Category Archives: Editing

Writing marathons: Don’t take my word for it

I’m pretty excited about hosting a writing marathon in the St. John’s region this coming June. But while this is an easy sell for me, it may seem a little daunting for some. That’s why I decided to do an interview with writer Kaarina Stiff about her experiences with novel writing marathons.

Kaarina is a full-time writer and editor living in Ottawa, ON.  She has participated in three novel writing marathons and was the Young Adult category winner in the Toronto Novel Marathon in both 2015 and 2016. She was gracious enough to answer a couple of questions about the process so that I could share her experiences with potential participants. Continue reading Writing marathons: Don’t take my word for it

One Draft, Two Draft, Red Draft, Blue Draft

Sometimes you’re going to write something and right from the start it’s going to be amazing!  Other times you’re going to write something which will require a surprising amount of time and effort in order to make it readable.

Life is about balance, I guess.

My first draft for The Six Elemental clocked in at 118,000 words.  For someone who used to have trouble writing anything longer than 5,000 words, that’s a BIG accomplishment and well worth a pat on the back. Unfortunately, it still needed work.

The second draft was about the same length.  I added a few things, but I also got rid of these made-up quotes I’d put before each chapter.  The quote idea fizzled out two-thirds of the way through the novel anyway, and since I couldn’t keep it going I figured that I might as well get rid of it.

The third draft was when I decided to create a major secret, which would only be revealed when it was most shocking!

The fourth draft was where I got rid of the major secret idea, because it wasn’t working out AT ALL*.

Advice from a beta-reader led to the fifth draft, which is when things really started working out.  The story got more focused and the pacing picked up.  I also cut a lot of stuff.  Two main characters got cut entirely, and at least two minor characters.  Another minor character turned into to a one-line mention.  I lost some stuff that I liked, but as William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”

I must have taken that advice to heart, because The Six Elemental currently clocks in at approximately 78,000 words – 40,000 words fewer than the first draft.

Sometimes, though, when you’re making a lot of cuts, it can be hard to know when to stop.  At one point I was ready to cut an entire page worth of stuff, but when I ran the idea past my editor she told me that I should leave it in, and gave me a bunch of reasons why it worked (thanks again, Erin!).

Never underestimate the value of an opinion from someone who doesn’t reside inside your brain.

Another difficult part of editing is accepting the changes to your story.  In the original there was a character who died half-way through the novel, but during the re-writes that character ended up living. I literally spent a week trying to figure out if there was some new way to kill them so that I could bring balance between the two drafts. However, I didn’t want to go all Joss Whedon on the character, so when I couldn’t make the death work I had to accept that the world had changed and abandon the idea.

But just you wait until next time, character.

Just you wait…

___

*Sometimes you’ve got to write a lot of wrong to figure out what’s right.

Can Something Be Both an Introduction and a Warning?

Erin Vance, Editor
Erin Vance, Editor

I suppose I should start out with a greeting of some sort, because I feel as though most of you don’t know who I am; which is fine! I don’t know who you guys are either. The beauty of the internet, I guess. Those of you who do know me are probably here because you found a link on my Facebook (in which case: Hey. How you doing?).

My name is Erin Vance. I am a student in suspension (because I don’t know my next step), I am an editor at Engen Books, and I am a Sobeys’ clerk (you may have seen me there once or twice). I am often called any variation of weird, odd, strange, or crazy, and am owned by 3 Newfoundland dogs. I have a trampoline named Frank and a Grand Caravan named BeueI. I have 3 younger siblings, and a new cell phone that I am not yet comfortable with. I am also about to embark on a grand adventure: I am going to drive from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia with my younger brother, Michael.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this, and the reason is: Because people want me to write a travel blog. And because I am curious about this idea, and on occasion like to make people happy, I have agreed to their request. Which is what this post is all about: My upcoming trip.

I’m not an author like Matt and Ellen – not yet, anyways – and so I don’t have any thoughts or words of wisdom on how to write. All I have is my own random thoughts concerning a trip that’s going to span, according to Google, over 7500 km, or 78 hours of driving. And that’s if we go straight across, which we’re not. Not really. We have too many things to see and do on our way.

(I’m kinda excited; can you tell?)

Continue reading Can Something Be Both an Introduction and a Warning?

Get to Know Erin Vance, Editor

Erin Vance, Editor
Erin Vance, Editor

You may have noticed a new face at the Engen Books booth at Avalon Expo this year and in the photos that found their way online after it. You may have also noticed that Cinders, the latest Engen title and first title in the Xander Drew series, was by far one of the best quality-wise that Engen Books has produced, on par with Infinity even. All these things have one thing in common: Erin Vance, Editor.

Erin Vance is a graduate of the Memorial University of Newfoundland English Honors Program who has, recently, accepted the position of the main editor for all Engen titles: both new titles coming through the Engen machine, and new editions of existing titles.

Erin wrote her Honors thesis paper, The Song of the Mockingjay, explored the nature of Katniss Everdeen’s agency in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series. She is creative, spiritual, and loves reading, writing, and anything to do with words.

“Erin is one of the most fiercely intelligent people working in literature today,” said Engen founder Matthew LeDrew. “She takes the time to understand each character in a novel and understand their voice. She’s not just checking for errors: when you hire Erin, you’re hiring one of the best writing partners you could ever have. She’ll remove your flaws and make all your good parts better. I like to think I have a sixth sense for creatively brilliant people. I scooped her up immediately.”

But who is Erin Vance? Get to know her better with her first Engen Interview!

  1. What is your favorite word?

Erin:  “Befuddle – because I like it at this moment. Ask me again tomorrow – I’ll have a different one.”

Continue reading Get to Know Erin Vance, Editor