Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest Blogger ~ Anita Higman

Award-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-six books published for adults and children. Her latest book is Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe (Summerside Press) and is a 2-in-1 novella collection with coauthor, Irene Brand. As a special promotion to accompany the book Anita and Irene created a free Christmas gift book (in e-book form) to view, download, or email to a friend. It’s full of family traditions, memories, recipes, and cozy Christmas thoughts. Please feel free to check out their new book, Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe, view the book trailer, and receive their free Christmas gift book on Anita's website.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “There is but one art, to omit.”

He obviously appreciated the power of editing. I call it power, because editing has the ability to transform a rough draft into something remarkable. Something salable. After I complete a rough draft I go over it quite a few times, checking for problems, large and small. Here are just a few of my editing checks. You’re welcome to add these to your own personal list.

1. Did I sprinkle in backstory like a fine spice or dump in the whole jar at the beginning?

2. Do my characters have quirks and ticks like real people?

3. If I repeated words are they beautifully rhythmic or just annoyingly repetitious?

4. Is it clear who’s talking, or will readers need to stop to figure it out?

5. If I altered anything midway—character’s hair color, season of the year, etc, did I make those changes all the way through the manuscript?

6. Did I check each “was” and “were” as well as other scrawny verbs? Do any of them need to be removed from the herd?

7. Is the word “that” used so much that readers will become so weary of that that they’ll want to use my novel pages for kindling?

8. Have I included literary devices such as sensory details, foreshadowing, irony, metaphors, and similes to give my story depth and delight?

9. Did I dip so randomly and deeply into the barrel of limp and lifeless adverbs and adjectives that my prose came out with a sickly purple hue?

10. Are the elements of action, description, and dialogue balanced in my story?

11. Is my point of view consistent, or did I slip into head-hopping?

12. Is the setting clear in each scene?

13. Are my characters memorable and believable, or are they one-dimensional and uninspiring? Even with their flaws are my heroine and hero relatable and likable? Do I want to cheer them on?

14. Will readers easily know the year, the season, and the time of day?

15. Does my timeline have inconsistencies?

16. Did I vary the length of sentences in my paragraphs so they’re eye-appealing and easy to read?

17. How is my pacing? Is there a good rhythm to my storytelling? Are there passages I need to slow down or speed up for effect?

18. Do I have too many summary paragraphs? Do some need revision so I’m showing and not telling?

19. Does my work have the fine brush strokes of subtext dialogue?

20. If I’ve written in first person does it look like there was an “I” explosion all over the manuscript?

21. If the professions and hobbies of the main characters are important to the story will the readers get a good look into this part of their lives? Was this material presented in a way that is organic to the story, and did I check the information for accuracy?

22. Is my dialogue mind-numbingly boring or realistic and fresh?

23. Have I read the work out loud, or at least did I have my computer read it to me? By the way, the woman who reads to me on my computer is named Crystal. Even though she is a little robotic sounding, I know when I listen to the words I will “hear” errors that I won’t “see.” Give it a try. It really works.

I hope this mini version of my editing checklist is helpful in all your novel-polishing endeavors!

Two Christmas stories - one historical, one contemporary - under one cover.

Love Finds You under the Mistletoe: An Appalachian Christmas

A promise to her dying sister compels Julia Mayfield to take her young nephew to Mistletoe, Kentucky, a tiny town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. Sparks fly when she meets David Armstrong, a World War II veteran like herself. Even as shadows from the past weave a dangerous web around Julia and David, will their love flourish like the mistletoe that blankets the nearby hills?

Love Finds You under the Mistletoe: Once Upon a Christmas Eve

Hollie Goodnight's store has just been voted best Christmas shop in America. All the new publicity draws flamboyant novelist Van Keaton to the cozy town of Noel, Missouri, demanding to write Hollie's story - a dramatic tale of misfortune and triumph. She is swept up in his world of beautiful words and fanciful interludes ... until Owen Quigly, her lifelong best friend, launches a plan to win her back.


Debra E. Marvin said...

Thanks Anita!
Even your list is well-written. :)

I do read my chapters aloud and into a recorder. It's amazing how things pop out at me that I can't see when reading it. I don't even have to play it back and listen to it (I do occasionally) because just reading it aloud catches so many stumbles.

Bonnie Doran said...

Good post! One of my problems is timeline, so this gives me encouragement to fix it.

Just in reading this, I've had an inspiration about how to use my villain's hobby of origami as a metaphor for his spiritual change.

I'll keep this post for future reference after I finish using Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Aargh! The editing never stops.

Ane Mulligan said...

Great check list, Anita. I'm glad it's in our archives now or will be. :) Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Debra,

Yes, reading the manuscript out loud works well. I've caught some pretty stinky mistakes that way!

Anita Higman

Anonymous said...

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad the post inspired you.

You're right. Editing seems never-ending!

Anita Higman

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having me on Novel Journey, Ane. It's an honor to be here!

Blessings to you!

Anita Higman