How to (Try to) Edit a Book #LikeABoss

am writing

Hello everyone! I think we’re technically in the middle of another camp nano? (hard to keep track to be honest- what is time anymore…) And I’m currently completely failing trying to do a readthrough of one of my WIPs, so I figured now was the perfect time to pass on my (*ahem*) wisdom to other people 😉

I know people have been dying to get some good tips from me over the years… And, well, these may not be that good, but they’re technically tips 😉 I will admit I’m also drawing on my subjective experience (my openings tend to start out pretty weak, so I put a lot of focus on those). Nonetheless, I think other writers could probably distil something of use from this anyway… or else get drunk on my stupidity 😉

Apart from the occasional episodes of weeping, which I’ve left out to save time, this is pretty much my process:

witches over cauldron hocus pocus

Step 1: Pour blood, sweat, tears into a cauldron, bring to a boil, gently simmer for a few years, then pull your deformed baby manuscript out AKA WRITE THE DAMN FIRST DRAFT!

narnia cupboard

Step 2: Shove this little beastie out of sight- it’s not ready to see the light of day! It may protest and bang on the floorboards for attention, but don’t worry, this isn’t book abuse (that comes later). This is just a temporary arrangement for both your sakes.

hug a book

Step 3: Bring your book baby out again after a few weeks/months (when its incessant nagging for attention finally gets on your last nerve). Rock it back and forth in your arms. Try crooning a lullaby in its ear as you open that first page for a quick reread…

monster book of monsters

Step 4: NOPE! That was a bad idea! You were completely wrong to describe this as a baby; IT’S A FRICKIN DEMON!!

don't panic

 

Step 5: Okay don’t panic (and don’t stab it through the heart with a stake and sense this evil creature back to whence it came… as tempting as that is, even baby monsters deserve life). As much as you might wish you’d aborted this project earlier and daydream of other projects, this is a living breathing thing making guttural noises in your arms and you’ve got to take some responsibility. You grit your teeth and make your biggest (human) sacrifice, rereading it from beginning to end and making notes of all the (terrible, terrible) flaws.

really long list 2

Step 6: Well, that wasn’t as bad as you thought… it was worse. The list of problems is as long as an immortal life and you think this thing might be possessed by the devil… but as they always say, the first draft is the hardest part, right?!

drum fingers

Step 7: At this point you *drum* your pen on the desk, tapping out solutions to all the problems (you created) in morse code. For some reason, this is soothing.

think pen write

Step 8: Miraculously, you begin to answer the questions you posed in your notes and now, look at that, you’re brainstorming!

grave robbing

Step 9: Alrighty then, it’s time to slay the beast resurrect this manuscript from the depths of hell. You plan to begin on the biggest issues (no point trying to cover up the boils when the heart of the story is on the outside of the body and oozing blood). *Crack your knuckles* and get to work!

chaos

Step 10: Skip around the manuscript at random picking out flaws, then switch to chronological editing intermittently (this is the part of the editing process I like to call THE CHAOS). Also, work on that horrible opening!

focus

Step 11: Okay *focus* now- you can get through the other major edits.

read-fast

Step 12: Reconfigure some major plot points, focusing on consistent character arcs and smoothing out the narrative (and other writerly things).

squirrel attention span

Step 13: Get distracted by some simple issue with the prose (that you really shouldn’t be worrying about at this stage).

highlighters

Step 14: Just keep nit-picking and tell yourself typos are obviously the biggest issue you have to deal with (it may not be true, but it’s comforting).

monkey typewriter

Step 15: Time to tinker with that opening again!

lord of the rings writing gif

Step 16: While you’re at it, work on the ending.

solve crime

Step 17: Find that flaw in the middle that’s been bugging you and brainstorm a million ways to change it.

writing

Step 18: Rewrite entire chapters

delete cybermen

Step 19: DELETE! DELETE!!

not a great plan

Step 20: Realise you’ve made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE. Go back to original plan and try and bring the old version back to life!

hide monster

Step 21: Abandon dead idea and quit while you’re ahead! Time to shove this beastly being (that’s looking more deformed than ever) back where no one can find it!!! Quick!!

Congratulations- your book is now a corpse of its former self you have successfully edited your book!

Now just wait a few months until you have to do this all again!

How to write an important book!

Hello all, I have a very *ahem* serious post today about how to write some serious fiction! Usual disclaimer: this is for humour purposes and not to target any particular book/author (funnily enough, while I did draw on bits and pieces I don’t like in fiction, writing this actually made me think that *thankfully* most books dubbed “important” do none of these things). Also, a lot of this is based on my own personal likes/dislikes. Thank you for your understanding in this matter 😉 Now, onto the guidelines!

you choose

#1 Choose a suitable genre– your options are: contemporary, historical fiction, dystopia annnnd that’s it.

 

 

opinion toy story meme

#2 Find a topic that’s on trend and run with it! Make sure it matches up to whatever’s on various manuscript wishlists, because you know, this isn’t really about writing your ideas, it’s about parroting whatever *important people* think. *Do not* choose something close to home or write from any personal experience. If you run out of time to publish this grand idea before the trend dies- never fear, you can just recycle it later! For instance, if you were writing important historical fiction a few years ago, you could’ve gone with the secretly sympathetic Nazi trope- but now you may have to adjust that idea to… some seriously sympathetic Stalinists! (just my prediction for the next trend- you’re welcome! 😉)

reading#3 Loosely research this topic. You don’t want to interfere too much with your preconceived ideas, so don’t do actual research or find data that might muddy the waters. Ignore information that may contain nuance or will make readers uncomfortable (for this reason, I seriously recommend not looking into any kind of psychology or history or the like). Go with popular media takes- then you should be safe from criticism, cos all the people who might evaluate the book already hold the same opinions anyway. I recommend using Buzzfeed as your primary source- that should suffice.

strawman

#4 Moralise! This is my favourite step, because it’s so gosh-darn-easy and oh-so-satisfying! This should involve (but is not limited to): strawmen, pointlessly obvious statements (eg “war is bad”), contradictory ideas, invasive authorial intrusions, a heavy dose of nihilism (if you can manage it), irrelevant information and some illogical arguments. Remember, your view (and that of the powerful people you’re parroting) is the only one that matters!

 

 

character conveyor belt#5 Make all your characters walking stereotypes and tokens! This is great, cos you don’t actually have to put in the work to make them seem remotely realistic. On that note…

 

listen to me#6 Characters are merely mouthpieces for the author’s intent– so don’t you forget it! At every opportunity, put your own (stolen) words into their mouths. The more inane, the better!

 

 

 

doesnt matter#7 The more important a book is, the less the plot matters… so don’t bother to have one! I know I just love reading a book and realising that nothing actually happened for 400+ pages- so this is the model you should work with!

 

drama#8 Add plenty of nonsensical melodrama (nothing says serious like melodrama!). Try to have the emotional range and logic of a hyper, high on sugar, possibly caffeinated five-year-old- that should do the trick. Especially since everyone knows unrealistic is better (personally, I love that Hollywood trope where the unarmed plucky rebels run at a group of armed, evil soldiers and miraculously disarm them- peacefully of course!)

 

i'm awesome#9 I had a think about style and came to the conclusion… it doesn’t matter if you use an extreme version of pared down or purple prose- just as long as you tell other writers this is the *only* way to do it! Prescriptive advice is the best and the most important writers are really into it- so you should be too!

 

closing argument#10 Your ending is super important– use this as an opportunity to moralise more and drive home whatever message you were going for!

 

 

I'm offended#11 Get sensitivity readers to check that your work is sensitive enough for every person on the planet– because it is totally possible to write a book that everyone relates to/loves/doesn’t have problems with (and because there has been no case *ever* of a book going through this process and being cancelled anyway… oh wait, that’s the case with most cancelled books, hmmm nevermind! Do this step regardless! Your job is not to think for yourself!)

 

sympathy#12 Write in your acknowledgements about a dead friend/relative/acquaintance whose real-life story you were inspired by– preferably naming them- so that you can milk sympathy on their behalf. This doesn’t look tacky at all!

 

sarcastic sorry#13 Prepare an apology of sorts that you can put in as an introduction to make up for your lack of research. You can also pre-emptively say sorry on twitter for whatever you’ve written, whilst simultaneously self-promoting and virtue signalling! Look at you, killing three birds with one stone! (also, while you’re on twitter, try and destroy someone else’s career- this is both fun and will make people want to buy your books when the time comes! There are only loads of a few cases of this backfiring…)

***Congrats: you’ve written some propaganda an important book***

Now you can sit back and wait for people to admire your genius! You’re welcome!

(And yes, the observant reader will notice this doesn’t involve much writing- that is only for unimportant writers!)

How to (Try to) Plan a Book

am writing

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a massive plotter and I’m at the stage of planning a new project, so I thought it might be fun to explore how my brain works in the planning process (spoiler alert: I’m stuck at step 16). I’m going off what I’m doing right now and what I’ve done for various projects in the past… some of which even turned into full length manuscripts… though some did not 😉 So, obviously, this is completely fool proof and there’s no way it could go wrong 😉 Without further ado, here is my definitive guide on how to (try to) plan a book:

lightbulb moment

Step 1: Have an idea *POP* into your head like magic- which seems makes it seem like all the hard work is over, right? WRONG!

dr-evil

Step 2: Decide that you are going to do the unthinkable and turn this idea into a book…

brainstorming ideas

Step 3: Time for some *brainstorming* to see if this idea has legs (NB step 3 can be step 1 for some people, because creative people are different, and not all ideas throw themselves in your face 😉)

hopscotch

Step 4: Keep repeating steps 1-3, jumping through the steps in any given order like you’re playing hopscotch.

simpsons ideas

Step 5: Spend a while (years) writing and compiling notes, adding characters, potentially world building and plenty of contradictory ideas. Make sure your notes aren’t logical at this point- you don’t want to make things easy for your future self!

gotta go to work

Step 6: Get on with your life for a bit, work on other creative projects and generally forget about this vaguely fleshed out idea.

grave robbing

Step 7: Dig up/stumble across whatever you’ve been working on (whether it’s in a notebook or some random files on your computer). Have the sudden dawning realisation that you actually want to write this book and decide it will be your *next project*. And that means taking said idea seriously from here on out! So at this stage, do you a) make a schedule for when you can fit in writing time and/or b) rough draft an outline to get the ball rolling…?

trick question

Step 8: Neither! That was a trick question! You print out the notes, making a BIG DEAL out of that and promising to be proactive about it from now on! (all the while not really breaking any new ground)

stare into space

Step 9: Stare at pages, trying to figure out how to write out a basic synopsis out of this contradictory mess (see, I told you it’d be helpful not to make it too logical!) Ah great- now you can either continue on with optional steps 10-11, or skip right ahead to 12…

aha

Step 10: Discover that you did in fact write a helpful synopsis you entirely forgot about…

this isnt right

Step 11: Read it and realise how different it is from the notes

bad writing gig

Step 12: *Weep*

highlighters

Step 13: Devise a complex strategy, involving highlighters, where you colour code notes to match up all the existing ideas. Perhaps even pick up a stack of post its! Maybe get funky with an excel spreadsheet! Whatever you do, make sure it looks organised, but has no functional purpose.

thinking monkey

Step 14: Try to make head or tail of your new notes

muses

Step 15: Wait around for the Muses to strike…

monkey typewriter

Step 16: Give up and write a blog post about planning a novel (…ooh getting meta…)

let's go to work

Step 17: Get your shit together and decide just to write out all your ideas in a new synopsis.

writing

Step 18: Type up into one great big messy document.

think pen write

Step 19: Pause to give chapter titles (this is a great step because while it is entirely unnecessary, it’ll make you feel like you’ve been super clever and productive).

read satisfied

 

Step 20: Readthrough it with satisfaction (ignoring the inner voice that tells you that this may have to be revised later) and shove it in a drawer to be ignored until you can carve out some time to actually write the damn thing.

congratulations

*Congratulations you have planned a novel*

(at least that’s the dream anyway 😉)

How to Deal with DOUBT

We all know how doubt can be debilitating. Well, maybe not all- narcissists and less sophisticated primates are never plagued with doubt… so I’ll try again: we all should have some idea how deadly doubt can be… but equally how much we need it in writing. Because we need doubt to propel us to ruthlessly edit our messy manuscripts; we need to pick out our flaws and correct them. I for one like to take all my doubts out the drawer periodically and hold them in my hand until they grow so heavy that I feel like I’m sinking into a quicksand of doom and despair… or maybe that’s just me?

Okay, maybe that’s not the healthiest way to deal with doubt. There are better, tried and tested ways of dealing with doubt, like…

Crying.

crying orangutan

Singing super cheesy anthems at the top of your lungs.

Power through- just hope those little voices inside your head go. away.

writing

POWER THROUGH EVEN MORE- this means ruthlessly editing a gazillion times, writing more and more and more…

bad writing gig

Read books by professionals and feel bad about it (aka chewing yourself out by convincing yourself you will never live up to those insane standards you set yourself)

pretending to read

Well, that wasn’t so bad. But we can do better than that…

Note that *CONGRATS* feeling doubt is a totally normal part of the process for any creative person.

thumbs up

Note that books on the shelves have been edited by professionals and it’s okay if you’re not up to that standard (yet).

choose books

Note that it’s a process and you’re getting there (just think about how crap you were when you started and you’ll feel better, I promise 😉).

think happy thoughts.gif

Note that there’s always more room for more books in the world. Think of all those libraries and bookshops that need stocking with new stories!

book love belle

Note that it’s okay to take breaks- you don’t have to power through all the time- seriously, it’s okay to take breaks!

orangutan on a beach relaxing0003

And if none of this has helped, then…

Eat ice cream (and bananas) because this will always help. Always.

banana split

Actually, go do that anyway! Do you think any of these will be helpful? How do you deal with doubt? Let me know in the comments!