Monthly Updates: February 2019 – Speculative Soul Story Editing Services

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Speculative Soul Story Editing Services is Live!

Wow, February flew by! For my fellow authors, I’m excited to announce the launch of my new editing services website. If you find yourself stuck in the revision process, or in need of a second set of eyes, feel free to get in touch. I offer services ranging from developmental editing to copyediting to critiquing. I know firsthand how tight an author’s budget can be, so I strive to keep services as affordable as possible. We can negotiate prices and service options, too. Editing has always been one of my favorite phases of the storytelling process, so I’m eager to bring this passion into the spotlight.

Check it Out!

 

New Book Giveaways and Deals

My own books are still baking in the editing oven, but like usual, here are some new giveaways across the speculative fiction spectrum if you’re on the hunt for more to read without breaking the bank:

Giveaways

Happy reading!

I hope you enjoy what remains of winter (of your current season) with warm beverages of choice and a bevy of good books.

Summer Writing Goals

(Friday Updates: I’ll post updates from my projects (about) every other Friday).

With my vacation from school well under way, and summer officially beginning next month, it’s time to get my writing goals organized (I’ve got a few game design projects going on too, but that’s a whole other post). Here’s what I’ll be writing over the season:


Writer’s Games 2018

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Each year, The Writer’s Workout hosts a contest in which participants write 1 short story a week for 7 weeks. Each week has its own theme, announced on Friday, with a story based on that theme due 72 hours later. It also offers feedback for each story and publication in the contest’s anthology for the top 5 stories of each theme. The contest is currently in its third week. I’ve dabbled with short fiction, but this is the first time I’ve really focused on it. I have to say, it’s definitely growing on me, and I feel like I’ve already learned a lot. It’s paying off, too – I found out just yesterday that my story for the second theme (silence) took 1st place! New, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about a robot and a mermaid-like creature, will be published in the upcoming anthology.

The current round of the contest is closed to new entrants, but another will be starting in August. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to practice their short fiction. It’s been a great experience so far.

Re-Publishing Night Plague

Night Plague, my first novel, was originally published in 2014 by Severed Press. Its contract expired a couple of months ago and it’s quickly gone out of print, so I’ll self-publish and re-release it on June 10th to get it back out into the world. I’m currently taking the opportunity to review and edit it to bring it up to par with my current works (I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the four years since its publication). The changes are minor, but I’ve found that the little details definitely do make a difference. Reading it over again is actually pretty fun, since I keep on running into moments I’d forgotten about.

If you’re interested in reading Night Plague, subscribers to my email list will get a free digital copy upon release.

Querying or Self-Publishing Paragon

Paragon, a dark/high fantasy thriller about a wayward scientist who wants to rewrite his world, is my favorite child longest running novel project. Although I’m doing one more read-through to make sure it’s as polished as it can be, it’s essentially ready to go. I haven’t decided whether I want to query agents for it, or if self-publishing would be the better choice. I’m really torn. It’s also not particularly commercial in style, so I’m not sure whether the latter is an option or not. Either way, though, I’m excited to share it soon. If I do commit to shopping it around then I can’t say for sure how long the process will take, but if I go the self-publishing route, it’ll release sometime before 2019. I’ll post updates as they happen.

Finishing the Final Draft of The Atlantean Crown

I’ve got a few plot tweaks to make to the The Atlantean Crown, a YA sci-fi novel about a power-hungry princess and an impending apocalypse, and it’ll also need one more read-through for polish, but this one’s also within in range of querying or self-publishing this summer. At the very least, I’m aiming to finish the final draft. In terms of how it’ll actually release, it’s in a similar situation to Paragon.

Finishing a few First Drafts

There are a couple of other novels I’m not quite ready to talk about yet, but both are near ‘the end’. While not as high of a priority, I’d love to knock out their messy first drafts.

Participating in Activities and Challenges: Camp-2018-Writer-Profile-PhotoFrom Ninja Writers 30 Day Writing Challenge to Camp NaNoWriMo to Ela Thier’s 6-Day Freewriting Challenge, I’m pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and participating in as many activities as I can. It’s always interesting to meet other writers and try out new approaches to the craft. After all, with school on break, this is the best chance I have to experiment, grow, and of course, write like mad.


Whew! I don’t know if I’m going to manage all that, but I’m damn well going to try.

What goals are you writing towards over the summer?

 

 

MBTI for Characters

(Tip Thursday: Every other Thursday (or so), I’ll post writing/editing tips or techniques that I’ve personally found useful. Catching up for last week today.)

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality theory seems trendier than ever. While there are plenty of debates surrounding its validity, it makes for a fun way to learn about yourself and others as long as it’s taken as a tool for thought rather than anything absolute. It’s also a fun – and simple – way to learn about your characters.

Try taking the test from your protagonist’s point of view – the results might solidify some of the traits you already knew about them in an easy to digest form, or offer some surprisingly useful insights into the way they interact with the world around them.

The test I usually use for characters is HumanMetrics. Another excellent test is 16Personalities, which combines the MBTI with the also popular Big Five personality theory. There are plenty of in depth explanations available online, but essentially, the MBTI provides scores across four spectrums:

  • Introversion vs Extroversion: Extroverts regain energy from social activity. Introverts regain energy through time alone.
  • Sensing vs Intuitive: People who score high in Sensing tend to rely directly on their senses and stay present in the moment. People who score high in Intuitive seek to add meaning to the information their senses bring them, and focus more on their imaginative internal world.
  • Thinking vs Feeling: People who score high in Thinking tend to rely on facts, logic, and experiences to make decisions. People who score high in Feeling tend to make decisions based on gut feelings, situational context, and the people involved.
  • Judging vs Perceiving: People who score high in Judging like to be organized and have a plan for everything. People who score high in Perceiving like to keep their options open and react to events as they happen.

The 16Personalities test also includes an additional spectrum:

  • Assertive vs Turbulent: Assertive people are steady, strong, and confident in their ability to handle whatever life throws their way. Turbulent people tend to be  anxious, but are also highly passionate and driven to succeed.

Depending on the answers given, your character will be assigned a letter-based type according to which sides of each spectrum they land on. For instance, one character might be an INFJ-T – they are Introverted, INtuitive, Feeling, Judging, and Turbulent. These five letters actually say a lot about this character. The combination of Intuition and Feeling likely means they spend a lot of time in their own head and feel things deeply – they are imaginative and empathetic. However, as an Introvert, they are more likely to search out meaningful connections rather than collect acquaintances. They probably prefer reading a good book that stimulates their empathy and emotions to attending shallow social events. The combination of Judging and Turbulent also means they are highly organized, driven, and perhaps a bit of a perfectionist, which may make them come across as cold to other characters, when internally, they are anything but.

It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers – every MBTI type has its flaws and gifts. It’s also interesting to note that, in some ways, the MBTI types aren’t actually personality types at all. I prefer to think of them as frameworks – the ways in which the character approaches life, makes decisions, and relates to others. The juicy bits that actually build someone’s personality – their likes and dislikes, their past experiences, their quirks, all the details that make them who they are – go far beyond the skeleton built by a few letters. Two people with the same MBTI type can be wildly different. However, I’ve found the MBTI test to be an easy way of gaining insight into a character’s point of view. When faced with writer’s block, knowing how a character makes decisions or how they might react to an emotional situation can be key to breaking through a challenging scene.

Impactful Character Flaws

(Tip Thursday: Every other Thursday, I’ll post writing/editing tips or techniques that I’ve personally found useful.)

One topic inevitably comes up when discussing character creation: flaws. Characters must be flawed in order to be real people in readers’ eyes. However, just making a character hot-headed or shy and calling it done doesn’t cut it. For a flaw to add dimension to your character and story, three things should generally be true:

1. It shouldn’t be a “likable” flaw.

Often, the flaws protagonists grapple with seem relatively harmless: they might lack confidence, be socially awkward, or have a bit of a temper. Exploring these minor flaws and traits helps flesh out a character, but alone, usually fails to add depth.

There’s a tendency to believe that characters must be conventionally “likable”. For characters, however, “likable” often actually means interesting. Your readers don’t need to be friends with your character – they need to be able to understand their motivations (even if they don’t necessarily agree with them) and root for them to overcome their obstacles. Giving your character real, significant flaws increases the stakes and the impact of their internal conflicts.

For instance, rather than just being a bit hot-headed, maybe your character gets so angry that they sometimes cause physical harm. Maybe they hold onto grudges to the extent that they enact revenge. Maybe they have a mean streak. Maybe they’re selfish or jealous or judgemental. Maybe they lie a lot. Maybe they’re an honest-to-goodness coward, legitimately lazy, or obnoxiously arrogant. Maybe they care more about power than people.

These less “likable” flaws are often associated with villains, but a hero with such flaws has room to grow in meaningful ways throughout the story, will have engaging internal struggles, and feels more like a genuinely imperfect human than a heroic archetype.

2. It should influence the character’s external world.

For a flaw and its stakes to seem real, it must manifest in the character’s world in some way. If they struggle with extreme anger, perhaps it’s destroyed past relationships or they’ve had outbursts that cost them a job. If they’re selfish, perhaps their colleagues have learned to avoid and distrust them. If they’re cowardly, perhaps they’re embarrassed to try new things because they cry easily in public when stressed or their fear has held them back from applying to their dream job. Regardless of what their flaws are, their internal struggles need to in some way affect their external reality.

3. It should tie into the story’s themes.

Ideally, a character’s flaws should also emphasize the story’s themes. For instance, a character who starts off selfish and arrogant but who learns to sacrifice for others makes for a powerful protagonist in story about empathy. Another technique is giving the antagonist a similar flaw, but letting them fail to overcome it while the protagonist succeeds. Supporting characters can also express the theme in unique ways through their flaws and virtues. After all, a story is made of internal conflict, external conflict, and its message. If all these elements reinforce each other, the story – and its characters – have a strong foundation.

Yearly Digest?

Whelp, it’s been forever since I updated this blog. The hush hasn’t been a lack of happenings, so much as a lack of time. Primarily, this is because I began attending a new college last fall. When this year’s summer break ends and fall semester starts anew, I’ll be a sophomore at DigiPen Institute of Technology, where I am pursing a Bachelor’s of Arts in Game Design.

Still, I’m going to make an effort to try to keep this place up to date, so to start, here’s a digest of what’s been happening in the past year.

First draft down!

I can happily report that I finally finished the first draft one of my upcoming novels, The Blue Crown. This is the same novel I talked about working on during Camp NaNoWriMo in my final post of 2015, and it so happened that I managed to finish off this draft during this year’s Camp sessions! The Blue Crown, now complete at 104k words, continued to surprise me. I’d expected to struggle and slosh through the final few chapters, but once I sat down and started, the end of the story came easily. This novel still needs a lot of work before it’s ready for readers, but it felt great to finally write ‘the end’ once more.

Final drafts are getting there?

The other novel I’ve mentioned quite a bit in the past, Paragon, is still in the works. I’m about 85% done with the fourth draft, but because of a bunch of plot and character changes, I believe it’s still going to need one more read through. I had hoped to complete the final draft and prepare it for querying before the end of the summer, but it doesn’t seem that’s going to happen. However, I do believe that getting Paragon out there by the end of year is very possible, and that will be my next major goal.

I’ve also already begun to pick at The Blue Crown. It is admittedly a bit of a mess in its current state, but not as much as Paragon was after it’s first draft. There are a few plot holes that need to be plugged and some rough edges that need to be polished, but I actually think there’s a possibility of this one being ready to go before 2017, as well.

That game demo is almost done

As for that demo of Glass, my full-length RPG game project, it’s almost done. It’s taken a hell of a lot longer to get it ready to share than I expected, with lots of little bugs and balance issues rearing their ugly heads, but I’ve also taken the time to add in a bunch of new combat and exploration features that I’m pretty happy with. It’s slow going, partially because I’ve also begun working on a few other game projects and because school kept me busy with game development work as well, but it is getting there. The only thing I have left to do is run through the content several times and make sure everything goes smoothly, from beginning to end.

On that note, if anyone would be interested in doing some pre-release playtesting of the demo, don’t hesitate to let me know. When the time comes, I should be able to offer compensation to those willing to test the game and provide feedback, but I’ll post more about this once it’s ready to go.

New RPG Maker MV projects

The semi-recent release of RPG Maker MV has served as a somewhat productive distraction from several of my other projects. After all, it’s hard to ignore an engine that’s shiny and new.

Right now, I actually have two game projects going in MV. On is a life simulation game mixed with dungeon crawling elements, which is still in its early stages of production. The other…I think I’m going to keep a bit of a secret, for now. However, I do hope to have this one ready for release by the end of 2016, as it’s already in its alpha stage of development.

2016-08-13

A screenshot of one of my MV projects. Hmm…this one looks a lot like Happy Birthday.

Fun with Unity Engine

Aside from RPG Maker, I’ve also invested some time in learning to use the Unity Engine. Actually, this is partially because it’s very similar to DigiPen’s Zero Engine, which is what I’ve been learning and using at school. It seems a shame to not be able to put some of those new skills to use in personal projects, since academic projects, while valuable in their own way, just aren’t the same, and I feel that getting your hands dirty on your own is often actually the easiest way to really learn and grow. So far, I’ve mostly gone through a bunch of different tutorials, but I do have a simple platformer game in the planning stages. Working with a new engine and on a new gameplay genre has admittedly been a breath of fresh air. Unity really is tons of fun.

Academic game projects

Of course, what I’ve spent most of my time with over the past year has been school. DigiPen likes to talk about its rigorous course work, and after freshman year, I can safely say that it isn’t kidding. DigiPen delights in keeping its students busy.

Still, at least the coursework is fun in its own right. While at the school, I’ve actually assisted in the creation of three game prototypes, lead the creation of one complete game, and designed and created several different board games, which was something almost entirely new to me, but surprisingly engaging.

I’ll talk more about these academic games projects, and what the experience at DigiPen has really been like, in a separate post on the topic, but in summary, in my first semester, I did narrative design for an adventure/puzzle game called Push the Button, level design for a puzzle game called Quantum, and narrative design and level design for a puzzle platformer called Artificial Platformer. In my second semester, I was both the lead designer and the lead writer for a murder mystery adventure game…expect it wasn’t a murder mystery because the college’s strict ‘PG’ content rating doesn’t allow murder in its projects, it was about a cookie jar. That was a fun one, in its own dysfunctional way. All of these games were completed in teams, and aside from working on the design of the games’ content and their narratives, I also dabbled with art and sound design, and did a hefty amount of programming and gameplay implementation from scratch, especially with Cookie Jar.

All in all, school has been a really great experience. There are a few things that bother me, such as a couple of sub-par teachers and the school’s general, dismissive attitude towards the subjects of solo projects and narrative design. Personally, I feel solo projects are really important for any game designer/developer in terms of learning who they are as a designer, and in terms of becoming well-rounded. Team projects have their own benefits, for sure, but they aren’t the same as really digging into your own project and facing down your own weaknesses, as well as really building on and discovering your strengths. In a team, it’s too easy to stick to only what you already know. Also, anyone who doesn’t believe that narrative design is an important aspect of game design is out of touch with the game industry and its diverse audiences as a whole, but these topics would also be better off in a different post. Despite these complaints, however, the school has definitely helped me grow as both a game designer and as a person, and I’m looking forward to returning next month.


All of this aside, I’ll update this blog more often during the coming school year. If there is anything you’d especially like to hear about, let me know. Has anyone experienced any exciting happenings since the August of 2015?

 

Denying Distractions

I’d wager that most authors would name distractions as productivity’s biggest enemy, particularly the siren song of the internet. Here are a few tips, and some helpful resources, to help combat common distractions:

Distraction-Free Word Processors

There are some pretty complex, fully-featured options out there as far as word processors go. Programs like Scrivener and Liquid Story Binder offer a ton of powerful features that not only help you write your words, but outline the story, do you research, search through dictionaries and thesauruses, check your spelling, mark-up your edits, and organize and format everything. Even Microsoft Word and comparable office suites come with a slew of features. While these features are great when its time to outline and edit, I sometimes find that these features can be distracting, in and of themselves, during the drafting process. They also bring out the perfectionist in me, and I sometimes spend as much time organizing and cross-checking everything with my notes and research as I do actually pounding words out of the keyboard.

If you have similar tendencies, I’d highly suggest trying out a simple, dedicated word processor, just for the drafting process. There are plenty of options out there that are purposely minimal – designed to put as little buffer as possible between you and the page, staying out of the way and leaving you alone with your words.

My personal favorite right now is Dark Room. It’s a simple, free, full-screen word processor with just the right amount of features. You can set your margins, the color and font of the background and text to fit your preferences or your story (it’s styled like an old electronic typewriter by default, which I kind of love, since that was originally what I used when I first started writing – on those things, you had nothing to do but write), and, fortunately for us Wrimos, it still has a word counter! It’s immersive and distraction-free. Other options are the similar WriteRoom (for Mac), the meditative Ommwriter, or the slightly more complex WriteMonkey.

I was surprised how much using such minimalist software actually helped me focus. I don’t think it’s just that it removes the common word-processor distractions, so much as that it somehow makes the drafting process itself much more engrossing, and hence helps soften the call of other, outside distractions, as well.

Internet/Distraction Blockers

Most of the time, however, the biggest distractions don’t come from inside the word software, but from all the other temptations floating around inside our computers. The internet. Games. Videos. Email. Social media. If you need a little extra willpower when it comes to resisting these things, internet and distraction blockers can help.

One program tailored towards writers is Stop Procrastinating, a desktop app that lets you choose whether to block only specific websites, or your internet connection entirely for a certain amount of time. It also lets you set goals, and track how you did. This software isn’t free, but it’s what I typically use, and I’ve found it to be quite helpful on those days when I just don’t have the willpower to leave the internet alone. There are also some free tools out there, as well.

Another interesting option is the free Writer’s Block. A minimalist, full-screen word-processor like those described earlier, Writer’s Block also blocks not just the internet, but the rest of the programs on your computer, and literally will not quit until you’ve either written a set amount of words, or for a set amount of time, which you choose at the start of each session. It clings to your desktop and leaves you with no choice but to complete your goals to get rid of it. It won’t even let you trick it by copy and pasting! It’s a militaristic tool that could work perfectly for those times when you’ve just got to hit a certain daily quota.

Music and Sound

There are also distractions that come from outside the computer entirely. In particular, other people.

I used to prefer writing in silence, without music, but given that I live with other people, silence is a pretty scarce resource. I’ve recently found that it often works much better to put on some noise-blocking headphones and drown out the world with background music. Personally, I find lyrics distracting, so I stick entirely with instrumental pieces, usually electronica or classical. Spotify, and its playlists, are a great free resource for this.

If you absolutely cannot concentrate with music on, though, there are also plenty of free background noise generators out there, offering nature sounds, rain, or simply white noise.

Physical Prevention

One often overlooked method of avoiding distractions is also perhaps the most straightforward: make it physically impossible for them to reach you. If the internet is your downfall, then take a laptop, or even a paper notebook, and go sit outside somewhere, where there is no Wi-Fi, or simply disconnect your router all together for a while. If computer programs and games in general are a problem, have one device that you use only for writing, and absolutely nothing else (I have one old netbook that is such a piece of crap that I couldn’t use it for anything but writing even if I wanted to…and it’s actually a great productivity tool!). If there are too many people around or too much ambient noise, then move somewhere else, where you can be alone. If the weather outside is simply too nice to stay indoors, then go ahead and sit in the sun with your draft. Coffee shops and parks are also great places to hide from the typical distractions of the home. Besides, I often find that changing the scene helps generate some fresh inspiration.

Anyway, I hope that someone finds these tips and tools useful for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, and beyond. Feel free to chime in with any techniques or resources of your own in the comments section!

Spring Summary

Well, I haven’t exactly done a fantastic job of updating this blog regularly. Part of this is because all of my projects have been fairly slow going recently, because honestly, these last couple of months have been fairly difficult. I have a lot going on in my life right now, both positive and negative, and it’s been hard to not so much find the time to write, but to focus on it. Things have been going slightly better recently, though, and I want to stay on top of both my projects and this blog during the summer.

So, in an attempt to catch up, here’s the condensed version of what went on during April and May:

Camp NaNoWriMo

I signed up for Camp with the standard 50k word goal, but it seems I bit off more than I could chew. When I went into Camp, I really wanted to push through and finish one particular novel that I’d started, just to get it out of the way, because, in truth, it’s a project that I don’t enjoy all that much, and I was writing it more for practical reasons (it’s a story with a plot and theme a publisher specifically requested). Turns out, that wasn’t exactly setting myself up for success. Not even the deadlines and motivation of Camp could keep me from procrastinating. After several missed days, I eventually jumped ship completely, and started ‘pantsing’ an entirely new novel. This actually went fairly well, and it was interesting, because this was the first time I’d ‘pantsed’ a story, with no planning whatsoever, for a long time. It felt really different. Nonetheless, while it was fun at first, not having a proper outline did eventually slow me down, and I only managed to reach a combined total of 25k words for the two projects during the month.

So, I lost Camp. For the first time. At least I did learn a few things, I think, about what works and what doesn’t. If this had been during a time when I had been more able to focus on writing, maybe it would have gone better, but I guess not everything always goes according to plan. I do still intend to work on both Camp novels, though. In particular, I’m going to do some proper outlining on the new one, and then get back to work on as soon as possible, as I’m really rather fond of it. The first one I attempted…I’ll continue it, but at a slower, side-project pace.

NaPoWriMo

NaPo went well during the first week, but afterwards, my lack of focus affected it, too, and I ended up dropping out of the challenge, save for the last three days, where I wrote three additional poems to bring my total to ten poems out of thirty. It was fun, but the timing was just really poor. I wish that NaPo wasn’t always the same month as April Camp. Nonetheless, I will more than likely give it another go next year.

Local “Exquisite Corpse” Event

By sheer chance, I happened to be at a local bookstore, and noticed a flyer for an “exquisite corpse” (composite story) writing event that it was holding for Independent Bookstore Day. On a whim, I signed up, and wrote chapter 7 of the composite story at a public desk, with the words displayed on a big projector screen in the middle of the store while I was writing. That was…interesting. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with what I wrote, but for the half an hour time limit, I suppose it wasn’t bad. I still haven’t picked up my copy of the finished book from the bookstore, yet. I’m eager to read the whole thing (I was only allowed to read chapter 6 prior to writing) and see how it sounds, and to see how the next writer continued off of my submission. This was actually really fun, though. I would definitely do something like this again.

The Avon Fanlit Writing Contest

The Avon Fanlit contest is going on at JukePop Serials right now, where anyone who wants to can contribute chapter submissions to an ongoing romance story, based on prompts. I don’t generally write straight-up romance, and doing so is pretty out of character for me, but the contest looked like too much fun to sit out on. I only found out about it 48 hours before the chapter 1 deadline, but I did get my submission finished on time. Chapter 2 is currently open for submissions, but I think I’m going to pass on this one. I will probably pick the contest back up on chapter 3, though, and will probably write at least a couple more of the five total prompts throughout the rest of the spring and summer. It’s actually a pretty neat way to let loose and experiment with writing, and to get some feedback. I’d recommend the contest to anyone with at least a mild interest in – or who’s at least tolerant of – the romance genre.

Other than that, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from my revisions on Paragon, the fantasy novel that I consider my main project. I’ll get back to it soon, but I needed a little change of pace. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of editing on my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, and I’m hoping to get both the revisions and the rest of the drafting done on that one before NaNo 2015 rolls around. I’ve been trying to catch up on my serials, as well, and as mentioned in the last post, I’ve also been working heavily on Glass, my game project. Here’s hoping the summer will be productive!

Has anyone else had any big events or struggles during the spring?

Don’t Just Subtract

When I see discussions about editing, the focus often seems to be on refining drafts by polishing material and removing excess content.

I generally consider the first draft the ‘idea draft’. It’s the act of getting the basic, conceptual skeleton down on paper, more than a complete product in itself. Almost invariably, some bad ideas will sneak in with the good ones, as well as plot threads, scenes, and descriptions that were ultimately unnecessary, or left dangling as the plot developed in other directions. While trimming off this extra fat to expose the meat of the story is definitely important, I think that the act of cutting content is sometimes over emphasized.

During the first draft, you will also get to know the story and characters in a way you can’t through outlines and imaginings. The first draft will always be very rough, but it will contain the actual core of the story. Building off this core, instead of simply polishing what’s already there, can lead to some really great, and sometimes unexpected, developments. Your project is now a familiar friend instead of a stranger, and now that you are acquainted, ideas for new scenes and events will likely present themselves as you begin working through the second draft. Not only will there be sections that need trimming, there will also be areas that can be enhanced by adding new content.

In my case, I usually find that my characters really come alive in the second and third drafts, instead of the firsts, and that some of my best character development enters the novel after I’ve already written ‘The End’. In fact, while there are cuts along the way, my overall word counts tend to grow with each draft. (For instance, the first draft of Night Plague was 54k, while the final was 64k, after the addition of another 10k words through a new chapter and a few new scenes.)

While you don’t want to be afraid of cutting content while editing, don’t hesitate to add new scenes, events, or even entire chapters, either. It might require a little extra work to get any new segments up to par, but revision is a phase where some powerful drafting can happen, too. Revising a novel isn’t strictly about polishing or rewriting what’s already there, it’s about enhancing the ideas its made of, and that often requires adding as well as subtracting.

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.