Tag Archives: editing

Stop! Rewrite!

When I first submitted Embers for edits, my editor sent it back to me with notes and corrections that didn’t even go past Chapter 3, and I was told to rewrite the whole thing.

In short, I was mortified. I thought that my entire book had to be awful for my editor to not have bothered to do a complete edit all the way through. I despaired for days. I convinced myself that I was a terrible author and that I’d probably never write another book again. In time, though, as the despair faded into determination, I realized that what my editor had done was really a blessing in disguise.

In Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki, the author recounts her journey to becoming a renowned geiko, starting back from her early childhood. While she was taking dance lessons, every girl there dreaded hearing their teacher tell them “stop!” For them, being told to stop was the dance teacher’s way of saying that their dancing was horrible and they should leave class and never return.

At one point, Mineko, who had been a proficient dancer and named successor of the okiya that took her in, received a dreaded “stop!” from her teacher and she returned home in tears. Upon arriving home, she was confronted and asked what was the matter. When she explained what had happened in dance class, she got an unexpected reaction.

The purpose of the “stop!” was not a punishment or an unofficial ban from dance classes. In actuality, it was a much-needed push. Mineko had been hitting a wall with her dancing, and her teacher had only been trying to give her that extra push to do better, to try harder. Ultimately, Mineko went back to dance class, and she returned stronger than ever, surprising even herself.

So, what does dancing have anything to do with my editor’s own instructions to rewrite Embers? I, too, was hitting a wall creatively. Writing Embers was a long and difficult process. I had a lot of challenges in life to overcome, so being able to create with such burdens on my shoulders was difficult.

When my editor told me to rewrite Embers, it was much like how Mineko had been told to stop. It was my push. I realized that it was the moment I could either allow myself to submit defeat and continue to wallow in despair, or I could stand and fight and turn Embers into the amazing novel it could be.

I’d worked too hard on it to give up. So I broke through the wall, and I shattered it. I came back strong, and now here we are, just days away from Embers‘ launch day.

So, I say to you other authors out there, don’t be afraid. If your editor tells you to rewrite your book, don’t greet it with despair like I did. See it for what it really is–the push to do better. Because what it boils down to is simply whether you’ll choose to give up, or choose to exceed everyone’s expectations, including your own. Face the challenge head on. You can do it.

Write the novel you were meant to. Take good and turn it into greatness. Take greatness and become extraordinary.

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Black March

For those of you who don’t know me, I spend a lot of time on Google Plus. I love the relationships, news and information I’ve encountered there. Being on there, I have been informed, enlightened and surprised. At times that surprise isn’t a good thing. It was through google plus that I first learned about the SOPA, PIPA and ACTA bills. All of them have a ‘stop piracy’ lean to them, but they do so at the cost of censoring the internet and invading privacy of the individual. Today, I got a great surprise.

Thanks to the efforts of a handful of incredible people. (Moan Lisa, Shauna Myers, Giuseppe Russo, Gianmario Scotti) I have learned about an effort to support, feature and encourage an open market by supporting the independent authors, artists and musicians around the world. The goal of Black March is to show the major individuals that influence how and where we purchase our entertainment, that we won’t tolerate their pushing the little guy out of the picture. I think this is a fantastic movement and I know I’m personally committing to the supporting Black March.

The best way to show your support for this movement is to purchase your entertainment this month from Independent Artists in all areas of entertainment. Take a moment and read a new author, support a new musician, and share your experiences with the world.


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Treating My Addiction

I have an unfortunate addiction, to something most writers use very sparingly. I am addicted to the semicolon.  Honestly, how often do you see a semicolon in most pieces of fiction? I use at least one for every story, blog post, and chapter.  I say, “at least one”, but I’m minimizing the hold this tiny punctuation mark has on me.  My beta readers despair, and my editor patiently makes repeated suggestions on how to replace ninety-five percent of the semicolons I’ve used. So we’re going to study this devious, little piece of punctuation together.

The most basic description/explanation of the semicolon I can find comes in two points.

1. It can be used to replace “and”, or other conjunctions, when linking one complete sentence to another.

2. It can be used to separate complicated items, listed in a sentence.

Let’s look at the first point in more detail.
Uh oh! Two complete sentences? So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time! I’ve been using the semicolon as kind of a long pause between a complete sentence, and an elaboration on the sentence.  I was wrong. Unless the original sentence and the elaboration can stand alone, as a logical, complete sentence, the semicolon should be a comma.

The two sentences thus joined should be a cause and effect situation, or a comparison.  In either case, the sentences must be clearly related in subject.

Let’s look at a few examples.
You could write: “The doctor ordered several x-rays, but there were no broken bones.”
Or you could write: “The doctor ordered several x-rays: there were no broken bones.”
Both versions of the sentence are correctly punctuated.

You could write: “The girl’s bicycle was red, and her helmet was blue.”
Or: “The girl’s bicycle was red; her helmet was blue.”
Again, both versions are acceptable.

So, when is it not acceptable.  According to what I’ve researched and confirmed by “Webster’s New World Punctuation”, if the two parts of the sentence are not clearly and logically connected, a semicolon is not appropriate.

A reasonable example of this would be: “The girl’s bicycle was black; the sun was beginning to set.” The relationship between the black bicycle and the sunset is not clear, making this an improper use of the semicolon.
This is better: “The girl’s bicycle was black, making it difficult to see in the dark; the sun was beginning to set.”
This is best: “The girl’s bicycle was black, making it difficult to see in the dark. The sun was beginning to set.

Some writers might attempt to link those last two sentences with a comma. That would be an error.  Using a comma to connect two complete sentences is comma-splicing, resulting in run-on sentences. If both parts could be a complete sentence on their own, a semicolon or conjunction are the proper choices.

Now this may seem like a dry blog to some of you, but I’m relearning this material as I’m writing, so I hope you’ll bear with me. We have one more example of this first point to cover. A semicolon may precede a connection adverb, (therefore, then, next etc.), but again, only if the two parts can function independently as sentences, and are clearly related in subject matter.

Here’s an example of the correct usage:
“Sally didn’t get her homework done on Friday; therefore, she wasn’t allowed to go to the party on Saturday night.”
Without the semicolon, the two parts must be separated into two sentence. (A side note: the comma following the adverb is considered a matter of style, not necessity.)

The second part of the definition of a semicolon is much simpler. When writing a sentence with several, complicated items listed, a semicolon serves to distinguish the items as separate entities.  Let me give a clearer picture of this phenomenon: “Chad’s suitcase was packed with a large, blue beach towel; a crisply ironed, white dress shirt; one pair of black trousers; one, blue pair of shorts; one, red T-shirt; two pair of socks; one pair of sandals; one pair of dress shoes; a yellow Speedo and one bottle of sunscreen.”  If a comma were used to separate the items in Chad’s suitcase, the reader would get hopelessly lost.  If your sentence includes even one item with a comma in the description, the semicolons are required to divide the items.

The semicolon does one more, dastardly thing to confuse readers and writers, alike. When it’s used to join two sentences, where the first ends in parenthesis or quotation marks, the semicolon is place outside of the parenthesis or quotation marks. What a sneaky little semicolon; no wonder it’s so seldom used!

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On Editing

The book in question is an urban fantasy paperback, traditionally published by Harper Collins, under their Eos imprint. It has close to 400 pages and I’ve read 125, getting more and more annoyed as I read further.

Is the story not that great then? Not at all. It’s an OK concept, decent characters, written in the 1st person – which I don’t usually enjoy, unless it’s Robin Hobb, she does 1st person very very well. But it’s OK. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it should be a good story. It has fights, vampires, lycanthropes, other monsters, a decent plot and some interesting side plots and diversions and plenty going for it – and it’s part of a nice long series. I love a good long series, they can keep me reading for book after book and I’ll read every single book in a series if I can get my hands on them.

But there’s something wrong, and that has me annoyed.

Here’s why. Continue reading

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