Sunday 31 January 2016

Editing With Susanna Bavin
Here is the third in my series of guest blogs about editing and, this week, I am particularly pleased to welcome fellow writer, Susanna Bavin. Sue lives in a beautiful part of the world, Llandudno in North Wales. As well as writing novels, she presents a thought-provoking blog each week and I'm sure many of you will have received a beautiful picture of a rose or of her beloved home town as a thank you when you leave a comment. I first 'met' Sue during NaNoWriMo 2014 when she became one of my buddies for the month. I soon realised that she was very supportive and through her encouragement, I manage to reach the 50,000 + word count. Since then, we have remained in touch and are hoping to meet up for the first time at the RNA conference in July.

A very big welcome, Sue. Over to you. 

 What sort of writer are you? Do you belong to the 'don't get it right - get it written' brigade? Oh, how I admire you if you do! The idea that you can fling down that first draft before you concentrate on the editing fills me with envy. Me - I edit as I go along. 

One of the times that I participated in NaNoWriMo, I vowed to follow the NaNo mantra and keep going regardless, so instead of pausing to change things, I just scribbled a few words on post-it notes and ploughed on... which was fine until I came to a scene that I couldn't write because it followed on from a scene that existed purely as a couple of lines on a post-it.

So I edit as I write. Which makes it sound as if, when I reach the end, I really have finished.

Not so. The editing-as-I-go isn't editing as such. It's just the way I build my story. Afterwards the real editing starts. Having gone through the process with two novels in a year, these are the ideas I'd like to share. I'd be interested to hear what you think of them.

1. Editing takes time. Don't rush it.

2. Leave a gap between finishing the writing and starting to edit. This will put some distance between you and your beloved book and allow you to see it more clearly.

3. Check your timeline. Here's a timeline howler from my recent editing. An incident happened to my main character and I chopped it in half to create a mini-cliffhanger, with another character's POV scene in between. Great... until I re-read it and realised that the middle scene took place over two days whereas my MC's incident happened all on the same day.

4. Every sentence must pay its way. If it doesn't further the plot, if it doesn't expose character, if it isn't essential, then what is it doing there? Take every opportunity to tighten up your writing.

5. If you have written a multi-viewpoint novel, is it obvious from the opening to each scene whose POV it is, without needing to see the name? Each character's 'voice' should be distinct.

6. Editing isn't done all in one go. It takes several read-throughs.

Those are my tips. What do you think? I hope you'll leave a comment and maybe meet up with me for a chat on Twitter.

Here is the link:

Thank you very much for sharing your editing tips with us, Sue. I like the way you've set them out so clearly and I shall use your advice as a checklist. I'll enjoy ticking each point off in turn. I can relate to point 3 about the timeline already and have had to make some adjustments. 

Thank you for reading. Would your list of editing tips resemble Sue's? Would you add anything to it after reading hers? Would you include any others to the list above? As Sue says, please leave a comment. Thanks! :-)

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Editing With Sue McDonagh
In week two of my series on editing, I am very pleased to welcome another writing friend, Sue McDonagh, to the blog. I met Sue when we turned up at a new writers' circle called WriteGroup! in Cowbridge. We hit it off straightaway; we were both attempting to write a novel and we were going to try NaNoWriMo for the first time. That November in 2014, we became NaNo buddies and encouraged each other to keep going and achieve the target of writing 50,000 words+ in a month. On January 1st 2016, we achieved another first. We've both been fortunate in gaining a place on the New Writers' Scheme and we are both editing a novel for the first time.

Please tell us about this first experience of editing a novel, Sue.
Although I’ve spent my life ‘writing about things’, this is my first attempt at a full length novel. It’s in the romantic, chick-lit genre, light-hearted yet thought-provoking in turn.

After incubating the idea for a novel for a couple of years without the faintest idea how to start it, I discovered NanoWriMo, in which one commits to writing 50,000 words in a month. Fifty thousand words! I couldn’t imagine writing that much. No-one was more surprised than me when I achieved that target - and carried on writing, every single night.
Yes, this is Sue!
The novel grew and grew and reached 60,000 words at which point my writing friend, Jan Baynham, offered to read it for me. I’d felt quite proud of it until the moment I e-mailed it over. Overnight, the scales dropped from my eyes and I lay awake thinking how truly amateurish it was, and how much better it could be. I sent a message saying: "Please don’t read it! It’s terrible! I can do better!” Jan, bless her, said she’d actually rather enjoyed what she’d read, but I’d already re-read my humble offerings as if I was using someone else's eyes. My heroine irritated me, and I’d gone off the story-line.

I guess that was my very first experience of editing.  In my other life, I’m an artist, and I’m familiar with the idea that’s it’s sometimes necessary to destroy your art in order to create something better. It can be a scary process, and not for the faint-hearted. Every time I do it, I learn. Occasionally I learn that I should have left it alone in the first place - but more often than not, I surprise myself and feel that artistically, I’ve moved on. With that in mind, I re-wrote almost all of those 60,000 words and liked it a whole lot better. I worked on the character bibles for my cast, and I read everything I could lay my hands on about arcs and three act scenes and creating tensions and conflicts and dramas.
Two friends were ‘beta-reading’ my Work in Progress as fast as I wrote it. I felt like Scheherezade, passing my chapters into their eager hands on a daily basis. They were short chapters. More on that later.

Then I went into hospital for a hip replacement. My brain turned to mush after the General Anaesthetic, so it was a few weeks before I looked at my novel again.  When I did, I was horrified. I e-mailed one of my two friends.
            “I must congratulate you on your tenacity in reading this tripe,” I said. 
I could hardly credit my own arrogance in sharing it publicly - who did I think I was?
She replied, “It’s really not that bad,  But maybe you could…” and she sent a short list of encouraging and honest points which had me reaching for my laptop and opening a fresh document. Once again, I reviewed and re-wrote, and the novel thundered towards its conclusion.  With the end in sight, I wrote more and more slowly, tying up loose ends, trying to maintain the tension I’d created, explaining by showing and not telling - and then I stalled. 

I realised that I had a beginning, and an end, and not so much the notorious soggy middle, as hardly any middle at all. If you drew my story line as a graph, it would look like the sort of mountain a child draws. Like a cone. Up one side and down the other.  And somehow, not only did all the stuff I was trying to cram into the end need to go into the middle, it was also incoherent and muddled. A major re-write was called for. Far from feeling depressed that I had to carve up my novel, I felt quite excited and set to work.  This time I read everything aloud, which helped me to recognise where I’d gone wrong. Hours and hours of jiggling documents around and saving eternally to DropBox - then worrying that I’d saved over a chapter and lost it - and finally, I got to the denouement.  It was very exciting.

I’ve finished, I thought, as I typed, 'The End'. I began to tidy it up with a view to submitting it to publishers and agents.  They need the first three chapters, I discovered.  My chapters were skimpy, insubstantial things. More like scenes, really.  So they had to be re-assembled.  It was beginning to look, I hoped, like a proper book at last. But it was still not, quite, right…

It was 103,300 words, this manuscript.  It needed to go on a Word Diet.  I combed out flabby phrasing, and typos, and lost 800 words with reasonable ease. So that’s the grammatical errors attended to - now the editing is harsher, and closer to my heart. I’m beginning to understand the phrase ‘kill your darlings’. I’ve removed lines where I thought I was being funny - and now realise they’re misplaced humour - put in the mouth of the wrong recipient.
I’m keeping a ‘cuttings’ file, where all these sad cast-offs live, and maybe they will see the light in some-thing else, who knows.
Several people now have read my WiP in its entirety; half read it within days and told me it was gripping and they couldn’t put it down.  I couldn’t ask for better feedback! I was delighted…until I squeezed feedback out of the quiet ones, who told me: “Too much technical stuff” and “I don’t see what was wrong with their relationship” etc, sending me back to the drawing board. I’ve fixed the second observation - but I’m not sure what to do about the first one, and I think I’m running the risk of hacking it up and spoiling it.  It’s still too wordy by at least two thousand words, but it needs a lighter touch now than my swingeing cursor. Too easy to highlight entire paragraphs and press ‘Delete’!
My next step is to send it for assessment to the RNA.  I’m sure there will be a further set of observations to attend to.

Shall I meet you here for the next editing session? Mine’s a black coffee.  Oh, and Victoria Sponge please, if you’re buying…

A very big thank you for sharing the ups and downs of your first experience of editing in such an honest way, Sue. I can certainly relate to the feeling that my writing is amateurish and I've had many crises of confidence. You're a lot further along with the editing than me and I haven't got as far as getting feedback from Beta readers yet. I think that the coffee and cake session can be arranged, though!

To find out more about Sue, please follow her on her Face Book page:

and on Twitter:

Thank you for reading. Can you relate to any of Sue's experiences when you edited your first novel? Did you use story arcs to help you see where there needed to be major structural changes? Please share your experiences with us. Thanks!

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Do you enjoy reading short stories? If you do, why not download this collection which includes one by Geraldine Ryan.You may remember Geri has kindly agreed to mentor me under the 'Womentoring Project'. Just click on the link to find out more. Tales from Elsewhere

After a weekend together in the countryside, a group of online writer friends from across the UK decided to produce an anthology. The result is nine short stories that explore the world of being 'elsewhere'. Some are dark. Some are hopeful. All capture journeys through the real world and the corners of the psyche.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Editing With Jill Barry
This week, I'm delighted to welcome my writer friend, Sandra Mackness who writes as Jill Barry, to the blog. I'd been following Jill on Twitter for a while and met her for the first time almost two years ago when she invited me to a writers' meeting in Cardiff.

Over to you, Jill
Thank you, Jan, for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog and encouraging me to examine my editing process in detail. I shall look forward to learning how others deal with this tough task, whether approaching it with reluctance or eagerness!

When writing a pocket novel, a genre demanding a definite word count and chapters of similar length, I monitor my word count in order to spare myself a cull at the end of my first draft. Longer novels are a different matter. When I know I’m going with the flow, I just roll over and enjoy it!

I try not to self-edit as I work. Allowing that process to become a habit would, I believe, hinder creativity. I usually finish a day’s writing when I feel the need to walk away or sometimes because the clock dictates. I save my work on my PC and also to memory stick/data transferor. Next time I open up the document, I read through the last section written, revising as I go along. This is helpful because when I’m ready to resume my story, I’m back in it and can give it my total concentration and not slow myself down by fretting over what’s gone before. At that point, hopefully I’m reasonably happy with what I’ve written. If I think it’s a load of accurately spelt and punctuated rubbish, I go ahead in the knowledge that the junk is saved and can be deleted or transformed into ‘something wonderful’ when I return to it. Always believe!

Although I try not to use spell check too often, because that typo isn’t going anywhere and that repeated word can be deleted later, I deal with this before tucking up the 'wip' for the night because, unlike plot twists and turns, it’s mechanical stuff. I confess it’s also the nerd in me coming out!

While the characters are engaging upon the page, sometimes an alarm bell rings in my head, heralding a ‘Hang on’ moment. This alert can mean one of many things. Maybe Arabella confides something too early in the plot, thereby spoiling the suspense. Perhaps Tarquin announces he has a brother when the person he’s speaking to would already know that, as he’s a family friend.

Errors such as changing the colour of a character’s eyes or hair can easily occur and usually I note such details on the whiteboard above my desk. But whether Tarquin has a sibling, or Arabella blurts out something significant to the plot, a note needs to be written somewhere visible. Some authors use a row of Xs; others change the font colour of the section. Some use their software and comment in the page margin. Post-it notes stuck to your monitor are useful too, unless you can’t bear a colourful paper fringe framing your masterpiece. Whatever works for you!

I don’t count the number of drafts I need but for a pocket novel, it’s probably three. A longer work demands more attention. Whatever the length or genre, I have been known to write a particular scene out of sequence, because I want to capture the idea on the page, and can cut and paste elsewhere as part of the editing process. If it works, nobody will ever know. If it doesn’t you’ll realise when you do that next read through.

Technically, it’s advisable to proof read from end to beginning, using a ruler beneath each line. This easily shows up rogue words because there’s no ongoing story to lull you into seeing what you meant to type even if you didn’t. For my final read, my usual strategy is to email the word document to my Kindle. I find reading my work in this way shows up any errors still lurking, much more easily. And there will be some – even if you’re a nerd like me!

If you find the editing process daunting, you can always go about it in doable chunks. This way, you’ll move the project forward, albeit in tiny steps. ‘I’m going to edit my novel today’ may be easy to say but it is a challenge so never be afraid to revise it in sections to suit you, regardless of what others are telling you, whether in a writers’ group or via social media. Throughout this time, you may find it therapeutic to pursue an idea for your next project or try your hand at a short story.

If you’re fortunate enough to work with a good editor, you’ll cherish this time and learn from it. The anecdote below shows what happened to me as an enthusiastic but ‘green’ author taken on by a publisher working with the Arts Council but failing to provide any editing. The book was published as a Print on Demand paperback but fortunately Endeavour Press published the revised version as an e-book that topped the Amazon Contemporary Romance chart.

I can’t resist including my favourite review gained on Amazon: Gentle and genuine, here's a book that bubbles warmly and softly like good bath essence. It's a must read for romantics from nineteen to ninety.

This refers to Suddenly You Know, the novel that made me sit up and take editing very seriously. The original ms of around ninety thousand words was my first full-length work and contained far too much back-story. It underwent a massive cull.

Good luck with your writing journey!

Thank you so much, Sandra, for sharing your approaches to editing. I found them very interesting and informative and I'm sure other readers will do, too. I hadn't thought about emailing the 'ms' to my Kindle so I shall definitely be trying that when the time comes.

To find out more about Jill Barry, please click on the following links:

Facebook author page:

Twitter @barry_jill

Jill Barry Amazon Author Page:

Thank you for reading. Are there any of Jill's editing processes that you already follow? Which ones do you like the sound of and may try in the future? I'd love it if your left a comment. Thanks! :-)

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Sunday 10 January 2016

The Next Stage
Well, I took advice and left my novel in the box file untouched until last week. It helped that the 'resting' time coincided with Christmas and New Year when I had other things on my mind and I wasn't tempted to peek. I opened the box with trepidation - would I still believe in the story I'd written, would I find glaring plot-holes and, the most important worry, would the two stories of the dual narrative fit together?  

I began by reading the book from the beginning to the end without stopping to make any notes or written comments. That way I was able to get the feel of the story and take on the role of a reader. Straight away, I noticed that the timing of some of the events in story two were not placed in the correct place to fit in with the events in story one. Once I'd finished the first read that was the first thing I did. I rearranged the chapters so that the story flows better.

I've now looked at each chapter and summarised what happens in each one, noting the word count. That way I can see how each one balances against the one in the parallel story. What I noticed is how much the length of the chapters vary. Does this matter? I'm busy looking at dual-narrative novels I've enjoyed by published authors to find out.

So what next?
There is a wealth of advice on how to go about editing a novel. There are self-help books, blog posts and recommendations on Twitter and Facebook. Only yesterday, I was in a conversation with @DMKnight78. She recommended reading your story aloud so that grammatical errors are highlighted. I do this with short stories but hadn't envisaged reading a full sized novel aloud. Her other point of making note of small details that occur in one chapter need to be consistent in another is something I can see I need to check thoroughly. I've found a number of anomalies already! 

On The Writers'Circle FB page there was a link to the very useful Jody Hedlund's Blog. In it, she breaks editing down into three main areas of editing:

  • Rewrites or macro-edits These will be the changes we need to make after spotting weaknesses in the story itself and in the characters. Jody suggests that it's better to tackle these big changes first before any other edits. She asks, 'Why bother focusing on word flow and spelling mistakes within a particular scene when we may have to delete it?'

  • Line edits.  Here we need to go through line-by-line, studying each page and paragraph carefully. For me this will be checking that the dialogue I've used in 1947 or 1965 is appropriate for the era. Jody recommends keeping all of your research materials, biographies, and any pertinent information as you have to refer to it over and over again. 
  • Copyediting and Proofreading These will involve checking for the minutest details: spelling, grammar, formatting, typos, continuity errors, detail accuracy, and other small scale problems. During our editing process, this should be the last type of edit we do in a final read-through and of course, this is what results in the final copy that creates the first impression with agents and publishers. For the differences between copyediting and proofreading, please click on Daily Writing Tips and Writers'Bureau

I've also found another very useful source of advice in Editing With Red Pen by Anne Rainbow. I've signed up for her newsletter where she shares three editing tips in each issue. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Over the next weeks, several writing friends will be sharing their experiences of editing in the form of guest blogs. Please call in each week to see what they have to say. I'm very excited about learning from them. 

Thank you for reading. What advice do you have for editing? What did/would you do differently after your first attempt at editing? I'd love to hear your comments. Thank you. :-)

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.

Sunday 3 January 2016

New Year, New Beginnings
The festivities are over and it's time to get back to writing. Some of you may have kept writing throughout Christmas and New Year but I suspect that many of you are like me and find it difficult to get back into a routine. 

As I did last year, I looked back over 2015 and wondered how many of my goals I'd achieved. Had I made any progress along my journey as a writer?
  • Complete the first draft of the novel and work on it so that I feel ready to apply to the RNA New Writers' scheme at 12 noon. next January 2nd. ACHIEVED - I'm sure you will allow me to say again that I wrote THE END on November 29th! :-)
  • Continue to write short stories and submit them to competitions and magazines. I set myself a goal of two new stories a month. PARTLY ACHIEVED I didn't write twenty four new stories but I did submit several  stories to competitions. 
  • Aim to get one story accepted in a print magazine before the end of December 2015. NOT ACHIEVED This is still an area where I am having no success. As well as not getting my stories right for the market, I shouldn't be surprised when I only submit very infrequently, preferring to write for competitions. To put this right, I submitted one story last week and have another ready to put in the post in the morning. Will 2016 be my year? :-)
  • Aim to make the short list of a short story competition sometime during the coming year. ACHIEVED I was very pleased when 'Whispers in the Olive Trees' was shortlisted in Credington's Short Story Competition in the summer. A number of my stories were long listed and others have appeared in anthologies and on Alfie Dog Fiction. 'The Curse of the Turquoise Pool' was Commended by Swansea Writers' Circle and will appear in its e-book in the next few weeks.
So, what does 2016 hold for me?
  • Yesterday, I prepared my email to apply for a place on the RNA New Writers' Scheme and sat waiting with the mouse hovering over SEND and watching the minutes tick away until the time said 12.00. I'm delighted to say that I soon received an email saying that I have a place. 
  • My main goal now is to edit and polish the first draft of my novel ready to submit to the RNA NWS for a critique. It is going to take priority this year as I want to give it the very best chance I can. 
  • On the short story front, I shall continue to submit stories to competitions and magazines hoping for more short listings and that first elusive magazine acceptance. 
  • I hope to publish a themed collection of short stories before the end of 2016 but only after I've sent off my novel to RNA.
 What are your goals and targets for 2016? I'd love it if you'd leave a comment. Thanks. :-)

Thank you for reading my blog and all good wishes for a very productive year in 2016! HAPPY WRITING!

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.