Choose your commitments wisely this holiday season

Squirrels have almost nothing to do with writing, but everybody could use more cute in their life.
Squirrels have almost nothing to do with writing, but everybody could use more cute in their life, happy holidays!

Christmas is right around the corner, and whether or not your family celebrates it, chances are pretty good that you still have holiday obligations. My family certainly isn’t religious, but we still have Christmas dinner every year. It’s a good excuse to get together and enjoy ourselves, and it’s usually pretty nice to get presents.

But most of us don’t have just one dinner with our family. We have friends eager to see us, holiday dinners with the in-laws, maybe even company holiday parties. Everybody wants some of our time, and ordinary life doesn’t just stop because you want to go to an extra holiday party.

As tempting as all these celebration offers might seem, think hard before agreeing to each one. A company holiday party might sound fun, but it might turn out to be more awkward than enjoyable. Going out with friends every day for a week might actually get boring on the third day.

Many years of school taught me to instead think of the holidays as a time to write more. I tend to write out more goals than are humanly possible when planning for the year ahead, and I see these last two weeks as my chance to make one final attempt to hit those goals.

If you have some time off in the next two weeks and you’re not hosting Christmas dinner, you might just want to do the same.

Even if you’ve accomplished almost none of your goals this year, you can still make these last two weeks matter.

Those of you who completed Nanowrimo this year already know the amount of work you can get done in two weeks when you really put your mind to it. And most of you completed Nanowrimo while maintaining full time jobs and some semblance of relationships with the people around you.

If you can write 25, 000 words–or even 15, 000 words–in two weeks, you can accomplish quite a few big things in those two weeks.

In the last two weeks I’ve done one quick read of a novel I edited last year, taken notes for the next edit, edited some spelling and grammar errors along the way, and then did the last editing pass on a novella I’ve been working on. Oh, and I created a booklet of 110 Novel Planning Resourcesfor people subscribed to my newsletter.

Now, I don’t have a full time job, but I’ve also been working for Musa Publishing part time, writing articles for money, working on pitches for potential freelance clients, doing a series of workshops on storytelling as it relates to advertising, and planning out what next year will look like here on the Dabbler.

These are my plans for the next two weeks:

  • Perfect the query and synopsis for my fantasy novella — I started on these today, and I already have a couple people, one who’s read the novella and one who hasn’t, who have agreed to give feedback on these so I can revise them a few times.
  • Submit said novella — I’ve got this written on my calendar for December 30th. Submitting this novella was actually on my goal list for this year. I think we call this “cutting it close.”
  • Identify 15+ companies to pitch in the new year — I really want to start off strong in January with a lot of pitches, and this will be easier if I have a list to start with. Once I get going, I know I’ll stick with it.
  • Draft January blog posts — I’ve got a pretty good idea what I want to write about here at the Dabbler come January, and not much work in the next two weeks, so I’d like to get these done and hopefully even scheduled in advance.
  • Plan first 3 months on The Dabbler — My plan for The Dabbler currently ends at the same time January does, and I’d like to have a more solid idea what I’m doing with this blog when the new year starts.

Ambitious, right? To be honest, once you get into the rhythm of these things most of them don’t take too long, and I’m confident I can accomplish them, especially since I won’t be posting here next week.

So what are you planning to do before the year ends? Are you going to be wrapping up any big goals? Let me know in the comments below!

19 Resources to help you edit that novel

EditingI originally started blogging because I wanted to share my journey towards writing success, but now I also blog because I’m dedicated to helping others build their own writing careers. I want to help you not only explore different writing methods, but to master as many aspects of the craft as you can.

One thing crucial to your success as a writer is the ability to edit. This is true for writers of all kinds, and especially true for novelists.

Now that it’s been a couple weeks since you finished your novel, it’s time to start thinking about editing. Starting before the holidays are over is probably a bad idea, but brushing up on your editing skills is always a good idea—and if you’ve been at this a while, you probably have a couple other projects that could use a serious edit(or three).

So I’ve compiled a list of editing resources to help you turn your first draft into a novel worth publishing, mostly focused on content instead of grammar. With any luck, these resources will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Editing and the Writing Craft: Tips From an Editor – This interview over on the Creative Penn blog gives you advice directly from Joanna Penn’s fiction editor.

How to Karate Your Novel and Edit that Motherfucker Hard: A No-Fooling Fix That Shit Editing Plan to Finish the Goddamn Job – I’m not sure he could have made the title any longer, but Chuck Wendig is a fantastic writer and a really funny blogger with practical advice written in a funny way. I suggest subscribing to his blog while you’re there. It’s worth it, trust me.

The 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes (& How to Fix Them) – A helpful article from Writer’s Digest.

Tips on Self-Editing Fiction Books – Not the most comprehensive resource, but certainly a useful article.

How to Revise a Novel – Rather successful author Holly Lisle offers up her revision method and offers some practical advice for any novel writer.

Creating Emotion in the Reader – Not specifically focused on editing, but creating emotions in your readers is the end goal, right? Learning how to do so will certainly make your next draft stronger.

Top 10 Book Self-Editing Tips – Yet another useful article with good advice for editing your novel.

Writing a Novel? 6 Visual Storytelling Techniques to Borrow from Film and TV – Rewriting might be different from writing, especially if your first draft wasn’t particularly awful, but some scenes will certainly need to be rewritten entirely and might just be better if you use these techniques.

How to Edit Your Book Until It’s Finished – This blogger will tell you that writing is revision, and give you some concrete advice on how to do that revision.

How to Edit A Novel: Bringing Your Manuscript to Perfection – I would argue that no book can ever be perfect, but this is still a valuable article with actual examples.

7 Deadly Myths About Editing And 3 Inspired Truths – A little bit less instructional than most of the other articles, but very true.

Marcela Landres on Editing Fiction – An interview with former Simon & Schuster editor discussing how novelists can get their work ready for submission.

Tips for Editing Your Nanowrimo Novel – From Lifehacker, this article is focused on those of you who are editing a first draft from Nanowrimo, and also has a section on apps that can help you get your editing done. Yes, there really is an app for everything these days.

Editing Your Novel As You Read It – And one final article I hope you’ll find helpful.

How To Find a Beta Reader – This is a pretty thorough article that should help you find a beta reader in no time. Beta readers are critical to your success, so make sure you don’t stop until you find a good one!

What I’ve Got To Say About Editing

Here are some of the articles I’ve written over the years that can help you edit your novel:

Create Your Editing Watch List – An Editing Watch List can help you stay on track so you don’t find yourself editing for the same things three times.

On Overwriting and More On Overwriting – Two articles I wrote about something I see all the time, even in books published by large presses, but mostly from indie authors.

Preparing To Edit A Novel – There are a few things you should do before you start editing a novel, and I’ve summed them all up nicely here.

Editing definitely isn’t my favourite part of the writing process, but it’s an essential one. Often times a novel needs to go through a dozen edits before it’s fit to see the light of day, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is believing your novel is good to go the moment you’ve typed “The End”.

Do your career and editors everywhere a favour by choosing to edit your novel at least three times before you send it anywhere except to a couple trusted beta readers.

By the way, last week I released a short ebook of 110 Novel Planning Resources, available to my subscribers only. If you’re not already signed up, sign up for the newsletter here to claim your  free resource guide today! I only send out emails once a month, so you won’t have to worry about me cluttering your inbox.

Focus in on what really matters

As a writer with a limitless imagination and an interesting life, it’s easy to get caught up in too many projects at once and to end up abandoning things you really want to work on. It’s something I do all the time, and this summer I’ve done it yet again, and realized that I need to change course to truly create the future I want.

When you know exactly what you want, it’s tempting to try to force it all at once, but life doesn’t work like that. You need to choose two or three projects to focus on at a time, no more. You might even want to try focusing on one project at a time depending on your schedule and the kind of person you are.

I don’t have the focus to work on just one project for more than a few days at a time, so I’ll always have more than one going, but right now I have way too many things going on and it’s time to slow down. Trying to start your own business or freelance/fiction writing career is hard enough, but trying to start all three at the same time is ridiculous.

I’ve now found a “real job” that will give me a stable income so I can save up to get my ebooks professionally edited and formatted, and I’ve decided to stop actively searching for freelance work and to stop doing website consultations. Trying to market myself on those levels has taken me away from what’s truly important: my books, both fiction and non-fiction, and this blog, the projects that I am from now on devoting all my time to.

I will still accept freelance work, but I don’t have the time to hunt for it right now. There are a couple almost-finished article queries I intend to shop around, but after that, I’m going to focus in on my books for a while. In the end, freelance writing is something I do enjoy, but I’ve always wanted to make a living writing books and so I need to focus on creating the best books possible and editing the ones I’ve already created.

Are you focused on the projects that really matter to you? If not, what’s taking up your time that you can sacrifice to get back to what truly matters? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Disturbances in Your Writing

Last Friday I asked you guys three questions, and one of them was about what you struggle with most in your writing. Several of you said that your biggest challenge is actually finishing projects, so I’ve decided to tackle this problem. Today I’ve compiled a master list of all the things that have ever prevented me from finishing a writing project, and over the next few weeks I’m going to discuss in detail how to overcome these obstacles, dealing with one or two obstacles per week.

If you have some obstacles that aren’t on the list, feel free to mention them in the comments and I’ll see if I can help you with those, too.

But first, take a look and see if your biggest obstacle made my list:

Interrupting family.

Ringing phones/messenger programs.

The internet.

School/work.

Writer’s block.

Urge to jump to a new project.

Illness/repetitive strain injury.

These are all the things that have ever slowed me down. When you’re not used to them and you’re just getting started, it’s easy to let these things stop you from finishing a project. But with the right strategies you can overcome all of these obstacles so they barely even slow you down. I’ll be delving into those strategies in detail over the next few weeks, and if you implement the strategies I suggest I guarantee you’ll have a long-term(think novel) project finished within the next two months.

Is there anything stopping you from finishing your projects that didn’t make the list? Post it in the comments below and I’ll make sure to tackle it in the coming weeks.

More On Overwriting

A couple weeks ago I discussed the concept of overwriting, the use of needless words in your writing. Having known about overwriting for years, it seemed like basic stuff to me. So I was stunned by how many of you told me you’d never thought about it before. I was even more stunned when I asked Twitter what to blog about today and RedParrot told me she’d like me to talk more about overwriting.

My goal has always been to help you become better writers, and since there’s high demand for advice on this topic, I thought I’d discuss a few more examples of overwriting to give you a better feel for it.

Last time we discussed overwriting I gave you a handful of specific words/details that can be left out of your work. Today I’m going to show you how to cut overwriting by showing the editing process I’ve used on one of my own stories.

To do this, I’ve grabbed the first paragraph from one of my currently-in-editing stories, Brothers.

Original Paragraph:

When my father sent my thirteen-year-old brother to live with the Byrnes, I was jealous. I’d only ever been allowed out of the city twice, both times with my parents and a hundred armed guards to attend a wedding. Of course they were training Andre to be a Noble Slayer—the elites of our army, whose job is to kill the undead—while they taught me to be a king, but back then, I would’ve done anything to switch places. At least a Slayer had some freedom. They could walk down the hall, even out of the castle, without anybody watching.

Edited Paragraph

When my father sent my thirteen-year-old brother to live with the Byrnes, I was jealous. I’d only ever been outside Moon Spire twice, both times with my parents and their guards to attend a wedding. They were training Andre to be a Noble Slayer—the elites of our army—while they taught me to be a king, but back then, I would’ve done anything to switch places. At least a Slayer had freedom. They could leave the castle without anybody watching.

The changes

You’ll notice that the original paragraph is five lines, whereas the edited paragraph is four. How did I achieve this? When I could turn two words into one–such as turning ‘out of’ into ‘outside’–I did so. By removing the word ‘some’ from the second last sentence, not only did I shorten the sentence, but I made it stronger. Too many words weakens the sentence and distracts the reader from the point you’re trying to make.

I also took out some of the details because they’re not important to the story. This story has little to do with the Slayers, so it’s not necessary for the reader to know that they battle undead. When Jacob says he was jealous of Slayers for their freedom, saying they could leave the castle without anybody watching is enough. We don’t need any more details to know how constricted Jacob feels within the life he’s been given as heir to the kingdom.

If you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice that not all my changes shorten the work. In the second sentence I traded “the city” in for “Moon Spire”, which is still two words. Why did I do this? Because “Moon Spire” is more specific. It gives you a better idea of where you are–a specific city rather than just any city–and doesn’t use any extra words. Being specific gives your readers a better feel for your setting and characters, and is more important than shortening your sentences.

Applying this to your own work

To eliminate overwriting from your manuscript, start by looking for places where two words can be shortened to one. This includes contractions, but it also includes things like changing ‘next to’ into ‘beside’.

Once you’ve found all the places where you can turn two words into one, start looking for extra words and phrases. Words like just, very, some, and most words that end in -ly can be cut from your manuscript to make it stronger. Remove these from your manuscript whenever possible. Keep them only when removing them alters the sentence beyond recognition.

Even after you’re familiar with the concept of overwriting and you’ve ruthlessly cut unnecessary words and phrases out of a dozen manuscript, you’ll find that you still end up overwriting. That’s fine. Everyone does it. No writer is perfect, and that’s why nobody should ever send out a first draft. Your job is not to make sure everything’s perfect–it’s to make sure that you only send out the best possible work.

Where have you found instances of overwriting in your work?

The Dangers of Self Publishing

Self publishing is a growing phenomena with the rise of ebooks. Thanks to numerous self published authors whose books have made it big and already published authors successfully self publishing their back lists and new projects, self publishing has gained a new level of respect in the industry and the world at large. And there are numerous benefits to self publishing–you get total control over your project, you get to keep all the profits, and you don’t have to wait for gatekeepers to respond to you.

However, there are also several dangers inherent in self publishing. The gatekeepers of traditional publishing certainly aren’t perfect, but often if they reject your manuscript it means you need to do more work on the book. It doesn’t mean your book will never be publishable–but often rejection is a good sign that your book isn’t ready for publication yet.

With self publishing, the temptation is to do it all yourself. But everybody needs an editor, especially on a book length project. It’s easy to overlook small flaws in your own work, and every piece needs a second pair of eyes to examine it–sometimes several pairs of eyes. Many people self publish because they’re afraid of rejection, and this same fear leads them to choose to do all the editing themselves. This is a mistake. A badly edited book is worse for your reputation than no book at all, so if you’re going to self publish, make sure to get an editor. Good editors cost a lot of money, but it’s worth it–and you can always find somebody new to the field who’s happy to volunteer because they need more professional credits.

Not only that, but the desire to save money and get the book out sooner often leads to authors creating their own cover art and formatting the books themselves. This is fine if you’re already pretty good at these things–but bad formatting or a cover that falls flat will be deadly to your book, so if you’re not already a confident graphic designer or programmer, you might want to hire a professional.

Note that self publishing is not inherently bad. It’s the desire to rush a book out to market which is bad. Spending extra time or money on editing, formatting or cover art will not hurt your novel. Rushing it out before it’s ready will. You’ll get unpleasant reviews which stings both your ego and your sales, and once that first novel has fallen flat on its face the second won’t even be considered by most readers and reviewers. It will take a long time–possibly even a pseudonym–for people to forget about your poorly edited/formatted book. Flat cover art will mean that most people never even pick up your book.

So if you’re considering self publishing, heed my warning. As a reviewer, I’ve read self published books, and I’ve enjoyed most of them–but I’ve also noticed a higher percentage of basic errors in self published novels than in the traditionally published novels I’ve read. I love stories and I’m pretty forgiving of misspelled words and incorrect grammar if I’m given a wonderful story–but most people aren’t. Releasing your book while it’s still riddled with these basic errors–which all books have at some point–means you’re not giving it the best chance to thrive in today’s market. And you want your book to have the best chance of success that you can give it, right?

Also, if you’re an author who’s considering self publishing and who doesn’t have the money for a high end professional editor, look for those who are just beginning their career in editing. For example, I’m trying to break into the editing business as well as the writing business–and I’d be happy to offer a discount to a struggling author, maybe even free editing if I like the project enough. There are plenty of others in my position, so take a good look around the web and see what you can find. And if you’re interested in working out a deal with me personally, shoot me an email at diannalgunn@gmail.com.

Have you read any self published books? How well do you think they were edited?

Preparing to Edit a Novel

It’s that time of year again. All the mistletoe has rotted and half of everyone’s New Year resolutions have already been thrown out the window. That first draft of your Nano–or whatever other project you’ve been ignoring for the last several months–has been sitting in its corner quietly collecting dust for long enough.

It’s time to pull that tome out and edit. It will be painful, it might be bloody–though I suspect you’ll go through more ink than actual blood–but it’s necessary. Trust me, your novel will look better without all those tangents and ten page character descriptions. They are extra limbs just getting in the way–I mean, spiders have eight legs but if a human had eight arms that would just be awkward, right? Think of limbs as sub-plots and character descriptions and then decide whether your book should be a human or a spider and act accordingly.

Anyway. Before you go into your word file and start messing around, there are a few things you really should do. These steps should help get you organized so that when you get to the novel to start messing around, you know exactly what you need to do and you don’t get discouraged.

1. Print it out. You’ll do all your actual tinkering inside word, of course, because that’s where you wrote it and that’s where the file is, but you have to print it out. First off, you tend to–and I do it too, it’s okay–skim when you’re reading on a computer. Printing it out slows down the reading process, which means you catch more errors. There’s also something about that black font on that crisp white paper that makes errors stand out.

2. Read it and take notes. Don’t go back into your word file until you’ve read THE WHOLE THING and taken notes on it. Some people suggest to read it really quickly and only to note how you felt about it overall the first time. I’ve never been able to do that. I’m anal enough to proofread my math tests and published books. I can’t imagine NOT crossing out words and fixing typos. But really, if you’re in one of your first few edits, those little things aren’t important–I’m not going to stop you from writing them down, but focus on the story.

One thing I’ve done, just as a quick example, is to write chapter notes at the end of each chapter. I write these on the back of the page where the chapter ends, and these are my story notes. Those are the notes I look at when going to the next step.

3. Make a To-Do List. Your to-do list starts with world building. Do you have any new questions about your world? Will you have to develop the world further to get a feel for a new subplot? I decided in this draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian to make politics more important to the story, which means I need to build the family trees of the politicians. That’s just one example of a number of small world building things I’ll be doing before I start my next draft.

Your to-do list obviously also includes any new scenes or subplots you need to add, characters you’d like to develop, writing exercises you’d like to do to master PoV, and any scenes or subplots you need to delete. Basically, even if it’s a separate short story that’s another exploration of your world or characters, include it on the list because it will in some way make your next draft more awesome. If in doubt, put it on the list. You can always change your mind later.

4. Do some writing exercises. Even if you didn’t put it on your list, do some writing exercises. Stay in the world you’ve already been working on and write about something in it or someone. Pick a famous object from your world and describe it. Write about the first time someone meets your main character–from that other person’s point of view. Put yourself into the head space of your novel by working inside its world for a little while before you actually dive into editing. That way you won’t have to spend time getting back into the flow when you’re actually in your novel file. Of course, this is also when you do any exercises you put on your to-do list and any world building.

These steps will prepare you to edit that monster first draft. Editing can feel overwhelming, but taking the time to read through and make a list of everything you have to do will make it a little less terrifying. At least now you know not just where you’re going, but–if only vaguely–how you’re going to get there, too.

Next week I’m probably going to talk about something totally random while the guilt about not doing anything on my MG to-do list eats away at me, but sometime soon we’re going to talk about first chapters.

How do you prepare to edit?

Editing a Short Story in Five Steps

Over the last week of December and the first week of January, we worked on fairly long short stories. Now it’s time to talk about editing.

Editing a short story is a much less painful process than editing a novel. It’s a shorter process, and if you go through each of these steps you can make it a lot easier for yourself. I recommend taking a day or two away from your short story before you start editing it. You don’t want to stay away a long time. Particularly if your end goal is to make money, it’s a good idea to have several of these on the market at one time.

When I edit a short story, I usually follow these steps:

1. Proofread on the computer. Sure, you don’t see all your mistakes on the computer, but spelling and grammar aren’t necessarily the most important things to focus on at first. It’s a good idea to reread it on a computer first and edit anything that stands out to you. If you can, read it somewhere other than where you wrote it. Your brain will automatically pay attention because of the new surroundings, and that should be enough for you to see the worst grammatical mistakes. If you can already see a flaw in the structure of your story, you can try to fix it now. If not, move on to the next step as soon as you’ve proofread your work.

2. Get feedback. Some writers go through several edits of their work before anybody looks at it, and I’ve always done that with longer works. With short stories, I find that getting feedback right away is the best. I see stories as movies in my head, and most of the time I don’t notice when it doesn’t look quite as nice on paper. There are a lot of critique groups out there and forums where you can look for a long term critique partner or beta reader. Feedback is a great thing to have.

3. Print it out. Armed with the feedback that you’ve gotten, look at your story again, this time on paper. Make a note about anything you find awkward either on the margin or on the back of the page. Cross out sentences you don’t like. Add details you left out because the image is so clear in your head. Proofread. You can either do this in one really long reading, or you can read it a few times, each time with a different goals. I like to take the intense, one read approach to my short stories. After you’ve gone through it, list the important changes you need to make on the back of the last page.

4. Edit your story. This is the long part. While it takes only a couple of minutes to notice most of the errors on any given page, it can take a while to fix them if they’re structural. Of course you can always get stuck looking for the right word too. Either way, it has to be done. Armed with your annotated story, go into your word processor and start editing. Make all the changes you’ve already noted, but take your time to read through it and fix anything new you notice. While the proofread on the computer was just a skimming to make sure it wasn’t awful, this is an edit to try to make it good.

How long this part of the process takes depends on two factors: how long the story is, and how badly it’s messed up. If you’ve written a ten thousand word story, it’s probably going to take longer to edit than a two thousand word story. However, if your ten thousand word story is relatively clean grammatically and sound structurally, but the two thousand word story is just a mess, the shorter story might take longer to edit. No matter how long it takes you to edit, don’t forget to reward yourself after you’ve done it.

5. Get more feedback. Now that you think you’ve got an awesome story, it’s time to send it back out into the world. Get more than one opinion if you can. If you’re lucky, people will notice improvements and they’ll only be pointing out grammar issues and spelling errors. Odds are that your readers will still see something that throws them off, but that’s okay. That just means it’s time to start the process again.

How many times should you go through this process? Well, that depends on how much experience you have as a writer, and it also depends on the story itself. Some stories take a long time to really become what you’ve envisioned. Other stories come together almost fully formed and only need the most superficial polish. Only you can know when it’s time to send a short story out into the world.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking about the process of finding feedback, critiquing etiquette, and the submission process.

How do you usually edit a short story?

Creating your Editing Watch List

Some of us are instinctively better with grammar than others, but none of us are perfect. We all have to edit our work to make it into something awesome. Every writer makes different mistakes, but individually, we tend to make the same ones over and over again.

This is why it’s a good idea to create an editing watch list. There are a few things that pretty much every writer does in the first draft that, while not necessarily wrong, don’t make the story better. Your editing watch list will contain words and punctuation that you use too often. We all have crutch words and behaviours, words and behaviours that we force on our novels and our characters because we can’t think of anything else and we know they need to do something.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to create an editing watch list. I’ve only just created mine, but I can already see that it will help me when I edit stories in the future. While you’re making big storyline changes to your novel, if you have this list sitting next to you, you can edit out crutch words and excessive exclamation marks. First edits, particularly of longer works, are generally done to work on story problems, not grammar, but if you can get ahead and easily fix some sentences while you work, what’s wrong with that?

You might be able to figure out some of the crutch words you use and when you cross the line into excessive punctuation on your own. For example, nobody needed to tell me that all of my characters sigh a lot. I know that, and as I go through a story, I try to cut a couple of the sighs out of the story. But the best way to discover your crutch words is to pay very close attention to your critiques.

Over the last year or two I’ve written a couple of short stories and a couple new drafts of novels. I’ve submitted bits and pieces of my writing for critique to a couple of different groups while trying to get settled with one in particular. One thing a lot of people told me in critiques is that in fiction, you really shouldn’t have too many semi-colons. In fiction it’s usually best to separate a semi-colon sentence into two. It builds excitement or helps readability or something like that.

I love semi-colons. I think they look cool and they’re immensely useful. It’s been a hard thing to cut out as many semi-colons as I could. It’s meant the deletion of some pretty phrases that just didn’t work as two sentences. I’ve been very reluctant to cut them out, but it’s just one of those sacrifices you have to make. Some pretty prose is acceptable, but when it is totally unrelated or it’s taking readers out of the story, it’s got to go.

Without critiquers, I would have kept on using a semi-colon every couple of sentences. A critiquer is also the one who pointed out to me that I use ‘and then’ a lot when it’s already implied. That advice has helped me to create my editing watch list.

Find a good critique group, online or offline–for online, check out Critique Circle or the International Writing Workshop–and listen to them. They will tell you which words you use way too many times. By really paying attention to what they say, putting these words on your editing watch list, and making sure to run through the manuscript quickly before sending it out, you can beat these words up and out of your story. So don’t forget to write up your own editing watch list before we go deep into the editing trenches.

What to do with Your Dear Diary Project

Now that you’ve finished your Dear Diary Project, there are several things you can do with it. They range from hiding it in a corner in your basement to trying to turn it into something publishable. But before you do anything with the file or manuscript itself, you need to properly extract all the valuable information from it for later use.

Extracting Information for your Dear Diary Project

Now, I don’t know about you, but my character profiles are pretty messy and I usually don’t have much room left on the page by the time I’ve written a Dear Diary Project for that character. So I like to create a fact sheet, which is a simple list of facts about my character. Things like their favourite colour, what kinds of animals they like, and experiences that changed their life that either weren’t important enough to be included in the profile itself or that hadn’t been thought of when you made it.

Reread your Dear Diary Project. Scan it for the things that are most important. Write down all the things you’ve learned about your character over the course of the month.

Once you’ve finished that, take a separate piece of paper and write down any new stories you might have gotten from writing or rereading your Dear Diary Project. Make note of any moments you think it might be important for your character to remember during the main project you’re working on. Pick out ones you might be able to turn into short stories. Write down as much about these ideas as you can, but try not to spend more than fifteen minutes on that.

Now you should be ready to start thinking about what to do with the project itself.

What can I do with my finished product?

There are a few things you can do with your Dear Diary Project. It’s possible that there are a few I haven’t thought of. In fact, writing that sentence I thought of something I’ve never considered before. I’ve created a list of things you should be able to do with your Dear Diary Project. Some are harder than others.

Leave it in a corner in your basement
Or in my case, a corner on my computer. I’ve never done much with my Dear Diary Projects. I’ve posted a few entries on my blog every year, but I’ve never done anything more than take knowledge from my Dear Diary Projects. I’ve thought about doing character blogs and all kinds of exciting things with them. But to be honest, other writing projects and school have always taken priority over transforming my Dear Diary Projects.

You know what? It’s all right if you do the same thing. Having a character’s diary stashed somewhere in your basement or your computer is pretty nifty. The important thing is what you’ve learned from working on your Dear Diary Project. Whatever you do with it, you’ll still have learned something about the process itself–and that was the real goal of this project.

Create a Character Blog
There are these nifty little things called character blogs. I don’t know all the history of them and I can’t tell you who wrote the first one, but I know they’ve existed for a few years now with varying success. Your Dear Diary Project can easily be turned into a character blog. At the very least you’ll want to clean up your grammar and spelling–unless you’re OCD and already have–and make sure that each entry shines, that each one is memorable.

If you want to get serious about character blogging, brainstorm what comes after your Dear Diary Project. Create a proper storyline around the Dear Diary Project. Decide how long–not exactly, but generally–you want to write your character blog for. Then go to great pains to make sure your character’s blog looks good and start putting your work up. You can generate quite a following with a character blog, but it’s a long and painful process. Then again, so is building a following in any kind of writing. If you want to do it enough, you should make it. But if you don’t want it bad enough, it’ll never happen.

Book
There are books made up mostly or sometimes entirely out of diary entries. There are tons of them. Most of them are historical novels set in our world during some particularly interesting part of history. There are also books written entirely in letters, and depending on how you wrote your Dear Diary Projects, transforming them into letters and adding some return mail might not be too hard. You’re going to have to polish the crap out of it though.

I don’t know how much of a market there is for this kind of story in genre fiction. I haven’t read or seen too many fantasy novels in the form of diaries, but I’m sure there is a market available for them. A book like this might do better in the ebook publishing world. It’s easier to find a specific group of readers with the internet and there’s an endless supply of people online. With dedication to your work and lots of revision, I’m sure you’d be able to sell a few copies, maybe a few hundred. With a little bit of luck, you might even be able to sell a few thousand. It might be worth a shot–you just have to decide how important this project is to you.

Screenplay
This is the one I thought of while writing this post. To make it into a script would probably take the most work, because your Dear Diary Project is probably mostly exposition rather than dialogue, and scripts are usually mostly dialogue. There’s more room for exposition in a screenplay than in a stageplay, and you can even take the most important parts and make them into a series of scenes for a screenplay. This is probably the hardest option, but it might just be the most entertaining. I, for one, think my Dear Diary Project would be a better movie than book.

The other thing about turning your Dear Diary Project into a script of either kind is that it’s really hard to start producing a play or movie. You have to do a lot of networking and you have to find funding for it. You have to find people willing to help you out on set, and you need to find actors. There are always lots of people wanting to be actors. It will be hard to turn some of them away, but you’ll only get one for each role. Finding people to help create your set, fund your project and film your movie will be much harder. Maybe even harder than getting a book published.

This is just the beginning of your options. With any luck, you’ll have thought of something I haven’t. Think about your options for a while before you do anything with them. You’ll need to get away from the story for a while before you can edit it anyway. Besides, Nanowrimo’s next month. It’s time to start planning–and I’ll talk to you a bit more about that on Friday.

What are you thinking about doing with your Dear Diary Project?