4 Truths About Rewriting Myths

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4 Truths About Rewriting Myths

Rewriting myths can bring an end to an unfinished process. Read on so you can stay on track and avoid the pitfalls.

Few aspects of the writing life come with more ugly myths attached than the rewriting process. So often I hear writers give wrong headed views about what comes once they face a rewrite of their manuscript.

This post is aimed at writers who have a completed fiction or non-fiction manuscript, or screenplay, that needs a rewrite but who have been fed a lot of malarky about the process through the years.

Here are four real life truths about rewriting myths:

Rewriting Myth 1: Rewriting Means My Manuscript Is Bad:

On the surface, I can understand this fear. There simply is not a better word than “rewrite”.

I’m sure some readers have visions of other “re” words, like “remodel” which implies more radical process. Tear down. Strip bare. Start over.

Sometimes that radical process is the case. Sometimes we have to tear down a manuscript completely in order to find the book inside. That is only sometimes though.

Most often rewriting is a process of orderly streamlining. It’s more of a face lift rather than a tear down.

Rewriting Myth 2: That Will Happen Later:

Right… one way or another, you are going to rewrite your manuscript. Whether that comes after fifty slow arriving rejection letters or in preparation for fifty submissions is up to you.

The writing is on the wall. If you read the calls for submissions in trade magazines, publishers are seeking polished manuscripts from first timers.

You’ll see it in the description. Polished prose. Developed scenarios. No first drafts.

Don’t be the writer who tests that request. It never ends well.

Rewriting Myth 3: My Story Will Get Lost In The Process:

I love when a writer tells me that they are reluctant to rewrite because they are afraid to lose their story. This is such an unfortunate misunderstanding shared by all too many novices.

A first draft is simply a first draft. Core themes are often buried and obscured under what amounts to a writer’s search for meaning on the page. Often when I work with writers on their first draft we discover the most valuable elements under the surface and we work together to draw them out into the open.

Odds are a development editor will help you find your best story in the rewrite process.

Rewriting Myth 4: Editors Are All Out Of Work And Now They Need Money:

This is, at least in part, true… Big publishing houses do not staff editors like before. There is no longer a legion of ink stained and print addled editors agonizing over copy at your dream publisher’s office.

Those editors are not out in the cold freelancing world because their jobs were deemed irrelevant though. Those editors are out there because publishing houses are counting on you, the writer, to do more of the heavy lifting than ever before.

The truth is that editors are more necessary than ever because the competition to push through the slush pile is more fierce and cutthroat now than at any other time.

These myths are just that. The process of rewriting doesn’t have to be so painful but it is a necessary step in the evolutionary process that is your manuscript. I have helped many a nervous writer through the process and I know I can help you too. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you feel stuck at this or any other stage in the process.

Erick Mertz4 Truths About Rewriting Myths

DIY Publishing

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DIY Publishing – One Way To Bring Your Work To Life

Amazon and other on-line publishing platforms have given rise to an exciting DIY publishing revolution. By many measures, we haven’t even seen the zenith of where this is all going to. Through a newly liberated publishing process, a new culture of fringe authors and publishing entrepreneurs can bring work to life.

For all of the do-it-yourself freedom that Amazon provides an air of caution needs to be taken. Simply because you can put your manuscript up on-line does not mean you are truly “book ready”.

The steps to a polished book are the same as through the traditional means. All that DIY publishing means in this instance is that authors are more liberated to undertake those steps on their own terms.

One of the ways new authors attempt to get around the editing process is to “self-edit” their manuscript. What do I mean by “self-edit”? Frequently, when faced with the prospect of cost and/or time, or the simple mis-perception that editing is an obstacle, a new author will try and edit/rewrite their book on their own.

I do some self-editing on my articles and manuscripts. After I write and re-write a chapter or a book section, I will often go back and make a few logical changes. I take notes on story elements that don’t make sense. I axe repeated words. I tie in dangling story lines that are either extraneous or underutilized.

I am aware, however, that this process of self-editing can only go so far before it works against me. I know what my character is supposed to look like and feel like. The settings are vividly laid out in my head, so I am able to fill in the gaps, allowing my descriptions to convey that picture. Even when I read dialog or internal monolog out loud, I tend to change the natural flow, adding inflection to words and phrases to ensure that they capture the meaning I want them to. In a sense, self-editing keeps an author in the echo chamber of their own voice and vision at the expense of broadening appeal.

I cannot be as honest with myself as a professional can be. And editing is your manuscript safety net. If something doesn’t work on the page, I need to know.

A writer needs that second set of eyes… and more of the time, a third and a fourth too. Self-editing can catch basic mistakes, errors and repetitions… but bringing a manuscript up to book level? Not very likely.

I am a firm believer in Ira Glass when he says that people get into creative work because they have a heightened sense of taste. If you are already far enough into your manuscript that you are thinking of publishing it, you very likely have read enough to know what you like and what is good.

Don’t fall into the trap, however, that you are an objective arbiter. A writer is a person whose imagination exceeds most, if not all, other personal attributes. When it comes to improving your manuscript however, don’t let your imagination get in the way of improvement.

And don’t make the mistake of DIY Publishing an unpolished work – Instead hire a professional to objectively help you uncover all the necessary edits that your imagination may have obscured.

Erick MertzDIY Publishing

Manuscript Editing – Ghostwriter Advice

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Manuscript Editing

Why Manuscript Editing Is As Important A Picking Up The Pen In The First Place

The temptation is there. Every new author mulls this over and frankly, it is hard to blame them. After months and even years writing their novel, they believe that “THE END” should mean just that.

“I’m done,” they say as they press save. “It’s time to put this book out there.”

Whether an author has chosen the traditional publication route through an agent or publisher, or they are going independent via Amazon (or another outlet) putting a freshly completed writing out into the world does not magically transform it into a proper book without proper manuscript editing. Unfortunately for some there are clear consequences to this assumption. Fortunately for anyone reading this, however, those consequences are avoidable.

A writer must first understand the difference between a manuscript and a book.

Amazon can be a wonderful place. The on-line retailer is a boundless market place where up-and-coming authors connect with prospective readers. The platform allows them an opportunity to publish material on their terms, offering exciting new stories for eager readers who are only a few clicks away.

But even eager readers are not easy to please. Even at a couple of measly bucks a pop for an eBook, competition is fierce and there are expectations. One of the first harsh realities that many new authors learn is that a bargain basement price point does not equate to favorable reader response.

Unfortunately for some authors, Amazon slams as many doors closed as it opens. Whether that story is a carefully plotted multi-kingdom epic fantasy, or a gritty noir thriller, books are open to immediate ridicule. More often than not when a book is sloppy, readers will write an extensive review that completely omits character and plot. Instead, the reviewer chooses to dwell on a few comma splices and misspellings.

Sounds harsh? Maybe. The truth is though, this happens all too often. Sadly, this is among the most easily avoidable pitfalls in the publication process. Self-published novels that once had a great chance at building a strong base of readers for an author gets buried by negativity.

Why? The book was still a manuscript. Understanding the difference is critical.

The lesson here? Edit. Your. Manuscript. Make it a book. Although manuscript editing costs money and can be among the more challenging steps in the publication process, if it’s done right, it can lead to the greatest reward.

Sometimes it’s extremely beneficial to have a second set of eyes on your work to maximize the benefits of the editing process. If you feel like you’ve reached “THE END” and are ready to put your work out in the world, get in touch before you do. I can help you properly convert your manuscript into the book it deserves to be!

Erick MertzManuscript Editing – Ghostwriter Advice

Elements Of Setting In Writing

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The Elements Of Setting In In Your Writing

Tips from a pro to help you incorporate appropriate elements of setting to make your story come alive.

Looking at how Aziz Ansari uses elements of setting in his clever Netflix series Master Of None shows why it matters where your scenes and stories take place. In fact, the buzz around the little show that everyone is talking about may be as much the product of setting as it is chemistry between characters.

Master Of None is a program with many predecessors. The protagonist is young. He is a dreamer. He is desperately trying to figure things out as he lives life. As charming as he is, he is unlucky in love.

While the subject matter is nothing unique, Ansari utilizes a fresh approach to tell this familiar story. Take “The Dinner Party” the fifth or middle episode from season two.

It is no spoiler to reveal that Dev (Ansari’s character) has recently returned to his native New York from a cooking internship in a small Italian village. At the end of season one, he left his NYC problems behind to learn the art of making pasta by hand amid romantic locations steeped in ancient history.

And, as all love lost protagonists do, Dev also befriends Francesca while overseas and they hit it off.

But Dev and Francesca can only be friends because she has a boyfriend. In “The Dinner Party” Dev invites Francesca, who is visiting the states, to a Manhattan soiree put on by one of his new buddies, a producer for the cooking network where Dev works as a host. This is the place to be. Everyone is going to be there and the party is so posh that John Legend gets up and plays piano at the behest of his host.

Writers Ansari and Alan Yang expertly utilize what amounts to a simple apartment setting. One of Dev’s oblivious actor friends happens to be at the party too and he’s constantly interrupting their banter. When they do get to talk, Dev helps Francesca overcome her stilted use of English with loving charm. Of course, it’s a foodie party, so passionate opinions about the myriad plates of food crop up between them. No one can simply like or dislike a dish. They have to argue about it. As the evening wears on, Dev opens the debate on flavor notes in a glass of wine (which Francesca charmingly describes as tasting like shoes). When the moment is right, the flamboyant host butts in and upstages Dev’s humor.

Five obstacles to Dev’s goal of Francesca. All of them arising naturally out of the elements of setting in the episode.

“The Dinner Party” is about how two people can be so close yet remain far away from one another. In order to accomplish that goal, Ansari and Yang had to create an organic setting that provided ample interruption. What better than a dinner party? How about a dinner party put on by professional foodies?

The episode culminates in the two characters sharing a cab after the long evening. This is the episode’s (and maybe the series’) golden moment. Dev is charming as always. Francesca listens to him and laughs at his little quips but… they just cannot execute the kiss they both so plainly want from the other. There is a genuine love between them but after an evening of missing they cannot get where they need to go.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl proves elusive. The formula is stock. Ansari is not content to write out a cliche he knows will work. Instead, he freshens the bittersweet story line using setting.

Give me a call or email me if you want to talk about how you can leverage my skills and experience to make your story come to life. It can make all the difference in the world!


Erick MertzElements Of Setting In Writing

Writing A Good Scene

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On Writing A Good Scene

Writing a good scene (whether that scene be for screen or fiction or memoir) requires keeping audience attention fixed on key information. The challenge in writing a great scene is keeping the audience glued.

There is nothing more stale than a fiction scene that features two characters sitting in a room and talking. Heard this before from one of your beta readers or your feedback group?

Remedy this with the tried and true, “Pope In The Pool” method.

The term “Pope In The Pool” comes from a script called (somehow fittingly) The Plot To Kill The Pope. Screenwriter George Englund understood that he could not afford a dull scene in his hot, breakneck thriller. Setting his characters in a room drinking tea would have been downright boring.

What did Englund do to remedy his drab original idea? He devised a scene that conveyed the exact same dialog and information except he placed the Pope, his central character, in a swimming pool.

Now rather than watch the same stuffy old men sit around a dark room talking dark room topics Englund presented his audience with an interesting set of images and ideas to reconcile.

Who knew they had a pool at the Vatican?

Even you somehow knew this, does anyone really think of the Pope out taking an afternoon swim?

By putting his central character in an interesting and unexpected place, Englund made a memorable scene out of what may have been dismissed as simple exposition. While this kind of thinking won’t necessarily remedy problems with pacing, it does allow those droll necessities an opportunity to live and breath.

Much like fiction, life is a lot of walking into a room and talking to someone. You’ve done it today. I’m about to do it right now. That reality doesn’t make the ordinary moments in life cinematic or memorable though. We can, however, look at necessary scenes in new ways if we shake up what the focus character is doing.

Can your love addled heroine be out walking an enormous dog while talking on the phone?

Would it work if your edgy hitman was trying desperately to figure out how to work a juicer in the safe house kitchen while sharing his menacing backstory?

The trouble with slow scenes doesn’t necessarily come from limited locations. The trouble comes from looking at your locations in a limited way.


Erick MertzWriting A Good Scene