Step 5: Edit!

Editing is an arduous task! I lost a lot of sleep wondering if I had used the right word or mistakenly used a word that was similar to the one I was thinking, but not quite right. I’d had friends offer their help, but in the end I was perhaps too much of a control freak to take their advice.

First, you are going to want to read the whole thing cover to cover to check for any obvious mistakes. This might include things like punctuation, but likely you have been correcting those errors as you went along. For this read-through pay attention to the overall story arc. Make sure that it makes sense and that everything is in order.

I get that there are just natural breaks for chapters, but now is a good time to check how long each chapter is. I’ve found about ten pages per chapter (that’s about 4000-5000 words) is a good fit. My first draft had chapter one being fifty pages! That was about 1/5 of the book. Breaking it into smaller pieces just made sense.

Next, I bit the bullet and bought a subscription to Grammarly Premium. It is an online grammar checking service that found hundreds of mistakes that my word processor had not. You upload the files (each chapter individually, there is a 60 page limit to each document) and then the software will flag each error one by one.

Besides checking for spelling there are checks for punctuation, clarity, and even repetitiveness. If you enjoy writing, these are likely things you really want to avoid! I didn’t take all of the advice offered, but having the software flag things that you might have just read over (like having “fare” instead of “fair”) was really helpful. I’d definitely recommend it as a first check on your work.

Just a note on Grammarly, you will see a lot of your formatting missing in the program. That formatting is still there, and will come back once you move the files back into your word processor. So don’t waste time putting in “missing” tabs or breaks.

Grammarly will then allow you to download a corrected copy of your work back to your computer. Be sure to save these files in their own folder and change the names of the documents to indicate that they have been through grammar check.

The third and final step is to use your word processor’s “Read Aloud” function. In Microsoft Word it is under the “Review” tab.

This will take a while, but it will flag many little mistakes (like using the word “it” instead of “in”) that you as the author would skip right over. Listen carefully, and be sure to read along. Whenever something doesn’t sound right go back and correct it. For example, if you used the word “chose” instead of “choose” you’ll hear it.

You are getting close now! Go on to Step 6: Preparing For Publication!

Step 4: Write!

Every writer is different, and so how you write is different. I think of writing as art, so it is okay to draw outside the lines sometimes! Styles will be different, so opinions will be different. That is okay!

For me, I tend to get an idea, and I will then play the scene in my head repeatedly until I’m sure I have it right. In that regard a lot of thinking goes into it before I even start to write. Then I’ll make a rough draft of the scene that I’ll come back to the next day to reread with fresh eyes

If I am ever stuck on a scene, I’ll pray and then just start writing. I’ll let the characters tell me what they would do. I listen carefully to hear what they would say. I try not to let my own desires get in the way and just let what the scene is meant to be, be. It’s surprising sometimes when the story then begins to go in a direction you hadn’t thought, but is better that way.

Just as you are carefully maintaining the outline, you are going to want to carefully manage your files. File names should include the date they were written such as: “Title_ChapterX_31719” where 31719 would indicate March, 17 2019.

I usually have one folder for the files I am currently working on and additional folders (marked “Completed Work”) for work that is done. If you are going to make major changes (like deleting an entire section) it is a good idea to make a copy of the file as a record of what used to be there. Move that copy into a folder marked “Deleted Scenes”, then rename the old file you just copied with an updated name to indicate the date you changed everything.

For now, keep each chapter in its own file. You won’t combine them until you are almost ready to publish. This will make working with the files easier.

Be sure to back up your work carefully. I use OneNote to back up my files every week or so. You might also email each file to yourself each time you complete a chapter. The last thing you want is to lose all of your hard work because your computer died!

See how easy that was? That only took a few years, right? Now on to Step 5: Edit!

Step 3: Make a Thorough Outline

A good outline is key in helping to save time. I didn’t do this at first, and so I ended up having to go back frequently to read what I had already written, just to remember details or to see if a detail had already been mentioned.

I’m not saying don’t write down a scene if it is speaking to you, but before you write too much make sure you have a basic idea where you are going and when certain things are going to be revealed. Since I am a bit of a free writer, I’ll sometimes start a passage only to have it end differently than I expected. That’s because I want the outcome to be organic and not contrived.

That’s okay! After you are done with a passage be sure to update the outline to include a little bit about what the passage is about, and any important information revealed during it. This is just so you can find the information quickly when you are writing the next piece.

For the type of writing I do (fantasy fiction) I also wrote down a list of all the characters with notes on their appearance, age, and background. Keep the list in alphabetical order so you can reference it as needed.

You might also need a list of all places mentioned, with notes on where they are located. I drew a crude map so I could make sure the geography made sense. If I ever get better at drawing I’ll include the map someday!

Finally, I made a timeline noting when different things happened including all events mentioned in the book, even if they went back 20 or so years from the start. This is an additional way to organize your thoughts and make sure that there aren’t any glaring mistakes. You don’t want to end up with a character who is twenty-seven forever (or maybe you do!).

These are things you will be updating as you go along. Before any major changes, you might want to copy the files and tuck them away in a folder, just in case you want to go back to see what they used to say.

Next will be Step 4: Write!

Step 2: Pray About It

I am a Christian, and my faith permeates every facet of my life (or at least it should!). When it comes to my writing there is no exception. My faith in God has everything to do with what I write.

The first thing I do when I begin is to pray that the work that I do will be pleasing to God. In the end, I am His and my work will in a small way be a reflection of Him. So I hope it would please Him, but also that it would not offend.

That will affect not just what I write, but also what I won’t write. My characters are still flawed creatures, but there are certain situations that don’t need to be spelled out in a crude way. I also try to avoid inappropriate language while still staying true to the characters.

As Christians our work often becomes part of our sanctification, no matter what we are doing. The same discipline it takes to see a task through, to keep your calm, or to press hard when necessary will mold us into better disciples.

When it comes to writing there is an added layer to it. In Genesis God speaks and the world is formed. From thought comes substance. In that regard we ought to use our words carefully, recognizing a bit of the divine in what we are trying to achieve- creating something out of nothing.

It is not we who are divine, but our desire and work is a reflection of Him who is. So we must choose our thoughts and words carefully and with much prayer that they are pleasing to Him.

So take a minute to get yourself in the right mindset, and then on to Step 3: Make a Thorough Outline!

Step 1: Stop Talking About It

If you read my last post, then you already know that the difference between wanting something and actually having it is making a plan. In this article I’ll go over the plan that I used to self-publish my work through Kindle Direct Publishing.

I think we all know at least one person who just talks endlessly about something they are trying to achieve. Let’s be honest, you are that person! At first, people are supportive, but after a while they begin to wonder why you aren’t making any progress. In a weird way, just talking about it makes you think you’ve achieved something. Don’t be that guy!

This is true of anything in life you hope to achieve, but the first thing you need to do is decide that you are not going to brag, mention, or even hint about what you are up to until you are done. This requires a great deal of will power, but you’ll need that same will power to keep yourself motivated when the going gets tough. Besides, most people don’t really want to hear you talking endlessly about how cool you are going to be when you achieve your goal.

Instead, to keep motivated think of things that would be nice rewards as you go along. I’m a writer so for me it meant watching my favorite movie after I finish a chapter, or sitting down with a hot cup of tea and just staring out the window. I know it looks like I am wasting time, but more likely than not my mind will soon be wandering through the next chapter.

Waiting to tell people will also make it that much more rewarding when you do have some positive results to announce. That will look different for everyone depending on what your goal is, but for me it was when there was a link available to my work and not a moment sooner (unless it was for some reason absolutely necessary).

Ready for Step 2: Pray About It?

My Journey From “Wannabe” to “Sort-of-is”…

For several decades now I’ve wanted to be a writer. It became one of those dreams you have that you never really expect to achieve, because it seems too great a thing to ask.

Besides, achieving it is not its purpose. Rather it is what drives you to keep going even when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted. Let’s face it, life is mostly full of an endless list of unpleasant tasks. Everyone needs something, some dream to aim for.

I wouldn’t consider myself artistic. I had a short stint drawing portraits in High School. I tried to learn to play the flute. I can dance the macarena. I know, impressive. Add to all of that the fact that every once in a while, I write.

Okay, not ‘every once in a while’; more like anytime I had more than a few minutes, my mind would wander back to Arden. Thoughts of far off places would replay themselves over and over again until I wrote them down. It was like they had a life of their own, so writing was more to save my sanity than anything else.

I wonder if art is supposed to be that way, that an artist doesn’t create so much as gives life to something that is already out there looking for a voice. In that sense I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’m no artist, just someone trying to give a voice to something I don’t really understand, but I digress.

That is why finishing my book, or even dreaming of doing so, was something I decided to just stop talking about. It wasn’t that I had given up, per se, but if I was never going to achieve the dream, then expecting praise from people for not actually having done anything was likely counterproductive.

So, for several years I worked quietly on ‘The Myth of Arden’. I found that as I got further along, I began to get in my own way. Was it any good? What if no one liked it? What in the world was I even bothering for? Overwhelmed with doubt, I began to consider just giving up.

For some reason, just when you decide not to do something is exactly the moment it happens. For me, that pivotal moment occurred over a year ago when I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. I was scared and elated all at the same time. It was something I had wanted for a very long time, but it was also not meant to be. I lost the child, and it was so painful that I am still unable to really talk about it.

Even though I had never met my fourth child, I still had a relationship with them. I promised them that I would finish the book. This journey had been cut short, but another was beginning. One dream ended, but for another it was not too late. I had to keep going. Every little step felt like my heart was being ripped out, but there was no other choice but to walk through the pain. Letting go is often harder than holding on.

I still remember the moment I finished the first draft of the book, I just sat there surprised. I’d just been plugging along, not expecting there to ever be an end, yet here I was. It was only the beginning though, there was still a lot of work to get the book ready for publication.

Publishing what had, until then, just been in my mind was a humbling experience. It isn’t as glamorous as I expected. Who knows if anyone will read what I have to say or even care, but to me being a writer, even a terrible one, is the fulfillment of a promise. It seems better to have people say, “Gee that is awful” then to say, “Well she only spoke about it and never did it.”

What is your dream? What is that thing that you never expect to achieve because it is just too great a thing to consider? As cliché as it sounds, the first step is to just stop talking about it. Don’t tell anyone. Make a detailed plan, and if that doesn’t work make another one. Research, reevaluate, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Don’t do what I did and wait for something catastrophic to get you going. Even being a failure at your dream is better than successfully avoiding failure.

The Myth of Arden Sequel Update #1

Howdy all! It’s Susan Marie here! Since literally dozens and dozens of fans (ie: no one) asked, I’m happy to announce that there will indeed be a sequel to The Myth of Arden!

I’ve been working hard lately, and am currently into what will become Chapter 5 in the new book tentatively titled, The Myth of Arden: The Empress of Nasairre. That means we can expect to continue our journey through Arden (hopefully) sometime in 2020.

If you are interested in finding out what happens next, feel free to subscribe to our webpage and also join our mailing list (link below!). As always, thank you so much for your continued support!

Success! You're on the list.