Catherine E. McLean
Catherine E. McLean
Narrowing down to a short list of writing tips was not easy, but these five are important ones:
1. Voice. A great storyteller knows that the voice of a story's narrator is based on that character-narrator's own diction, syntax, vocabulary, and their opinionated outlook on life. That's why nothing pulls a reader out of a story world faster then being reminded of the rules of proper English, grammar, and punctuation. In other words, using proper English destroys the sound and flow of a character's voice or the narrative voice of a story.
2. Ax colons and semicolons. If writing genre fiction (not literary fiction), avoid semicolons and colons. They are symbols. Although writers are told colons and semicolons have a sound of silence like other marks of punctuation, a reader actually stumbles over colons and semicolons in a story. Often this stumble is on a subconscious level. However, for that nano-second (or many seconds), the reader isn't reading and enjoying the story. (Check out Section 11 in Revision is a Process: How to take the frustration out of self-editing for a better look at why it's wise to avoid colons and semicolons in genre fiction.)
3. Clarity trumps all rules. If it isn't clear to the reader then the writer has failed to use the words to: a) create an image, b) convey actions, c) provide believable motivations, or d) mimic dialogue that sounds realistic. Clarity helps a reader visualize, hear, and enjoy the same movie in their mind that the writer saw as their story unveiled itself.
4. Create images in a reader's mind. That means using the most correct words to instantly produce an image and/or sink home a concept. My favorite example of this is that it's not a dog but a Doberman. You cannot visualize a dog, but you certainly see that black and tan dynamo of a Doberman—and instantly you realize it's one of those dogs you don't want to rile and end up being bitten by.
5. POV-Viewpoint should be mastered. It does not matter what type of Point of View (POV)-Viewpoint you choose as long as the reader will easily and willingly turn the pages to find out what happens next. The emphasis should always be to tell a story well, but too many writers fail to understand that mastering POV-Viewpoint (which are two separate entities) eliminates 90% of the errors of show-don't-tell, cause-effect sequences, dialogue mechanics, and more.
Whether you want to revise your fiction or draft a new story, it's easy to keep the above in mind if you develop your own Revision Cheat Sheet or list of items to include or exclude from the draft. Remember, writing a story is a process and revision is also a process.
by Catherine E. McLean
GENRE: Self-Help, Self-Improvement, Non-Fiction
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.
Writers are individuals but to be a producing writer means creating a system to revise and polish a work so the reader thoroughly enjoys the story. Revision is a Process: How to take the frustration out of self-editing is a guidebook for writers and authors that shows how a simple 12-step process can be tailored to eliminate the most common and chronic maladies of writing genre fiction. This valuable guidebook contains secrets, tips, practical advice, how-to's, and why-to's for taking the frustration out of self-editing.
From Section 7, Show Don't Tell - What to Cut or Change
One rule of fiction is to show more and tell less.
What does that mean?
A very simple example is that saying it's a flower is telling but to say it's a white rose, its petals edged with a mist of ruby-pink is showing.
Showing means providing an instant, vivid image so the reader sees in their mind 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 all descriptive words carefully and keep the passages succinct.
Now— Go through your manuscript and highlight all descriptive phrases and passages so you can see how much of the total text is description.
If using your word processor's highlight feature, pause to zoom down to view entire pages and look at the end of pages to see how much carried over to the next page.
If you have exceeded three sentences (20-60 words) of description or explanation at any spot, that may be overkill. Determine what needs to be cut, pared down, rewritten, or reparagraphed for visual effect and immediacy, and what is too lengthy, mundane, or bordering on boring.
It's also important, when revising such areas, to remember that the replacement words should be in keeping with the story's or scene's narrator—and not you, the author, stepping onto the page with your voice, (that's a type of Author Intrusion that readers hate).
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Catherine E. McLean's lighthearted, short stories have appeared in hard cover and online anthologies and magazines. Her books include JEWELS OF THE SKY, KARMA & MAYHEM, HEARTS AKILTER, and ADRADA TO ZOOL (a short story anthology). She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes lighthearted tales of phantasy realms and stardust worlds (fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal) with romance and advenure. She is also a writing instructor and workshop speaker. Her nonfiction book for writers is Revision is a Process: How to take the frustration out of editing.
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4.75 out of 5 stars
Revision is a Process: How to take the frustration out of self-editing by Catherine E. McLean is a nicely detailed guideline of the steps that need to be taken to polish a manuscript. The author gives specifics and emphasizes that it takes time, hard work, and a consistent plan to produce a polished product. She recommends that one should broaden one’s knowledge base by studying books, particularly craft books written by teachers who are also authors, which underscores the fact that this book is an overview of steps to focus on.
I like that she acknowledges the overwhelming nature of revision then breaks it into manageable components. Of course my thrifty nature cringes at the idea of printing out the story (twice!) but the recommendations are practical and a great way to prevent the eye from skipping over errors because of familiarity with the story. It is great that both the mechanics and the story itself are addressed, with explanations for why it is so important to address both and keep the reader invested in the story. As the author states, “Your work needs to stand out from the rest, and that means quality storytelling that’s been ruthlessly self-edited and then edited professionally before publication.”
I would love to make this book a required text for all novice authors I interact with and I daresay it would be helpful to even seasoned writers by reminding them of common errors that are overlooked, such as providing sensory details other than those from sight or using the outline generated to assist in writing a synopsis and/or blurb. This is a great reference work and I highly recommend it.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review