The Importance of Balance

It is absolutely crazy to be going through revisions again!

The entire process has been a whirlwind so far, even though I’m only five chapters in to my revisions as of the time of writing this post. Every time I work through a chapter on my own, it comes back with lots of wonderful comments and markings from my editor, Kristy. She asks lots of questions that makes me think about which sections to elongate and which to elaborate on. Every chapter has new notes to work through, and I’m actually really excited that some are starting to make me sit down and take the time to puzzle them out. Revising takes time. A lot of time. Mixing schoolwork and revising and promoting the presale campaign can be challenging at times, but I really couldn’t be more thrilled doing it.

The most interesting thing about the revisions so far has been the discovery that I held myself back! As a first time author, I was determined to not make any of the pitfalls in my drafts. I wanted to keep my backstories concise and not excessive and make sure I wasn’t describing every new character’s appearance in too much detail. I wanted to make the setting immersive, but not so descriptive that the book feels like more description than plot.

But suddenly, both my editors told me that I could be adding more! I could be doing more! All of that information that I had held back in my notes and kept from my draft can start to be integrated into the book!

Do you have any idea how exciting that is?!

So, as I am learning all of these exciting things myself, let me give you a few tips about what areas are okay to elaborate on, as long as you keep a good balance.

Area One: Character Descriptions

When I was working on Chasing Fae, I was very concerned about mentioning my characters’ appearances. I knew that while it was important to ground your reader through physical description, it had to be done in such a way that it didn’t feel formulaic. You know: hair, eye color, height, etc. all in a few sentences stashed near the introduction of the character. So I actually spread out my physical descriptions over a couple of chapters.

It turns out I did need to rework some of that, particularly for my main characters in order to give more of a physical sense much earlier. Also, it is actually really important to ground your small secondary and tertiary characters with some sort of visual element so your readers can visualize. The more I see the note, the more I begin to recognize the importance of it.

Area Two: Setting

Each moment in space and time can be talked about, even if it is only a couple of sentences. Every time there is a distinct transition in location, I find myself seeing more notes about taking a breath and letting my readers know where we are and what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like. I find that I need to work on expanding my writing on the different senses. I am good at talking about what my characters are seeing and what they are feeling in particular, like a light breeze or the sun bearing down on them. But I could use some work on what my characters are hearing and smelling. It doesn’t need to be in every description of a setting, but I think it does add another layer to the reader’s sense of place in your book.

Area Three: Pacing and Layering

One of the most significant compliments that I received on my manuscript from my Acquisitions editor was that my level of tension throughout the book was spot on. However, I am starting to realize that just because your tension is right doesn’t mean there isn’t more to work on in terms of pacing. My editor has pointed out to me several times over the first few chapters that there are moments where I can slow it down a little bit. I can add a few more paragraphs to clarify setting or character backstory and motivation or just take a moment to let everybody take a breath. My book is on the low end of the young adult fantasy genre’s typical word count (80k), so I have a decent amount of room to work with. The story has space for more layers, and I am finding new ways to add fresh life to Chasing Fae.

I hope that this inspires you to loosen yourself up a little bit with your descriptions in your writing. There is space! And if there isn’t, trust me, someone will tell you. Happy writing, everyone!

Should I Hire A Developmental Editor?

There is a lot of discussion among the Writing Community as to whether or not hiring a developmental editor would be beneficial for your book before going through edits yourself. Some say that it can be very beneficial especially if you’re not sure where to begin. Others say that you should be doing all of the developmental editing yourself. I found myself on the fence in the debate until I had the opportunity to work with a developmental editor through the Book Creator Program I am working with on my history book. And what I have discovered is it may come down to the type of writer that you are. So let’s weigh the pros and cons of working with a developmental editor.

Pro #1: Feedback

The most important and beneficial role that a developmental editor plays is giving you solid feedback about where you are going with your book and how to get there better. My developmental editor is fantastic at telling me what I’m doing right and giving me specific ways to improve a certain section or a certain chapter. It’s the specificity that I so desperately need. When I was working on Chasing Fae, I always worried about whether my chapters had a logical progression or whether my characters were strong enough or whether I was even in the league of the great writers I grew up reading. Understanding where your writing works and where it can be improved can be extremely boosting for your morale and help continue to motivate you to get your book finished.

Pro #2: Helping You Stay Committed

While not all developmental editors work like this, through the Book Creator Program my editor gives me specific deadlines when to have new material to her finished by. With my busy school schedule, I wasn’t able to work during the semester as much as I wanted to. By setting firm deadlines over the holidays, I started feeling a lot better about where I was and where I was headed. However, even if your developmental editor is only going to look at one lump sum of what you’ve got at the time of submission, it can still be a great motivator. Think about it this way: you submit your material to see where it’s at. Even if it comes back slashed up with red pen and with a lot of leading questions about where you may want to go, you can use that to further your writing. You will have real feedback that you can use to transform your book into a better version of the story. You will have a better idea of where the book is at and how much farther you have to go.

Con #1: If You Are A Writer Who Enjoys Working Independently, You May Have A Hard Time.

This has nothing to do with whether you’re receptive to criticism or not. Instead, I’m talking about how much control you enjoy having over your own book. In my time with the Book Creator program, I’ve realized that I enjoy working on my book independently for the most part. I love receiving the feedback and having deadlines, but there’s a little part of me that likes to be able to write whenever I choose and submit things in one large batch. Now of course, I need to learn how to work with smaller pieces in specific deadlines, and I am. But if you are a writer who enjoys working independently, you may be better off taking some time away from your book and then coming back with fresh eyes to do your own developmental work.

Con #2: Price

If a developmental editor is not in your budget, don’t do it. Hiring a professional editor of any kind can be quite expensive. Do not try to stretch yourself to pay for an editor if you don’t have the funds. Not having a developmental editor will not harm you in the long run. Will it make things easier for you? Perhaps. But there’s no guarantee that your book will be any better off with or without one.

So What Is The Best Option?

I think it all depends on the type of writer that you are. If you’re a writer who needs to have direct professional feedback to know if you’re on the right track in order to continue on, then absolutely find yourself a developmental editor and go from there. If you’re a more independent author who prefers to do their own revision work, go ahead and do your own editing. If you lie somewhere in the middle, weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that is best for you.

Happy writing!

Writer’s Review: AutoCrit

When in search of great writing software, I happened across AutoCrit during NaNoWriMo 2018. This website was running a contest that offered three months free membership to any NaNoWriMo contestant that signed up for their newsletter. While I didn’t win, an opportunity to purchase a lifetime membership for a reasonable price popped up unexpectedly. I snapped it up, and today, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about this revision software.

First Things First, what does AutoCrit do?

AutoCrit is an editing software that helps to edit your novel in a multitude of ways. Through its unique analysis process, you can instantly get editing suggestions about everything from word choice, to active vs. passive words, and even pacing. It takes into account all of the most popular books of a particular genre and their writing styles and uses those to evaluate where your story falls stylistically within that genre. You can even compare your book directly to the writing style of a particular author. For fantasy, I know J.K Rowling is an option as well as Sarah J. Maas, my favorite author of all time. The suggestions that AutoCrit churns out are really genre-specific, something that I don’t think any other editing software can give.

Best Features

Pacing and Momentum Report – I love this one immensely because of how accurate it is. You can see very clearly where your slow paragraphs are in your story, and you can see whether you’re actively moving the story along with what you’re writing.

Adverbs Report: Do you feel like you’re using too many adverbs in your writing? If yes, this is going to change your life. It shows you graphs of your most frequently used adverbs and how many per chapter. The software also shows you if your use of adverbs is average or above average or below average for your genre. It’s a really great indicator of where your writing stands in its current state. It will even show you the exact number to get rid f to make it fall into traditional bestseller standards.

If you don’t think you’re using too many adverbs…. trust me. You are.

Clich̩s Report РAre you worried that your book may contain too many clich̩ phrases? AutoCrit will weed them out for you and mark where they are in your story. Super useful for a second and third draft.

When should I use this?

I used AutoCrit primarily for my third and fourth drafts after I had gotten feedback from a few beta readers. While I was implementing their suggestions, I began to focus on word choice more heavily than I had in the past edits. AutoCrit was the best tool for identifying the weaknesses in my writing that I, myself, as a new writer was unfamiliar with what to even look for. It pointed out clear successes and clear failures that I could then adjust to until it was where I wanted it to be.

This software does not edit for you. Every change you want to make, you make yourself. It does not implement anything for you. What it does is point out specific areas for you to improve on and make specific suggestions to improve your writing. I couldn’t be happier with it.

Pricing

The plan that I personally use and would recommend is the Professional Plan. This grants you unlimited word count and access to all of the features I mentioned above, plus a lot more. This is the plan that’s going to best suit the author. Going with the basic plan leaves you only working with 1000 words at a time (which could not work). Going with the elite offers you weekly lessons, tips and tricks from industry professionals, and marketing help once you publish. But until you’re ready for that stage or you really want some more professional assistance, I would suggest the Professional Plan. It currently runs for $30 per month. But AutoCrit is often running discounts, so be on the lookout.

As always, happy writing!

The Revision Process

The revision process, for me, was actually more fun to me than writing your first draft.

Now hear me out.

During your first draft, it’s all chaos. You’re writing to get the story on the page. Of course your work is creative and a beautiful story, but it is in its rawest form. It’s at the worst it’s ever gonna be. So, the revision process allows you to truly create, to embellish and to detail every element of your novel. From the plot, to the characters, and the world, not a single detail remains untouched.

Everyone revises differently. Some people like to do three drafts; some want to do at least six. I couldn’t find a lot of really solid information out there about how to revise most effectively. Until I found this guide. I would highly reccomend most of the materials on this website. Writers Edit walks through a lot of writing concepts and practices similarly to what I do. This guide got me through the revision process. My article today is going to take it down to its bare bones and some of the modifications that I made to it to fit me best. Read their article if you’re looking for more in depth details.

Distance

Your first job as a writer is to separate yourself from your work for a period of time. This allows you to approach the work from a fresh perspective. Many sources reccomend a month to six weeks; if you’re an eager writer like me, I managed to make it two and a half weeks before jumping in. And that worked well for me. Make sure you give at least two weeks at the bare minimum. Trust me. It really helps.

First Readthrough

Sit down with your first draft and read it in its entirety. It’s best to do this in one sitting if you can, but never more than two. You want to see the novel’s arc and how events fit together, and it can be hard to do that if your reading is too fragmented. While you’re reading, take notes on each scene or chapter. Make notes about what each section is about, the characters that play a major role, and what the main goal of that scene or chapter is. Also note any changes that you’d like to make. Focus on major or medium-sized changes, but if you see something small that will bug you if it’s not fixed, write that down too.

When you finish reading, analyze the notes you’ve made about each scene. Do some seem out of place? Could some be rearranged or even eliminated entirely?

Second Draft

Take the time to make all of the changes that you want to make. Go down your list. Personally, I like to work chronologically starting from the first chapter through to the end. Your second draft should take you a decent amount of time to finish. Take your time to get the core elements right. Your draft should absolutely transform.

Beta Reader #1

Once your second draft is finished, I would reccomend sending your draft to a first beta reader. Pick someone that you can trust with your work, whether that’s someone you know personally or someone you meet through a writing group or the Twitter #WritingCommunity. A note: if you pick someone close to you, make sure they have the guts to give you real harsh criticism. Beta readers need to give you honest feedback, and family and friends can sometimes sugarcoat the truth in order not to hurt your feelings. Remember, criticism only gives you the opportunity to grow. I was lucky enough that my boyfriend is one of those people who gives honest criticism and feedback. I couldn’t have been happier for him to be the first person to see my work.

Also, set a time limit in which to have it back to you. Two weeks is usually a good time frame. Also be prepared to be flexible if needed.

Third Draft

The third draft is the best time to make edits that your beta reader has suggested as well as to hone in on the details. If your beta reader suggests major changes, insert another draft before this one where you focus on making those edits. Sometimes separating major from minor helps writers to focus on what matters most in their own time. If most of their suggestions are medium to minor sized changes, all you need is this third draft. While you’re at it, think about bringing out key moments in the story to the forefront, particularly in your worldbuilding. If details that you’ve created have gotten lost in the shuffle, add them back into your story. If a character is missing a key trait, incorporate it back in. This is another chance to enhance and embellish. Don’t waste it.

Second Readthrough

Read through your new draft a second time, making notes similar to your first readthrough.  A lot may have changed, so don’t half-ass it.

Fourth Draft

Make the changes you thought of in your second readthrough. Very simple.

Beta Reader #2 (Or maybe even #3)

Time to hand over your work to a second beta reader. My suggestion is to pick someone who has an entirely different reading or editing style than your previous beta reader. Branch out within your genre’s readers. You want to make sure your book appeals to a wide range of people. That’s why I would also reccomend even selecting a third beta reader to read simultaneously.

Fifth Draft

Make the changes your beta reader or readers suggested.

Final Readthrough/Grammar Check

Make one final readthrough on your computer. You can make any small changes that you want to regarding word choice and grammar as you read along. Consider having a grammar editor running as you do so you can catch mistakes easier. BUT DO NOT RELY ON IT FULLY. It does not catch everything, as I discovered. Force yourself to go slowly and steadily, reading every word and every comma and period. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself when you’re submitting to literary agents.

And there you have it! You’ve made it through the full revision process. Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back and get to querying!