Why the first draft is important

It may seem odd that a publisher is giving advice about writing your first draft, but it’s not.


The first draft is the foundation of your story. No matter how much you change it in revision, the first draft is there for you to change. If it’s in your head, it’s impossible to revise.


Right now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs about how to survive NaNo and the advice is helpful, but if you have never experienced getting a first draft on the page from the Once upon a time to they lived happily ever after you may have reservations about the process.


If you think it’s not worthwhile barfing words onto the page just to make the word count, don’t worry. I have barfed out 2 first drafts this way and it was never as bad as I thought when I started revision.


If you think the effort of writing the draft in 30 days is not worth the result – after all, it takes months or years to write a book. I found something surprising when I did my first NaNo, writing everyday was easier. I lived the story; I didn’t have to figure out what just happened before I wrote. I didn’t have to look up what my characters looked like, or what motivated them, because it was only a few hours since I last worked with them.


Mostly though, it’s the community. Writing with other writers is validating. It’s not the lonely experience of the stereotype. It’s fun, noisy and energizing.


Give it try.



how to find those typos and repeated words

A quick tip on finding those typos and repeated words – and maybe awkward sentences – that you and your critique group missed.


We all groan when we see that typo that everyone missed (I’ve seen them in published books). The best way I’ve found to help minimize – or eradicate – them is to listen. Not read out loud but listen.


Reading out loud can be a great way to hear the dialogue but I find that I tend to read what should be there rather than what is there.


Have someone read to you – if you can find a careful reader who is also patient with your need to stop and change stuff.


Use an online text to speech program. You can Google text to speech and you’ll find tons of free downloads. I use NaturalReader and find the mechanical voices helpful. It stops me from getting lost in the story and forces me to listen.


With NaturalReader, I copy blocks of text in and open the document separately. That allows me to pause when I hear something that doesn’t sound right and make the change in the document. When I’m done, I just copy the corrected text in and listen one more time.


Important to know.


This is my last step in revision. Doing it too early means you’ll correct text that will change and you are spending energy for no purpose.


Happy writing



What makes a good proofreader

I had this conversation with one of our authors yesterday.


What makes a good proofreader?


They’d had people read their book before submitting and got rave reviews, yet we picked out several issues that made their novel unpublishable as submitted.


So how come we saw what their highly educated, beta-readers missed?


Our author hit the nail on the head when she stated that the ‘eyes of experience’ are different from the ‘eyes looking for casual entertainment’.


Their story, like many we’ve reviewed, is great. It’s fast paced, suspenseful and makes you want to keep turning the pages until the end.


BUT, also like many we’ve reviewed it’s like the writer is so busy ‘writing’ they’ve forgotten the story they’re trying to tell.


I do this too, luckily I have my proofreaders there to keep me in line.


Who makes a good proofreader?


Proofreaders (also can be called beta readers) are people that you trust to tell you the problems with your story. They have to understand you are asking them to find errors not gloss over them.


I have two sets of proofreaders. All of them are writers.


I’ve chosen writers because they have a better handle on the craft of writing that the average reader. Fellow writers also seem to have a better understanding (in general) that I’m not asking for their approval.


I need them to find my errors so the editors, publishers, and readers don’t.


They expect the same from me, it’s not a one sided relationship


Added bonus:


As we critique each others work, we become better writers ourselves. There are common mistakes we all seem to make and it’s so much easier to see them in someone else’s writing.


What do proofreaders actually do?


My first set of proofreaders and I go through each chapter line by line looking for story inconsistencies, bad/passive wording, fact and logic flaws. These guys are out for blood. Their job is to look for anything close to a mistake. They’re brutal.


After I’ve gone through and made the adjustments from my first set of proofreaders. I send my complete manuscript out to a different set of readers. These are folks who have no idea what my story is about. They read it from start to finish, just like someone who has purchased my book. They are also brutal.


The last thing any writer wants is to be told, “I love your book, I wouldn’t change a thing” by their proofreaders. It means they haven’t done their job.


Good luck in your editing.



Proofreaders vs Editors

Just a little note to explain the difference between proofreaders and editors.


Proofreaders, are an your first step after you’ve polished your manuscript to the best of your ability. They see what you’ve actually written instead of what you intended to write.


A good proofreader with tell you where your story goes off track, slows down, goes too fast, skips important bits and get stuff wrong.


We highly recommend finding other authors to work with and proofreader each other’s stories. It might take some time to find authors who are a good fit but it’s worth the time and effort because their input is invaluable. There are also some really good paid critique services as well if you can’t find other authors to work with.


When your proofreader gives you their feedback, go back and fix the problems. Then re-polish your manuscript.


When you send your manuscript through to a publishing company, you’re dealing with editors.


No matter what size the publishing company, if an editor is going to reject your manuscript, they’ll do it within the first few pages.


Editors are part of the publishing business. They don’t have time to invest in correcting problematic writing. If they’re not captured by your story, or see basic errors that should have been caught by you or your proofreader, they’ll toss your manuscript without a 2nd thought.


Smaller companies like ourselves, try to help new authors, by giving some direction on how to improve their writing.


This doesn’t make us proofreaders.


At PBB, we offer a few general comments about the biggest issues we see and provide a few examples for clarity. If there were only those specific mistakes in your manuscript, you would be offered a contract.


There is an expectation that you, the author, take those examples and see how they apply to your entire novel.


If you’re having difficulty identifying trouble spots, get your proofreader to help. because after all, they see what you’ve actually written, not what you meant to write.


Good luck with your writing!



Writing retreat or writing conference

One of the things that a writer needs to do is develop their craft.


Simply writing more stories and stretching yourself to write new genres or working on the part of writing you find hardest will improve your skills. But, like most things in life, you can make bigger leaps if you work with others.


A conference is an organized series of talks or workshops. Some conferences incorporate writing time, but for the most part, you are there to learn skills, techniques, or career lessons from the pros. Shaw Guides is a great place to find writing workshops. It slices and dices the listing so you can easily find a workshop/conference when, where and for what skills you need.


Writing retreats are different, you will find some on Shaw Guides. but you can create your own. You can find a resort, or a B&B in some location – maybe where you’ve set your book – and go alone, or get some writer friends together, and set up specific writing tasks.


If you are trying to get started on a book, have a two day retreat on outlining or character building, or world building. If you are trying to get the first, second, five thousandth or last revision done, take a long weekend, get away from distractions. Then do it.


The benefit of taking a writing friend – not just friends who will want to golf or shop or whatever – is that you have someone to eat meals with who will understand if you are in the groove and don’t want to stop.


One conference I’ll shamelessly plug is the Canadian Authors’ Association CanWrite! 2010. June 2010 in Beautiful Victoria BC.


Happy Writing