Tips for Self-Editing

I will be the first to admit that editing is the area of the writing process where I could use the most improvement, I’m either too critical in which case I can turn ten pages of my own work into a few scared pieces of punctuation or I’m too forgiving because I like a particular scene or turn of phrase in which case the mediocre can make it through an edit. So because I’ve never been good at self editing I decided to research ways to get better, little tips that could make it easier and now I’ve decided to pass the fruits of that labour on to you.

  • Get it down. Perhaps the lost obvious and overlooked tip I can share with you is this, get something down first and then edit, I used to write loads and loads but I’d edit as I was writing and it really impacted my enjoyment of the writing process and meant I lost a lot, 1000 words quickly turned into 500 which halved again and again until a days hard work was wasted. Sure not everything you’ll write will be great, but write it first and you can always edit later.
  • Make copies. Always think of editing as an improvement process. You need a ‘before and after’ so you can show progress. So make sure to make a copy of your WIP before editing so that you can see what’s changed and maybe even with reflection what might be salvaged.
  • Send in the Clones…or Don’t. So I was talking about copies up above, the editing process gives you the perfect chance to weed out another type of copy…in this case repetition. I know one writer who claims they use the phrase “and he shrugged his shoulders” so much it makes his main character seem like a really non committal piston. So yeah, while you talk and write in a particular way, you need to be wary of peppering your work with too much repetition. This is particularly valid if it pertains to dialogue, most characters shouldn’t sound the same so if they all keep using the word “ludicrous” just because you yourself like it then maybe that’s something you should edit.
  • Pencils have Erasers. I’ve talked above about not just getting rid of everything, I know how easy it can be on reflection to think nothing is worth saving and sure Pencils have erasers but using it all the time is a sure fire way to ruin a good pencil. Instead. Make the editing process just that…a process. Go through once and pick everything that you are for sure going to keep (even if it needs a little tidying up), then do the same except pick out the maybe (parts that you aren’t sure about or that would require extra work to make work) and finally go through and pick out parts that are not making it to another draft. Now highlight each in a different colour, green, yellow and red work well respectively for me but it’s up to you. Now you can literally see what does and doesn’t work. It will make your writing process a whole lot more cohesive because you start to see exactly what the problems lie, and also you can see at a glance what parts are good as well.
  • Change things up. As well as breaking it into sections as suggested above, I also advise changing up things for the editing process. Maybe take a few days before editing so you come at it from a different mindset or change the font and size, from writing to editing so that the stark contrast makes you read more closely, or even just read it aloud so you can easily find the parts that run too long or don’t read as well as you thought.

    So those are just a few tips to try and help you get through the self-editing process. But remember that even if it seems difficult it’s part of what will one day get you published so don’t fear the edit, instead embrace the idea of making your work the best it can be so that everyone will love it as much as you do.

How To Find Motivation To Write

Personally I think the title is a bit of a misnomer because it implies that if you can’t find the motivation then you shouldn’t write and this attitude is perhaps the most insidious thing about being a writer. There is this idea that because writing is a creative endeavor that you should and can only work when you feel inspired or motivated to work and this can be incredibly damaging, especially if you want to make the jump from hobby writing, to writing professionally.

That being said there are things you can do to keep your motivation levels up so that when you do write you’ll find it easier.

  1. Remember why you are writing, It sounds kind of obvious but the best motivation, at least for me, I’ve found is to remember why you are writing, keep pushing towards your goal and keep reminding yourself what that goal is.
  2. Change up your writing routine, I’ve spoken about this previously, but a good way to refresh the ol’ motivational reserves is to change up your writing routine, whether it’s your actual environment or just how you write, maybe try pen and paper rather than the computer or write in bursts or commit to a time every day to writing.
  3. Treat Yourself, I’ve been trying a fun little idea that I heard somewhere of having a little piece of candy or some other small treat every time I complete my word goal, it’s surprisingly helpful and you certainly manage to get something down on the page.
  4. Take a Break, I don’t just mean from writing, I mean a complete purge of all things writing for a short time, no thinking, no obsessing, no note taking, nothing! Just relax and take a break from it all and when you come back from it hopefully you should be re-motivated to write.
  5. Just Do It, not just my favourite Shia LaBeouf and/or Nike quote but the best advice I can give, and what I touched on in my intro paragraph. But motivation or not, schedule allow or not, just write and write consistently, sure you’ll lapse sometimes and you are allowed breaks and time off, but the best way to be motivated is to just keep writing.

So those are just a few ideas for remaining motivated and hopefully if you follow some or all of the suggestions above then you can finish that important Work in Progress.

Creating an Outline for Your Novel

I was always kind of against this when I was younger, my thought process was that in planning out my novel I was firstly wasting time that I could be writing and secondly robbing the story of creativity by insisting on planning it rather than letting it form naturally. Now I’ll admit there may be some merit to those notions but by and large I can say honestly that creating an outline for your novel can really help you as a writer.

The first and most important thing to remember, that I clearly didn’t know back then is that the outline is flexible, it only sign posts scenes and events that you want to happen in an order that makes sense, but to extend the metaphor you are more than free to ignore the signposts and wander down the road less travelled.

The true benefit of using an outline as I’ve touched on above is that it can provide structure which is important if you’re attempting to write professionally, it’s basically combining your creative energy with a more focused and disciplined practice to create something that’s both engaging as a story (that’s the creative part) and doesn’t start to unravel towards the middle (that’s the structure and planned part).

In a very real way the outline should be the bones of your novel, it should contain a few things that I will outline below…Haha get it? Sorry I’ll be good.

  1. An Overview: You can be more in depth if you wish, and we will cover that in a moment but at the very least you should include a broad overview of the story in your outline, your ideas for where the story is going and what you want to happen.
  2. Chapter by Chapter: This part really helps me, especially when I was writing my graded unit at college, basically what you want to do is break down (in as much detail as you like) what’s going to happen in each chapter, it really helps to build the novel and give you a clear guide, you as the writer are still filling in the blanks but you have a guide to make the process clearer and more cohesive.
  3. Cookie scenes: I’m not sure if I came up with this term or read it somewhere but basically a ‘cookie scene’ is a fun or engaging or exciting or powerful scene, basically a part in the book that you’d remember. For example, the Goblet picking Champions in Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). These scenes can be fun to write, and I don’t know about you but I tend to have a lot of these and then struggle to bring the story to a point where they can work. So I’d suggest if you have these scenes, get them jotted down in the outline, even if they are fully developed pages or chapters so you know what you’re working towards.
  4. Setting: by the time you come to write the novel you’ll already know this assumably but it’s important to get this down so that you can refer back to it and use it to accurately develop the story you’ve started building. If you need help with that you can check out this piece we wrote discussing setting by clicking here.
  5. Character: This can be as simple as a name and a brief description or a full biography that includes everything from shoe size to favourite drink, it’s up to you, I’m definitely in the latter category. But either way it’s important to include this so you can refer back to it when writing.

So there we have it, a little bit about Outlines, why they are useful and what you can include in them. I hope this helps you and thank you for visiting Undiscovered Publishing.

Getting Over Writer’s Block

I think most, if not all people will have suffered from the creative drought known as Writer’s Block at some point in their life. While this is bad in the short term, it does mean that there is a whole host of remedies for Writer’s Block, tried and tested by you hardworking creative types. So here we some tips for getting over writer’s block:

  • A New Environment – It might seem a little simplistic but just changing things up and getting out of your regular environment can really make a difference and get the juices flowing.
  • Let the words flow – if you can’t keep going with what you’re currently doing, maybe try just writing anything, some guilt free, pressure free writing to remind you why you love the craft in the first place and also to just get words on the page.
  • Change up your routine – If you’re consistently struggling then maybe shake up your writing routine by writing earlier in the morning or late at night, or try writing for more or less time than usual.
  • Set a routine – Might seem kind of counter-intuitive considering the last entry on this list but if you don’t have a routine down for writing then that might be the source of your writer’s block, so just set a time to write and do it and hopefully you can push past the block.
  • Use prompts – If you just want to write and aren’t too worried about what you’re writing then maybe try out some writing prompts, it takes some of the pressure off and let’s you just get words down. This might also help even if you do have an established WIP because you can take a break and just write something easy (see Let the words flow above for more details).
  • Try something new – before I explain this one I will say that when I see it as a suggestion it’s often a bit privileged, like why not go skydiving or travel across Asia, which not everyone can do but what I mean is something new and different but as big or small as you can manage. Even changing up routes when walking, get the brain working and can help. Now to why it’ll help, as I alluded to, trying something new can stimulate the mind and hopefully that will break through that pesky writer’s block.
  • Add to what you already do – Sometimes you’re doing everything right and still struggling, why not just add something. Listen to music (with or without lyrics, although I personally prefer without), tidy up your work area or add a little snack as an incentive for getting something written. Just small things you add to boost or encourage creativity and hopefully beat writer’s block.
  • Just write – I think most writers tend to see writing as a strictly creative pursuit, meaning if you’re uninspired or blocked then you can’t write. However, if you want to write professionally then you need to devote time to it even if you don’t feel like you can, so yeah just write, whether you’re inspired or uninspired, whether you’re willing or not until you’ve finished your work.

So those are some tips for conquering writer’s block and hopefully they will be of some help to you. Thank you for reading and keep your eyes peeled for more soon. 

5 Character tropes to avoid

I’m going to start this post by saying that these tropes have been a part of literature for as long as man has been writing, there are no original ideas, only new ways of utilising old ones so don’t fret too much if you’re novel has a little too much of ‘a hero’s journey’ or ‘a love triangle’ or the only way to end it is with a ‘Deus ex machina’. At the end of the day if that’s how it turns out then that is how it turns out. We aren’t here to discourage your ideas, we just want you to use what’s already out their to make your own unique story.

So now that I’ve said that here are 5 tropes you can probably avoid:

  1. Tragic Vampires: we had Angel, we had Edward Cullen, we had Stefan Salvatore and before all of them we had Louis de Pointe du Lac in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. All complex portraits of those lovely fanged immortals cursed by a thirst for blood but it’s been done. Write about Vampires, I love Vampires. But try to do something a little different.
  2. A Chosen One: Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and of course Harry Potter, I mean he was literally called the Chosen One for God sake. This basically describes a character plucked by destiny or fate or just the people around then to do one task and every action in their life, deliberate or not is leading towards that task. Sure it works as a trope and as I said up top if it works and you want to use it then go ahead but maybe use this as a chance to try something else, subvert the narrative so to speak.
  3. The Old man: This trope could probably have been called the Mentor or something else like that but when I think of the trope I think of the old man from Legend of Zelda, not the best example but the one my mind goes to first. Better examples include Brom in Eragon, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ben) from Star Wars and Dumbledore from Harry Potter. This trope works because it’s natural for the old to pass on their knowledge to the young, and if you kill of said mentor for emotional impact, they’ve loved a long life so it is less devastating in the grand scheme of things. But personally I’d like to see something different, what if the Mentor is similar ages with the character and it’s competition and learning together, growth through pride and ego and brotherhood. Eragon actually does both, he was trained by Brom but *spoiler* after he fell prey to this trope Murtaugh mentored him and they kind of taught each other.
  4. On the outside looking in: the past few entries are tropes more suited to fantasy and sci-fi but this one can be seen across the board. Basically what I mean is that often you’ll find in a story that the main character is an outcast. This can be for a multitude of reasons from popularity, to money, to their beliefs and/or race and I can understand why you might do this, it’s true to life, easy to understand and connect with, because we’ve all felt like an outsider and you can do a lot with it. I’m now saying it can’t be a good idea to have your character be an outsider, but they don’t always need to be on the outside looking in to make a poignant story, what if for example, the character was popular and well liked, and then something awful happens you could do a lot with that, just based on people’s reactions, do they stay by them or is that when they become ostracised.
  5. Ordinary. Just Plain ordinary: We like put characters to be real, to be fleshed out ordinary people and of course that makes sense but often they will then do extraordinary things, sure people can rise to all sorts of challenges  I mean read most of the books by my favourite author Dean Koontz and you’ll see effective use of this trope. But even though it makes sense and it’s understandable it can be a little pervasive in storytelling, some normal person suddenly fighting dragons or robbing banks or travelling through space without real development beyond suddenly developing a Bryan Mills level special set of skills. I would like to see a story that twists this and had someone prepared and skilled and bad-ass for all intents and purposes but they struggle because life is full of struggles regardless of how prepared we are.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this list, and that you go ahead and ignore it and write, because you want to, because you have, just write whatever comes out and it’s full of tropes so be it. 

Types Of Narration And Which One To Use​

Narration is broken down into three classifications, First Person, Second Person and Third Person and to explain more clearly,

First Person Narration: where the events of the story are told from the point of view of a character in the story, usually referencing events they are or have experienced. This type of narration is useful for helping the reader to connect more to the character, it also makes the story more real because it’s being told by a first hand source, the same way historic accounts from people there at the time are of great benefit to academic accounts because it’s not just speculation or conjecture but real life and often intimate accounts of events.

Second Person Narration: This type of narration brings the reader into the story, it’s not a me, it’s a you, and no I’m not just quoting Mario, basically in a second person narration the author utilises the ‘You’ Pronoun. This type of narration is useful because it not only connects the reader to the character but literally injects them into the story, it helps to evoke a powerful reaction in the reader by making it more personal, but it can be difficult to manage so be wary of taking on this narrative style.

Third Person Narration: is a fairly popular choice for narration, and comes in either an omniscient or limited variety which I will explain in more detail. Both varieties the author uses third person pronouns such as “he”, “he” or “they” but for omniscience as the word suggests, the narrator knows everything, they are aware of everything happening and are relaying that viewpoint to the reader. Whereas when it’s limited, the narration is limited to a single set of  thoughts, feelings and impressions on the events taking place. Both can work, and both allow a level of flexibility in approaching the story that the other two classifications of narration don’t.

So I’ve told you the three types of narration and what they can bring to the story, now to finish off the title, which you pick? It’s a bit of a cop out but to be honest whichever one you feel fits your story, or fits your writing style, I mentioned not everyone likes second person for example but that shouldn’t stop you if you like or work well with that narration type, just pick what works and just write…write…write!

How to introduce setting in a story

So I think you’ll agree with me that one of the most important things when building a story is the setting, sure you need characters and you need plot, but for those to be believable and have context, you need to have setting.

You need to be careful though, you want the setting of your story to feel organic. Be too heavy handed and you risk firstly, just expositing to your reader rather than letting the words form ideas in their mind, and secondly, you’ll end up with something that seems forced, like a bad accent.

So what is setting exactly? It’s the time and place where the story is set, the time is usually fairly static, although events in a story can take place over an extended period of time. The place is usually more fluid: numerous locations that build up a rich backdrop of the world your story takes place in.

The backdrop to the story is equally relevant but not always important. If your story takes place in New York, in the 1940s, then that should be clear through the setting, the dialogue and the characters. However, if the period isn’t relevant and instead you want to create something timeless or just analogous to the present then the backdrop isn’t as important.

So let’s answer the question, how do you introduce setting into a story? Well firstly decide on the setting. Using the example from above, if you set your story in the past, in America, then you need to write in a way that is organic and realistic to that time in history, unless of course your intention is a diverging or alternative world history. Assuming it’s not however, you want things to seem real. Characters in 1940’s America are going to have a specific world view, access to specific technology and be aware of or unaware of certain events.

Once you’ve decided on the setting, you need to execute that organically in the way suggested above. However it is your story and if you want little green men, or mobile phones in Tsarist Russia or puritans in the 23rd century then that’s your choice. Follow that dream and make it happen but make sure that in whatever your write, fiction or not, the setting reflects the plot and helps to bring everything together in a cohesive fashion.