A Simple Way to Work with Editors
Many writers dread the editing process, especially when it comes to recommendations for rewrites. David Amerland calls editing brain-squeezing. I agree. For every suggestion an editor makes you have to agree, disagree, or partially agree. Then if you agree, it's time to rethink that portion of the manuscript and make changes. So, you need to think of the way to make the changes that fit with the story, the character(s), and the scene.
Editing requires some hard thinking.
Also, some writing programs do not allow an editor in for comments and suggestions, or the ability to highlight text. This requires a new process of downloading the manuscript in a format the editor can access. The editor uploads the document, makes editorial comments and suggestions, downloads the document to send to you so you can upload and make changes. This process may be repeated several times. No wonder writers dread the process.
Google Docs can eliminate the file exchange process by allowing editors direct access to the document. Once there, they can highlight text and make comments for changes. You can reply, make changes and talk to the editor about the changes. In one place.
Your time and energy are focused on making your story the best you can make.
Curb Your Emotions
You pour your heart, soul, and brain into your story. Once the story is written, it becomes a commodity. Your end goal is to publish and have readers. If you approach the editorial process as a process to reach that goal rather than a direct attack on your writing, you'll be able to keep emotions at bay a begin to see your writing with a similar critical eye.
Using editors to fine tune your story pays dividends in story structure and readability. Professional editors will help you see the places where the story is weak or when a sentence is awkward. An editor with a good eye will also help you find the elements to cut from a sentence to an entire scene.
If you are on a tight budget, and many writers are, look for a friend, a reader in your genre, or someone who likes editing. Ask for their help. But find someone to help you see your manuscript with an objective eye.
You always have the last word. It is your choice to accept an editorial suggestion or not.
Dialogue and Narrative
Grammar is essential to good storytelling; it keeps the reader from getting lost. When writing narrative good grammar is essential. But when your characters speak, they talk like human beings. People don't speak in semicolons and neither should your characters.
Robert Harris wrote a trilogy about the great legal orator Cicero: Imperium, Lustrum, Dictator. In these stories, whether speaking in private or conducting a public oration, Cicero does not speak with semicolons in the dialogue.
Natural speech is a key element in creating an empathic character. Your editor may get stuck with the fine points of grammar within dialogue, but your readers want a character to speak in flow, just the way real people do.
An editor sparked the idea for this post with a comment about the lack of semicolons in a character's speech. My reply was the title of this post: Characters don't speak in semicolons.
Simple tricks to dialogue
As a writer, you can enliven your dialogue by writing in natural speech flow. The trick is to use punctuation and possibly break some grammar rules.
On the other hand, you'll want to make sure your dialogue is punctuated correctly for interruptions, breaks, and attributions.
Editor Jodie Renner provides useful guidelines in her article for Kill Zone.
A. Ellipsis (…) or Dash (—)?
Dialogue is the Spice of Character Building
Dialogue is one of the strongest ways to get your readers emotionally involved with a character.
When I wrote the introductory scene for Cassiodorus in Ravenna: A Mosaic where he speaks in long, convoluted sentences and does not get to the point, one of my fellow writers said, "Tell me he dies before the book ends." Now that's an emotional response. He was sorry to hear that Cassiodorus lived on into his nineties, well outside the time frame of the story.
Your character may speak in monosyllabic words or long phrases. Either way, make the dialogue reflect your character and how he or she interacts with the other personae in your story.
The Peach Widow
Get your copy of The Peach Widow.
After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.
A distressed widow. Greedy brothers. A huge farm dog. Argolicus unravels the threads.
Argolicus and Nikolaos Visit A Farm
When Argolicus, is asked by his mother to counsel a grieving widow on the laws of inheritance, he finds the law will serve her cruelly. Her stepsons want her out and there is no recourse.
When a field slave falls during peach harvest, suspicions grow when Argolicus and Nikolaos learn more about the family and suspect that the death may not be from natural causes. As they question the family, they discover greed and begin to distrust the stories they’ve been told.
History and mystery. Order your copy today.
Editing & Writing
I'll be publishing The Peach Widow soon. One editor was away and is now back working on the second half of the story. In one way, I'm enjoying the time to work on suggested edits before the next round appears. Rephrasing, augmenting, and rewriting is tedious work for me so I am grateful for the time.
Editors are the lifeblood of refining your story to be the best. Editorial comments temper that feeling of relief when the story is done. The reality is that the story is not really finished until critical eyes have read it and found those details that you, as the writer, have overlooked. Then the changes begin.
Trust The Process: A Story Forms in the Middle of the Night
The concept for the Argolicus mysteries is a series of 12, one for each month of the year. Although I have story notes for several, I was stuck on the story for January. While I was waiting for the edits on The Peach Widow, I began another story.
I woke up in the middle of the night with the opening lines of the January story. I jotted them down in my bedside notebook (you have one, yes?) and the next morning started work on The Roman Heir. This is the one story that does not take place in southern Italy. As Argolicus leaves Rome to head home, Boethius ask him to deliver a book to a young scholar in Ostia.
Here's what came to me in the middle of the night.
“You see,” Boethius said, leaning toward Argolicus in a confidential manner, “Rome is a closed community. When someone like you whose family lineage is not from one of the great families of Rome and as a newcomer attempts to take on a centuries-old Roman position, you set yourself up for strife. You are wise to retire, go back to your provincial Bruttia and live as local nobility.”
Of course, I had to do new research about Ostia. How was the town laid out as a failing port city? What were the buildings like?
I like to know where I am with maps and floor plans and the like when the characters move around in the story.
Here's the floor plan that I found for the richest man in Ostia.
The Second Story: The Vellum Scribe
As exciting as it was to finally have the first story of the series in my head, I had already begun another story for the series, The Vellum Scribe.
In early spring wildflowers start to bloom in southern Italy. Argolicus' uncle Wiliarit arrives from Constantinople with a commission to create a manuscript copy of Dioscorides' dictionary of plants. Wiliarit enlists Nikolaos in his search for live plant specimens. As they wander the fields finding plant "models" for illustrations, they discover the brutally beaten body of a local merchant.
I'm still working on the plot details for this story.
Call for Beta Readers
If you would like to receive a free copy of The Peach Widow, I'm looking for beta readers. If you are willing to read the story and post a review when the story is published, get on the Argolicus Street Team and I'll send you the link. I love reader feedback.
How Many Words Should I Write a Day?
rWord count varies per writing session varies from writer to writer. The most important aspect of your word count goal is to set a reasonable target on a daily basis. Some days you may reach your goal, some days you may not reach your goal, and--the best days of all--some days you will exceed your goal.
If you are new to setting your writing goal, make sure to set your daily work time and then experiment with your word count goal for each session. If you set your goal for 1,000 words per session and reach it, try pushing up the word count. If you do not reach your goal of 1,000 words consistently, set your count a little lower.
Practice and Consistency Will Increase Your Word Count
As you continue with your daily practice, you will find that your word count increases. Always be ready to set new goals.
Several factors contribute to this increase:
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middoe Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.