Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Planning Your Novel, Part 3: Editing Like A Pro

We all have certain phrases or favorite words that we use way too often. For my first book, Strange Luck, my editor informed me that I used the word "suddenly" WAY too much. I didn't believe her until I looked it up myself and found that I used it nearly 100 times. Learning from that experience, I significantly cut back on using the word "suddenly" in my next book, The Nightmare Birds, but instead was scolded for using the word "gulped" too much. As in...she gulped, he gulped, I gulped. Sure enough, I had used that word almost as much as I had used "suddenly" without even realizing it. Whatever your weak word is, it can be the difference between a reader continuing to read, or the “yes” pile and the “slush” pile for your manuscript.

Although I’ve come across LOTS of editing checklists over the years, I haven't really found one that tells you what to specifically look for in your manuscript. Usually, I’ll come across something that says, “Make sure your use of contractions are correct.” No duh! But isn't it kinda difficult to find these things in a manuscript if you don’t know what to look for?

Enter my "Editing Checklist". I recommend doing a global search of your manuscript (go into Word and hit the Find button, or simply Ctrl F) to help expedite your search for these common editing errors:
1) Capitalize mom, dad, grandpa, etc., when used in place of a proper name and use lowercase letters when used as a modifier.

2) Italicize the character’s inner dialogue or thoughts.

3) Remove the phrase “for some reason”. This is overused verbiage.

4) Remove the word “very”. This is an overused modifier and when removed it can significantly tighten your sentence.

5) Remove the word “suddenly”. This is an overused modifier.

6) Double check “it's” to see if you really mean “its”. If you fail to catch this error, you could look like an amateur.

7) Consider if ellipses are needed. They should only be used to show trailing off speech or a pause in speech. If they are needed, pay attention to how often you use them. They are much more rare than you might expect.

8) Consider removing the words "caused", "causing", "managed", and "managing". These words can easily weaken sentences and add extra words. You can usually leave them out and use the main verb.

9) Double-check your use of “to” to see if you really mean “too”.

10) The words “soon”, “some”, “someone”, and “something” are frequently overused. Do a global search for each of these words. This way you’ll be able to spot over usage in sentences and paragraphs.

11) Remove the word “so”. This is an overused modifier.

12) Never capitalize seasons. Search for words like “spring”.

13) Double-check the spelling of every character’s name and make sure that you have spelled them correctly and consistently. Also do this for names of towns/places, streets, and major terms.

14) Make sure there is a new paragraph every time a different character speaks.

15) Double-check your use of “form” to see if you really mean “from”.

16) Double-check your use of “fro” to see if you really mean “for”.

17) Try your best to eliminate or reduce words that end in “ly”. These words are often extra verbiage.

18) Minimize adverbs and weak words like “was/were” “had/have”, etc.

19) Double-check your use of “you’re” to see if you really mean “your” and vice versa.

20) Double-check your usage of words like “real” and “really”. Try to remove as much as possible.
Once you've gone through this editing checklist, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND printing out your manuscript. You’d be surprised how easy it is to spot overused words on paper versus a screen, and often times you’ll be able to pick up on your patterns.

Even after you've read the whole thing on paper, give it to as many people as you can for their input. Each person has a different perspective and skill set, enabling them to catch everything from common typos you might've missed to inconsistencies in your story.

After that, give it to a professional editor regardless if you intend to self-publish or submit your manuscript to literary agents. I'll repeat. GIVE IT TO A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. No writer is perfect. I can't tell you how many Indie authors I've come across that insist that their work is perfect without having it professionally edited, and every single time it shows. If you're shooting to sign with an agent, they will NOT read your work if it's littered with typos and incorrect grammar.
Working with a professional will not only increase your chances of polishing your work, they'll bring to light your strengths and weaknesses which you can apply towards future projects.
If you're having trouble finding an editor, ask around for recommendations. Author friends and writing groups are a good place to start. You can also look in a book's acknowledgements as the author will often thank the editor. If my editor, Christie Stratos, is reading this thanks again for all of your hard work on The Nightmare Birds. :) You rock!

If all else fails, search the web. There are a zillion sites out there like Editorial Freelancers Association, which matches you with an editor. Remember, there's always a risk involved when you hire an editor, regardless if they're highly recommended or someone you hired online. Editors make mistakes and it's unreasonable to think they'll catch everything. But, as I mentioned previously, an editor's offerings are incredibly valuable and will help you in the long run.

Good luck on your editing journey.

Have you checked out my other posts on writing? You might enjoy these, too:

How to Write A Novel, Part 1: Let The Journey Begin

How to Write a Novel, Part 2: Brainstorming, Drafting, and Getting Organized

How to Be a More Productive Writer

The Importance of Rewriting

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Impressions - Fantasia Reviews Strange Luck


"A fantastic story. Miss Winters has woven a tale that will enthrall readers and leave them begging for more."

"She paints in broad strokes and fine details, giving us food for thought and imagery to fawn over – we loved it."

"Miss Winters possesses and abundance of talent and imagination that she has poured onto the pages of this book to deliver something that is not only delightful, but worth reading, and that is a rare talent indeed."


I'm absolutely ecstatic about this review!!! These kind words mean the world to me :)

Read what else Fantasia Reviews had to say about Strange Luck in their five-star review.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

TBT Writer - The Cave

My fascination with caves started in elementary school. 

Whenever there was a promise of a cave at the end of a long hike, I would take it.

My dad and me at wind caves in CA

Caves have found their way into a lot of my short stories I wrote growing up. I'm not sure why exactly. Perhaps because they are so mysterious and kinda spooky. Whatever the reason, they are still finding their way into my stories today. Here's a snippet from Strange Luck:

At one point, I made the mistake of leaning over the edge of the staircase, only to see the cave walls disappear into a dark foggy abyss. Like a whirlpool, smoke swirled before it was sucked into the middle.
My visit to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, TN.

And here's one from Book II in the Strange Luck series, The Nightmare Birds:
I must’ve walked for over an hour—at least I thought I did. A patron had once brought a book to Strange Luck called Troglodytic Offerings. It chronicled the accounts of people who had voluntarily lived in isolation in caves without any light. Though the scientists reported that the volunteers were physically and mentally healthy when they finally emerged, their sleep patterns and perceptions of time had been drastically altered. They had lost track of entire weeks and had even slipped into 48-hour sleep cycles. The book also included some of their unsettling hallucinatory drawings. One drawing of a disturbing winged creature gave me nightmares for a week. Although the book was interesting, I didn’t purchase it given its lack of supernatural qualities. There was nothing worse than being trapped in darkness alone, even voluntarily. Yet here I was doing that very same thing.
Garden of the Gods in Colorado

Caves have also found themselves into my personal life. My husband actually proposed to me in one. Coincidence?

Do the catacombs in Paris count as a cave?

For this month's #TBTWriter post I thought I'd share the very first story I wrote about a cave, simply called The Cave. Original, I know. :) My elementary school teacher gave me a 23/25 on it. Woot!

The Cave

Suddenly, the lantern sputtered and went out. It was my worst nightmare. I heard many strange noises, and screams. I was so scared, even more when I heard footsteps. They came closer. Just then I knew I had to leave. I tried feeling around so I would not crash. After a few minutes I found the wall. I tried with all my might to climb it. When I was just about to give up I saw a light. Ohhh! I listened for the footsteps. They came closer and closer and then they stopped. I shivered in fear. I tried again and I made it. When I got up, I thought I was in some sort of an attic. But I didn't see where the light came from. I then heard a crash and things falling. I knew someone was after me.

I tried to run but I was stuck. I felt to see what was holding me. It turned out it was an old trap, and I was caught in it. The footsteps came back, and it sounded like a group of them. I thought, oh no! I then just remembered my magnifying glass. The sun shown through the ceiling. I held the glass up to the sun, and in no time I had a fire. The room lit up with flashing red and yellow flames. Now I could see the trap. I carefully unwound it, and ran for my life.

I ran down halls and through doors. I then found myself trapped again. A huge door was in my way. I pounded on it when the footsteps were once heard again. I thought I could never escape because the door was made of the roughest metal and the hardest iron. Just then the footsteps stopped. I had finally lost them.

I started walking and found a torch. To me it looked like a giant tunnel. I walked ever so fast to find my way out. I hardly noticed a sound. But this one I noticed.

The sound was rough, loud, and shaky. I remembered it was the sound of water. If the tunnel filled up with it I would die. I ran as fast as a swift fox, but instead the water beat me. I was swimming for my life. The water was cold as ice. I looked over and saw a door and it was open. I swam, and swam, and swam.

After a few more seconds which seemed like hours I reached it. I pulled myself up on something which turned out it was the person after me. At that moment he moved in back of me. The whole time he was looking at my head. I very gently lifted my hand and tapped the man on his back. He turned around. Hello, he called, and then turned back to me. I was gone.

I turned in the first hall and to my surprise I found a hidden staircase. I jumped up each stair and found the way out. It was a misty night, a light moon, and a cold temperature. I wanted to go home, and that's what I was going to do. I walked home and disappeared in the mist.

High school me and my very first pug (Gomer)


So there it is. My first cave story. Between the thing with the magnifying glass and finagling my way out the trap like it was nothing, I must've been watching a little too much MacGyver. :P


Do you have a writing throwback? Post it with #TBTWriter so we can all read your story. And don't forget to check out my other #TBTWriter stories and pics:

Friday, November 11, 2016

How to Write Fantasy - The Writing Greyhound Guest Post

I'm a guest author on The Writing Greyhound! If you're curious how to write Fantasy, check out my post.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Impressions - Love Serially

Getting a book review is like opening a gift on Xmas.

When it's a good review, it's like getting Super Nintendo with all of your favorite games that you'd been wanting all year. Hey, I'm a child of the 90s. :) Did you see this by the way?

Anyway, I'm so excited that Love Serially Book Blog reviewed BOTH of my books and had some awesome things to say.  Here's a snippet from the Strange Luck review:
"The writing and dialogue are smooth and the world that Amie Winters creates is vivid and interesting...it's a lot of fun."
You can read the full review here.

And here's a snippet of The Nightmare Birds review:
"Daisy is a very loving person and it really helps to draw people to her, including me the reader. The love of a daughter to her father, first love, and the love of a mother to her child—it’s all there and I enjoyed it immensely...highly entertaining."
You can read the full review here.

I'm so glad you enjoyed my books!:D

Thursday, November 3, 2016

10 Things You Didn't Know About The Nightmare Birds

Real-life cave people, a mythic cult, and haunted antiques!? Learn the surprising secrets behind The Nightmare Birds in my latest video. Did I mention that Loki returns? :)

Want to know how it all began? Watch my 10 secrets to Strange Luck.