John David Kudrick

putting words to work for you

Tag: editing (page 2 of 2)

Just Write It

Get Your Story Written, Then Think Revision

Not long ago, I was helping our youngest daughter with a writing assignment about medieval knights, and she told me she couldn’t think of an adjective to modify a certain noun. She offered a few ideas and then just sat there, stuck. I could only say to her what I encourage novelists with: “Just write what comes to mind and get it down on paper. You can always go back and revise it when you are done.”

So I figured I’d run with that notion and offer a few thoughts to those of you who are working on novels, but finding yourselves constantly wanting to self-edit during the writing process. On the whole, most novelists will tell you that self-editing during composition is a self-defeating endeavor that eventually brings writers to a halting screech—and often sends them in the direction of the kitchen for their favorite comfort food.

Why should you just write your story from start to finish without worrying about fixing this, that, and the other? Mainly, it’s because you want the passion and inspiration for your story to find its way out of your heart and imagination and onto the written page with little to no interruption of your creative flow. The STORY is the key; it’s why you’re dedicating a certain amount of your time and energy each day (hopefully) to an endeavor that might seem pointless to others who don’t hear the muse that writers do.

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Avoiding Three Common Pitfalls for Novelists: Part 3

Typos Can Tip the Scales

So far in this series, we’ve taken a look at the dangers of head-hopping and too much telling. In this final installment, I want to cover the third most common issue I see with manuscripts. So, as before, let’s start by reviewing a short passage:

Dana pulled out her pinck lipstick and smeered on a new coat. She eyed herslf in the miror and and smiled, then dabblered on some more red lipstick. Joe would like the way she now looked now for shore.

Leaving the lady’s room, Danielle found Joe sitting on a stoool at the bar.. He gave her a nodded and a smile, then kissed her;

“Pink kipstick,” he wispered. “My favrit.”

“I know,” Dana sad.

José puled out a char at the table where he Sat by the jukbox.

Pretty obvious on this one, I think, yes? The passage is rife with errors, and as a novelist myself, I know very well that everyone makes mistakes, big and little (which is why I have an editor to review  my own writing). However, a manuscript with errors is a sign to agents, publishers, and readers that you don’t take your work seriously enough.

Misspellings, punctuation problems, grammar goofs, inconsistencies, continuity issues … I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that to err is human, but to get edited is divine (hopefully). So what can you do to make sure your manuscript is as clean as can be before you self-publish it to a book-reading world that has better things to do than read stories with errors that leave your readers scratching their heads? Or before you send it off to some industry professional who already has six gazillion submissions to review on his or her slush pile, and who doesn’t have time for proposals or manuscripts with typos and such? Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

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Avoiding Three Common Pitfalls for Novelists: Part 2

Too Much of a Good Thing Isn’t So Good

In the first installment of this series, we looked at how head-hopping (abrupt POV jumps within a scene) can damage the intimacy between a reader and the story. In this second part, I want to cover another major problem area I see in my daily work as a freelance editor.

First, take a look at this passage:

Slipping his knife from its sheath, Jack warily eyed his adversary, Conrad. Even as Conrad leapt toward him, Jack considered that the assassin had a long history of kills, dating back to the post-Vietnam days in southeast Asia. Legend had it that Conrad had successfully sanctioned targets on every continent and in more than fifty countries. He’d even made short work of several presidents of overseas nations, including the French president that had so staunchly opposed the hostilities that led to the Mediterranean War of 2120.

Jack deftly sidestepped Conrad’s initial attack and blocked the fast follow-up, but the assassin was simply too fast. Seconds later, Jack lay on the ground, looking up at Conrad’s weapon: a twenty-inch Japanese katana sword with a leather-wrapped hilt and silver blade so shiny that Jack could see the reflections of the lights from the wharf behind where he lay.

As Conrad powerfully pushed the sword toward Jack’s neck, Jack held him off the best he could, but Conrad, at six-foot-four and around two hundred fifty pounds, was proving to be too much. Finally, Jack decided to buy some time with words.

“Look,” Jack said with a friendly tone. “We both know why you’re here! You did that job last month in South Africa, and now you want the dead guy’s wife! You know she has the intel that you thought her husband had when you whacked him! Your employer wants her and the intel to disappear, and you’re here to make it happen! And your employer is paying a ton of money to kill yet one more person and add another notch to your belt!”

As I said of the sample passage in the first article in this series, this doesn’t sound like a horrible piece of writing in general, at least in terms of grammar and punctuation, right? Even the characters seem like they might be somewhat intriguing. So the issue here is…?

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Avoiding Three Common Pitfalls for Novelists: Part 1

Head-Hopping Hurts Readers’ Heads

Even in our fast-paced digital age, readers are still looking for stories that encourage, engage, and entertain them in the midst of a changing world. What makes a good story hasn’t changed, and on the flip side, what ruins a good story hasn’t changed, either.

In this series of three articles, I will focus on the three main problems I see with novel manuscripts from my day-to-day work as an editor, which will hopefully give you some food for thought when it comes to not only self-editing your story, but also writing it as well.

PITFALL NUMBER 1: ABRUPT POV JUMPS (AKA HEAD-HOPPING)

Take a look at this piece of prose:

“Would you like to sit down, Sammy?” Mary asked. She really hoped he didn’t, but politeness came first, after all.

Sammy looked at her, trying to read her intentions and wondering if she wanted him anywhere near her.

“Sammy?” she said. Now she felt butterflies in her stomach. Why wasn’t he answering?

“Oh! Sammy!” Nora said, bursting through the kitchen doorway. “When did you get here?” she asked as she remembered that she never took off her dirty apron after baking cookies.

“Uh, I … Uh …” Sammy said. That did it. He could barely think of hanging around with just Mary, but Nora, too? No way. “I … um, I need to be going. Bye.”

Okay, so that seems like some decent writing, right? Punctuation looks good. Grammar (at least for fiction) is solid. Even sounds like an interesting scene with some obvious tension and lively characters. So what’s the issue?

Answer: Abrupt jumps in point of view (POV)—head-hopping.

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Top Resources for Novelists

A Brief List of My Personal Favorites

Top Resources for Novelists

If you’re a novelist and looking for a good book on the craft of writing, you likely have realized after perusing the Internet that you have about a bazillion choices. So, where do you start?

Well, it may grate on some people’s beliefs, but technically, you don’t need any books on writing to be an author. If you have a good grasp of the English language and you read a lot of fiction and write fiction regularly, then you’re already pretty well set to get started. You’ll have room to grow and mature as a writer, certainly, but the more you read and write, the better you’ll be. Further, if you’re spending more time reading about how to write fiction than actually writing it or reading it, then you’re hurting your own potential as an author.

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