It’s Difficult Keeping Things Strait
Right now, I am self-editing three books, finalizing an outline for another book, working with editors on a book, thinking about five sequels and send out a weekly blog. To make matters worse, the more I write, the more (fictional) facts are created. On top of that, self-editing adds, changes and deletes facts. All of which are spread over three “franchises” with different writing styles, plots and characters. How do I keep the confusion to a minimum and prevent mistakes? Well…
The short answer is that I rely heavily on my memory. This is not a great answer. My next lines of defense include self-editing, my beta reader and as the last catch, professional editing. In addition, I use a book outline and character biography.
Keeping all of these thoughts together is difficult and there have been problems. A good example of a minor issue is referring to a man as “her.” Readers hate such obvious typos. They feel like they wasted their money. I have also uncovered major errors like deleting a paragraph and duplicating sentences. Very scary.
Continuity problems are harder to uncover. Recently, an editor pointed out a plot issue with a sinking ship. “All the lights went out.” Ten paragraphs later, “They watched the deck lights go underwater.” Oops. At best, a friendly reader will get confused or annoyed. An unfriendly reader will leave a bad review or even demand a refund. Yikes!
What is an author to do? They must try their best to understand their own failings and spend lots of time making sure everything is perfect. Should I be doing more? Some sort of structured fact/logic/grammar check? Develop a big list of facts? Set up a self-editing schedule? A writer can go crazy endlessly checking their work.
Over the years, my approach has changed. I now make four targeted self-editing checks. For example, one pass will only check grammar. However. when I look back at my first book, I cringe over the many errors that slipped through the process. Fortunately, they are related to bad flow and storytelling style. So far, I have not found any logic, plot, continuity or major grammar errors. Big relief.
What big techniques to have I learned? The most important discovery is to begin writing/editing with a clear mindset. I have seen huge errors resulting from the wrong perspective. Secondly, I discovered outlines. As an example, using an outline, I uncovered a fundamental plot problem. It would have been a disaster if I began writing and later discovered the issue.
Are there any mental techniques to be a better writer? If they exist, I have yet to learn about them. Presently my mind is a jumble of thoughts during the writing/editing process. However, I have learned one technique. Before I begin reading/editing, I read over the previous few paragraphs to get a feel for the flow and style.
My mind often struggles to remember all my invented facts. Even remembering all my blogs is difficult. It’s not all bad news. I like the challenge and I see improvements. Or did I just invent that fact? Human minds provide a false sense of security. Wait a minute. Who said that?
You’re the best -Bill
February 12, 2020
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