RNA NWS Feedback


I was absolutely thrilled when I returned home from Swanwick to discover a large envelope had arrived which The Hubster left on my desk. He hadn’t let on during the week that it had arrived, but only because he didn’t realise what it was. I’m glad he didn’t tell me as I would have been begging him to open it lol.

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Sorry, for those of you new to my blog I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists New Writers Scheme. You send them an MS and then an anonymous reader gives you feedback. The readers are all full Romantic Novelist Association Members.

In my cover letter to my anonymous reader I explained that “Tangled” was in first draft form (I haven’t even reread it all the way through since I wrote it) and that I really didn’t have a clue where to start editing. Also, that I needed guidance on whether it was too “thrillery” to be considered “Contemporary Women’s Fiction” and I got my answers on both those questions….

The first sentence of the feedback cheered me up! My reader said “This has an interesting story line with a good twist at the end so that it possibly has the potential to become an exciting novel.” So far so good I think ;)

As regarding genre, my reader said “…the opening is exciting and shocking and quickly draws the reader in, leading to the expectation that some kind of thriller will follow. It would be worth considering therefore that the whole book should be developed as more of a thriller, by adding more suspense, intrigue and tension…. Hmmmm, ok, so it’s not a romance lol… I suspected as much.

She went on to write at least 1 paragraph of feedback under each of the following headings:
Genre
Beginning
Setting
Characterisation
Show not Tell
Meaningful Scenes/Dialogue
Pace
Emotional Tension and Suspense
Presentation – Layout/Punctuation
Synopsis
5 pages in all of feedback, mainly consisting of details where I could expand, scenes that don’t work, areas to work on and a good luck message at the end.

There was one thing that my reader said that I’d like your opinion on (I’m going to be asking everyone and his dog about this now lol). She suggested that i get in early details of the ages of my main characters because she thought the names Anna and Tim could suggest much younger characters (in my mind Anna is 48 and Tim 10 years older).What do you think? I don’t know anyone under the age of 50 called Tim. Would love your views.

On the whole I’m really pleased and would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to my anonymous reader. Her feedback will be invaluable when I start editing :)

I can highly recommend joining the New Writers Scheme if you’re thinking about writing romance. Perhaps I should find out if there is a “thriller” scheme I could join instead now ;)

Swanwick Day 4 – #swanwick65


After breakfast this morning we were treated to Michael O’Byrne interviewing Jon Wood, Editorial Director at publishers Orion. He gave us lots of interesting information, but one of the things I was really pleased to hear was that Orion have employed an editor specifically to search out new indie authors who have published via Kindle. They read the extracts and download the books….ooooooo ;)

Someone then asked him why they should switch from being self published via e books to signing with Orion if they were approached. His answer…. “A 100 thousand pound cheque!” wouldn’t that be nice?

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So today was supposed to be a “chillin” day, and I’d intended to catch up with my blog comments and FaceBook. But when the lovely Rae suggested a shopping spree, I jumped at the chance. We spent a few hours at the local outlet centre where I bought a few bits *coughs* and when we got back there was a nice cup of tea waiting for us courtesy of the Hayes staff :)

Then it was off to my meeting with Meg *gulp*

I wasn’t nervous until about 20 minutes before hand, but then my stomach began to churn.

What can I tell you? I can’t really remember what she said myself lol ;) Ok, she doesn’t think I should give up on it and take up crochet, but she did say, and I quote, “it’s going to be a bastard to write!” I laughed and said don’t I know it! She hinted at which version she liked and asked me why i want to write this novel…an interesting question and made me realise that what im actually doing is trying to rewrite my own history with a happy ending. the trouble is, my real story hasn’t ended yet…..

I’m feeling a bit more positive about it now, but I need to think….I’ll share more when I get home as my heads still realing a bit.

Tonight’s speaker is short story writer Zoe Lambert but I’m not attending. I’m going to go and find a quiet corner and do some brainstorming about the novel (I always end up missing 1 of the speakers each year, and usually regret it!).

Later we’ll be watching the plays written by fellow students in Write, Camera, Action. Looking forward to that :)

Have you ever asked yourself WHY you’re writing the novel/story?

Monday Must Do’s 20th to 26th May


Good morning! (or afternoon/evening depending on where you are and when you’re reading this ;)

I’m BACK! Did ya miss me? I’ve missed you guys :)

Ok, that’s enough lol….I guess I better tell you what I’ve been up to. I’ve had a pretty good 2 weeks to be honest. It was my birthday and i went stationery shopping, i went to the Romantic Novelists Summer Party (click the link for the photos including one which featured my red shoes! lol) and went to see RJ Ellory read from his new novel which isnt out for a few months (must buy that one!). I haven’t touched the WIP (Still), haven’t done much writing at all, although I did do a few prompts which was fun. Most of you know, I’m a huge fan of prompts and writing exercises to get the old creative juices flowing. I stumbled across Bonnie Neubauer’s website last week (she’s the lady who wrote The Right Brain Workbook) and here’s what she has to say about prompts:

“Because exercises (also known as prompts) remove the expectations and judgments you have about your own writing. The goal of an exercise is get you to write for the sake of writing so you can discover or rediscover the joy of writing. Exercises are all about filling the pre-allotted time or the pre-allotted space on the page. Do that, and you have met your goal. Nothing else matters. Not content, not plot, not characters, not spelling. And, to exceed your goal all you have to do is write one extra sentence.”

“Do enough exercises (The number is different for everyone; for me, it happens to be 2 exercises a day for 3 to 6 days), and you will find yourself excited about doing your ‘real’ writing. When this happens (and don’t force it), it’s totally okay to abandon the world of exercises and write what you want to write. Just remember that if you ever find yourself stalled, immediately put your regular writing aside and do some exercises. The exercises will relieve you of the pressure to produce and will once again, get your right brain primed to spew onto the paper without letting your left brain (the nasty editor) get in the way and stop you.”

And that’s what happened see….I fell out of love with writing, so I’ve been trying to claw my way back….and I think it’s working. I’ve missed doing prompts and I should never have stopped. As from today I’m taking Bonnie’s advice, and going back to committing to daily writing :)

So the coming week looks like this:

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And how I’ve missed the structure of a ‘to do list’ because when I haven’t got one, nothing gets done.

You’ll see I’m working on another project. My second novel, entitled “Tangled” is what I’ve decided to submit to the RNA New Writers Scheme for critique, but it still needs some work. It’s complete, has a beginning, a middle and an end (go me!) but is only 52,000 words lol. The first novel (Still) is such a bloody mess that I really don’t know where to go next, so I’m putting it to one side (for the moment). There’s only so many times you can bash your head against that wall ;)

So I’m feeling pretty good, pretty confident and actually raring to get suck in! I’m hoping that my new pad from Paperchase will help.

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Great post about self doubt here on Mandy Websters blog. Struck a nerve with me as its just how I’ve been feeling lately. Now, I’m off to turn a prompt into a ghost story :)

So what are your writing plans for the week?

Faber Session 26 – Agent & Editor Q&A


I had such a mare of a journey getting to class yesterday, you would not believe it even if I could be bothered to go into the ins and outs. But let’s just say, everything that could go wrong….did! So I ended up being trapped in St Pancras station for a while. Still, it wasn’t all bad…I managed to have my cake fix in Peynton & Byrne ;)

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An orange and plum cake that was very nice! Just a shame it didn’t come with a dollop of Mascapone on the side, but anyway, back to class.

I finally made it, having to walk about 2 miles and with drenched feet *sighs* but it was worth the struggle. Today’s guests were Mary Morris, Fiction Editor at Faber & Faber and Claire Conville from Literary Agency Conville & Walsh.

Now, you know me, I took 10 pages of notes, so I’ll just try to give you the gist of it:

Agents have become more proactive in recent years especially with editing.

At Conville & Walsh they have 1 guy who manages the slush pile and goes through all the submissions.

If a MS has a strong voice, everything else about the novel can be fixed.

It’s not unknown for Claire to work with an author for up to 10 drafts of an MS to get it right before submitting to a publisher.

The Agent will come up with the “one sell line” for the publisher. A Tagline for the book that helps with Marketing.

Claire will read 3 chapters only. If she likes it she’ll continue, if she doesn’t, she won’t read on.

When searching for an agent, look in the acknowledgements section of books you think may be a similar genre to your own.

If a writer hasn’t got it by the 4th edit, they probably never will. Agent edit suggestions are meant to inspire and trigger ideas to make the book better.

What works? How do I bag that agent? …..A wonderful MS! A strong title helps.

Have your work professionally edited, and mention that in the cover letter….it shows you’re serious about your novel.

And finally, something that I’d never heard of…..
Mary mentioned “Literary Scouts” so I couldn’t wait to get home and Google it and i found THIS! Literary Scouts let publishers know the gossip on interesting MS’s that are doing the rounds.

Do they have Literary Scouts everywhere, or is it just a London thing?

A very interesting session :)

Faber Session 25 – Editing


Now come on, you know the drill, lets get cake porn out of the way first…

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Yesterday I had Lemon Cheesecake…mmmmmm :)

And in my search for a sweet kick I just happened to stumble into The Book Warehouse, where I picked up this large hardback for the bargain price of £4.99 :)

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So I was well chuffed, if not incredibly cold! It had been snowing here most of yesterday, and I decided to risk going to class*

So last night we talked about editing. Now, do you remember all my guests that talked about editing back in December and January? No? Well, click the tab above to check some of the great posts out. Basically, a lot of what we covered last night I already knew, but it doesn’t hurt to have a recap. If only I could actually do it lol.

Some of my notes:

Which part is the fun part? The first draft or the editing? My tutor prefers the editing (mad man! Lol)

Its hard to be both writer and editor, so don’t! Seek help.

All writers have a tick. A phrase or word we overuse. Be aware of yours. Mine is “in fact” lol

Wait until you’ve finished the first draft before revising or editing.

Keep telling yourself it’s a masterpiece! Ha ha ha!

Dont edit the charm and sparkle out of a piece.

Every book is imperfect and the author will always want to change it if he/she had the chance 5 years later.

So what am I missing? Why don’t I find editing/revising fun? Help me out guys? How do I put the “fun” into editing?

*did manage to make it home through the snow, thanks to The Hubster who spent most of his evening battling through snow, traffic, and stuck cars to pick me up. The drive home was pretty scary! Thanks honey :)

From First to Final Draft by Peter Jones


Continuing with our editing theme (i hope you’re finding these posts helpful) today, you’re in for a treat, because i have a very special guest…the lovely Peter Jones :) I have been a huge fan of Peter (shhhh, don’t tell him, he’ll get big headed!) since I first met him at Swanwick in 2011 and read his book How To Do Everything and Be Happy which I’ve talked about before on this blog. I’ve attended workshops that Peter has run and I’m looking forward to the publication of the new book he has co-written with Della Galton and then of course, there’s this one in the pipeline.

Today is a very special day for Peter. It’s the publication day of the repackaged How To Do Everything and Be Happy by Harper Collins! CONGRATULATIONS Peter! :)

I just finished writing the first draft of How To Survive Online Dating.

Some explanation is needed.

When I say ‘first draft’, I mean the version of the manuscript that came into being, whilst I sat here, bashing away at the keyboard, with one eye on my outline. I can tell you now that it’s the very best thing I’ve ever written, and that there’s probably only a couple of minor things that need fixing – perhaps the odd smelling mistake, or formatting error – and then it’ll be ready to be released to the world. Part of me wonders whether I should skip my usual editing process and upload it directly to amazon, once I’ve cobbled together some sort of cover.

Another part of me knows that what I actually have is a nothing more than a collection of loosely associated words. And by words I mean a letters arranged into groups, because many of these so-called words won’t actually appear in any dictionary known to man. Where a genuine word does appear there’s a very good chance that it’s not the one I actually meant to type, or that it appears several times in the same paragraph, or it’s part of a phrase that I’ve used over and over and over again. There will be punctuation and grammar mistakes everywhere. Jokes that don’t work. Formatting errors galore. In short – it’ll be a train wreck. A disaster. And I realise yet again that ‘finished’ isn’t a word that should ever share a sentence with the phrase ‘first draft’.

My mate Vikki Thompson is in a similar position. Having taken part in NaNoWrMo this year she’s looking at a 50,000+ word ‘novel’ and wondering what to do next. And whilst there’s a whole host of writing advice out there, here’s what I do to take my manuscript from first to final draft.

  1. Let it rest – This is a luxury that I can’t always afford, but the truth is getting a little distance between you and your WIP (‘work in progress’ – I hate that expression) helps you to lose the rose-coloured spectacles you were wearing when you found yourself thinking, “hey, this is pretty good stuff.” And by you, I mean of course, me.
  2. Print it. Read it. Mark changes – for reasons that I’ve never been able to fathom errors are easier to spot on the printed page. Once you’ve invested paper and ink into something those stupid swelling mistaks will leap out at you and blow raspberries. But more than that, it’s easier to navigate through a printed document. I take a red pen and start ringing words, striking through whole sentences (and paragraphs), and putting wiggly lines in the margins (which is short hand for ‘meh – probably needs a re-write’).
  3. I make changes.
  4. Print it. Read it (aloud this time). Mark changes – Oddly, reading something aloud is the only way I know to find out if the ‘rythmn’ of the piece is right, whether my sentences are too long, and whether it’s clear who’s speaking. Sometimes I’ll even take a chapter to my local writing group and get someone else to read it whilst I follow along on another copy and mark where things don’t sound right.
  5. I make changes.
  6. Give it to Jules – my assistant Jules is usually the first person (after me) to read anything I’ve written. Having worked together now for many years I know I’ll get a brutally honest opinion. Gone are the days when she’d write a long diplomatic note about how she got a little lost, or “perhaps it could be better still”. Now she’s more likely to strike through an entire page and scribble “bit poncy” in the margin. Often Jules won’t be able to tell me what’s wrong with a particular piece, only that it doesn’t work for her. And that’s fine.
  7. I make changes.
  8. Give it to first readers – I’ll print a couple more copies and send it to people I’ve identified as my trusted ‘first readers’, a crack team of operatives who will give me their honest opinions on anything and everything. For this book that’ll be Wendy Steele and Della Galton. Together they’ll pick up on anything that Jules missed; jokes that still don’t work or can be misinterpreted, bits that ramble on too long, are hard to follow, or simply don’t make sense. Like Jules both ladies know better than to spare my feelings. I’m not looking for encouragement – I’m looking for things to fix!
  9. I make changes.
  10. Send it to my agent – finally, my lovely agent Becky will cast her beady eye over the book. If I’ve done my job well she’ll complain that she couldn’t speed-read the manuscript because she kept slowing down to read it properly. She’ll then send me her changes which are usually more structural in nature, moving elements she feels a publisher would particularly like to the front of the book, and generally making the book more commercial.
  11. I make the final changes.
This entire process will usually takes me longer than it took to write that initial draft, but what I’m left with is usually something I can feel mildly proud of. And for the first time I can finally say, it’s ‘finished’.

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Peter Jones is the author of two and a half fabulously popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, dieting and online dating. If you’re over-weight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy. Find out more at peterjonesauthor.com

Thank you so much Peter, some great advice! It’s so nice to hear the professionals say that their first draft is a train wreck….makes you feel so much better doesn’t it? ;)

Here’s Peter reading an extract from the book

Monday Must Do’s 14th to 20th Jan


My Mini Writing Retreat on Saturday was a resounding success :) I netted myself over 7,000 words writing to prompts. Gave the old grey cells a real going over!

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So the list for last week ended up like this:

1. Keep up with the 1000 words a day challenge. Done and exceeded!
2. Do the daily ‘small stones’ Done
3. Send off my RNA form Done
4. Keep up with my resolutions and daily timetable. Well, the timetable has been a complete disaster :( I worked out that if I do everything I need to it will take me 12 hours every day! Hmmmm, it’s just not gunna happen, I can’t live my life like that *deep sigh* So any suggestions on time management will be gratefully received lol
5. Faber homework There wasn’t any this week
6. Order ink cartridges. Done and received :)

I don’t struggle in motivation, by any means, I just need a 24 hour day to be much longer! Lol

So here’s this weeks list…..

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I have 2 Faber sessions (including an all dayer) and a book launch mid week which should be fun!

What are you up to this week?

The Editing Process


To continue with the theme of editing this month I came across an excellent video on YouTube where writer David Farland gives a talk that describes his editing process.

Farland breaks his editing down into 6 separate processes/types of edit:

1. Triage
2. Voice Edit
3. Descriptive Edit
4. Shotgun
5. Syllabic
6. Line Edit

It’s a very interesting talk, and yes, it is long. So grab a coffee, your notebook and pen and enjoy. A lot of what he said made total sense to me, although the idea of editing my MS 6 times is a little daunting! Lol

I think I’m beginning to know where to start now. How about you?

Professional Editing?


I recently attended a talk by Journalist Susie Steiner (at Faber) who told us that she had used the services of a professional editor to go through her novel before she started to send it out to agents. She urged us to do the same saying that she was confident that it was one of the reasons her novel had ended up in a bidding war between a handful of the top London Agents. She believes that it is a small price to pay to appear professional and serious about publishing your novel. I tend to agree. Why not try to make your novel the best it can be before submitting it to agents and publishers?

So today’s blog guest to continue our editing theme is The Proof Fairy AKA Alison Neale.

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I’ve known Alison for a few years now (going back to our BookCrossing days!) and have watched her start her own business and build up her clients. Alison has written me a short article which, I think, is very interesting, especially to those of you who are considering going down the Indie route :)

A Quick Guide To Editing For Self-Publishing Authors

It seems strange, but only a few years ago it was difficult to become a published author. There were two routes – you were lucky enough to be picked up by a publisher, or you paid a dodgy company to “vanity publish” your book.

Now, of course, it’s different. The introduction of e-readers – especially Amazon’s Kindle – makes it easy for anyone to be an author. All you have to do is write a book, upload it and wait for the sales to roll in, right?

Wrong.

Many self-publishing authors cut corners by missing out the editing and proofreading stage. The result? Thousands of books out there with fantastic plots and characters that make very few sales because they are badly written. If only those authors had employed an editor, it could have been a different story!

Part of the problem is not everyone understands what editing involves. It’s not just about checking the spelling – it goes a lot further than that. In fact, there are three distinct stages of editing:

Content Editing
A content editor will “sanity check” your book by looking for plot holes, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Many self-publishing authors use “beta readers” for this stage of the editing and that’s probably the best way to go about it. Call on a dozen trusted friends to tell you – honestly – what they think of your book. Take on board their feedback and make the appropriate changes. Your book will be all the better for it!

Copyediting
A copyeditor reads your book line by line looking for spelling and grammatical errors, clunky text and more. A good copyeditor will create a style list that includes particular phrases, character names and locations – for example, whether you use OK or okay – to ensure styles are used consistently throughout. They’ll also raise any queries with you.
In mainstream publishing you’ll normally receive your manuscript back from the copyeditor, make changes and then send it for proofreading – but many copyeditors also proofread as they go along.

Proofreading
A proofreader inspects the final page proofs to check there are no missed typos, the formatting is consistent, page numbers are in sequence etc. However, proofreading can actually happen alongside copyediting, making the process quicker and less expensive. Bear in mind that you need to have your book (or parts of it) proofread every time you make changes, as it’s easy for mistakes to creep in.

Don’t be fooled into thinking editing is something you can do yourself. By the time you’ve planned, written, rewritten and edited your book, you will be so familiar with the plot and the characters you’ll overlook even the most obvious mistakes. For example, I once proofread a novel where a character’s name switched from Tracey to Tracy and back again from chapter to chapter. The author knew what the character was called but just didn’t spot the change in spelling – because he was too close to the book.

There are thousands of self-published books out there and you want to stand out from the crowd. Editing may be an expense you don’t feel you can justify – but when it makes the difference between a handful of sales and a best seller, it’s an expense you shouldn’t avoid.

Alison Neale, AKA The Proof Fairy offers professional proofreading and editing to authors and business owners. Based in Oxfordshire, she reads anything she can get her hands on! She is currently partway through writing her own book, about parenting a child with ADHD. Away from the office she loves football, food and family – not necessarily in that order!

Take a look at some of the books Alison has worked on.

Have you ever used or considered using a professional editor?

Almost Perfect – Editing Advice From Joanne Phillips


Today’s ‘Editing Advice’ comes from Joanne Phillips who’s blog is excellent for advice and tips on eBook publishing. Back in May Jo published her first book through Kindle, called Can’t Live Without which has an average of 4.9 stars on Amazon and 4.11 stars on Good Reads.

Jo has recently published a selection of short stories, A Life Unpredicted and is currently preparing her 2nd novel for digital publication, The Family Trap.

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I recently listened to an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Carole Shields, who said she enjoyed writing poetry because it was possible to get a poem just about perfect. But not a novel. Novels, she said, are too long to get completely right. When Vikki asked me to write a post about editing, this was the first thing that sprung to mind. I think the best place to start is by accepting you will probably never get it absolutely perfect. And go from there.

So, if you’ve just finished Nano and have a good 50,000 words sitting in front of you, or if you’ve some other unpolished, unedited or generally rough draft calling ‘Look at me!’ from your computer, here are my top tips for the editing process – from as-rough-as-they-come to almost-perfect.

1. First, read it in a different form. I like to quickly format my first drafts for Kindle and read them on that, but anything that is different to the form in which you wrote the draft will work. If you have to read it on your computer screen then at least save it as a pdf. This does two things: it enables you to see the story in a different way, and it stops you making changes as you go along. At this stage just read it. Make notes. What do you enjoy? What bores you? Try to go macro not micro – focus on the bigger picture. This is probably the hardest stage: not the hardest work-wise, but the hardest psychologically. You’ll probably think it’s rubbish. If you get any external feedback at this stage you might be put off it for life. But remember, you can’t edit until you have something to work on, and you’ve already put in the time to get this far. No matter what you think, keep going.

2. Plan your first re-write. Next I make up a kind of scene-by-scene list, describing each scene (not chapter) in one sentence. This is a technique I learned from the excellent Roz Morris, whose book Nail Your Novel is full of great editing advice. If you can, get the whole book on one or two sheets of paper. Then get out the red pen and make any structural changes. This is the structural edit, where you might move things around, make a scene from the middle the start of the novel, or cut or add an entire subplot.

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3. Don’t re-write yet! At this stage I write my blurb. I try to get it perfect. Imagine what will end up on the back of the book, or your pitch to an agent. Once you get it right – and remember you are describing the kind of book you want it to be, not the kind of book it is right now – pin it up where you can see it. It will help keep you focused when you start re-writing.

4. Now I start re-writing, following my new plan, and ironing out any other problems – typos, spelling, inconsistencies etc – along the way. This can take a long time, and depending on the book and the changes you decide to make, can involve two or three more run-throughs of the process above. As you get closer to the overall structure you want, begin another read-through – this time in Word – focusing more closely on the language, atmosphere, setting etc. Really get inside the text, analyse each sentence, make sure every word is the right one for the job. This is the line-by-line edit, and this is the most fun. (I think so, anyway.) J

What can you do if you get stuck? If you read your work and just hate it? Should you give up and start something else, or just keep plugging away? In my opinion, writing – even the hard work of writing, which is what re-writing and editing is – should be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, then maybe put the book aside for a while and start something else. But if you have a contract or a deadline this might not be possible. Then you have to find a way to fall back in love with your book.

Often, once any structural problems have been sorted out, what most people end up with is a sense of flatness. Rarely do people struggle with editing because their novel is too exciting or pacy. Here are some tips for injecting life into a lifeless manuscript:

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Think contrast. Contrast is good for the reader. Try to make sure you regularly change between settings, viewpoint characters (if multiple viewpoint), fast paced and slow paced sections, dialogue and description. Inject some humour, even in a sad scene, or add a sense of sadness to a funny scene. Contrast characters with each other – give your heroine a friend who acts as counterpoint; make your characters as different from each other as possible. Contrast speech patterns in dialogue.

Surprise yourself. If you think a scene is boring, throw something into the mix. Stuff happens, even during arguments (the electricity suddenly cuts off, the postman knocks at the door, the neighbour’s dog starts going crazy), and it can lead off in a different direction and provide (you guessed it) contrast.

Go with the senses. Everyone says this, but you’re bound to have one or two senses you lean towards in your writing. I’m visual and auditory, but rarely does it occur to me to describe how something smells or tastes. This can add telling detail and bring your work to life.

So, be brave, take a deep breath, and jump right in. Editing does not have to be scary. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. But it will be hard work. And it will definitely be worth it.

Thank you so much Jo! Some great advice there. I hope you all found it as helpful as I did. :)

Yes, senses….I am so guilty of not thinking about sound and smell. Which of the senses are you guilty of forgetting?