Now that I have an outline and specifications smoothed out, I think it will be a lot easier to get you guys on board by basically doing what I did with the guest blog posts: put out topics, first come, first serve; then gather them all and put them in this self-editing booklet I am throwing together. Charles Yallowitz has already volunteered his input, so I’m giving you guys more concrete topics you can write about. Here they are:
1. How you outline Seán Cooke
2. How you handle the first chapter
3. How you handle the first five chapters
4. How you handle the middle of the book
5. How you handle the ending
First come, first serve, so quickly choose and I will cross out topics as they are requested and put the person’s name/username. I am in no hurry to write this booklet, so take your time with the topic. You can e-mail me your piece at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will add you to the booklet!
I am putting out a call for writer input on a self-editing booklet I am currently outlining. This book will be published on my website and will serve as a guide for helping writers become effective self-content editors–as in, being able to structurally edit the book oneself without requiring major input from a third party.
Content, in my opinion, is the hardest to edit because it can require whole re-writes. Once the content is edited, however, all that is left are line edits and proofreading. But content can require a complete tear down of a book, and it can be disconcerting as a writer to either have a strong beta reader or editor tear your book apart, only for you to realize you have to start at square one. This is what happened to me with When Stars Rise (the sequel to When Stars Die). I had to completely re-work the book because it wasn’t working as it was, and I realized I didn’t want to have that happen for future books, so I learned from my freelance editor how to effectively self-edit content so that my book doesn’t have to be completely put through a shredder. There is no guarantee future books of mine won’t be, but having the tools I learned from her has made me a much stronger writer, and so I’d like to help you all become stronger writers by creating this booklet.
All I want from you guys is advice for how you edit, like how you approach revisions for chapter ones, the first five chapters, the middle that can often get muddled, creating an effective ending, all while maintaining strong writing. My booklet is going to be divided into these planned parts: what to include in outline revisions/ notes, how to approach chapter one, the first five chapters, battling that muggy middle, creating a sharp ending, and tackling plot holes. More may come depending on what you guys send me.
I don’t want this booklet to be just about my experience but about all of your experiences as well because everyone will have to do things differently and so I’d like differing viewpoints.
So e-mail me your experiences with revisions and how you get your book in shape to work how you want it to work. If you’ve had freelance editors in the past, you can include what they’ve taught you. I’m not requiring anything specific: just whatever advice you want to send me for how you tackle revisions.
All of this will be put together in a booklet, and of course when I quote you or even dedicate a page or something to you, you will be credited as an author of the booklet.
I’m not going to claim to be an expert self-editor. All I know is that I did a really good job at content editing part of my book and the synopsis, and all I had was one beta reader (I seriously took a huge leap of faith going for AEC Stellar, didn’t I?). I also want to mention that when I refer to self-editing, I am referring to being able to edit your own content so that way all you need afterward is beta readers that you do not have to go back to fifteen million times, or a freelance editor you don’t have to keep paying thousands of dollars for.
Beta readers can become time consuming, especially if you have your manuscript out to several of them at once and they all have entire tomes of flaws pointed out to you. Then you have to fix it and re-send it to them again, where they whittle their complaints down to entire notebook-fulls; then you have to send out again, then again. Granted, this process probably only applies to beginning writers, but that is why I stressed the importance of freelance editors in a previous post of mine. You want to learn from them once (or twice) so you don’t have to keep going back to them or your beta readers. But if you have to keep going back to your beta readers for the content of your story before even getting to the nitty gritty sentence structure, then you’re not learning what you should be learning and finishing that manuscript is going to become ridiculously time consuming.
Freelance editors can be ridiculously expensive. Some charge $4 a page for one service and $6 a page for another, so that’s thousands of dollars right there. There are ones who are cheaper, but you often want those ones recommended to you. Granted, they are worth it the first time and some offer to read it again for half off or free of charge, but if you haven’t learned from them and have to keep going back for every book you write, you’re wasting money. You only want to have to pay them for your first book and first book only–if your beta readers aren’t sufficient enough, that is. A good freelance editor will function as a teacher to teach you how to self-edit so that you can bring yourself to the point where you only need beta readers to wipe away excess dirt instead of them having constantly point out major flaws in your writing that will take whole re-writes to fix.
Never undermine the importance of being able to edit the major stuff yourself: plot holes that take entire re-writes to fix, being able to edit the pacing of the book yourself, character development, plot and sub-plot development, making sure something develops in every chapter, being able to know what your gut is telling you when something is wrong. These are things that you want to learn how to self-edit on your own that way when you get to beta readers you find your novel doesn’t need an entire overhaul to fix what they point out. Or so you’re not spending monstrous amounts of money on a freelance editor.
But how do you know that you’ve learned to self-edit? If your beta readers, assuming you have good ones, aren’t tearing your next manuscript apart. Or the freelance editor you decided to hire for your next book isn’t charging you so much because said editor discovered it doesn’t need as much work as your previous one. Or if your gut isn’t sending you alarm bells. For some, self-editing is a gift, and for others it is an acquired skill through experience. The point being is that you want to eventually bring yourself to the point where you are a strong self-editor not having to heavily rely on beta readers or freelance editors–as Georgia McBride taught me.
I started When Stars Die when I was fifteen–now 22. I had finished its sequel (a whopping 180,000 word monster) and decided my sequel needed a prequel. The book was once titled Croix Infernal, Hellish Cross. It had the same characters and similar plot thread, but the writing was juvenile as was the storytelling itself. So I put that on the back burner for a few years to pound away at its sequel, Witch Tourniquet. I eventually parsed that novel down to about 90,000 words many years later, but after Georgia McBride told me the plot had de-railed, I knew it was not going to work as a first book and that I needed to resurrect the prequel.
I called it Lady Tourniquet to match the Tourniquet theme. How did I plan to go about fixing this book?
For one thing, all the details that were lumped together in half the book of Witch Tourniquet needed to be sprinkled throughout the entire book of what is now When Stars Die. I took Georgia’s de-railed comment as a sign that an outline was a must for the revision of When Stars Die.
I went through and carefully outlined each chapter, making certain to note important themes, plot threads, twists, and even character development. I noted every tiny detail to prevent plot holes. I also took a lot of Georgia’s advice from Witch Tourniquet and used that advice for the revision. The most important piece of advice I ever received from her: Make sure SOMETHING happens in every chapter, whether that be character or plot development. So each chapter I revised needed to either develop character or plot in some way. Thus, I made certain to note what would develop each chapter, whether it be one or both. Once I had the outline, I sat my butt down and began pounding out the revisions, trying to keep with my goal of a chapter a day.
Once I pounded out the revision, I took everything I learned from Georgia to self-edit the manuscript. I chipped away at everything you can imagine: plot holes, needless sentences, poor sentence structure, awkward character interactions, ect. I constantly referred to Georgia’s advice because I had learned massive amounts about how to edit my own work. The outline, more than anything, was my most vital tool for self-editing.
But the book had to be cooked again, so I stuck it back in the oven for a beta reader, Mariah Wilson, to read. I knew she would finish it because she loved the new version of its sequel (and she only read half). I’m a bit bitter about beta readers. I find them, offer to read their stuff, and they start my book, but they never finish or have to drop out due to life. I also never learned as much from them as I thought I did. Especially having Georgia critique my writing made me lose faith in a beta reader’s ability to truly help, until I realized they’re beta readers, not editors. I needed to take care of the iffy stuff first before using a beta reader to take care of the excess dirt.
But apparently I’m a decent self-editor. Mariah never found anything wrong, and Raymond Vogel of AEC Stellar even told me I have a gift for self-editing. But it was all because of Georgia McBride. Without her, When Stars Die would probably be flailing around somewhere.
That was the basic planning for When Stars Die. I can’t even tell you how inspiration struck. All I know is I always wanted to write about the 19th century with nuns and a convent and have witches thrown in there somewhere.