An Author Wears Many Hats
I notice how many different hats I wear when I write my novels. Most of the time, I simply build the story A through Z without care as to the many aspects necessary to produce a quality book. But, as soon as the editing process begins, I have to shift my focus as well as my attention to varying viewpoints. For example, I must ensure that the story remains logical with regard to time. I can’t have a scene beginning in the morning and ending at night unless I have taken pains to explain that in the storyline. I know what I meant to write, but does the reader – a question I ask myself during every scene. Also, I must be cognizant of when the story is taking place from minute, hour, day, month and season. Once the storyline is consistent and logical I can move on.
I always have one or two people read for me whom I can count on to provide additional direction. This is extremely helpful, but finding those individuals who know how I write and can provide what I need is not always easy. My wife, Judy, is my right arm in this regard. Once the story is logical from front to back, it’s time to change hats and edit from the reader’s point of view, and I am always concerned whether the story is interesting. If the story isn’t interesting, it’s time to start over, as most people, including me, don’t like to waste time reading something that’s non-entertaining, uninspiring or boring. I like to create tension and drama in the opening chapter and bait the reader at each chapter’s close with something that makes her/him want to continue reading to the climax of the story.
Chapter design is an art in itself and lately I have become quite fond of short chapters (3 – 4 pages) which allow the reader to break more frequently. I notice that lengthy chapters usually wear me out which might cause me to lose interest as I am a horribly impatient reader. Along these lines, I try not to place what I call road blocks in the reader’s path, including superfluous sub plots, characters, etc., and words the reader, most likely, will have to go to the dictionary to understand. Something else I refuse to do is overburden the reader with too much setting. I live in the Bluegrass of Kentucky, arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth and the backdrop setting for most of the Kentucky Chronicles, but I don’t overdue setting description as I feel it can erode the storyline which may lose a reader. I never want to lose my readers.
Spelling errors are an author’s nemesis, and regardless how confident you are in the artist who designs your artwork, always triple check every aspect of the cover’s text – never take this step for granted, the author is where the buck stops. I use two word processors when writing, Microsoft Word and Adobe Framemaker. Even with the dual approach, properly spelled words used improperly still find their way onto the pages of every story – it’s just a fact with which we all must live. Catching these words, like the when you meant then, is extremely hard. One method is to read the chapters last to first so that you don’t get caught up in the storyline.
Sometimes I read each chapter out loud which is always helpful as it changes my focus enough to provide a slightly different view. Whenever I can, I always allow two or three people to read my final edit before it goes to a professional editor. This is, of course, after I’ve read the book at least a dozen times. I’ve learned the hard way not to skip the most important step – hiring a professional editor. Do yourself a big favor, and don’t try to cut corners by eliminating a professional editor. This person can make or break a solid piece of work.
I have developed a checklist of procedures I follow just before the book goes to print. This usually involves making sure that all pairs of quotes are in place both in front and back of the quoted text. I want all character’s thoughts italicized, and the headings, fonts, footings, and page counts accurate. If I include text that calls for special characterization like bolding, indented or centering I ensure those are all accurately in place. I don’t include a table of contents in my work, so I’m not worried about that, but I have designed a template for my title, copyright and dedication pages.
Story writing is, indeed, a gift not everyone shares, but, if you ask me, editing is every bit as important as the ability to write a good story. Good luck and keep writing.
I just found out that my second novel in the Kentucky Chronicles series, Bluegrass Betrayal, is a finalist in the USA “Best Books 2011” awards. This is the fourth award this story has won. Please visit my website for all the details and to read about my work. This is where you can order printed books which I personalize, sign, and can deliver anywhere in the world. http://www.robertmonahan.net.
Also, if you would like an E-reader version of any of my work, please visit me at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RobertMonahan/.
Here are a few of my favorite authors. Do yourself a favor and check them out.