ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group post - Be your own structural editor

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month which means posting for the Insecure Writers Support Group.

For the next few weeks I want to pass on some things I've learned recently through attending a Queensland Writer's Centre novel workshop conducted by a structural editor.

Who is a structural editor? Well that would be the person who gets given your ms after it's been accepted by a publishing house. It's the structural editor's brief to look for flaws in your story structure, character arcs, well, your whole ms really. (Not that you'll have any obviously!)

Today I'll just share general tips that were passed on:
  • Publishing requires a lot of luck as well as a lot of hard work.
  • Your novel has to be commercial or publishers won't want to know you. (Go here to read more on Jane Friedman's site - invaluable!)
  • Your novel has to be structured and clear.
  • In other words, you have to do it right.

Now a little more particular:

Get your story idea - the editor suggested you write about familiar things. Write about people you know, by blending people. Take events that have happened - your life, newspapers, television...and use these events in your story. (This reminds me of Jodi Picoult's style. She gets her ideas from current events then thoroughly researches the event, then peoples it with her characters - always quirky, always showing multiple viewpoints.)

As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, first drafts are 'shitty'. She even says that 'all writers write them'. But the good news is: 'This is the way they end up with a good second draft and a terrrific third draft.'The difference between a 'shitty' first draft and a 'terrific' third draft is...editing...and that's what I'm going to post about next time. Here is a great link to Write to Done, a great article, 15 Ways to Write Tight which might help you with your first draft.

What do you think? Stephen King in 'On Writing' says much the same thing as Anne Lamott - get that first draft down, put it away for a month, drag it out and go to town on it, discuss it with others, then start your third draft. Do you agree? Do you get bogged down in the first draft, self editing as you go and driving yourself and your story crazy! Like me?




21 comments:

  1. I am definitely an "edit as you go" girl, because I think it saves me time. It doesn't, it just means I waste hours staring at the same chapter when I should be writing the rest of the story!

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    1. You sound like me Kyra. We'll have to learn a new way of doing things. D.

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  2. I don't edit as I go. I have to get that first draft down. But maybe I should try it one day because I find it so hard to find the motivation to make it through draft 2; especially when there are shiny new ideas in my head.

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  3. Hello Denise.
    Great information in this post.
    Thanks for sharing.
    The signature stamp is looking good too (smile). I'm off to play catch-up. See you soon dear friend!

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    1. Not as cute as yours Andy, but I like it. D.

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  4. I love the editing, it's my favourite part. I do write a pretty basic first draft, lots of telling. In the rewrites I get to add personality and depth to the story. I find the themes and often add plot lines.

    Great post, I'm a little burned out after a-z, so well done for getting more up there!

    See you tomorrow :)

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    1. Yeah, well I had this one prepared like a month ago, nerd that I am. I knew I wouldn't feel like it this month. D.

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  5. I love writing a fast first draft. I don't care that it's usually horrible--even if I have a detailed outline to work from! hehehe. The hard part is getting the structure right, I think.

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    1. All I can think of is you on the high seas Lynda. Hope you're having a whale of a time. D.

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  6. I like to get that first draft down and then go on from there as I edit, ensuring I haven't forget details which link the story together.

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    1. Looks like you've found what works, C.M. D.

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  7. Used to spend hours on the first chapters, now I work from first to last and back again and obviously better results.

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    1. Glad you've found what works for you Carole. D.

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  8. I edit as I write which means I give up many stories half way when they don't seem to click....trying hard to turn off the internal editor and have a messy but complete first draft

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    1. Me too Rek. It's really hard isn't it? D.

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  9. This is good advice. I do get a bit bogged down in the first draft because I self edit too much; but I agree with the "just get it down" concept.

    I will enjoy your insights this month Denise :)

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    1. Yeah, the more I fiddle with the first draft, less chance there is of getting it finished. I'm already looking forward to NaNo this year, and I really will turn off my inner editor. D.

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  10. I just try to get through the first draft, then I obsess, er, worry over the revisions. I'll worry for a year or more, until I've doubled my word count.

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  11. You have some awesome links here. I especially want to check out the 15 ways to write tight.

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  12. Like you, I tend to edit my chapters after I write them. I have to get them right before I move on to the next chapter. I know they have to be edited again once the story is finished, but that doesn't stop me anyway.

    Will be checking out your links.

    BTW - only remembered the Challenge when I came here. I need to do something about my memory.

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