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How to Edit Your Paranormal Romance Story
 
 
How to Edit Your Paranormal Romance Story
Editing is work. No two ways about it. Many people hate to edit. If you are one of those people, you are going to hate the next statement: Not only do you need to edit, you need to re-edit!

Here are two great courses that might help you even further with editing:

Writing Basics 101: Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation, Writing Structures
Proofreading 101

There are a couple of different ways to edit your novel. Developmental editing and line editing are the most popular.

The first tip for a successful edit is to wait. Do not edit as you go. You will ruin your flow and lose your train of thought. You can edit chapter by chapter; but again, this might interrupt your flow or even depress you. If you go back through each chapter as you write it, sometimes you do not see the big picture as you want it to be. You can get disheartened.

If you must edit as you go, do quick edits. Just go back and quickly skim the work, looking for glaring errors, then move on.

When you have completely finished your novel, wait a bit, and then start editing. Why wait a bit? You need to gain some perspective. You have just poured all this blood, sweat, and tears into the project and you might be a little sensitive. Wait, gain some distance, and then begin.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is sometimes called plot editing, but there is so much more to it than just checking to make sure the plot follows a realistic time line, flowing from point A to point B, and so forth. You also make sure the pacing works, your characters stay in character throughout, and your narrative makes sense.

Do not give your book to a friend to read through and tell you if the plot makes sense. Friends usually will be too gentle with your feelings; and besides, you know what works and what does not. Read the book and see if it works.

Does the conflict work? Does it make sense? Have you established a believable problem? If so, have you established realistic ways to solve this conflict? Do the steps make sense? Do you move from one point to the next at a reasonable pace?

Speaking of pace, is the pacing correct? Is it varied? Remember that a book's pace should speed up, slow down, and stay varied throughout.

As you read, ask yourself if you have given your readers enough clues to help them figure out the resolution. In that same vein, have you given them surprises along the way to keep them guessing?

Make sure your characters stay true throughout. Static characters should stay through the novel; in other words, if they start out evil, they stay evil. If your character is dynamic, he or she should change during the course of the novel, but make sure your reader knows why. Additionally, make sure your characters' stories stay straight as you read.

If you have your character using an accent in the beginning, he or she should still have it at the end. Make sure the little things in their lives stay the same, too. If you have given one a mother named Irene, make sure her name does not change somewhere in the middle. If you have given his or her place of work a name, make sure it stays the same, and so on. Keep your stories straight.
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Paranormal Romance Writing.

Line Editing

Line editing is a bit different, a bit more difficult. (Here is where Strunk's book will really come in handy. This book has plenty of line editing tips.)

Line editing involves reading each and every line carefully for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and so on. Yes, an editor will do this, but if you send an agent a work that you have cleaned up already, he or she will be impressed and happy to work with you.

Line editing should be your last step. Here is a tip that may sound a bit weird: Read backwards. Yes, it is tedious and takes a while, but this is a good way to look for double words and misspellings. This is a tip that you can do a little at a time or not at all. It is just a fun tip to clean up the spelling.
Query Letters

Writing a query letter is an art form. It is important to know what to include in each one and to make each one unique. Each query should be tailor- made for the agent or publisher you are sending it to.

When you write to an agent, you want to write an intelligent, concise letter that will draw the agent in, just as your book should draw your readers in. Make sure to use proper grammar, address the agent by the correct salutation, omit slang, and spell your words correctly.

Treat your query letter like the old standard for a résumé: Never more than one page! Brevity is your friend. Three paragraphs are the accepted norm. You want an introduction, in which you provide the hook, a synopsis of your novel, and a short version of your biography.

Introduction

To start your introduction, let the agent know you have done your homework. Agents want to know you have put some thought into this. It shows you are serious about your work, and this lets them know that you have most likely done the research needed to write a well-crafted book as well.

Share the reason you have come to him or her rather than the hundreds of others out there. If you are shopping your book around, let him or her know this. Of course, if this agent has asked that you submit your query only to that agency, let them know that you have read and are abiding by those wishes. You might state in your letter that you are prepared to wait a specified number of weeks, say two to four, before moving on to another agent. How long you are willing to wait for a reply is up to you.

Hook

Also in your introduction should be your hook. This is the one-sentence summary that will sell your book, that the agent will use to sell it to a publisher, that the publisher will use to sell it to the marketing department, and so on. The hook, as you might surmise, is quite important.

The hook is a tagline that is meant to grab the reader's interest, in this case the agent, and draw her or him in. Your hook is the line that should make the agent want to take you on as a client and sell your great book.

If you need some help writing your hook, think of the basic elements of your novel: where it is set, the characters involved, and the conflict the main character must face. Then turn that into a hook. "Transylvania, 1529, Sebastian must win the love of a good woman or die trying." Okay, obviously that is not a hook that will sell a million books, but you get the point.

Synopsis of Your Novel

In your next paragraph, you have a couple of options. You can simply write a mini-synopsis of the book, hitting the high notes, giving out some plot elements, summarizing the conflict, detailing your characters, and so forth; or you can take a piece of your novel that you feel is a strong representation of your work and paste it in.

Showing part of your novel is always a great idea, but it is not for everyone. You decide which avenue works best for you.

Your Biography, Condensed

Finally, your third paragraph should be a mini-biography. What have you done, written, published, etc.? Any awards for your poetry or short stories? What makes you unique? If you have ties to the literary world, share them. You are a librarian, a bookstore owner, a reader of children's literature at the local mall. Maybe you are a teacher or a day-care worker, and you read books all the time. Whatever you have that pertains, add it in.

Make sure to share what makes you an aficionado when it comes to paranormal romances. You have read millions! You eat, drink, and breathe paranormal romance. You love the movies; you identify with the characters. Again, whatever it is, share it. Let the agent know that you are serious about your craft and are involved 100 percent.

In Closing

Finally, in closing, go for formality. Sincerely thank the agent for his or her time. Let the agent know that your novel is finished and available to read at any time or, if this agent has asked you to send chapters or a copy of the finished product, mention in the letter that it is included.

The emphasis here is on brevity. Your hook should be one line; your biography, no more than a paragraph. Same goes with your synopsis. The agents only have so much time, and you do not want to annoy them right off the bat with a ton of reading to wade through.

Good luck!
Putting It All Together


Your Novel

By this point, you either have a great idea stewing around in your gray matter or you have already begun work on your novel. Remember as you write that Merriam-Webster defines the word "paranormal" to mean "not specifically explainable: supernatural." So play up and draw out those supernatural, otherworldly aspects to make your novel both memorable and creative.

No matter what stage of the development process you are in now, it is important to remember a few things:

a) Write every single day. Schedule it. Do it. Even if you have to throw out every bit of that day's work because it is unsuitable, just write! If you do not write, you are not a writer. Get into the habit.

b) On a roll? Stay with it! Many a writer has lost a great train of thought, a great idea, the perfect word, line, or ending because he or she stopped to answer the phone or a kid's question, take out the dog, or clean up a grammatical or spelling error noticed while writing. Let callers call back or leave a message. Set up mommy or daddy time with the kids to avoid interruptions while working. Let the kids take out the dog while you work. Let the error go for now; it will still be there when you go back to do your edits later. The point is, you can lose those great ideas, so stick with them, no matter what! Do not get distracted.

c) Try not to look back too soon. It can frustrate you and hamper your progress. Try not to edit sooner than a chapter at a time, if you must, and those should be only quick edits. The full, developmental edits and line edits should come when you are completely finished with the book, and even then you need to step away from the work for a while to get a little distance.

Characters

When building your characters, look to our list of magical and supernatural characters or come up with your own. Not every paranormal romance novel has to involve a vampire, a werewolf, or a ghost. Make the characters your own, even if that means you want to introduce magical dancing hippos, but make sure to give them a story.

Remember that backstories are essential to your characters, and not necessarily just for your readers to view, either. Creating a database that includes all your characters' traits, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, and so on, along with past relationships, work history, and religious affiliation will help you. It helps you build a stronger character and get to know that character so that you can write him or her better, as though the character were a friend or family member. It also helps you keep different characters straight as you write them, so there are no embarrassing goofs in their history or time lines.

Having that database nearby as you write ensures that you will not change the name of the hero's high school sweetheart from one chapter to the next, or have your heroine's favorite flowers be daisies in one scene and roses in another.

The more information you gather and have on your characters, the stronger your story.

This goes for setting, too. If you are writing a period piece, or writing about an entirely new world, avoid those same slipups by writing down everything you know about the place and time. If it is a period piece, you know you must do research. Do not let your book become a laughingstock, or even worse, unpublishable, because you could not get dates straight or keep up with the important events that happened on those dates.

If you are writing about an entirely new place, just make sure to write down everything you would like to know and everything your reader needs to know about it in your database so that you can make sure you have covered all the important points in your book. Be creative, but share the necessary information.

Plotting and Pacing

As we said before, plotting and pacing are integral concepts when writing a novel. You must plot out your book so that you know what comes next and that you have a story that holds together in its journey from A to B to Z.

A plot map is the simplest variation of plotting. It is one we all know from our high school English classes. On a plot map, you have your introduction, your rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or denouement. You can add as many elements of each of these into the map as you like.

Plotting without the map actually takes a bit more time and is quite a bit more intensive. There are a vast number of software programs out there, though, that can make this easy for you, and some of them are even free.

Just think of the plot line as the skeleton for your book, and you will flesh it out as you write. With no backbone, though, there is no story, so make sure to draw up that skeleton before you get going.

Pacing, like plotting, is essential if you want the book to be a success. The pace of the novel needs to be just right, like Goldilock's bed, porridge, and chair. Too slow? Your readers will grow bored, put down your book, and go looking for a book that is just right! Too fast? Your readers might get through it, but they will be left unsatisfied. If you power through your writing, you leave out details, you leave out key events, and you may even leave out pieces of the plot. Although readers may finish the book, they still will not understand why things happened.

Therefore, make your pace just right by varying it. The pace of a book should be like the pace of a good movie: fast in spots, slower in other places, and back and forth. You want to slow down in areas where readers really need to take in as much information as you are dishing out, and then you want to speed up when you are coming to an intense part of the novel.

In order to stall the pace, you can add in lengthier paragraphs and backstory. In order to speed it up, use choppier sentences and shorter paragraphs.

Dialogue

We cannot wrap up without mentioning dialogue again. As we discussed before, dialogue can truly make or break your novel. Dialogue must be realistic and natural. Remember that not everyone in your book is a Rhodes Scholar or an English professor. It is not only okay but necessary for your characters to speak in slang and run-ons or fragments and to use contractions.

Spend some time observing the way people around you carry on conversations. Note their speech patterns, their gestures, and their body language. Remember to incorporate all of this into your writing.

Also recall the notes on dialogue that we covered before. You can sometimes omit attributions, but do not play too heavily with the adverbs, stay away from monologues, and do not get too cutesy with the attributions: Using "he said" and "she asked" is fine.

Editing

Again, doing quick edits every few pages or chapters is okay, as long as it is not taking you away from writing. Also, do not let those too frequent edits get you down. Sometimes going back too soon to edit can make us feel terrible about our writing skills. If we do not see it coming together, we often start to wonder, but if you leave it until the end and then wait a bit and go back with fresh eyes and a sense of distance, you will feel better about yourself and your work.

A developmental edit is checking for all the basics: plotting, pacing, character development, dialogue, and so on. Line editing is literally reading line for line to check for grammar problems, misspellings, punctuation errors, double words and the like. They are both time-consuming but necessary.

Do not give your book to a friend to edit. Be tough and just do it yourself. You will know what needs to be corrected if you read with an unbiased, open mind.

Agents and Queries

Finally, we come to agents and queries. We have just covered these two topics, so we will touch on them briefly here.

Yes, you need an agent. Now that almost all publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts, agents are your best way in the door. Agents do the legwork for you.

Make sure to find an agent that accepts paranormal romance. He or she will know which publishers are accepting this genre of fiction and will head there on your behalf. The agent will help with final edits, make any necessary suggestions to help you clean up the book, and then negotiate the best price on your behalf.

Do your research and find the agents that best fit you and your book. Then contact them. Send a query letter. Your query letter should contain three paragraphs: an introduction and hook, a synopsis of your book, and your condensed biography.

After your formal greeting, your first paragraph should state why you have chosen this agent and lay out the hook for your novel. This one sentence should grab the agent's attention and make the person want to know more. Additionally, if you are querying more than one agent at a time, let the agent you are addressing know that in this paragraph.

In your next paragraph, provide a synopsis of your book. Alternatively, you may decide to insert a strong passage from your book that you believe is a good representation of you, your skills, and your story.

Finally, in your last paragraph give your mini-biography. Tell what you have done in the past, such as published anything or won any literary awards; what your connection to the literary world is, if any; and maybe note that you would be willing to blog about your book and promote it in local bookstores.

In closing, thank the agent sincerely for his or her time and note that your finished manuscript is ready for the agent's perusal at any time.

If you have done your homework and the agent has asked authors to send sample chapters or the final manuscript, make sure to note that those items are included in your package.

 
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