The Journey to a Bestseller: Padding the Plot and Punctuation (Series #8)

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Hello everyone! Despite a week packed with things to do, I was super productive and it feels so good. As I said last week, the writing of our “bestseller” is on hold for another month or so (I told my betas they would get it sometime in September). So, we are talking about the editing of my third book, scheduled to release March 22nd, 2020.

I told you how terrible my beginning was, right? Well, there were several things wrong. I realized I had somewhere near nine chapters of just my protagonist and then a whole bunch of my antagonist blended with the protagonist at the end. And still no inciting incident. So what did I do?

I took apart the bad guy scenes and interspersed them between the chapters of my good guys. It came out pretty even. As I read through it I realized the protagonist was still boring and I found myself skimming those chapters to get to the bad guy. He was way more exciting. :^D

See, no one has met the bad guy yet. In the first book, he passes the MC while she’s hiding and he stops like he senses her, but then he moves on. In the first two books he sends his cronies to do all his dirty work and the good guys fight them. And we hear all about the bad things he’s done and is doing. But no scenes of him.

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In the third book you get to know him in a way that makes you understand how he got to be the way he is and you end up feeling empathy for him, against your will. So I need to do two things first. I need a better beginning and I need to add something of interest to my protagonist’s arc.

After talking to my fellow writer’s groupees, I decided to write a new first chapter and in keeping with my “every other chapter” theme, I wrote it in the antagonist’s point of view (POV). And it got dark. Really dark. They are skinning a man to make him biomechanical. The bad guy is overseeing the operation because it is a person of interest. It’s someone who helped the protagonist in book one, though readers may or may not remember. I don’t know if it will stay this way, I have to send it through my betas to get a general opinion first.

This book is definitely the best of the three and the most exciting, as well as dark. On the bright side, though, I added two things to my protagonist scenes. One, after she has memories of her past life, her powers temporarily go on the fritz, causing general mayhem. Case in point, the second piece of drama, she accidentally zaps a waiter trying to help her and turns him invisible for several days. When he reappears, the waiter is very attentive to her, and the boyfriend isn’t the good kind of jealous. Hence, more drama. And I cut out some still, boring scenes, and added activity.

BUT…

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In the case of this novel, I did not use an outline. Obviously. I suggest you figure out what chapters are going to go where before you start. You can then write seamlessly. If you choose to write by the seat of your pants, also called being a “Pantser,” I do not advise you to worry about any of this chapter rearranging until you’re completely finished writing the manuscript. You can chop it up anywhere you want. Cut and paste. Fill in gaps. But too many people who are pantsers try to edit as they write and without a framework to follow, they decide to change or rearrange or cut and rewrite the first chapters over and over and never end up finishing. I’m not saying you can’t do this with an outline, as well, but if you have an outline to follow you can fake it till you make it.

That means, keep writing. The passion is there, or it’s coming. Even if it feels like you are putting out trash. If you follow the general story line, everything can be easily edited later. And don’t fool yourself that you won’t need an editor. You do. (*Unless that’s your job, then you may not need one. But all the editors I know have editors.) On the other hand, don’t despair if you put your completed manuscript to bed for a week while you drink champagne and take bubblie baths and you come back to read it but you can’t believe you wrote such swill. That happens to most of us. Even Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything, is shit.” Well, it is.

That’s what editing is for. Right now, I am reading through the manuscript as if for the first time. It kind of is, because I’ve never read it in this order before. As I come to areas that I can add to, I add, and write in more world-building, more character description, making sure it flows well and chapters end with a hook. I don’t know what my word count will be when I’m done. It was low to begin with. Only 49K. Yikes. But I think it’s adding up. Every chapter that I get done increases the word count so I’m not worried…yet.

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Right now the thing I am seeing in the book is a multi-part punctuation mistake I see in a lot of manuscripts.

1/ The punctuation goes inside the quotations.

2/When you write a sentence that denotes someone speaking (the tag says the speaker “said,” “whispered,” “called,” whatever), you use a comma instead of a period and the tag begins with a lower case letter. as in:

“I ate the eggs,” he said. *See the comma after “eggs” instead of a period and lower case “H.”

If it’s an exclamation, or question mark, the tag is still lower case. As in:

“You ate all the eggs?” she asked. *Notice “she” is still lower case.

If the tag is anything other than a speaking tag, it’s called an “action tag.” With an action tag, the sentence ends with a period, exclamation, or question mark (no commas), and the tag begins with a capital letter. As in:

“Yes, I did. And they were delicious.” He burped and wiped his mouth. *Notice the period inside the quotes, and capital “H.”

I’ve done it so often, now that I’ve learned the right way to do it, that I hardly make punctuation mistakes like that anymore. I check for them when I edit and I find them during the times when the dialogue is flowing and you end up writing so fast, trying to keep up with the exciting events unfolding inside your head… Those are the times when I relax and mistakes happen. But they happen to everyone. So don’t beat yourself up!

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Most of all, keep writing! See you next weekend!

~jenn

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P.S. As a side note to speaking tags: It is generally preferred in publishing right now to use the word “said” as a speaking tag and only said as often as possible. You can say “asked” as well. What I mean is, do not say, “he whined,” or “she demured,” or “he growled,” or “she cried.” Agents and publishers will argue that you cannot cry your words. Nor can you growl, or laugh your words, or sigh them. (I don’t always agree with that, but there it is.) Therefore, those are all considered “action tags” and must be separated with a period, and a capital letter. Literary leaders have declared “said” to be an invisible word. Scientific experiments have shown our brains see the tag and take in the info without really reading it. It does not disrupt the flow of dialogue or force anyone out of their fictive dream with exploratory tags or actions.

Just keep practicing!

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