Writing after editing/copywriting

I decided to give it a go to professional editing of my manuscript. After getting a good hunch on a video from this editor, I paid for it and waited an external/unknown person to finally take a look at my manuscript. I wasn’t expecting much as I knew I had picked a considerable affordable service. I thought it would be mostly about grammar, spelling, punctuation, verb tenses, sentence structure, word choices etc. The type of editing that I worried most about since English is not my first language. But I was surprised to get a very detailed feedback about the story itself.

The feedback included very good points about plot holes that I hadn’t thought about. Twists in the story that didn’t make much sense or that could be better explained. I absolutely loved that part. My fantasy story has many characters in it, so having someone deeply connecting all characters’ reasons and subplots was great. She was able to find small details of parts of the story I had completely forgot or contradicted. I loved this copywriting part more than the editing one. I came to understand that this is actually called developmental editing which involves checking story inconsistencies, discrepancies, factual errors, etc.

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I got great feedback from character development which actually surprised me. In a previous attempt with a first manuscript of a different story, my weakest point was character development. That story is on standby as it needs lots of rewriting. But most of the feedback that I got from the few beta readers, back in those days, was that characters didn’t feel multidimensional and there was no evolvement in their personalities, no growth. That really caught my attention, and when I started writing this new manuscript, I focused on writing good characters. It paid off, and I’m truly happy for it. It made the whole process feel that it had potential.

I still have to work fixing some parts of the story but it doesn’t feel like an impossible job right now. It feels very tangible and I’m already in one-fourth of the total manuscript length of this new round of revision, and it is only been a week since I started. I feel encouraged but mostly proud of my fictional characters.

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Writing in confinement

I haven’t written in my Blog in while, as always. I wanted to focus any writing effort to working on my manuscript. I finally finished doing my second round of editing review, and now I don’t feel guilty to swift my attention to other type of writing.

From all the bad things that this confinement has brought to our lives, there is one that has been positive for me. I have been able to find the time and discipline to finish editing my manuscript. I already had a plan before the confinement. I was trying to work at least one hour per day on editing. However, I must confess there were many days when I wouldn’t work since I would be absorbed by time, work, and other activities. The quarantine in my country has pushed me to be more responsible with my editing, but more than anything, I have to be honest I felt afraid.

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This pandemic has brought fear in general to our lives and nobody knows how our future will be. I wanted to have at least this goal finished in my life. It has been one week since I’ve finished editing. There is still a lot to do with the manuscript. I have one dear friend helping me with her expert editing eye. I’ll be also finding other people to beta read it and then start seeing options of how can I get this out there. But more than anything, finishing that goal has brought me a good sense of peace in my mind. I already have some other stories luring in my head and some good ideas for new manuscripts. I might explore them later. But for now, I’m giving myself some weeks to rest. Writing, editing and working has been a bit tough on my schedule and I urgently need that rest.

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This blog post didn’t have any specific topic in mind. I just wanted to get this update out there for anyone that might be reading my blog and register this point in my lifetime. If there is something good we can get from these hard times, it is the time to finish some personal goals.

My country is in a very strict control and quarantine. Only people that are between 18 and 65 years old can go out and on a specific schedule depending on the last number of your ID. For example, I can only go out to the street on Mondays, from 7am to 12pm. Everybody must remain at home on afternoons and evenings, and weekends. If you are out of your home after 12 pm or if your ID doesn’t match the “ID of the day”, you get arrested, taken to jail, and you have to pay a fine. In other words, you can’t even go around the park or to take a walk around your neighborhood. Driving is, of course, completely banned, unless you have a special permit. Markets, supermarkets, and pharmacies are opened. Other business are not, including restaurants. There are no delivery services of any kind, only pharmacies. If you need to move to another location in the city on the day you are allowed to go out, you have to walk. There are no means of public transportation. It is quite tough, but needed. I’m crossing fingers, the situation will get better. It is a good time for writing but bad time for a writer’s spirit.

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And you, how is your writing dealing with these times?

Writing in a bad year

2019 has definitely been a year to remember. Two dear aunts, sisters from my Mom, passed away. My beautiful dog, Dana, who was with me for more than 14 years, also passed away. There was a fire, caused by short circuit on the TV plug, that devoured my Mom’s room and almost killed her. My closest aunt had an accident with a huge wardrobe falling and splitting her head badly. My country went into political turmoil for almost 3 weeks, with almost a civil war in the making. Mobs of delinquents attacked people on the street, beating them to death, setting on fire everything they found, including houses. Three weeks I deeply wish nobody goes through anywhere in the world, days we lived in panic, enclosed in our homes or trying to battle attackers when there was still no police to defend us.

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The year is almost coming to an end and although there have been good times in this year, good trips in the middle of everything and other experiences, I cherish this year as the personal growth has been insurmountable.

I’m heading at this moment to WordCamp Guayaquil where I will be speaking about “Wanting to be a blogger and finding time,” in other words about time organization. I would have never imagined a couple of years ago talking about time manage skills. Me, the person who used to procrastinate as nobody else and could never find time for anything. I wondered a couple of times if I’m the best person to talk about this, but I feel I’ve grown so much in the last years, specially in this year that I thought I would share my experience.

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Writing and working full time has been a challenge. I must be honest I only commit an hour and perhaps an hour and a half, the most, to working on my current manuscript. I haven’t been the best at keeping this schedule every day. There are days when I don’t write, and even weeks. But I haven’t give up. It doesn’t matter how slowly I move forward. I’ve committed myself to keep doing it.

At this point, my goal of finishing the review of my manuscript by the end of the year doesn’t look promising. Probably, I’ll end it by the end of January or even February of 2020. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still doing it, little by little, step by step. Besides, I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract that says I have to finish by a specific date. It is true I wish I could have it by the end of this year but nothing will happen if I don’t.

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In a bad year, I could have just plainly written little. My attitude could have been different. Perhaps that would have been the case when I was younger. But my determination has gotten bigger this year. Without it, I would probably have never finished reviewing the first round. I would have never gotten great beta readers and the inspiration the keep writing. Somehow a bad year has make my desire to keep on writing stronger. It has kept me afloat amidst all issues, knowing that there is a greater goal out there for me and that I’m still moving towards it.

Life is about going through problems and obstacles, otherwise it would be pretty boring and we would never grow. Writing on a bad year has actually been a positive experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Writing on a bad year has proved to be good.

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Writing in Bolivian Dictatorship

I never been interested in politics, neither being active in it. Being Bolivian, I’m surrounded by latin-american literature influenced mostly by our turbulent political history. This is social literature that is marked mostly by conflicts and our disastrous governments. I didn’t understand well the impact of these events in literature until the last 3 weeks in my country. Social and political environment can definitely influence your writing soul.

To be honest, I didn’t write/edit a single word in these weeks. For those who haven’t heard it, we were living under dictator Evo Morales’ regime. He has changed the constitution to perpetuate into power. A couple of years ago, he did a referendum to ask Bolivians if we wanted him to run again for presidency, we voted “NO”. We’d had enough of this government that sympathized too much with Venezuelan and Cuban counterparts. However, the tyrant didn’t accept the referendum results and he searched his illegal way to run for presidency for a fourth time.

A bit more than three weeks ago, he blatantly committed fraud to forge his win in these elections. The people felt insulted and angered. We protested and took the streets, not knowing how else to protest. We suffered 3 weeks of attacks from delinquent groups that supported his regime of terror. These groups invaded our cities, burned whatever they saw, including houses. People were beaten to death with bats, sticks and stones. The police had instructions to not go out, leaving us to our own fate. They were complying with “orders” from above.

Finally, after weeks, the police couldn’t take anymore our suffering and pleas for help and riots started to happen into their own units. When the OAS’s audits revealed the fraud, the tyrant called for “new elections”. But we were no dumb. That wasn’t enough. He was a criminal. He had to go. When the army didn’t support him, he finally resigned and ran away.

Just when there was a brief air or relief, Morales’ groups attacked with more force. The police was now on our side but it wasn’t enough. People organized themselves to help defend neighborhoods. But we could still hear the dynamite explosions, people crying for help. The day following Evo Morales resignation was the darkest one of these weeks. I will never forget the days with warnings to turn the lights off, sirens with alarms to let you know that the hordes of delinquents were close to your home. Morales had ensured to feed these people with hate and anger all these years. They just wanted to destroy everything on their way, burn houses, business, and beat to hell whoever they found. When the police was surpassed by these hordes, we begged the army to step in. It wasn’t until they decided to step in that we had some relief.

It still hurts to think that this man tried to take advantage of the poorest segment of the population, the indigenous, that because of their lack of access to information were brainwashed with ideas of racism and division. A corrupt network of leaders ensured the poorest ones joined these delinquents groups, threatening them to take away their lands and resources if they didn’t comply.

When I see Tweets from people abroad, the international community, claiming this was a Coup, I get angered. Only Bolivians know what we went through. Through this week, we heard the tyrant’s speeches mocking us, telling us he would siege cities to see if we could withstand it, mocking from our protests and blockades, calling “his people” to defend him.

Days are showing a bit better now. We still have a long way to fight and hordes will keep coming in protest for the tyrant’s exile. They will never accept that we, the people, won. The dictator is gone. And even though he threatens to come back, we’ve learned a lot. We learned that unity is strength. Our patriotism and faith has grown. We love our country more than ever and we embrace our multiculturality, our diversity across all races, colors, and beliefs.

When I think why I didn’t write in this time, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t find the head to do it. I admire those writers that were able to write in moments of political convulsion where your own human rights are at risk.

I started to write today. It felt weird to go back to my science fiction novel when my feelings are still boiling inside. But I have to go back. I won’t let this tyrant absorb more days of my life. And for the first time ever, I definitely understand the impulse to write social literature. The writer I was weeks ago will always be marked by this experience.

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Editing methods

After a general revision of my manuscript – where I wanted to make sure that the story, plot and characters made sense – I’ve started a new round of more in depth revision/editing of my writing. To be honest, I wasn’t actually looking to this stage. I still have memories of endless rounds of editing in a previous manuscript that didn’t end that well (that project is now on standby for the moment). I remember spending a lot of time on individual paragraphs, re-writing the sentences, changing words, sentence order, etc. and making the editing process so long that I began to hate it.

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With this new project, my approach has been very different from the beginning. I had learned lots of lessons from my previous project and I didn’t want to make the same errors on this one. Writing the first manuscript was fun. It took me a lot of time but the process was enjoyable. The story and characters acquired a life of their own which helped me sustain the story until the very end (and unexpectedly with a chance for a second part if some day I decide to do it). I focused first on making sure that the characters were strong and that the story made sense. Later I would worry about the writing. And now the time has come.

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I began editing a couple of weeks ago and surprisingly it hasn’t been that bad. I’m not hating it and I still feel energized enough to continue this lengthy process. For this editing round, I’ve set up a list of what I really want to check in my writing:

  • Punctuation
  • Verbalization – that I’m using strong verbs and that I’m avoiding the “to be” verb whenever possible as I know it makes writing weak. Although, sometimes it makes more sense than any other verb.
  • Adverbs – Following the advice from many writing books, I’m trying to avoid them as much as possible.
  • “Excess” words – detecting those words that don’t add much to the writing, like “very”.
  • Passive voice – trying to get rid of this as much as possible as it also weakens the writing – although not always possible.
  • Order of sentences in a paragraph – Are they in the best order? Could I improve the order.
  • Connection with next paragraph – Does the paragraph ends well? Can I connect the paragraphs better, making it more interesting and prompting the reader to continue reading further?

There are many other “factors” to consider when editing your own writing and I know I haven’t considered all of them. But I wanted to only take into account the ones that I consider the most important ones. I didn’t want to re-write all the words thinking of all possible grammatical issues/improvements and fall into a never ending process again.

Aside from that, I’m using three tools to help me with the points above:

http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ to help you detect passive voice, adverbs, long sentences, etc

https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/ – this tool reads out loud your paragraphs. It’s very helpful as listening a voice read your text makes it easier to detect if the writing sounds good, if there are some weird structures, and if the sentences could be ordered better.

Grammarly – I’m using the free browser version that detects misspellings and basic punctuation and grammatical structure. It sort of double-checks the same as the Hemingway App. There is a paid version but too expensive for me right now.

Do you know of other free tools that might also help in this process?

What else do you consider that it’s important to check when revising your writing?

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