Archives: editing

Recipes and Novels or Novel Recipes

A good recipe has the same characteristics as a good novel. And cooks like novelists are pantsers or plotters. Social isolation is the test of both. I am a self-acknowledged pantser. I was raised in a southern, struggling to make ends meet, kitchen. That’s code for making do with what you have. Boom or bust my pantry staples include grits, cornmeal, peas, and beans. Every kind of peas – crowder, field and black-eyed. Every kind of dried bean – navy, red, black, and pinto. In their native form, none sound appetizing but like a writing inspiration, it is the possibility of each. My travels sometimes on limited funds lead to other pantry staples, soy, pesto, capers, yuppie tuna, and ramen. My career opened doors to savories I had not known existed. Today’s pantry is a mélange of days good and bad and the sum being greater the parts.

I read recipes like I read novels. I want a sense of place, culture, character, and accessibility. Nothing like a plot twist, the expected ratcheted up a notch by the unexpected.

When I deviate from my nature I shop with a list of ingredients for recipes I imagine I will cook someday like novels I think I will write. This has led to a pantry, freezer and corner cabinet filled with the esoteric. Before the advent of COVID19, many items were threatened or doomed by an advancing shelf-safe date. Lists are a luxury unaffordable in a pandemic. My kitchen has become a lab of reverse engineering.

A week ago I bought a ham at the local butcher. Yesterday two cans of butter beans became visible with a roulette spin of the lazy Susan. Voila. The plot soup. The characters – the antagonist ham dying to be used while still viable, beans the protagonist, use me before I’m thrown on the heap. Subplots include spices and savories. Accessibility the trigger of all five senses heightened by anticipation, memory, and comfort. Reward gratification of accomplishment and leftovers on shelf or in freezer for re-reads.

My sense of possibility housed in my sense memory is not unlike the rules of grammar. Both are meant to be revered and broken on the altar of creativity.

What’s in the pot?

Diced Ham

Onion

Garlic

Red Pepper Flakes

Bay Leaf

Pinch of Ground Cloves

Canned Butter Beans               

Chicken Broth

Play with the flavors and the proportions, taste, edit, revise and serve.

I Can’t Afford an Editor

I Can’t Afford an Editor.”   

I hear this claim in every class I teach or writer’s group I attend. The complaint hides two fears: bloody red ink on your manuscript and the idea that a supposed, expert stranger will tell you what to write. The cost is a factor but it is not the factor. 

 

To allay your fears and minimize the cost know that editing is an iterative, not a one and done process. What do I mean?

  • Only you can write your 1st draft. Introducing an editor at this phase is a form of creative suicide;
  • Create a full draft, celebrate, and self-edit after you take the following steps:
    • Celebrate your accomplishment
    • Allow the text to marinate in a safe inaccessible place for 2-6 weeks
    • Read the full manuscript as a reader, not a writer
      • Understand that you can never be a fully objective reader
    • Return to the text to read as a self-editor
      • Is the point of view consistent?
      • Are there adequate transitions?
      • Have you used enough dialogue to move the action forward?
      • Is the pace and tone in keeping with the genre?
      • Did you use the five senses as tools to show not tell your story?
  • Use your self-edits to write a second draft.
    • Be amazed by how you have improved the text
  • Do a copyedit of the second draft, use online tools to help you
    • Spell & grammar checks
    • Grammarly.com
    • Search and replace tools
  • Ask other writers to act as beta readers:
    • Specify what you want from readers
    • Specify the desired turn around time
      • Be sure the anticipated return is reasonable for the length of the manuscript
      • Don’t resent a no response, timing is everything
      • Be willing to reciprocate
  • Read through the provided edits with care
    • Consider every comment and use those that resonate to complete your third draft

Presuming that you’ve made edits to the manuscript based on reader feedback, re-read the text with the above-bulleted self-edit questions in mind, performed a second tools scan, and made all changes you can identify you will have a completed third draft and you haven’t spent a cent. Congratulations!

Time to hire an editor.

How do you find the right editor?

See you next post. Happy writing.

 

 

 

                         

 

 

The Bogeymen in the Closets of Writers

As writers,  there are two boogie men in our closets. The first is our internal editor, the voice that criticizes as we write. For most of us, that voice is reminiscent of the first teacher to grade our writing. I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t shudder at red comments splattered across a manuscript. There is a place for that voice but it isn’t during the writing process. What do I mean by the writing process? In this instance think of it as your draft. The draft is the no rules – free zone, with one exception: page layout.

Page layout is not the time to be creative. If you plan to submit your work, set up page layout to meet publishing standards: one-inch margins, top, bottom, left and right, Times New Roman font at 12 pitch and one-tab return at the beginning of each paragraph.

Start Writing.

Really? Yes. Let the words come without judgment. Allow yourself to push your boundaries to achieve story. Write until you hit a wall or paint your characters into a corner. Step away to clear your head. Come back when you’ve recharged. Don’t need recharging have your character make a sandwich, stare in a mirror or make a call. Nanowrimo refers to this trick as a plot ninja.  Move the action move the story.

Image result for sue grafton writing yourself into a corner quote

 

Write and write and write without your internal editor. Write when your stomach churns or your chest tightens. Both are signs that the current writing makes you uncomfortable. A hard truth to accept is that your best writing comes when you are vulnerable. Surprise yourself and your reader.

Stay tuned, next time we let your editor out of the closet and put her to work.

 

 

 

 

© 2020 Lee Heffner – Author