Friday, 28 November 2008

Twelve Tips For Editing Your Fiction

This article has kindly been supplied by Tracy Falbe, author of The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. You can visit her blog at

Good writing includes editing. Just look back at an email you dashed off in haste, and you will likely wince at something. Editing encompasses many levels of intensity from basic proofreading to substantial reworking and rewriting. To produce professional and effective fiction, the manuscript editing will go far beyond merely proofreading.Whether a short story or novel is being submitted to a publisher or headed for self publishing, it needs to be thoroughly edited and assessed from many angles.

Editing strives to create flow with smooth transitions, maintain clarity, cut out unnecessary repetition, and includes a variety of tiny to huge adjustments that make the difference between a block of stone and (hopefully) Michelangelo’s David.

Editing is commonly believed to best be done by a competent person other than the writer. Although the critical eye of another is great, any writer should also assess his or her work by switching gears and looking at the work from the editing perspective instead of the writing perspective. However, a writer is often emotionally attached to a work and reluctant to approach the creation with the attitude of an over demanding, never-satisfied father. Overcoming the protective impulse to cling to an original draft as divinely-driven art will serve any writer well.

Editing also takes much effort. A writer might thankfully turn over a manuscript to an editor like after laboring to plant a garden and then assigning someone else to weed and harvest it. However, many writers do not have the luxury of an available competent person who can polish work for an audience.

All writers want to be considered a good writer, and this requires editing. You may be trying to break into fiction markets with short stories and you need to submit your very best to get noticed. To do this you should approach editing as another and enjoyable part of writing. You will enjoy making your work better, sometimes much better. While editing, you will learn about how you write and you will see what you are good at and what you need to fix. For example, I often find when editing my initial drafts that I flopped through three sentences to say one thing. Usually I can harvest the good bits from each sentence and then combine them into one strong sentence. To do this, I weigh the nuances of each sentence and judge whether I am actually giving out good details or repeating myself needlessly. Having spent many years writing fiction, which includes editing and rewriting, I have developed a checklist that keeps me on track when editing fiction. I apply most or all of the questions on this checklist to every chapter during the editing process. Remember, the goal is for you to be your toughest critic and for all other critics to love you.

Fiction Editing Checklist

1. Is it bad? Be honest. Do you like what you wrote? Can you imagine others liking it? You really must be able to say yes to this fundamental question before being satisfied.

2. What is the lead like? Good, bad, indifferent? By lead, I mean how does the chapter or short story start? Is it compelling? Does it arouse interest or excitement? Don't let an otherwise great story start like assembly instructions for an entertainment center.

3. What is the action like? With this question, I analyze what is happening in the story. First of all, is anything happening? Do not let the narrative feel like being stuck in a traffic jam (unless the action is being stuck in a traffic jam). This is a very subjective question for the writer/editor. Basically, you need to decide if events are moving the story and thereby maintaining the interest of the reader.

4. Are you having a good mix of dialogue, narrative, and action? I use this question to avoid stringing together 80 lines of dialogue. Too much he said and she said in a row does not suit narrative fiction. Non-dialogue elements about the characters, setting, and action need to be mixed with dialogue in order to build the word pictures necessary for fiction.

5. Are you moving the plot along or are you fooling around? It's easy as a writer to start enjoying your characters and exploring tangents or minute details of their lives. Some of this might be essential to story and character development, but let it go too far, and the reader could become bored. Do not let narrative wanderings dilute a story until it is about as interesting as waiting for your number at the DMV.

6. Do the actions of the characters make sense? Readers need to understand or at least have some clues as to why a character does or says something. If a character does something completely out of character, does the story explain why? Characters are often like chess pieces. They can only move in certain ways. Essentially, I am cautioning against making a character do something just because the writer needs that thing done. It must come down to would the character do that and, if so, under what circumstances?

7. Do you think the plot twists and turns are acceptable? Do they appear contrived? You want a natural flow.

8. Are you appealing to the senses? Does imagery occur often enough to build a setting? Are you doing it too much?

9. Are you watching for places in the story that drag? Can you think of a way to pick it up? Does the dragging portion need to be cut? Or is a pause from the action necessary?

10. Is the dialogue necessary or should it be replaced with narrative? Sometimes you don’t need to write out mundane conversation with quoted character dialogue. Sometimes it’s much better and efficient to simply writing narrative such as: Becky asked her dad when her mom would be home. He said he didn’t know.

11. Does the dialogue match the character for language skills, vocabulary, intelligence, emotion and knowledge?

12. Can the reader identify with the characters in any way? Does anything ring true?

After analyzing and editing your work with the above questions, you have surely improved your writing. The last thing on my checklist is to tell yourself that you did a good job.

Tracy Falbe is the author of the fantasy fiction series "The Rys Chronicles" that has received good reviews since its publication in January 2006. To learn more about her fiction writing style, visit where a free ebook download of her first novel is available.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Completely Novel

A new and innovative web site recently contacted me regarding an interview. I have copied an extract of it here but you can read the full interview on their web site. You can also find lots of other information on the web site to help you if you are a writer, publisher, self-publisher or in fact anyone interested in the 'book business.' is a free web application for everyone who loves books. Book lovers can use an online library to share their taste in books with others. They can rate, review and discuss books in clubs and they can read and buy a huge variety of books from up-and-coming writers. Writers can use Completely novel to share, promote and even sell their books. They can tell their readers a bit more about themselves, what they are up to and also get feedback on their books. For unpublished writers, CompletelyNovel provides them with the tools and opportunity to build up a profile for themselves which they can take to publishers. And publishers, printers and other service providers can use CompletelyNovel as a way to interact directly with readers and writers, find talent, create professional products and make the most of all of the latest online technology.

The interview is on the community page of the CompletelyNovel website - You will need to log-in to CompletelyNovel in order to see it there, but you can do so by going to and using the following invite code: cnrowson

Interview Extract

Pauline Rowson has wanted to be a writer since she was eleven years old. Now, she is a professional full-time writer, has her own company Rowmark, is the author of three marine mystery crime novels and two thrillers. Pauline's background in marketing has been a great benefit in spreading the word about her books. She offers some tips on what worked for her when it came to building her books into a business.

Pauline Rowson's marine mystery crime novels may feature the 'flawed and rugged' DI Horton but there's nothing flawed about her company, Rowmark, which she set-up as a Marketing Agency before branching into publishing. By drawing on her marketing skills and publishing her own brand of fiction and business books, Pauline has learned a great deal about the industry. We wanted to know more…

Before becoming a writer, you did some work in marketing, has this helped you when it comes to getting your book out to the right people?

All authors need to market themselves. I use my marketing skills in my 'business' as a professional writer. It has helped me to keep my name in front of people, to network and build contacts and to spread the word about my books.

Your Marine Mystery crime novels are quite different from the business books you have also written – what made you decide to start writing that kind of genre?

I started writing fiction seriously twenty years ago. I began with historical novels but it wasn't until I wrote my first crime fiction novel that I knew I was on the right track. In between writing fiction though I was running my own Marketing and Training company and I thought some of the training material I developed would make very good practical business books. So I wrote some books on marketing, which were extremely well received by readers. I set up a publishing division in my company. I learnt a great deal about the publishing world through doing this, and earlier this year I sold all my business titles to Crimson Publishing who are relaunching them in 2009. However writing fiction, and crime and thriller fiction, is my first love.

You are a very active blogger, and have a website and use other social networking sites. How important do you think it is for a writer to have an online presence?

Hugely important. It is such a brilliant marketing tool and so cost effective. All it costs is your time. It is such a great way to keep in touch with my readers and to meet new readers. It's also good for networking with other writers and sharing ideas and experiences. And it helps to spread the word about my books and raise my profile, not to mention stimulate sales. It is a must for all writers.

To begin with, you decided to start your own publishing company to publish your books. Many would consider that to be quite a brave decision. What made you decide to do things that way, and has it paid off?

I knew exactly how I wanted my business books to look and what they should contain, and because of my marketing background I wanted strong branding. Publishing them myself was by far the best option because it gave me complete control and it taught me a huge amount about how the whole publishing industry works. Therefore when my first crime novel was ready for publication I decided to launch it under a new imprint of my own company in order to develop the branding of Marine Mysteries, and to test the market place. It has paid off considerably. Because I could prove that my books were popular with readers, and I was generating sales, a publisher then approached me with a two book contract and I have sold translation rights, e book rights and audio rights. I am also now published in the USA and my novels are on sale worldwide.

What advice do you have for writers who are very determined, have received some good feedback on their books but aren't having any luck with publishers?

Keep going, keep getting better and NEVER EVER give up. Take advice from a professional editorial service and if you feel your work is ready and you can't get a publisher, consider self-publishing. For many authors who do not want to go to the expense of having many copies printed then I think CompletelyNovel is a good idea. Editing and typesetting is important and also ensuring the cover design is appropriate and good. The book size also has to be correct for the style of book. The most difficult part of self publishing is marketing. If the book is just for local consumption, or for friends and relatives, this isn't such a big issue but if the author wants wider sales then having a really good product (the look and feel of the book as well as the content) and learning how to market it, plus setting aside money to do so, is very important. I think sites like CompletelyNovel are going to be extremely valuable to authors in terms of promoting their books, and networking amongst reading groups and others.

From your blog it is pretty clear that you are a very busy person! Can you give us some insight into what are you doing at the moment?

I have just finished writing a murder mystery play, called Murder at the Pelican Club. I am revising three business books for publication in May 2009. I am seeing my new Marine Mystery crime novel, Dead Man's Wharf, through to publication with my editor for April 2009. I'm waiting for the Polish edition of In Cold Daylight to be published on 28 November 2008 and I'm revising the next DI Horton Marine Mystery for publication in 2010, plus I'm progressing some overseas deals, which are bubbling along in the pipeline. So quite a lot to keep me busy!

You can also read the interview on

Friday, 21 November 2008

Discount on editorial reports

To add a bit of sunshine to these wintry days Cornerstones Literary Consultancy are offering a 10% discount on all editorial reports. The discount runs until January 5th.

They've also announced their workshop timetable for next year so you might like to pencil something in your diary.

1-3rd April - Mixed Adult and Children's Writing - two day Oxon
13th May - Picture Book - one day, London
24th June - Are You Ready to Submit - one day, London
21-23 September - Women's Commercial Fiction- two day, Oxon
16-18th November - Mixed Adult and Children's Writing - two day, Oxon

All levels are welcome. Please contact them for a programme or to find out more. Tel: 020 8968 0777

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Writing Opportunities, Conferences and Writing Competitions

Connected Conference Saturday November 22nd,The King of Heats, 7-15 Fye-Bridge Street, Norwich

Have you got a grip of the market and its demands?
With Camilla Hornby (Curtis Brown); Anna Power (Johnson & Alcock) and Juliet Pickering (AP Watt) – assistant to Derek Johns and currently building her list. Chaired by Henry Sutton.

Henry Sutton talks to Erica Wagner about how she "got there" in her career. Erica offers tips from the frontline and advice about how to make it in the current climate using her experience as a highly-experienced writer, journalist, author and poet. Including Q and A and book signing.

NB: this event takes place in The Oak Room, The Maidshead Hotel, TomblandThe author of The Last King of Scotland, delivers a talk on how writers can face up to the challenges and opportunities of the new landscape: how cross-media platforms affect writers; what digital rights consist of, and how the practising writer can protect themselves against the machine-like operations of big media. Including brief interview & Q&A with Henry Sutton.

Wine, nibbles and the chance to meet and chat to other participants, panellists, speakers, writers and agents.

PRICE: Day ticket: £45 (Deal! Students Only: £22.50)
Single panel tickets for non-pass holder: £10 (Deal! Students Only £5)

Book:, 01603 877177

EDP Short Story Competition 2008

New Writing Partnership and Jarrold are sponsoring the third annual EDP Norfolk Short Story Competition which is open to adults and young people from Norfolk. We’re asking for a short story of up to 2,000 words on the theme of A County of Stories. Rachel Hore, author of The Dream House and The Memory Garden will judge the competition which has separate adult (17+) and junior categories (16 or younger). The two winners will receive £50 each in Jarrold book tokens, and will be published in the EDP, whilst two runners-up will receive £25 in Jarrold book tokens. Deadline: November 28. Please do not send entries to NWP – full entry details here.

Latest National News

The Christopher Tower Poetry Competition

The UK’s most valuable prize for young poets is open for entries, with students between 16-18 years of age in full or part-time education challenged to write a poem on the theme of ‘Doubt’. First prize is £3,000, second £1,000 and third £500. The students’ schools and colleges also receive cash prizes.,, 01865 286591. Closing date:18 March, 2009.

NEW! Mslexia Women's Short Story Competition

£2,000 1st prize, £500 2nd, £250 3rd, 3@ £100. Closing date: 23 January 2009. Full details here.

For further information contact Katy Carr, Marketing and Communications Manager
New Writing Partnership
14 Princes Street
Tel: 01603 877177
Fax: 01603 625452