Welcome back to season three of the podcast! We’re coming back strong with our first episode since our hiatus, all about freelance writing and content creation with Zulie Rane. Zulie is a freelance content creator, ghostwriter, YouTuber, cat mom, and a wealth of information for all things writing online–take a listen to learn more!
I am in the middle of furiously editing my novel manuscript, so editing is on my brain lately. As many writers will attest (me included!) editing is not always fun. I wouldn’t say it’s the bane of my existence exactly, but there are some days it comes pretty close.
As I have struggled through editing these past several weeks, I’ve been wondering how everyone does it. There seem to be a million different ways to edit, and that’s because, of course, there are a million different writers out there! Some writers have rough rough drafts, some writers have clean rough drafts. Some love getting into the nitty gritty of syntax, sentence structure, and grammar right away, whereas others put it off until the last minute or hire out someone else to take on line edits. There’s so much variation in how we, as writers, edit out stories, and so I’m curious: how do you edit?
Don’t worry, I’m not asking the question without planning to reciprocate and explain my own process so far. Here’s how I edit:
Much of my time so far has been taken up simply by re-reading all the words I wrote. It’s more time consuming than you would think, especially with a full-length novel draft. I’ve been going word by word (yes, all 70,000 something of them) and sentence by sentence, noticing where I let myself get too long winded (I’ve learned that my wordiness is my downfall) or where I didn’t make clear who I was writing about. Only after I work on making my prose less jumbly can I dive into the details of characterization and plot–at least, that’s how editing goes for me.
Here in Colorado, we have a lot of potholes. A lot of potholes. When you’re driving down the street, humming along to your favorite song and keeping an eye on traffic, sometimes it’s easy to miss the crater in the middle of your lane. And when you hit that crater, causing the steering wheel to jerk beyond your control momentarily, you send a little prayer up to heaven that your tire didn’t just spring a leak (at least, that’s what I do!)
When you’re writing your first draft, you’re often in a similar state of mind–typing happily away when you hit a good writing streak, paying attention to which words to use and the right punctuation for dialogue. Inevitably, you’re going to miss the potholes in your story. I know I did! As I’ve been going back through and reading everything, I’ve noticed the small spots in the story where I need to fill in some gaps, and I’ve also noticed the gaping holes in the road of my story where I changed someone’s name half way through or forgot a character was supposed to be dead less than a year, not more than three. You’re mind can get distracted when writing that first draft, so go back through and fill in those potholes so your future reader has a much smoother ride.
Figure Out What’s Lacking
I decided to use a new web-based software for my editing, Fictionary, this go around, and it’s helped me identify some parts of my writing that were lacking. The way the program is set up allows for you to note different sensory details, objects, and character motivations in every scene and chapter. While it’s not always the most intuitive in picking these things out (it is computer-based software, after all) I’ve found some of the questions it asks as I weed through each scene to be very helpful. I’ve learned that I don’t mention scent very often in my descriptions, something that I am aiming to focus on as I edit. On the flip side, I often use touch to describe things, which is something Fictionary doesn’t pick out as a particular thing to note. Either way, I’ve found it helpful to think through scenes in terms of what is and isn’t there. It’s helped me appreciate the things I am good at in drafting each scene, and strengthen my writing by picking out what’s missing again and again.
Now It’s Your Turn
Now that you’ve heard a little bit about my editing process so far, I want to hear from you! What are you currently editing? What’s the process been like for you so far as you make your way through this tedious process? And finally, what tips do you have to share? Although editing is still not my favorite thing in the world to do on a nice evening after work, I’m learning the value of it even more with a full-length manuscript, and I’m eager to hear your take.
Recently, I’ve felt the heavy weight of “writer’s block” bearing down on me. Between life, preparing for upcoming classes, and working on the print version of hinterlands, I’ve found what little inspiration I’ve managed to scrounge up slinks away. To get back that creative energy, even if it’s only a smidgen, I’ve been listening to music. Have you rolled your eyes yet? This is the part where you’re probably throwing your hands in the air shouting at the screen, “How is that anything new!?” It’s not. We all know it’s not. It might not even be the sound that’s inspiring, maybe it’s the visuals of the music video. Maybe it’s the vibrations of the bass through the floorboards beneath your feet. Maybe it’s just the lyrics. Whatever it is, whatever strikes your fancy and gives you that inspiration—hold on to it. Because I’m about to ask you to write.
Was that all an elaborate, and no doubt inelegant means of shoehorning in a prompt that pertains to music. Yes, yes it was. Doesn’t mean I didn’t mean any of it. I actually have been listening to music—well just one song really…on repeat. And as I do so, I write what I interpret the song as. Then the next day I do it again, only this time I try to interpret it in a different way. I try to see how many stories one song can inspire; and how many different ways I can view one thing. And once I feel I have no more stories for that song, I move onto the next.
So…I’m asking you to do the same. Find that song that really gets you going and write as many different stories about it as you can.
You may have noticed that the podcast has been on a bit of a longer holiday break than expected. Our time off from the podcast went from a short break to a long break, but we are coming back and, dare I say it, are coming back better than ever! We’re excited to interview more people, talk about even more writerly topics, and interact with you, dear listeners, even more than before. So stay tuned for what’s to come in the next few weeks. We can’t wait!
Currently we are working on branding and marketing! We want to learn more about what makes
people read the journal. If you are interested in providing feedback, please email us your thoughts at email@example.com. We would like to know what makes you read the journal, if you would recommend it to others, and what we could do better.
The print version of “hinterlands” is coming along nicely, it’s taken a lot longer than we expected, but Amber is working hard. This year we will be working on two print projects. We will be doing a contest/giveaway and will have preordering available, so watch for those details! The second print project will be a collection and insight into what makes a story or poem really good with stories and poems from the past, essays on the author’s crafts from the present, and writing prompts for the future to create, too! Watch for more information to come.
We are restarting the podcast! Addey is working hard recruiting guests, if you want to be one, just email us for more information on how. We are also launching as a part of the podcasts a new segment called story time! One week a month, a story or poem from a past journal will be read. An exclusive interview with the author to dive into their craft and work will be a part of it, too!
Planners and workbooks to come! I am working hard on putting together writing planners and story workbooks for writers to use when creating, keeping projects on track, and having fun organizing the chaos of life. It will be an easy, but needed, place to keep lists of characters, plot ideas, poems you have written, what you have sent out for submissions, a congratulations page when you get published, etc. Look for more insights to come soon!
Spring 2021 journal, we are now in phase two with edits. We want to honor the authors and poets that were accepted into the journal. We take care with edits to make the manuscript the best it can be! After edits are done and returned, time for phrase three: putting the journal together. We are going with a western, train, Wyoming, gold-digging, cliffing stone-carving kind of theme! It will look better than it sounds…stay tuned for sneak peeks coming up in the next few weeks.
And as always, please reach out to us editors on social media or via email if you have any questions, concerns, or want to participate in even more ways with the journal!
If you live in the US, there’s been a lot of snow lately. A lot of snow. Here are borrowed solace all of us editors live in areas where there’s typically snow this time of year, so we are used to it in some ways (our hearts and prayers are with those in the south and in Texas who aren’t used to these frigid temperatures and are dealing with awful problems from this weather), and in other ways, we’re still a bit…over it, just like many of you.
While we’re dealing with cold and snow, snow, and more snow, it definitely allows for lots of time to think about and work on creative endeavors. The nice thing about writing is that you don’t even have to have electricity to do it (though we sincerely hope all of you have electricity right now!) a pen and paper will do. You can create worlds with just some ink and paper, or a keyboard and a monitor.
So whether you are battling the flakes that have already fallen to the ground or are bracing for another round of the white, fluffy stuff to fall from the sky, don’t fight it–use it to inspire you and spend that extra time bundled up indoors to write. Start a new story about a futuristic universe where snow is as valuable as gold. Think about how settlers during the great westward expansion battled blizzards on the Oregon Trail and create the characters who would have been there. Take your first-hand experiences and write about them creatively, scribbling pages that one day might end up in your memoir.
There’s inspiration all around us, and this snowy weather we’re experiencing is no exception. Even if you simply take advantage of the extra time you might be facing stuck indoors right now to write more words in that novel you’ve been working on, or polish up a poetry collection you’re preparing to send to publishers, snow can serve all of us as writers.
If all you’re thinking about and all you’re dealing with right now is snow, snow, snow, don’t let it go to waste. Find inspiration where you’re at–even if that’s buried under inches (or feet) of powdery white stuff.
We have selected the finalists for the Spring 2021 journal. For everyone who submitted, you will receive a decision soon in the submissions manager or via email. Congratulations on those who were selected. Keep an eye out for those acceptance emails as the editors move into phase 2: the editing process.
We challenged ourselves with this journal as we are going to try and do all of the background art ourselves. We are headed to Wyoming in a few weeks for some outside adventure, and to safely embrace the cold, maybe snow, and beautiful sites Wyoming has to offer (we may also dabble in what South Dakota has to offer, too). We are also staying in a supposedly haunted hotel, maybe some ghost blogs/stories to come!
Write a letter to a loved one or an unrequited love…
How do you choose?
Many people can argue that a writer is better fit to write either prose or poetry? Are they right? Others will argue that if you master writing poetry, than you can master writing prose, and you have the ability to write both. Are they right? If you are a beginner, how do you know where to start: poetry or prose? If you are a more experienced writer: how do you know if you really are meant to be a prose or poetry writer? In my own opinion, people can write both, but slant to writing one better.
Think of it this way, writing prose is like writing or being more suited to writing script. Prose is really any form of writing by putting words into a specific order for others to read like nonfiction and fiction genre writing. Poetry is really using figurative language to convey a message through verse, meter, rhythm and/or rhyme.
So ask yourself:
Are you more attracted to films/movies than stills/moments?
Do enjoy storytelling? Telling people stories from your life? Or stories you created?
Do you prefer to read stories over poems?
If you said yes to these questions, then you are more suited to writing prose over poetry. If you said no, you might slant more towards writing poetry. Prose writing are like films, we have before the action, the action, and then what happens after the action. In most poetry, we just have a slice of the moment, snapshot taken of the moment the poet has chosen to written.
Finding the right one…
Here is an exercise you can do: write down a creative thought, it could be a topic, a writing prompt, a moment of inspiration, something you want to write about whether it be poetry or prose. Now take that thought and list 20 words that communicate or describe the writing idea. Once you have those words, create and write! Use them in a poem less than 20 lines and in a short story less than 500 words.
Re-read each, which one was easier to write? Which one was harder to write? Which one is written better? Which form, poetry or prose, have you best communicated the creative thought?
Whichever is best is what you are more suited to or have more experience in writing. I have written fiction since I was nine. Stories about aliens coming from out of the sky to god-like beings raging war on earth with magic (I like fantasy) to also going to college to become a grim reaper in society as a job (please don’t steal my ideas). In college, (just a few years ago) I learned I was way better at poetry, even though I hated it since I was a child. Though some self-discovery with my writing self, I learned I am naturally more suited for writing poetry than what I was for fiction. My only struggle on writing prose is the structure and I write like I talk. From some reason on writing critics that is what confused people. When I write poetry, I found though there are rules, it is more my engaging to my brain and I have more independence for my creative mind to express what it wants more freely and spontaneously. Reading critics on my poetry come back more positive, I have even had poetry published in literary journals.
So how can you really tell if you are meant for poetry or prose?
Poetry is art, so are you more direct and straightforward with your writing? Do you like figurative language and the aesthetic properties of words and how to use them? Is your writing more moved by the beauty of language?
Prose is communication: is the form of writing longer than poetry? Does it consist of characters, narration, a plot, and is the reader moved by the message rather than the language?
It really boils down to your artistic sense, do you craft language to be read as art or do you craft a story to be unfold in a series of crafted letters and words? Who do you want as your audience, and how do you want to communicate to them? With musical language where meaning is conveyed through sounds or is the message more important than the language, which is prose.
Another exercise you can do, is to take the same exercise you did earlier and give it to a friend, family member, co-worker, even a stranger and have them read both the poem and story. What are their critics or takes on your writing? What does this tell you as a writer?
The beauty about writing is that it is not picky, you can marry it or divorce it, put it on the side and forget about it, or plant it and watch your words grow every day. So have fun with self-discovery on what kind of writer you were meant to be!
Previously published on HubPages.
What is it that separates good writers from mediocre ones? How does one make themself stand out in the midst of so many other writers in the world? Voice. Voice is sometimes elusive and sometimes hard to explain, but it is important to every great writer. Diction and voice go hand in hand, so do point of view and voice, but it’s not defined by any one thing. Voice is unique to each individual writer — you have a voice too — and it can make you stand out from the metaphorical crowd.
So if it’s so hard to explain, then what is voice? How do we, as writers, work on establishing our individual voices? Jennifer Sinor in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction explains voice as being defined by what is lacking. She says “Voice…is one of the most vital yet ephemeral qualities of writing. We can’t point to it on the page, pin it down, say that here, right here, in the way this sentence runs or in this choice of words or in this use of detail, we have a voice. Rather, we note its absence by the distance we feel from the writer, from the subject, or from the words on the page.” If you’ve done your fair share of reading (which you should have, if you are at all interested in becoming a writer), then you’ve likely identified an author’s voice in writers you‘ve come to love. Most often in my own examination of a work of literature, I notice voice when I see clever turns of phrases and ways of using words that just make sense. Voice makes a story flow on the page in a way that works and that gives insight into a character, narrator, or world perfectly.
Janet Burroway compares a writer’s voice with their audible voice in Imaginative Writing. Often, you can tell who is speaking — celebrity, family member, or friend — just by hearing the sound of their voice. We all have ways of speaking that differentiate us from each other. It may be that we say “uh” too often, have a southern twang to each syllable, or pronounce words uniquely so that they stick out when you hear them said. We lack the ability to hear words being said when we read, as writers, we have only the words on the page to develop our voice, and Burroway says, that this is done primarily through diction, which conveys “not only the facts but what we are to make of them, not only the situation but its emotional coloration, not only the identity but also the attitude of the person who speaks from the page.”
But how do we, as writers, write in such a way that makes our voice clear?
The most important step is to simply practice writing. As I recently heard from my boss (who is not a writer, I might add), writers write. So start writing! Experiment. Write from a third-person point of view and make your narrator a character in the story. Write the same scene a million different ways with a different tone each time. Make a character come across as snobby without describing them that way, make a character seem shy without describing them as quiet, figure out how to describe a character by only explaining their physical actions, and then try it all over again.
Developing your voice is hard work, and, as Burroway also says, “an author’s voice has a quality developed over time.” Your voice won’t become distinct overnight, you have to get to writing! So pull out your pen and notebook, or your laptop and your trusty fingertips, and get going. The best advice, for now, comes once again from Burroway (go read her book if you’re new to writing — there is much to learn from her skilled essays and prompts) — “seek to voice, and your voice will follow.”
We live in a world where there are a million voices coming at us every day — a mile a minute — so cultivate your own garden of words and your voice will grow. One day, and one word, at a time.