Smoke (Poem)

Here’s another poem to break things up. This one is also from NaPoWriMo 2013.

Smoke

Smoke

Red eats white
Green, blue, and black
Giving birth to gray
Ascending the sky

Soot burns eyes
Casting shadows on the wall
Crackling in throbbing ears
Leaving irises wet

Smoke paints contrails
Devouring old photos and names
Memories swallowed whole
Become ashes reaching for the sun

Hear It Read

When it comes down to the copy level editing – typos, grammar, word choice, flow, etc – I always find it useful to hear how the text actually sounds when read aloud.

There are two basic reasons for this.

Firstly, when you read your own work, you already have an expectation of what it says and how it sounds in your mind. This makes it easy to miss small errors and typos. In my case, at least, my brain sometimes ‘fixes’ minor mistakes internally while reading. For instance, I might not realize a word is absent, or in the wrong place. Most word processors have spelling/grammar checks, but even those likely won’t catch a missing ‘the’ in a sentence, two words in the wrong order, or a ‘sad’ written in place of a ‘said’. These are the kinds of typos I’m still finding in the novel I’m working on now, even though it’s already in its fourth draft.

Secondly, simply hearing the text spoken aloud helps with flow. Something that seemed good on paper might sound awkward when read aloud, or a passage that looked messy in the editor might come together when you actually hear it. This can also help identify grammatical or stylistic issues, and give you a sense of how your manuscript really feels as a story. Sometimes, you just need to know if it “sounds” right.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

If you don’t mind the sound of your own voice, and trust yourself to read your manuscript carefully, word for word, then there’s always the option of reading your own work aloud. Just be careful not to miss those minor errors.

Alternatively, you could use text-to-voice software (I personally use the free, downloadable version of Natural Reader, though I’m sure there are plenty of other programs around, too). The digital voices sound pretty dry and monotonous, and sometimes a bit off with pronunciation, but they catch every typo and error. Whenever I’m satisfied enough with a chapter or scene, I plug it into the program and give it a listen before calling it done. Often, I catch a few minor mistakes that managed to slip through my revisions. It makes me wonder what errors survived in my past works, before I added this step into my editing process.

This sort of method isn’t one that will work for everyone, but I highly suggest at least giving it a try.

Find Weak Points with ‘Because’

One revision technique that I’ve found particularly helpful is actually one I originally heard in regards to outlining: while summarizing the plot in simple words, try to chain each major event together with a ‘because’ that hinges on the main character.

For example,

The princess ran away from the castle because she wanted to see the world, because she resented her parent’s protectiveness and the way they favored her sister. But she was tricked by thieves because she was sheltered, and she decided to join them instead of flee because she was drawn to the money, freedom, and adventure they promised her. She was willing to help them trick her family because of her bitterness towards them, but got into trouble because she tried to act on her own, etc.

Summarizing the story this way can help expose weak points in its structure, where the plot may be progressed by circumstance rather than character actions or motivations. If you reach a place where you can’t easily put a ‘because’ into the summary, then the story might be strengthened by adding to or adjusting that particular section to allow for greater cause and effect. Revising the story with this in mind allows the protagonist to be less of a passenger in the plot, and more of a driver.

Book Giveaway: Night Plague

Night Plague Giveaway on GoodreadsAs an aside, if anyone is interested in my novel, Night Plague, I’m currently running a giveaway on Goodreads. Until 05/15/15, Goodreads members can enter for a chance to win one of ten free paperback copies. I’m also experimenting with the self-serve advertising system Goodreads offers.

Yeah, this post is a shameless plug. But to add a little more substance to it, I will post an update after the giveaway ends – regarding what sort of results I’ve seen from these features on Goodreads – for any other authors out there who might want to try them.

Save Previous Drafts

(I’m going to be sharing some editing tips and techniques that I’ve found helpful this month, to go along with NaNoEdMo.)

I’m going to start off the editing posts with something pretty straightforward – make sure you keep copies of your previous drafts.

Of course, you should always save backup copies of your draft’s most current version, but I also highly suggest saving separate copies of your story at various stages. If you’re working on your second draft, for instance, store a copy of the original first draft, too. I personally have a folder where the first, second, and third drafts of my current project are all tucked away for safekeeping, while I chip away at the fourth draft.

The reason for this is because it allows you to undo any changes you make, should you change your mind, and also to peek back at your original content for reference, if something gets lost in translation. Part of this is mental. Knowing that your past content is preserved allows you to delete, add to, and change your words with abandon. After all, you can always find and copy back the old stuff, should you need to. I think you’ll find, however, that you’ll rarely, if ever, open up those old drafts. But for the rare occasions when you do regret a change you’ve made, or want to restore something removed, it’s a relief to have all the novel’s past content ready to go, preserved and untouched.

It’s simply a precaution you can take while editing, for the safety and freedom of your work.

My NaNoEdMo Project

TempAlong with many other writers this month, I’ve been participating in the NaNoEdMo challenge. An unofficial cousin of NaNoWriMo, the goal of EdMo is to spend 50 hours editing a previously written draft. It provides a completely different set of obstacles and rewards.

My project of choice for this particular challenge is a fantasy novel called Paragon. While Night Plague was my first completed final draft, Paragon was actually the first draft I ever wrote to completion. Finished a few months earlier than Night Plague‘s initial draft, it is also over twice as long, at approximately 133k words. And way more complex and way more of a mess than Night Plague ever was. I’ve been revising it for almost three years, now.

Paragon is a story that is particularly special to me. Perhaps it’s because it represents the first time I wrote ‘the end’ on a piece of original fiction, but more likely, it’s because it somehow feels more ‘me’ than any other project I’ve worked on. When I initially started writing it on a whim, during the summer of 2012, I never had the intention of anyone else reading it, so it’s very…uncensored, so to speak. It touches a lot of themes that mean a lot to me, albeit in some pretty strange, twisted ways. It also features characters that have been with me, in some form or another, since high-school. Paragon‘s two mains originally appeared as villains in multiple other stories I never finished, before I eventually decided they needed their own novel. I have to admit that I’ll be a bit nervous about sharing it once it’s finally finished, because it happens to be the mixture of both personal and quite bizarre, but I am determined that it will happen. Paragon will escape out into the world, one way or another.

It’s a bit disheartening, though, because even after so much work (it’s currently at its third draft, already), it still needs so much more. I’m cutting one character completely, rearranging certain plot events, adding new scenes, splitting up chapters into more manageable chunks, and still finding typos. Ugh. It feels endless. Right now, I am behind the daily hour goal, by, well…a lot. My college finals week is nearly over, though, and I’m hoping to really crunch some hours after that. The story deserves the sweat.

In addition to frantically working to catch up, I’m also going to post a few editing tips up on this blog that I have personally found helpful, throughout the rest of this month.

Anyone else participating in EdMo this month, or otherwise doing a lot of editing? Do you have one story out of those you’ve written that is most special to you?

Little Drops (Poem)

How about a poem to kick things off? This is one I wrote a couple of years ago, during NaPoWriMo 2013, and it was recently published in my college’s newsletter.

Image is a free wallpaper from wallconvert.com

Little Drops

Small little drops
Fall from the sky
Salty, pure
Tears from the tree of life

Small little drops
Fall from a pale face
Misty, wet
Gray clouds obscure the time

Small little drops
Fall into open palms
Trying to hold them
As they keep slipping through
Pooling at our feet like the years

Small little drops keep falling
Escaping our fingers
Escaping our eyes
We can’t catch them

Welcome

Hey there,
I’m Rowan Rook, a novelist and novice game designer. My first novel, Night Plague, was published by Severed Press back in August 2014, and I’m currently working on a several new projects, including the partially released serial novel, Living Ageless. In addition, I also dabble with fanfiction, poetry, and anything else that can tell a story. While I have separate websites focused on my novels and my game projects, I wanted a more informal environment to interact with readers and gamers, other writers, and to share and discuss my own experiences, and so I decided to give blogging a go.

With posts on an approximately twice-per-week basis, this blog will cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Upcoming books/projects and their progress
  • Previews and snippets of upcoming novels
  • Character bios and interviews
  • Poetry
  • Photographs
  • Discussions of the writing craft
  • Tips on writing, editing, and outlining
  • Tips on fanfiction and other fun projects
  • RPG Maker tutorials and tips
  • Discussions and tips on NaNoWriMo and other similar events
  • Helpful writing and game design tools
  • Reviews and recommendations of books, games, etc
  • And more!

I hope you enjoy your stay, and find the posts here fun and helpful. If there is a topic you’d like to see covered, feel free to let me know, and feel free to join the discussions with comments or questions!