Friday, 17 April 2015

self-editing tips from IndieReCon

I was away this week, locked in a hotel room without Internet access - it was bliss! Although it did mean that I missed the live streaming from the Indie writers online conference - IndieReCon. On the other hand, I managed to get a LOT of writing done, so I'm not that sad! Since coming home I've been going through the conference posts and found this concise little list of self-editing tips. I thought it was helpful, so I'm sharing it here. Enjoy! :)

How to Self-Edit your Book: by Jessica Bell

It’s time to edit your novel for publication. What a drag, right? It doesn’t have to be.
 If you take a systematic approach, you can make sure you catch as many mistakes and writing pitfalls as possible without feeling overwhelmed by it all. I’ve been an editor for more than ten years, and there is the one rule I live by which gets excellent results every time: edit piece by piece.
Sound ambiguous? Let me explain.

 The Editing Process

When we read a manuscript from beginning to end, we aren’t able to concentrate on every detail at once.
For example, let’s say you’ve read through the first chapter of your manuscript and the only error you notice is the word cafe lacking the accent on the e. Easy. You fix it. And you make a mental note to catch that as you go along.
But in the next chapter, you come across an awkwardly structured sentence, an embarrassing grammatical error, a character that is speaking in a way that sounds like another character, and you seem to have used the word look way too many times in one paragraph.
That’s a lot to fix. But you do it fix it, and all seems like it’s in order.
But guess what? You were so focussed on fixing these things, that you didn’t notice the other instance of cafe lacking the accent on the e. And now that you’ve reworded a few things, you’ve also messed up your punctuation, and introduced a new spelling mistake.
It isn’t necessary to have the “whoops.”
When editing, you can’t expect to do a good job if you read through your book from beginning to end and hope to see the mistakes as you go. You are bound to miss things. Many things.

The Most Efficient Way to Self-Edit

The most efficient way to edit, is to isolate all the things you need to fix, and focus on fixing one thing on your list, before moving onto the next. (I’ll provide you a comprehensive list further on in this article.)
For example, you could start with your first line hook. Is it compelling enough? Then move onto character consistency and point of view switches. Are your characters distinguishable from each other? Focus on one character at a time and making their voices unique.
Then go on to wheedle out redundant dialogue tags and/or replace them with action, tighten your descriptions, make your chapter endings pop, remove superfluous and overused words, vary sentence structure so you don’t use too many personal pronouns, check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Then, move on to reading your manuscript from beginning to end.
Even better, read it aloud, or use a text-to-voice generator.
Editing doesn’t have to be daunting if you focus on one thing at a time. And once you’re done, your book will shine.
Here’s a compressive checklist for you to make sure your book is in tiptop shape:
Things you should have already mastered before diving into the final edit are:
  • Plot & Pacing
  • Show, Don’t Tell
  • Incorporating the Senses
  • Balancing Backstory
  • Eliminating Clichés
I’m going to ask you some basic questions to see if you have indeed dealt with the above points. If your answer is the opposite of what is in brackets after each question, then you need to revise your manuscript again before editing for publication. You also may like to ask your beta reader/critique partner these questions to get a more objective perspective on your progress.
  • Does it have a clear beginning, middle, and end? (yes)
  • Do your characters evolve throughout the story, i.e. do they change? (yes)
  • Do your characters encounter obstacles along the way which prevent them from meeting their goals? (yes)
  • Do your characters eventually overcome obstacles? (yes)
  • Are there any sections of your book which seem to drag? (no)
  • Do you ever want to skip over some scenes to get to “the good parts?” (no)
  • Do you feel there are any scenes which end too quickly? (no)
  • Is your story driven by an underlying question that readers need to know the answer to? (yes)
  • Are there any major facets of your story you could remove without affecting your plot? (no)
  • Does the major thread get resolved, or at least come to a realistic conclusion? (yes)
  • Does the big reveal come close enough to the end? (yes)
  • Can you visualize what you are reading as though it were happening right in front of you? (yes)
  • Can you feel the emotions your characters are feeling? (yes)
  • Do your characters seem flat and lifeless? (no)
  • Have you made your characters real? That is, would your readers recognize your characters if they met them on the street without you using a lot of explicit exposition to describe them? (yes)
  • Is the imagery vivid? (yes)
  • When a character touches something, can you feel it? (yes)
  • Can you hear the dialogue (and dialects, if applicable)? (yes)
  • Can you hear everything your characters are hearing? (yes)
  • Can you taste and smell all references to flavour and scent? (yes)
  • Are you constantly using the words seeheartouchsmell and taste? (no)
  • Are there any instances where you feel you are being told irrelevant information? (no)
  • Are there pages and pages of backstory all clumped together? (no)
  • Does your story begin with the backstory of the protagonist? (no) If yes, are you sure it’s necessary to your plot? (yes)
  • Have you peppered necessary elements of backstory throughout your manuscript in relevant places that move the story forward? (yes)
  • Does your backstory offer significant insight into your characters’ personalities, and is it important to readers’ understanding of the plot? (yes)
  • Are the actions of your characters often described using run-of-the-mill phrases? (e.g. She is driving me nuts.) (no)
  • Are your characters stereotypes? (e.g. an intellectual that wears glasses, or a blonde big-breasted lifeguard) (no) If yes, are you sure they’re vital to your plot? (yes)
  • Have you identified a unique slant to your story? (yes)
Did you answer all those questions correctly? Yes? Fabulous. Then you are good to go.
So what steps do you need to take to polish your manuscript for publication?
I’m going to make it very easy for you. Below is a list of the points you need to focus on (I go into greater detail for each point in Polish Your Fiction, which you have the chance to win today). I have listed them in the order Ifeel comfortable doing them. You may want to do them in a different order, and that’s okay. But I definitely do not suggest you polish style before you are satisfied with your content, because you never know how much text you are going to change. You might well end up changing so much content that you have to double-check you haven’t messed up any of your style corrections. It would just be a waste of time.
Here are the things you need to polish to get your book ready for publication:
  • First Line Hook
  • Character Consistency & Point of View (POV) Switches
  • Dialogue Tags
  • Tightening Descriptions
  • Chapter Endings
  • Removing Superfluous Words
  • Identifying & Replacing Tics (Overused Words)
  • First Person & Third Person Pronouns
  • Tense Consistency
  • Line Edits
  • Spelling & Punctuation Consistency (AmE or BrE?)
  • Typographical Considerations (Numbers, Time, Quotes & Apostrophes, Dashes, Italics, Paragraph Indents, Spaces)
  • Titles & Chapter Headings
  • Front Matter, End Matter, Acknowledgements, Back Cover Blurb
I must stress again, that these points are not going to help you build your story. It’s all about preparing a polished manuscript to publish.
Hope you're ready to tackle that manuscript now. I know I am! :)

Friday, 10 April 2015

some of my favourite places

School holiday, lots of rain, kids going stir crazy and animals protesting that they aren't allowed in the house. Is it any wonder I'm dreaming of places I've visited??? I'd quite like to be transported to one of my favourite places right now instead of listening to two tiny girls fight about Barbies...again... :-)


I love everything about Peru and have some wonderful memories of the time I spent there. I worked with a charity in the shanty towns of Lima and met some amazing people. Plus I got to tour around the country. Would go back there to live in a heartbeat.

Nasca lines, the biggest drawings in the world covering the desert. Amazing.

Cuzco, a golden dream city


Machu Picchu

Bolivian Rainforest

I spent some time teaching clay work to kids in the Amazon outside of Trinidad. It was an amazing experience. Still remember the giant sized ants and the ghecko that liked to sleep with me! Not to mention digging up clay from the banks of the river. Good times.

I remember these dug out canoes well...


It had been my dream to visit Nepal for years. I saw a slide show when I was fifteen from a couple who visited our church. The colours of the country blew me away. Years later I got to visit and it was just as good as I imagined. You don't get colours like that anywhere else. It was an artist's dream.

these monkeys were a pest!

Washington DC

I'm an art gallery and museum nut. And Washington is full of them! I love the National Gallery, the Hirshhorn sculpture garden and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I've been lucky enough to vist a few times and wouldn't turn down the offer to go again.

air and space museum

national gallery

sculpture park

Betty McCloud from Invertary would love this place!
She already thinks she's training to be the next James Bond...

The Trossachs

Deep blue lochs, rolling hills that are emerald green or covered in purple heather, tiny towns with crooked houses and winding roads that leave your heart in your mouth. There's no where on earth like the west of Scotland. It's beautiful and atmospheric. It's home to my heart.

Inverary, the town I based Invertary on - hence the VERY similar names!
Love this town.

Inverary castle. They shot an episode of Downton Abbey here.


From the bright white buildings, to the rolling sand dunes and sharp desert peaks, Oman is enchanting. The people are kind and welcoming, the culture is enthralling and the camels are hilarious.

Jordan's Petra

Vast cathederals carved into cliff faces, houses hewn out of stone. The colours of the desert gleaming in reds and oranges. And Indiana Jones was here!

Quebec City

Charming, magical and full of wonderful food. If I'm ever lucky enough to go again, I want it to be at Christmas time. I want to see the frozen waterfall and streets covered in snow. I bet it's like something out of Dickens then!

Next time I want to stay in this hotel!

Kenya's Wildlife

Spending the night in a tent surounded by African wildlife isn't something I'll ever forget. Neither is being chased by baboons, watching a herd of elephants meander along and catching sight of a group of giraffes all with their heads in the trees. From lakes full of pink flamingoes to coming face to face with a lion, Kenya is an amazing place to be.

Brighton Beach

When we lived in the south of England I spent countless hours sitting on the steps at Brighton beach, staring out at the sea and reading my favourite books. When I'm feeling stressed it's where I want to be--pity it's on the other side of the world now! The best part about Brighton beach was that instead of sand there were pebbles. I could hang out all day without getting sand in all the wrong places!

This brings back memories! 

the old pier burned down years ago and now looks like an odd sculpture


Mainly for the Gaudi architecture and the food! Would love to live in a Gaudi house. Is there any bulding more beautiful? It would be like living in a work of art...sigh...

Want to live here soooo badly!!!!

Okay, that's it for now otherwise this post will never end!! There are so many places I left out. Expect more in the future. :D

Thursday, 9 April 2015

a rambling post about nothing in particular...

Its Easter school holiday here in New Zealand, which means lots of rain, kids who are hyper on too much chocolate and no time to think. If you're reading this for a how-to on school holiday survival, then you've come to the wrong place. Basically I scramble through on ignorance, caffeine and noise cancelling headphones. 

I haven't done this...yet...

After months of sun, sun, sun (I'm NOT complaining, it was a great summer!) we're suddenly in a deluge. Great for the land, not so great for the kids. We're currently housebound which means MANY discussions about Lego and Barbies. If you're wondering, I have no opinion on what clothes Barbie looks good in, but I do think that the Star Wars Lego is the best.

Found this on the internet. I'd say this is a prime example of someone with time on their hands...

When I'm not entertaining kids, cleaning up after kids and feeding kids, I'm working on my latest book or reading. Right now I'm on a paranormal romance kick. I've worked my way through all of Kresley Cole's Immortal's After Dark series, Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld, Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling books and Lora Leigh's Breed books--amongst others. I love a hero with attitude and muscle. I also love a well written plot that's full of fantastical elements that pull me out of a life of Barbie discussions and cleaning sticky handprints!

click to go to a list of paranormal books on Heroes and Heartbreakers blog

Apart from reading obsessively, trying to write in a house overflowing with distraction and all the usual chores that come with being a mother of two small kids, I'm also on goat watch. 

I love my goat!

Our new goat is lovely. Soft, friendly, cuddly. She's also a worse escape artist than the chicken. We've been building fences as fast as we can to keep her in. When she's not heading to the neighbour's prize winning garden to eat her way through the flowerbeds, she's sneaking into the house. I've found myself saying things like: why is there a goat on the dining table? Will you stop letting the goat in the house? A goat is NOT a cuddly toy. Get the goat off my bed! 
These aren't my chickens, but I've just discovered that you can dye Silkie chickens!
You never know what might happen if I get really bored...Chickens beware!

The goat is more trouble than our pet sheep--who thinks kicking the back door and baaing through the cat flap will get her a slice of bread. At least the sheep hasn't jumped in the pool. So far this year I've had to fish a chicken and a goat out of the pool. I would like to point out that the pool is well fenced. We just have crazy, but enterprising, animals.

If I'm going to dye the chickens I may as well carry on and dye the sheep...

In the meantime, when I get time to write--which is usually between the hours of 9pm and midnight--I'm working on Calamity Jena. Right now it's looking good for a June release date. I'm also working on a paranormal series, just for fun. I'm not sure I'd have the courage to put it out there. My plots are whacky enough as it is without factoring in people with superpowers. I usually spend my time reining in my plots, toning them down and trying to make them more believable. 

Okay, enough rambling for now. The goat is making a racket. The kids have been watching TV for far too long and I just got a call from my teenage babysitter to say she's too sick to help out today. It's all good. There's still chocolate left and we haven't tried playing Barbie and Star Wars Lego at the same time yet!

I've found that looking at men in kilts works nearly as well as chocolate for stress relief...