Revision Tips for Writers

 

We can all agree writing is a joy. It’s fun and many of us make our living doing it. But, there are parts of the publishing aspect that can be frustrating and difficult. Most of us find revision to be the most difficult hurdle. “I like it the way it is. Everything there is important and I don’t see anything that needs changing.” How many of us have approached the revision process with that mindset? I think we all have, at times. In other words, you are not alone.

Although I am an editor as well as a writer, I don’t find revising my work to be easy. However, I’ve collected tidbits of advice from several writers and editors. I’ve found them helpful, so I’m sharing them here:

  1. Revise big stuff first, make small edits later. This doesn’t mean you should not correct obvious typos and grammar errors as you notice them. However, you shouldn’t be actively tinkering with word choice until after you’ve nailed down the structure of your piece.
  2. Put the manuscript down and walk away. Writers need at least a little distance from their manuscripts before jumping into revision.
  3. Scan the whole manuscript without reading. Scanning can make big problems more obvious than a writer might not notice when reading closely.
  4. Read carefully. Take your time and read every word. Then, read it out loud. This will help you catch obvious errors and check for smoothness or the “flow.”
  5.  Look for ways to be more concise with your language. Can you turn a 15-word sentence into an 8-word sentence? Can you turn an 8-sentence paragraph into a 5-sentence paragraph? Less almost always means more for the reader.
  6. Use active voice over passive voice. There may be occasions for using passive voice, but for the most part be active.
  7. Vary sentence structure. Don’t fall into the trap of always writing: Noun + Verb + Noun = Sentence. Even if it’s grammatically correct, using the same pattern over and over again will make your manuscript boring. Don’t feel like you have to be creative with every sentence; just check that you’re not falling into a monotonous pattern.
  8. Save each round of revisions as its own file. Start with the first draft. Then, the second draft. Then, the third draft and so on. Saving these files provides a record of your changes and shows your development of the story.
  9. Have someone read the manuscript. The more eyes the better, because they’ll be more objective when reading, and they’re less likely to make “leaps of logic” than you, the writer, might. It is always best to ask someone other than a relative, who naturally will be biased.
  10. Print the manuscript for a final edit. There are things you’ll catch on paper that you won’t on the screen.

Take your time with revision. Set it aside for a few days, a week if you have the time. Then return to the work with a fresh attitude. Save your revised version in a separate file. Be sure you have addressed all of the editor’s comments. Do not ignore them. If there are some changes that you don’t agree with, write the editor a note explaining why the revision called for will change the meaning of your work. It’s best not to take exception to more than one or two editorial changes. If you and the editor are far apart on the way the piece is written, you may wish to withdraw the work and resubmit to another publisher. That, of course, is beyond the topic at hand.

Revision is necessary to polish the work for the reader, and the reader should be foremost in your mind. If you use these revision tips, you’ll be ahead with your revision process and find the editor is not the ogre you imagined.

 

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The Writing Process

The writing process for a book can take several years. During that time, you will write and rewrite many times. It helps to join a writing group, which can help you stay motivated and focused, encourage you and critique your work. If you can’t take criticism, you are at a distinct disadvantage from the beginning. Practice taking criticism from your critique group. DO NOT take criticism personally; they are trying to help you to get published.

Step One

Create a team of those you trust who can help shepherd you through the writing  process, whether you intend to self-publish or you dream big of getting your book picked up by one of the omnipresent Big Six publishing houses.

Step Two

Get a driving force who can throw out realistic and pertinent deadlines. Someone who is an interested third party who keeps you in line for you to attain actual progress. This is crucial so you actually can see the idea into fruition.

Step Three

Write, write, write, take a break, go for a walk or swim, or have coffee with a friend then write some more.

Step Four

Take breaks from time to time. It helps prevent writer’s block. Hint: always take a break just when you’ve decided on a distinct direction for your story. Be sure there’s enough of it down so you won’t lose track and can pick it up readily when you return. Leaving the story at the end of a chapter can cause your mind to go blank. Begin the next chapter don’t leave a blank page for your return.—Best Advice

Step Five

Breathe. Take time to walk away from your masterpiece and breath. Get a fresh perspective from a trusted adviser. Take time to vent about your long writing journey. And take time to walk away for entire days, maybe a week or two. Time when you have left your thoughts on writing to the birds. Free your mind, meditate on life and it’s beauty, but whatever you do, remember that stepping away and thinking of other things can help you re-evaluate what you are putting on each digital or physical page.

Step Six

This one is just a thought: Think about writing a chapter or two at a time, maybe not in the order they’ll appear in the final product. This is a distinct advantage of the word processor over the typewriter.

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Book Promotion Checklist

1. A short book description

There are a handful of reasons you’ll need a short, compelling book description (one or two sentences at most): as a soundbite in interviews, as a teaser on your website, as the hook in your press materials and communications with folks in the publishing industry, and maybe even as the tagline in your email signature!

2. A longer book description

Once you’ve hooked ‘em with the sound-bite, they’ll want to read more. Give them another paragraph or two to really sell the book. But don’t get long-winded or you risk losing their interest.

3. Your author bio

So, what’s your story? It’s time to tell the world — in the 3rd person. 2 – 4 paragraphs should be plenty if you tell your story well. If not… well, 2-4 paragraphs might be painful.

4. Web content

Start putting together all the web content you’ll need well in advance of your release.

This includes some of the things mentioned above (bio and book descriptions), but also blog posts announcing the book launch, behind-the-scenes content that gives your readers a glimpse into your writing process for the book, any study-guides or accompanying material that you’ve envisioned for readers, your book trailer, links to retail sites where your book and eBook can be purchased, etc.

5. A good author photo  

In fact, try to get a few good shots. A headshot, a casual shot, one with lots of space or landscape that you can use as a wide header image for Facebook and/or your website.

6. Hi-resolution .jpg of your book cover 

Ask your designer for a hi-resolution .jpg file of your book cover. You’ll need to both display it and make it available to download on your website (for any bloggers, media folks, or book critics who write about your book).

7. Banners/ads

While you’re talking to your designer, and while your book design is fresh in their mind, ask them to put together any banners, headers, or print ads you think you’ll need in the first 3 months after your book is released. You’re going to be very busy at that point, and you don’t want to have to wait for your designer’s schedule to clear up when you’re in the thick of things.

8. Business cards

They’re old-fashioned. But if you attend writers conferences, they’ll come in handy. We’re talking about writers, after all.

9. Signage 

If you plan on doing signings, readings, or getting a booth at a book fair, you’ll want to invest in some eye-catching, portable signage. It could be a pull-up banner (for big shows) or as simple as an 8×11 laminated sign, but make sure you’ve ordered it long before the event.

10. Press materials

Your press materials (press kit, press release, etc.) will be comprised of some of the things already mentioned: bio, description of the book, plus some of the story behind the book and author, contact info, any standout praise you may’ve already garnered from the press, etc.

When you’re gathering all these elements together into a press kit or press release, keep asking yourself these questions: “Why should anyone care about my story and book, and have I clearly communicated that here?”

11. Book trailer

Book trailers are important. In a world where YouTube is becoming one of the most-used search engines, it sure helps to have some video content available. Plus, book trailers are great content for your own website, for other bloggers, and to mention in your press release. Besides, it gives the impression that you’re really in tune with the times.

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On Using #Hashtags

Do you even know where to start? Or what words or phrases you should be using the hashtag to increase #traffic?

  1. The number one rule to follow when using hashtags, do not overuse them ever. The rule of thumb is to use only two in relevant twitter tweets, and no more than three in blogs. We all know that Google does not like spam and if you use to many hash symbols you can be penalized for spamming both on twitter and on Google.
  2. Hashtags are used to categorize relevant words in tweets and posts. All you have to do is put the hash symbol # before the word with no spaces.
  3. When users click on hashtagged words, he or she may find the rest of the tweet or post.
  4. When users search for a hashtagged word he or she will come across tweets and posts that he or she may not have come across with just a regular search.
  5. Now this is very important. Hashtagged words usually do end in the trending section of twitter. So if you want your post to go viral then you need to use the hash symbol before those words that are most likely to be searched for in the search box.
  6. It is important that the hash be used only with relevant information.
  7. If you want to gain more followers and improve your reputation then you had better get used to using the hash symbol on each and every relevant post or tweet.
  8. All relevant phrases should be short. It is best to just hashtag one word as opposed to a whole phrase. Users searching are more likely to be searching for the hashtagged word.
  9. Always try to use relevant hashtagged words. You can do a quick search for words that have been tagged with search.twitter.com. If you notice that there are relevant words and conversations that come up, you may want to use a word to tag similar to the one used.
  10. Be careful of how you use hashtags. Make sure you are not offending anyone and not making erroneous mistakes online. Twitter will not tolerate any hashtag abuse. Here are the rules about using hashtags from twitter. You can find this at http://www.hashtags.org/platforms/twitter/why-use-hashtags-guide-to-the-micro-blogging-universe/

 

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Volunteers Needed…

We are in need of volunteer reader/editors for the PTP Book Division. Be the first to read and evaluate new submissions of our fiction and nonfiction departments (you choose which you’d rather read). We do not publish pornography or other sexually explicit material. Our fiction is multi-genre; our nonfiction is geared toward environmental and social science issues. If interested, please contact Mary Nickum at ptpbookdivision@pathtopublication.net

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Basic Rules for Writers

Are there simple basic rules for all writers? I’ve been asked that question many times. There are books written to help writers write. Some are very good. The Chicago Manual of Style and A Handbook for Scholars are invaluable resources. Others are grammar books, which are useful but don’t get to the “nitty-gritty” of what is really required of a writer who wants to make a living writing. These rules are made by writers for writers and are meant to be encouraging as well as instructive.

Rule No. 1 Determination

Determination is the quality of being determined to do or achieve something; resoluteness. You must first make a decision to write. This sounds simple enough. Most writers have made that decision. But, there is more to it than just deciding to write. What to write and how are next. The decision of what to write is based partially on your knowledge. Most writers who are knowledgeable about fishing will be unwilling to tackle an article about the development of cancer tumors. Determination must be tempered by knowledge. The often repeated writer’s adage, “write what you know,” is applicable here.

Resoluteness, however, is a useful word when discussing determination. To make your resolve tangible, set goals. These points will assist you in your goal-setting exercise:

  • Be specific about what you want to achieve. Instead of saying ‘I want to finish an article by Fall’ state ‘my article: Fishing in the Arctic will be completed by October 1, including all editing and photography’.
  • Break this goal into smaller chunks…’baby steps’ of say 500 words per day. Be sure to schedule work with photographs concurrently.

Not taking this step leaves you wide open to missing your deadline. Giving yourself an achievable goal means you are more likely to reach it. The results must be measurable, otherwise how do you know you’ve achieved what you set out to do?

  • Is the goal attainable? Don’t set your sights too high. Always work within your own abilities, otherwise you will become disheartened. Keeping ahead of your goal allows for all those ‘life’ situations that you may, and probably will, encounter.
  • Always give yourself an end date. This gives you a specific time-frame in which to work.

If you are resolved to write a quality piece, which most writers are, you have observed the first rule for writing.  Your written goals will provide you with a ‘roadmap’ for the next rule.

Rule No. 2 Discipline

            The second rule is harder than you think. Writing requires discipline. Most writers’ advisors say “write something everyday.” It doesn’t have to be submission quality. Writing a letter to your son or daughter away at college, writing in a blog or writing ideas for future stories all count for this task. The main idea here is to cultivate a regimen for daily work. Make time to write. This can be difficult if you have a full time job that is not writing related. If evenings and weekends are the only available time, other family commitments must be taken into account. Look to writers’ blogs to exchange ideas as to how other writers have accomplished this seemingly insurmountable feat.

Writer’s block is a well known malady for writers. If you just can’t get to the next paragraph or sentence. Take a break, if that doesn’t help, listen to your favorite music or change writing venues. Try a coffee shop or a library. Having resources close at hand might help, too.

Rule No. 3 Focus

            A writer must focus. If you jump from one topic of interest to another several times when writing a story, the outcome will appear jumbled and without direction. The same is true if you attempt to write while personal issues are distracting you. No writer can do his/her piece justice when struggling with unrelated issues.

Here are three questions to answer to help you focus:

  1. Who is the intended audience/reader of my piece?
  2.  What is the single most important point of my piece?
  3.  If the reader thought about my piece one week after reading it, what would their dominant impression/recollection would be?

Summary

             After deciding to write, you must decide what to write; then, set a writing schedule for yourself. Make sure that your goals are attainable. Writing takes discipline. You should write something every day. If you have a chosen topic and a deadline goal, work toward that goal. If there are days when you can’t work on your piece, write something anyway. When setting out to write, be sure you can focus on the job. Don’t let yourself be distracted by outside events or demands. Scheduling and adhering to that schedule will help you to produce a piece within the designated timeframe. Determination, discipline and focus will give you tools to produce a quality piece.

 

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Speaking Tips for Writers

  1. Make your introduction brief. Like less than 30 seconds. If someone introduces you, skip the introduction completely, because you were just introduced. There’s nothing that stalls a presentation or performance more than a two or three minute monologue before getting into the “meat” of things.
  2. Use the podium. If there is a podium or table, use it to hold your materials. Sometimes we shake when we read (even if we’re not nervous, though especially if we are), and we shake more if we become conscious of our own shaking.
  3. Use the microphone. If there’s a mic, use it. Sure your voice might carry without one, or you may have to fiddle with it a moment to adjust for your height, but people in the back can hear better when your voice is amplified. Trust me on this.
  4. Encourage audience interaction. When performing poetry, this means you can allow an audience to clap if they choose to clap. When giving a presentation, let the audience know whether it’s appropriate to ask questions as you present or if you’ll have a Q&A after the presentation is complete. Then, make sure there is a Q&A.
  5. Act confident. You might be terrified, but try not to let it show on the outside. To accomplish this, stand tall. Speak with conviction. Make eye contact. Most importantly, don’t apologize. While you may know when you’re making mistakes in front of an audience, many of them are probably unaware.
  6. Be organized. If you’re giving a presentation, have talking points ready to go before the presentation. If you’re reading poems (or from a fiction/nonfiction book), have your selections planned out before you hit the stage. The audience will be uncomfortable and frustrated if you spend time paging through your book to find the correct passage.Organization goes a long way in how the audience perceives you and how you perceive yourself.
  7. Slow down. This is an important tip, because many people automatically start talking fast, especially if they know they’re on the clock. I try to remember to breathe and pause in appropriate places. Nothing awkward, just long enough to allow my audience to digest what I just said. A pregnant pause may be useful but use sparingly.
  8. Make personal, add humor. Be careful with humor. Sometimes your jokes will not be personal. Sometimes your personal stories will not be humorous. Sometimes the stars will align and both will coincide, and that’s when you’ll engage your audience the most. While I advise humor and personal anecdotes, make sure they have context in your presentation.
  9. Stop before you’re asked to leave. There’s something to the thought of leaving the audience wanting more. Know your time. Wear a watch. And end a little early (like a minute or two). If the audience feels like the presentation or performance went by fast, they’ll attribute it to your great speaking skills. Don’t drone on…
  10. Provide next steps and/or a conclusion. Depending on why you’re speaking, you should have some kind of suggestion for your audience. Maybe it’s to buy your chapbook or applaud the hosts. Maybe it’s to put some of your advice into action immediately. If you’re presenting a topic, it’s a good idea to sum up all the main points before sending your audience back out into the world.

One bonus tip: Provide handouts. Whether you’re reading poetry or leading a workshop on business management, handouts are a great way to let your audience have something tangible to take away with them. Your handouts should be helpful and relevant. They should also include your name and contact information, including your website or blog url. (Yes, it’s a sneaky good marketing tool.)

Just remember, speaking is an activity. Most activities are hard to master unless you practice. So get out there and speak and realize that you’re going to make mistakes early on. That’s part of the learning process. Just dust yourself off and get out there again.

 

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