Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Smelling the End - Helen Ginger

On Friday, November 13th, Karen graciously let me take over her blog to post a few things I see frequently when editing manuscripts. I titled that post: The End is Really the Beginning.
http://karenfollowingthewhispers.blogspot.com/2009/11/end-is-really-beginning-by-helen-ginger.html. She apparently took that literally because when I begged to post again, she agreed. In that post, I likened writing and editing a manuscript to raising a baby. Well, let's get that baby out of the tub, powder its behind and talk about three more editing tips.

1. Dialogue defines the character not the writer.
Real people talk in half-sentences. We talk around the subject. We speak with improper grammar and slang or idioms, but occasionally someone talks with perfect grammar. Consider this sentence: "He went to the grocery store for Susan, but refused to go near the feminine products aisle." You could see that either as part of narrative or a snippet of dialogue. When a character speaks, you could use those same words but write them in a way to show hesitation, emphasis, or perhaps teasing by writing: "He went to the grocery store for Susan. But refused to go near the feminine products aisle." In the narrative, avoid starting sentences with words like "but" or "and" or "or" or other connecting words (technically called subordinating conjunctives). You can, however, do that in dialogue to show the character and speech-pattern of a person in your book. Keep it to one character, though. Make it their particular tick. One goal is to be able to read all the dialogue, minus tags, and know who is speaking just by the way they talk.

2. Avoid brain farting
When you're in a character's Point Of View, you're in that head - and so is the reader. You can have multiple POVs in a manuscript, but keep the reader in one head at a time and let us know when we switch heads. Don't jump from head to head without warning. When you do, you lose the reader. Instead of listening in on one set of thoughts, the reader is jerked from head to head, staying just long enough to sniff the character's brain fart before moving on to the next one.

3. "I've finally finished my manuscript and would like to see if you are available to edit."
This type of thinking sends up little red flags for an editor. Rather than typing The End, then contacting me or any editor to work on it, set it aside, don't look at it, work on something else. Wait at least two weeks, longer if you can (two months or a year would be better, but not always realistic), then re-read it. Just like the intensity of labor pains, you forget your words over time. Most of what you read will feel new, fresh, and wonderful. Some will make you stop and groan. Work on those what-was-I-thinking parts.

If you don't know the goofs you're making, you'll keep making them. Do as much of the editing as you can before paying an editor to do it for you.

Aren't you glad Karen consented and let me post again? Where else could you hear about powdering a baby's behind and sniffing brain farts and somehow find a connection between both of them and writing?

Helen Ginger

If you don't already do so, please visit Helen's blog. She's not only a gifted editor, but a gifted writer and a fountain of information. I am actually glad now that I goofed, since we got more of Helen's wisdom.



Cyndi said...

I love her guest posts! Her tips are helpful and she demonstrates great writing at the same time. I'm glad you goofed too.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Thanks! This was a great help!

Terri Tiffany said...

I know I'm guilty of not putting my manuscript away long enough--plan to do it this time!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

More great tips, Helen! Thanks for coming back to Karen's blog.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Helen Ginger said...

Terri, I think we all are guilty of being so happy that we've finished writing the manuscript that we hurry into the editing. If you've ever set aside a manuscript and moved on to another and then much later picked it up to read, you know what a difference time can make.


Joanne said...

Thanks Karen and Helen for sharing your wisdom. It is amazing how setting aside that "finished" manuscript for a period of time really refreshes it when we return to it. As anxious as we may be, that's probably the best advice for a writer, really giving the work an opportunity to simmer.

Marvin D Wilson said...

I enjoyed getting "inside the mind" of how another editor thinks. Good stuff here, Helen. I especially like your admonition to authors to have their characters talk "real." One thing I like to see is when one character asks a question and the other says something completely changing the subject - it happens in real life, peeps don't always respond like robots in a direct answer. Also people speak in contractions. Drives me nuts when an author has a (non-English Professor) character speaking in perfect English, like maybe-

Sally said, "He said that he did not want to have to do it if he did not have to, because he was not certain if she would have been angry with him if she had found out."

So stilted it hurts. Anyhoo, appreciated this post, typical good stuff just like over on "Straight From Hel" blog!

The Old Silly

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Good advice. I'm amazed at the goofs I find after I let my manuscript 'rest.' It's hard for me to believe they were there all along and I kept missing them.

Helen Ginger said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. So much wisdom!

Carol Kilgore said...

Helen, you're the cat's meow, the banana's peel, and the sun's smile all rolled into one. Great post. Thanks.

Helen Ginger said...

Carol, you're a sweetheart. I have to admit that the writer in me read your comment and a mini-story came to mind: a lady walking in the sunshine, only to have a cat jump across her path and hiss, causing her to slip on a banana peel.

Mrs. Major said...

Karen - thanks for Helen's link. Her blog is really helpful!!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love the way you worded this, Helen!

Making voices unique to each character is very challenging and I continue to work on that. And once in a while, some people DO speak eloquent, proper English. I have a friend whom I've never heard utter a casual comment!

Anonymous said...

This was timely. I just finished my novel, and wondered what I should do - let it sit? Tackle something new? Either way, I've got some things to think about when I begin revisions.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Great article and advice, Helen. You're invited to guest blog on my site anytime. :-)

Elizabeth Bradley said...

It's always interesting to me, I know this stuff, but then I break the rules. Thanks for the tips. Glad I dropped by.

Helen Ginger said...

Breaking the rules is not always bad. It's important to know the rules first, though.

Karen Walker said...

Helen, thank you so much for doing this. Great conversation here today. Thanks to all of you who came over from Helen's blog. Nice to "meet" you.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

I liked the brain fart comment! LOL

Tabitha Bird said...

Great stuff Karen. "Avoid brain farting"- I love that line!! :)

N A Sharpe said...

Great advice as always, Helen. I think once the The End is on the book, the hardest part is putting it away for awhile before going back to re-read and edit...but that time away is necessary. It's surprising at some of the things you notice once you have let it simmer - gives you more of an opportunity to read it as a reader not as an author.

Nancy, from Realms of Thought

Morgan Mandel said...

Great tips from a great editor. Thanks for taking on Killer Career for me and seeing it through til it got on its feet!

Morgan Mandel

Helen Ginger said...

Karen, thank you so much for hosting me on your fabulous blog. I get so much from visiting your blog because you always speak to and from the heart.


A.F. Heart said...

Hello there Karen,

This was a great post - I included it in my Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival at http://mysterysuspence.blogspot.com/2009/12/dec-mysterycrime-fiction-blog-carnival.html.

If you have more posts that would be good for the carnival (which occurs once a month) please submit your post here: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_8796.html

Thank you very much,
AF Heart
Mysteries and My Musings