Laying a new floor is like Writing a novel

We are finishing up some major rehab on our home. The latest project was installing hardwood floors in the whole downstairs. I’d visualized what it would look like and was excited to see the finished project. The whole process reminds me of writing a novel. Each step in the process of installation took much longer than I anticipated, even with my wonderful son bringing all his great tools over to make the job easier. My hubby, grandson and my son’s brother-in-law all had a part in giving me my beautiful wood floors.

We had lots of insulation and carpet bits to remove from the subfloor. That reminded me of all the repetitive words and unnecessary phrases in my draft.

Rough draft/ subflooring

Once the yucky old carpet was removed we discovered that the subfloor was threequarters of an inch below the wood floor already in the kitchen. We could have laid the wood floor and left a nice trip zone between the family room and the kitchen. That short cut would have saved time but made it less than I envisioned. Less professional looking and an even flow of flooring from room to room.

The subfloor is the rough draft, the time to get the story on paper. Nailing down the story arc is the key to giving your manuscript a good subfloor.

Short cuts early on in a manuscript create problems later. If your idea for a scene isn’t working because previous scenes don’t lead up to your present scenario you will trip up your readers. Don’t leave those uneven parts in your novel. Early in the process, you can fix them.

Stripping the area down to the subflooring revealed a problem. The previous owner left the linoleum when they laid the wood floor. To be sure the finished floor had an even flow required an additional layer of three-quarter-inch subfloor on top of the original. It leveled the floor to the perfect height to install the new flooring.

Rework those early drafts until the story arc moves as it should. Be sure each scene seamlessly flows into the others.

The first draft, even the second is that subfloor stage.

What a difference adding the extra layer of subfloor made. Tweaking your manuscript at this phase adds depth and makes it better.  Although the new subflooring looked clean and fresh I still wasn’t about to invite guests over. The same is true of your manuscript at this stage—don’t rush to send it to a publisher.

Proper layout

My husband and son taking a break from laying the floor. The bare floor is beautiful but there is so much more that needs doing before we can reveal the finished product.

The bare wood is beautiful and to remain so there is a specific way it needs to be laid. Each new row of planking must be laid so the seam of the previous row of planking is met with a solid surface. The patterns make the flooring firmer.

At this point in your story creation, you need to go back and layer your scenes. Check to see your character arc is moving along. Look for show vs tell areas and checking your POV.  Be sure surprise twists in the plot make sense, otherwise, the reader will be irritated. The pattern of your story arc and character development must be a thing of beauty to keep readers engaged.

The new and old flooring had to be sanded before the final step can take place. The stain had to match throughout, and it had to lay flat with no bubbles or imperfections. At this stage, you may gut an entire scene from your novel or rearrange sentences or even chapters.

Turning good to great

It took a weekend to get the floor laid properly and it still wasn’t entertainment ready. This step pairs with the polished final draft. But there are still things to transform the manuscript from good to great.

After the stain and varnish are added, the true character of the flooring comes to life. Then you wait a few days before furniture can be placed on it. This step in your manuscript is the polish your prose stage. You scour it for overused words, correcting punctuation and grammar (errors you missed the first ten times you read through your work) and tweak your character arc. Anything to make your novel shine.

Trim and final touches

The trim pieces are added and then the floor is complete. Your publisher adds the trim pieces and gets it ready for release.

The time from ripping out the carpet to completing the floor was several months. We had other rooms that need to be finished first. My son has a full-time job so he came when he could fit it in.

A book can take up to eighteen months after you sign a contract before it sees the light of release. During that time editors work with you to rework and polish to perfection, the right cover is chosen. The front and back copy added, and the font is selected. Not to mention the proper layout of the e-book edition.

My hubby looked over the finished floor to see if there was any touchup needed. We discussed the type of lightening we need and the furniture placement to set off the floor to its best advantage.

Shortly after receiving your paperback copies in the mail it’ll be release day and your beautiful novel is ready to share with the world.

Now that my floor is complete and my furniture in place I am ready for holiday gatherings.

And additional thought

The hardest part of this whole process was the waiting. Walking around on subflooring for months was frustrating and embarrassing. As a writer, the hardest part of novel creation is the edit and rewrite stage. The initial story and the final product are the most fun. Somewhere during the process discouragement sets in. That’s when I seek out others to remind me the finish line is just over the next hill of edits. By the time we got to the stain and varnish stage, I was more than ready for the final reveal. Don’t miss a step in the process and you’ll love the final result.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? What is your favorite part?

 

Tips for polishing your manuscript for submission

Again, today I will share a few things I took away from the Serious Writer Boot Camp I attended last month. Imagine you’ve finished your draft of your story and now you need to go back over it, polishing it to a fine shine. Editors will always find something that needs to change, it’s what publishers pay them for. 😊 But there are things that can get your manuscripts rejected out of hand. We all know to catch all typos and grammar errors. No matter how good the story, no editor will consider it worth their time to fix those. There are several things you can do beyond running the spell/grammar check on your word document. Read it out loud. I like to use a read-aloud app. Word has it in the review tab. A monotone voice reads to you and it’s amazing the errors you can hear.  Find a friend or family member to proofread for grammar and spelling. Fresh eyes find what you miss. After that is done, it is still not ready to send to a publisher.

 

 

Try the Look Method

Use the zoom button in Word and zoom out to view a whole chapter at once. ( Each version of Word has it in a different place. I won’t give instructions here.) Scroll through your chapter pages and look at the first word in each paragraph, does the same word appear often? Change some of those opening lines. Then do the same with each paragraph. How many times does a sentence begin with the same word?  Fix those sentences. When you do, you’ll be surprised how much stronger the paragraph becomes.

Boot “as” out of your manuscript

Eliminate “as” in your manuscript. Most of the time what you are describing is better said as two sentences.

Example: Clara worked on her sewing as the sunset, making it hard to see her stretches.

Instead: The sunset over the horizon. Clara strained to see the sewing in her hand in the fading light.

My example could still be improved upon. I hope you get the idea. It was recommended to remove 95% of them from your book. That’s a lot of “as”.

No “was”

Limit the use of was, and its tenses. In dialog it’s fine.

“I was with her.”

But find more creative ways to describe something without using was. Sometimes was is fine. But too many screams amateur writing. Also eliminate it, that, there, they especially preceding was.

It was a terrible day.

That was unexpected.

They were all together.

Can you improve on these sentences?

Just do away with overused words

Is there a word you use a lot? Just is my bugaboo. So, I use the find tab and it highlights just in my manuscript. Often a sentence is fine without it.

I just want to say.

I want to say.

Just leave me alone.

Leave me alone.

Just who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are?

I know these are dull sentences, but I think you get my drift.

 

You may have lots of grinning, teasing, chuckling going on that becomes distracting to the reader.  My suggestion is to grab a thesaurus or find one online to change up your wording.

 

Hope you found these helpful. Rather than overwhelm you, I’ll share a few more tips in my next post.

 

Share some of your best practice in polishing manuscripts in the comments.

 

Why I added ProWritingAid to my writing toolbox

word cloud of Prowrite blog

ProWritingAid creates Word Clouds like this one. You’ll find all these words in my blog. This is one of the additional feature if this program.

I find self-editing daunting. It’s so much easier to catch others’ errors than your own. But editors always want a polished manuscript. That is not the same as perfect. Polished means common amateur errors are few.  I’ve invested in a tool for self-editing I love. ProWriting Aid. This program finds common errors editors track down for you. A great way to polish your manuscript to a shine.

You choose the items for the software to check.

Here is the list of individual reports. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction or articles you can find the help you need.

Sentence length  Complex words           House style         Full analysis

Dialog Tags                  Clichés and Redundancies   Homonym Overview Analysis

Diction                          Vague and Abstract Words  Alliteration         Combo check

NLP Predicates            Consistency        acronym    Sticky Sentences

Thesaurus           Grammar   Repeat                 Transition

Pacing                           Pronouns   Overused words

I love to go to the full analysis. Then I focus on the errors mentioned.  For example, if I meant to repeat a word for effect, I ignore the error. ProWritingAid allows me to look at each problem and decide how I want to rewrite for clarity.

You can go to https://prowritingaid.com for a test drive. You can use their sample or paste a portion of your work (no more than 500 words) on the website. Errors are color coded. I loved it so much I purchased a two-year subscription.  The tab for the program is in Word—so handy.  You can download to all your devices and websites. Although it’s not recommended for Scrivener.

Once I’ve complete a writing project, I open ProWriting Aid. In a few seconds, my page is peppered with colors, and I begin the process of discerning how I want to improve my words. Polishing a manuscript takes time.  ProWritingAid forces me to slow down and look more carefully.  Highlight a chapter at a time for analysis.  This software takes too long to mark 80,000 words. The program will jam trying to evaluate so much data.  If you stay on the same chapter you can scan the section with one report, clear it and select another report to scan your words again.  Each item found has an explanation for the needed correction.

The functions are easy to use.

In each checklist, the errors appear one at a time. You can double click to change per the software suggestion or click next. When you are finished if any words are still color coded you hit the erase icon and your manuscript is clean once again.  There are other additional things I have yet to learn that help with the editing process.

This program is not a substitution for good writing.  But a good writer can produce cleaner copy. Cleaner copy gives me a chance to see deeper issues that I’d miss otherwise. And cleaner copy is more appealing to editors.  Check out the free version online and see if you don’t agree.

What editing software do you like to use?