Michelle is back to talk about lessons learned with regards to editing. It can be frustrating and time consuming, but is needed and can lead to a better book. Here are some lessons learned to help other authors when it comes time to edit.
We also talk about things learned to make it easier when writing a draft so that the editing is easier. Proper POV, scene order, and more can help.
Michelle: Are you working on your author career, but struggling to get that first book published? Does the goal of being an author seem too lofty? Or thoughts of having multiple books and making a full time living are as fantastical as living in Cinderella’s castle? Welcome to Discovered Wordsmiths, a podcast where you can learn more about the world around you.
That’s where aspiring authors can be heard. Join Stephen Schneider as he finds and talks to authors you may not know, but authors that have gotten their foot on the author career path. Hear what they’ve done to get there and where they want to go now. Settle back. It’s time for a bit of inspiration and advice.
Come listen to today’s Discovered Wordsmith.
Stephen: Okay, Michelle, welcome back to Discover Wordsmiths. Good to have you back again. Huh. I always joke about that. Thank you. We cut it into two episodes, but, we took a two second break. This time, instead of talking about your books, we’re going to talk about writing and stuff with publishing, the actual business end of it.
Before we get into our topic about editing and how frustrating it can be let me ask you, cause you’ve written several books and you’ve written several teen books and then you changed and wrote more adult, a romance book, but not your typical romance genre, typical feel. But what were some things you’ve learned from the first time you wrote the first book to when you’ve written this latest book some things that you might’ve even done differently?
Michelle: Wow. There actually has been so much I’ve learned. Her Sanctuary, His Heart the one that’s actually been published now was my first, my very first book I wrote. I wrote it in the first person point of view. And then afterwards, while I’m in my reading, I discovered that you don’t write an adult romance in the first person point of view.
It has to be in the third person point of view. So I had to rewrite the entire book in the third person point of view, but it was good because then it got accepted by the publisher in the third person point of view, which I was really grateful for. Also I’ve learned, the, wow, it’s so easy to sit down and type the first draft, cause it like when you’re new at the authoring game, it’s everything just flows.
For me, this was for me. It flows. Those first three books came so easy. I won’t say the next three came so easy because they didn’t. I had to actually, but as I’ve learned the craft, I’ve learned how to plot better, make better scenes, make better sequences, make better. Pieces relevant to the story with my first books.
I put a kind of there was a lot of narrative in them that needed to be shown, not told. And it’s learning that showing and telling. Definitely. I’ve learned that. And also how well placed Christians can expand your story into a way that you never thought it would be possible. And as a new writer, I think that was I’ve been I’ve read lots in my life.
I’m a huge fan of reading. And so that kind of inspired me to write, but it doesn’t give you the ammunition. If you can put it like that for you to be able to write, you’ve got to learn your craft.
Stephen: It’s totally different writing the words and then reading them. And even if you read something, you’re like, okay, go write like this.
When you actually get the writing it down, you’re like, yeah, that, and then someone else will read it and it’s yeah, that’s not even close. And you’re like, oh, you’re right. I see it. Yeah. Yeah. I agree.
Michelle: I had to I read a lot of books and attended a lot of kind of free video conferences.
I even took a writing course to just put the pieces of a story together. And help me to work work the story, work it to its best advantage, expand and reach into all the areas of my characters to find out more about them. And I had to learn that, I, as I say I’ve done a lot of research about re about writing, about plotting, about scenes, about characters, about, Once needs what these characters are going on and what kind of message you’re trying to transmit in your story, but raise your hearts.
What is that story supposed to reach? And I think that’s something that I’ve learned definitely from when I first wrote a teen book, which was the first one I released until now there’s been so much growth in myself as a writer because there’s so much you have to learn. Even about publishing, there’s so much you have to learn and it’s not always just as simple as the articles that they put on the internet,
i’ve been getting some coaching lately and we’ve been focusing a lot of my pros and as he said making it sparkle You know, he says you’re writing conversational language That’s the way we would talk but it comes out clunky in a book you want to write sparkly prose and Gave me some examples and it like opened my eyes and my mind.
I’m like, Oh man, I see it now. I get it. When people say, Oh, show, don’t tell you like, Oh yeah, I am doing that. But you really have to write more. And I think, and I’ve discovered this and I’ve tried to explain to others that. Because you said your 1st book, was it the 1st book you released that you went back to it later and I’ve done kind of the same thing.
And I think people start writing 1 book and they’re like this has to be my book. I have to be the best seller with this book. It has to be the great American novel or great Canadian novel and they put years and effort in that 1st book. But almost no author writes their first book, and it’s really that good.
There’s so few that do that. I’ve, I agree. I found you’ve got to write and learn and move on and get to the next thing. And that, and It’s hard to explain how to make your prose so it’s show, not tell. And I’m reading a book about that right now. That’s really good. And it is a tough subject because there’s not a lot out there.
So when you’re writing what software and services do you like to use or do you?
Michelle: My first three books, my first three books were written on Microsoft word. Just basic Microsoft Word. My first, yeah, my first two novels were edited also just on Microsoft Word. I use Scrivener, I think that’s how you pronounce it.
I use it that now. I don’t, I can’t say I am a whiz at it. I’m really not. I’m still learning the program as it goes. I used WireWriter for a while. I wrote two of my I once submitted to the publisher, I wrote two of mine. On wire rights, and I found wire rights are very user friendly. But then I had an issue with the backup, and so that’s why I decided to move to Scrivener.
I think software’s good. I use Grammarly as well to help me. That’s why I run it usually with my Microsoft Word program. But other than that, not really. That’s pretty much all I use.
Stephen: And we were going to talk about editing and we were just talking a little bit about you mentioned writing the first draft and then each of us, we’ve written a book, put it aside and moved on to something else.
So what do you find with editing to be the hard part, the frustrating part? Why was that the topic you wanted to discuss?
Michelle: For me the first time I went through the editing with a professional editor I was working for Ambassador, working with Ambassador, and she took out so much of my story, I nearly had a fit.
It was, I couldn’t believe it, and I’m like, what are you doing? She had, and I printed out the copy that she sent back to me, and there were all these red lines, and I was just completely overwhelmed. I didn’t even know where to start. When I looked at my manuscript and it was just, it was like a bloodbath and I thought, wow, I must be a terrible writer for this to be.
And I just, I really kudos to my editor. She was really great. She was like a mentor to me as we went through the editing process and she prodded places and took out stuff and. Asked me to put in stuff and kind of waited for explanation because I find with myself when I type a lot more is going on here than is going on here.
And so it doesn’t always get from here to here fast enough. That’s
Stephen: funny. That’s exactly what I’ve discovered about myself too. And I didn’t realize it sometimes. Yeah.
Michelle: So with my editor, she you start a thought here and three paragraphs later, we still haven’t gotten to the end of the thought because we have no idea where the thought is gone.
So I’m like, okay, y’all for sure. So for me that it was a very frustrating because a lot of my story was taken out and I thought to myself, but these are really important pieces that need to be in the story. And as we work through the various drafts, as we went through the various steps of editing.
How my editor assisted me in creating the best story I could. And so for me, it was quite frustrating each time. Should we get back to me? And there’d be another huge section that I thought, wow, but it’s very important to be in. As the story came together. And we got to the end of the story. It was like, wow, the story looks so, the story is true to how I put it, but it’s so much better explained the ideas I wanted to get across and are so much better, it’s just that the picture is so much better and although the process was very frustrating, like with my teen book that I also had it re edited and redone, going through that was also.
A huge thing. When she first sent me, she sent me like six pages of notes and I was like, no, where the heck am I supposed to start? How am I going to get through this? And she said to me, you know what? Just sit down, work through it one chapter at a time. And it was just having someone say to me, okay, take this approach with it and just sit down and think about it carefully as you go through it.
Step by step. The six pages of notes are not so daunting when you look at it in three sentences at a time. And so for me the editing process particularly is one of my, one of my challenges when it comes to writing. As I said, writing a book is easy. The editing is not the,
Stephen: phew! When you’re looking through over the notes and getting the information from the editor and I’m assuming as you went through this process and you’ve done it a couple of times, you feel like you’ve gotten better.
I’m assuming you’ve worked at it and you’re not doing the same things. Did you find at the beginning that, Oh, it looks like I made a hundred mistakes, but it’s 10 of them. I do three different times.
Michelle: Yes. Repetitively. Absolutely. So there were a lot of instances where she would say, show this, don’t tell it, and a lot of instances where she’s you’ve done an infoload, I don’t think we need an infoload now, we need this, and just, and I felt I’ve learned because the second book I I released the, when the stars align.
It also, as I said it, it’s also gone back to the publisher. I was getting reedited, but when I wrote the second the third or fourth draft of that book, the publisher looked at the first page and he said, wow. And I was like, wow. For a publishers to come back and say, wow, on your first page, that it, from what I had written.
To how it had been rewritten a couple of drafts later is what the journey I had gone on from working with my first professional editor, understanding the mistakes I was making and how I could improve my writing so that there was more. More showing than telling, but more insight into the characters.
How could I make an impact on those first couple of sentences that would say to the reader, okay, read me further. I have to know what happens next. And that I think is something also that I’ve learned through that editing process, because I find myself. When I write, I think to myself, okay, in this book, my editor told this, should I really look at this now and think, okay, what did the editor say you should rather do instead of doing this?
And I think that has grown me also as a writer.
Stephen: Yeah, I agree. And I think one thing I think a lot of authors and I don’t think I’ve done this, I could have. Is that they concentrate so much on their first chapter, their first paragraph and couple lines and they change it, they edit it, they refine it, they put all this work into it and it gets good.
It’s wow, this is great. But then they don’t do as much editing on the rest of the book cause it’s a little overwhelming. And so people will read the first chapter, but then never finished the book. So I, for me, I was really. Upset, nervous, scared when I got back, my first edited anything, like you said, oh my gosh, that’s good.
And it’s just all these lines and notes. And I’m like, it was like 20 pages of notes. So I was like, oh man, I can’t even think about this. So I literally put it away for a month before I could get my mind wrapped around it. What I’m finding now, the process that works for me, Is sit down and get the story out get that first draft done as quick as I can buzz through it.
Don’t worry about the words. Don’t worry about whether it sounds clunky because it will the way I write. It sounds clunky, but I get the story out because then. I free myself and I can focus on the minute pieces. I get the whole forest down and then I worry about making sure each tree looks good instead of worrying about every tree.
But I don’t even have the story yet. That seems to so I enjoy editing now, actually, because through my story comes out and shines.
Michelle: I find with writing the first draft that I often need the first draft comes out very easily. It usually does. It takes me maybe a month and a half to write the first draft.
My books aren’t 60, 000 words, so 40, 000 words in a month is not bad. But A lot of the time I will have to put that book aside for six, maybe eight months and come back to it, reread it, and then rewrite it from scratch. And I find it sounds like a very long process and I know a lot of writers don’t do this.
But for me, I found that I can then look at the story objectively because it’s no longer sitting here in my mind. It’s now it’s out. It’s on paper and I can now look at it and think, okay, did I get the message across? I wanted to in this draft. Did I put everything in places? Are there things I can change?
Are there other things I need to add? Do my characters make sense? Do the sequence of events make sense? All of those things. But it takes me a really long time to see those things. So for me, It’s better that the book go away for a long time. It’s completely out of my mind and then bring it back and think, okay, how can I now make this
I agree. I definitely have found. If I don’t get the whole story out, if I try and focus on the first couple of chapters, all my brain’s thinking about is the rest of the story and finishing it and writing this and I could do that. I’ve got to get that done. And then I’m much more relaxed.
The other thing you said you wrote or read a whole bunch of books, writing books. We all have I, I’m assuming have you read on writing by Stephen King?
Michelle: No, I actually haven’t even though Jerry Jenkins recommends that one. I honestly haven’t read it. I I am a big fan of the snowflake method.
Yes. Yeah. I find that method works most. Yes. Conducively with my train of thought, have the broad picture of what your book is doing and then break it down and break it down and break it down. And for me, I found planning a book. I’m still not great at plotting. I’m a terrible plotter.
I’m a planter, if you can put it like that. I prefer to write by the seat of my pants, but I found that if I get a broad summary of the story down, it makes it a lot easier for me to write it. I know where the progression is coming in the story. I also find if I plan too much, then the story becomes boring to me and I leave it aside and then I work on something else.
So I have to find my balance about how to plot and pence and how we go
Stephen: forward. Yeah, I agree. In on writing and I know we’ve talked about clean books and stuff. There is swearing in that one, so I’ll warn you that if you ever do pick it up. But more important, the more important parts of this discussion is at the end he actually gives a, I think it’s the 1408 story.
He says, here’s what I wrote and here’s the marks that my editor put in. The crossing out the moving and looking at that. It’s wow. Even Stephen King, who’s been writing for 50 years. He takes his what he’s written and his editor is still marking things off. So to me, that was like you’re not an idiot.
You really can write and just because it’s not perfect in a first draft, it doesn’t matter. So that helped a lot of that. And I know there, I think JK Rowling put out a sheet I’ve seen floating around the Internet with a chamber of secrets, I think, and she has a grid with all the characters and then all the scenes and what the characters are doing in that scene.
It’s a whole handwritten out note that helped a lot too, because I’m like, oh, now I can picture that story. And use that with my own writing.
Michelle: Okay. I haven’t seen that, but that sounds helpful for sure. . Yeah,
Stephen: I like examples like that, templates that I can then use on my own. And I did read the Snowflake method myself and I said, yeah, I am already doing this.
Kind of, yeah. Yeah. Great. And another reaffirming thing.
Michelle: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. There’s also another book I use predominantly, I write romance. It’s one of the theme that kind of goes through every single book I’ve written. And there’s a lady called Gail Hayes that wrote Romancing the Beat.
And she also has a template about the various beats that you hit in a romance story. And I also found that very helpful because in a lot of books, they’re just looking at one protagonist, where in a romance you’re looking at two. And this template that she uses, Pinpoint to female protagonists, male protagonists, and how everything goes through the story and how the various beats that you need to hit in a romance story meet up with the characters.
And I found that very helpful personally for me to read a book like that. It’s a tiny little book, probably take you about maybe half an hour, depending on how fast you read to get through it, but just those. Having the two perspectives, the two protagonists in the book and how to work those two together in the story has been really beneficial, I think, also for me as a writer.
Stephen: I, I’ve been reading the Save the Cat book which a lot of people recommend. And I’m actually glad I didn’t read it before, because it’s making a lot more sense to me. Now. I’ve got a little bit of writing under my belt and that helps a lot with understanding. And I think I get, I’ve discovered this by making this mistake.
So I’ve told others. Don’t worry about getting 500 books on craft and writing. Maybe get one, read it, but sit down and write a couple of short stories, write your whole novel, just write it. Don’t worry about editing it. Don’t worry about going back with the details. Get a lot of writing because then when you read the craft books, they make more sense because you have these examples that you’ve written that you can.
Referred to and then when you go back and read your own stuff, you can see what they were talking about. The save the cat talks about the beats the romancing. Yes. Very similar. Yeah. I’ve
Michelle: read that one too. Oh, you did? Yeah, I read a lot,
Stephen: as I said. Did you find that the romancing the beat was very similar to Save the Cat?
Maybe they took the idea off each other, or focused it?
Michelle: I found romancing the beat more… User friendly. I think maybe it could be the genre that I’m writing. I did read I did read Save the Cat and to me it was quite confusing. Possibly because I read it very early in my writing career.
But honestly Romancing the Beat as soon as I had I’d already written two books by the time I read Romancing the Beat, it made a lot more sense to me.
Stephen: Let me ask you, Michelle your books I know you’ve gone through ambassador publishing. , what are you doing to get the word out to market? The book,
Michelle: Social media. So I’m busy loading. I’ve got Instagram, Twitter, Facebook a webpage. I’m also doing a bookstagram, bookstagram tour in August and Ambassador, your ambassador is holding a Christmas in July I don’t know, campaign which will be happening in later on in July.
And my book has also put in for that.
Stephen: Nice. Good. Okay. Have, and your teen books you, what were some of the things you did to get the word out for those? Oh,
Michelle: The first two, my first two teen books were written indie, so I wasn’t with Ambassador at that stage. With them, I used Story Origin a lot Book Funnel Swaps. Okay. I did a couple of, I used Faithful, Faith, Faithful Reads, Faith Reads, I can’t remember it’s like a newsletter, I think it’s Faith Reads, that you sign up for and it goes out with their newsletter, so that kind of marketing was done, and I used social media, but a lot of book swaps, so through group swaps particularly campaign swaps Newsletter swaps, those kinds of
Okay. So before we go and it’s been great discussion with you about editing. Hopefully some people feel a little more comfortable with editing. But let me ask you do you have any last words of advice for new authors?
Michelle: One piece of advice I got as a new writer was sit down and write your book but Honestly, I read this.
I have a a kind of a poster next to my writing desk that Neil Gaiman wrote. And one of the things he says there is don’t take yourself too seriously. And I find that was like a good thing because when you’re new in the writing field, you wonder, every writer talks about imposter syndrome and I think we all have it.
And rethink yourself on earth, even coming to this interview. My husband said to me, aren’t you excited? And I said who cares what I have to say kind of thing. But it is that it is yes, sit down and write your book, but don’t take yourself too seriously, there’s going to be disappointments, it’s a learning curve.
Writing is a learning curve. Everything I’ve learned is only since I started writing, I didn’t know. Anything of the stuff I know now about publishing, about writing, about scene structure, about marketing, about presentation, about anything until I actually started writing. And yes, research is good, but going through the process for you is far better.
Because you need to you can read a hundred articles about what it’s like to be a writer, what it’s like to be published, what it’s like to be edited, but until you’ve actually experienced it, it’s something very different. So I think for new writers, just go through the process
and don’t take yourself
Stephen: too seriously. I like that. Thank you. Yes. And I, that’s actually one of the things, reasons I. Wanted to do this podcast is because I’m on the on some of the web Facebook groups. There’s a lot of people that say, Hey, let me tell you, I’ve had so much success.
I’ve made a hundred thousand dollars in the first three months of this year. I’ve got 25 books and on, which is great because people are like, Oh, it’s so inspirational. And I started feeling like. No, it’s not. It’s making me feel worse because there’s no way I don’t feel like I will ever be good enough to make that much money or to have that many books.
And it was almost discouraging more than encouraging. So that’s why I wanted to do the podcast for new authors, the authors who aren’t making a hundred thousand in three months who aren’t, don’t have 25 books out to get out them because the only people you ever hear on podcasts and interviews are the ones that are extremely.
Out there and seen and, so I wanted to have an opportunity, different, hopefully some people are following it and reading some of these new books and helping the authors, or if nothing else, at least when the author goes on another interview, they’re like, oh, yeah, I’ve already done one. So we’re good.
So that’s also a benefit.
Michelle: Absolutely. Yes. I think it’s quite. Sorry. I think it’s quite daunting. It’s quite daunting. Most authors are introverts and they don’t generally like to talk about themselves. Yeah, I’m one of those hands down. I think it’s a huge thing to be able to put yourself out there and just go, all right, whatever happens.
Stephen: I agree. All right. Michelle, this has been a really great talk. I appreciate you taking some time and chatting with me today on the podcast. Thank you very
Michelle: much for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author discuss the road they’ve traveled and maybe sometime in the near future, it might be you.