Paul Welch

On Fantasy, Writing & the Journey to Publication

Tag Archives: editing

Guest Author Paul Welch: A Journey Through Massive Edits

Hi, friends!

Janice Hardy asked me to be a guest blogger on her website a while ago, and she just let me know that the blog went live today. I thought I’d share it here, as it chronicles a little bit about my journey through massive edits.

An interesting thing to note:

Despite reducing my novel from 198,000 words down to 142,000 words (at the time of the guest blog) and its subsequent reduction to 140,000, a literary agent just expressed interest in the premise of the story but would not request a read until it was 120,000 words, or, more preferably, 110,000 words. “140,000 words is far too long for a debut novel.”

So I am faced with an interesting dilemma. The NY literary agent mentioned in the blog is still reading my partial request, so I think I will wait until I hear from him before moving forward, but I am a strong believer in eliminating obstacles. I understand that my novel is long – but it isn’t without precedence.

I want to be published, so I supppose – if and when the time comes – I will just have to see whether the story can be reduced and simplified even further.

But enough of that – on to the blog!

Guest Author Paul Welch: A Journey Through Massive Edits in Ten Easy Steps.

“I’m excited about today’s post. A few months ago, Paul Welch wrote me to say thanks for some of my revision posts. He had a huge novel to cut down and my advice helped a lot (which totally made my day). We got to chatting and he told me his amazing story and what he did to turn a massive novel into something he could submit. I was so inspired by his tale, I asked him to guest post and share it with you guys.”

Read the rest of the article at Janice Hardy’s website.

Blog Mash-up

For today’s post, I wanted to share three articles from blogs that I think are pretty darned interesting. I’ve given you the headlines and a sample of the article, and I strongly hope you click through and give the rest of the article a read. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

I hope you enjoy them!

Paul

The Faceless Villain: What to do When Your Bad Guy Isn’t a Person

In a lot of stories (especially genre novels) the antagonist is a physical being that can be fought against. But what do you do when your antag is something to overcome, like depression, or a self-destructive streak? Technically, there’s nothing plotting against your protagonist for them to fight. It’s a personal situation or flaw holding them back. These stories are a little tougher to write. 

Read the rest of the article HERE on The Other Side of the Story.

How To Write – And Deliver – Killer Speeches
For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.
Six Ways to Beat The Blogging Blahs
We all go through times when we wake up in the morning, take one look at the clock, and pull the covers back over our heads wishing we could spend the day cocooned away from the world.We have those days (or weeks!) when it’s hard enough to force ourselves out of bed, much less make ourselves sit down in front of our laptops and try to come up with something witty and interesting to say on our blogs.
Did you come across any awesome blogs or articles this week that you’d love to share? Or perhaps you posted one on your own blog that you’re particularly proud of? Please share them in the comments below – I’d love to see what you’re reading.

Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset

Every now and then, I will be posting book reviews on my blog. I know this can be challenging, as we all have personal tastes. What rings true for me might be in complete opposition to your own experience. This is 100% okay, and I welcome differing opinions.

That being said, I hope to use these reviews as an opportunity to explore where novels did or did not succeed.  These are the lessons I took, and, with a little luck, they might be helpful in your own work.

The Girl in the Steel Corset, by Kady Cross.

This young adult novel is a steampunk adventure. It has received a lot of praise, sales, and even an award or two. It has a sexy cover, its title evokes the popularity of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and the premise is pretty neat. I was excited to give it a read.

From the back-cover blurb:

“When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch…

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help – and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But the Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on – even if it seems no one believes her.”

The novel is published by Harlequin Teen, and I will acknowledge that I am not the target demographic. That’s okay. Good stories can have universal appeal, but sometimes they target a specific group of people. That being said, we should be able to appreciate aspects of the story – characters, plot, atmosphere – regardless of the genre.

A cursory scan of the reviews on-line suggested that a number of readers have thoroughly enjoyed this book, so I acknowledge I may be in the minority in my opinion. But the story didn’t sit as well with me. I’d like to explore the reasons why as an opportunity to learn.

I struggled with the plot. I felt like I was never given a real sense of the antagonist. Right from the get-go, we’re given the impression that perhaps it’s one guy. But after a single scene, he is all but forgotten. We’re given a hint that this other fellow named The Machinist might be the antagonist, but he seems so much on the periphery that it is hard to believe he’s truly important to the story. At the half-way point of the book, I was still at a loss for a clear antagonist, and that’s problematic.

The lesson: It is important to establish the stakes of the antagonist as early as possible. We need someone to be worried about – someone that will pose a threat to the survival and well-being of the protagonists, the characters we’re going to root for. If the protagonists aren’t in jeopardy, how can we become thoroughly invested in the story?

Some novels manage to accomplish a subtle antagonist – someone who doesn’t clearly jump out as “the bad guy.” And please note, an antagonist doesn’t need to be “the bad guy.” They simply need to provide the conflict – the challenge – to the success of the protagonist. And without strong, clear conflict, it becomes difficult to invest.

The story had multiple points-of-view. I found this problematic. The story starts off by introducing us to the protagonist, Finley. But after one scene, we jump into another point of view. And then another. I never really got a true enough sense of the characters to care about them long enough to give their perspective up, and this proved problematic.

The lesson: If we’re going to use multiple point-of-views, it is worth-while to ensure the reader develops an attachment to the character – roots for them, wants them to succeed – before we dive into another. Multiple points-of-view can succeed and be highly effective, but I think it occurs in situations where we’re truly invested in the heart and soul – the ambitions, challenges, and humanity – of the character.

The editing posed a problem. It may be a matter of personal taste, but I felt this book could have used a little more massaging. Several scenes felt clunky. There were run-on-sentences – which I acknowledge can be used to drive tension, to up the ante, as it were – but unfortunately it often came across as grammatically flawed. There were also instances where a simple re-ordering of sentences would have done WONDERS for the scene… and other instances where sentences could have been cut to help drive the story – the action, the plot – forward.

The lesson: Be diligent. Challenge sentences every step of the way. Does it further the story? Does it add to the atmosphere? How about the pace? Editing can be tedious, but 99% of the time it’s what makes your story sing. Janice Hardy has numerous excellent articles on editing, and if you choose to invest the time, it will take your novel to the next level. I highly recommend her blog.

The Girl in the Steel Corset was a fairly easy read. It didn’t bore me to tears, and I managed to move through it fairly quickly. I’d actually love to see the film version of this book, and I hope that we’re given the opportunity. For the book, however, I simply felt that with a few little tweaks, it could have gone from an acceptable story to an incredible story.

I encourage you to see for yourself.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with any of my observations? Please share your opinions in the comments below – I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Worth a Look: Rebecca Berto & Larry Brooks

Today, I want to introduce you to a woman named Rebecca Berto. She is a young writer and editor living in Australia, and she hosts a blog called Novel Girl where she offers up clear advice on writing, a smattering of comprehensive book reviews and author interviews.

And what’s more, she’s done a ton of work on amassing valuable tools that I have certainly found useful in developing my craft.

In particular, she highlights the skills she learned from Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering. Larry’s book is definitely on my wishlist, as it sounds like it’s loaded with incredible tools and resources.

As I approach my own craft of writing, Larry’s site Storyfix and Rebecca’s blog have been very educational, and I recommend them both.

Story structure is one of those elusive things that a lot of novice writers don’t think about – and judging from a couple of disappointing published short stories and a 500-page YA novel I’ve read recently, it might be something a few published authors don’t think about, either. Most, however, do – and it becomes quickly apparent as to why.

We’re given a very brief overview of it in high school, and then it quickly drops to the back-burner, never to be thought of again. I will admit that when I wrote my first novel, structure was the last thing to pop into my mind. But I guarantee you that through the editing process, it resurfaced and I paid special attention to the various elements that make for good structure in a story. The fixes were sometimes a challenge, but definitely worth-while.

The following three links are from Rebecca’s site, highlighting her understanding of Larry’s technique.

The Best Advice I’ve Learned on Story Structure: Part 1 – Setup

The Best Advice I’ve Learned on Story Structure: Part 2 – Plot Point 1

The Best Advice I’ve Learned on Story Structure: Part 3 – Midpoint & Second / Third Plot Points

What are your favorite sites for writing technique? Are there any books on the craft of writing that you view as your proverbial “bible”? Please share them in the comments below – I’d love to take a peek at them.

Jumping the Gun – 3 Tips for New Writers

One of the biggest mistakes we make as new authors is jumping the gun and querying agents before the manuscript is ready. I wish I wasn’t guilty of this crime. I started querying agents back in September, and my manuscript has since gone through many additional revisions – including a dramatic 30% reduction in word count. I have no regrets, though, for I’ve learned many valuable lessons along the way.

Sometimes, It’s Okay To Be Ignorant

When I first started querying agents, I hadn’t spent enough time learning about how the querying process worked, what a query looked like, and what agents were looking for and why. The result? A 650-word rambling query letter that likely got automated rejections after the first sentence. Despite my blunder, it somehow caught an agent’s eye, and he offered up some wonderful advice and it’s dramatically improved my manuscript. I am incredibly grateful for that.

Some advice:  Do your research. There are incredible resources out there, like Query Shark, The Other Side of the Story, and others where query letters are examined, critiqued, taken a part and put back together again. Take advantage of these resources, apply what you learn, revise, and revisit. Share with friends. Get feedback. Ask for input. Agents are swamped with 100-300 queries per day. They want you to succeed, but it’s up to you to present yourself in the best possible light.

Three versions and 20 revisions later and I think I’ve finally thrown together a decent query letter.

We All Need Space

I am always amazed at the difference a day makes. What you miss on Tuesday, you might catch on Wednesday. It’s important to let your brain rest so you can approach your work with a fresh set of eyes. Even after you’ve read your manuscript 10 times, and have shared it with 3 beta readers, mistakes still pop up.

Some advice: Shelve the project and work on something else. Give it at least two weeks before you crack open the page again. Other tips I’ve found useful are to change the line spacing and font. It’ll trick your brain and you’ll see your work in a new light. Plus, a hard-copy edit is crucial. Our brains are lazy (efficient?) and they’ll fill in the gaps. When we force them to view things in a different way, we catch mistakes we (and others) missed. Apply this technique to your query letter as well as your manuscript.

Publishing Isn’t Going Anywhere

There is no expiration date on our talent, nor is the publishing industry going anywhere. It’s changing, sure, but the world is always going to need good stories. If you want to be published – whether traditional, self, or digitally – know that your reputation and longevity will only benefit from putting forth a quality product.

Some advice: Don’t rush it. Breathe, relax, and take the time the book needs. If it takes 3 more months, it takes 3 more months. And when you think it’s done, give it one more read. Does the story sing? Are there any parts you still doubt? Trust your intuition. Chances are, your intuition is right. Don’t ever assume your gut feelings about potential problems won’t be shared by others. In my experience, it’s the first thing they’ll bring up.

Have you ever jumped the gun and submitted before your work was ready? What lessons did you learn, and how have they changed the way you approach your work and the submission process? Do you have any lessons that you’d like to share?

Welcome!

Welcome, friends.

I have decided to step up to the plate and join the blogosphere!

The plan? To share articles, information, tips, and tricks about the crafts of writing and editing.  Along the way, you might find some observations about the publishing industry during my journey toward publication. I hope you enjoy the ride!

My passion is FANTASY, although I quite enjoy historical fiction, crime thrillers, and literary fiction. At the end of the day, though, I love a good story, no matter the form or medium. As an actor and playwright, storytelling is what I do for a living. I am incredibly ambitious, curious, and motivated to become the best storyteller I can possibly be, and this exploration is just another step down that road.

This is an exciting opportunity to connect with fellow authors, readers, and enthusiasts, and I invite you to participate in the discussion.

Cheers,

Paul