Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 2015 — Read It Again

 #12 Revision is a Process
This is Part 12 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

When revising, the focus should be on clarity, with vigilance to the exact meaning of words and how they provide vivid imagery. - Catherine E. McLean

A first draft holds the possibility of what will be a great story. Revision turns that rough diamond into a spectacular gem worth a reader's money and time.

If you have systematically gone through your manuscript
and made changes for all the elements covered in this year's twelve-part series on revision, now it's time to print a fresh hard copy to read it through.

This read-through is to make sure all the changes you made worked to better the flow and to create vivid word pictures. As you read, use a red pen (or other vivid colored pen) to mark any  typos or spelling or homonym errors you might discover.

Once done fixing those final read-through glitches, you may think your manuscript is the best you can make it, but it isn't ready for the world just yet. Now it's time to give your manuscript to someone who will give you honest, "reader" feedback. That's right, you want "fresh eyes" to see the story. You want beta readers.

How do you find beta readers? One way is to network on blogs for your genre, or by going to writing conferences or workshops and making friends with people who like to read your genre.

If you're planning on going the self-published or independently-published route, you need not only beta readers but also the best fiction editor you can afford. With 4,500 books a day being added to the already 15 million available, your works needs to stand out from the rest, and that means quality storytelling that's been ruthlessly self-edited and then edited professionally.

As always, persevere in telling a story well.

One last thing, in 2016, the Writers Cheat Sheet Blog will be updated quarterly instead of monthly. I'm changing the schedule because of the increased workshop and course instructions I'll be doing. I also want time to write and market my own fiction. So, the topics for 2016 will be:

     January, February, and March 2016 - Become the writer you want to be
     April, May and June 2016 - Said is not Dead
     July, August, and September 2016 - 3 Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make
     October, November, and December 2016 - Structured Creativity Liberates


Have a Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year,

Catherine E. McLean   

**** WARNING – the free PDFs that went with this series will be removed Jan. 1st, 2016.
*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** Upcoming 2016 Workshops: 
             January - HOOKS
                    February - CAUSE & EFFECT SEQUENCES
        Information is at:  http://www.writerscheatsheets.com/upcoming-workshops.html

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine at


*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

#11 Revision is a Process

 November 2015 --- Punctuation Pitfalls 
                                 & Grammar Glitches
 This is Part 11 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 - Catherine E. McLean - All Rights Reserved
Voice won't matter if the reader can't get past grammatical errors flaring brighter than fireworks on the 4th of July. — Flo Fitzpatrick

You don't have to be a grammar guru or an English major to be a good writer. However, what you need to become, and strive for, is the awareness of the sound of silence or the pause of emphasis that punctuation adds to the narrative and how they make the words flow.

To put it another way, you have to develop an inner ear that hears the pause and a mind that knows whether that's you mentally taking a breath or it's a legitimate pause that requires a piece of punctuation.

Punctuation provides the road signs for the reader so they can grasp the sound and flow of the words. So, let's look at—


Period = Halt/Stop, then go on

Comma = a "brief-breath pause" to separate or set off words, clauses, or phrases

Ellipses = RED FLAG - DANGER: When writing genre fiction, an ellipses means TO TRIAL OFF (nothing else). If your text or dialogue isn't trailing off to nothingness, don't use ellipses. Likely you need a period or a dash or the sentence restructured.

Italics = emphasis, telepathic conversation, answering oneself, foreign names, unfamiliar terms, etc. Resist using italics for one word or words with three or fewer letters. Why? Because they go unseen. You might hear the emphasis, but chances are your reader won't. And, do not pepper a page with italics or fill pages with italics. (Yes, there exceptions, there are always exceptions.)

Underlining = on hard copy it indicates italics (see italics above)

ALL CAPS = shouting (to be used rarely). When combined with an exclamation point, it is yelling, rage, or extreme excitement.

Exclamation Point = emphasis, surprise, excitement (sounds two to four octaves higher when read) RED FLAG DANGER: it's overused to the point of peppering pages and dialogue. Limit yourself to one exclamation point per chapter.

= an abrupt truncation of dialogue or thought— or an interruption to add in a new thought, explanation or information. (Like I just did.)

A pair of dashes usually sets off inserted material—like this—but again, don't pepper pages with dashes. PLEASE NOTE: Dashes dash along so the reader keeps reading. Dashes take the place of semicolons and colons in informal writing and genre fiction.

Question Mark = a question has been asked

SYMBOLS –RED FLAG DANGER: Do not use symbols when storytelling, it stops the reader in their tracks and takes them out of the story.

= same general use as for dashes but usually used for irony, a first-person, or stream-of-consciousness narrative, etc.

Asterisk = one asterisk could be placed at the start and stop of telepathic conversations that are italicized. Three asterisks with a space between on a line is a mechanical device that indicates a major scene break in a story, however, for the reader's sake, use words of transition whenever possible.

—UNSUITABLE FOR GENRE FICTION: Colons, semicolons, brackets, bolding, and a change of font or text size

Now for a closer look at the piece of punctuation that gives writers headaches and drives editors nuts—the comma.


Although the comma is the workhorse of fiction and most writing venues, writers often suffer "comma trauma." As mentioned earlier, in the heat of drafting a writer hears a pause, but in actuality, that pause was the writer taking a breath.

That's why it's important to do one revision pass and look at every comma used. Verify that each is necessary. If in doubt, remove the comma. Does the passage or sentence still make sense and how does the rhythm of the sentence change as a result?

Another pitfall of comma usage is the "comma conjunction."
There are two basic problems with comma-conjunctions: 1) the comma is necessary but it's missing, and 2) a comma has been inserted but it doesn't join two sentences.

When revising, do two separate passes for the comma conjunction.  One will be for "and" and the other will be for "but."  You see, those two words link most compound sentences. When you find "and" or "but," triple check that you have two separate sentences. If you have two, insert the comma. If you don't, continue searching and verifying.

But wait a minute. If you joined two sentences, how long is that combined sentence? Long sentences tend to be convoluted and awkward, which forces a reader to stop and go back to reread.  And as has been said many times in this year's posts, you don't want the reader stopping. You want them to stay immersed in your story.

Now, the average sentence is twenty words, or so the experts claim. It's okay to have long sentences but if in doubt, here's a simple test: read that combined sentence out loud. Did you run out of breath? If so, it's too long. Break the sentences apart. And when you read such combined sentences out loud, do listen carefully for how the words flow. Does anything sound awkward? Maybe you need to not only break the sentences part but restructure them for better flow.

However, the more common problem with conjunction commas is that they are missing. Again, to locate where those commas should be added in, find "and" and "but" and see if you have two sentences that need to be joined.

Moving on, we come to the pitfall of the introductory clause comma-trauma. An introductory clause needs a comma to separate the clause from the main sentence. Seems easy enough, but in the heat of drafting, those commas often go missing. Again, do a separate pass through your work to check the beginning of your sentences. Do you have clauses that need commas? If you are not sure of what an introductory clause is, maybe it's time you brushed up on comma usage with a grammar manual.


As to grammar glitches, the main one is the use of passive verbs and passive sentence constructions. Not all are bad, but a high percentage weakens the vividness of the storytelling. Examples of passiveness are:

The man was bitten by the dog.
The mailman was going down the sidewalk.
The children were happily playing hopscotch.
The flowers looked pretty in the sunlight.
The tree shaded the riverbank.
She wore a hat.

Passiveness is also a hallmark of telling. It's better to show:

The Doberman bit Mike. (Better is: The Doberman sank its teeth into Mike's ankle.)

The mailman strode up the sidewalk toward Mrs. Black's cottage.

As they played hopscotch, the four sisters laughed so hard none could complete their turns.

Sunlight glossed the ruby-red tulips and gilded their yellow centers.

The oak's ancient branches, newly leafed, offered a mottled shade along the river's bank.

A pink pillbox hat perched on top of Mrs. Brown's head of curly gray hair.
Here are the red-flag words that often indicate passiveness:

                LY ending words
                ING ending words

Then look for abstract words like:

generic descriptions of colors (you want to be specific and give a visual of the shade or hue of the color— it's not red but crimson)

generic flora and fauna (not a flower but a rose, not a tree but a hemlock)

not small but as small as an ant
not tall but as tall as a skyscraper
not big but as big as a bus
not short but knee-high

Let me repeat— to tell a story well is to cultivate an inner ear that "hears" the way words flow as well as the imagery specific words that help the reader see a vivid movie in their mind of the story you envisioned. Reading a manuscript's text out loud can help uncover problems.  Reading great storyteller's books out loud can help you better hear good writing.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the next topic is December 2015 — Read It Again

----MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR these workshop—both are open to all writers:

 JANUARY 10-24, 2016 "HOOKS"–an online workshop I'm doing for Northeast Ohio Romance Writers


FEBRUARY 1-29, 2016 CAUSE AND EFFECT SEQUENCES sponsored by Pennwriters.

 More workshop listings are available at http://www.WritersCheatSheets.com

*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

*** If you'd like recommendations on how-to books about devices and techniques of fiction, contact me.

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles."  Other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

 #10 Revision is a Process

This is Part 10 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 - Catherine E. McLean

All Rights Reserved

October 2015 — Special Checks

There are innumerable ways to write badly. The usual way is making sentences that don't say what you think they do. - Jack Hamann

Consider the magic spell that reading casts on the reader.  You see these words of mine, and although you do not see me, you "hear" my voice as you read. 

Now, consider how many times you've read a book and been so engrossed in the story that you were transported to that story world and forgotten what time of day it was. Wasn't that a wonderful story?

As a writer, you want to be the great magician, one who casts that very same spell on your readers by hypnotizing them with the words on a page. So, you can see that it's not enough to be able to write— you have to become a sorcerer with words.

Which bring me to a secret about being a good writer who can tell a story well. That secret is to be hyper-alert and hyper-vigilant so that no distractions occur. You see, every typo and every sentence (or even a word in a sentence) that makes no sense or which ruins the "movie" unfolding in a reader's mind is a hiccup, or worse, that flaw immediately jerks the reader out of that story world.

Yet, there are more subtle distractions that a writer leaves on the page that diminish the reader’s enjoyment. Author and writing teacher Gary Provost listed a few of the most common spell-breakers in his book MAKE YOUR WORDS WORK. These are:

1. see, dear reader, here I am thumbing through my thesaurus

 [using a word that's wrong for the text or that's not in the vocabulary of the Point Of View narrator]

2. see, here, dear reader, I am trying to impress you

[being wordy (purple prose or taking poetic license), using "big words," adding in too much industry or political jargon, and overusing "brand name" items]

3. see, here, dear reader, I am trying to fool you

[overuse of punctuation or typographic trickery that breaks the readers concentration--like colons and semicolons, bolding, a change of font, phonetic spellings, etc.]

4. see, here, dear reader, I am telling and repeating this so you get the point

[saying the same thing over and over out of fear the reader will miss the point— in reality, the reader got the idea from the get-go]

If you can’t spot these common problems,
then it may take a beta reader, a critique group, or a critique partner to point them out to you. That’s because as a writer you’re too close to the words. It's the old can't-see-the forest-for-the-trees syndrome.

So, do one revision pass for each of the four.
Your reader will appreciate it tremendously.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month. The next topic is: November 2015 — Punctuation Pitfalls & Grammar Glitches

 Learn the key elements that make a story worth a reader's time and money. In this online course, I’ll walk you through the must-haves that lay the foundation for and which builds solid, marketable short stories and novels. So, mark your calendars! Tell other writers for November 1-15, 2015 -- Hosted by and information: Pennwriters online course .

....And for you intermediate writers, mark your calendars for my CAUSE AND EFFECT SEQUENCES, an online writing course sponsored by Pennwriters. The date is February 1-29, 2015. Information is at www.pennwriters.org

*** Questions and comments are welcomed for this blog and are always answered.

***If you'd like recommendations on how-to books about this subject or any writing subject, feel free to Connect With Catherine

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 2015 — Show Don't Tell: Dialogue

 #9 Revision is a Process

This is Part 9 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

Are you writing the dialogue of fiction or of the reporter? 


I would amend that quote to: "Are you writing the dialogue of fiction or of the reporter or of an English teacher?

You see, dialogue, whether spoken words or an internalization, should mimic the speech of a real human being but filtered to get rid of extraneous elements, like "ah" pauses and redundancies.

When proper English rules are applied, the speech becomes stilted and unrealistic sounding. That's why it's said that the rules of grammar and punctuation don't necessarily apply when it comes to dialogue (in all its forms). So it's wise to do one revision pass looking only at dialogue passages, reading them aloud, and listening to how the words sound.

However, there is another factor about dialogue to consider— dialogue is action and often in the heat of writing that action, paragraphing gets skewed. Good paragraphing of dialogue shapes pace and makes the reading flow. But when to paragraph dialogue is often confusing. To understand when to paragraph, think of paragraphing like this:

The reader is in a theater seat watching a story play out on a stage. Onto that stage comes Character A. The reader is fascinated by Character A and keeps their attention on Character A while he handles props, moves about, thinks, breathes, and speaks.

Now Character B comes on stage. Immediately, the reader switches their attention to what Character B is doing or saying.

When Character A replies or reacts to Character B, the reader switches their attention back to Character A.  

In other words, if you're writing genre fiction, every switch of the reader's attention means a new paragraph.

And, that includes any worthwhile distraction that the reader must pay attention to will get paragraphed.
Now, here's something you should know about paragraphing spoken dialogue and that is, despite being taught that every new speaker gets a separate paragraph, in fiction you have beats and stage business—or even thoughts of the character and those USUALLY STAY TOGETHER
WITH THE DIALOGUE OR INTERNALIZATIONS, which means, they are kept in one paragraph.

Yes, there are some editors and teachers who insist all spoken dialogue be paragraphed all by itself. The trouble is, doing that means the reader doesn't know who is talking or thinking. Since the reader is confused, they stop reading and must reread to try to make sense of things.

And, as I've said many times in this series,
when writing fiction, the idea is never to stop a reader from reading. Of course, as with everything about writing, you'll hear pros and cons on this.  My advice is twofold:

1) know the rules before you decide to break them or tweak them


2) do research on your own and decide what you want to do FOR YOUR READER'S SAKE

dialogue isn't real speech but mimics what may be said by a real human being. Which means, you need to know the mechanics of presenting dialogue. And that's a workshop unto itself. However, your best bet is to read SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne & King because it's the best book I've ever found on dialogue mechanics.

Another aspect of show-don't-tell when it comes to dialogue is punctuation. Do a revision round through your manuscript for exclamation points, dashes, and ellipses and mark each with a different color. Do you have clusters of colors? Do any dominate or pepper a page or pages? If there is a justifiable reason that those punctuation marks must remain, that's okay. If not, find a way to minimize or eliminate as many of them as you can.

Also do a pass to rid your manuscript of colons and semicolons. If you're writing genre fiction, with is informal writing and storytelling, those symbols will stop a reader and jerk them out of the story. And, again, the rule is to do nothing that stops the reader from reading. I can just hear someone reading this saying, "I know how to use colons and semicolons. I'm not changing any of them." Well, let me ask you a few questions:

a) who do you know talks or thinks in colons and semicolons? (I've never met or heard a person that used them, and I was a secretary/stenographer for years.)

b) when you read a story and come across a semicolon aren't you more likely to skip over it and keep reading rather than stopping to figure out what "rule" it signifies?

c) were you told there is a pause of silence or a sound of silence to a semicolon or colon? How do you actually make that sound in your mind? (I bet you get confused trying to do that, which is one of the reasons readers skip over the semicolon and colon when they see it in a story. Then there's the twenty-something who told me a few years ago that when she sees a semicolon, she considers it the writing winking back at her. Ah, the emoticon generation!)
Of course, the decisions you make about what to keep and what to change are yours to make, but make those decisions for the benefit of your readership.

And, let me stress one last time— when presenting dialogue, you need to show both spoken and internalizations with words that mimic a real person's voice, and so the rules of grammar and punctuation do not necessarily apply.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the next topic is October - SPECIAL CHECKS

*** Questions and comments are welcomed
and are always answered.  If you'd like recommendations on how-to books about this subject, feel free to contact me HERE

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** In 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE


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Saturday, August 1, 2015

August 2015 - Show Don't Tell: Adding Essentials

 #8 Revision is a Process

This is Part 8 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

There is no better way to spot room for improvement in your manuscript than by looking at it with fresh eyes. — SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS

Showing takes lots of words. More words than telling. Here is an example—

Telling: The man was bitten by the dog.

Showing: The Doberman's teeth clamped down, piercing through John's leather jacket.

Telling is a summary. In the heat of drafting, writers often grab telling words and phrases and construct passive sentences. Showing is vivid because it uses image-provoking verbs and nouns. It's about being concrete and specific and keeping to a cause-effect sequence that is believable and easily understood.

So, in the heat of drafting, writers either don't describe things in vivid terms, or the writer skims over elements to blatantly and passively tell.

One indicator of telling is descriptions and descriptive passages. If they exceed three sentences, which is 60 to 80 words of description, at any given point, that's likely too much.

It's far better to sneak in descriptions in the action and flow of the story. Here's an example from my new novella HEARTS AKILTER:

He glanced out into the darkness beyond the lift. Giant machinery stood silhouetted and veiled in shadows. “Where are we?”

To locate telling descriptions in your manuscript, take hard copy and use a highlighter to mark all descriptions. If you have a sprinkling, well done. If you have a block? Then you might want to reword or revise.

One other thing to look for is sensory perceptions. Or rather the lack thereof. Most drafts are sight-heavy, that is, things are described from the narrator looking at them. There are five basic sensory perceptions: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Some "rules of thumb" I've seen are to use a different sensory perception every page, every three pages, every five pages. Of course, those "rules" are not written in stone. All depends on the type of story being told and who the narrator is and how that narrator filters the sensory input and gives it to the reader.

So, take a highlighter of a different color than you have used before and look for sensory perceptions that are not "sight." If you have great gaps between colors, why is that? Then look for places where you can add in sounds and smells, etc., but do it so it flows naturally and is in the narrator's voice.

*** This blog is updated the first of each month. The next topic is September 2015 — Show Don't Tell: Dialogue

*** Join me for HEART AKILTER - the Release Day Celebration and $50 gift card giveaway! Details at http://www.CatherineEmclean.com

*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.
 If you'd like recommendations on how-to books about this subject, feel free to contact me.

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles—
an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 — Show Don't Tell—What to Cut

 #7 Revision is a Process 
This is Part 7 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

Every word is optional until it proves to be essential, something you can only determine by removing words one by one and seeing what is lost or gained. - Jack Hamann

One "rule" of fiction is to show more and tell less. What does that mean? A very simple examples is that saying it's "a flower" is telling but to say it's "a white rose, whose petals are edged with a mist of ruby-pink" is showing. Showing means providing an instant, vivid image so the reader "sees" what was meant.

Yes, showing requires more words than telling, but how much detail is too much detail when showing? Keep in mind that readers will stop reading and skim over sentences and paragraphs of details in order to get "to the good stuff" of drama, action, and "something happening of interest." So it's best to choose those descriptive words carefully. In the heat of drafting, the shorthand version, the telling, usually ends up on the page.

So in this revision stage, the guideline is to highlight
all bland, telling words and to highlight all descriptive phrases and passages to determine what needs to be rewritten for visual effect and what is too lengthy.

I'm of the school that one to three sentences (or twenty to sixty words) maximum be used at any given spot where descriptions appear. In other words, no paragraphs describing or explaining how something looks or works. That includes "laundry lists" of right-to-left or left-to-right layouts of what rooms or landscapes look like.

So how do you put such detail in without overdoing it?
It's not that hard. Just pick the one or two most vivid, relevant details. For example, Character A walks into an old house. What is the first thing they see, smell, hear, or touch that immediately tells volumes about the state of the house? Maybe it's the antiques that smell of orange furniture oil? Maybe it's the stench of a dead rat because wallpaper is peeling off the walls.

Then, as the character moves about, add in another "vividly showing" detail. Perhaps it's the creak of the floorboards when the character walks across them. Maybe it's the cobwebs hanging off a chandelier dripping with grime-covered prisms. Using sensory perceptions helps the reader draw conclusions. Obvious conclusions. And those vivid images adds tone and mood to the scene.

To restate: Succinct, vivid, instant-images won't stop the action. Describing something in detail does. So I can't stress enough that in revision, it's the important and vital things that should be dramatized. Which means that if you have a character who is alone and the character is taking a shower or a bath, preparing or eating a meal, doing dishes, or driving somewhere and thinking, that's mundane stuff and boring stuff. It's too ordinary. So cut straight to the point and simply state he ate breakfast or she drove to the library mulling over all that had happened.

Also, and this is very important, when showing action or describing things, be sure the words (the vocabulary, diction, and syntax) are those of your story's or scene's narrator and not you, the author (that's called an AI, and Author Intrusion). Readers hate Author Intrusions.

Next, are there items or details in your story that will date the work? Better to use a tissue than a Kleenex, or a black stiletto than a black Prada shoe. Of course, if you're writing about a certain era, then you'll need some of the hallmark trademarks of technology and everyday items of that era. Just don't overdo them. What's overdoing it? It depends on the story, but you can't go wrong with keeping it down to one to three items per chapter or scene.

One more caution—when showing or describing items or actions, look for unintentional repetitions of actions or descriptions, especially colors (not all shoes are black). And do note that not all dishes are china. Not all trees are oaks. Not all flowers are red roses.

So, on your Master Revision Checklist for this step of the revision process you might have:


[ ] Are there any paragraphs of description, details, explanations?
[ ] Have I woven vivid details, particularly sensory perceptions other than visuals, into the action or have I stopped to catalogue (make a laundry list of) the setting or landscape?
[ ] Is my character alone doing mundane things and thinking? If so, why? Can that passage be deleted or a transition used to get to the good stuff of drama or action?
[ ] Am I using my own vocabulary, diction and syntax instead of the character's or narrator's?
[ ] Have I used too many name brands, trademarks, etc. and used them too frequently?
[ ] Are there repetitions of colors, actions, details of any kind?

● This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the next topic is August- Show Don't Tell: Add essentials

●●● Pay it forward: permission is granted to forward a link to this blog and mention it on any social media.

   If you don't wish to follow this blog, consider requesting to be added to my private email list for notification of when the blog is updated (which is done the first of the month), Connect with Catherine

Upcoming workshops: Online and in person are HERE  

● Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.  If you would like recommendations on how-to books about this post's subject, feel free to contact me.

● "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

● IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine


Hearts Akilter - Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb...No reason to panic.   This lighthearted fantasy/sci-fi novella is to be released soon. Go here for details on how to win a $25 gift card.
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Monday, June 1, 2015

June 2015 — Characters Who Matter

#6 Revision is a Process

 This is Part 6 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

There are characters in fiction so real, so palpable, that we can reach out and touch them our whole lives.


So, you wrote your story or novel and now in the revision process, it's time to look at the most common things that might have happened to your characters from when you began the tale and when you finished it.

The first item is NAMES. Both the spelling and the sound of names affects a reader as favorable, unfavorable, or neutral, which happens on a subconscious level more than on a conscious one. That's why it's a good idea to review all the names of characters, things, places, weaponry—everything that you gave a name to.

If you did character and setting worksheets prior to writing, bravo. You only have to do a verifying "word list" to look for misspellings, rhyming, overuse of consonant and vowel sounds, and the penchant for using the same letter of the alphabet too much.

If you are a pantser who has not done a word list (also called a style sheet), now is the time to take a hard look at all the names in your story by using one. If this is your first attempt at a word list, I suggest using lined 3x5 index cards. Use one card for each name of a character, thing, place, weapon, tool, gizmo, etc. That's right, every named item or person gets a card.

As you work through the pages of your manuscript, be on the lookout for misspellings. If you have some oddly spelled words, and you prefer one particular spelling, mark that as the "correct spelling." Why do that? Because it's easy to reverse an "i" for and "e" etc.

Once you have gone through your story, sort the cards alphabetically.

Now, for clarity's sake, no names of people should hold the same alphabet letter as the protagonist, antagonist, and the next major player in the story (usually the romantic lead). Why? Because blocking all other people names from those three letters of the alphabet conveys to the reader that those major story people are exceedingly important. Another benefit is that you avoid confusing the reader as to who is the true protagonist and antagonist.

Yes, you can have a few street names or thing names for the same alphabet letter as your protagonist and antagonist, etc., just not other people names.

Now, back to your sorted cards. If your story has 11 characters, how many alphabet letters did you use? If you have 6 of the 11 names beginning with M, your reader is going to get confused at some point in the story. I lost track of how many times the mix of H names in the Harry Potter series caused me to stop, go back, and reread to make sense of who was doing what.

Here's the thing: the subconscious (your muse) loves rhymes and rhythms. The subconscious also likes to repeat the sound of certain vowels and consonants. By having a word list (or card list) you can sort and "see" what's happened and catch things like Jill, Bill, and Phil.

Then there are syllables to consider. Do you have a mix or do 80% of the names have the same number of syllables? Variety is a good thing. Especially true for your protagonist and antagonist.

Oh, by the way, just how many characters cards do you have? Are you overpopulating your story? You might want to download the free "Characters Per Story Cheat Sheet" (link is below) so you avoid a "cast of thousands."

Here's a tip: before you write your next story, use a word list. That way you can avoid misspellings, rhymes, etc. You can also use a word list after you draft a day's work.

Next, be sure to cross reference the names, that is, put the last name first followed by the first name. This ensures catching repetitions, rhyming, and overuse of an alphabet letter.

Now, on the character cards only, add the following:

Eye Color
Hair Color

Do you have duplicates? Do you have various shades of the same color? Again, the muse-subconscious loves repetition. A good storyteller knows it's bad to use repetitions of anything without a specific purpose.

As to eye color? Make sure the character who began with gray eyes has gray eyes all the way to "the end." You'd be surprised at how many writers get confused in drafting and suddenly the eye color changes.

Do the same for hair colors.
The same things that happen to eye colors also happens to hair color in the heat of drafting.

Some may think doing a revision check for such things is a lot of work. It can be for a pantser, but a little forethought before writing by using a word list could prevent this revision step.

Some writers will say that the plot is more important then the names of characters, places, or things. The reality is that a plot won't work unless the characters are believable story people who have names that, on a subconscious level, are befitting the named item or character in the story.

In summary, here's a quick "Writer's Cheat Sheet" for this revision check:


□     spellings of names
□     overuse of alphabet letters
□     overuse of syllables
□     overuse of vowels and/or consonants
□     rhymes
□     rhythms
□     color of eyes
□     color of hair

Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.  If you'd like recommendations on how-to books about this subject, feel free to contact me.

● This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the next topic is SHOW, DON'T TELL - what to cut

Upcoming workshops: Online and in person are HERE  

Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.


● IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

"Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" --it's a must-have for generating titles that hook a reader and can be found by search engines. Go  HERE.

● FREE "Characters For Story Cheat Sheet" available HERE
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Friday, May 1, 2015

May 2015 -- The Big Picture: Plot

 #5 Revision is a Process

This is Part 5 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

Plot is structure. Without structure you have nothing. — Ronald B. Tobias, 20 MASTER PLOTS
True or False: There are no new plots.

The answer is a resounding true.  There isn't a story that hasn't already been told. And that seems like such discouraging words. However, here's the catch, everything can be made new again, seen from a different angle, written with fresh insights, fresh words. Thus the story becomes "new again." 

Another factor about story plots is that readers of genre fiction have certain expectations of what should be in their stories. Fail to know those expectations and include them in your storytelling and you won't readers.

In addition to genre specifics, there is a basic foundation, the underpinnings to every story and that under-structure is plot.

In all my reading and studying about a story's format, seeing all the diagrams, and templates used for analysis, it became obvious to me that all stories can be boiled down to a simple plot: Someone goes on a journey. That journey includes danger, like:

– Physical danger (a confrontation, a life and death struggle, etc.)
– Psychological danger (a mind-wrenching experience, etc.)
– Heart danger (loss of love, a broken heart, seeking to find true love or a lost love, etc.)

And here's something else I noted: every story can be boiled down to a simple, straightforward plot line. This plot line is for the story's main plot, no subplots allowed. And best of all, this plot line is a visual that helps a writer "see" their story. This is what it looks like:


Act I                 Act II                     Act III
1/4 *                    ½ *                      1/4 *

A = start of story (not prehistory, not back story, no prologue)
B = The Inciting Incident
C = the middle of the book, the trials and tribulations that reveal how bad the story problem is
D = the climax, the confrontation with the antagonist and the win lose, or draw of the outcome
E = end of story

* = It's also important that the line represents the amount of pages in the story. I often use graph paper where one square equals 10 pages, so a 400 page book is 40 squares. I place dots on the line to indicate the three acts.

This is not the only way to see the plot line. Some writers like curves, others angles, and then there is the W plot line. At the end of this post is a link to a free Cheat Sheet that shows those alternatives plot lines. And here's a tip: pick one that works for you and your storytelling.

As you can readily see with the simple plot line above, the Three Acts is how the story is divided into three parts: the first quarter is setting up the problem and introducing characters. The second two quarters or half the story is about the protagonist going up against the problem or villain and being thwarted, regrouping, trying other things to solve the problem and just before the climax, that last quarter, the protagonist realizes the sacrifice it will take to defeat the villain or solve the problem. The last quarter is the climax, the actual confrontation and conclusion, the question of: Will the protagonist win, lose, or will the story end in a draw?

So, how do you use a simple plot line when you revise your fiction?
Glad you asked. Take your Chapter by Chapter Revelations pages and locate your major turning point scenes and mark them on the plot line. This can quickly reveal if you started your story in the right place as well as having ended it in the correct place. You might even notice gaps in the plot that you'll have to address. Or you might see where scenes can be moved about so there is a more linear flow to the plot, which the reader will appreciate–and understand.

You might go one step further and mark twists and turns, like enter and exit of the red herrings, the misdirections. You could include the spots where the villain gets the upper hand (but are there too many of those? After all, it isn't the villain's story.).

If writing a romance, where is the "cute meet" (the first encounter of hero and heroine), the first kiss, the point where the couple realize they are in love, etc?

And as you're doing this, you just might discover that your original theme needs bolstering, or that the original theme isn't the one you ended up with.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the June topic is CHARACTERS WHO MATTER.
*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

***Free for download is a Writers Cheat Sheet Plot Diagram sheet, which is  HERE
     (This offer expires 12-31-2015)

*** Permission is granted to forward or mention the link to this blog or to the free Writers Cheat Sheets

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles" — an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE. If you want a marketable title, one that stands out from the more than 3,500 books being published daily, and catches the reader's attention, then you need "Terrific Titles."

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 2015 — The Big Picture: POV-Viewpoint

  #4 Revision is a Process
 This is Part 4 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved
Let the reader see things through the eyes of the characters instead of the eyes of the author or narrator. -- James V. Smith, Jr. / THE WRITER'S LITTLE HELPER

The rhetoric runs deep that writers must shun analyzing their work because doing so will destroy the creative process. It's the old "analysis equals paralysis" theme. Hogwash. Knowledge is the power that enables a writer to rise above the ordinary and commonplace. One critical phase for the revision of a story is taking a look at Point of View (POV) and Viewpoint.

Author and educator Tim Easais reached a conservative estimate that there were 9,720 different Point of Views (POV). No how-to-write book gives the rules, guidelines, or information for all those choices. However, you should know what POV and Viewpoint are and work out for yourself which ones fit your comfort zone. In essence, POV and Viewpoint are "the voice" the reader hears on the page. It's also "the voice" the writer must hear when they create and read the story. That voice, of course, should be a compelling voice.

That's why using the Chapter by Chapter Revelations' "header notes" can be a great help to ensure the reader is going to follow the POV-Viewpoint narrator (for information on the Chapter by Chapter Revelations, scroll down to #3 March 2015's blog entry).

For a POV-Viewpoint revision check, print a hard copy of the Chapter by Chapter Revelations. Then use highlighters to color-code the POV-Viewpoint information that you entered on the pages' headers. For instance use:

          BLUE for the protagonist (male or romantic lead)
          PINK for the protagonist (female or romantic lead)

 Note: A story has only ONE PROTAGONIST because a story is about one person's journey and struggle with a problem. Therefore, the color of the protagonist depends on whether or not they are male or female. If the lead is an entity, what color best reflects their essence?

         ORANGE (or other awful color) for the antagonist or, in a story without a single, vile, and evil villain, to highlight the "complicating characters" who oppose the protagonist.

Once you have color coded the POV-Viewpoint characters on your Chapter by Chapter Revelations, look for the protagonist's scenes and chapters and count the number of times the protagonist narrates. Do the same for the antagonist. And depending on the type of story and the word length, you might have a Second Major Character, who is often the romantic lead or the protagonist's sidekick who gets a POV-Viewpoint. Count those.

What if you have other characters in addition to the main characters who narrate? Then you likely have a serious problem called "a cast of thousands." For a copy of my researched data on the number of characters for a story's word length, go to the end of this post for the link.

Ideally, the protagonist gets 60% to 100% of the POV-Viewpoint
(it is his or her story!). If you have a protagonist-villain-romantic lead in a story, the protagonist will get 60% and the next important character (romantic lead or villain) gets the higher percentage of what's left. Here's an example for a 300 page manuscript:

          Protagonist = 18 chapters/scenes (approx. 180 pages) 60%
          Antagonist = 4 chapters/scenes (approx. 45 pages) 15%
          Romantic Lead = 7 chapters/scenes (approx. 75 pages) 25%

Yes, there can be exceptions, and the percentages are not written in granite. If you're writing a saga or high fantasy, those stories have the length to accommodate additional POV-Viewpoints. If that's the case, you'll need to know what percentages are the usual for your genre.

After you look at and evaluate the statistics:

1) Did you notice any patterns, like a minor character appearing once or twice and narrating? If so, is there a way to eliminate that character and have another, more important character, do the same job or relay the same information to the protagonist (or villain)? Doing so tightens the prose and keeps the cast down to a more manageable size.

2) Was the protagonist narrating up until chapter ten then nothing from his or her POV-Viewpoint until chapter fifteen? That's too long a time to separate the reader from the most important person in the story.

3) Any "Head Hopping," that is, the POV-Viewpoint switches many times in one scene or chapter. Some authors can do this trick with an unseen slight of hand. Most novices lack the skill and knowledge so their story is a choppy read. If you're new to fiction writing, it's best to master one POV-Viewpoint per scene or chapter. Your reader will appreciate that.

Once finished with this POV-Viewpoint check, don't fix anything
.  Make notes about fixes, but don't rewrite because you also need to look at the plot-line, which is the subject of next month's blog.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the May topic is The Big Picture: PLOT  (Be sure to Connect with Catherine HERE so you're notified of the blog post.)

*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

*** Permission is granted to forward the link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles." This and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.


*** In 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 2015 — The Big Picture: Chapter by Chapter Revelations

 #3 Revision is a Process

This is Part 3 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

An understanding of how techniques of writing work in the revision process can help you. – David Madden

So, you've completed the first read through of your manuscript and noted problems with how the narrative flows. Now it's time to look at the other half of The Big Picture, "seeing" the story and determining its theme.

Theme is the point of the story (also known as the "why you wrote that particular story" and not something else). Themes are stated as morals, adages, cliches, etc., but they don't necessarily jump out on the page of a story. For example, the theme of a romance might be, love conquers a hardened heart.

And, of course, that means at the story's plot will prove the theme.
You might want to say: "plot proves the theme" a million times because your muse must understand there can be only ONE DOMINANT THEME in order for the plot of a story to work for the reader.

And, yes, this means that ONE PLOT DOMINATES (and all the other "plots" are subplots). That dominant plot goes with the dominant theme, and any subplot will have their own sub-theme in the story.

So, how do you cut the confusion and narrow the story down to the ONE DOMINANT PLOT and ONE DOMINANT THEME? After all, you don't want the story to be confusing for the reader, do you? Oh, you're saying you're confused by the plots and themes you think you have? Or are you thinking you don't know what the story's theme is. Maybe that's because the majority of writing is done by the the Pantser Method. That is, the writer sits down and writes the story, not knowing what will happen until it happens. This type of writing often generates confusing plots and themes. However, there are nine other methods of creating a story. (If interested in the "10 Types of Writers," I've provided a link at the end of this post.)

Regardless of how the story comes into being, the plot and its theme must be clear and flow in some sort of logical time sequence (even flashbacks must fit in). The plot and its theme must also be believable. To insure that, it's best to use a simple chapter by chapter summary or "outline." The revelations of such a summary nets many benefits, one being to reveal the essence of the main plot (and the number of subplots) as well as to simplify finding themes. All of which helps a writer see the story's weaknesses and strengths.

Okay, for far too many writers, doing a chapter by chapter outline sounds like a lot of work because they think they have to follow a formal outline. Forget that. I recommend a "booklet" format, however, some writers use giant desk calendars, or storyboarding, or use a wall full of sticky notes. The how isn't as important as generating a practical look at the story.

For the booklet method, what's needed are either 5"x8" lined index cards or, if using a computer word processor, using 5"x8" sized pages. FYI: 5"x8" is the size of a half sheet of paper. If computerized the 5"x8" sheets can be printed out for use.

Why such a small writing area? It's to prevent getting creative and rewriting the story or adding more characters or ideas. In essence, one 5"x8" page or index card or large sticky note will equal either ONE chapter or one scene in a chapter. In other words, all you need are the highlights, nothing more. Well, maybe a few extras that come in handy for later revision items. Those "extras" go in a "header" for each scene. That header includes:

-- who is narrating (that is, the "who" that has POV-Viewpoint)
-- which characters are in the scene
-- what the setting is (where the characters are)
-- what the time is (day, night, full moons, storms, etc.)

Here is an example of the from my Chapter By Chapter Revelation from my novel KARMA AND MAYHEM:

Chapter 1                                          Page 1 of 2
POV-Viewpoint: Janay
Setting:    spaceport city near ocean, warehouse district
Time: 2 hrs. before dawn, clear staru night, calm bay waters

Characters in scene:
    Janay (protagonist)
    Celinae (witch #2)
    Shelzat (darkon archangel) [a baddy]
    3 tormantratas [hell-beasts]
    Adrada (Archangel of Departing Souls) [good angel]
    Rowen (brother of the Romantic Lead)
    Tal (veed to Rowen) [energy symbiote in form of a great cat]

Scene #1 - [opening of the story]
    Suffering insomnia, and with her bad hip bothering her, Janay, an ex-peacekeeper, walks the night and inadvertently comes across a meeting of witch #2, 3 tormantratas, and Shelzat. Janay hides until they disband and they never noticed her.
    Rattled by memories of previous encounters with darkons and tormantratas in the aftermath of a battle against witch-generated creatures where she and her fellow peacekeepers fought alongside heavenly angels and archangels, Janay goes to a meditation garden dedicated to Adrada to calm her nerves. Only she meets Rowen, a teenage Zantharian warlock holding his veed, Tal. The teen is fighting drugs and a spell used on him. He's trying to get home to his brother, Tienan. When the boy passes out, Janay prays for guidance and Adrada appears. He tells Janay the boy and veed will die when the sun rises unless a reunification right is done by her and Tienan. Adrada leaves the choice to help Rowen or let him die up to her.
    Janay decides to help Rowen get home and to do the reunification rite.
***Note: these 176 words covered 24 manuscript pages


Chapter 1                                            Page 2 of 2
POV-Viewpoint: Tienan
Setting:    Wolcott House (Tienan and Rowen's home)
Time: 45 min. before dawn

    Tienan paces in his home's office, worried about his brother (Rowen) roaming the night because Tienan knows his brother fits the profile of a serial killer who preys on teenage Zantharian males whose veeds are in their cocooned state.
    Tienan is also angry with himself for causing the argument that sent Rowen storming out into the night.
    When a rapping comes on the front door, Tienan thinks it's Rowen. When he opens the door, his joy is short lived. He sees Rowen carrying his veed--and behind him is a woman who's fighting tormantratas with dirks that seem to fly like boomerangs.
***NOTE: these 102 words covered 5 manuscript pages

***Additional Note: If one sentence sums up a scene, that's great and the rest of the page is blank. As you can see from the example above, Chapter 1 included two scenes so each scene had its own "revelations" page. Also, if there is a particularly long scene or a pivotal scene you may have an additional page for it.
    If within a scene, the POV-Viewpoint changes, then that needs to be noted by simply inserting POV-Viewpoint: (and name of the POV-Viewpoint). This will quickly "show" how often the POV-Viewpoint changes so you can "see" if you have a head-hopping problem, which often causes a jerky flow to the narrative.

I can't stress enough that if you truly want to improve your manuscript, taking the time to do a mini-version of your story:

1) helps you sort through the story to spot problems

2) helps you "see" chapter lengths, scene lengths, sequel lengths, back story, etc.

3) helps you uncover repetitions

4) helps you uncover pacing problems (POV-Viewpoint, or blocks of little action or blocks of too much action - which you might not have noticed on the first read-through but didn't know why the pace was "off" in some way)

5) helps you uncover unnecessary scenes or where you may have gone off on a tangent

6) helps you uncover a need to include or reinforce or foreshadow something

and the Chapter by Chapter Revelations is also useful for checking other aspects of the story and the writing, which will be covered in the next few installments of this series. For example: in April's "The Big Picture: POV-Viewpoint," besides head-hopping, you can easily figure out who's got how much POV-Viewpoint and which dominates.

Another advantage of the Chapter by Chapter Revelations pages, cards, or stickies is they can help you locate information in the story without having to thumb through the entire manuscript. For example: In my latest work-in-progress, I realized a character, the leader of a clan, was to be called by his title, but I'm not certain I had the main characters call him by his title. So, I opened a new file on my computer that I call "fixes-rechecks" and added that note to myself. When I'm done with the story, I'll be able to check. After all, I don't want to stop drafting to go back and look for where the scenes are. But when the story's drafted, I'll have the chapter revelations be able to locate which chapters that particular character was in, check those scenes, and fix things (or reassure myself that I didn't goof up, which is always a welcome relief).

By the way, it's a good idea to keep each of your novel's chapters in separate files to prevent a disaster, like a computer crashes or corrupted data in one sector prevents a file from opening. Smaller files are also easier to work with. Once you have all your corrections done, you merge the chapters into one document for marketing.

Lastly, some editors and agents want a "Chapter-by-Chapter Outline" instead of a synopsis. Which means, if you already have your chapter by chapter revelations done, you need only clean it up, tighten the language, and use it.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month. Don't miss next month's: THE BIG PICTURE: POV-VIEWPOINT by following this blog or Connect with Catherine

*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

*** LINK TO the Cheat Sheet "10 Types of Writers"

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 2015 - The How-to of Revising

#2 Revision is a Process

This is Part 2 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
  - Maya Angelou

Last month, you learned about the need to switch from creative to editor mode
and about setting your work aside to break the vicious cycle of frustration with creativity versus logic (editing).

This month we'll look at the tactic of going through a manuscript for one specific item, maybe two (if they are closely related) and noting the problem, but not fixing it. Why not fix-as-you-go?  Because there may be some other spot in the manuscript that will be affected and you won't realize that until you find that other spot (or spots).

It also goes without saying that multitasking doesn't work when revising because you get distracted by other elements, like grammar and punctuation, and forget what you were supposed to be looking for. Enough said. Onward.

When ready to do the first edit, a good way to break the enjoyment cycle (that is, being creative) is by printing a hard copy of the entire manuscript. That's right, you don't work on the computer for this step because you want to read the work like a reader, not the creative author. You want to look at each word and hear how it sounds, how the narrating voice on the page sounds, how the characters' voices sound. You want a symphony, not off-key kazoos.

Here's a tip: Since you'll read the text, single space it. That will help discourage writing on the page. Using a mono-faced font like Courier New in 12 points will cut down on eye fatigue and actually help you see every letter that constitutes a word. One caution: only print on one side of the page. (See ** below.)

It's also a good idea to punch holes in the hard copy and put the work in a three-ring binder. Placing a colored sheet of paper between each chapter aids in quickly finding chapter beginnings and endings. You could also use the sticky style of file index tabs and number the chapters, or use address labels folded in half over the long edge of the colored paper to form a "tab" that you can number.

When you find a problem on a manuscript page
, immediately number it. Next, make a note. This note can be:

1) ** written on the backside of the left-hand page (since it is blank).

2) use a 3x5" index card or a 2x4" piece of paper, or even a sticky note. Using such small notes means you won't be tempted to write volumes, or rewrite something.

In all cases, number the note to match the number on the page you're working on.

Here's another tip: if you use index cards or slips of paper, punch a hole in the upper left corner and insert the note onto one of the binder rings for that page.

As to numbering the notes, you can start with 1 and go to 1,000+ or you can begin at 1 again when you change chapters, but be sure to indicate the chapter, like CH1-1.

Yes, you can write notes in the margins of the manuscript, but that will eat up the margin space when there are multiple notes. What's better is bracketing the sentence or paragraph (or highlighting it) and assigning a number to it and making your note. However, some items you can put a "code" in the margin to designate:

       LS = long sentence

      AWK = awkward

      RUE = Resist the Urge to Explain (that is, there's too much explanation or description that slows the pace)

      HT = heads talking in a vacuum (meaning beats and stage business are needed for the dialogue)

Although you should be using proofreader's marks, sometimes you'll use your own code. In that case, make a master list of your personal codes so you'll remember what they mean when you edit your next project.

What else will you need for this first read-through? A colored pen (like red or purple or green) so notations vividly stand out against the text. You may want highlighters, again ones that vividly stand out on the text.

Now, take that hard copy in its binder along with your note taking material, pens, highlighters, etc. and go somewhere that you don't associate with creating or writing a story. Why? Because doing so reinforces your desire to read objectively, not create or get lost in the story again. For example, my office is upstairs. When it's time to do edits, I take my hard copy downstairs to my dining room. I know writers who go to their local library for an afternoon and others that go to a local bookstore that has comfy chairs and tables, even refreshments.

So, exactly what are you looking for when you go through this first read? Look for:

a) How the words, narrative, and characters sound. Is the work interesting to read or are there tongue twisting phrases, repetition of vowel and consonant sounds? (Note: the creative self loves rhymes and repetitions, some may work, most don't.)

b) How it sounds also has to do with pace, tension, urgency, suspense— the things that keep a reader turning pages to find out what happens next. It's paying attention and picking up on boring spots (places you, or a reader, will skip over to get "to the good stuff"). These are often huge blocks of text on one page or which carry over to other pages. It's recognizing the drone of information dumps, explanation, and descriptions that slow the read.

c) It's about recognizing when you stop and go back to reread something that you've uncovered an awkward or confusing aspect that will need clarification, or deletion.

d) And, lastly, is there too much going on too fast that is confusing? This often happens in high action and fight scenes.

If you're making yourself a Master Revision Check List, it might look like this:


     [ ]  Voice (narration and characters)
     [ ]  Pace, tension, urgency (page turning, not boring stuff)
     [ ]  Awkwardness (having to re-read a sentence or paragraph)

As you make this first pass through the work,
keep telling yourself to make notes. Once you've read the story completely through, do not fix anything. Go to the next step, the chapter by chapter look at the plot itself and the time line. Remember, you want to find the problems with the big ticket items before you handle the nitty-gritty little things that can turn readers off.

By the way, as you went about making notes for things to fix, your creative self will be alerted that those areas need adjustments. When you go to actually make the fixes, your creative self should have words and solutions ready. That beats making something up on the fly that later proves unusable and which causes many more revisions and skews other aspects of the story.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the next topic is CHAPTER BY CHAPTER REVELATIONS

*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE.

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