Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Importance of Editing and ROW 80 Check-In

One of the best things about now being dedicated to writing is that I can attend as many writing conferences and workshops as I like/can afford. And I have taken this opportunity and gone overboard!

I attended one conference a few weekends ago, another this weekend, have been accepted as a volunteer for the Melbourne Writer's Festival (so get to go to all main events for free, which I plan to take advantage of) and then another Christian writer's conference in Brisbane in October.

Further, I think God might be trying to give me a subtly hint, as the two workshops I have attended recently have emphasised different aspects of editing. 

Winter Writer's Workshop: 

A few weekends' ago I was at the Winter Writer's Workshop, which featured Damon Young (who does more academic and literary writing, but has a fantastic voice that you could just listen to for ages), Jo Case who wrote a memoir about when she found out her son had autism (and was involved in the Australian writing scene a lot before that), and my favourite, Kate Forsyth (fantasy writer who I saw last year. I even did one of my very first posts on her method of creating flow. Vintage 100FD!)

If you are in Australia, and ever see a course run by Kate (she does quite a few, particularly in Sydney, where she lives. I'm currently contemplating whether to fly up for one), I highly recommend them. She has such a gift for breaking down the writing process and actually teaching you tools that will help you to critically approach your writing and improve it. Her advice on structure and pacing is fantastic.

One thought she raised that I want to share with you is about editing. A lot of writers (me included at times) think that they do the creative process of getting the rough draft, and then someone else can do the boring part of editing. Kate is completely against this. As a writer, the editing process is still your responsibility, and makes you a stronger writer. I have now come to completely agree with her. The process of analysing your own writing and determining whether you have used the most effective tools to get your meaning across is how you learn and develop. It also allows you to put a stronger personal voice on it, rather than having more of someone else's style in your writing. So, learn to edit! (but also always get someone else to have a look, after you have done your very best.)

Melbourne Word Writer's Intensive:

This weekend I was offered a very special opportunity. The Word Writers, a Christian writing group focused on promoting Australian Christian Writers (yes, they exist, and all of the ones I've met so far as awesome), had an intensive editing workshop on Friday and then a conference on Saturday.

The intensive editing workshop was amazing. I sent in the first chapter of my manuscript. (Sally Hunt, as the appraisal from the competition said it needed a lot of editing, though I've still been short listed, yah!) About a week ago I received in depth commentary back on that from Mary Hawkins, an Australian romance writer (both Christian and mainstream - her first  published books were by Mills and Boon, which is funny for a minister's wife :D ). However, she then requested the rest of the manuscript, just to see what the appraiser meant by certain comments, so I sent that through.

I turned up on Friday and she had gone through my entire manuscript and made comments! It was not as in depth as the first chapter, but it made so much sense. I have to admit, there had been comments by the appraiser which I was like 'where have I done that? What does she mean by that?' But when I saw the parts that Mary had highlighted, and her suggestions, there was an 'Oh, that bit... right....' moment or two.

My biggest problem was point of view. I know when editing other people's work to look out for point of view, but in my own work some of my 'darlings' were witty things I had said as the narrator which were outside of the point of view I should have been in. So, time to be humble and fix those up. I spent the day editing away, and then a large part of the night as well, and I'm still about halfway through. I have also re-written my climax scene (it was theologically controversial how I had presented it). I am so much happier with my manuscript and feel I've lifted it to another level. I'll also remember in future when writing to keep tight control on my internal camera.

So all I can say is that new writer or old, you need someone else who will critically look at your manuscript. It can take it to a new level, and teach you things about your own writing style that will help you in the future.

ROW80 Check-In:

I haven't checked in for a while, and my goals were particularly for that week. However, I have managed to get some things done, but probably not as much as I like.

Overall, I now have 4 of Dave's short stories out (two hunting ones and two military adventure), all on Smashwords and 3 of which are on Amazon. (Two are on Smashwords for free, and I feel bad about putting them on Amazon for 99c when you can get them for free. So have listed one on Amazon and advised them it can be purchased cheaper elsewhere, will see if they match it.) If you get a copy, a short review would be really appreciated.

I have also finished the initial edit of 'A Little Bit of Leaven', the story my great-grandfather wrote. It's strange because it's not thrilling, suspenseful, romantic etc., but after every session I just felt really peaceful and comforted. Then in the last part I was almost in tears, in a good way. I am excited about what to do, but also a bit fearful that I won't do it justice. But better than it being hidden away!

So, my goals for this week:

1. Write up everything I want to change/add to improve A Little Bit of Leaven.

2. Create a Print On Demand version of 'The Five Day Writer's Retreat'. Have done most of the cover, just struggling with a gripping blurb. Then I just need to reformat the document to print properly. Going to be testing out CreateSpace.

3. Finish editing 'Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists'. Meant to do this last week, but instead got the two military short stories out for Dave.

4. Organise my first writing intensive workshop! This is pretty exciting. At the Christian writer's conference people were asking about self-publishing, so I mentioned that I had started a company helping authors self-publish by offering whatever services they need to complement their skills. One lady was really interested and asked if I could help her. I mentioned to her that I was running a workshop through my local community centre on 'An Intro to Self-Publishing'. She was very excited, but lives about 3 hours away from me. She asked if I could run a weekend intensive on the topic? Thinking about it overnight, I came back the next day and said Yes!

So, end of October, The Five Day Writer is going to run its first weekend intensive on 'What's Involved In Self-Publishing'. It will cover all the steps and what you need to know to complete each one. It won't be as practical as my 7 week course through the Woodend Community Centre, as there is just not enough time to walk everyone through setting up their author pages, etc. But it will show you where to go, what to do, and how to find the help you need.

I'm very excited about that, but also a little bit scared. I at least have two people already prepared to come (my aunt said she would come as well), and my little sister has agreed to help me with the catering. My parents will be travelling and said I can use their gorgeous American Colonial house in the country to host it. It will be an intimate group in comfortable chairs around a fire, eating, chatting, passionate about writing.

So, if you know of anyone interested in self-publishing who lives in or around Melbourne, point them my way!

What questions would you want answered about self-publishing?


  1. My main issue with self-publishing is cost. It's expensive to hire editors, cover designers, host a blog, etc. I've learned how to make my own covers, and I do self-edit to within an inch of my MS's life, but like you say, it's going to need a pro after that and they aren't cheap.

    Question: I need to register for tax exemption as a non-US resident to receive my royalties from Amazon, Smashwords, LULU. What's the swiftest way of doing so via post?

    Congrates on all your accomplishments and wow :) on your challenge to write 100 first drafts. Inspirational. X

    1. Hey Shah, Smashwords has some useful advice on this, and the forms you need to download. Check out:
      Hope that helps!

      I agree with you about the cost. If you want to do it well, which I hope everyone reading this does, then you need to invest. I think of it like starting my business, that it is just going to cost so much to create my product, and I have to believe that my product is good enough that I will recoup the expenses. The only problem with writing is that it is more reliant on promotion and luck than with a physical business, I think.

  2. Great thoughts on editing! I know I've learned a lot from editing my own work, with the help of some great writing craft books. I can't imagine sending a first draft to an editor, either. Horrors! :)

    I'd be interested in hearing about the changes you made to your story's climax.

    1. Writing Christian fiction is difficult because everyone has such a different experience of their faith. You can either fall to the side of banality that anyone who's experienced any emotion can accept, or describe something that is not in the experience of a lot of Christians.
      While my ending was theologically sound and part of my personal experience, it was not something everyone could understand. So I ended up making it a bit more vague, doing it from the perspective of the main character who doesn't actually understand what's going on. In later books I'll explain more what 'really' happened :D

  3. It sound like you are forging ahead at near full steam!

    I've done one WANACon online, and loved it. As far as in-person writer's conferences, not yet. The budget stretches toward unschooling events that involve the kids, but, as I find wiggle room in it and the kids grow older, I will be able to.

    Your grandfather's story sounds intriguing. It must be a little intimidating to work on it. I edited a children's story for my mother some years ago, and she was hurt at my suggestions. I chose not to do that again. I imagine it's easier and more difficult, at the same time, if the writer is no longer living. It's lovely that you want to share it, and I imagine your intent will lead you in the best direction.

    What you're doing seems to be working well. May your joy and productivity roll on! =D

    1. I am cautious about making too many changes to my great-grandfather's manuscript, partly because I'm not sure how my grandfather (his son) will react. He's the one that has entrusted the work to me, and he has said that I can edit and re-write as necessary. But the work is written in a style very different from what is common now, a style my grandfather remembers and understands, but I'm not sure a lot of other readers would. So how much do I change?
      For example, it is very, very dialogue dense. Kate Forsyth in the editing class was telling us to balance out our dialogue, description and action (varying for pacing reasons), but my grandfather said that in his day it was a mark of a great writer to be able to carry a story through dialogue. So, what to do?

  4. It sounds like you are getting so much good stuff from the conferences. Hurray! And congratulations on organizing your first writing intensive workshop. You have a great set of goals set up, too. Enjoy!