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My Freedom Flame

Motivating Writers Worldwide

Tag: Process

Help! The Editing Process Has Me Stumped!

For many of us writers, the editing process can be and is a drag. It’s the part most of us don’t look forward to, and we just wish we could write and upload first drafts to Amazon all day and all night, making a full-time living off passive income from now until, well, whenever to be honest.

The tips I’m going to give you today actually makes the editing process manageable, if not fun. It’s a fun process because for one, it allows you to read the story you created time and again. While the Law of Diminishing Returns eventually sets in after you read your story for the fifth or sixth time, rest assured that you will have a clean manuscript ready for publication.

In fact, if you can’t afford an editor, the best of which cost four-figures, you’re in even more luck, because this editing process is foolproof and one that I’ve tried for Northern Knights and Swords of Destiny.

Best yet, I managed to eliminate most if not all typos, plot holes, and even the teeniest of errors. I’m not saying my manuscript is error-free, but it’s as close to being so as possible.

 

Step One: Correct Major Errors

Okay, you’ve written your first draft, so now we’re looking for ONLY major plot errors. If you’d like, you can make grammatical corrections and even that of minor errors, but you’re looking for the major ones.

If you tend to write your entire manuscript without a next-day edit, which in my opinion is part of the writing process, you will find a lot of these.

If something like peoples’ names, places, geography, weather, ideas, and claims don’t match up here, you want to change them as soon as you get a chance.

Also, don’t freak if something doesn’t match up. Just look back into the story to find consistency. Keep your manuscript on a Word document and use the ‘Find’ tab if say, you suspect the same place or character has two different names, or if a character or even your narrations contradicts something previously.

Also, don’t read through your manuscript once. Do this TWICE, as it’s likely you will have missed a few major errors. For some odd reason, when we read through our own manuscripts, we can and will miss things, so don’t leave anything to chance and read twice before moving to Step Two.

 

Step Two: Correct Minor Errors

Okay, now you can move on to correcting minor errors. Some of these could be a character acknowledging another by mistake. For instance, in Missing in Columbia, Micah assures Cain of something, but just a few paragraphs later, Cain erroneously states, “Like Jed said.”

As you can see, going through Step One, I missed this crucial point since I looked for major errors. The example here is a minor plot hole.

Things such as character moods are big here as well. For instance, if Cain’s uncertain about something in one sentence but is confident in the very next, it can also be an example of inconsistency. Minor, obviously, but it will make more readers pause than you’d think.

If it’s hot out and Cain’s dripping with sweat one minute before being fully recovered the next, it’s another minor plot error. If Cain’s right-handed but is doing things with his left, it could be another error.

Jerry Jenkins once stated he had his characters wearing winter clothes in the Sahara during one of his drafts and it was only after going through his initial steps of revision did he spot it.

Read through your manuscript at least twice, and if you still find a good number of errors, read through one more time. I like to live by this rule: When you think you found your last error, read through your work again. You’re bound to find another.

 

Step Three: Grammar Errors

Here’s the fun part. Grammar errors.

Now, the good news is you might have spotted a few errors while reading through your manuscript, and if you have, great.

A lot of us will find and correct grammar errors while searching for both major and minor plot errors, myself included. As I said, feel free to fix them, just remain intent on the actual purpose you have of going through your manuscript searching for plot holes.

Now that we have most, if not all plot holes out of the way, grammar errors are the main attraction.

Always look for these words in general:

1. There, they’re, their

2. Your, you’re, you’ll

3. Its, it’s

4. Have, had

5. Is, are

6. Any word that describes possession. If something belongs to multiple people, the apostrophe is always after the ‘s’. If something belongs to one person, it comes before the ‘s’.

 

Step Four: Grammar, Part II: Omit Needless Words

This is a biggie, because every author thinks more is better. They couldn’t be more wrong. Less is more. Less is power. So make sure you reel in that power.

Omit the following words unless it makes sense to keep them:

1. Only

2. Just

3. That

4. Very

5. The

6. Of

7. Like

8. As

9. Suddenly

10. Had

11. Did

12. By

13. Be

14. Being

15. Was

Most of these words either contribute to passive writing or describe a verb that can be remedied by using a stronger verb.

‘That’ should only be used to clarify something. For any sentence with ‘that’ in it, eliminate the word and see if the sentence still makes sense without it.

Like and as are similes and should be eliminated.

Suddenly can be replaced with an author just stating what happened. The reader will know that an event suddenly happened.

Ditto for only. If there’s one, the reader knows there’s only one. And double ditto for just.

Had comes before verbs in passive writing. Eliminate it. ‘If someone had told Cain’ is passive. ‘If someone told Cain’ gets the same point across.

 

Step Five: Eliminate Adverbs

Anything ending in ‘ly.’ Seriously…..there is always a stronger noun or verb for your lazy adverb.

Cain ran quickly sounds terrible.

Cain darted cues the reader that he’s running faster than usual.

I like to use adverbs when a character speaks in dialogue, as it adds to their voice.

 

Speaking of which: Bonus Step: Add Voice

Yes, the final step is to add voice to your characters. Make sure your characters all sound different, to the point the reader can tell who’s speaking.

Don’t let your characters talk like you.

Instead, give them their own language.

Let them use certain words, phrases, and speaking styles.

Give your characters variety.

You might have a character who possesses attitude. Show it in their dialogue.

Another character might have a deadpan persona. Again, show it.

A third character might be the king of one-liners. Again, and again, show it.

Characters might have a short personality and will emphasize words and phrases often.

Give your characters voice and swagger so the reader knows who’s speaking and when.

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Dear Indie-Authors: Trust the Process

Trust the process might be the single hardest thing to do in the world today. Think about all the quick fixes that are marketed to us and the immediate successes that people claim to achieve using certain products, techniques, or methods.

A smart person like yourself knows it’s all B.S and most often these products, methods, and techniques contain a sample size in the thousands, where only one or two extraordinary subjects achieved anything significant.

That’s why the fine print that’s impossible to read on a TV screen say ‘results not typical’ or ‘your results may vary.’

The same bodes true for indie-authors and even traditionally published authors. Sure, we’ll see a few indie-authors make millions off one book. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

But it happens to few authors and even in these extraordinary cases, it’s highly likely they either a) worked for years on a single book, perhaps even a decade toiling away in front of the screen or b) one of their family or friends came across it by mistake, loved it, and said it should be published. That manuscript could’ve been hiding away in a computer file for years.

So don’t get discouraged when you’ve only sold a few books in a few months. Ask any indie-author making six to seven-figures off their books and you’ll hear they struggled for years trying to sell work they believed in and something only started happening a little earlier this decade.

And some of these people were writing since the 1990s, so figure that in and do the math. That’s at least a ten-year struggle.

How do you trust the process?

Let’s lay out a scenario.

 

Write a Series

At the time of this writing, the only book I have out is Northern Knights and it’s the first book in a series that will contain at least seven books, and perhaps as many as twelve.

A series isn’t going to take off immediately especially, as Northern Knights states on the cover, it’s Episode One, so for those who love to binge (I don’t binge but I know most everyone does), it’s unlikely they’re going to buy Northern Knights right now.

Swords of Destiny comes out next weekend and that’ll make two books. Book III will follow soon and that’ll be three books. I haven’t even finished writing the first draft of Book IV, so it goes to show how much further I have to go before seeing a dent in awesome royalties.

The lesson here is that a series will sell slower than a standalone book, however, here are the pros and cons of the series:

 

Series Pros

• Readers fall in love with characters so if they read one book and love it, they’ll probably buy the rest of the series.

• You can sell to binge readers by creating bundles and box sets, meaning readers will buy multiple books at a time.

• A series can make more money than a standalone in the long-term.

• You only need to invent a new plot and keep the storyline straight.

• As we see with TV and movie series, they will get and keep people talking, especially if you’re like me and are obsessed with including mythological, scientific, and magical mystery.

 

Series Cons

• A series won’t sell off the bat. I once heard from a successful indie-author (it was either Mark Dawson or Nick Stephenson) that serious sales don’t happen until the fourth book is published.

• It’s easy to create continuity errors, so a series will take longer to write and perfect than a standalone.

• It will only appeal to those in the one genre, while authors who write standalone can easily write for multiple genres.

• Stemming from the third con, a series will only appeal to a specific audience. Again, those writing standalone can morph from genre to genre if they choose.

 

Standalone Pros

• Ideal for writers wishing to write in multiple genres.

• Easier to make money in the short-term.

• Not obligated to be part of a series, but can become one in time. The author has a lot of control here.

• Can appeal to a variety of audiences.

 

Standalone Cons

• Limited number of eyes on the book. Unlike a series of say, seven books, a standalone is only one book, so it can be invisible to potential readers, unlike a series.

• If the author chooses to write different genres, they might have to make multiple brands and pen names, meaning more work beyond the scope of writing.

• Frontloaded potential for long-term income off one book. As once the targeted audience is finished with it there’s no sequel. A series would combat that.

• A new plot and character cast must be invented for each new work unless the author wishes to create a series.

 

Series or Standalone?

Really, the real winner here is all in the author’s own tastes. As you can see, though, both contain a process the author must trust.

The real question is whether the author themselves are willing to embrace the pros and cons of each path.
There is no right or wrong answer here, as both sides might take one to two years just to see some decent income.

Nothing is going to happen overnight for a long time, but the good news is with such perseverance, something will eventually happen overnight that at the very least will give the author a great side-income, with potential for more.

I’m not saying either side will allow you to quit a day job, but I am saying with time and effort, one side or the other may allow you to downgrade to part-time at a day job, and again, the potential is there to quit such a job for good and make money solely on your writing.

It’s what every indie and traditionally-published author wants, but when we don’t see immediate results, we tend to freak and become disillusioned with this field.

But it’s a business and it’s our business. Ask any on or offline business owner how long it took them to see a decent profit, and the answers might surprise you. Many of these people are successful today because they not only paid their dues but were charged double and triple of what cost the average person next to nothing.

But that’s what separates the average from the extraordinary.

Understanding the Creative Writing Process for Beginning Authors

Rules for Beginners to Follow

The creative writing process can be an overwhelming thought for any aspiring author. What’s funny is, there’s really no right or wrong answer. Every author has their preferred method. We have the outliners, pantsers, and hybrids.

I identify as a hybrid, usually taking time to create an outline before deviating from it at some point.

But, some of us think creative writing involves something reminiscent of the scientific method and it’s simply not true.

So, what are the “rules” of the creative writing process?

Well, there’s only a few authors should follow. Again, it’s not a matter of must, but one of should. Nothing is set in stone, but this will give all authors a peace of mind when going to write their great novel.

 

Rule Number One: Choose Your Style

Are you an outliner?

Outliners love to outline their whole work. Some outliners write a synopsis for each chapter, as I do. Others like to write a synopsis for every scene. And still others like to incorporate each. While this might make the process easier, if you’re scatterbrained as I am, you might deviate from this, as I’ll explain later.

What about pantsers?

Stephen King can identify as a pantser. What does he love to do? He’ll put his characters in terrible situations and write to find out what happens to them. I like this method a lot, but not from the first to last page.

What about hybrids?

Ah, this is me. Hybrids love to start with an outline, usually a small chapter synopsis, as where is this chapter going. We love to deviate sometime or another as our story develops. My second full-length work coming out, Swords of Destiny, is a good example of the hybrid model and it’s where I found my author identity as a hybrid.

So, choose your style now. You might need to experiment with different styles to really get a good feel for which one comes most naturally to you and go with it. Chances are, you’ll end up incorporating this style into all your works.

 

Rule Number Two: Avoid Plot Holes! Write then Edit

How to avoid a plot hole?

Write one day and edit the next.

Resist the temptation to write each day as you’re going to make a mistake. Yes, I’m going to be real with you here.

The only way you can go without making a mistake by writing the whole way unless you have a notebook in hand and take accurate notes. Even then, your notes might not match your manuscript.

So, save yourself some trouble and write one day, edit the next, write the following day, edit, and keep going. Resist the urge.

Your work is going to read much better by the end of your first draft.

Yes, your first draft doesn’t have to be terrible; it can be quite good. Why not do all you can to make it great?

So, write what would be your first draft on the odd days and on the even days, edit it and immediately turn it into your second draft.

Boom! You have two drafts finished after one draft.

Trust me, it’ll save you some heartache and soul searching.

Rule Number Three: Use Limited Point of View

First or third person works well. While rare, second person can also be used but it’s found in non-fiction.
First person point of view involves the character speaking as themselves telling the story. I, me, mine, etc.

Third person is also popular. It involves the calling the main character by their name. However, everything is shown through their eyes.

Second person involves the writer speaking to the reader, referring to the reader often.
You can also tell the story in the past or present tense.

But, you must pick one and only one per book. For instance, all of my works are told in third person, past tense. For instance, Cain walked, Cain did, Cain went to, Cain bolted, etc.

Why just one?

Because you’ll confuse the reader if you’re reverting between past and present, or first and third. The reader isn’t going to take the time to figure out what’s going on; they’re going to pick another book and throw yours to the wayside.

A lot of authors recommend starting with first person, past tense, as it’s the easiest to master. I considered, but ultimately third person, past tense came more naturally. If a certain point of view feels natural, feel free to go with it.

 

Rule Number Four: Go Small, Not Large

The Lord of Columbia Series and Northern Knights takes place on a national scale, but I’m not about to write it like a history text. Readers aren’t fond of this so instead of focusing on the macro, focus on the micro.

In Northern Knights, I focus on Cain’s story. Yes, there’s action going on all over the colony as they battle the empire but we’re focusing on Cain. The reader is aware of the ongoing conflict but their interest rests with Cain.

For instance, think Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We know the Death Eaters are coming and Voldemort’s taking over (again). But, our primary interest rests with Harry Potter and the other main characters.

Your readers are going to focus on your main characters and your main characters only. They will care about the macro-aspect of the book, but the micro is what makes the story itself.

Instead of focusing on the big picture, focus on the stories of the individuals. It’s more believable to the readers, especially if this happens to average characters.

 

Conclusion

For any new author, these four basic rules are musts to follow. Choose a style, whether an outliner, panster, or hybrid. Write on the odd days, edit on the even days. Your novel will look better at the end of the first draft. Really, the second. Choose a point of view method and stick to it. Focus on your point of view and main supporting characters. It’s them the readers care most about.

Alright, take action. Find the writing style that comes naturally to you and start alternating writing and editing days. Make sure you’re consistent with point of view and finally, keep the scope on the straight and narrow.

How to Rebuild Your Franchise: Trust the Process

How the Astros Did It, the How 76ers are Doing It, How the Browns Will Do It, How You Can Do It

A little lesson we can take from sports: Trust the Process.

 
Oh, I love that term, and it pays dividends. Trust the Process. You’re the process, and the process is you.

 
You discovered your passion at a young age, but hesitated for years before pursuing, waiting for the right time, but the right time, the perfect time, never comes.

 
It never came for the Houston Astros, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Browns. It all just sort of happened.

 
The Astros won fewer than sixty games between 2011 and 2013 before winning the World Series last year. The 76ers tanked for three seasons, finishing the third season of such a tank-job at 10-72. Last season, they were the third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

 
And the Cleveland Browns are 1-34 since Week 15 of the 2015 NFL Season, but with guys like Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Myles Garrett, the future is bright.
But what happened first?

 
These three franchises played some of their worst seasons and had some of the worst stretches in the history of the MLB, NBA, and NFL. Ever.

 
It worked for the Astros and 76ers, and it’s likely to work for the Browns as they head into their third season of such a massive rebuild. Note it took the Astros and 76ers three seasons before they started winning.

 

Enough Sports Talk

But enough of the sports talk, I want to discuss how this all relates to you as we make up the tiny part of the population crazy enough to embark on such a process to pursue passion. Moral of this story is never expect anything to happen overnight. Even those who become overnight sensations worked their asses off to become overnight sensations.

 

In other words, they may be overnight sensations in the public eye, but how many years did they spend pursuing?

 
You can become an overnight sensation tomorrow if you’ve spent five years pursuing passion and your book takes off like wildfire on Amazon. Hey, the public thinks you’re an overnight sensation, but you should be humble enough to admit it took a lot of hard, and at times, uncertain work. Five years’ worth, to be honest.

 
Motivated yet?

 
I sure am, especially since I’m a Browns fan and haven’t seen the team make the playoffs since I was in the sixth grade, only to see them blow the 2002 AFC Wildcard Playoff to the Pittsburgh Steelers of all teams (yes, those of you who’ve read this post regarding Lord of Columbia, it’s the reason the protagonists are orange and brown and the antagonists are black and yellow…it’s yellow, not gold).

 

Average Joe and Plain Jane

And I know, you’ve probably been living a life that’s eh, everyman or everywoman status. You probably make a decent living, hang out with friends, are single but may have a go-to when things need to be spiced up. You probably work for a company that treats you good but would do anything to break into your passion but have zero idea where to begin.

 
Okay, let’s analyze the final part of that last sentence. But would do anything to break into your passion but have zero idea where to begin.

 

 

Here’s where the ‘how to’ begins.

 

 

See, it’s not an acceptable excuse today. In your hands, you’re either reading this article on a laptop, mobile device, iPad, or something similar.

 
And, you’re on the internet. Isn’t it the greatest invention ever? In your hands, you have an endless array of knowledge. Don’t tell me you’ve no idea where to begin. The internet can tell you anything these days.

 
What do you mean you’ve no idea where to begin?

 

Before the Internet?

Even before the advent of the internet, this was still an inexcusable excuse made by everyone who claimed, “Well I’d have done this instead of that, but I didn’t know anything about it.”

 
Look, I’m a nice guy but I can also be very edgy. The square root of all individuals will produce half the outcome. Say there’s a firm of one hundred people; only ten will produce fifty-percent. In other words, you’re not going to produce if you use the above excuse. “I’d have done this instead of that, but I didn’t know anything about it.”

 
See, because back then, the cost of living was lower, the dollar was stronger, jobs were much easier to come by, and since most areas in the Rust Belt were booming at the time, our parents and grandparents were simply unmotivated in anything but their job.

 
Only problem is in these jobs, a lot of guys clocked in and went to sleep. Again, the square root of all individuals will produce half the outcome. Except these were union-based jobs and the man sleeping made the same as the man in that square root cluster.
See, but even then, they still had a wide array of information. No, the internet didn’t exist. No, a telephone didn’t tell them anything they wanted to know within seconds (imagine being a time traveler and telling people in the 70’s and 80’s that a phone would do this one day), but they had resources.

 
Where were such resources?

 
1. Encyclopedias (ever hear of them?)

 
2. Newspapers (remember these?)

 
3. Informational VHS tapes (you can find a VCR to play these things in your local antique store)

 
4. Libraries (you’d be surprised how many people still use these, and rightfully so)

 
5. Books on the subject (see above)

 
6. Magazine subscriptions

 
7. Seminars

 
So no, internet didn’t exist, but the seven items I have listed above isn’t necessarily thinking outside the box. Anyone could’ve done this. It’s all in the mindset. It’s all about the process.

 

Conclusion

It’s all about taking the plunge, taking the risk, forgoing the great paying job with benefits that you never saw yourself doing, and becoming a better you.

 
So, not matter what, even if you don’t have internet for whatever reason, you still are out of excuses. It’s time to trust the process, start rebuilding your franchise from scratch, create your dynasty, and live a life you’ve always wanted working for a living, but working in something you’ll always cherish and find rewarding.

 
Of course, there’s risk involved, but the harder one works, the greater the reward because they’re the people who never give up. And neither should you.

 

Trust the Process.

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