It’s that time of year. The gourds are littering the front entrances to the market, cinnamon and allspice are being piped into the space at every shop in town, and your writer-ly friends are all heavily caffeinated, mumbling to themselves about word counts and singing the calendar song from grade school to see if November somehow sprang an extra day at the end of it.
Yes, this week will bring with it the consumption of succulent eats for all of us American writers (either meaty or veggie–all are welcome at the table). And it will also bring the home stretch of NaNoWriMo.
Many writers start out the month like a shiny new penny, with plot-line drawings and excel spreadsheets of word count / story arc intersection points. And then. . . well, you know. We oxidize.
I found myself swamped with grading and more grading for my courses, a deluge of wonderfully vibrant (albeit hectically scheduled) concerts for my children, and a scraped-up pinky finger from a dog-walking incident that left me slightly handicapped at the keyboard. You never realize how much you use ‘a’, ‘q’, and ‘z’ until you have to experience a shock of pain every time you try to get them up on the screen via the traditional “typist” pose you learned in high school typing lab.
But, I made it through and so did many other writers. Six more days, 7,000 more words, and an ending that allows me to go to bed at night thinking ‘That works’ before drifting off to sleep. Which is the best compliment our subconscious can give us, right?
If you are still in the beginning stages, or right there in the middle–keep going. Nov. 30 isn’t the end–it’s only the beginning.
I recently began a collaboration with a wonderful pro editor to look over my manuscript in hopes of improving it for submissions. Her feedback was incredibly helpful and, if you are in querying hell right now and not seeing results, I definitely encourage you to seek out the insight of a pro editor. There are so many talented editors who freelance through their own blogs or websites. If you are looking for a big pool of editors to pick from (who are all talented and already vetted), check out the list of editors who participated in PitchtoPub. So . . . much . . . talent!
So, what did my editor have to say about my manuscript? Lots of tweaks and fresh ideas for making it even better, but one that really hit me once I started editing was the dialogue. Oh my gosh, the dialogue. I’d written most of the conversation scenes like my characters were competing for some High School Speech & Debate trophy–nothing about them was natural. And then I hit my head to my desk wondering how I couldn’t have seen something so obvious, despite all of my wave of edits on my own? That’s why you need an editor.
There I was, totally recognizing that my dialogue needed work. Next step was figuring out how to fix it and, boy, that was an entirely different journey. I like to think I am a fairly competent conversationalist–at least my friends and family seem to enjoy talking with me and once or twice I’ve even been called witty (not Jane Austen-level wit–think more garden variety pun-making). But trying to translate that into my characters’ dialogue was evading me. How do you take something most of us do so naturally and write it out such that it advances the story, evolves and fleshes out our characters, and is also just entertaining on its own?
Luckily, there is a treasure trove of help in our boundless online writing community. A few suggestions to get started include: