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In case the New Year brings that dastardly task of editing your novel: Kathryn’s Guide to Editing Fiction

Knowing what to do after you’ve *finally* finished the first draft of your manuscript and have mopped up all the blood, sweat and tears that went into it can be a bit of a mystery if you’re new to the game. You know editing comes into it, and you may have heard about beta readers, but what comes first, and more importantly, how do you go get started?

To help with the cacophony of questions littering your head, I’ve made a general guide to help you get going. This is very much based off my own experience, and is not an exhaustive list:

  1. After you’ve written that last word on your manuscript, put the whole thing away somewhere and leave it for a good amount of time (I personally leave it for about three months, but others leave it for longer) and get on with other things. Start a new project; finish any others lurking around; if you’re thinking about publication, research which avenue might be best for you and what that entails; basically, anything to keep your mind stimulated but doesn’t involve that first draft. This is to make sure that when you do eventually go back to it, you can view it with fresh eyes – meaning that plot holes, weak characters or lack of world building will jump out at you and therefore be easier to fix.

 

  1. Don’t focus on spelling or wording on this initial edit. Look at the big picture instead. Are there any holes in your plot? Do your characters feel flat or serve no purpose? Does the story start in the right place, or are the first few chapters unnecessary? What scenes work, and what don’t? If you’re finding it hard to tell if certain points of the story are unnecessary, try removing them and see if it affects the overall plot. If the plot still flows, then those scenes (however beautifully written they are/despite how much you personally love them) have to go. Nothing ruins a good book more that scenes that jar the pacing by adding nothing.

 

  1. Once you’ve fixed the big issues with your manuscript, you can either put it away again, or continue on to the next stage. Again, I personally leave it for a bit because I know I get far too close to my work.

 

  1. Now it’s time to really focus on your characters and world building. Your characters need to feel like real people – give goals and dreams, flaws and bad habits, and don’t hole them up into stereotypes. If they’re from very different backgrounds/circumstances to you, make sure you do your research – not only to make them realistic, but to avoid being insensitive to readers. (If you’re worried about your representation of people from different walks of life to you, you can always hire a sensitivity reader at a later stage.) When working on world building, think about the social structure of each place, use all five senses to describe things and make sure you don’t fall into the pit of info dumping. Also, in dialogues scenes, look out for ‘white room syndrome’, when no description about where or when the scene takes place is included.

 

  1. Next, we get in to the more technical aspects of writing. Tense, point of view and grammar. (If you feel your manuscript is shaping up nicely, you can start looking at spelling, over-use of words and continuity, but I would leave that until last.) It doesn’t matter what point of view you use, or what tense, as long as you keep them consistent throughout the manuscript – unless you have a very good reason not to, like an intentional stylistic change to illustrate a certain point. If you struggle with grammar, there are a lot of helpful books and forums, as well as YouTube guides. (I have a book on grammar that’s actually written for kids, but the language and examples are so clear that it’s the one I go to most.)

 

  1. The stages of editing can get a bit murky here – some writers have to repeat steps until they’re happy and end up with a good number of drafts, others breeze right through and end up with relatively few. However, whether you’ve done a lot of back and forth on your work or not, this part is important. Read your work aloud. I’ll say it again: READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. From start to finish, until you’re sick of the sound of your own voice. This is so you can clearly see problems with sentence structure, missing words, typos, continuity, repetitive description and all that jazz (as readers we’re always pleased to spot others’ mistakes, but are far less pleased as writers if someone kindly points them out in our own work).

 

  1. Finally, when you are happy with your manuscript and can’t find anything else to work on, it’s time to send your work to beta readers. These can be other writers, friends, family or simply people you know love to read. What is important to note, however, is that it’s far more helpful to send your work to readers who readily consume books in that genre than ones who have never read/rarely read within your genre, as the feedback you receive will be more relevant. When you do receive feedback, look for trends in what people are saying. If eight people say a scene isn’t working, then it’s probably wise to take another look and see if it truly does need revising. If one beta reader hates a character but the others love them/make no comment, then perhaps that’s just their personal taste. Consider all feedback, but remember that it is still your work, so you have the final decision on what to change.

 

So there you have it. Where you take your work from there is completely up to you. Whether you opt for traditional publishing, self-publishing or somewhere in-between (be absolutely sure you don’t head down the path of vanity publishing – an old but good rule on how to tell a vanity publisher from a real one is that money should always flow to the author, not away) make sure you do your research.

Poetry

This love

The page is white. Bright, brilliant.

Seeping onto it are reds, blues,

greens, purples, yellows.

There are no eyes,

but there are lips,

and an embrace, so close that the colours

merge, the figures

separate but still one.

Their clothes are plain,

because how can any garment

outshine the prism inside?

Poetry

Disobedience

My lungs heave up and down, played by my fingers like bagpipes

whining into the night about the injustice of you walking away

from him. How dare you? You’re both so close, such a true pairing,

but my pen never lets you tell him how you feel. You’re

out of my control, not a character, but a person in your own right,

not mine. I want you to run with all your passion back into his arms.

Can’t you obey the ink, just once?

Reviews

Review: The Witches of the Glass Castle by Gabriella Lepore

I first heard about The Witches of the Glass Castle from Benjamin Of Tomes (Benjamin Alderson) who is a booktuber who also has his own publishing company, Oftomes Publishing. The Witches of the Glass Castle is published by Oftomes, and was recently on promotion, which is one of the reasons that I took the plunge and downloaded it. I say took the plunge because the book is about teenage witches with romance intertwined, not usually elements I’m interested in… but let’s just say I am now.

The Witches of the Glass Castle follows the story of Mia and her older brother Dino, who have just discovered that they’re both witches. Their mother and aunt, who they learn are also witches, take them to stay with their old mentor Wendolyn, who helps young witches develop their powers and also control them, while also providing a safe atmosphere for the youngsters to mingle… well, relatively safe. There are two types of witches that the siblings learn about; Arcana, who are then further split into groups depending on their power, be they Seer, Reader, Conjurer, Tempestus (elemental control) or Sententia (reader of emotions), and Hunters, who have individual powers like the Arcana, but are also trained as warriors from a young age and pride themselves on being detached from human emotion.

While staying with Wendolyn in her home, the glass castle, Mia and Dino find out what their powers are. Dino can hear people’s emotions, and the sound causes him physical pain as his powers are so strong he struggles to control them. Mia, on the other hand, has the ability to control the elements, but no matter what she tries, she can’t seem to harness them. That is, until she has a run in with one of the castle’s Hunters, Colt, who tells her that the rainstorm drenching the castle grounds is entirely her doing and that she should stop it. When she protests that she can’t, he grudgingly helps her, and despite the divide between Arcana and Hunters, she starts to trust him – something that her friend, and Colt himself, think she’s crazy for.

As I said above, I’ve never been crazy about stories based on witchcraft or romance, and it was purely out of curiosity that I picked this book up. Yet I found the concepts of all the different magical abilities intriguing, and I liked the characters a lot – even if they weren’t likable in themselves, I enjoyed how they were written. Colt and the other Hunters caught my attention in particular, as they have no distinction between different types of passion – be it romantic passion, or passion for their next kill – it’s all one and the same to them, and I thought that played into the plot really well. There are some elements that are Harry Potter and Twilight-esque (I have never read Twilight, but I recognize the tropes in it) but I would say that they are only vague similarities at best. The glass castle isn’t really a school for magic, more of a place to study in one’s own time, with guidance if needed, and there are no structured lessons. That sort of thing.

Overall, I have to say that this book grabbed me so much that the moment I finished it, I bought the sequel and swallowed that up too, both in the space of about three days, and I had a serious book hangover once I’d finished. So maybe I do like romance and elemental control…

Kat out!

Reviews

Book Review: Waking Beauty by Brittlyn Gallacher Doyle

Waking Beauty is a retelling of the classic sleeping beauty tale, but as with all good retellings, it has a twist:

Aurora Claire (or just Claire, as she prefers) was always told that she would fall under a sleeping curse for one hundred years on her sixteenth birthday – a curse bestowed upon her by a vengeful dark fairy. She lived with the knowledge that everyone she knew would be dead by the time she woke up, and her life was filled with half-friendships and loneliness because of it. Yet she had her fairy gifts – grace, beauty, creativity, wit, sweetness, song – to make up for it. So on that fateful day, she climbed the tower where the dark fairy was waiting with the spindle that would send her to sleep for a century, and pricked her finger just enough so that a single drop of blood was spilt.

Fast forward one hundred years.

Waking in her tower from an age of nightmares, she finds the handsome prince who was foretold, along with his tall and awkward knight. She and prince Damien hit it off right away – he’s everything she’d ever hoped for – but the way his knight, James, seems to regard her with constant disdain makes her feel ill at ease. However, when they leave her tower, she is overjoyed to find that the rest of the castle has been asleep just as she was, and everyone she knows, including her parents, are waking up as well. Wedding plans are soon underway, with much discussion of alliances between kingdoms. A perfect future with a perfect prince, whose charm appeals to everyone. Almost too much so.

Yet after only a few days, a servant is found asleep, and no-one can wake him. Then another is found, and another. The curse appears to be returning, and Claire has no idea why. What’s more, her fairy gifts are disappearing too. She stumbles ungracefully, freckles sprout on her nose, and her hair is a fright. Nor can she keep her mouth shut at James’s obvious distaste for her. Where did her sweetness go?

As panic spreads around the castle, Prince Damien and James volunteer to seek out the fairy who altered the dark fairy’s original curse from death to a long sleep, in order to find a way for the curse to keep from taking hold again. Claire, feeling responsible, insists on coming along, and though James argues that she will slow them down, Damien uses his charms to quiet his friend and allows her to come along. Claire and James bicker incessantly, but after a while, she realises that she finds it much easier to talk to this disapproving, quiet knight than her beloved prince, and dares to even consider him a friend…

First of all, I love that this story focuses on what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up, and that it’s not an immediate happily ever after.

The characters are well written and likable (when they’re supposed to be). Claire’s development from prim princess who has always followed along with what everyone expects of her to a confident young woman who is capable of making her own choices is exceedingly well done, and as the story progressed, I liked her more and more. Damien I was suspicious of straight away – no-one is ever as perfect as they appear, and towards the end, his behavior really made me grind my teeth, as it was supposed to. James reminded me very much of a character from one of my favourite fantasy series, not just in appearance, but personality as well. He likes Claire for who she really is, not what her fairy gifts make her out to be, and the back and forth between them was full of wit and humour.

The book also ended brilliantly, in a way that was satisfying but not overly convenient. The narrative is from Claire’s point of view, so I could really get inside her head, which I felt worked well for the plot as a whole.

Waking Beauty is definitely a book I’d recommend for anyone who loves fairy tale retellings with exciting twists, strong female protagonists and good character development, plus more than a dash of romance (which is odd for me, because I’m not normally a romance fan.)

Kat out.

Poetry

Bees

We spent the night together.

No doing, just being.

Sometimes it’s nice to just be.

Bee in a bonnet – it feels

like that, except there’s never a way

to release the busy buzzing scouts.

They nest at the edges of my vision,

perpetually reminding me

of all the little things

that eat away at my nerves.

They quiet when I’m with you.