Polish It

Even with the best intentions, a strong plan in place, and discipline to turn water to ice, life happens and disrupts the best of us.  Last evening, I realized I had failed to put up this week’s post.  Well here it is, albeit a few days late.  You may note a new page, Challenge Accepted! This page consists of any contributions received to the challenges I regularly post at the end of my blogs.   


My story is finished now what?

            I suppose this question has hit a number of us on occasion.  My last several days, weeks, months or even years have seen me spending every free moment writing, pushing to reach the end, to reach the finish line of what I know is a great story. 

            The first question I would ask you now is: “have you reread the story start to finish?”  If you roll your eyes and nod your head indicating yes, I add, “Aloud?”   This is an important step and one I admit I have a difficult time with.  Writing to me has always been a time of quiet concentration.  Reading aloud seems an affront to that idea.   Yet, I cannot tell you how many errors turn up when I hear the words as compared to simply reading them in my head.  There is something about reading aloud that makes errors stand up and scream hey, here I am.

            Okay, you’ve read it aloud.  Has anyone else read it?  Someone you trust that is willing to give you HONEST feedback?   No matter how good I think I am as a writer, no matter how good my ear is with hearing errors; there is no substitute for another set of eyes and ears looking at your craftwork and making comment.  What works, what doesn’t work?   Are the characters believable?   Is the story believable?  

We, the writers toiled many hours crafting our story.  In our head everything works perfectly.  The issue with this is we are simply too close to the story…  It works in our head because we know the motivations that lead Jimmy Jack Jones to murder his best friend.  Did we convey that understanding in our writing in a way a reader will also understand JJJ’s actions?  A second, third and maybe even fourth set of eyes are important to discover things that are hidden to us.

             Well, let’s say you’ve done all this.  All the corrections, enhancements, and deletions are in.  Now what?  One more round.  Read it aloud.  If you can get through without stumbling, send it to a new set of eyes.  See how they perceive the work.  If all is good.  It may be finally be time for publishing.

            I spoke with a  published author of some twelve books,  six were her stories, the other six she ghost wrote for others.  She made a comment that blew me away.  “It makes no difference how much editing I do ahead of time, when the editor gets it in their hands, it never fails, they will require editing again before they will publish.”   I suppose the answer to this conundrum is to self-publish.   It is a viable option, but not without consideration.  One can always cut the corners and self-publish as soon as a story is complete.  The issue with that is that when a reader picks your story, what will they find?   All the inconsistencies, all the typos, all the unworkable plots, all the characters who fail to live up to the believability standard?  Or will they find a polished end product that has been through the wringer: the best you have to offer?  If they find the former, an unpolished mess, your name will go on the undesirable list, whereby you lose the reader permanently, no matter how good you get.   Worse, they will likely spread the word of problems they found.  Bad reviews can cause losses of other potential buyers.

            An old sales adage says that a happy customer will tell three of their friends about your product.  An unhappy customer will tell ten of their friends, and each of those friends will repeat to five of their friends.  Your story, the one you intend to self-publish is your product.  If you wish to sell this story and your next story as well, you need to take the time to polish your work.


Challenge 11

            Four young people, brothers aged 19 and 16, their sister, 12, and a 12 year old female cousin must locate a box containing the secret to rescuing their grandmother who has fallen prey to a terrorist.   Their grandmother is important to them, though as far as the government is concerned she is expendable. Certainly not worthy of the resources they would have to use nor is it worth the risk placing lives of their personnel in danger to rescue an old woman who has little to contribute to society.  The box the kids must find lies at the bottom of a ravine in an area infested with snakes and venomous spiders.  The 19 year old boy has an unreasonable fear of spiders, up to and including recurring nightmares about them. The mere sight of a tiny spider can send him into a panic.

            Take me though their processes, and their plan.   What is in the box?   How can they use it to affect a rescue that the government will not undertake?  --- Keep it believable!