Editing Tips

editing-tips
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So, you have your story complete and you are ready to edit, but you don’t know where to look.

Firstly, edit your work before you send it to anyone else.  When you edit your work, be sure to make sure you stay in the same tense throughout your story.  Also, check to make sure your storyline fits into place.  If it doesn’t, change it up.  Once you are sure that your storyline is firm, check for the ‘juice.’  Every story needs to contain spice to gain interest and engage your reader.

Next, have others read your story.  You can start by either going to your target audience, or going to a third party.

If you choose to go to the target audience, ask them what they like about the story, what they didn’t like, what they wanted more of, if there are any new ideas that could take the story to the next level.  Sometimes it’s hard to write for an audience if you are not part of the audience yourself.  For example, we have all been children at a point in our lives, but how many of us can truly put ourselves back in those shoes and feel as passionately about something that to adults seems so small?  Children are great for adding the imagination and magic to stories.

By going to a third party, ask them to make sure your formatting is correct, you are using proper grammar, you don’t hinder too long on a part of the story that is not necessary, etc.  They can also answer the same questions as the audience.  Each editor will be coming from a different point of view, and will have something new to add to the piece, so seek out many people to edit your piece for you.  If you do not agree with something an editor is saying, don’t change it.  Ultimately, your voice is what needs to be shining through in the piece.

Did I use a professional editor?

No, I did not use a professional editor.  I had around ten people edit my story and I read my story to children in the age group for it.  One person who edited for me is great with the imagination and bringing the story to light.  Another, is great with grammar.  I have some who were good at catching formatting or other errors.  Without each different editor, I would have missed out on improving in one or more of these areas.

Would I recommend using a professional editor?

I can’t say yes or no to this question.  There are positives and negatives to it, as there is to everything in life.  An up-side is that you know your work is in good hands and will be edited very thoroughly.  However, hiring a professional editor has its financial costs and could be straining on a strict budget.   Also, if you are hiring a professional, are you hiring a team or an individual?  You still want to make sure you are getting a variety of editors from different reading backgrounds because your audience will all be coming from different backgrounds.

Other thoughts:

Do not rush your editing.  It may take fifteen edits before your piece is ready to move forward, but it will be worth it to be patient and put as much in as you can.  Plus, it’s better to catch any issues before you start preparing your work to be finalized.

Do not take offense to the feedback you receive.  The feedback is a way for you to improve and make your story more memorable.  Everyone has room for improvement, and the best opportunity is when someone shows you where those areas are.

Thank your editors.  You can do this any way you would like. You could give them a gift certificate, write them an appreciative letter, mention them in your book, etc.  With the AJSA series, I’ve chosen to mention my editors in the book to show my appreciation.

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Writing Styles and Editing Your Book

writing-styles-and-editing-your-book

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After finishing your story outline, you are ready to write your first rough draft.  This is where knowing your audience is really important.Let’s say I was writing about a bouncing ball.  Watch how the simple story ideas change as the audience changes.  Can you guess who the audience is?

I love to be outside.  I eat outside, I run outside, and I play outside.  I like to play with my ball outside.  I throw the ball in the air.  It comes down and bounces up real high.  I like to play with my ball outside.

One day, Isacc and Naveah were playing catch in their backyard.  Naveah threw the ball to Isacc so hard that it almost knocked him over.  Since Isacc didn’t want to be hit with the ball again, he came up with another idea.  They were going to have a competition to see who could throw the ball the highest!  Isacc took the ball and threw it as high as he could.  When the ball came down, Naveah caught it and threw it up to see how high she can throw.  On the way down, the ball hit the ground and bounced back up as high as the top of the tree.  Both children laughed and they continued throwing the ball high into the air.

There are many benefits to young children playing with bouncy balls.  They can learn hand-eye coordination and depth perception, as well as shape and color recognition.  Additionally, they will learn sharing skills by interacting with other children and the balls. 

According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object needs to have an external force exerted upon it in order for the object to be set into motion.  The object then uses kinetic energy while it is moving, and when the object returns to its motionless state, it is said to have potential energy.  For example, a ball sits on the floor.  At this point, it has potential energy.  Then, Jimmy picks up the ball and bounces it.  Jimmy provides the external force, which comes from him bouncing the ball.  While the ball is bouncing, it is using moving energy, or kinetic energy.

Did you say that the first example was for toddlers and early readers?  Or that the second was for elementary aged children?  How about the third being geared towards parents?  Or the last being geared towards students, teachers, or researchers?

Things to Remember

For children’s picture books, the main purpose is to have the story be a learning experience for the child.  The child will use the book as a guide towards how the world works.  There is always something, whether physical or moral, to be learned.

For children’s chapter books, the main purpose is to encourage the child to read.  To do this, you need to make reading fun.  Children this age love adventure, mysteries, and being able to pretend they are in the character’s shoes.  Make sure to add a lot of extra description to the main story line to peak your reader’s interest.

When writing for adults, remember to maintain a certain level of professionalism and respectability.  Try not to use slang in your writing as it makes others more skeptical.  At this point, your audience is completely capable of pulling out hidden meanings and translating metaphors.  Use less description or ‘juice’ as you would for a children’s chapter book because the adult likes to be able to create the fantasy in their head.  Leaving a little for mystery is a good thing; just make sure not to overdo it.  You still need to have your story line firm.

Lastly, when writing for research and learning purposes, use a guide to ensure that you are formatting your work correctly.  Each piece of educational literature has a rhyme and a reason for how it is done.  Make sure to research enough before you attempt to create your piece.  Don’t forget to maintain professionalism in your writing as your target audience is adults.

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The First Steps of Writing a Book

book-writing
The first proof of  AJSA – The Big Explosion  2011
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Remember back to the days of first grade when we were all learning how to write.  As simple as it seems, this is exactly where to start.  These steps do not need to be done in this order.  Often, they are all created simultaneously.

  1. Choose a topic. What do you want to write about?  (I chose scientific adventures as my topic.)
  2. Determine the problem and solution. What happens, and what is done to remedy it?  (Problem: Messy explosion in kitchen, Solution: à you’ll have to read the book to find that one out 😛 )
  3. Choose a setting. Where does the story take place?  (The boys’ house.)
  4. Develop a Beginning, Middle, and End. How does the story start, and what order do the events happen?  (Beginning:  Breakfast and planning of experiment, Middle: à read to see, End: à read to see.)
  5. Define your audience. Are you writing to young children, adults, teens?  This will help you determine how you will lay out your book.  (school-aged children)

An example (not pertaining to the AJSA series):

Topic:  Summer games

Problem:  Frisbee gets stuck in tree.

Solution: Use a Ball to hit it down.

Setting: Park

 

Beginning: Two kids are playing Frisbee golf.

Middle:  One kid throws the Frisbee and it gets stuck in the tree.

End: The kids throw a ball up at the Frisbee until they manage to hit it down.

Realize how the Beginning, Middle, and End correlate with the Problem and Solution.

Now that the basics of the story are developed, it’s a good idea to create your characters that way you can include their mannerisms in your outline.

Kid 1:  Name: Jessie, Age: 7, Look: clean and precise, Other: Likes puppies, is nice to everyone, has a lot of friends.

Kid 2: Name: Tommy, Age: 7, Look: clean with shaggy hair, Other: Likes video games, doesn’t usually play outside, follows his friends leads.

At this point, you have the basic framework of your story and you know where you need to take it.  I like to delve a bit more into the planning process before I start writing by creating an outline of the story.  The outline will help me know exactly what is going to happen, and what time it will happen at.  It will also serve as the backbone of the story.  After the outline is complete, all that is needed is the juice!

(Beginning)

  • Jessie and Tommy are playing Frisbee golf in the park.
  • Another kid comes up and asks to play.
    • Who is this other kid? Time to create another character!

Kid 3: Name: Jared, Age: 9, Look: dark clothing, short hair, Other:  seems hostile upon first impression, but he is very sweet and gets along well with others.

  • Jessie and Tommy won’t let Jared play with them.

(Middle)

(Problem)

  • Jared runs between them and grabs the Frisbee out of the air and throws it into a tree.
  • Jessie and Tommy go get a parent.
    • Who is the parent? Is this character of enough significance to explain who they are?

(End)

(Solution)

  • The parent tries to reach the Frisbee but can’t.
  • The parent grabs a ball and throws it at the Frisbee and the Frisbee comes down.

Alright, now we have our outline, but it looks pretty bare.  The next step is to add the juice.  Get your creative thoughts flowing to add fun extras to create the rough draft.

Juice Ideas to Get You Started

-Amp up the setting:  How was the weather?  What was going on around the boys?

-Describe the characters physically and non-physically.  Make a mental image for the readers.  Maybe use some foreshadowing and say a bit about a mysterious boy (Jared).

-Explain how they are playing.  What are the rules of the game?  Are they just tossing the Frisbee?  Maybe add a funny scene of throwing the Frisbee too high and trying to jump to catch it.

As you write, your story line may change from the outline.  That’s okay!  It comes with the process.

Congratulations, you have just finished your rough draft!  On to editing.

 

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