is still at home; no one knows you are gone, so I did not really disrupt anyone but you, and you will thank me later.”

I sigh. My mind is too exhausted to fight right now. “What do you want from me then?”

“It is not necessarily what I want, but what you need,” taking a deep breath she continues. “ You are  lost, my dear child. You have fallen into the ways of the world, losing the will to truly live.  You had found the interest of the fantastic creatures as a young child because of your love for the world and your beautiful soul; therefore, your lack of life has caused us much grief, and we have come to set you free.”

“What if I don’t want to change?”

Pep Talk for the Discouraged Writer

Hey, you. Standing in the corner feeling depressed.

This one’s for you.

I know you’re tired. I know your fingers are cramped up from typing away at the keyboard. I know that nothing’s gone as planned and the words on the page stink compared to what you had envisioned.

Whether it’s characters refusing to act like themselves, plot holes so giant you don’t know where to fix first, a book pitch that keeps getting rejected by agents, or you’re just bored with your idea in general, it’s okay.

You’ve got this. J.K. Rowling took 6 years(!!!) to plan Harry Potter, and look at her popularity now.

Look, don’t feed into your self-doubt by quitting now! That nagging voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, that it’s too hard, that your problems are insurmountable it? Throw it out the window!

You are good enough, and you can and will finish this novel and make it pretty close to being perfect. With hard work and dedication, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

Don’t give up. Dig yourself out of that trench and keep writing.

I’m with you, friend. I’m cheering you on as you continue to work hard!

Best of luck to you!

~Rebecca M.

 

10 Best Fantasy Books

So. It’s almost summer time!

If you’re anything like me, ‘summer’ conjures a picture like this in your head: Image result for summer

Relaxing, huh?

And immediately after that, of course:

Image result for summer and books

So, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite fantasy and/or fairy tale books that I’ve read for you to blow through this summer if you haven’t already!

  1. Harry Potter / Lord of the Rings / Chronicles of Narnia. These are the three essentials, and if you haven’t already read these, those three series should be your first three to start you off!
  2. Magyk series by Angie Sage.
  3. The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix.
  4. Entwined by Heather Dixon.
  5. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
  6. The Chronicles of Pellinor by Allison Croggon. (This one is better suited to the female reader).
  7. Snow Like Ashes (and the rest of the series) by Sara Raasch.
  8. Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan.
  9. An Ember in the Ashes (and the rest of the series) by Sabaa Tahir.
  10. A Girl of Fire and Thorns (and the rest of the series) by Rae Carson.

Thanks for reading! Comment down below if I’ve missed any, or if you’ve read any of these!

~Rebecca M.

The Dreaded Info Dump – Guest Post

Hey everybody! I’m Natalie (Indie from etherealpens.wordpress.com). Monkeyeverything is a bit busy at the moment so you’re stuck with me. Hopefully it won’t be completely unbearable…*winks*

Today I’m going to be talking about the dreaded infodump, especially in the first chapter. You know the kinds:

  1. The usual infodump. First chapter is basically all setting up for chapter two. You really don’t have anything to say so BOOM! Info dump.

Please don’t use this. Like, ever. It will make your story super boring. Start in the heat of the moment! Did your protagonist’s best friend just get murdered? Talk about that! Don’t get into how long they’ve been friends and flashbacks of their first playdate. This early in the story, your readers just want to know what happens next, not what has happened in the past.

  1. Main character description in a mirror, along with backstory we really don’t care about at that point.

She stared at herself in the mirror. Those long golden locks, pinned to the side with the barrettes her father gave her, glistened every time she turned her head. She looked just like her mother. It hurt. Her mother had died four years ago in a car accident. There was nothing anybody could do for her. It happened too fast, too soon, and they were too late. She blamed the people who did it to her beloved mother. She hated them.

You could go on for another paragraph or four at this point, describing why your main character hates the other people in the car accident. I have to say, this method of bringing backstory in is probably the most cliche. Because he isn’t just plain infodumping, the writer who uses this thinks: “Well, I’m not dumping information. I’m bringing stuff to light because my character is thinking about it. She’s comparing how she looks to how her mother used to look. Can’t I do that?”

Yes, you sure can. But this has been done so, so, so, so, so many times. C’mon, if your story is original and awesome like I’m sure it is, your backstory should be introduced in a good way, not one that will place the finished copy on the cliche, boring, done-one-billion-times shelf. Besides, you want to make crucial-to-personality backstory more MYSTERIOUS. If the backstory you’re currently infodumping could and should be revealed over time to add to the plot, then DO NOT mess up your plot by telling everything in one scene.

3. Important info infodump. THIS ONE IS KIND OF OKAY, GUYS!

Recently, I wrote a scene where my protagonist (who is truly a baby jellybean, just saying) is trading his dinner for a secret. Not really a secret, he just wants to know what the other dude knows. Anyway, to make it feel like my jellybean is really giving something up, I wrote a paragraph to describe how scarce food was at that time. This kind of infodump was something playing in his head and by writing a paragraph or two talking about why giving up food was so important, my character was able to make a sacrifice that would seem terrible to the reader.

NOTE: THERE ARE NECESSARY INFODUMPS

As long as you use #3 wisely and don’t go overboard, you can use it.

Personally, I like to try and not infodump as much as possible. If you can slowly integrate your backstory without being frustratingly ambiguous or being way too dramatic about it, then you are an awesome writer and I shall give you donuts.

When you’re writing your first draft, go ahead and dump info within reason. First drafts are about getting the words on the page. Also, I’m writing this during Camp Nanowrimo, if that explains things. ←- Justification, people.

If you think about it, what you need is to get info down on a page. While I’m not encouraging infodumps, because overall they stink to read, I think using #3 is okay.

Just use your paragraphs of info wisely and DON’T use your first chapter as a runway to your story. The first chapter is about introducing a character and starting with a preliminary problem, whether or not the problem is the antagonist. Did your protagonist find a body? Talk about that and don’t rehash a flashback from the protagonist’s past with that person. There’s room for character development later. Set the scene, kill the lights, and shout “Action!” because you don’t have time for slow-moving stuff.

Thanks for not getting TOO bored, everyone!

~ Natalie

P.S. Go check out my blog if you want randomness and occasional excerpts/poetry/short stories! #shamelessadvertising