Friday, June 15, 2012

Editing and Compiling Stories By: Elaine White

So, after ten years of trying to get published and just being rejected, now everything seems to be happening all at once. Getting published is a lot of hard work, but I always thought that editing would be worse. I imagined it would be a really painful event. I thought that getting published meant having someone come in, look at your writing and begin drawing big black lines through passages that never seemed to end. Apparently, this is not so.

I talk for Scotland, write for America and fill like nobody's business. You see, I have patterns ... maybe it's OCD, or maybe it's just a way for me to make sure I write enough to get the point across, but here's the rules I use:

Ÿ  Chapters: cannot be any longer then six single spaced pages, or less than three;

Ÿ  Pages: each character and specific event cannot take any more than one and a half pages without a break. I use ***** (always 5) if it's a new character shift, or just an extra line space if it's the same character and situation, just a bit longer;

Ÿ  Page layout: titles/chapter numbers must be centered as must years, all other writing must be justified. ***** breaks must be centered as well.

These rules of mine help to make everything to look neat on the page. It also helps me to focus on events that are important and shift out the ones that can be summed up in just a few lines. This way, if I have an idea that is a single event that I think could take up a whole page, but in reality, takes less when written, then it's not worth writing about and can be deleted. That is, unless it ties in with someone or something else within the story that can fill the rest of the page.

With this said, you can probably now understand why editing made me nervous. Without my nice system, my neatness would be ruined. Plus, it helps my work to flow better. Without it, there would be no filling in of chapters, no descriptions that are only there to bulk up the space … only relevance. And it's so much less painful than I expected. The story still makes sense, the characters moods and feelings are still explored and I don't have to panic that some vital piece of information is missing because my publisher totally gets it. They get the story, what I mean, how I write. They just get it. And that is so great.

My biggest problem when writing is when inspiration hits me for a lot of different stories at the same time. And this happens a lot, either just when Im on a roll with a book and nearly finished, or when Im trying to edit and re-read a finished novel to check for mistakes or issues that need to be fixed. In fact, this past week alone, Ive come up with about six new story ideas and only one worked. Its difficult to make stories work when you have so many ideas floating around your head, so I always get a new page and type up each new story idea as it comes, even if its only one or two lines. Then I save it and if no more inspiration comes for that story, it gets stored away until later.

I learned that lesson the hard way. Years ago, I had one of those old laptops with the floppy disk drives and saved all my writing on them.  Then, when the new laptops came out without the floppy disk drives, I used an old computer to transfer all my writing and data to my new laptop. Somewhere in between, one of the best stories I’ve ever written disappeared. Now I save everything, even if it sounds ridiculous.

I was lucky with one idea that did work. I had a lot of support for getting it written and a lot of background knowledge to help me with how it would progress. All I needed was a plausible, working story to fit it into, and it turned out that I already had the start. It sounds impressive to say that the day after getting the idea, I already had six chapters written along with a one page prologue and epilogue, but its not as impressive as it sounds. Not when the first five chapters had been stored away as the beginning of another story that didnt work, had never worked and wasnt likely to work without a solid backbone. My new idea was the very backbone it needed. But I had a problem deciding where to start my new story and how to get it off the ground, so I had a look through old stories, looking for one with a similar atmosphere and environment, even similar characters, to see if inspiration struck. Then, when I read the first line of the story that didnt work, I knew it was perfect. The backbone idea was the only thing that made the old story readable and enjoyable, so I set about changing small details, changing names and places and putting it together. Now I really am on a roll.  Im already on Chapter 7 and I have a pretty good idea of where Im going with the story from here on out.

Over the last few weeks since I finished my last book, Ive been struggling to decide which book to start next. Now, with this idea so fresh within my mind and working so well, its the perfect start to get me back into the swing of things. I have a good feeling about it, and it’s going to be very special.  I tend to think that way when everything gels together — the characters, the atmosphere, the theme of the story and most of all, the ending. Once I know that the ending of the story works, everything else is just a matter of putting things in the right place and making sure not to disappoint the ending or the characters. They are, after all, living pieces of my mind. It wouldn’t do to disappoint their fragile feelings.

The first book “Runaway Girl” in Elaine White’s new vampire series The Secrets of Avelina Series is set for release with Write More Publications Summer 2012.

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