To this point we have covered a lot of ground in a short period. A world has been born, characters are on the hunt for adventure, and banter is rampant amongst them. Whether the story ends with a bang or a soft good bye; it has to stop somewhere. But, is the first story of your career complete?
No. Not even close.
Over the course of building a story errors will be made to the overall manuscript. Your first draft is done, but edits are inevitable. I don't know of a single author that doesn't have to rewrite something or fix a scene for continuity. This is where my fourth and final post in the series will end. A few things must be considered before tackling such a beast. READ what was written before putting chapter after chapter on the chopping block like an execution, because this is the first step in editing. Skimming through some of those chapters might find them new homes somewhere deeper in the story where they fit better and others might need small tweaks to stay where they are. Reading it again helps you see where continuity of the story went awry. All of this brings the story closer to completion.
Finished? Good, because you just got started.The time has come for a second draft.
Magic begins here. Words are clay in your hands as you continue to mold the story into a beautifully shaped vase. Step two is actually editing everything (rewriting a manuscript for a second draft). That is accomplished by removing useless words or grammar as you read it thoroughly. I prefer to print out my manuscript for this process; however, you may wish to save paper and edit directly from whichever word processing program you use.
Changes are done, the story flows in a constant timeline that makes sense. What next? I would hand (email) a copy to friends and/or family willing to sit a spell and read it. Feedback at this point will help mold the story further - a second pair of eyes to critique your manuscript won't hurt. Joining a writing community online or in your home town is a good place for feedback too. It is actually in your best interest to hear early on what others think before committing to a physical print of your work. The next step is coming soon. Take of they tell you and sculpt it into your masterpiece.
Step three is revisions. Listening to feedback and altering scenes becomes a multi step process. Don't rush! Your exquisitely crafted vase comes with patience and perseverance. Rework scenes to be more descriptive, add dialogue to explain confusing actions, and above all else check for a smooth flow from chapter to chapter. Once everything detail has been corrected, it is time for a professional to take over.
Step four might be the most important beside writing a good novel. Hire an editor. There is an abundance of editors/proofreaders out there to choose from. Look to fellow writers for recommendations or use the editing services of an indie publisher for final polishing of your manuscript. Editing isn't always perfect the first time. What comes back from an editor are more than just grammatical corrections, new suggestions for plot or fleshing (developing) out a particular character are a few things to expect.
Some companies charge for each round of edits. Whenever you change major parts of a story more edits will have to be done, hence the charge for each round. Do as much editing as you can through online writing communities before leaping in with both feet. Don't in debt because you bought too many editing packages; use the free resources available to you first. You are now ready for beta readers to test drive the vivid world and charismatic people you've created. Take their feedback, revise, repeat - so is the life of a writer.
Well, by this point you've completed the not-so-impossible: writing a novel. Congratulations! Sitting on your desk is a finely crafted vase made of neatly stacked paper and ink ready for shipment to a large publishing house or awaiting a final coat of paint (cover art and a back cover blurb). We've had a wonderful time together trapping those ideas to paper. Now get to work. Stop dillydallying over pictures of kittens or how to win a Sudoku game, because readers, like me, are waiting for the next great novel.
Good luck becoming an author. I wish you luck in converting what started out as a hobby into a career.
My first two blogs drew a simple line from doing an outline to understanding your inner characters. Now we stare down a beast that taunts me from the darkened corners in my office, dialogue. When two people talk there is chemistry - it's an intertwining play of words that fit together like pieces of a puzzle.
Speech is just as important as the dynamic action you wrote. Although the verdict is still out about which, dialogue or narrative, is more important. I'm just going to focus my efforts somewhere in the middle. My stories tend to steer towards a narrative-driven novel, but I'll aim for dialogue-driven one day.
When things are on the line in a particularly stressful scene what keeps the suspense going? Hearing a narrative of the action or listening to the high pitched squeal of a character as the group of teenagers are chased through the woods? This is why a controversy surrounds which is better. Here is an example of a story ruled by narrative:
John guided his little sister Triva through the dense forest. Long shadows obscured the deer trail leading back home making it difficult to traverse the narrow path. John shrugged off his backpack to pull out a flashlight. Their parents said to be home hours ago, but they had lost track of time in the deepest reaches of the arcade. Now, diminishing light made their usual shortcut home creepy.
Triva let out a yelp of fear when she tripped over well hidden tree root beneath the veil of murky fog like diaphanous spiderwebs spread across the ground. On frozen November winds an owl's hoot ran shivers down John's back as it few over in search of an evening meal. "We need to get home," she pleaded.
"It isn't far," John consoled. He knew they were twenty minutes from home, but kept that to himself or risk scaring his little sister worse.
A slender beam of light from his flashlight lit their path a few feet where the growing darkness engulfed what light his battery-powered torch emitted. Snapping twigs stopped him abruptly, John listened intently over his sister's heavy breathing for more movement. Silence ruled once again.
Now, what happens to the same example if we use dialogue? Let us take a look:
John guided his little sister Triva through the dense forest. "You wanted to play one more game, didn't you?" He said in a stern voice, attempting to mimic their father's authoritative tone.
"I refuse to lose to a boy. He took my high score," Triva replied.
Long shadows grew over the path, "Watch your step," John muttered as he kept his eyes on the narrow deer path. "The sun is almost gone and I can't see where we're walking with so much fog covering the ground. The fog is acting like it wants to stick to everything."
Several cautious steps later, Triva gave a trembling plea, "We need to get home." Something in the air scared her; it chased at his nerves too.
Frosty winds glided an owl overhead unseen through the surrounding trees outstretched limbs, a loud hoot shot shivers down his spine and had his sister climbing into his backpack. "It isn't far," John consoled. He knew they were twenty minutes from home, but kept that to himself or risk scaring his little sister worse. He shrugged off the backpack and fished out a small flashlight hoping the batteries were still good. With a click of the switch a thin beam of light shone out a few feet to vanish into thick darkness.
"What was that?" Triva whispered in hushed terror.
"Twigs breaking under a deer's weight. It's looking for this path we are borrowing to get home," John told her. "If we keep moving maybe it will go away."
He listened intently for any other movement, heavy silence ruled once more.
I'm sure you can tell the distinct difference between the two stories. There is a certain intensity created by either style, yet neither is a wrong way to tell it. Sometimes having a person say what is going on can drive the adrenaline up in a reader. Other times, build up to the action through narrative can accomplish the same thing. Try both ways to see what fits you best.
I mentioned in my last post about dialogue being the bane of my existence. I should clear that up some with an explanation. What I wrote above isn't where I am struggling. I save half of my dialogue for when I've completed the manuscript so I can work out WHAT is talked about between characters. It is the conversations they have that kill me. I cannot speak for every writer, but this leisure small talk amongst characters is difficult. Sometimes I can fix my 'small talk' issues by digging a deeper background on each character sheet I create. Build stronger histories for them to sneak in backstory by having them talk about a past event they shared.
Short stories, novellas, and novel all have one thing in common: dialogue. Unless you're making a silent film for print have them talk. Sometimes allow them ramble on to themselves. But, never forget to have a character speak. They need a voice, they are your voice. Let them be heard.
Adam Santo was born and raised in Southern California before moving to Colorado for a short fifteen year stay. Currently he lives in Florida with his family. He has a passion to help with Parkinson's Research and continually seeks out donations for finding a cure. Please follow Adam's efforts here. His current works are The Temperature Trilogy and Ocean's Fury. More can be found at my publisher http://www.panhandlingfantasy.com
Photo provided by http://www.flickr.com/photos/61219542@N00/1314358266
In my last post I talked a little about outlines and where they could lead. Today, I want to focus on characters and their importance (in short form because otherwise this could be a very long blog) to a story. Some hero will vanquish an evil ruler, but who is he/she and why does this person care about destroying evil? What traits or skills does a person need to defeat tyrants? The questions could be endless, but I'll leave the path of character discovery to you.
What we will look at is a character's biography laid out in your mind that needs to ink on paper. Knowing character traits will elevate fictional characters to new heights if their strengths and weaknesses are fully fleshed out. Does he/she shrink away from confrontation? Is the main character outgoing/an introvert? These are things you will inevitably need to know to breathe life into a make-believe person. One way I think could help with developing fictional characters would be using one of the many role-playing player bio fact sheets out there. It might bring on ideas not thought of while building personalities in a fictional world.
Give some of your main characters birth dates to liven up the story. Somewhere long the way that person could have an unexpected party - wanted or not. Character fact sheets will also assist with what a person looks like. Hair color, length, and maybe the style the person wears is important. Describing the clothes could add to the overall feel of who you are creating.
This should start you on the right path to building characters and bring depth to those you love dear milling about in your head. Next week I plan to speak a little about dialogue. I will admit to a small secret about this next subject, it's my Achilles’ heel. I tell you more next week. And how I work it out.
About the Author:
Adam Santo was born and raised in Southern California before joining the Army for his short lived career as a soldier in Colorado Springs. Currently living and writing in Florida with his family and faithful dog, Copper. He has written the Temperature Trilogy and a short story, Ocean's Fury, to date.
About the Author
Adam Santo is a SciFi/Fantasy writer who enjoys the quiet moments to write stories. His debut novel, Temperature: Dead and Rising, took the world for a ride they would soon not forget. Santo began plotting out the second paperback novel, Temperature: Bitter Cold, before the ink dried on his first book. Santo continues to write nonstop because he knows there is always a story waiting to get out.