Manuscript in a box: Print It Out For A Fresh Perspective

Papers in a box 2

My book is in a box. At least the draft of the manuscript is. I printed off the scenes from my draft of New Duet so I can manually organize and edit them. Yes, as much as I love editing on the computer and all the organizational wonders available with various software programs, nothing beats printing out a few hundred pages and eyeballing every word. I keep the pages in a box when I am not working on it because all scrap paper is used by my granddaughters for art work. These pages needed protecting from the crayons and scissor brigade for the moment.

Reorganizing scenes

I stapled each scene and numbered them. Because I wrote in scenes rather than chapters, I can move scenes around as I read through and edit. The ideas didn’t always flow chronologically in draft form. And even though I organized them in my Scrivener program, I found a few in the wrong place. Now I can go back and correct that. When I am done editing and organizing, I’ll create a new file in chapter format.

Duplicate names

How has this helped? Fresh eyes for sure. I apparently like the names Marcia and Claire. I gave one flat character and a reference to a deceased child as Marcia. And an elderly woman, a store clerk and a pianist were all named Claire. I also gave a few characters too similar names. Names that sound the same can confuse readers. So, I had to think fast to rename them. Flat characters for those who don’t know the term are the background characters. The waiter, the guy walking in the park. A reference to someone in the past who no one ever sees. Flat characters fill in the scene but have no emotional connection with the story.

Marcia art-2

Grammar booboos and other mistakes

I’ve also found awkward sentences, weird punctuation. You know those backward quotation marks and extra spaces. I’ve discovered Dan’s scene had a POV from Isabella. I was surprised to find repetitive information throughout a few scenes. Repetitive information is something the characters have revealed previously that doesn’t need to be rehashed in every scene. I either deleted the information or shortened it to a word or two to keep the information in the readers mind.

A few places needed serious rewording, and some spots needed more emotional tension or a deeper POV. The new perspective of words on paper forced my brain to take a closer look. When these corrections are placed in my PC document, I will probably find other places to tweak.

The next step

I am almost through the manual edits. Then once I’ve copy pasted and reformatted my story into the new chapter file I’ll place all my manual edits in the document. I’ll run my spelling and grammar check and try to make the copy as clean as possible. Once I am happy with those changes I’ll need to find uninterrupted time to read it out loud. Preferably with my hubby. Because together we will probably find even more discrepancies. Once that is done, I’ll be ready to contact an editor and submit my proposal to publishers. (That part always makes me nervous.)

What things do you do in the editing process to give you a fresh perspective on your WIP? Please share them with me in the comment section. I’d love to hear about it.

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Speedbo: More than A Monthly Goal Challenge

Speedbo participant

In the midst of working, helping with grandchildren and meeting the needs of my elderly parents I embarked on an adventure I almost skipped. I joined Speedbo for the month of March.

Speedbo ended yesterday. For those of you who missed my blog explaining Speedbo let me catch you up. Speedbo is sponsored by Seekerville. You sign up to accomplish one or more writing goals during the 31 days of March. Unlike NANOWRIMO you can devote the month to editing rather than just write. What you write and how you want to reach your goals is up to you. Send your goals to Seekerville and get started.

My goal

I wanted to write a new novel rough draft. I missed my 62,000 word goal by 1200 words. My goal was foremost about writing daily and word count was a great marker. Two thousand words a day no matter what. Matter did interrupt a few days, and I made most of that up by going over my word count other days. Technically, I wrote four new blogs during the month so my total word count for the month exceeded 62,000. But this word count made me a little shy of a completed rough draft but closer than I have ever gotten in a 31 day time frame. I am so excited to look back at all the interruptions and realize I still did it.

2015-04-01 07.30.44

What I learned.

  • I can write any time of day. I don’t just need to write in the morning. Being a morning person I tend to lose momentum in the creative department as the day lengthens. A few days this month my most creative times were evenings.
  • I discovered I can write in noise. My 2 year old granddaughter has developed a shriek lately that is like chalk on a blackboard. When I’m in the zone screechy two-year olds and loud giggles don’t reach my conscience mind.
  • Putting butt in chair can become a bigger inspiration than any muse or word prompt when you have a deadline. Every day I sat at my laptop and wrote. I could feel the inspirational parts rise out of the mess of words.
  • Even under pressure my characters still tell me what to write. I think they might be a bit pushier under pressure.
  • Scriviner software makes writing a manuscript easier. I chose to write by scenes rather than chapters. Now I can rearrange and expand on them and place them in the order I want in the editing process.
  • I still got reading in even in the midst of this self-imposed deadline. I read fewer books but I found the time.
  • I still got blogs and devotions written. Doing those helped stimulate my brain when it got numb from writing my novel draft.
  • Less TV is a good thing. There are times my family has games shows and reruns on that can draw you to sit and rest your work-weary mind. Choosing to write instead got my word count done.

What I knew before I started

  • I will work hard to meet a deadline. I work better with a deadline. My writing muse seems to appear more easily under pressure.
  • I get the other important things done because I make time each day for those things.
  • Family will always come first with or without a deadline.
  • Having an accountability partner only added to my determination to succeed. I’d acquired a new accountability partner at the beginning of the year. Knowing I had to report my progress every week already had me fired up about writing.

Conclusion

I will do Speedbo again in the future; it is life changing. Now I hope the habit is embedded in my DNA. So I will continue creating my own deadlines to see if I can maintain momentum throughout the rest of 2015.

Have you ever done Speedbo or NANOWRIMO or anything like them?

 

 

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Novelist Cynthia Ruchti Explains How to Show Rather Than Tell A Story

Cindy Huff

Today’s post is an interview with Cynthia Ruchti, past president of ACFW, Co-founder of The Heartbeat of the Home radio ministry, and novelist.  Her novel They Almost Always Come Home has been nominated for a Carol Award. How exciting for you, Cynthia.

Tell us what it feels like to be a finalist.

My respect for the Carol Award program and for ACFW makes this especially meaningful to me. The fact that it’s my debut novel adds another layer of joy. And knowing how many excellent Women’s Fiction novels were published in 2010 puts me in awe.  

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to help aspiring older writers continue to hone their craft. One of the hardest things to understand as a writer is show not tell.  Can you give us a definition that we can wrap our minds around?

I can watch a video of Niagara Falls and be impressed by what I see. Or I can stand at the railing and feel it rumble beneath my feet. I can feel the spray of water from as far away as the parking lot. I can experience Niagara Falls rather than watch a video of it. Showing rather than telling is a little like that. A photo of the Grand Canyon may be beautiful and inspiring. Standing on its rim, sensing it in 3-D, watching the colors change and feeling the dizziness from an overload of magnificence makes it an experience. Our readers can read about an event or an action or an emotion. Or they can feel it for themselves when we take them by the hand through a scene and invite, “Here. Let me show you.”  

Explain the difference between back story and showing?

Backstory is all that happened in the life of the character prior to the beginning of the book. As is true in real-life relationships, that backstory is not dumped on us when we first meet a person. It is revealed little by little as the relationship develops. Some of it is never revealed, either because of guardedness or because the detail is not important to the relationship, just as some details are not vital to a story. It would seem that backstory and showing aren’t related, but where they do have crossover is when a writer tries to force-feed information to the reader that could be expressed more effectively through careful and deliberate showing techniques. For instance, the writer can tell: Sixteen years earlier, when she was twelve, she lost both her parents in a house fire. Or, the writer can show: Heather stared at the small, innocent flame of the votive candle on the table between them. Ambiance. Candles and romance—a perfect match. But matches start fires, fires little girls can’t quench no matter how much they scream. She flinched at the sound of an ambulance on the street outside the restaurant. Was it on its way to the scene of a fire to pick up the charred remains of someone’s parents and comfort a twelve-year-old who doesn’t deserve comforting? The votive flame flickered and went out. On cue, the waiter plucked a butane torch from his pocket to relight the stubborn wick. Heather slapped her hand over the votive holder. Its hot rim burned into her palm. She let it burn. In that example, we see hints about what must have happened to her as a child, reasons for her fears and guilt. But the writer didn’t tell us “She’s afraid. Her parents died. It was all her fault.” We experience the guilt with her. We see her wrestle with the internal conflict that will likely color the entire book. As readers, we feel what she felt, as if living it out rather than reading about it.

Is telling ever good?

Definitely.  It’s far more frequent to find too much telling and too little showing, but the reverse can be true. Showing takes more words, generally speaking. Sometimes the story calls for a brief relating of a fact. “The clock struck one. The mouse ran down” is far more effective in that case than “She watched the minute hand inch its way toward the new hour. What was that movement behind the clock face? A shadow. A small, terrifying shadow skittered across her field of vision. With quickened pulse, she clutched her sweater closed at the neck, as if that would help. Something was in the room with her. The splattering of goosebumps told her so. The clock hand moved. It moved again. One o’clock. One chime. One shadow with four legs and a worm-like tail. A mouse!”

Besides dialogue what other ways can a writer show?

Internal thoughts can convey effective showing in storytelling. Heather flinched. She could still smell smoke in the air. Sixteen-year-old smoke. How long, Lord? How long before he asks me why I’m the one woman in Lake Tahoe who doesn’t appreciate a quiet evening by the fire? How long before I have to tell him that I made myself an orphan?

Showing emotion or reaction through body language or something the reader can visualize helps readers feel engaged in the scene, not just spectators. TELLING: She was cold. SHOWING: Her breath hung in brief puffs of crystallized vapor. She flipped up her hood, then tucked her hands deep into her pockets. Another dumb purchase—a fashion coat rather than one designed to protect her from the elements. Vanity wins another misery. The shiver that shook her started on the surface of her skin, but drove deeper, past muscle and sinews to raw bone.

How does POV (point of view) play into show not tell?

It’s more challenging to show when writing from a first person POV, in my opinion. In They Almost Always Come Home, the main character, Libby, shares her story from first person/present tense. Throughout the writing of the book, I was ultra-conscious of staying away from, “I go to the cupboard. I take out a cup. I start the tea kettle. I see the condensation on the outside of the stainless steel.” But to stay in a strict first person/present tense format, those boring moments would be natural. I worked hard to find creative ways to get the point across without serving as a sleep aid for my readers. First person/present tense seemed to fit the story and help draw the reader into Libby’s life, her rational and irrational thoughts, her fears and moments of courage.

There are times in a novel that summary is used to move the story along. Some may confuse telling with summary. How are they different and when should summary be used?

This may be personal opinion, but in those rare times when summary might be necessary, I believe it’s still possible to show that information rather than tell it, as a journalist might, or as we might read in a nonfiction piece. Heather considered her options. She imagined how many steps she’d need to get from the table to the front door, and if she could cross the room while he bent to pick up his napkin. No, running had never gained her the distance she’d craved. She could tell the truth. For once. The bile climbing her esophagus vetoed that option. She could concoct another lie, one as intricate and tantalizing as the béarnaise sauce on the uneaten steak in front of her. “I’m fine,” she said. Lying came so easily.

Any other points you’d like to make regarding show not tell?

Finding ways to show an emotion rather than telling it almost always enriches the scene. Readers are pulled into the life of the character, which makes the book harder to put down, the story harder to leave, even temporarily. Many writing craft books delve into the subject of showing rather than telling. Almost all of them propose that emotions like fear, love, hatred, embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger can be expressed most effectively without using those words but with painting a picture of how the character’s body and mind react to those emotions.

Cynthia, thank you so much for sharing I think you’ve made a clearer distinction for us on the subject. Before you go please tell us about your latest writing projects.  

Tapping into the same storytelling principles and the same undercurrent of faith present in my novels, I participated in a devotional collection that will release in the fall of 2011 from Summerside Press—His Grace is Sufficient…But Decaf is Not. I’m also working on the final chapters of a novella collection titled Cedar Creek Seasons (Barbour Publishing), based on the charming town and even more charming characters of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. I’m also working on another full-length novel for Abingdon Press. Which reminds me. I’d better get back to writing! But please know the world stops when readers contact me. Interacting with readers through Facebook, Twitter, via email, or through blogs like this one motivates me to keep writing. Thanks for the opportunity to connect with your blog friends, Cindy. www.cynthiaruchti.com

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