Some books just stay with you. They haunt you. You dream of the characters, and of what would be if it just ended differently. Sometimes the closing lines just make sense, and sometimes they hint of a path not taken. Some give us closure, some are cliffhangers, yet they make me want to read the book again, and again. How about you?
Here are a few of mine.
by Mary Shelley
“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”
Lord of the Flies
by William Golding
“He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.”
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”
by George Orwell
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden
“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”
In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote
“Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky – seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Hippos Go Berserk
by Sandra Boynton
One hippo, alone once more, misses the other 44.
What’s your favorite last line?
I just finished editing the second novel in the Bayou Talents series for Edward Branley, Trusted Talents. As I am wont to do after finishing edits, I take stock on how I can help my clients streamline the process and make it smoother.
Trusted Talents has so *many* characters, I decided to try to create a spreadsheet to keep track of who they are, how they fit in the story, their quirks, their nicknames, and any other details that I think would be important, especially NAME CHANGES in the middle of the story.
Well, that got me down a rabbit hole pulling my hair out and drinking lots of coffee late at night (does no good for me when my HS Sophomore needs to be at zero period at 6:45 am and I get up at 5:15 am). I am not an Excel expert by any means, I can do basic sum functions and that’s about it. So, cut to the next morning when I was more awake and able to focus. I used my Google-fu powers and found a few different Excel spreadsheets that did what I was looking for already and all I had to do was test them out and see if it worked well for me.
The one I wound up liking and using is from Iulian Ionescu of Fantasy Scroll’s “Master Outlining and Tracking Tool for Novels (MOTT) “.
I started with the tab labeled ‘Character List’ and page one of the Trusted Talents novel from Edward. I input all the characters and the formulas that are built into the pages (Remember that I am NO Excel expert) was a lovely touch to make the spreadsheet fill out faster.
Screenshot of Character List Tab
A couple things that I really liked was when I sorted by first name, you could see that there are way too many names starting with a certain letter, and how many characters have names that are similar (Davey, David).
I sent what I had worked on to Edward, to see what he thought, and he realized that Brooks Stirling Sumner (Silver)’s grandfather had two names in the novel. Remember up there when I said NAME CHANGES in the middle of the book? He was listed as both Robert Duncan Sumner and Grantland Sumner.
Now, I think of myself as being very attuned to that, but I admit even I missed that name change. This set-up made it easier to fix and find the mistake with a global search and replace function in the master document.
I have started on Edward’s newest novel, Dragon’s Defiance (Book 3 in the Blood-Bound Series) and from first read, had a new spreadsheet set up to start on page 1. What a difference this will make in my editing, and my clients writings. I highly recommend this.
I’ve only used the Character List tab at this time, but I can see how much more you could do with this spreadsheet – from the Character Genealogy Tab (one of my other passions on the side), to the Word Count Tracker (great for authors trying to hit a certain word count per day or per week to finish their novel), and the Scene List.
Word Count Tracker courtesy of Iulian Ionescu
In the updated Version 2.0, which I just downloaded, there is the Cards Tab (sort of my old way of writing papers in high school and college with index cards delineating all the scenes/main ideas.) This one is automated, so if you use the Scene List, it pulls the information from that.
The Chapters Tab in Version 2.0 will give you a visual graph of how word count length and number of scenes per chapter.
Chapter Words and Scene Count courtesy of Iulian Ionescu
I’m a firm believer if you have various tools and processes in place, it helps you focus on what you need to do, which is write! (Or in my case, EDIT!) Don’t be afraid to use tools that are already out there to make your process easier. One does not have to reinvent the wheel. You can tweak something that is created to match what you need.
Until next time… Don’t fear the red pen!
Make sure you know what kind of edit you are asking for.
There are differences between a developmental edit (also known as substantive editing or structural editing): “the big picture” feedback on structure, style, pacing, and voice.
“The strongest part/s of the book is when …”
“The weakest part of the book is when…”
“Try to change the opening to highlight …”
are all things your editor will comment on when doing a developmental edit.
And line editing (or paragraph level editing) – recasting sentences for clarity and flow. You may see suggestions and comments from your editor on how to fix the following:
“You use too many adjectives…”
“This wording doesn’t fit your intended audience…”
“Change the length of your sentences so they are not all the same length…”
Why vary the length of your sentences?
The reader will not get bored that way. Short sentences make your manuscript seem childish and/or choppy, and bland. Long sentences are hard to read in a row. Listen out loud to your sentences, use your computer for this, or read it out loud, to hear the rhythm in your sentences. See where you can combine your shorter sentences into a medium length one, and cut down the descriptiveness in your long sentences by eliminating passive voice (is, was, were, has), and eliminate repetition. Get to the point.
Also, be sure to pick an editor that is strong in your genre. A developmental edit for non-fiction is different than fiction, or science fiction.
Prepare yourself for feedback, criticism, and direction.
I know how it would be easy to let your mom, or your aunt, your coworker, or your best friend read your manuscript and make suggestions, and think “hey, so if they can do that, why hire an editor? They have my best interest at heart.” Yes, they do, I don’t want to take away from your friends, families, and co-workers. However, sometimes those close friends and family members won’t tell you what you need to hear, in fear of hurting your feelings, or won’t look as deeply at your manuscript to find the things that aren’t working, such as tenses and change of hair color of your main character. Don’t misunderstand me, your family and friends play an important part of your support structure. But hiring an “outsider” is the best thing you could do.
Once you release your darlings into the world, a second pair of eyes sees it from a different perspective. A fresh one. Don’t be upset when your favorite part of your book comes back all “red-penned” to death. It’s my job to give you a point of view you may not consider, ie: head hopping in your characters. Try to picture your main character with a video camera on his / her forehead, and only pointing in one direction. That’s all your character sees. Not behind the door, down the block, or what’s not in their range of vision or hearing. IF you need to change perspectives, pass the camera.
Speaking of head-hopping, check out my latest blog post on Dara Rochlin Book Doctor: “Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story.“ Point of view is part of head-hopping, because it’s putting on the blinders and seeing what is going on just from the character that colors the story. Consider this as you write your characters.
It’s your choice to take the advice or not that I give you, but be willing to consider the changes offered. Feel free to agree there’s a problem, but not how the editor suggests to fix it. Talk it over with me. Brainstorm with me. We may come up with a better solution.
Don’t be afraid to tell your editor what you want your book to accomplish.
“What do you want the reader to take away from this?” is a question I ask all my clients. What do you want your reader to feel when they turn the last page. If you tell me what you want, I can help craft your manuscript with the right emotion, turn of phrase, and details that will guide you to that end.
Happy 2018 everyone! New Year, new material to help you write that manuscript that is in your drawer. Take it out, dust it off, and let’s get started on Point of View. This article, “Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story” is cross posted from my blog over on Dara Rochlin Book Doctor.
Point of View
The Narrator’s personality and perspective helps shape the reader’s perspective, and how the story unfolds. The reader sees what the character experiences from their point of view (POV).
Why Point of View?
POV helps us understand motives, desires, and empathize with characters and what they are going through. Ursula Le Guin, in Steering the Craft says, “The technical term for describing who is telling the story and what their relation to the story is” (page 83).
First Person POV
Use of “I”, or, in plural first person, “we”. This is used in both autobiographical writing and narration
Examples: Charles Dickens’ character introduction in the opening of the chapter “I Am Born” in David Copperfield (1850).
‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night’ (page 1).
Second Person POV
Use of word “you”. Sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’. When I think of this, which is a very uncommon type of POV that we see, since it’s hard to write and keep consistent. Why do I say it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ type? Because the reader imagines themselves performing each action. One of my favorite books that showcases second person POV is Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler.
‘Now you are on the bus, standing in the crowd, hanging from a strap by your arm, and you begin undoing the package with your free hand, making movements something like a monkey, a monkey who wants to peel a banana and at the same time cling to the bough.’ (page 7).
Editor’s Note: For an interesting Study in Second Person and Calvino, check out DarWrites.
Third Person POV
Use of words he, she, it, they. In today’s world, don’t forget about gender-neutral pronouns as well. Third person POV can stay in one character’s head, or move freely between characters.
Only see what’s happening through the character that is narrating, very narrow, and only colored through what our character thinks/ feels / believes about the characters and events around him/her.
“Non-involved narrator”. Narrator sees all and knows all, including the character’s private thoughts and feelings. Ursula Le Guin, in Steering the Craft’s chapter “Point of View and Voice” says, “the narrator knows the whole story, tells it because it is important, and is profoundly involved with all the characters.”
If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! Here’s an extra grammar maven tip that comes from my very good friend and fellow grammarian, Melissa Case about Reflexive Pronouns Me, Myself & I: How and How NOT to Use Reflexive Pronouns on Medium.
FEATURED IMAGE COURTESY OF GRAMMARLY
Writing research for your manuscript is nothing like you remember having to do in school, when the teacher or professor assigned you a topic you weren’t interested in, or you just picked it to be near the girl or boy you had a crush on. For your manuscript, you get to control all the aspects of the story from scratch, but be sure that your research is spot on.
Readers are smart, they know when you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and send them down the misdirection path. Become an expert. Tell all your friends, family, and even strangers in the grocery store line all your useless knowledge you are picking up in the process. You want to be able to discuss with your readers that you meet all the little details, and enthrall them with the stories of how you went in that direction.
Today with the advent of the Internet and social media, it is easier to get information that is further away from your location, in the far nether-regions of the world. [If you can find it, so can your reader base!] From the comfort of your couch, your local watering hole, coffee shop, or public library, you can find anything you are wondering about. No more waiting weeks for the InterLibrary Loan to arrive to find out it wasn’t the right one; sifting through card catalogs (what’s that?- see below), and microfiche and microfilm for hours, days, or weeks. Carrying a hundred books home to find the one line you think you need, only to return 99 of them the next day. If you were lucky, the librarian took a liking to you, and put stuff on the side if you told her what you were looking for.
Card Catalog Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Magazine
Devil is in the Details
Be careful in how and where you sprinkle the details throughout your manuscript since you don’t want it to read like a textbook; more like “the reader can visualize what is in your head”. Keep them remembering where things were in the story, don’t overload them with every tidbit you know on the subject on one page. Call back to the earlier times in the timeline and in the story in various parts of the book. A little detail can go a long way in completing your manuscript.
Think about all the little details, yes.. sweat the small stuff. Food blogs, architectural drawings, what clothes people were wearing, even what was happening in the news at the time, can affect your ability to make sure your reader is totally enmeshed in your novel / manuscript. You want it to be seamless.
Make sure your research is in the right time period, including cars, ships, horse & buggies, trolleys … you don’t want to say the first car started driving down the street in 1850, when the first car, the Benz Patent Motor Car, didn’t hit the street until New Year’s Eve 1879.
No question is too silly or wrong. If you have an interest in it, it is a spark that you can use to bring knowledge to someone else who has the same question.
Oh, and most important: Have fun! If you are not enjoying the process, then it will show in your writing. Let the writing research take you down various rabbit holes… be sure you have a ladder to get out though!
Come up for air – stay with us and Edward and I will discuss various ways to find what you are looking for, in the most unlikely places.