With so many things going on in our hectic lives how do we wind down and sleep? Here are some ideas drawn from the experience of a light sleeper.
Happy 2017! I’ve been busy lately with family matters and editing my third book – Sean Yeager Claws of Time. Here are some thoughts collated from the arduous task of self-editing and the further research I did before kicking off the same:
What is self-editing?
It seems self-explanatory, but let’s define our scope. You’ve written your first draft from start to finish and now you want to edit to the stage where it is good enough to present to either a) a professional editor b) your agent / prospective agent c) your self publishing platform d) your beta readers.
In the main, I suggest it is a combination of a) to d) depending on whether there is a commercial partner expecting to have approval, and have their editor work with you prior to acceptance of a manuscript for publication.
The nature of the editing will vary from simple typos, to wholesale changes to scenes and structure. In my experience, it is wise to expect a lot of rewriting and improvement until you reach the happy place of being satisfied with the words on the page, and of course the flow. Or until your publisher says ‘yes’ we’re going to publish your work.
Stages of self-editing
Leave it in a drawer edit
Yes, leave your draft to one side and read other people’s work for a while. This will help to create a sense of separation from your work and a mental benchmark of what ‘good’ looks like. Once your mind has absorbed enough outside works and experiences, you’ll be ready to properly read your own work with fresh eyes. This is vital.
This is the pass where you iron most things out. Typically I expect to remove, reduce, re-phrase, augment or re-write pretty much every page. Only the really good writing remains untouched. If it reads as ‘clunky’ it needs changing / improving / removing / scorching off the face of the planet. Delete as applicable.
I check for typos, perspective inconsistencies, speech attribution, adjectives, use of language, word flow issues, punctuation, scene progression, dialogue quality, plot points, character reactions, and so on. This is a heavy edit.
Tips – set your objectives clearly and write out your own editing checklist and refer to it regularly. Use a tool to check for overused words such as: that, then, with, like, towards, felt, looked etc. Consider each character’s path through your book – write it out as a brief flowchart and check that it makes sense. If it doesn’t, the chances are you have missed out necessary actions / speech / narrative, or even entire scenes.
My aims in this pass are to ensure that every section is effective and well written. I also re-consider the key plot points to check they make sense. I amend them or remove them if they don’t.
By the end of this stage, you will have a draft manuscript where you are not ashamed of the quality of the writing, and which you have begun to understand as a reader.
Once I have a sense of what I have actually written – as distinct from what I imagined I had written – I take a step back and review the story I am telling. I refer to my notes about each subplot and each character’s progression through the story.
The key question I ask about each sub-plot is – what does this add to the overall story? i.e. Do I need to keep this? Or do I need to move things around? Or should I delete a minor sub-plot lock, stock and barrel?
Tips: Structure – your main character (protagonist) should appear on page 1 or at least early in chapter one. Prologues usually suck and should be burned.
The key question I ask about each scene is – what is the scene’s purpose (action, fear, joy, discovery etc.) and does it work? i.e. is it effective enough or in need of a re-write?
Tips: Scene review – imagine the scene happening in real life and check how plausible it would be for actors to portray it. If it sucks, you need to augment and improve it. If it’s unclear, you may be overwriting and using too much purple prose. Short paragraphs work, pages of narrative by and large do not.
Self honesty is really important, and usually less is more. Also, it is worth recalling the established rules of writing and plotting (web research / books on the same) and breaking less than 30% of them at a time. Unless of course you never want anyone to read or recommend your work.
Removing unnecessary scenes or sub-plots can be really hard, and I don’t do so lightly. However, if you have a sneaking suspicion that the scene about the tree guardian who appears halfway through your story and does nothing except say two lines, is a bit flabby, the chances are it needs to be cut. Unless of course your story is about tree guardians, in which case they should have made an appearance on page one and regularly from that point on.
By the end of this stage, you have a manuscript draft where you are happy with your story, the major plot points and the length of the book. If not, go back and do it again…
Read aloud edit
I print and I read out loud, with a pencil at hand. I never cease to be amazed at how many outright mistakes sneak through until this stage.
The psychology is this – reading is the first pass through your brain, speaking is the second pass, and hearing what you have said is the third pass. The combination means you are much more likely to notice mistakes in your work.
Also, the flow or otherwise of what is written on the page comes across most clearly when you read your work aloud. If it flows, you can imagine what your readers will experience. And where the flow is poor, you will hasten to smooth things out out of sheer embarrassment or even boredom (as a reader). Yes, the section your always hated which dragged on still sucks – so now it’s time to edit it properly… or cut it.
Tips: Dialogue check – do people really speak like that? And would your character say those things in that manner? A key way to show a character is through their interactions, therefore what they say and how they say it matters. Provided of course – they had a plausible reason to say what they say. i.e. Action to reaction. What they know and what they don’t know.
By the end of this stage, you have a draft manuscript you are pretty much happy with, bar the detailed proofing. If not go back and do it again… Or if you absolutely hate the book, perhaps you need to park it for a while?
Once happy with all the key ingredients I run the document through a couple of software tools and consider all the corrections I’m offered. Even the stupid ones which seem to make no sense at all. It’s boring and unfortunately completely necessary. The number of times I have found misused words spelt perfectly, or doubled up words in plain sight, is surprising and a relief – provided you correct them early enough. One tool alone is not enough to spot them all – for reasons I’ve never fully understood. (Software rules and such like).
Tips: check out tools in trial form first and see if you like them. Word alone is not enough.
By the end of this stage, you have a manuscript you are willing to share with others.
Professional editor edit
In an ideal world, all books would be further edited by a professional who gets the aims of the writer and is sympathetic to the effect they are trying to achieve. This may take the form of technical editing, structural editing and further proof editing.
It’s a partnership thing. If you find a great pro-editor, cherish them and send them greetings cards. If not, find someone else if you are able to. (Me, I’m looking.)
By the end of this stage, the book is quite different to the first draft – usually for the better, though I dare say – not always.
Final, final edit
More of the same until a) it’s done or b) someone say’s it’s getting published next week. Quite often a beta reader will raise an important omission or mistake. Sometimes this reaches the writer in time… I jest, the more complex your story the more edits will be needed all the way through to published editions, and corrections to published editions.
When is it good enough?
Never. Provided a writer keeps improving as a writer, they will always want to go back and revise a lesser work until they are sick of the sight of it. Incidentally, by the fifth round of editing I am usually sick of the sight of my own work. When this happens I call a break and go and write or do something else for a while.
Fresh eyes are essential, as is a sense of detachment.Take a break and read other people’s work – ideally writers who are better than you are. Edit often and in hour chunks.
If you can forget you wrote the first draft manuscript and polish what you see in front of you, you can self-edit. Once you can no longer do this – take a break and/or get help.
Hope my insights help. Best of luck with your writing projects. Next time, I plan to write about plotting your book, click your bookmark or subscribe and please feel free to comment.
In due course, I will publish Sean Yeager Claws of Time. Having hurried on previous books, this time I’m following all my own advice and plenty of other people’s. Please check out my website and consider the younglings in your life who are missing out by not reading Sean Yeager Adventures. They are just a few clicks away on Amazon and elsewhere, somewhere between Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond.
I hear a lot of talk about encouraging youngsters into technical subjects and careers. My take on this is that hearts and minds are won early, through inspiration and positive experiences. It could be a great teacher, project or visit. Most likely it is a personal experience that is rewarding and fun. All the better if there are opportunities to follow up and develop those interests hands-on. But what really sparks the enthusiasm and motivation inside a young person’s mind?
I believe it is imagination and the space to create and build on ideas.
When I began writing I had a series of choices to make. I could chase the market and write what was most likely to be published next. Or I could play safe and fit in with the typical bookshelf of the day.
I decided to do neither.
I asked my son and his friends what they really wanted to read about in their leisure time. They talked about adventures, gizmos and technology. I set about weaving real-world science and history references around their interests, while keeping things fast paced and witty. And so Sean Yeager Adventures was born.
Here’s an example — How does a light sabre work?
Possibly you are now thinking about energy, particles, plasma, heat, contact, radiation. Perhaps batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, nuclear reactions, matter, laws of thermodynamics, the properties of light etc.
There’s no right answer. My digression was to get you thinking about science and design. Who knows, perhaps one day there will be a real light sabre? I’ve asked this question at home and our conclusions were hilarious.
I’ve heard it said that Star Trek communicators inspired mobile phones. Either way, I suspect we are far more visual than we realise. If we see it, imagine it and think about it, do we then set ourselves the tasks of concepting, designing, researching and building?
Of course the world is full of ideas. Skill, knowledge and application are huge factors, and that is where the education system comes in. Perhaps if we start encouraging imagination and enthusiasm as well, future generations will be better motivated to follow through on their ideas in technical areas?
I’ll leave that debate to academics and educators.
My aims as an author are to inspire, entertain and encourage young readers to investigate science and history for themselves. To date I’ve woven in references to Egyptology, cloning, artificial intelligence, robotics, mind training and numerous technical gizmos.
I have to say that researching the facts has been fascinating, and writing the books has been a blast!
Thanks for reading.
Author of Sean Yeager Adventures
Sean Yeager books are written to inspire and excite readers. I often hear feedback from parents and I ask what their child likes and ‘why?’ Here are some highlights.
Verbal feedback about DNA Thief:
Mike: My son raved about the DNA Thief, he said it was the best book he’s read. He loved the action and insisted on writing his own Amazon review. He’s quite selective about what he reads and he took his time reading it because he didn’t want to miss anything. I was taken aback, we’ll buy the second book as a special present.
Alison: Our son was up until late reading DNA Thief and he wouldn’t put it down. He finished the book within two days. He says it’s his second favourite to Percy Jackson. He loves all the gear and gizmos. He asked if there can be more machines and gear in the next book? He wants to know what happens next.
Anne: My son read both books from cover to cover in a few days. He’s now read it twice and raves about the characters. He’s been designing pictures of craft and bases inspired by the book. He can’t wait to read the third book. He’s asked if there can be more jokes and lots of incidents. He loves the characters and wants to know more about what happens next.
Here are some Amazon.co.uk reviews in the words of the reviewers:
It is sci-fi and an action thriller rolled into one, and centres on Sean Yeager, who believes he is fairly ordinary until a burglary at his home reveals he is anything but. The boy is spirited away by a protector he didn’t know he had – The Foundation. From there the plot unravels at terrific speed, and reveals secrets about Sean’s Dad and his own status.
My only comment would be that the title and cover graphics might not be as enticing to kids as they should be – this book deserves to be read! The other character names, such as Major Clavity and Greerbo – are certainly spot on.
Both tongue-in-cheek and seat-of-your-trousers thrilling, it is cleverly written ‘take’ on the ‘Boy Fights World’ philosophy of more well known titles and, in my view, stands up just as well. Love2readuk
There was so much action in this fast-paced thrill ride that I kept seeing it as a movie in my head. Never sure where the story was going, I decided to sit back and enjoy the ride. What would have helped was to have put on some popcorn first! Although I understand that this is the first in the series I wanted to know more about Sean and indeed his mom who is quite the character and I laughed every time she shows up. I hope we see more of her in the series. What I also really liked was the fact that the bad guys really are bad guys and not some laughable buffoons like we tend to see in so many other kid stories. DragonOne
Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief is a fast-moving action-packed novel containing lots of exciting, humorous and thrilling scenes. This book is a must-read and a worthy competitor for James Bond. The story is about an organisation that has set out to protect a boy named Sean Yeager, who has special powers. Although he is only a boy, a lot of trouble was spent to kidnap and protect him and it’s fun finding out why. This book has really excited me and I can’t wait until the next book comes out!:-) LavaMitts
And a review from Goodreads USA:
I will put this book into my reading cupboard for my high school students as they will enjoy it. This story had action and an interesting storyline and I want to know what is going to happen to Sean and why he is so important to the Founder. How do I get this next book? A, Goodreads
Wishing you a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!
I’ll be busy preparing for the celebrations, while finding time to develop book 3 Claws of Time which is now plotted and in progress. There are so many ideas I’m struggling to fit them all in!
Well it had to happen, our son has read all the Harry Potter books and we’ve been searching for other great book series. In no particular order here are 5 great book series for middle grade to tween readers. (I have omitted Young Adult titles deliberately).
1. Harry Potter Click here
Obvious really. If the first three books don’t grab your child’s attention I guess they don’t like Harry Potter. Stand by also for the comparisons and proclamations of the things not in the films which are better presented in the books. Strangely the shorter books were voted the best by our son, perhaps they were better edited?
2. Percy Jackson Click here
Now you do need to allow your child to settle with the idea that Greek and Roman myths have been ‘borrowed’ and transplanted to the US. (Not my idea of plausible I have to say). Apparently the books are an easy and exciting read with lots of action. I would add that they seem to be easily read in next to no time. Good news for the author and publisher, not such great news for the parents asked to buy the next book in a matter of hours.
3. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Click here
Perhaps a push for middle grade and pretty heavy in volume. We started with The Hobbit and it was very well received. A budding fan is born. I await the film and book comparisons. LOL. Given the length of both that could be some years away.
4. Sean Yeager Adventures Click here
Fast paced, exciting and full of ideas. Our son and several of his friends have been up all hours reading and re-reading books one and two. Be prepared for an explosion of ideas, designs and follow on stories.
5. Bear Grylls Mission: Survival Click here
Apparently these books are non-stop boys own adventures with all the details added in. Useful if you are ever stuck in a jungle and need survival skills. If only there was an episode for commuters and office workers.
6. Artemis Fowl Click here
Technically this is the sixth book series, though I did say ‘after Harry Potter’. We have had a mixed reception with this series. Son loves the action and humour, he’s not so keen on the faeries. Nonetheless a worthy addition to our humble book series list. Lots happens and there are plenty of books in the series.
So there you have it parents, grand parents, aunts, bloggers. We hope you find this list of book series useful when seeking purchases for the children in your life.
As a parent it can be tricky to find great books for your boys to read. You want books to help develop and encourage your child’s reading and you also want books that your child will enjoy and want to finish. We have found this with our own son from the age of 6 to 11. Here is a list of 10 great boys books as voted for by the person who matters – our son – who read them all (and rejected several others). We hope you find this book list useful for the boys in your life.
In no particular order
1. Warhorse by Michael Morpurgo
A boy’s own war-time adventure through the eyes of a horse. Now also a film and play, but apparently the book is the best format of all.
2. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The original and best. If your child likes this book there are plenty more in the series…
3. Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
A Roman adventure and page turner, with lots of suspense and historical references. If you want to inspire learning about Roman life, what better way than to introduce this book?
4. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
Before they managed to massage this story into three films, this book was the best introduction to the world of J R R Tolkien. It is action packed and surprisingly short, unlike the giant saga that followed.
5. Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief by D.M. Jarrett
Non-stop action and mayhem. Like a cross between James Bond and Star Wars or as the reviewers put it ‘a rollercoaster ride’ in book form. It also has a great sequel to follow-up.
6. The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
Another boy’s own story, this time set in World War II England. What would your son do if he discovered a crashed German Bomber complete with machine gun? Action and surprises all the way.
7. Alex Rider Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz
One of several great stories from the popular Alex Rider series. An orphaned James Bond like child sent on dangerous missions.
8. 8000 Things You Should Know by Mile Kelly
Our son and his friends were given party gifts of this book after a birthday bash. They were all so immersed in its pages they had to be prised away. This is how all factual books should be presented. (It’s presented like ‘information mapping’ and is highly effective, amusing and addictive.)
A hero in our household, Stephen Biesty is an incredible illustrator and this book is simply breathtaking in it’s detail and layout. For any budding designers or boys who like to take things apart.
10. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The original and best, provided of course you can suspend disbelief about the Greeks not moving to the US. And of course there are plenty more Greek myths elaborated on throughout the series.
Hope you find some great reading in our list to inspire the boys in your life. Above all we hope they have fun reading and developing their curiosity for learning.
Five great book reading tips for boys.
Boys can sometimes be reluctant to read books and let’s face it they often have plenty of other distractions. Recent research has shown that regular book reading and progress with reading development are key indicators of success at school. So how can carers and parents encourage boys to read more often and more widely?
Here are some tips to help the boys in your life read more I hope they help.
1. Involve boys in buying (or borrowing) their books
In this way they will feel empowered and given the choice of what they would like to read. Be careful though not to limit their choice too much. Most people like to feel they have a say in their life choices and boys are no different when it comes to books. And by the way, physical books are far more attractive than e-books or worse a computer file (where they can easily pretend to be reading).
2. Indulge their interests (within reason)
If your boy likes reference books about sports cars, go with the flow. It’s worth bearing in mind that any reading can be good reading. Of course there will be some exceptions, but if they love Mutant Alien Zombie Slimebugs from Lincolnshire and the book is a harmless read, where’s the harm? You can always insert a few more traditional choices alongside their apparent favourites.
3. Set regular reading times
A regular time before sleep or early in the morning can work really well. As can ‘dead time’ in a car or while waiting for an out of school class. As a parent I have found that regular slots work best and when my son has a book he really enjoys it is so easy, he simply wants to find out what happens next.
4. Acquire some ‘cool’ books
Peer pressure is a huge factor as your child reader grows up. If their whole school is interested in Harry Potter or a similar high profile title seize the opportunity. They may not like each book just because their friends and rivals do, however it’s another string to your bow in convincing them to read in a soft way. Their motivation being the key point here.
5. Reward regular reading with treats
If all else fails, reward reading minutes with another currency. It may not be money, it could be time spent doing something else they enjoy. To succeed though they must always earn their reward before being allowed to indulge in their laptop, computer games or football (for example). Bribery may not be ideal, but it can work if used sparingly and provided promises are kept on both sides.
Best of luck