Closing Remarks (Josiah)

Well, it is with very mixed feelings today that I write my last post for the Worldpen blog.  It has certainly been a great just-over-three years that the blog has been going, and I will miss the end of my Saturday routine of putting up a new post for you guys every week and getting your feedback on it.  Nevertheless, unfortunately, everything must eventually come to an end, and so the authors of Worldpen (myself and Brevin) believe that at this point that end has come for the Worldpen blog.

In order to answer all the remaining questions or thoughts you guys might have, I’m putting the rest of this post in Q+A format.  Of course, if you have any other questions that I neglect to answer, please feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer all of them.  I believe that Brevin will be doing his own closing remarks post, so be sure to look for his as well in case you have any specific questions for him.

Why Is This Blog Ending?

All three of us (Brevin, Joshua, and myself) have fairly busy schedules and have gradually been unable to regularly post like we once were able to.  I’ve been able to continue posting fairly-regularly for the past two years along with college, but there are always time-concerns that have made it difficult for me to do so.  And from talking with Brevin and Joshua, I know that there are similar struggles there as well.  For the past two years, I’ve been serving as an Editor for Kingdom Pen and balancing my responsibilities there along with my blogging here has been difficult to do, particularly since the beginning of this year when we began to post weekly content on the Kingdom Pen website again.  Long story short, I’ve realized that I need to set priorities with my focuses in life and have decided to devote more time to Kingdom Pen, which by necessity means that my regular blogging at Worldpen will have to end.

So Are You Done Writing Posts on Writing?

For the past couple years, I’ve written articles on an infrequent basis for Kingdom Pen.  With the end of my time here at Worldpen, I plan on writing articles there on a much more frequent basis.  My articles on Kingdom Pen tend to run significantly longer than my posts here (my posts here tend to be 500-750 words; my articles there tend to be 1,000-1,500 words).  As a result, I won’t be writing articles there on a weekly basis, but plan on putting out three articles every two months, or about one every three weeks.  To follow my articles, you can find the feed of my posts on Kingdom Pen here, and can, of course, subscribe to Kingdom Pen to get notifications when my articles come out as well as other articles by the other editors of Kingdom Pen as well as our subscribers, the majority of which I’ve approved and edited before publication.

What Will Happen to This Blog?

For the foreseeable future, this blog will be left up so that you can peruse the archives at your initiative.  Eventually, since we’ll no longer be paying for the site name, the web address will change back to worldpen.wordpress.net, but none of us have any plans to take the website down.

What Will Happen to the Videos?

I’ll be continuing to create videos, but the videos will now be hosted by the Kingdom Pen Youtube channel, instead of the Worldpen channel.  I’m planning on upgrading my equipment  and video-editing software to be able to produce higher-quality videos, so it will take a bit before I begin producing videos again, but starting in July or August, I’ll be uploading videos there on the first of every month, so subscribe to the channel now if you want to see them when they come out.

Concluding Remarks

It may be kind of cliche to say it at the closing post of a blog, but I’m going to say it anyways because of how true it is.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been reading the blog, whether it be for the full three years, or some intermediate point of time between then and now.  Also, shout-out to Brevin and Joshua for being great co-bloggers, and also to Jacob for contributing the great logos and Worldpen images for the blog.

Looking back at some of my original posts, I knew so much less back then–both about how to blog and about writing itself!  And so it’s really been awesome to have an audience reading my posts over the past several years.  I’ve learned a lot myself just in the process of writing these posts; and I’ve been very thankful for everyone who has read, liked, or commented on any one of these posts.  All of us here have enjoyed our time blogging at Worldpen.  And while it’s time for us to re-focus and move onto other things, I’ve been grateful for the time I’ve been able to blog here for you guys and will look back at this time with fondness.

If you have any remaining thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to answer any remaining questions that you might have.

And with that, adios!

Editing Your Novel Part Four: The Importance of Beta Readers

New to the series?  Check out our introduction post here, or our last post, on what to do when you can’t find any flaws in your book here!

Beta-readers can be one of the most valuable stages of the revision phase that you can go through as a writer.  Which is why it’s important to make sure that it’s done right.

reading-a-bookFor those who perhaps don’t know what a beta-reader is, a beta-reader is someone who reads a story for the purpose of giving critique and suggestions before the book is published, or even queried for a publisher.  Basically, it’s someone who reads your book and gives you feedback on it.

Where exactly you find a good beta-reader can be tricky.  With some exceptions, you generally don’t want to choose a close family member or friend to serve as a beta reader; often, the relationship you have with them will make it difficult for them to provide an honest critique since often they want your book to succeed nearly as much as you do.  So if you’re going to want to find reviewers who are going to look at your book objectively and be able to give really hard critique as well when needed, you’re going to want to look at acquaintances whom you are not as close with, or even people you haven’t met before.  For those who may be trying to find a good beta reader, there are several places on the internet where would-be beta-readers try to congregate, so some quick research will show you where you might be able to find some.

So why exactly do you need beta-readers in the first place, though?  I briefly discussed this some in my last post, but essentially, there are some things that new eyes will catch that your own eyes, going over the book dozens of times, just won’t catch.  Internal editing and validation can only go so far; you need to see if your book is enjoyable to readers as well as being personally enjoyable.  Sometimes when I’ve sent my book out to beta-readers, I’ve received comments that I somewhat expected on possible weaknesses of my novel, but sometimes I received surprising, but, in retrospect, very true criticisms as well.  You need a means of external valuation as a writer; and this is an excellent way to do that.

Of course, not every criticism given by a beta reader will be true.  Assuming you’ve already gone out and had beta readers read your book and give you their feedback, you’re going to need to wade through their feedback and figure out which of their feedback is worth keeping.  Because, honestly, not all of it is true.  Sometimes, beta readers will disagree on a subject, and sometimes beta readers will quite simply be wrong on subject.  You know, we’re all humans.  Then again, if the majority of your beta-readers are saying one thing, even if you personally disagree with them, there that might be a good sign that you may need to rethink that issue rather than the other way around.

Beta-readers are important.  And so, when you can get them, jump at the opportunity.  It isn’t always easy to hear that our writing might not be quite as good as we think it is, or can actually be really bad at times.  But it’s how we grow as writers.  And so it’s an important step of the editing process.

What have been your experiences with beta-readers?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Editing Your Novel Part Three: Is My Novel Flawless?

New to the series?  Check out the introduction post to the series here!

Perhaps you’re not asking the question quite like that.  But sometimes in the process of editing your novel, it can be the question that you’re wondering.  Last time we talked about what to do if you think your novel is trash and has little redeeming qualities.  But, of course, you can also have the opposite problem as well: the problem of finding little in your book that seems to need change, even when you are sure changes need to happen.

downloadMost of you probably don’t need to be convinced that there are errors in your novel and things that need to be improved by editing.  However, that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily any easier to see what those mistakes are in your writing.  Given that, then, here are three different methods that you can use during the editing process to figure out where the problems are in your writing.

1. Find Beta-Readers

Sometimes, fresh eyes are needed that are not your own.  And so getting other people to read your work and give you feedback is simply invaluable.  I’m planning on writing an entire post about beta-readers later on in the series, so I won’t expound much on this point here.  But suffice to say, beta-readers will often show you where plot points or descriptions are unclear, and what glaring mistakes you may have missed due to your familiarity with the text.

2. Read Advice from Professionals

Buy a book–or, better yet–multiple books on writing by different well-known and established authors, read them, and learn from their advice.  Then take what they’ve said and apply it to your novel.  Honestly, even outside of just editing in general, as writers we need to be learning from those who are the best in the craft and applying their advice to our own stories.  And so, if you aren’t sure what problems there might be in your book, pick up one of these books and it will probably become clear pretty fast what areas you could work on.  Yes, books cost money, and yes, writers generally aren’t known for having lots of that.  But it’s an investment well worth making.  Besides the which, libraries are plentiful nowadays, and often have some books on the topic.  If you’re looking for some specific recommendations, we did a video about this a year ago that you can check out as well.  

3. Read and Imitate

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ll often enjoy taking a popular book or movie and analyze different elements that made the story work well, and how we as writers can apply these elements to your own work.  Sometimes, the best way to see what you need to do with your book is to pick up another book that you really enjoy, read through parts of it, and see what elements that book may have that your book is missing.  I’m not arguing for plagiarizing.  But we do need to learn from the masters of the craft.  And reading their own fictional works is one excellent way of doing this.

And so, there are three different ways of finding additional flaws in your novel.  While reading other works may not always give suggestions specific to your book, I’ve always found them helpful.  And when you can find beta-readers, they can be invaluable.  Finding the flaws of your own novel can be really difficult.  But when you know what to look for, and what a well-done work of fiction looks like, it can become a lot easier.

Do you have any additional suggestions for ways to find possible flaws in your novel?  Let us know in the comments!

Next Post In the Series: The Importance of Beta-Readers

Editing Your Novel Part Two: Is My Book Trash?

New to the series?  Check out our introduction post to the series here!

Your book is trash.

cc_red_pen_editAt least, you think it is.  You’re going through it, reading line after line, and can’t see any real redeeming qualities in the story.  You wrote it, yes.  But that doesn’t mean that it has to be any good.  And so editing can quickly become a process of discarding everything you’ve written to write it all over again…  Just to realize in the end that everything you’ve just re-written is trash as well.

I’ve written before on how to deal with some of the attitudes that tend to lead to this mindset, so I’m not going to go over those points again, though I would encourage people to check out the earlier post if they haven’t already.  Today, instead I’d like to work through what to do when this is your attitude when you’re trying to edit your novel, and perhaps how the stage method can help us deal with this problem in a better way.  To start with, let’s look at the original question: Is your book trash?

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Editing Your Novel Part One: The Stage Method

You’ve finished writing your novel.  The last page sits glistening on your computer screen, a beautiful ‘The End’ gracing the word processor with its beauty.  The rush of satisfaction is upon you as you look at it completed on the screen.  And you leave your computer, satisfied to be done with the first draft of your book and ready to let it sit for a while before working on it.

self-editing-typosFast-forward a couple days–a couple weeks–a couple months–however long it takes, and you decide that it’s time to edit your work.  You scroll up to page one, start reading through your work looking for problems, and…  Well, the inevitable disaster strikes.

Disaster strikes in many different ways during the editing process, and it can happen either at the beginning of the editing process, in the middle, at the end, or all of the above.  It can also take many forms–from thinking that your book is trash, to being unable to find any problems in it,  and even to just being bored and sick of editing.

This post is going to be looking at the latter (I’ll be writing on the other two in the next couple of weeks.)  Because, for me, this was my consistent problem in editing.  I’d finish a novel, start editing it, and by the 15% mark be tired of editing.  My novel stagnates for a couple months, and then I get energized and try starting at the beginning again.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Editing soon became to me the bane of writing and something that I wanted to avoid at all cost.  I even decided to rewrite my entire novel at one point because it was easier and more interesting than going through the tedious work of editing it.

Maybe this describes you, but maybe it doesn’t.  But if you’re just staring at a page of your book having little purpose to your editing and having no clue what you’re doing, then you know what this feels like.  And after going through the beneficial process of rewriting my entire novel, of course, I found myself at this position again.  But then I figured out what to do about it.

The method that I found has been done before, so I’m not going to claim to be original.  But for me, it turned editing into something that I loathed into something that I actually tolerated and at points have even enjoyed doing.  So while it may not work perfectly for everyone, hopefully it helps you as you’re working through the  process.

I call this particular way of editing the Stage Method.

Basically, the underlying assumption behind the method is that it’s not really wise or effective to try and deal with all the problems in a chapter or in a scene in one go–there are likely far too many problems in it than you can manage in one sitting.  In addition to this, it’s no good to spend a lot of time doing a line-by-line editing of the style and tone of your writing for three chapters before going on and realizing that the three chapters you just did are actually going to have to be cut from the story.

Basically the way it works is you begin by opening a separate document and writing out all the problems that need to be fixed in your book–from large structural changes like changing the plot to smaller changes like changing the voice and tone of your writing.  (How to know what needs to be changed in your novel is another question that we’ll be answering later on in this series.)

Once you’ve written all the changes you want to do for your novel, then you want to organize it top-down from the largest, most sweeping changes you want to make to the more nitty-gritty stylistic changes you want to make.  And then, once you have done that, you want to take the biggest item on your list, go through your book, and make all the changes needed to fix that problem.  Once that’s done, cross it off the list, and move down to the next one.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

This format has several advantages.  First, it gives you a clear purpose in your editing–you know exactly what you’re looking for, and you aren’t being distracted by five different things you’re trying to do at once in the scene.  Second, it also keeps you from doing really minute-level editing that will only be discarded when a structural change demands a complete rewriting of the scene.

The idea is to start with the biggest changes that need to be made, and ignore the smaller changes until you come to them.  It also gives you a greater sense of progress since you can fully work through a series of changes one by one drawing definitively closer to the end.  And then, by the time that you do need to carefully read through your writing to deal with stylistic or grammatical changes, you’re not going to be distracted by larger changes that need to be made as well.

So that’s the method that’s worked for me.  And that’s the method that I’m going to be describing in greater detail in the future throughout this series of articles.  Have any comments or thoughts on this way of editing your novel?  Let me know in the comments!  And don’t forget to come back next week for our next post, on what to do when you think your book is trash.

Poll for Josiah’s Next Series

Well, it’s that time on Worldpen again where I suggest possible topics for my next series, and you vote on what series you want to see from me next.  There are fewer options this time than regularly, but vote for your favorite, and watch as I begin that series next week.

Three Lessons from Raiders of the Lost Ark

One of the highest-grossing films of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark remains a favorite by many today, and for good reason.  With a quick-paced, engaging plot, witty characters, and special effects that still hold up decently well over time, it’s a modern film classic.

raiders-of-the-lost-arkAs writers, when we look at a movie like this, we ought to be looking for elements of their story that they specifically excelled in, in order to use similar elements effectively in our own writing.  While we don’t want to plagiarize or rip off the movie, there are still a fair number of key story concepts that we can deduce from it.  Given that, here are three different important story elements that I noticed when recently watching the movie:

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How to Write an Opening Line

In our last post, we talked about five ways not to write an opening line, and if you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to check it out before reading this next post.  But it’s not simply enough to know what not to do in order to write an opening line…  You need to know what should be a part of your opening line as well.

onceuponatimeThis of course, is more difficult than simply knowing what not to do.  Because part of the particular genius of the best opening lines is that they don’t follow patterns.  They’re unique.  They’re surprising.  That’s what makes them awesome.  But that’s what also makes it difficult to know how to replicate their greatness.

That being said, however, there are some common threads that we can look to that help to make opening lines stand out.  These aren’t supposed to be a be-all, end-all list.  But they are trying to help you to get the gears of your brain spinning on what exactly you should be looking for when writing the first line of your novel.  So here are five things to look to include when creating the opening line of your novel:

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