Novel Word Count?

How long does a novel have to be? That has been widely debated and seems to change from time to time. The bottom limit has often been regarded as around 50,000 words but I just finished Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and was much surprised to find that it weighs in at only 46,118 words. I feel much better about the two novels I’ve drafted which came in at around 53,000 and 63,000 words. Onward and upward!

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Editing Mode

Every writer needs an extra cup, or two, of their preferred beverage when editing. Am I right? Well, here’s a little trick that I’ve recently found helpful.
 
I write either on paper or on a computer. If I write on paper, then I edit for the first time as I type my manuscript into the computer.
 
If I write on the computer, I may make one or two passes reading through the manuscript and editing on the computer. Then I print it.
 
I edit it on the paper copy and transfer the changes to computer document.
 
Now I’ve added a new method for finding my mistakes and taking stock of the landscape of the draft. I turn it into a .pdf file and load it to my Kindle, where I have a free .pdf file reader.
 
Something about reading on the Kindle, the way I might another book, helps me to catch even more mistakes and edit the overall plot and flow of the story. It’s almost as if I were reading someone else’s writing.
 
I might try a suggestion from author G.H. Monroe, and read it into a recorder so I can play it back for myself.
 
Pretty soon it’ll be the beta readers turn! Yay!
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The Publishing Finish Line

Well, I can see the finish line in sight. This has been an interesting process from start to finish and reminded me of the need for both patience and creativity in solutions. The book has been approved and will be available for purchase on Amazon in 3 to 5 days, I am told. 🙂
 
I’m not even sure when I first conceived of the idea of a book of poetry, to be honest. It was at least several months ago. Seemed an easy process – throw some poems together and make a cover in Publisher, right? Ha!
 
Picking which poems to include wasn’t so difficult. Editing them took much longer than I planned on. My beta readers were the best help. Then I realized the order of the poems mattered more than I had thought and had to fix that. Right up to Sunday night when a page break moved on me and put three blank pages in the pdf I was uploading to Createspace. *sigh*
 
This morning I went to approve my proof so it could be distributed and the computer at home would not turn on. The fan just ran and ran. 😦 Bad computer, very bad computer.
 
But we’re almost there. Soon I’ll be able to really start marketing the book and that will be a whole new adventure.
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Punctuation in Poetry

Punctuation in Poetry

Over the past few months I’ve ramped up my scrutiny and editing of my poetry, trying to get it ready for publication. I’ve learned a few new things about what I like in poetry and I’ve found I like playing with space and punctuation.

We’ve long debated capitalization and punctuation in my writer’s group. I’m of the mind that you punctuate and capitalize as you would any sentence, even though it is broken up by the end of a line.

Now, we know periods create a full stop so that’s a fairly long pause. Commas cause a shorter pause. I believe line breaks create a pause in our brain even if we continue reading. I learned recently that our brains treat written language as a physical terrain, so I liken that line break to stepping over something in your way. You may not be stopping but it slows you up just a little.

At one point I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t like those short dashes Word is putting in. I think I’d like all long dashes.Then I tried it and realized, “Oh, all long dashes is no good either.”  It was just too much. So I learned more about hyphens (-), En dashes (–) and Em dashes (—) than I thought possible but I also learned how to make them in Word.

And now, it ‘feels’ right, because I was able to use the right punctuation.

The Hardest Part of this Book

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The proof copy of A Sanctuary Built of Words: Poems of Peace, Grief and Passion has been ordered. I can’t wait to see it!

I thought that the hardest part of creating this book would be editing the poems. Writing them happened over twenty years, kind of at its own pace, and many of them were created to capture a moment in time or to exorcise an excess of emotion, so they often came quickly.

Editing was the next step and that happened over time as well. Re-reading a poem after a period of days or months can often allow the solution to rise to the surface.

Choosing the poems was not too difficult either; I have far more than 74 but that is what I chose to include so it was a matter of choosing my favorites. I did go back and replace two that I had originally chosen because one wasn’t in keeping with the tone of the book and I found I had something new that I liked better for another.

No, the most difficult part, for me, has been choosing the order of the poems. I realized at some point that the poems classified themselves into categories of peace, grief and passion with a strong thread of humor interwoven. Some poems covered more than one category but most fell strongly enough into one category to be classified there. It occurred to me to count up how many of which category I had and I found that it was roughly 40% Peace, 40% Grief, and 20% Passion. I determined to rotate through the themes in ordering the poems so as not to overwhelm the reader with the grief – peace, grief, peace, grief, passion.

I did the work and put them in order and  . . . it didn’t work. At all. It was too disjointed and helter-skelter. Back to the drawing board. This time I created a spreadsheet that labeled the poems with their main category of peace, grief or passion but then added the topics that they conveyed those themes through – motherhood, nature, relationships, et cetera.

As I looked at the spreadsheet and read the poems again, relationships seemed to emerge. This poem lead naturally into this one and these two were related in a way. I let the natural symbiosis take over and voilá! Order has been achieved. It isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than where I started.

Editing for Someone Else – Ideas or Just Mechanics?

It’s snowing beautifully here in Upstate New York and I’m looking forward to a cozy evening at home. Love to sit somewhere near a wood stove or fireplace with a hot drink and write in weather like this. Unfortunately, I’m at work right now.

This past week little writing has gone on, I’ve been editing for someone else.

Now, I have a wonderful and varied writer’s group. I’ve always enjoyed reading everything people bring in.  We’re all at different points on learning about the craft and most of us write very different things – children’s stories, young adult, chick lit, mysteries, and poetry. We’re a widespread group of people in age and backgrounds. We’re all quite reasonable and good discussions have been had some evenings.

What I am editing right now is something else entirely. My husband has a co-worker who wrote “a book” that he sent out to one publisher and it was rejected. He told my husband that it was short and asked if I would be willing to edit it for fifty dollars. It’s the end of the year and Christmas so I said, “of course!”

The problem I’m having is that it’s basically a religious tract aimed at no longer participating or minimally participating members of his own religion, his position being that if you are not a devout member of this particular Christian group, you are going to hell. His goal is to bring people back to his religion.

I was once a member of his particular brand of Christianity and left it for my own reasons so I have some fairly good knowledge of what he’s writing about. I could debate with him the accuracy of many points he makes, but I figure I’m not here to edit his ideas.

My plan is to simply stick to the punctuation, spelling and grammar plus warn on copyright, including the use of summarized or paraphrased works. Would I have taken this on if I had known the content? Not sure.

I’ve already talked to him about the fact that different versions of the bible are copyrighted. I found a pretty good primer on what you can and can’t use here, if anyone is interested. Yes, it’s a bible but people tend to think of it as THE BIBLE. Remember, it’s a compilation of books.  It has been added to and removed from over time and translated from the original, and not so original, many times over. Many of those versions are under copyright.

Another problem I’m running into is that I suspect a lot of his information is summarized or paraphrased from other sources.  Perhaps I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the difference between quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing is, and that they still have to be cited.  If you derived your information from another source, you need to cite it, whether you put the other author’s words in quotation marks, summarized the major points of a larger work in your own words or paraphrased a small portion of it by condensing only slightly and putting it in your own words.

Not sure I like this editing for other people thing.