All posts by swanstuff

Writer, small business wannabe, pundit, philosopher, often hopelessly confused, and blessed by a gracious God beyond all imagining (the views expressed by this blogger do not necessarily reflect the Supreme Being, but this blogger hopes he doesn't embarrass the Big Guy too much).

The Importance of Editing

Listening to several millionaire novelists on, each talk about shipping their manuscript off to the publisher-assigned editor. Each values their editor. These are the most successful writers in the world. And they need editors.

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That pencil should be RED!

So do you. And I REALLY need them…

There are three levels of editing.

  1. Story structure – Does your story work? Is it structured effectively? Does it fit the genre? Are the stakes high enough? Is it believable?

To facilitate this edit, create an outline of your story. This is the after-it’s-written outline, not the dreaded before-you-write outline. Bullet points only, not description. This can help you find holes, determine where your reversals and story beats are. I use Outline 4D by the Writer Brothers, which is a combination outline/timeline program. It can also be done on paper, especially if your story is linear.

  1. Story edit – This is different than the structure edit in that it examines the writing within the structure. Are all questions raised and answered? Do they happen in the right order? Is there fluff unnecessary or burdensome to the story? Is the writing solid? This edit will often uncover a writer’s story weaknesses. Typically, the Structure and Story edit can be done by one editor.
  2. Copyedit – This is the monster of all edits (OK, that’s my opinion; I’m good at the first two, poor at the third).

I’ve met a few people who can edit their own work. Most struggle with it. We tend to see what’s supposed to be there, rather than what IS there.

Professional Editors aren’t cheap. It takes a long time to read and re-read, make notes, and do a good job. But there are some less expensive ways.

If you are involved in a decent-sized community, such as a church or civic group, chances are you have friends who are good at editing. The problem is, you have to determine which edit they’re good at. I have a lot of friends who love to copyedit. Their red pen is their favorite possession. I’ve only got a few who are good at the first and second level edits.

You can get around that with fierce beta-readers. Fierce because they must tell you the truth. You will have to interview them and ask questions.

  • Who did you like and who didn’t you like? Why?
  • What motivated this character? Why did he/she feel the way the felt, react the way the did?
  • What didn’t make sense? What wasn’t believable?
  • If 1/3 had to be cut, what would they cut?
  • More specific questions about your plot and character development.
  • What did you think about the ending?
  • What parts were dull or dragged?
  • What felt too fast? Too slow?

Provide the beta-reader with the questions before they read but ask them to read as they would any book. You’ll want at least six beta-readers.

Make your revisions and hand it off to ONE copyeditor. Then make those revisions, and hand it off to another. Repeat several times.

Typos are like cockroaches. You’ll never get rid of all of them. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though.

Grammarly is a decent machine editor. The free version may hang up on an entire document, so break it into chapters. While I haven’t invested in the paid premium edition, I’ve heard good things.

Parting thought: You are not a bad writer for needing an editor. We get deep into our story and need fresh eyes. Don’t be embarrassed when an editor catches something. You’ve written a BOOK! That’s accomplishment enough. Editors help you make it better.



Write What You Know

This is wonderful writing advice. Write what you know.

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The Lion in the Mirror

It may not mean what you think it means, though. It doesn’t mean you have to write about your school, your job, your family. It doesn’t have to be set in your town or your time period. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have science-fiction, time travel, fantasy, historical fiction or alternative history. Heck, we wouldn’t have interesting stories.

What it means is use your own experiences, your own relationships, your own understanding of the universe as templates within your story. It’s the only way for your story to be “true.”

What would you do, or your sister do, or your friend, enemy, teacher, uncle, do in that situation? How would they react?

There is a dance to most relationships, and that dance can be applied to paper heroes. Imagine the dance between you and your spouse, or a prickly sibling. What if a captain and commander echoed those dances?

People of the past in historical settings may have conditions pressing on the dance, but by including the modified dance, it feels true to us (or will to you, and therefore to us, because you write with understanding).

So write what you know about human interaction, and for everything else research, research, research!

Fiction vs Non-Fiction

As a habit, I ask people if A) They are readers, and B) Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Invariably, of the readers (about 33% claim to be) children are fiction readers, women are predominately fiction with a dose of non-fiction, and most men are non-fiction.

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What should you write?

Yet, demographically, married men don’t buy the books, their wives do. The thought is that women buy their men non-fiction to improve their husbands. There is a shift around Christmas time where women buy the men fiction, typically thriller, suspense and shoot-em-ups. Fiction makes good stocking-stuffers?

At the same time, of those I speak to, the men are the buyers. Amazon has a larger sampling than I do, however, by about 50,000%.

Now let’s look at age of buyers. Young adults buy sporadically, and solidify the habit as they grow older. 30- to 40-year-olds are the gravy train; they’re up and comers looking for solid non-fiction and escapist fiction (as well as books for their children. Readers beget readers. My parents were voracious readers). 50- to 60-year-old readers drop off a bit, then retirees pick it back up. Many of these join book clubs, though as the more tech-savvy people age up, this is expected to shift back to online sales, and book clubs to fall by the wayside.

Another Amazon statistic is that the authors who sell the most books year-over-year are those who sell non-fiction, the biggest areas are finance, business and writing-as-a-business.  Writers, of course, are readers.

I have always been a fiction guy. From age 4 to now-55, I’ve read all genres. I’ve always struggled with non-fiction. I start strong and then put it down somewhere mid-book. I have read many all the way through, but not most.

All that to ask, what should you write?

My answer: What you want to write.

Every author wants to make money writing. For some it’s a way to keep track of how many are reading their book, and for others it’s so they can quit their day job and focus on writing. Or retire to a beach sipping margaritas.

There are two kinds of writers though: Those who love to write, and those who write to make a buck. Of course there is cross-over. If you love to write, though, write what you want. Trying to write toward trends, toward what’s selling now, is a good way to miss the wave. Write what you love and you may start the next trend.

If you write non-fiction, write non-fiction.

If you’re a novelist, write novels. BUT. Some advice I don’t give to non-fiction writers… Keep the idea of writing a non-fiction book in the back of your head. Perhaps your research for your novel can be spun into a non-fiction book. Be on the lookout for this.

I have. My next book is non-fiction, and I think it’s an important book. I think I’ll sell more of that book than my others combined. I also hope it will help sell my other books. The key to selling more books is writing more books.

What’s your thoughts on this? I’d love to know.



So This is Christmas…

See the source imageThere’s no snow here in Florida, but Christmas remains a magical time of the year. I have delicious memories of running downstairs to a room full of presents. Lots of socks and underwear, lots of candy, lots of toys of dubious quality, and books. My parents, readers themselves, knew of my love for the written word and always gave me some books for Christmas.

It’s a worthy tradition and I encourage each of you to adopt it. Might I humbly make some suggestions?

  • For grade school kids, Always Look for the Magic, by Bonnie Manning Anderson, or Do Angels Still Fall? by Robert Swanson.
  • For older teens, Me and the Maniac in Outer Space by Robert Swanson.
  • For the college-aged young adults, So Many Mountains… Which Ones to Climb by Aron Osborne (also good for every teen and adult of any age).
  • For the married couple, Cherishing Us by Tom and Debi Walter, and 7 Essentials to Grow Your Marriage by Steve and Cindy Wright.
  • All available on Amazon!

May you have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Aron Osborne Raising us to New Heights!

I first read So Many Mountains… Which Ones to Climb?  What Really Matters in Church Life a few months ago, straight out of Aron’s hands. Let me tell you what struck me about this book:

  • So many things Aron shared about his first steps in Christianity were like reading my own biography. There was an immediate kinship with the author.
  • Reading it is effortless. It’s like talking with Aron on the front porch of a beach house, lemonade in tall, cool glasses sweating in our hands.
  • An instant sense that this is the book all Christians should read. We’ve been getting slammed by unbelievers for far too many good reasons. Aron address those here, artfully throwing out the dirty bathwater while keeping the beautiful baby right where he belongs.
  • While it was an affirmation to my beliefs, I know it’s going to ruffle some legalistic feathers (that deserve to be ruffled!).
  • Weeks after I read it, whole chapters came to mind. “Ah, I’m living that chapter; ooops, I’m failing that chapter.”
  • I’m a better person and Christian for reading it.
  • You’re going to feel like you personally know Aron once you’ve read it.

This kind of book, like all our others, is why Prevail Press exists. This book, and all the others, deserve a place on your bookshelf.

Pick it up; you’ll be glad you did.