R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: editing

Characters Count: Keeping Them Consistent

Engaging characters can make or break any story. You could have the coolest setting in the world  and a mind-blowingly awesome plot full of ups and downs, thrilling twists, and a dramatic conclusion, but they would amount to a fat load of diddly (squat optional) if your readers don’t care about your characters.

Readers Notice Inconsistencies

I just finished going through the first round of content edits and revisions on The Exile’s Violin. One of the common threads that ran through the editorial notes centered on my characters and their…character (for lack of a better word). I’d written them behaving one way earlier in the book, but by the end they were reacting to things in ways that just weren’t them. I didn’t keep my characters’ character consistent. And if my editor noticed, you can bet your ass that readers would pick up on it too.

Novel writing

For example, my main character, Jacquie, comes across as a no-nonsense type of young woman, one that may have anger issues, in the opening chapters. However as I was reading later chapters, she was doing things that were completely out of character. Trying not to cry after a setback instead of getting angry. Feeling ashamed instead of not caring what other people thought–especially when she hadn’t done anything wrong. She didn’t have that spark that made her interesting in the beginning.

Avoiding Flat Characters

All the writing advice gurus talk about making sure your characters change and grow–avoid flat, two-dimensional characters! But there’s a difference between character growth and inconsistency. You better break out your red pen and do some rewriting when you see these kinds of mistakes.

Red pen

Having a character learn to care about other people rather than just themselves, that’s growth. When two characters develop romantic feelings for one another in an organic, unforced way, that’s growth. When a character hates eggs in chapter 2 but then spends the rest of the book only ordering omelettes, that’s an error. So when Jacquie starts crying all the time (seriously it was embarrassing how many times I’d put that in there), it looked like her behavior was coming out of left field. I rewrote those sections to have her keep her original attitude. As a result, her character stayed more consistent, but still retained room for growth.

You can turn inconsistencies into genuine growth though. Using that egg example: you could add reasons into the story, plot points, dialogue, etc. that shows why that character learns to love eggs to the point where they’re eating omelettes for every meal. That would be growth.

It’s all about how you present it to the reader. You can show them a character’s behavior in one instance and say, “This is fact. This is how my character acts.” That’s all fine and dandy. But if you then show the character acting differently in a similar situation and say, “This is fact. This is how my character acts” they’ll call BS. No author wants to have their readers call them out on something like that. It’s just plain embarassing.

Starting the Revisions Process

I just got the first round of comments and suggestions back for my debut steampunk novel, The Exile’s Violin. This is super exciting and scary at the same time. On the one hand, the initial feedback I got in the email with the manuscript notes was good. The word “riveting” might have been used in the first sentence. So yes, that’s always positive.

Still I haven’t opened the marked up manuscript file yet. I’m kind of scared to do it. I mean before I read the email, I was afraid that my editor was going to read my manuscript and think, “Bleh, why did the company agree to take this mess on? This isn’t worth publishing.”

I mean that didn’t happen. And besides, if an editor really thought something was that bad, then my manuscript probably wouldn’t have been good enough to get accepted and to this point anyway. So that fear is just irrational. I know.

So why haven’t I opened the file yet? I don’t think I have “Editor-Phobia” as outlined in a guest post by Muffy Morrigan on Christine Rose’s blog. I’m not afraid that my editor is going to completely cut my voice out of the story. No, I think the thing I’m worried about the most is that I have an irrational fear of my own writing.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice on recordings. And similarly, I don’t like rereading things I’ve already written and revised on my own. And finally, despite all the advice that says to do this, I also hate reading my stories out loud. For some reason just thinking about reading things I’ve already written makes me cringe. It’s something I have to get over. If I want to keep growing as a writer, I know I’m going to have to learn to look at my works with a more critical eye.

Well if there was ever a time to toughen up and just get to it, this is it. My book is an actual thing that is being published. It will be a product people can buy and read. But if it’s going to get to that point, I got to take this first step. Who knows, it might end up being fun, and undoubtedly it’s going to make The Exile’s Violin stronger.

You Got a Book Contract, Now What?

Last night it really hit me that the process for getting The Exile’s Violin published is far from over. Over and over in my head I kept hearing myself say, “You got that contract. Now what?” I have a feeling that I’m not alone and many first-time authors are asking themselves that same question. So really, now what?

As a writer your job doesn’t end once the ink’s dry on the contract. It’s not all hookers and blow (that can come later if that’s your thing). You still have a lot of work left to do.

Usually what comes first is a round (or two or five) of content edits. Content edits are when an editor reads your manuscript and looks for problems with character development, pacing, plot, structure, names, and continuity. Usually things like spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are overlooked at this stage.

For the most part, this is where all the heavy lifting is done with rewrites and revisions. An editor will make you realize you spelled something one way in chapter two and three different ways in subsequent chapters. They’ll help make your characters more rounded and interesting. A good content edit can help turn a good book into a great book.

Great now that the revisions are done, your job as an author is done, right? Guess again Lazy McLazyperson! (See, a good editor would make a note that that’s not a very good character name) Now it’s onto copy edits and line edits.

I may not know all the semantics between copy edits and line edits, but I know that this stage is all about the words themselves. Now your editors go over your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb. They look for spelling mistakes, grammar, sentence structure, and a whole host of other things you probably weren’t thinking about. I’m an author! I throw words on the page and it’s art! Yeah, not always. Sometimes what you think is a wonderful, poetic sentence is just a gurgling mess of adjectives and dangling participles.

Well now the book’s edited and ready to be printed. Time for hookers and blow? Nope! Unless you have a contract with one of the big six, chances are you’re going to have to do some–say it with me–marketing! You got blog tours to arrange, reviews to solicit, blog posts, interviews, press releases, and animal sacrifices to the Marketing Elder Gods to make. Plus you gotta get busy writing that sequel!

As an author you may think your job’s done once you write the book, but it’s really just begun. And that’s what kept me awake last night. But with the proper planning and hard work, this process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. (It can just be regular whelming) I need to remind myself of that. Then maybe figure out who actually celebrates with hookers and blow. That’s a thing big celebrities do, right?

Terraviathan is Born!

I did it! Last night I finished the first (very) rough draft of my new science fiction/steampunk novel Terraviathan. I spent almost all of yesterday writing the last two chapters. I only took two breaks: one to watch the end of the Arizona game and one after finishing the penultimate chapter. My brain was just too tired. I went upstairs to play some videogames, but my brain couldn’t handle Killzone 3, so I played Donkey Kong Country Returns instead.

Sidebar: DKCR is a joy. The controls are a little different from the SNES iterations of Donkey Kong, but it’s still a joy to play. Definitely helped me unwind and prepare for the last writing sprint of the night.

It’s almost like giving birth. Okay not really. I’ve never experienced, and never will (being a male) experience the process of childbirth. But maybe the comparison works. You spend all this time putting all your blood, sweat, and tears into the process and then all of a sudden it’s done. There’s your manuscript screaming and kicking on its own in the big wide world. Welcome baby Terraviathan into the world, weighing in at 112k. Now comes the process of actually raising it and making sure it grows up properly so I can send it off to college–I submit it places.

I plan on spending most of today going through the thing and cleaning it up a bit. First thing on my list: come up with names for people and places. I leave notes to myself in all my manuscripts and highlight things with certain colors. I need to go through and address all the little highlighted parts.

But the important thing is it’s done. Well that’s kind of a lie, but one I’ll gladly tell myself. The editing and revising process can be just as long and arduous as the writing process. I’ll be ready for it.

Project: Terraviathan

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Word count: 15,835 (since 3/24)

© 2018 R.S. Hunter

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑