I like a good list. Nothing says “accomplishment” like a checked box or a crossed out To Do. I dare say lists are my closest companions. Several months ago, I did a WU post on “How to Kick Out a Fast First Draft.” In many ways, that step-by-step method was an example (or symptom) of what I’m talking about.
Of course, as I said then, you can’t tackle the rewrite with a list. That part is an art that will not be rushed. It’s the time of inspired sleep, hot baths, long walks, chocolate, and maybe a drop of wine. It’s the stage of epiphanies. And–because I can not address it with a list–it is, for me, the most uncomfortable time of the writing process. It’s the swampy unease. So much so, I won’t talk about it here.
Rather, I’ll get back into my comfort zone and on to my next list:
THE FINAL REVISION
▢ 1. FIRST LINES
You’ve heard it said, your book must start with a killer first line. I’d go so far as to say that the same should be true for every chapter. Focusing in on the job of sharpening those lines is more easily done if you cut and paste them onto a single page. Work with them without the distraction of the rest of the book. Work and re-work until they each sing or zing or do something other than lie there flat and lifeless.
▢ 2. REMEMBER THE RUSSIAN
Russian playwright Anton Chekhov is known for a type of literary device commonly referred to as “Chekhov’s gun.” The notion is that if, in the first scene, there is a loaded gun on the table, by the second or third scene it should go off. If it’s not going to fire, don’t bother mentioning it in the first place. Conversely, if you know the climax will involve a gun, by all means make sure you’ve planted the gun in the early scenes.
▢ 3. ENHANCE THE SCENE
Look at each chapter and identify its mood (hopeful, terrifying, celebratory, mysterious…). Go in and enhance the mood with colors, weather, verbs, clothing, etc. Perhaps some of these details are already present from earlier revisions, but see what you can do to do more.
▢ 4. GET RID OF DOG TAGS
Search for words like exclaimed, questioned, interrogated, wise-cracked . . . . When they come up as part of a dialogue tag, ask yourself whether it’s a dog. Is it redundant, or distracting, or unnecessary? Nine times out of ten, “said” is preferable.
▢ 5. PRE-POSITIONED PREPOSITIONS
Get rid of redundant prepositions, for example, kneeled down. You can’t kneel up, can you? If you can, you might have a future as a circus contortionist. Delete the “down” and go with “kneeled.” Other examples, bowed down, stand/stood up, fell down, looked back over his shoulder.
▢ 6. EUTHANIZE THE PET WORDS
We’ve all got them. Maybe every other page you describe someone as “adorable,” or maybe, as you read your work, the word “just” just keeps popping up. All I have to do is just open my laptop and within the first three sentences, “just” will show up at least once. Just drives me crazy! Know your pet word. Kill it.
▢ 7. BUILD MUSCLE
Get rid of words that weaken a sentence, for example, about, almost, quite, and nearly. These words weaken every idea. Why does he have to “almost smile?” Why is she “about to arrive?” Why would anyone want to almost do anything? Make the characters act–not almost act.
▢ 8. THE BIG DUH. WATCHING, LOOKING, and LISTENING
This one is for First Person P.O.V. stories. Avoid sentences where your P.O.V. character narrates saying, “I watched as John did X.” Because it’s the P.O.V. character, the reader already knows he/she is watching–otherwise he/she wouldn’t know what was going on. “John sliced the bread” is better than “I watched John slice the bread.” See? Same thing with “I listened to John tell a terrible joke.” Just say “John told a terrible joke” and move on.
▢ 9. LAST LINES
As you did with your first lines, cut and paste the last lines of each chapter onto a single page. Do they each make you want to read further? Do they beg a question that must be immediately answered? Or are they an easy place to set a book mark and call it a night? Don’t let your reader have an easy place to stop. Your job is to keep them up so dang late they oversleep and are late for work.
Advantages of Writing a Fast First Draft
By: Lynda R.Young
Every one of us is different, which means we each need to discover what process works best for us when we write. Some writers meticulously plan out every detail of their story before they begin the first draft, some dive right in and wing it. Some writers will polish a chapter until they can move on, some power on and go back later to do the polishing. There is no right or wrong way to write, however this post is about the latter technique. It’s about why I’ve found writing a fast first draft is advantageous:
1. To avoid the doubts. Doubts can make the writer question everything from the believability of their plot, the realism of their characters, and even the worth of being a writer. These doubts may raise some valid questions, but mostly they’ll cripple the writer. As a result, the writer may veer from staying true to their story, or worse, quit. Writing a fast first draft will keep those doubts under control.
2. To be yourself. Similar to the point above: If you think about it too much, you could over analyse. The writing could then become stilted and ‘proper’ and you could lose your unique voice.
3. To keep the descriptions under control. If you are a writer like me, you can get caught up in the wonderful world you’ve created and indulge in rich descriptions. However, if you’re moving quickly through the story to get it down in words, then you’re likely not spending the time on descriptions. Descriptions can not only distract the writer, but when they’re overdone they can distract the reader. I find it harder to delete a beautiful description than to add one later.
4. To stay focussed on the main plot points. Distractions have a way of veering the story away from the main plot, especially if you don’t plan the story ahead. Writing fast will help an author keep an eye on the big picture.
5. To save time. I used to edit as I wrote because I loved to read my polished word. The problem was when I’d finished writing that first draft and read through it as a whole, I discovered some of those polished scenes had to go. I’d wasted so much time on sections I eventually tossed. Now I tell myself anything can be fixed… later! The main story structure is the most important element of the first draft stage. The rest can wait.
6. To finish. Many people start writing a novel, yet so few actually finish. Because writing a novel is a slow process, celebrating at key milestones is important to keep the motivation levels high. For me, finishing the first draft is one such milestone. When it’s done I have a completed story in my hands. Don’t underestimate the power of a finished story.
This post originally ran as part of the blog tour for my debut novel, The Worker Prince, at the blog of Patty Jansen.
Social Media has taken over the world, or at least parts of it. Its rise in popularity has been stunning. It’s literally changed the way most of us use the web forever. And that’s no exaggeration. Of course, along with it, Social Media has risen to be one of the most important tools for promotion, especially self-promotion. Yet a challenge remains: finding a delicate balance between self-promotion and alienation. How can you promote yourself well and still keep followers happy? How can you avoid being obnoxious? Here’s some suggestions from one who’s spent a lot of time and effort studying that very thing.
First, Social Media is called Social for a reason. Your focus needs to be on socializing not selling. The key to Social Media success, no matter what you do with it, is networking and relationships. When authors ask me when to start Social Media so they can promote their forthcoming book, my response is: you haven’t already? I started two years before my book came out. And I had almost no work to promote. Instead, I built friendships, learned who was out there, what people were doing, and supported and promoted them. My focus was not on me, it was on others. And that’s key to Social Media success. Making it all about you is the quickest route to obnoxious failure. Making it about community is the quickest route to success.
Second, Social Media sites are communities. Yep, I repeated myself. That’s okay, because this point is important. The key to Social Media success is providing useful content people will enjoy and value. The quickest route to that, before you’ve found your own niche, is to retweet the links and content of others. If you read it, and it’s valuable to you, share it. If someone’s doing something cool, let people know. Take the time to pass it on. People will remember. And they will reciprocate. And if you have established a history and reputation for supporting your community, your community will support you.
Third, support people with praise. If someone succeeds at something, congratulate them. It takes seconds to do it. It feels good. You’ve been on the receiving end, right? So I don’t have to tell you. Let people know you care what’s happening with them by responding with support. If they’re having a hard time, encourage them. If they’re succeeding, congratulate them. If they write something cool or send something useful, pass it on. It’s all about community.
Fourth, self-promote with care. I send out the same self-promotion tweet no more than twice a day. This may be supplemented by Retweeting or posting something someone else says, yes. But that’s them tooting my horn, not me. If I have several things to promote (I run more than one blog, for example), I will still only do two a day per item I am promoting. I do once in the morning and once at night to catch both crowds. I cross post from Twitter to Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and that’s it. The rest of my Social Media day is spent either encouraging, supporting or spreading the word as described in the points above. It’s not all about me. It’s not obnoxious. My friends know I have projects I am excited about. Many of them are in the same position and doing similar promotion. Being with a small press, they also know I may tweet a bit more about it than they do. It’s okay. Small measure is fine. Posting twelve or fifteen times a day about it, that’s obnoxious.
Fifth, wording matters. Use your sense of humor. Use humility. Don’t be pushy. When you do self-promote, do it in a way that’s not obnoxious in presentation. People don’t mind you letting them know your stuff exists. You have a right to be proud of your accomplishments. You have a right to want to share it. But if you’re obnoxious about it, they will mind. Most won’t even bother with it.
Okay, so there you have five tips for Social Media Self-Promotion success. Really, five tips for Social Media success, I hope. I wish you the greatest success in your Social Media endeavors. And hey, in case you’re interested, I wrote a book.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.