The Perfect Edit?

Caution – red pen at work. (Also Spoiler Alert – don’t read manuscript if you don’t want spoilers).

 

As of a week and a half ago, I have written three books in the Wil Clarey Series. Books two and three are in rough draft form –

very rough.

Book One – The Impossible Summer is in much better shape. It is as thoroughly self-edited as possible. It is completely ready for professional editors.

So I thought.

In preparation for editing book two, School of Hard Knocks, I read through Book one with an eye toward maintaining continuity through the series. I even made a spreadsheet to list all the named characters and details about them (There are 34 named characters in The Impossible Summer at last count).

Of course, I read my paper manuscript with red pen in hand.

The red pen has a mind of its own. It found several poorly worded sentences, a few unneeded lines, and a handful of typos.

So much for “ready for professional edit.”

If you are a casual reader, you might not realize how many times most books are edited before publishing. I used to think that someone would proofread a manuscript and then it would be printed. That’s just the final step.

Here’s a few of the possible edits a manuscript will go through:

  • Developmental edit – This one can be painful. This type of edit may lead to major restructuring of the story.
  • Structural Edit – May be included with developmental edit. Looks at the flow of the presentation to make sure the reader can follow along.
  • Continuity edit (or fact checking) – I just did a bit of that with Book one. For instance, I realized that July 4th needed to fall on a Tuesday to stay consistent with the calendar I chose for books two and three. It can also include checking for consistency in character names and ages, layout of settings, etc.
  • Copy edit – checks for errors in grammar and spelling.
  • Proofread – checks for typos.

Some edits may be combined or split to suit the publisher and the book. I’ve seen about as many interpretations of editing as I’ve seen articles on the process.

The bottom line is, a good book is the work of the author and several others.

Just like a lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client, the author who self-edits beyond the first couple of edits has a fool for an editor.

As I don’t have the cash to lay out for a series of professional edits, I am praying for a traditional publisher. In the meantime, realize that any excerpts you may see here or at WilClarey.com may not be as they get published.

I promise you that I will not publish whole books without completing the editing process. I’m not that cruel.

Okay, maybe I’m a little cruel.

These blogs and my Christmas stories are self edited.

I hope you enjoy them anyway!

Moments that Move

Bob Wiley (bobble head) is excited to see the end of the book.

One day last week, I was typing along, trying to wrap up the rough draft of Wil Clarey: The Mystery at the Mill, when I got to the end of a paragraph and tears threatened to spill from my eyes.

No, it wasn’t some emotional scene.

It just hit me, as the last few words hit the page, that it was the end of the book.

With my busy schedule, it has taken me over a year and a half to write it.

It was a momentous occasion!

I was brought up to stuff emotions inside.

“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”

was heard around my childhood home more than once.

Later in life, even my father realized how destructive that phrase was.

Now I’m a big softy.

My kids like watching emotional movies with me so they can see me cry. Of course, I use the “I’m just stuffed up” excuse every time but they know better.

The same thing happens to me at a powerful worship service – especially if we sing songs that hold nostalgic significance to me.

Brant Hansen writes about having experienced emotional envy. (Blessed are the Misfits c. 2017, Brant Hansen). Being on the autism spectrum, situations that would be emotional to others didn’t faze him. He makes the point that those experiences and the faith that goes with them are not dependent on emotion.

When I lived in Arizona, I attended a church where the worship leader got so emotional every week that it distracted me from the worship experience. After a couple of months there, I ended up going to a different church because of it.

Worship can be an emotional experience.

So, what am I trying to say?

Is emotion good or not?

Anyone who has experienced tears of joy should be able to tell you that emotion is good. I agree. But,

Emotion should never take the place of faith.

Faith will produce an emotional response in most people. But faith based on emotional experiences has an unstable foundation.

In preparing for this blog, I tried to think of experiences I’ve had that were emotional. There were many. But it wasn’t the emotional response, but the situation and the faith involved in it that were life changing.

I could go on and on about emotions. There are so many negative emotions that can make people feel trapped.

I’ve been there.

I can offer no easy escape, but I can say that positive emotions help.

So, next time that song has you in tears, that unexpected blessing brings tears of joy, or that leap of faith brings release from anxiety, savor the emotional experience without basing your life on it.

You may just find those flashes of joy help light the way to an emotionally and spiritually healthy life based on

truth and faith.

The Wide View

This photo gives me a wide perspective of the town and the landscape below. Looks like a great place for me to base a story. Maybe someday, but it’s been done before. If you don’t know where it is, read to the end.

More exciting news first.

I may have just written the ending of Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill!

It came suddenly. The story is full of action and suspense. I let the story tell itself and my characters went a bit crazy. They reached the climax of the action before I expected.

Problem is, the book is not done.

I’m not just talking about the rewrites and edits. I let the story move along so quickly that I left out whole sections that I need to insert before I can call the fist draft done.

So, right now, I am stepping back and taking a look at the big picture. I am reviewing the story to see where I can bring in the parts that will make it complete.

It’s not easy but with the wide view, I can get the perspective to see how the story plays out.

I try to do that with my life about once a year too. I take a day and step back from my life to get a perspective on where it is going. It’s been a busy year and I haven’t done that yet but I have plans.

Then there’s the really big perspective.

They don’t call it a “God’s eye view” for nothing.

I believe God has the full perspective and can see everything. That’s a big part of my perspective day, to seek out what God’s perspective on my life is.

That brings me to the God’s eye view of that town. The popular story based in the town was called Goonies. If you haven’t guessed, the town is Astoria, Oregon. The photo was taken from the top of the Astoria Column. I happen to be writing this blog from a vacation condo not too far from there.

I’m not here to get perspective this time. Just looking forward to another day of fun.

Here’s to hoping you find some fun and perspective in your life.

 

Atomic Fireball

It’s just a simple looking red candy until you pop it into your mouth.

It’s just a neatly trimmed stack of bound paper until you start reading it.

This candy in my mouth right now goes through waves of intense flavor heat.

My heart goes through a wide range of emotions as it chews through a good story.

I love it when a story surprises, shocks, or inspires me.

As I drive from customer to customer during my workdays, I usually listen to books on Audible or Libby (the library app – check it out). There have been quite a few times when I had to pause a book early so that I didn’t arrive at a customer with red eyes.

I know not everyone is affected by stories the way I am. But the shocking plot twists, dives into despair, and flights into hope inspire me to try to bring that same hope into the world.

I recently read a couple of books by Charles Martin (I highly recommend “Send Down the Rain”). They were relatively tame books in terms of action, but both had incredible plot twists. Neither were the least bit preachy, but both inspired me to emulate some of the good characteristics of the imperfect protagonists.

That’s how I want to write! I’ll leave my preaching at church. In my stories, I want to inspire through those plot twists, dives, and flights.

I know several people who think it’s a waste of time to read and write fiction.

Jesus didn’t think that. He used fictional stories to get His points across all the time.

That’s enough to convince me.

So, I’ll pop another Atomic Fireball in my mouth and keep spicing my stories up with the crazy things my characters keep doing. Someday, someone will have to have to hit pause to clear their eyes before they get where they are going. Hopefully, that destination will be a little brighter because my characters brightened their life.

Location, Location, Location

I made a wrong turn in Vegas.

I found myself on a short street under the freeway where a couple of dozen homeless people clung to the shadows. They looked sweaty and miserable.

I eventually made it to the Chick-Fil-A drive thru and enjoyed my sandwich in my air-conditioned van in the parking lot. Then I had to walk the twenty feet to the trash can.

A hot spot for dinner

113°F is brutal.

I grew a new respect for those homeless people under the freeway.

Then I knew I blew it.

Not right then and there but with several scenes in my novel Reymons. The main characters have to fly open cockpit ultralight aircraft through one of the hottest areas on the planet. I will have to rewrite the scenes to reflect the brutal desert heat that they have to endure.

I try to set my scenes in familiar areas. Sometimes that isn’t possible. In those cases, I am seeing that it is important to visit the scenes to get an idea of what would be affecting the characters.

In the desert of Nevada and Southern California, the heat would be of primary importance to the characters. In some places, the geological features may take precedence. In others, traffic or crowds.

To build depth and realism in characters, you have to know what they are sensing and bring that to the page.

This weekend, I will be in one of the towns that inspired the fictional town of Kerryville, VA. I will keep my senses alert for what my characters should experience.

And just so you know, I don’t plan on exploring the fictional depths of Humphrey’s Peak, known in the distant future as Reymons.

For some things you just have to use your imagination.

Where’d That Come From

Ever wonder where stories come from?

Have you wondered where you can find new stories?

This question came to the forefront when I recently came up with a new novel idea from a very novel source. But first, here’s where some of my other stories have come from.

Reymons came from a high school writing assignment. Mrs. Fender told us to write a short fiction story. She suggested we write about something we like.

I liked driving my dad’s Datsun 280Z. My short story had me going out for a short drive in the little sports car, only to have an obsession come over me that caused me to drive as fast as possible into the mountains. There I followed a line of traffic into a subterranean passage where we were sheltered from a nuclear holocaust (this was during the Cold War).

Reymons revisits that post-apocalyptic world four hundred years later.

Bob Wiley watches me write Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill

Wil Clarey came from my experience as a 16-year-old who was transplanted from the San Francisco Peninsula to rural southwest Virginia. Many of the scenes were based on actual events in my life.

It’s first iteration was, frankly, boring. Then I married into a son on the autism spectrum. I had to think, what if I had been on the spectrum? I rewrote it with that in mind. I lowered Wil’s age to make it middle grade which suited the story better.

Daddy Mine was a bed-time story. I wanted a strong female character for my daughter to look up to. I started with the concept of an orphan 12-year-old girl in a mining town. From the first scene where the neighbor girls are teasing her, it basically wrote itself as I told it to my daughter.

Countdown, or Synchronized, or whatever I end up calling it was a deliberate effort at coming up with an adult level action novel. Some of the situations are drawn from work experience. Other than that, it is made from scratch. It is on hold simply because I found that I need to do some significant research that I don’t have time for right now.

Finally, my as yet unnamed new story. The source?

A dream.

In my dream, I remember feeling very nervous going into an inner-city middle school. I was an adult, there to teach or give a speech. That’s about all I remember of the dream. But I woke up thinking, “this’ll write!”

I made an effort to remember the dream and at lunch, I wrote the first chapter so I would remember the idea.

The main character is now called Evan. He is a paraplegic, having lost the use of his legs in a brutal mugging. That made him re-evaluate his life. Upon recovery, he completed a teaching certificate and finally landed this teaching job after the previous teacher quit mid-year. His unique teaching style ruffles feathers among his fellow teachers.

I can hardly wait to write that story!

I hope this inspires you to find your stories. Look in the unusual places.

Get them written!

Sporty or Classic or Both?

In my last full blog, I explored whether I was an author or a writer.

The answer was yes.

Tonight, I ask myself –

Am I a sports car guy or a classic car guy?

First, you should know I am a car guy. From the Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and slot cars of my childhood to watching tons of You-Tube videos about cars nowadays, I’ve always been into cars.

My dad set the example. He did most of his own work on the old VW bus of my childhood. I helped, uh, watched. Then his midlife crisis hit in the form of a brand new 1975 Datsun 280Z. I loved that car. To my fledgling driving skills, it was like driving a rocket ship!

I’ve made it past midlife without a crisis car (unless I live to be more than 116!).

I have plans to get a project car when I retire, but what kind to get?

I go to car shows and feel that twinge of desire for much of what I see there. But I want a car I can drive whenever I want without worrying about it.

The ’65 VW bus of my childhood has gotten too expensive to drive without being nervous about scratching it. Most 280Zs have turned into a pile of rust. Same for the ’68 Plymouth wagon and ’73 Opel 1900 that were my first and second cars.

Somehow, I have gotten my eyes glued to a certain classic car model. It was popular enough for many preserved examples to be available. It’s unpopular enough for it not to be terribly expensive. Parts are readily available and it’s easy to work on.

And it has a role in the Wil Clarey series.

In the first rough draft of Wil Clarey: Impossible Summer, Wil encountered a Nash Metropolitan. I eventually decided (spoiler alert) that he would try to fix it up. Parts for the tiny British made American car are quite difficult to find and expensive. I had to find different car.

The car needed to be within Wil’s means to get on the road again. It had to be a hardtop that could survive a few years exposed to the elements. I also wanted it to be a little quirky and unique like Wil, (and me).

The car he found – the car I want to occupy some of my attention after retirement from my day job – is a VW Squareback. Look it up. It’s like a classic Beetle with a wagon body.

Photo credit – Hemings.com

So, if you ask me – sports car or classic car?

As the pile of Classic Car Magazines next to me testifies, I’ll take classic over sporty any day! Sure, I might squeeze a few more horsepower out of that air-cooled flat four, but it will be a practical classic car to match my classic but practical personality.

What about you? Classic or sports car? Or both? What’s your dream car?

Can’t Not Write

The yard has a long way to go but at least it’s not a jungle anymore. And the dogs have a new shelter in place of the trampoline I took down.

It’s been a good day. I got a lot accomplished. My yard looks far better than it did last week (a long ways to go though).

It felt good.

But something was missing.

It’s been missing a lot lately.

I’ve been so busy with other parts of life that I’ve spent too little time sitting at this little desk in the corner of my man cave.

There are two writing projects getting some attention lately.

The first draft of Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill is over half done! Wil, Gil, and Hannah are currently stuck on the farm with no power in the middle of an ice storm. Yes, I do think of my characters as living their story as it gets written. When I’m done with this blog, I will have to write a little more to help them thaw out.

Reymons is a much more ambitious project. As a YA fiction, it will be much longer and more complex. I am currently restructuring the first part of the story to add more character development.

My busy life and those two projects have left me ignoring this blog. There are so many things that I’d like to write about that I find myself in mental gridlock.

As I brainstormed in preparation for writing, the question popped in my head. “Am I a writer or an author.”

In typical rabbit trail fashion, I looked up the words.

A writer is someone who commits ideas to words.

An author is the originator of those ideas.

So, the answer is:

Yes!

If you only knew the garbled-up tangle of ideas floating around this brain. The more I put off writing, the more garbled it gets.

In other words – I can’t not write!

I’ll let you act as my therapist as I spill out some of the ideas aching to find their way into words.

Novel ideas keep flowing in and out of my brain including:


Daddy Mine – A historical middle grade fiction following a twelve-year-old orphan girl in the Mountains of 1890’s Colorado.


Countdown – A contemporary fiction in which a hacker and a pastor make an unlikely team to try to stop a cataclysmic terrorist attack.


Several other less developed novel ideas.

Blog ideas are floating around the ideas of social justice, cars, travel, politeness, the horror that is grammar, and corporate responsibility. Oh, and maybe one or two focusing on dad jokes!

Finally, I am looking to restructure my most consistent writing.

Last February I revealed here that I was writing a daily devotion based on the Life Journal reading plan on YouVersion. Even if no one else reads it (107 people subscribe to it), it has transformed my Bible study time. In less than two weeks I will have reached the six-month mark on that. Much to my surprise, I haven’t missed a day yet.

I want to improve that, so I am working on a custom reading plan with the hopes of having some season appropriate reading and facilitating multiple levels of daily reading.

More on that later. For now, if you’re interested in following it, you can search for North Metro Life Journal on Facebook.

Thanks for reading a little of this craziness I call writing. If you want to continue your role as my therapist (reader), please contact me. I am currently looking for middle grade (age 10-14) readers for feedback on Wil Clarey: The Impossible Summer, and writer critics for Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks. Just click contact in the menu.

Finally, for all my fellow authors, let the words flow.

Don’t not write!

A Writer’s Passion

What’s this all about?

Why has it taken me over two months to post another blog?

What do I really want to say to you?

My last few blogs have been about love. Today I want to go into the word “passion” in terms of what I “love” spending my time doing. What are my passions?

You may have heard it said that to see what a person values, look at their bank statements (Apparently I value eating!). I would add to that, look at their calendar. You value what you spend time on.

I value my God, my wife, my family, my church, and my writing. That’s where my passions are directed. That’s where my time has been going.

Writing is a passion of mine that has been playing second fiddle to my other passions lately. My attention has been going to making good things happen for my family and for the kids I teach. There’s some exciting stuff coming up! I’ll share more later, both here and on the Wandering Pen You-Tube channel. In some ways we are in for a wild ride!

But right now, I’ll concentrate on my passion for writing.

Reymons is progressing! The limited time I’ve spent writing it has been fun. My characters keep throwing surprises at me. That nice, neat outline I have of the story keeps being blown apart! Sometimes literally! I’m curious to see what will happen in the end. Will my planned ending pan out? Stay tuned.

I am also signed up to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I am approaching it a little differently this year. Instead of intense planning and sweating over my elevator pitches and synopses, I am going there to learn and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have copies of Wil Clarey and will meet with editors and agents. But I am taking a more relaxed attitude with me this year. I don’t have much time to prepare so I will soak in as much as I can and, if I can get someone interested in publishing Wil Clarey’s stories, great!

I won’t promise another blog before the conference. If something smacks me in the head, I’ll write it down and share it here.

If not, see you in June!

Old Dog, New Tricks

Due to COVID, I currently work in a hospital print shop. I have for the last 7 months. With the help of my coworkers, I’ve acquired several new skills.

Newly acquired skill, painting with glue.

We often have people from other locations help us out as we are the busiest print shop in our company in this area. One day, a guy I’ll call George (not his name) was helping us. He was at the workstation next to mine and was applying a second coat of glue to a project that I was taught only needed one coat.

I was curious. Did I miss something? I asked, “Hey George, didn’t you glue that already?”

Maybe I phrased that wrong because his reply was almost violent. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, don’t tell me how to do my job!”

I was stunned silent. I thought about explaining that I was just curious but he shoved his earbuds back in and went about his redundant work.

I had to wonder, “Do I get that way?” When someone criticizes my writing, do I get defensive, or do I try to learn.

I have to admit, I sometimes get defensive. When someone points out an issue, I’ll try to explain it away. My reaction should be to learn from that criticism. Even if the critic has no writing experience, they have reading experience and can tell when something doesn’t sound right.

This old dog can learn new tricks. I was over 50 when I started getting serious about writing. I have learned a ton last few years. I still have a lot to learn.

In just a few days I take off on a road trip bound for the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. I hope to refine my writing more and make some great connections.

I will be vlogging my road trip and time at the conference on The Wandering Pen, my YouTube writing channel. I can’t guarantee that I will be posting every day as I will be busy but I will do my best to make it fun and informative. See you there!

Oh, and if you criticize my videos, I’ll try to appreciate it and learn how to do them better.