Sometimes, it’s the simple things that can derail your story.
Little story gremlins wreak havoc on an otherwise smooth operation.
Hard to spot? Yes.
Easy to fix? Absolutely – though it can be time consuming.
Don’t fret, there is hope.
Once upon a time, I was an airplane mechanic. Of the Avionics variety. This meant I spent most of my time chasing after ghosts within systems that if they weren’t working the plane wasn’t flying. And nine out of ten times, it was a simple problem that caused a lot of headache. A misplaced pin within a cable.
Someone trying to operate the system in what they called the “official” mode
(read: OFF – because they thought it was an abbreviation.
Yes, it does happen.). Wires with nicks or cuts.
Simple things. Easy fixes. Not easy to spot (OK, the official mode thing is pretty easy to spot…just not easy to explain to the operator why they were having the problem). Sometimes, time consuming to fix.
The same is with your story. Grammar, spelling…the wrong word used because maybe you didn’t really understand what it meant.
There are lots of small pitfalls that can cause big problems in your story.
These are the things I look for as an editor. I find a big problem, and I go to the source. Where did the character’s arc begin to fall apart? What words need to be deleted to make the story stronger?
Of course, these are also the things that I need another set of eyes to see in my own stories. We all make mistakes, and we all need a second pair of eyes to find them.
My short story Yanka and the Dragons is a perfect example. There were many, glaring, problems that I missed as the writer. A couple of great beta readers, and my wife, helped point them out and I think it made for a stronger, greater story.
One problem was the consistency of my protagonist’s voice. What I mean by voice is their personality, their agency, and their make-up. The protagonist is a ten year old girl from a small desert village. At one point, I had her using words that normally would not fit a character from that scenario – nor did it fit her character at all. I was using a word, incorrectly, that I had (all my life) believed meant one thing, only to find out it meant something entirely different (still not sure how I managed that…but I digress).
But the worst offense of the entire story was that, when it all boiled down, I didn’t have much of a story.
The growth of my protagonist, and the surrounding characters, wasn’t there. There wasn’t much for readers to care about other than “oh, that was a cute story”.
It took another set of eyes (multiple sets in this case) to see the small problems
and it took some time for me to fix them. Now, I have a stronger story. A compelling story. A story that will live on in a series.
Sometimes, it is the small things that can derail your story.But, as you can see, there is hope.
With the aid of beta readers and, perhaps, a professional editor, your story can overcome those pitfalls. It can become a strong, compelling story.
If you are an author looking for that second set of eyes, perhaps on the professional editing side, feel free to contact me.
With over 14 years of editing experience, I can help you overcome the pitfalls and make a strong, compelling story.
Also, check out my two short stories available wherever eBooks are sold. I’d love to hear your thoughts on them:
THE FIRST 10 REQUESTS FOR THESE STORIES GET THEM FREE;
all that is asked in return is an honest review on Amazon.
Ten year-old Yanka Ouedraogo finds that dragons are not monsters of stories. They are real, and they are coming. After the arrival of mysterious Princess Su Yin, Yanka discovers her mama once bore the title of Dragon Watcher for the legendary Knights of Tiqvah. Mama leaves to stop the onslaught of dragons and tasks Yanka with protecting her two younger brothers. One problem: after her father’s death, Yanka fears she’s the last person to protect anyone. When dragons invade her village, Yanka learns they want one thing: her. Can she escape the invasion and prove able to protect her brothers? Will the mysterious Knights of Tiqvah arrive to save the day? Or will a new Dragon Watcher appear and stop the carnage in time? (Middle Grade level, but good for the whole family!)
World famous musician Mike Jonas broke a promise. Greek muse of music, Euterpe, gave him fame and fortune in return for his complete devotion. When a new love enters his life, Euterpe strikes. She kidnaps Mike’s fiancée Megan and threatens her life unless Mike proves that he still belongs to her. In his quest to fulfill Euterpe’s test, Mike is shaken to his core and all he holds as true is questioned. (Does contain language that might not be suitable for children.)
Guest blog post by a co-author of The Box Under The Bed, Curtis Bausse
I’ve never met Dan.
I imagine him as a bundle of concentrated enthusiasm,
which, if it’s true, makes him rare indeed: entheos, from which the word is derived, means “divinely inspired, possessed by a god.”
In this case, the god of blogging, self-publishing and book promotion. But I’ve seen him on YouTube, and he moves and speaks just like the rest of us (except with an American accent), so on the whole I lean towards the conclusion that he is in fact human.
Nonetheless, the mystery remains:
How does he do it?
Divine or not, there’s a whole lot of entheos in his commitment to writing.
And not just his own, that’s the thing. He cheers us all on tirelessly, spreading entheos through cyberspace till eventually some of it even seeps into jaded souls like me.
So when he asked for contributions to The Box Under The Bed, I thought, ‘Hmm… Maybe I’ll give this a shot.’
A month to write a story, a scary one. The deadline itself was scary. Not that I write very slowly, but I like to set my work aside for a couple of months before I revise. So this was a challenge. And scary, I discovered as I hunted for my inner Stephen King, isn’t easy. In films, yes – all it takes is quivering music or a sudden scream.
But in writing?
You’ve got to take the reader to a place they believe in, get them to leave the world they know, where ghosts and ghouls don’t exist, and see what your characters see, be with them in their terror.
To me, that’s a matter of point of view.
You’re not asking your reader to believe in the supernatural, but in your characters’ perceptions.
And people, as we know, see all sorts of things we don’t believe in ourselves. The face of Jesus in a tortilla. An eerie light hovering in a graveyard. Why, I’ve even heard it said that Donald Trump is President of America. How ridiculous is that? But it makes for an excellent horror story.
I got mine done with a few days to spare, which is just as well because it needed considerable revision. Dan, like any good editor, pointed me in the right direction, especially with regard to cutting.
The reason I usually lay my work aside is that when I come back to it, it’s easier to spot those passages I thought were brilliant at the time but in fact only get in the way.
But Dan did the spotting for me, whole paragraphs getting the chop till the result was leaner and fitter. We had a little exchange about ‘show, don’t tell,’ which in my view puts it too simply, but once you take it as a sort of shorthand for a principle that in general is sound, it’s easier to go along with.
It’s been a great experience all round.
Collaborating with other writers is always rewarding, and Dan’s infectious energy is uplifting.
I edit an anthology myself, now in its second year, and working with Dan has taught me a lot. Furthermore, it’s broadened my scope as a writer. I was never tempted by the horror genre before, but now I have two more ideas begging me to put them into words. Just be patient, I tell them, I’ll get round to you in due course.
And of that I’m sure because now, thanks to Dan, I have the entheos.
Thank you, Curtis, for such kind words. It was a lot of fun working with you on this project!
Gang, I’ve always respected Curtis’ work and the way he crafts a story. This anthology was a new area for him and he hit the ball out of the park. His other works are equally intriguing, too.
It was a blast working with Curtis on this scary anthology.