The joy of editing

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicOne of the least pleasant tasks for most writers is editing. Once the story or novel is finished, authors are done with it. But editing a finished work is an important part of the process. It’s not enough to run a quick spell check, a manuscript takes careful and thoughtful consideration. One thing I do to help me with the editing process is to print out a copy and break out a trusty pen.

I know some people will be shocked by this. Yes, I understand the advantages of editing on a computer, and believe me, i do a lot of that as well, but there are specific reasons that I use the printed page as well.

The first reason is that I find more mistakes this way. The human brain is trained to process information in different ways. While I can correct the majority of my errors on the computer, there are some that slip by. The majority of the reading I do on the computer is scanning, and that is how I process information. Editing is not scanning. You need to look carefully and slowly. Paper helps accomplish this.

I also find that the story becomes more alive for me. I grew up with paper books, and while I love eBooks, the physical nature of the paper helps me to make the worlds I create more concrete, more real. I find that I can not only find basic grammar and spelling mistakes, but I can also find blocks of dead or dull writing, and make them stronger. There is an immersive quality to writing on paper that just doesn’t exist on the computer.

There is an environmental concern, yes. I try to purchase recycled paper,  and it goes into the blue box. I also try to reuse pages, printing on the other side, or finding another use for the pages to help offset the expense, both financial and environmental.

So, when will you be able to see the fruits of this editing? Stay tuned for some announcements soon.

If you have any editing techniques that help you, feel free to share them in the comments.

Drew’s Writing Tips!

Recently on Twitter I decided to share some of the valuable and important insights I have discovered while writing two and 1/3 novels. Due to the ephemeral nature of Twitter I feared that some of you might have missed these lessons, so I thought it only prudent that I reprint them here. I hope they will be of some help if you are currently struggling with a writing project.

1. Your lead characters should always start the day with a good breakfast.  Spend at least a couple of pages describing this.

2. Redheads cannot be trusted. If you want to show someone is untrustworthy, give them red hair.

3. When writing sex scenes, you should have between 3 and 5 people. Less is dull, more gets hard to manage.  See also the Weiner corollary.

4. Every building should blow up, or catch fire. Preferably both.

5. Robots always have murder on the brain. Or programmed into them. Whatever, I’m not a scientist.

6. Old ladies that live alone are always scary. Usually they cackle, which helps your audience know just how scary they are.

7. While zombies prefer fresh brains, they will also eat pickled brains on special occasions.

8. Your alien characters should be interested in mating with humans. 3 to 5 at a time.

9. Don’t kill the puppy.

10. Exploding supernovas are a good way to get yourself out of a tricky writing corner.

And  a bonus one that I did not use on Twitter!

If your character are going to use drugs, make sure they get the good stuff. Nobody want to read about people smoking ditchweed.

I hope this has been of some use to you!

Back on Track

As is often the case, I have found that writing begets writing. I’m now on summer vacation, from my real job as a teacher, but I am finding myself busier than ever. I am now 2000 words into my next novel, which is cool after only one day’s writing. I also have picked up a few contracts writing some articles, mostly business, but also some social media things as well. Finally, I have found more time to blog, email and Tweet with my new iPhone, so it has really opened up a whole new world. Very cool. The more I write, the more I want to write, the more I have to say. I will keep you posted on the details of the new novel soon.

Writing for Film; Writing for Television

The recently ended Hollywood writer’s strike has caused me to consider the position of writers in Hollywood, and the difference between television writing and film writing.

When you think about it, it is a simple equation, no writer= no movie or television show. Writing is the first step. Before there is a director, an actor, camera crew, location scout, before there is anything there is the written word. Usually.

In film you have about two hours to tell your story. With sequels, maybe six. Now, it is a general fact that the third film in a series sucks. Look at Superman III, The Godfather III, Terminator III, Scream III, Spiderman III. Or rather, don’t look at them. They really are not that good. There are probably exceptions to this rule, but I can’t think of any right now. Generally speaking, though, by the third film, the magic is gone. After watching about six hours of material, the public is finished. Not many film series make it to IV, and those that do are usually even worse than III (Rocky IV and Superman IV come to mind).

Television, on the other hand, is based upon longevity. A series can run for several years, and produce literally hundreds of hours of material. A sitcom that runs for seven years will produce almost 60 hours of entertainment, or around 30 films. An hour-long drama will produce twice that much. The public will follow characters for a much longer time on the television than on the screen. I wonder why that is. Is it that the writing is so much better? The characters are that much more fascinating? Or is it expectations?

With television, the expectations are much less than with film. Special effects can be less special, action scenes less action-y, and even the acting can be weaker than in film.  People will forgive television things they will not forgive in film. Movies are expected to be a spectacle, television, not so much.

With many film series, by the third film the audience knows what to expect. Spiderman swinging through New York was awesome to see the first time, and it was enough. By the third time, well, we have seen him swing for four hours already. We need something new.  With television, we don’t necessarily need something new. Television is a more familiar medium. We want to be familiar with how the show works. Find the crime, solve the crime, imprison the criminal. Diagnose the disease, treat the disease, make the patient healthy. Have a wacky misunderstanding, solve the misunderstanding, family hugs. There is a formula for television, and if you can master it, you have a successful series. If you can’t, you fail.

These are not hard and fast rules, but a generally system that seems to apply. I can think of very few modern film series that have produced 20-30 films (James Bond comes to mind) but there are hundreds of television shows that have lasted years and years.

What is your take? Are there other reasons that people will follow television characters for such great lenghts of time?

Looking Forward/Looking Back

Yes, New Year’s Eve, the typical night of reflection, when we think back to the year that was and hope to God that it was a good one. I was trying to think of one event that defined the year for me, one thing that stood above the rest. This year that would have to be the birth of my second son, Ephraim. He came a month early after a difficult labour, and he fought like hell every step of the way coming out. He was small, and had to be in an incubator for the first 24 hours of his life – nothing compared to some of the other babies I saw in the special care nursery, but it scared the shit out of me. That day is the defining day of 2007 for me: scary, stressful, but in the end, I had another perfect little son. A son who has grown to be larger than average, despite his tiny beginnings.

Professionally things were interesting for me as well. As a writer two very important things happened. I (with the help of my brother in law Sean) launched a Podiobook of my novel over at Podiobooks.com, and I had my first story accepted for print publication. Although these are small things compared to some, they were enjoyable on several levels: to see my rough draft of a novel collect several hundred listeners (I know, Sigler and Hutchins are not running scared, but it’s a start) is very exciting. Having an editor say “Yes, I like this story enough to include it in my publication and hope people pay for it” was also very cool. And that it was for my first and only “horror” story is pretty interesting as well. Getting my feet wet in the world of Podcasting has been exciting, and I hope to continue in the future.

For 2008 I have established some priorities for myself professionally. I hope to finish my second novel. I might even make it a Podiobook, and give it a big push. I hope to learn more about Social Media, and all of its repercussions across our lives, and to write write write. On that note, I’m off to tackle the book. All the best for the new year.

Is this a hint?

So, there I was surfing around these great big Internets, trying to find something to amuse myself instead of writing, the back of my mind still paralyzed with fear at the thought of having no Twotter for 12 hours tomorrow, when I came across an interesting web site. I liked it so much I decided to give it the old thumbs up in my StumbleUpon toolbar, but instead, I hit the Stumble! button, which automatically takes you to some random page on the web. Today it took me here:

http://www.sfwa.org/writing/chadvce.htm

Now, for those of you just too lazy to move you right hand enough to centre your mouse over the link and click it, that web page is entitled thusly:

Writerisms and other Sins: A Writer’s Shortcut to Stronger Writing

Have I displeased the ghost in the machine, and this is its revenge?

Why NaNoWriMo Did Not Work For Me

I have been in a funk these past couple of weeks. I have been busy. Frankly, I am always busy. I’m one half of a team raising two boys, I’m in my third year teaching and once again I am teaching a brand new curriculum (science!), and all of the things that go along with life. Really, everyone is busy, everyone has about twenty thousand different things going at once – this isn’t some pity party. But, in the past couple of weeks, the business has increased. Report cards, parent teacher interview nights at work, and at home we were remake/remodeling a little bit to get the place ready for an interview my wife had with a day care agency. This has affected my writing output greatly. Now, I signed up for the National Write a Novel Month in October, thinking that this year I will really try to see if I could do it.

And I couldn’t. Wrote 28,000 words in November. Not bad. Not enough though. And for the past few days, I have been in a funk, watching November come to an end, like the last few ounces of bathwater, slowly trickling away. The days passed, and my word count did not increase. And that is when it hit me; NaNoWriMo is not for me.

For many of the people, it is more of a community activity. There are several events that take place during the month, writing sessions, movies, parties, things of that nature. Each and every one of this events was something I could not attend. The timing just wasn’t there. And, while it is interesting to get into conversations on the online forums, they really were not an effective way to make friends and influence people. They were very slow most of the time, and it always felt odd to me, being at the computer, wasting time while pages loaded, time I should have been writing.

And then, the days when I could write, well, there is nothing like a 50,000 word deadline hanging over your head to make 5,000 words in two days seem pitiful. Instead of enjoying watching the word count go up, I despaired. And grew frustrated. Lots of people writing this seem to do it for a lark, just for fun. Although I am not a serious novelist, I hope to be published some day. This just did not help. It was fun, and it pushed me for a while, but, in the end, it was not worth it.