Page 3 of 4

Currently reading: American Sniper

 

Chris Kyle gives a well-written, detailed account of US military life during the Iraq War. If you’re seeking to understand the mindset of Iraq War veterans, American Sniper might be a good place to start.

Check etymology in historical fiction

Using words in your historical fiction that weren’t used during the book’s time period detracts from the book. You might have a good plot and writing style, but your readers are expecting a well-researched narrative.

One of my favorite tasks when editing historical fiction is checking the etymology of words. Picking out the time traveling words takes instinct and curiosity. I once researched “cute” out of editorial instinct and learned that it is short for “acute” and was originally synonymous with intelligent rather than adorable. Considering the time period of the novel I was editing, “cute” didn’t make the cut.

My two favorite online resources for checking etymology are: http://www.etymonline.com/ and https://www.merriam-webster.com/. These links are good starting points, but many words and phrases require more research.

 

MLK Day

Today I’m celebrating the life and love of Dr. King.

 

Currently reading: Hillbilly Elegy

I’m currently reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. I’m terribly bored reading it, but I’m suffering through it because it was recommended by a friend.

Keep personality in your nonfiction

Nonfiction authors have the benefit of being real-life narrators, yet they often remove their own personality from their books.

When writing a nonfiction book, use your own voice. It should be a voice of authority about the subject and a voice that matches the tone of the book.

The question authors dread the most

“So, what’s your book about?”

I’ve heard authors do everything from groan to ramble when asked that dreaded question. As unpalatable as that question is, authors should be able to answer it well.

How do you explain something so near and dear to your heart? After all, the manuscript is 80,000+ words for a reason.

Start with one paragraph and whittle it down to one concise sentence. Mention the genre or subgenre. Prepare two versions of the sentence: one for readers and one for the publishing industry.

In the publishing industry version of the sentence, include the literary conflict and blockbuster concept.

Practice your response. Let your passion show through.

Below is Dick Van Dyke’s attempt to summarize Romeo & Juliet.

Please excuse the poor video quality.

Using track changes and comments in Word

Word’s track changes and comment features are important tools in the editing process.

Below are two concise and helpful videos to introduce you to these features.

Microsoft Word Track Changes Tutorial

 

Microsoft Word Comments Tutorial

Protecting your writing time

J. K. Rowling’s advice about protecting writing days is fanciful. Days? How often does the average writer get a full day just for writing?

Work, school, and family obligations keep most writers I know from ever enjoying so much as half a day to themselves. However, Rowling is correct in using the word “ruthless”; writers need to be unflinching when it comes to their writing time.

Set boundaries

In order to manage whatever writing time you get, you must set boundaries.

It’s important to let anyone who might overstep those boundaries know what you expect during your allotted writing time. Your family and friends need to know to leave you alone. It helps if you can be specific. Saying “I’m going to write for an hour” instead of “I’m going to finish this scene” might actually result in an uninterrupted hour of writing time.

Let go of the guilt

When you have a stretch of time during which to write is when people will most want to spend time with you. This is an unexplained phenomenon similar to what happens when you sit down to read.

Write first and spend time with them later. It’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Don’t sabotage yourself

Sometimes getting other people into the habit of respecting your writing time is easier than getting into the habit yourself.

Don’t answer the phone thinking you’ll be able to get off the call in a few minutes. If you went to a coffee shop to write but did more people watching than writing, don’t go there again. Turn off the TV.

Time management starts with saying “no”; drawing boundaries is more like saying “not right now.” It’s the crucial second step to having enough time to write.

CMOS’ January Q&A

Each month The Chicago Manual of Style shares a list of Q & A. They’re educational, funny, and a bit snarky.

Example from this month’s Q&A:

Q. Can a citation be too long? And how do you know if it is?

A. If you run out of paper? If your computer crashes? (Is this a trick question?) A citation is probably too long if it looks silly or contains more information than necessary. You are probably the best judge of this.

You’ll find the full January Q&A here.

How to start your story

The beginning of your story is meant to be an induction to the rest of the story as a whole. Your job is to hook your readers from page one and give us a taste of the rest of the book.

I recently performed a developmental edit on a well-written thriller. In the opening scene, the protagonist is hiding in a closet and listening to the sounds beyond the closet doors. She is eventually discovered and makes a break for the exit. Throughout the book, the protagonist does a lot of traveling and encounters many dangerous people, but the book starts with her stuck in a closet.

How could the author make the first few paragraphs representative of the entire book?

My suggestion was for the author to show us the survivalist we come to know in the book. She is resourceful and lively, cautious but daring. By showing us a character who searches the closet for weapons, devises a plan or two, and moves as stealthily as possible, we’re able to see the gumption and intellect that will aid the character throughout the book.

Now when she makes a break for the exit, we are cheering her on and hoping she escapes. We already like her because we already know her.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2018 America's Editor

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑