The Layering Technique [Editing 101]

the layering technique

Hello, all! Today is the LAST day of our editing series [Editing 101] and it has been incredibly fun! We love sharing these editing tips, especially for new writers and friends of ours who are starting to write manuscripts just like us. 😀

Today’s topic will cover something we learned from our editor while writing The King’s Jewel. It’s called the “Layering Technique.” In this technique, writers introduce new characters or settings by applying multiple “layers” to a character. Sometimes, by introducing someone with the state of their room, or the way their bedsheets are folded, can be the greatest hint to a character’s true personality.

Need an example? We’ve got one for you … from our own book, The King’s Jewel! (Don’t worry, it’s not spoiler-y!)

Here is an excerpt from the book before we applied the layering technique. 

“My word, I honestly don’t know how I’ll handle living with that girl for who-knows how many days.” She abruptly paused before Joseph’s cabin door and curled her lips in a smile.  “Jocelyn? Are you there?” Janine pressed.                                                                                       

The door slowly swung open to reveal a boy with dark hair and olive-toned skin. His eyes were brown despite the startling silver flecks visible in the pot lights above us, and he wore a leather jacket and an expression of contentment.                                                                

“There’s no Jocelyn in this cabin, but there is a Joseph!” He gave a slight smirk. “Name’s Drake. Not the rapper, if you were wondering,” he added, “but I get that a lot.”

Now, here’s the edited, published version with the layering technique:

“My word, I honestly don’t know how I’ll handle living with that girl for who-knows how many days.” She abruptly paused before Joseph’s cabin door and curled her lips in a smile. “Jocelyn? Are you there?” Janine pressed. The door was slightly ajar, so Janine pushed it open. What I saw was definitely not what I expected.

Clothes were strewn all over the beds and floor as if a volcano of laundry had just erupted. Books were also scattered recklessly on the shelves (probably Joseph’s doing), and the curtains looked lopsided. The whole place had an air of complete disarray.

“Hey!” a boy called. He had jumped out from the washroom and looked as if he’d just woken up from a good nap. A mop of brown-black hair sat atop his head, and his skin was the same colour as the walls—an olive-brown. When he approached us, I realized his eyes were chocolate brown despite the startling silver flecks visible in the light above us. He quickly grabbed a leather jacket from the ground, threw it on, and then regarded the three of us. A grin spread across his lips, and his eyes held the wildness and excitement of a hungry wolf.

“There’s no Jocelyn in this cabin, but there is a Joseph!” He gave a slight smirk. “Name’s Drake. Not the rapper, if you were wondering,” he added, “but I get that a lot.”


 

There was a major change there with the whole introduction of a new character, Drake. And though we only really added in a few paragraphs, the reader’s sense of Drake’s character is already present before Drake even pops out of the washroom.

This can certainly go for settings, too. Introducing a new place is like introducing a character; it needs development and body. And by adding layers of information to your reader, you’re allowing them to paint a picture of the character or place you’ve created!

That’s all for today’s post! We hope you enjoyed our week-long Editing 101 series … and look out for a special announcement coming VERY SOON regarding editing!

Best,

S&S

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Catching Errors [Editing 101]

catching errors

Welcome to the fourth installment in our Editing 101 series! Today we’ll be discussing how to catch errors. The thing about catching errors is that they can be hard to spot. You can comb through your manuscript ten times, hand it over to CPs and beta readers, go through it again, and still not find that one time you said ‘peak’ instead of ‘peek’ (darn it, homophones!).

So today, we want to share a list of ways we’ve learned to catch errors easier and faster over the years. Here they are!

  1. Zoom in on your manuscript. I know this might sound odd, but oftentimes, we even write with the screen zoomed in (hey there, 140% Word doc!). It’s so much easier to spy errors that you might have glossed over, especially if you’ve always thought a certain sentence was written one way, but you really rearranged two words by accident, and your brain didn’t comprehend the change.
    • And on that note, try changing the font of your novel for a few days. You’ll notice that you see the sentences a bit differently, and thus catch errors you might otherwise not see!
  2. Read passages out loud. Again, this one seems like a given, but reading passages of your novel aloud can be helpful! Read it to your mom! Read it your cat! Maybe … read it to yourself? (Hey, writers can get a little crazy.) Over this past year, we learned the importance of reading passages aloud, especially because we had to read our short stories aloud in mini editing groups for our university writing classes. It was easy to catch an accidental ‘and’ or an extra ‘the’ that wasn’t meant to be there in the first place.
  3. Print out your manuscript. It’s been shown that printing out your manuscript will help you catch errors better than just looking at a screen. By printing your manuscript, you can highlight, draw in the margins (if you’re a little bored), and perform a literary surgery on your manuscript! It’s important to take your eyes off the computer screen sometimes; rest your eyes, and maybe look at some good old-fashioned paper.
    • Similarly, you can try taking a week or two off from your manuscript. It might be your baby, but it also just might be the best thing you can do for yourself. It gives you a break and also allows you to have fresh eyes when you get back into the revision cave!
  4. Use other devices to read over your work: iPhones, tablets, your Kindle, whatever it might be. I find that looking on a different screen allows me to catch small errors (a missing “the,” or a misplaced comma) that are usually easy to gloss over. It’s best your manuscript is nicely formatted so it doesn’t look like a mess on your other devices, though.
  5. Read others’ work. This might seem like a given, but by exploring different writers’ writing styles, you begin to realize how different your writing style might be; do you say “quite” or “really” and why? “Quite” in more British terms might mean “somewhat,” whereas when I say “quite” I usually mean it’s synonymous with “really.” E.g. It was quite fun! (Meaning, it was really fun.) These are more stylistic choices depending on where you live in the world, but it’s eye-opening for your own work.

That’s all for today! We hope you dive back into your manuscripts and catch those errors that even the best of us miss!

-S&S

Drafting: Let’s Discuss! [Editing 101]

drafting

Welcome to the third installment of our Editing 101 series! Today we’ll be focusing on drafting. The word may sound pretty dreadful, but in fact, drafting can be a very creative and inventive part of the writing process. Once you’ve written your first draft (you’re supposed to be squeamish when you look back on it years and years later), you can move onto the second draft. And then a third. And then a fourth. Heck, there might be a thirteenth draft–but for all the reader knows, you wrote these glorious words without a hiccup, and your writing looks like *the best thing ever.*

The thing is, the final draft of a book you’re holding in your hands is nothing–I mean nothing–like the first draft the author wrote. The author might just crack open their novel one day, look at chapter fifteen, and think: “Ha! I remember when this was called [Insert Chapter Name Here]” or “Wait, did I seriously delete that whole part when she [Insert Action Here]?” (We speak from experience. THE GEMSTONE had a dreadful chapter fifteen in the first draft, and looking back, we’re glad that’s not in the final version.)

The point is, drafting is a hugely important part of the editing process. No, it’s not like line editing or copy editing, or anything “small scale.” In fact, to a degree, it’s not even necessarily EDITING. It’s more pre-editing–you might be completely re-writing your entire novel! No one needs to know the first draft had Unimportant Plot Line X and Why the Heck Does This Character Exist Y. They. Don’t. Exist. In. The. Final. Draft.

Which is why drafting is so important. Rewriting bits of your novel is essential. Your writing will only strengthen over time, so there’s bound to be rewrites, and soon you’ll have a shiny Draft 2. You might think, “This is THE ONE. THE draft that will land me an agent and a six-figure book deal!”

Chances are, that’s not true. Draft 2 is probably no better than Draft 1. I’d say, we usually go through *at least* three drafts of a novel before we’re happy with it. And that’s before sending out chapters to fellow writers/beta readers. Getting feedback on your work is CRITICAL. After you do, you might just re-draft your novel again!

Just remember, drafting is essential. Drafting will help you pick out what plot points are usable, which characters to keep, and, perhaps, whether or not you need to change the entire genre of your manuscript (we needed to!).

We hope you found this post enlightening! If you’re in the middle of drafting one of your novels, or you think you’ll be drafting sometime soon, leave a comment below!

Until next time,

-S&S

Big-Picture vs. Small-Picture Edits [Editing 101]

big pic edits

Welcome to Part 2 of our Editing 101 series that we’re launching on our blog for the week! Today we’re discussing the difference between big-picture and small-picture edits. The way we usually go about describing the difference between the two is by using a ‘house’ metaphor.

The ‘big-picture’ edits are the foundation of the house–the cement, the bricks, anything that constitutes the wider, overall scope of the home. Just like construction workers, writers begin with the basis–with the foundation–of the novel, and work their way up from there. They need to begin with the larger structure: the plot, namely, followed by setting, characters, etc. Once the ‘house’ (aka novel) is built, you can then begin focusing on ‘small-picture’ edits. These edits come once the novel has been edited thoroughly for the bigger stuff (i.e., plot, voice, etc.); now, the construction workers are gone, and the home-owners can begin to think of things like: What colour will the garage be? What colour will the curtains be? For writers, this would translate to things like: Am I using the correct tense consistently? Are there too many adverbs? Am I too descriptive or not descriptive enough? These are smaller things–though important things–to look out for in your manuscript.

You may notice, too, in your smaller-picture edits, that you’re using too many unnecessary dialogue tags (i.e., “he said” or “she said.”) Sometimes it’s not the dialogue tag that’s the problem, but rather, that you’re using the wrong tag in the first place. Did he exclaim his point? Or did he ask his point? Most of the time, it’s best to just use the word “said” if anything at all, because the word “said” is considered “invisible.” A lot of the time, readers skip over the word “said” as if it doesn’t exist. It serves to only show the reader which character is speaking.

It’s important to not write a first draft focusing on the small-picture edits (like the dialogue tags, adverb choice, etc.) because most of the time, that first draft is cry-worthy and will inevitably change. You might not think so when you’ve finished it, but something important every writer should do before the editing stage is to let the book sitIf you let the book sit, you’re going to find SO many more errors than you would have if you didn’t. Often, in an edit letter, these bigger picture edits are the focus. Your editor would point out what’s not working plot- or character-wise, because those are paramount choices to your manuscript; adverb choice won’t kill your manuscript, though it’s something to look out for!

Any dedicated writer will let their book sit a while before they dig back into the “writing hole” (aka the cave–or office–writers work in with only a cup of coffee and a fandom-esque T-shirt to survive). So if you’re an aspiring author, remember: Editing is one of the most important things you can do after you write your novel. First, let it sit. Then, come back to it with fresh eyes and work you way through those big-picture and small-picture edits! We can guarantee you that your manuscript (and future beta readers!) will thank you for it.

Thanks for reading Part 2 of our Editing 101 series, and until next time,

S&S

How to Hook a Reader [Editing 101]

TEMPLATE EDITING101

Today’s the day we launch our new week-long mini blog series solely focused on editing! This will be a five-part series dedicated to all things editing-related, and it’s titled “Editing 101.” We’ll be sprinkling editing-related posts on our blog throughout the next week, so stay tuned, writers (or aspiring authors!).

Today we’ll be discussing everything on how to hook a reader. First (and most obviously) you should write your novel. An ugly first draft is, unfortunately, very necessary in the writing process–but you’ll thank yourself for that ugly draft later, once you have a *shiny* manuscript. The first thing we usually do after writing the first draft is think of major plot holes we need to fix. And sometimes, the best way we begin fixing those major plot points is changing the beginning of the novel altogether.

Here’s an example: in the first draft of one of our unpublished YA manuscripts, the opening scene was the main character waking up. This, immediately, should set off some warning bells: the main character waking up from a dream can sometimes be waaay too cliche, especially in a first book in a series. Especially if the dream was something super exciting, but now the main character is waking up to their “mundane, normal life.”

A lot of the time, first drafts don’t start in the right place. (We can speak from experience–our newest WIP needs a completely different exposition.) Your current chapter three might just need to become the new chapter one. You need your opening to hook readers, to capture their attention, and if the opening’s exciting enough, they may just gobble the book whole.

What we’ve learned over time is that opening sentences are key, as they are the first look a reader gets into your story. Here are some exciting YA book openings where the first few sentences immediately captured our attention:

  1. A MADNESS SO DISCREET by Mindy McGinnis: “They all had their terrors. The new girl believed that spiders lived in her veins.”
  2. THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu: “I’m going to die tomorrow morning. That’s what the Inquisitors tell me, anyway, when they visit my cell. I’ve been in here for weeks–I only know because I’ve been counting the number of times my meals come. One day. Two days. Four days. A week. Two weeks. Three. I stopped counting after that.”
  3. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir: “My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest. He smells of steel and coal and forge. He smells of the enemy.”

Now, how do you keep a reader hooked? There are plenty of ways to do this–namely, tons of action sequences, perhaps a luring mystery. Books that rotate in multiple POVs can be very fast-paced if the author keeps the chapters short (a few books that do this really well are THE MURDER COMPLEX by Lindsay Cummings and SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys). It’s all about keeping the reader’s engaged, setting up high stakes, and making sure your main character is someone interesting to read about. We especially find that short sentences help hook a reader–even if they’re a bit vague, they keep the reader drawn in.

That’s it for our first post in our “Editing 101” series! Let us know if you learned anything new, or any other tips on how to hook a reader.

Until next time,

S&S