for the Writers

My 6 step process to editing a book

 

I passed the writing phase for “I Know You Like a Murder” and was on to the editing phase. When asking writers further along in the writing journey, I found that most don’t have a step-by-step system for their editing, they just read through and edit whatever they see needs fixed.

I collected a list of editing resources for everyone who might need it, and then I set out on figuring out my editing system. This isn’t necessarily the best system and it’s not necessarily the one that will work for you, but this is a first step for me – and maybe for you – to finding the system that works for us as individuals.

Note: The items I link to in this post are free online resources. Though some have paid options, I used the free version and it was very helpful. 

1) Edit what I already know needs fixing

When we’re writing, we’re supposed to just keep writing. Not stop and edit as we go. And inevitably as I go I realize there’s something that doesn’t work for the story that I need to change a couple chapters back or whatever. So while I write, I make note of it on my Trello board (a great free task manager system, check it out). So my first step in the editing process is going to that Trello board and seeing what needs done, then doing it. Easy peasy.

2) Edit what’s boring

It’s more than just what’s boring, but that’s what I’ve found is easiest to track what I’m wanting to change. I read through the story and think – where am I bored? Where does the plot fall flat, or the characters get annoying, or the wording just not interest me? Those parts I change, or even remove. Then I re-read through the story again with this new draft and ask again – where am I bored?

3) Get rid of blehh words

Then I look at my list of most frequently used words. I do this right in my Scrivener software (this costs money, but you can do this step for free with this online text analyzer).

You’ll see “the” “and” and “a” used alot of course. But look for other boring words, words that suggest lazy writing. For me, “was”, “get”, and “here”, were much overused and I found myself changing those sentences alot. But I spent an entire day going through the list of boring words to see which ones were actually problematic. Besides that, look for words you overuse that maybe you don’t want to – maybe you describe everything as “glorious” and you should switch it up to “magnificent” or “stunning.” Or maybe you just need to find some way to show it’s glorious without telling the reader 😉

Another thing to look for is something your narrator or protagonist wouldn’t use personality-wise. For instance, my narrator used “maybe” alot in her sentences. Only, that’s not the narrator’s character at all. My narrator is actually very forceful, hyperbole, over-the-top, absolute. Not wishy-washy “maybe”ing around the statements. So I took out alot of “maybe” too.

4) Hemingway Editor time

This may have been my favorite tool I found. I check the readability grade isn’t ridiculously high for some obscure word. And I see all these potential sentence-level problems color-coded that I can look through and change as needed.

5) Use that program spell-checker

Hey, I might miss something. In fact, I say “alot” alot instead of “a lot.” You probably noticed 😉 That’s where Scrivener or Microsoft Word’s spell-checker comes in handy. I quickly run through it and make sure I didn’t miss anything grammar or spelling related.

6) Hear someone else read it

Maybe you don’t have a person to read it, and that’s fine, because you can have a robot read it. It’s like Siri but for your book 🙂 Maybe this step should have come earlier, but I wanted to save this as my final fail-safe type step. I think it’s perfect, now let’s see if it is. Let’s hear someone else read it. Let’s see where it sounds awkward or jumbled, and let’s see what I wouldn’t want to hear someone else reading. Then of course I changed whatever felt weird there.


 

And that’s it. After that, I got ready to send the book to beta readers. I’ll do a post about that “got ready” part, because that wasn’t particularly simple.

What’s your steps for editing or resources you use? Would love to hear in the comments below.

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for the Creatives, Musings of a Creative

A little feedback can go a long way

Last week I shared the survey results for my quirky meta murder mystery book title. Maybe you want feedback but there’s no way you’ll hear from 50 people on a survey like I did (I asked thousands of people for that help.)

But I wanted to share that

I already thought I knew how the results would go before they ever happened.

Because before I created the survey, I asked a dozen people in a group and heard from about half of them. And the exact same results happened on a smaller scale – most liked “Memoir of a Murder” but for reasons that didn’t coincide with my story. Two people liked “I Know You Like a Murder” in a way that resonated with my story. And this response is like #lifegoals for a writer here:

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My friend Laura posted this – it wasn’t an analytical response as to all the reasons one title is superior to the other. It was an instinctive gut-level reaction, something that tugged at her that she couldn’t get out of her mind.

That’s what an author wants of a story, and I got that response just from the title. I had to pick that title! and as you saw from the survey results I posted last week, that reaction multiplied in the 50-ish people who responded there.

Mostly I just wanted to geek out and publicly squeal and gush over this comment, because let’s be real, it’s everything I hope my book will be ❤

But let’s throw in a little encouragement inspiration for you too while we’re at it 🙂 If you’re not sure on a decision, just ask a small group of friends. But don’t just ask the multiple choice – ask why the choice they made and why not the other choices.

Then watch for the emotionally gripping response, not some logical reasoning. You’ve got your reader hooked when they respond from the heart instead of their head. You don’t want them to think “That’s smart,” you want them to think “I can’t let this go.”

for the Writers

13 tools for editing your book

As I began editing my story, I asked a bunch of writers – either that I personally know or through Facebook writers groups – what tools they use when editing their book.

I was shocked that most didn’t have a plan or a tool…they just wing it!

I’m sure most of us would like a plan of attack. And so I give you:

Tools to edit your book

Best part: Most of these are free!

Disclaimer: I have not used most of these. This is what either other authors have recommended to me or I have found through extensive googling.  But they look great! Take what you can use and make your plan of attack. Less willy nilly…but don’t ditch the willy nilly….We all need that too 😉

 

1) Microsoft Word shortcuts – ❤ My favvie!

This writer was thoughtful enough to list out each step of her editing process and all the shortcuts or steps she takes in Word to find and fix these common errors. This is the most practical item I’ve found in my search. Use it!

2) 25 editing tips – checklist

Woohoo, I love checklists. I know where to start, what to do, and when I’m finished 🙂

3 & 4) Developmental edits – list of questions here or here

These are called checklists, but more like a list of questions to ask as you edit. Includes questions on plot, character, dialogue, style, etc. Very thorough, so if you want to catch every nuance, this is the list for you. I think I’d read my manuscript 50 times to catch all these questions haha 🙂

5) Proofreading checklist – PDF

I list editing software below, but you want to check things yourself too. For readability, grammar, punctuation, spelling – here’s that checklist.

6) Natural Reader – text to speech

Does not require download, just copy and paste your words into the website to hear your story read to you – a great way to catch errors you might accidentally gloss over if you read it silently. It’s bold claim is that it reads it in a “natural” voice, hence Natural Reader.

Also available as a free download to read from PDFs, Word, and offline.

Paid version with more features also available.

7) Readable – readability grades

Free, with premium paid version also available. Copy and paste text in, then see various grade levels on the right. Also notes adverbs, passive voice, cliches, and lengthy sentences and words.

8) Hemingway app – readability and editing

Copy and paste into the website to see grade level for readability, adverbs, passive voice, and hard to read passages. Best part: all these are color-coded 🙂 Note: in my brief test-run, spelling errors got the squiggly like Word, but punctuation errors weren’t mentioned.

9) Text Analyzer – see which words you over-use

Do you constantly say everything is “glorious” in your novel? I mean, it’s a glorious word, but you don’t want to over-use it. Copy and paste your text into this website to see which words and phrases are most common in your story. Obviously “the” and “and” and major character names will be prominent, but what else do you say that may be too much?

10) Ginger – editing software & text to speech

Just download it to your device. It’ll check spelling, grammar, and more. As far as I can tell, it’s free.

11) Grammarly – editing software

This is more popular than Ginger, at least in my circle. Whether that means it’s better or not, I can’t say. This is also a free software download.

 



*The below cost money but were recommended to me by other writers. You might want to check them out 🙂 *

12) ProWriting Aid – editing software

Free version for up to 500 words at a time. Annual cost of $40-45 if you want to edit more than that at a time.

13) EDITS System – lecture

Costs $22. Lets you know what you need to edit where.


Have any recommendations of your own? Comment below with what tools, tips, or tricks help you tackle book editing 🙂

 

for the Creatives

The 400-Page Book Called “Just Do It!”

I had a dream that a friend was struggling with getting around to a project, no motivation whatsoever, initiative down the drain. (Pretty sure that struggling friend was actually my subconscious self, but moving on…)

My dream-self solution for my dream-friend?

“If only they had that book ‘Just Do It!’ It’s 400 pages of motivation to get started on whatever your goal is.”

When I woke up, I thought maybe the muse had visited me in the night to give me my next book project. Yeah, a 400-page book of motivation to get going on all the dreams you have! I could write that! Right?

Then I got to thinking…just how much “doing” would happen if we’re reading a 400-page motivational book? 

I don’t think we need a 400-page kick-in-the-pants of “Quit talking about it and do it.” Let me tell you right now, “Quit reading about it and do it.”

Here’s your motivation – you don’t need 400 pages. But if you need a blogpost, here it is. Or if you need Shia Labeouf telling you to “Just Do It,” you can have that too. But you, me, we’re going to stop reading and start now, mmk?

Ready….set…..Just Do It!

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName?

To pen-name or not to pen-name – for any writer, that is the question.

There is a lot of factors that go into choosing between one’s own name or a pseudonym, and I thought I’d give you a brief sneak-peek at the process.

(Writers: Kristen Lamb has a post discouraging use of pen names in most situations. Rachelle Gardner has a post on problems to consider if using a pseudonym.)

So how’d I decide on mine, on keeping my own name, but adding the middle initial?

Step 1 – Default Setting

If you can’t find a really really good reason to use a pseudonym, you should be using your own name. That’s the default. I thought I might have good reasons until I read the blogposts mentioned above. (Writers: read those if considering a pseudonym.)

Step 2 – Google That Name

I googled myself. You know what comes up when I google “Amy Sauder”? Not me. “Amy Sauder – Peoria area photographer” shows up. That’s right, there’s an Amy Sauder, also in Peoria, also an artist, who has a perfectly legit photography business. Seriously, check her out.

With someone else topping the google charts, I can do one of the following:

  • compete for “Amy Sauder” space on google by creating alot of internet content with great Search-Engine Optimization
  • rely on readers to type “author” when googling me and photography clients to type “photographer” when googling her (a completely legitimate option that many choose, and it works)
  • find a different name so she has her google space and I have mine

Step 3 – Devil is in the Details

Sharing google space is not enough reason to choose a pen name.

With a pen name, everything is more complicated. Marketing is more complicated, because you lose the audience you already have with your own name. Paychecks and legal documents are complicated. Remembering the little details – like how easy/quick signing an autograph is with a chosen pen name – is complicated. I toyed around with pen names, sure. But it didn’t seem like a good option even still.

In order to avoid the sharing of google space and to avoid using a pen name, I tried my middle initial.

What happens when you google Amy L Sauder? Well now, you have a whole bunch of me, though not much popped up at all when I originally googled it. “Amy Sauder, photographer” still tops the google “Amy Sauder” charts – and I’m there too a little lower – but if you remember the L, I fill that space mostly.

Picture a Bookshelf

The final step, at least that I’m discussing at this point.

Imagine a bookshelf….where’s your book fall on the bookshelf? Usually books are ordered by genre and then by author’s last names.

In an ideal world, I don’t want my book crowded out and hidden next to the Stephen Kings or James Pattersons of the world. Can I see a place for my book under my name on the shelf? You bet I can! No overcrowding here.

And so, Amy L Sauder was born. And in the grand scheme of things, I think I might actually like it more than just Amy Sauder.

What’s In Your Name?

What about you? Do you have a pen name? Do you think you’d use a pen name? What are your thoughts, ideas, questions? Let me know in the comments!

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for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

Book Review: Rabbit Legacy by Ellen Maze

If you weren’t quite convinced by my book review of “Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider“, I hope this blogpost will confirm that this series is worth the investment. The mythos of Ellen’s vampire world is crazy elaborate and believable, and you just want to jump right in (except, not literally. That might be a little too much.) Ellen Maze was kind enough to send me the 2nd book of the series, “Rabbit Legacy” and I am so psyched about this story now. I’ve already told Ellen she needs to hurry with the final installment so she is ON IT!

 Rabbit Legacy

What “Rabbit Legacy” is About

The crazy Christian vampire saga continues. The aftermath of wraiths turning to the Lord and transforming into humans. It’s not exactly a piece of cake to lose all that power and trust in God. And then there’s the remaining wraiths that denied God’s call, plus Isaac The Last and the demon Ta’avah, all ready to wreak havoc on these new believers.

Rakum have less power with the dispersement of their government – they actually are concerned about jail and fatal wounds and, ya know, the human law – perhaps not enough, but that’s beside the point. I thought Damien was crazy in the beginning for him to call 911 against a couple Rakum, but hey, it works now. That doesn’t mean that all Rakum behave though, and they still have powers that humans can’t fight against.

I’m still crazy stoked about the mythology behind this story: Rakum being wraiths that can “become” our idea of vampires or our idea of zombie, depending on what rules they live by. The Cows have been released, but remain obsessed as ever to find/serve the remaining Rakum. The Rabbits are still technically huntable, though less act on it, due to the Last Assembly and all. Still makes it very inconvenient for the Rabbits in the story though. And Beth Rider is a mom, who ya know, was hoping to live her white-picket-fence life in peace now that she’d completed her mission of bringing the Gospel to these creatures…so much for that.

Why You Should Read “Rabbit Legacy”

You may recall from my blogpost on the first book that the personality of the protagonist Beth Rider drove me a lil crazy sometimes and I wanted to whack her upside the head lovingly correct her for the arrogant hypocrisy misconceptions. I was totally cool with it in this book though. This book is written from so many points of view, there’s not really a main character. We hear from good and bad, old and new characters alike. And they all have their completely believable flaws and perceptions of others. Sometimes I wanna smack the characters upside the head and sometimes I want to give them a big hug. (Javie!!! *tearface*) I just wanted to scream all the answers to each and every one, but goshdangit, I’m not in the book to do that (and if I was….yikes! *shudder*)

I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this book, but let me just say it’s all good. It’s a risky call to switch point-of-view characters every chapter, which usually distances a reader from the characters, but this time the risk paid off and I loved it even more and grew close to each character, plus I was more okay with Beth Rider’s personality since I saw that wasn’t the narrator’s point-of-view.

And once again, Ellen gave the best book ending, which includes both a sigh of relief and a “Wait, but what’s next?! There’s still heaps of big danger right THERE!!!!” *frantically pointing every which way* And here’s why I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, wanting to leap into the story world and figure out what’s going on.

(Conspiracy theory: What if Beth Rider is REAL just like her books are real, and the last  book isn’t out  yet cause gulp Isaac and Ta’avah are still declaring war on this real-world earth and poor Javie and Canaan are still in danger and gulp gulp, I can’t even. Hurry up, Ellen!)

for the Bookworms

Thoughts on “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Well this is not an official review per se, so much as I had some sporatic thoughts as I read the book “Gone Girl” that I wanted to share. First off, total kudos to Gillian Flynn, this story was phenomenal.
 
 
 

My Namesake

It was interesting reading a book where people kept saying “Amy” and I’m like “huh?” and then I remember. Like walking through a grocery store where someone has a kid with your name and they keep calling them out. You know it’s coming, but it still gets your attention every. single. time. If you haven’t found a book where a major character has your name, you should. Gone Girl

 
 
 

Our Play-Acting

Fav quote: “We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can’t recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or TV show. A f***ing commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blasé: Seeeen it. I’ve literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can’t anymore. I don’t know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script. It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection or personality traits selected from an endless Automat or characters.” – For those who have read “Gone Girl,” this quote is even better realizing that Nick is the narrator of this section….as if he subconsciously knew all along. Anyhow, this quote speaks to the modern human condition a bit, as well as give an interesting foreshadowing to the story.

 
 
 

Drabble’s Take

For those of you who didn’t see the shocker mid-story (no spoilers!), I hate to break the news but I totally called it. It was still a complete delight, but I knew it was coming. Because I’d read “The Seven Sisters” by Margaret Drabble in college. It’s like a literary version that uses a similar shocking twist. In case you’re looking for a more literary, less thiller, angle of this type of psychological exploration. Seven Sisters

 
 
 

Your Side (what I was dying to dialogue about)

I’d love a discussion as to who is the villain and who is the victim. Amy? Nick? Who’s the worst here, who’s the instigator? I’m not talking theological “They both chose their sin” sort of thing, I get that. But I’m interested to hear thoughts. Is Amy relatable? Is Nick? Were they meant for each other? Are they more destructive being together or separate? Answer some or all of these questions in the comments, I’d love your thoughts and I’ll share mine.