Paperback Giveaway!

***Update*** The giveaway has ended. Thank you to everyone who entered!

 

 

Just a quick  bit of shameless self-promo here. My Goodreads giveaway starts Feb. 25th —  enter for a chance to win 1 of 2 signed copies of my novel, Waiting for You! (Open to US and Canada)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Waiting for You by Allison Williford

Waiting for You

by Allison Williford

Giveaway ends March 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

If you don’t win, never fear! Get a free ebook of Waiting for You when you sign up for The Sentranced Writer’s monthly newsletter. Our March edition is all about dialogue!

Editing Your First Draft: 7 Tips and Suggestions

editing7Before you send off your manuscript to your editor or beta readers, it’s important to get it in tip-top shape. No beta reader or editor wants to slog through careless typos and errors that could have easily been fixed by the author.

I know what you’re thinking… but Allison! Isn’t that what editors and beta readers are for?!

The answer is no.

From time to time I do some beta reading. I’ve seen some really awesome manuscripts. But I’ve also seen some really horrible ones, too. I don’t mean horrible as in the story was bad; there were just so many typos, silly grammatical errors, or careless plot holes…so many that it just made me absolutely hate the story itself, and made me internally curse the author. It was very apparent that the author had done zero proofreading or editing.

All authors should take the time to edit their work once the first draft is complete (yes, even if you were self-editing along the way). A sloppy manuscript only screams, “I’m lazy and I don’t care what you think of my writing!” 

Okay, maybe not quite like that. But every sloppy manuscript I’ve read made me doubt the author’s ability as a writer. Every careless error detracted more and more from what could have been a really good story, usually to the point of my being totally fed up and wishing I could just stop reading it.

Editors will also appreciate your efforts. It saves them time from having to correct the little, silly errors such as typos, when instead they could be focusing on the bigger picture of your story — plot and characterization, or the voice and syntax of your writing.

This doesn’t mean you need to have a Ph.D in English. I do suggest picking up a reference book for English grammar. English for Dummies is a good one; it explains grammar rules in simple terms and offers good examples.

Once you’ve brushed up on basic grammar and punctuation, here are some  suggestions for editing your work. I did all of these (pretty much in this order, too) after I finished my first draft of Waiting for You. But do what works for you!

  1. Step away from your story
    Once you’ve finally written those glorious words — The End — take a break from your first draft. After you’ve spent God only knows how many months of grueling over every scene and chapter, it all looks the same. Your brain knows what it’s supposed to say or sound like, so that’s what your eyes see when you proofread. Step away from it for at least a week. A month is great if you have the luxury of time (and not having a deadline). You’ll be able to come back with fresh eyes.
  2. Proofread your manuscript in various mediums
    If possible, read it in different mediums: print out your manuscript or load it onto your e-reader. If you print it out, mark up that bad boy with colored pens and markers (I’m a nut when it comes to colored pens). If you use your e-reader, load it as a .mobi or .epub file, and you should be able to “highlight” any troublesome passages. Also, make note of any phrases or words that you’ve used too much, as well as those pesky adverbs.
  3. Read it aloud
    Seriously, read your work out loud. You’ll be able to hear any clunky clauses or phrases, or dialogue that doesn’t quite sound genuine.
  4. Read it backwards
    You’ll be better able to pick out errors, as your eyes will be able to read each word on its own, rather than taking in the sentence or clause at once (which, like previously mentioned, your brain already knows what it’s supposed to say).
  5. Use your word processor’s handy dandy search bar
    Once you’ve gone through your manuscript a few times, go back into your word processor (or Scrivener, if you’re in the cool club), and use the search function to find any of those phrases or words you made note of. Reread those passages to see if there’s a more appropriate word or description you can use.
  6. Nix was, said*, very, etc.
    Or any other “weak” verb or adjective. I heard the tip some time ago to search for the word “was” — it was actually very eye-opening. I found that I was using the imperfect tense in a lot of places where preterite tense conveyed the action much more crisply. (i.e. “His hands were trembling.” vs. “His hands trembled.”) This also goes for the word “very.”*A note on dialogue tags: Tread carefully when it comes to your dialogue tags. If you find yourself having to replace a ton of dialogue tags for stronger verbs, or find yourself using a lot of adverbs, you may need to rework the dialogue itself. While using strong verbs for tags can be great in small sprinklings, your dialogue and your character’s action before/between/after should convey their emotion strongly enough that it doesn’t necessarily require a different tag.
  7. Those-Which-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned… That’s right. Adverbs.
    A lot of writers will cringe and hiss at you if you even utter the word “adverbs.” While it’s true that too many adverbs are a red flag that you should find stronger verbs and descriptions, I’m of the mindset that a few minor adverbs here and there are OK. You can’t seek and destroy every adverb in your story; you’ll end up with choppy passages and forced, awkward writing. If you find yourself scouring a thesaurus, just stick with your adverb. In a lot of instances, it’s extremely apparent when a writer had to look up a word.

Be sure to check out Showing versus Telling: 10 Resources to Help You Show, Not Tell

Take your time with edits and revisions. There’s no need to rush through them. Once you’re ready to work with beta readers and editors, be sure to keep an open mind to their input. You might find that all your betas have the same suggestions on a certain character or scene. Be receptive and respectful of critique, but also be sure to give your betas feedback as well.

What other steps do you take to get your manuscript ready for beta readers and editors? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

Showing versus Telling: 10 Resources to Help You Show, Not Tell

showingvstell

Show, don’t tell. How many times have you heard that? How often do we scour our work for signs of telling to eagerly correct the problem? What exactly does it mean? Well, it’s the difference between:

Delilah felt excited.

and

Delilah’s eyes widened. She bounced on her toes. Her pounding heart thudded hard against her ribs, and her pulse was deafening in her ears as a grin spread across her lips.

I’ve gathered some external resources to help you show instead of tell. Some of these are absolute favorites of mine and I use them frequently as reference. Some also have links to purchase on Amazon.

1. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
I love, love, love this. It’s my go-to guide when I need help conveying a character’s emotion. It includes 75 different emotions your characters might feel. The beauty of it is that humans are complex beings. We might be feeling a whole slew of different emotions at once. Each listed emotion includes what that feeling might escalate to, or what cues might show that your character is trying to suppress that feeling.

2. Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
This is a freebie for Kindle. It goes along with The Emotion Thesaurus and is exactly as the title suggests. It lists certain conditions that might amplify what your character is feeling, such as pain, exhaustion, dehydration.

3. Writers Helping Writers
This is Angela and Becca’s website. They also have other helpful books for fleshing out your characters, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. They have a lot of great resources on their site. Definitely check them out!

4. Resources on using strong verbs (The Writer’s Resource)
Strong verbs can really help your writing when trying to show instead of tell. For example, if you find yourself writing “She felt [insert noun/adjective here telling what the feeling is]”, look for stronger ways to show us how she felt. This goes along with using too many adverbs. Instead of “He wearily climbed the stairs”, try “He trudged up three flights of steps.” Strong verbs give the reader a better idea of how your character is feeling.

5. Grammar Girl : Show, Don’t Tell
This one is a quick read and will give you a better idea of telling vs. showing.

6. Scribendi: Ten Tips to Help You Avoid Telling Writing
Another good article on avoiding telling in your writing.

7. Writing Forward on Show, Don’t Tell
Another quick read, but still informative.

8. The Beginning Writer

9. The Itch of Writing: Showing and Telling: the basics
Offers some great examples on the differences between telling and evoking emotion in the reader.

10. Lynette Noni: Show, Don’t Tell!
Great cheat sheet on some common emotions!

Extrapolating Your Feelings: Writing Emotional Scenes

frost quoteA good story will make us feel. It may be happiness, grief, elation, anger, fear, sadness. We find ourselves so lost in the story, so connected to the main character, that we become a part of them. We feel their pain, their joys, and their sorrows.

As a writer, you’ll no doubt come across a scene in which your character stumbles into a life-altering event, making his world come crashing down on his head. Death or loss of a loved one. A failed quest. Being betrayed by a best friend. Or, on the complete flip side of the coin, it may be an event that completely alters his life in a positive way — a realized love, a successful quest, being reunited with a long lost friend.

But how do you actually write about an emotion powerful enough to make your readers feel it too? I like to think of it as “extrapolating” your feelings.

Emotionally charged scenes can be tough to write, especially if it’s something you’ve never really had to experience before. To some extent, though, we’ve all experienced wide ranges of emotions. We can take those experiences and apply them to those emotional scenes.

When writing these types of scenes, there are a few steps you can take.

  1. Before you even write that first word of the scene, stop. Take a few moments to really think about what kind of emotions your protagonist is feeling, depending on the situation and what type of personality they have. How do they react? What kind of reaction makes the most sense for that character? It’s important to have a deep understanding of what kind of person they are to determine what emotions they’re feeling in that situation. Make a list of those emotions.
  2. Think back to times you have felt those emotions, even if it was a completely different situation than your character’s. What was running through your mind? How did it physically make you feel? Was your heart racing? Head spinning? Nauseated? Now go back to your list and write down the physical sensations you associated with each emotion.
  3. Going back to your scene, look at how you can apply your list to your character’s situation.

For example, when I was writing a scene involving death and loss, I had to sit for quite some time (we’re talking days, here) and had to think long and hard about what emotions I have experienced. I’ve never watched someone die, nor have I lost immediate family or loved ones. What sort of things would I feel if I were watching someone die? I’ve experienced hopelessness and despair in depressive episodes. I’ve faced death in the past and feared for my own life. It took time, but I drew from what I know.

It’s not easy dredging up all those old emotions when writing the difficult scenes. But don’t forget to extrapolate your emotions when it comes to happier scenes. Apply the way you felt during good times to those scenes, too.