The Honest Truth of Editing.

It sucks.

There’s nothing more devastating than having a piece of work that you were terribly proud of taken apart and positively criticized for 5000 words straight. It’s needed of course, because it makes you a good writer as opposed to a passable one.

About 18 months ago, I realized that my fan fiction work was drawing more readers than I had originally anticipated. The number of readers was a clear shock and quite suddenly it dawned on me that my work was read and that people saw something in my work that was worth coming back for, chapter after chapter. With that discovery, came the realization that I would have to keep an eye on the quality of work that I put out there. Reading through it once or twice wasn’t going to cut it, because inevitably mistakes are missed and sentence which you think might make perfect sense, falls one step short of terrible.

So I decided to ’employ’ a volunteer Beta Reader. I had a rocky start, but eventually settled on a guy which I will refer to as Tenchii Knight. TK literally swooped in and saved the day with my writing. He had a good eye for mistakes, he bothered to explain to me why he chanced certain things, he taught me about Americanisms, sentence structure and he helped to tone down what was a terribly elaborate writing style. TK fixed my writing.

And, he did it with honestly.

In him, I realized the value of constructive criticism, and how sharing your work with someone whom you trust to be honest, can improve your writing. And, he showed me that although writing is a lonely profession, you don’t necessarily have to struggle on your own. He became the person whom I could go to with a terrible sentence and say: Fix it.

He made me better and that is ultimately the goal of writing, to strive to better heights, to improve on your own style and to produce something which you can be proud of. It’s not nice sometimes, especially when I receive a piece of work littered with red comments and fixed spelling errors, but it’s needed. It’s like the sting of an antiseptic on a wound which allows it to heal.

So, yes.

Editing sucks, but a Beta Reader can make it better and flow smoother.

My advice to you is thus.

  1. Find a Beta Reader, preferably someone who respects your work (and yourself) enough to critizise you constructively.
  2. Edit. Go through your work if you decide to make it public in the form of fan fiction or web fiction. In an ideal world, even blog posts should be edited by a third party but honestly, that will take half of the fun out of it.
  3. Take pride in your work. It will inspire you to become better.
  4. Listen to what people say. Often, you might not agree with them, but they have valid points if they are not senseless flamers (definition of a flamer: someone who gives abusive criticisms).
  5. If it all gets too much, sit back, take a break and then come back to your work. You’ll see it in a whole new light.

This post is dedicated to my Beta Reader of 18 months, Tenchii Knight. Thank you for helping me my friend, it’s always appreciated.

Also, to Jenn who comments here, who has more recently started helping me with my stories. 🙂 Credit must be given, where credit is due.

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Editing. Grr.

Editing.

Something all writers and potential writers do, but something I do feel that I somehow didn’t sign up for. I did a massive amount of editing last night on a chapter in my Kim Possible fan fiction story, The Healer’s Touch and I have to admit, it really broke my speed. I had it in my inbox for two days before I finally worked myself up to looking at it. The problem was that I had had trouble starting it, and knew very well that it was going to need some major work to complete it.

Luckily though – I have an amazing (two actually) Betas, who got my work up to speed and ironed out the bits that I had trouble with.

The problem still remained that I would have to do some editing on my own, putting the finishing touches on a piece of work I couldn’t round off the first time. It was a long, agonizing process, hindered by a terribly critical Inner Editor who had taken offence from a somewhat bad and critical review on the last chapter. I struggled with it, turned it around, almost took out half of it until I realized that I would have to replace the words that I took.

From seemikedraw.wordpress.comAnd then out of desperation, to try and determine where I thought I had gone so horribly wrong, I decided to read it to myself. I sat in my quiet room, almost close to midnight, and played around. I did voices. I did accents. I read with the motion I knew the characters were speaking and quiet suddenly, everything seemed better. The flow was good, comfortable. The dialogue intense, but easy at the same time. As I ironed out the last of the bits, I realized that it wasn’t my Inner Editor speaking to me, but my Inner Critic, someone whom I feel should be ignored at all costs.

You see, editing is necessary, but so is having faith in yourself and faith in your writing. So when you struggle, I have a hint that I can maybe give you, perhaps even a piece of advice.

Sit back. Read it. Aloud. Maybe even in a Scottish Accent.

You’ll hear then what makes sense, feel on your own tongue what doesn’t. And remember, that it’s your story. If you’ve received one bad review in 15, know that that’s just one. There were 14 other people who did like your work. J

Editing is necessary, but it shouldn’t be a chore and certainly shouldn’t be an excuse to dish your own work.

Words that Wait.

Dear Author,

I realize that it has been some time that we have communicated. You have been quite busy, your mind taken by some of my other brethren. I thought it wise then to tell you that I am still here, waiting. Who am I you might ask? Why – I am your words.

And I can wait for you, no matter how busy you are, not matter where you are, no matter what you are planning to do, I will be here, waiting. Because I am patient, I am constant and I am available whenever you need me. Sometimes there is a block between us, but that block is easily overcome. If you cannot find a way to scale the block or break through it, search for new words – there are many of us and we are eager to please. Sometimes, the road which those words lead you on will bring you back to me. And I will be here, waiting.

I would like to remind you please that you have quite a few WIP’s to complete. That stands for Works In Progress if you have forgotten. I will send a list of them to you attached to this letter though there is one that I feel I must point out specifically. Please take note that next month is NaStySuMo – National Story of Superheroes Month. In it, you and I will be requeried to work together to create any work of fiction that will involve characters of a supernatural origin, using their powers for good or evil. Knowing you, it will be evil. I do not mind working with second hand words (termed fan fiction) but I enjoy creating something new as well. Any of these options will be viable, as long as you just have fun.

Please remember though, that I am patient. If you do not think that there are any words available for it now, just wait, we will come. You can participate at any time during the month of August. Ideas come and go, but words remain forever.

I would please like to attach the following link to prove the validity of my statement.

Letters frozen in time arrive after 60 years – Telegraph.

I would like to thank you for your time and know that I will see you soon. If you cannot come soon, please be at ease, for I am always patient.

Your Words.

Do you want to get NaSty?

I’ve used the term quite a lot the past couple of months – using it as a referral to my NaStyRoMo project and the people whom I met there. To recap – NaStyRoMo 2010 was a project proposed by a now good friend of mine, Antonio Rich, whom I met on Kim Harrison’s blog – The Drama Box. He challenged us to write a story of romance with a super natural twist in February. My blog story Bitten found its origin there as well as my friendship with the people whom I feature in a NaSty Pixie tale. The project, based loosely on a NaNoWriMo principle of dedicating a month of your life to writing, wasn’t as strict as NaNo (in which you need to write 50000 words in one month). It merely required that you write your story, finish it by the end of February and share it so that others can see what you accomplished.

So, we’ve once again decided to embark on another project – this time titled NaStySuMo or National Story of Superheroes Month. The idea is to write a story featuring any kind of superhero or person with superhero powers from the 1st of August 2010 to the 31st of August. And…
We want YOU.
We’ve decided that, instead of keeping it amongst ourselves, we want to try and recruit as many people as possible but there was a problem. How do we do that? Where do we host it? How do we tell enough people of it?

Simple – create a website.

It’s with great pride and excitement that I present you with the Official Nasty Writing Web.

With this, we hope to make NaStyNess a little bit more official, allowing others to come in and join us.

Here you can read the month’s stories, interact with other writers and have fun in our forum. Registration is simple –but not required if you do not want to interact. Our focus is on everybody from bloggers to poets, song writers and fan fiction authors. Here, we also offer a place for people to host their stories if they cannot do so on websites like blogs, FanFiction.net, FictionPress or places of your own design.

So, come and join us! You do not need to write a story to be allowed to participate in the forums. There should be people who provide feedback as well. 😉

Everybody is welcome, we might be NaSty, but we are also Nice…

Some Tips… Or, rather – more tips… :)

Right, so after a bit of an extended, though not necessarily wanted, break from writing, I leap back into the saddle, only to realize that I have nothing to say. I’m hesitant to talk about myself, firstly because I gave you two posts that involved almost nothing except my personal anguish and my personal little insanity (still hearing that damned singing goat in my head, I diddy diddy do…). So, I’m going to fall back onto a subject which I’m comfortable with.
Writing.
I’ve been writing ever since I was little, but it’s only been since about 2003 that I allowed people (who I don’t know) to read my stuff. As I’ve mentioned before, the site on which I post my stuff is called Fanfiction.net and I’m a very active member, having archived almost 600,000 words there. (The day I hit a million, I’m going to have a party…) Admittedly, I didn’t do very well (popularity wise) in the beginning, but that was partly because I chose to wrote into a genre that wasn’t very popular. (I literally had three readers in the beginning). Then, I moved the another genre, Phantom of the Opera, and my reader count spiked which was a bit of a relief really because I was starting to loose a little bit of confidence in myself.
I was very surprised while I was writing on Phantom, that some people started approaching me and asked me to have a look at their stories to tell them what I thought. I didn’t think that my opinion mattered all that much (and still don’t think that it does, I’m an amateur) but I started giving them the advice that would’ve helped me when I started in the beginning. After much debate (about a full 10 minutes) I decided to post it here today:

Alyss’s Fan Fiction Tips… (And, a little reminder to tip waiters 10%…)

1) Spelling and grammar – It’s at the top of the list for a very good reason. I can’t stress enough how important it is to run your work through a spell checker, (both MS Office and Open Office have one). It’s the first thing that people notice, and one of the first things that people point out if you do it wrong. I can say this because I used to be very guilty about it. I’ve only been using a Beta Reader (I’ve got the best Beta in the world…) for a year, and I can see the difference that it’s made to my feedback. Even FF.net has it in their guidelines (like the unwritten rule: SPELLCHECK!)

2) Re-reading – Read through your work, make SURE that it’s consistent, that there aren’t strange words that crept in there unnoticed and that you have all your paragraphs. Trust me, I’ve lost SENTENCES due to some unknown and strange glitch on my computer. A paragraph would read something like this:
Alyss stared at the computer lost in thought, listening to the alarm going off (for the umpteenth time) in the next room. She stood up and
There was nothing to drink in the fridge, she realized miserably. So, it meant that she had to return to her post, empty handed.
Not terribly exciting, but you get the idea. The thing is that spell checker and grammar don’t always pick up everything. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t pick up when there should be an ‘an’ and a ‘and’ or a ‘he’ vs a ‘she’. Trust me, there’s nothing weirder than reading a scene with your heroine, only to find the character change gender half way through (several times in fact…).

3) Visualize – Run your story like a movie in your head. If it doesn’t flow, if the characteers find themselves in awkward (physical) positions that nobody but a yogi master can manage unassisted, rethink. Don’t have your character bend down to pick up a gun from the top of the cupboard or turn around towards the wall to run forward. (unless you want the character to intentionally knock itself unconscious, then – fire away).

4) Consistency – I’ll keep the gun as an example. Make sure that say, when a character puts a gun down on a certain shelf, that they return there to pick it up. Don’t have them getting it from beside the fridge next or in the car. Remember, even though its fiction, there are certain rules and even if you are working in your own universe, it’s important that – once you’ve established the rules of that plane, not to go and break them.

5) Remain true to your character and yourself – Don’t write anything you don’t want to and don’t let your character do something that’s against his/her fundamental nature unless you’ve been building the character up to that point.
Something that should also be added here – because it’s fan fiction, is to remain true to OTHER people’s characters. If you’re working with a character that you’re borrowing from another story – don’t let them do anything that they wouldn’t in the course of their usual stories. This is so important.

6) Mary Sue’s and Billy Bob’s – you’ve read the blog post (and if you haven’t refer to the post: The Dreaded Mary Sue…). If you want to be taken seriously, stay away from them.

7) Melodrama and cliche’s – Unless you are very, very good – don’t use them. Soapies can get away with it, we can’t. A good story is one that’s unpredictable. Melodrama and cliche’s are sadly expected and when you write them, your readers will go: Oh, I saw that coming…

Ultimately, writing is about entertaining, not only yourself, but the people you are trying to sell your story to. These tips aren’t rules, nor are they the beginning and the end. And, they certainly don’t come from someone’s who’s a professional but, as with most things in life, I’ve discovered that they work for me – so I hope that they work for you.