How to avoid the common mistakes of first-time authors, plus self-editing tips. Today’s interview with Harry Dewulf will help improve your book.
In publishing news, I discuss Bowker’s report on ISBNs, a “Dry Spell” for New Novels on the Bestseller List from The Hot Sheet report, Publisher’s Weekly report on a self-published poetry book selling half a million copies, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s post on contract clauses for indie authors.
In my personal update, this week marked my 5 year anniversary as an author-entrepreneur and I shared my lessons learned, plus an update on End of Days (and if you’re a herpetologist, I want to hear from you!), and I mention the first positive reactions to my new course, How to Write a Novel.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Harry Dewulf is an editor and author of Edit Ready: or How to make your book as good as you can make it, before you send it to an editor.
- On Harry’s beginnings as an editor.
- The different types of editing and why they’re necessary.
- The top three things often wrong with first novels.
- Whether dictating a story helps us use other parts of our brain that might not be accessed by typing alone.
- How to decide who your protagonist is.
- Uncovering the story at the heart of a book using an objective lens.
- Tips for making self-editing an easier process.
Transcript of Interview with Harry Dewulf
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I am Joanna Penn, from the TheCreativePenn.com. And today I am here with Harry Dewulf. Hi, Harry.
Joanna: Just a little introduction.
Harry is an editor and author of “Edit Ready” or “How to make your book as good as you can make it before you send it to an editor”, which is something that all authors need.
Before we get into editing, Harry, tell us a bit more about you and your journey into writing and editing, and also, where you are in the world, because I know people will be interested.
Harry: A lot of people want to become writers. In fact, a lot of people who are writers to be fair, have this romantic notion that they will eventually be able to sell up and move to France and write full time. And the thing is, I think they get it the wrong way around.
I live in rural France. In rural France, the cost of living is really low, the cost of housing is really low. If you want to become a full time writer, and you already speak a bit of French, I think the best way is probably to move to France first, and then, then become a writer because becoming a writer takes up a lot of your time.
And, actually, if you could afford to live on a part time job, which you can live in where I live, then why not. So, yeah, it’s kind of the romantic dream, and I do live in the middle of nowhere. I’m a long way from anywhere as well. And it doesn’t really have anything what so ever to do with the work that I do. It’s kind of a historical accident, why I’m here. But it’s nice, I feel like I can make up a different story every time someone ask me the question.
Joanna: Tell us the current story. How did you end up where you are, and your writing and editing journey?
Harry: My editing journey is…it’s already starting to sound like a story plot. But, when I was at university, I met a guy and became very good friends with him, who kind of sorted me out, got me back on track, after I been through some difficult times.
He is very good writer and has been a good friend for many, many years. But, a few years ago, I think it was 2007ish, he was about to put a book out and he asked me if I would read it for him. And he said that he would pay me some trivial sum to read it for him. At that moment I kind of realized that, this was something I could do. And, I’d already done a lot of writing myself, but nothing that I was satisfied with.
About a year after that, he said to me, “Look, there is this whole self-publishing thing going on now that you probably haven’t noticed,” because I hadn’t noticed it, “and there’s a big demand for people who have the kind of skills and knowledge that you’ve got and so on. And why don’t you get started doing it?” And, so I did.
I found a few first few clients straight away. What I keep coming back to…in fact the question most people ask is, why am I editing rather than writing? Because, when I edit, my expertise is in telling stories, that’s what I specialize in.
Why edit rather than write and sell my own books? It’s not an easy question to answer until you realize that it’s a different skill set. It is about understanding how stories work, and it is about knowing about all of the things that all of us know.
I think what it’s also about is, it’s knowing all the things that readers know as well. I never tire of saying that readers are much better at being readers than authors are at being authors. The people who are the most skilled in the whole conversation of the readers. What I have is a capacity to communicate it.
Because, there’re plenty of readers who can tell you whether they liked the book or not, and even tell you why. But, can they relate that back to a creative process? And that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s what I’ve been learning how to do. Because I guess that’s the other side of it.
Writing looks like quite a solitary occupation. It looks like it from the outside. I mean, writers spend most of their time chatting to each other on forums, rather than actually writing, or listening to podcast. So, finding any excuse they can not do any writing and get a bit of human contact, but writing looks like quite a solitary occupation. Editing is a shared creative experience and I get a massive kick out of it.
Joanna: Now, that’s fantastic. I was talking to someone the other day and she said, “I used to think an editor who was just about fixing typos.”
Can you explain the difference between what an editor does at the level of story, and fixing typos and grammar which can often be left to a proofreader?
Harry: Again, it’s a separate skill set. And, what’s done by a low level editor, so what’s done by someone who edits copy…someone who edits proofs, is part of the publication process. It’s ensuring that your book is actually ready to put out there. It’s one of those necessary steps.
What I do often isn’t a necessary step. There’re plenty of authors you can manage without it. But, that last stage of proofing, that is a necessary step. But it’s something that you do to ensure that, all of those little detail things…the nuts and bolts of it, that they are all correct.
The scope of that is limited to one book. What I do has a much, much broader scope, because although yes, I will pick up details of spelling of grammar, punctuation, if I see a pattern in the errors. I am also looking at style, I am looking at voice expression, I am looking at narrative technique, and more broadly speaking I am looking at storytelling technique, and I’m looking at the creative process.
Because the scope of my intervention goes beyond just one manuscript. The scope of it is actually identifying, where are the weaknesses in an author’s technique, so that I can teach them how to put it right. Or, I mean…it’s complicated because it’s creative.
Sometimes you can’t just say look, you’re making this particular kind of narrative structure error, stop doing it. A copy editor can say you’re consistently spelling this word wrong, or consistently using the wrong word here, and that’s fine, you can put that right.
But, if I say that, the reader is not building a clear picture of what kind of story he’s going to read, and that needs to come sooner. For many writers, what they need then is to go away and to spend some time rewriting, it becomes almost an introspective process, where they discover their solution to that problem.
And they come back and write it again with their solution. And this have the dual benefit, there’s no better way of fixing that kind of creative problem then by finding your solution to it. But also it means that, however you put it right, it’s still your creation. I’m not going to rewrite what you’ve written.
Sometimes it’s hard even for me to say exactly what’s missing. So, to come back to your question, what’s the difference? The difference is, I am looking at how you tell a story? What your story is? How you present it to the reader? How the reader reacts to it?
One of my biggest areas of discussion with the authors is the experience that the reader has reading your book, and how you manage and control that experience, and that’s where I am working. And, I am working there, because, I see the business of being a writer. I see the success in the business of being a writer is resting on two pillars.
The first pillar I characterize as, “No one can buy your book if they don’t know it exist.” So, the first pillar has to be reaching your market.
But, the second pillar is, “if your book is no good, no one who’s read it…will read your next one.” But also, if your book is very good then the first pillar’s going to be easier to scale on your next book, it’s going to be easier to get it out there. I’m concentrating on that quality side, on making sure it’s a good read.
Joanna: Which is interesting. We’re going to talk about self-editing before it’s get to an editor. But, I want to pick up on the use of your word “Good” or “No good,” because I was interested that you describe yourself as a Literary Editor. And, there’s always this discussion on the word “Literary” and especially around “Good” and “No good,”. And is it quality you read when “Fifty Shades of Grey” sold a hundred million copies and many people would like that kind of success. And if you again mentioning the author business and success as an author business, then where we are wanting to write books that have a commercial hit as such, as well as being a good read.
I’m really interested in your thoughts of this and you particularly use the phrase “Literary Editor” when many genres authors might be concerned by the use of that word.
Harry: For a long time, I didn’t even realize that’s an issue existed, and the reason is that, Literary Editor just happens to be, what historically this role was called. It had nothing to do with something being literary or non-literary. If you like there are two different domains here colliding.
In old fashioned publishing, if you go back 60, 70 years, a Literary editor was actually a type of commissioning or agency editor, who dealt with fiction and therefore provided actually a lot of help to all this that I provide, but as part of the publishing house.
Or the other thing that a Literary editor was, was the book editor on a periodical. And it’s only once, you get this domain starting to get mixed up, because now we see genres which were originally something that were decided actually by distributors, and to a much, much lesser extent librarians.
The distributors, they suffer when they can’t see an easy category to play something into. And to be fair, so do the readers. Distributor categories exist so that readers can do a little bit of presorting, so they can find their next book. Because otherwise they’re overwhelmed with choice, so, it’s essential.
I didn’t see this is an issue, then when people started pointing it out to me saying, “Do you think there are genres writers who aren’t coming to you, because you’ve called yourself Literary editor?” And, it never occurred to me before, then I’ve been thinking, I’d like to reclaim the term.
After all, what does it mean Literary? It means of, or pertaining to literature. And what’s literature? Well, it’s written stuff, that’s all it is. I don’t see any difference. It’s very interesting that you said, “Fifty Shades of Grey” hugely successful, but many people would not consider that good writing.
Dan Brown, hugely successful, many people would not consider that good writing. Good writing is being measured the wrong way. Good writing satisfies a reader. A reader who puts a book down and says, “That was a really enjoyable experience.” That is a reader who is satisfied and that’s what good writing is. Different people need different things to be satisfied by the book that they are reading. But, clearly, millions of people have been satisfied by “Fifty Shades of Grey” one way or another.
Joanna: Over a hundred million people have been satisfied.
Harry: They’ve experienced the satisfaction of reading that particular book and similarly “The Da Vinci Code” was clearly enormously satisfying. I have read a couple of them and “The Da Vinci Code,” I found it frustrating, because actually, although it’s a very enjoyable read, there’s a better book in there. It could have been even better.
Joanna: Oh yeah, I think one of the problem with Dan Brown, by “The Lost Symbol” which, I think is the one coming out soon. Oh no, that’s “Inferno” is going to come out…isn’t it, as a film. He really need an editor. I totally get with that, and I read all the Dan Brown.
I do think Dan Brown had a bit of a hand on the merchandising side because the Vatican banned the book. But, it’s still one of the best-selling books of all time. So, there’s definitely something there.
Harry: As I said, for me, that’s a good book. I haven’t read “Fifty Shades,” and I’m not likely to make the time for it soon. But I don’t need to. When something has that kind of success and people are actually reading it, that means a good book is a good read.
Let’s go to extremes, it doesn’t have to be on Umberto Eco. And in fact on Umberto Eco, arguably, how good “The Name of the Rose” is, is limited. Because, actually those readers who can be satisfied by it, hugely satisfied, but there aren’t many of them.
Joanna: Yeah, it’s funny you say that, because I write in that genre with Umberto Eco “The Name of the Rose,” and I revisited it recently. And I was like, goodness, this is a really hard read. And in fact, I couldn’t even finish others of his books. I think many people just remember the film “The Name of the Rose” where is Dan Brown is much easier to read.
Anyway, just on the Literary good thing, I love your answer, I think it’s brilliant. And I wish you luck with reclaiming the word Literary, because I think…it’s not going to happen.
Let’s talk about the book, “How to make the book as good as you can.” One of the issues with us writing our first draft is, sometimes we just can’t see the problems. And, you see a lot of manuscripts, so, what are the top three things that you find wrong in most first novels?
Really looking at first time novelist, what are the things, that you go “Okay, this must be your first novel.”
Harry: I’m glad you warned me about this question in advance, and I’ll tell you why. I did an info-graphics which is the “10 things that come up the most often.” And what was really interesting about doing that was that, in fact those 10 things, they’re not new writer errors, they’re writer errors.
The fact is, a writer who hasn’t realized they’re making the error yet, can actually have quite a lot of success without realizing that they are. It’s only of you make all of them, then it becomes really obvious.
I had to think myself, what makes a new writer really, really recognizable? Initially, I said to myself, there are only two things. But I then realized that there was a third.
I’m going to give you the third first. The third one is; they send me their first draft.
Joanna: Ah, interesting.
Harry: This is a really important point because creating a story can’t be done first go, unless you’ve had lots and lots of practice.
I don’t know if you do this for fun, I certainly do, but I like to get people to improvise a story. And I find it very, very easy. It’s even easier if you just ask the people around you for elements of the story like in an Improv Show, where you just say, what’s the main character? What’s their problem? And all that kind of thing, you improvise a story.
When you’ve done it enough times, you get an instinct for what a story needs, in order to be a story. You can write a first draft, that’s already definitely a story, because you know where it’s going to go. Even then, a first drift is still not something to send to an editor, because your first draft is always your discovery.
Whether it’s completely the first time or whether it’s your 30th, 40th book, your first draft is still discovering what the story is really going to be, no matter how much of a planner you are, no matter how exhaust your wall charts are. You know, who you are incidentally.
You have to do a second draft, because you have to go back to those early parts of your book knowing what’s going to happen later on. And, you can always spot the opportunism, you can always, always say when the writer has a three quarter of the way through, and they just had a brilliant idea. You could always see it, and that’s the kind of thing that gets eliminated in the second draft. That’s obvious kind of thing, but there’re lots of much more subtle things to do. So, that’s number three. The other two are the ones that came to me straight away.
The first one is this, no story.
Joanna: Ah, interesting.
Harry: You might be surprised how often that happens. But, in fact I’ve even had some quite experienced writers come and send me a book, and I’ve just said to them, what’s the story? Where is it?
With the writers who’ve already got some experience that happens mostly if they decide to make a change of genres, or if the decide to make a significant change in style, because it seems to kind of reboot the whole process. And, how do you deal with this issue of there not being a story, is actually something that I’ve been addressing myself too, over the last few months. And this is one of those moments, where I’m not sure what tense to use, because I don’t know what your broadcast schedule is.
But I have a course, which is going to come out probably in September, and it is about what a story is fundamentally. And, in just under an hour…if I’ve got my timings right, just under an hour, I will teach, how to understand what a story is. So, this is about the basic elements that it needs in order to be a story, in order to be present in the book.
I am going to show you my prop as well, because this is what’s it’s all about.
Joanna: For those on the audio feed, you better explain what you holding up.
Harry: For those on the audio feed, I’m holding up a traditional wooden cup and ball toy. So, there’s a wooden cup, and it’s got a piece of string that goes to little wooden ball, and you have to…just with one hand, you have to get the ball into the cup.
Joanna: And it takes several tries.
Harry: It can take quite a lot’s of tries actually and if you’re using honest, unless you’re a circus performer, I don’t advise using a prop like that in an instructional video. There are a few that took me a quite a lot of takes.
Joanna: That’s fantastic. So, that’s the…second thing is, there’s no story.
Harry: Number three is no main character.
Joanna: Or, there’s too many characters or…
Harry: It comes to the same thing. It comes to the same thing. There’s a well-established fashion for writing un-assembled books. And, doing so requires either the unique ability to imitate the way that 90s and early 2000s American TV drams were written. And the other is truly, truly prejudice skill at understanding character into play. But even then, it’s very difficult to tell a story if you don’t have a main character.
Joanna: And, it’s very ambitious, as in George R. R. Martin “Game of Thrones,” this immediately comes to mind for me because there are so many main characters, or so many characters. He has being writing it for 20 years, and he is amazing.
You can’t do that with your first book.
Harry: No, you can’t. You have to get really, really good at it. But, there are so many things in writing fiction, that you can’t learn without trying to do them.
Sometimes I have a writer send me a manuscript and I say, “Look, this just isn’t working, but don’t stop.” Because I can see, what they want to do. It’s when you get the manuscript where each chapter has the name of the character at the top of the chapter, which that’s one of my buttons. That one sets me off.
Joanna: Oh really. That’s what George R. R. Martin does. Those are probably fantasy writers.
Harry: George R. R. Martin’s little secret: he is not writing fiction. He is writing Soap Opera. Okay? That’s what it is, it’s political Soap Opera.
Joanna: I love it.
Harry: And many people do, and that’s fine. But, it’s not story telling. What it is, it’s putting a kind of story like frame on an imitation of real life, which is what Soap Opera does. I mean, you can watch “Game of Thrones” or you can watch “Cori,” there’s very little difference, except for the number of…
Joanna: Violent deaths…
Harry: Well, that’s what I was thinking, the deaths are may be less violent on “Cori” but they do have them. Perhaps you can put a footnote in the video to explain what we are talking about to the non UK…
Joanna: “Coronation Street,” which to be fair I’ve never watched, but I love “Game of Thrones.” So, that’s interesting.
How can you tell, who is your main character? Or, how do you create your best protagonist? If people have too many characters, which one do they pick?
Harry: It has to be the character, who is the only one, who can tell the story. You have to eliminate characters until the story disappears.
Joanna: I see the point.
Harry: To be honest, it’s a problem, I’ve only ever solved in conversation with an author. I have never had to do it on my own. I don’t know, what an author who is doing it on their own would do.
But my advice would definitely be eliminate the characters one by one until the story disappears. If you’re working from a small number characters, if you got five or six characters, pick one. Try to tell the story with them as the main character. When I say tell the story, I mean laterally tell it, speak it aloud. Story telling is a verbal activity and writers don’t talk aloud to themselves nearly enough.
Joanna: It’s interesting you say that. My last book “Destroyer of Worlds,” I did the first draft for dictation. It was hard to kind of change my mindset, and I really felt like, the process was much quicker.
Do you think the writers, who are now using dictation or accessing these other parts of the story telling brain that, they might not by typing or hand writing?
Harry: Without a doubt, yes. There are writers…I don’t know about you, but I type very, very fast.
Joanna: Me too.
Harry: And, plenty of writers do type very, very fast. But, you’re using your hands instead of your tongue. And I don’t know, if you’ve noticed this, but when I’m writing fiction or poetry I’ll have a glass of something to drink with me. But when I’m writing fiction or poetry, I have to spend a lot of time without my hands moving, and then I write a whole lot of stuff.
It’s even more so with poetry, sitting with my hands like this, thinking about what the next line is going to be. When I’m writing non-fiction, I can quite comfortably do that, with a pencil on my mouth.
You need your tongue to tell a story. And I think you’ll find, the more comfortable you are dictating, the faster your style will evolve. But also, the faster your stories will evolve. The best stories are ones that before you write them down, you’ve already told them several times.
The better you know it, the better you write it. The artificiality of the fact that, until recently none of us couldn’t afford someone to dictate to. But, you don’t write, what is it 700 novels in a lifetime, which is Barbara Cartland by the way. You don’t write that many if you are not dictating. But you also, you don’t write that many novels that are any good, if you’re not dictating.
Joanna: I think her esate recently put her books into eBook form. There are 300 of her back list, and on the day they all came out, I was just like, awe, it’s a bad day for romance writers, because everyone’s just going to now spend a while getting through Barbara Cartland. Luckily, the romance readers would get through 300 books pretty quickly. But that’s quite funny. No, that’s really interesting thing. We’re already getting close to the end, and I have got so many question for you. I want to get back to editing.
Harry: All right, you can invite me back.
Joanna: I want to get back to editing. In your book “Edit Ready,” which is a great title, you say, “You may need some time to get over the shock, when people get their edits back.”
I’ve been through this with an author friend recently. She got back her edits on her first novel, and was pretty devastated. I remember, when I got my first edit back, and I was like, oh my goodness.
How will these edits make them a better writer? How should they tackle this and work with an editor or their own edits? How do you get through it, basically?
Harry: The first thing is, most writers, even the very first time they come to me, most of them, they prepare themselves physiologically. Another thing they say is, they’re not sending their book to me so that I can tell them how great it is.
Joanna: Well, I wonder, if a lot of people want that. A lot of people just want that.
Harry: Well, that’s the thing. I think people expect people to want that. But people do tell themselves, look even if it’s great, I’m paying him to tell me what’s wrong with it. And that’s like a get out of jail free card, that is. Because, I can be really, really nasty.
You’re not telling me about all the good stuff because I’m paying you tell me what’s wrong. But actually most people don’t really think that way. What they really think as they say to themselves, well, what he’s going to do, he’s going to tell me all of the stuff that’s no good. And then he’s going to explain to me, how I am going to fix that. So, it’s going to be great. But, at the same time, yes, people want approval, they want recognition.
And in a way I’m not there to give approval. But, because I’m involved in the creative process, I do give recognition. Authors shown me who they are, and even more so when you see an early draft.
I said to one author, it’s got an awful lot of absent fathers in this book. And he is like, “Really?” That’s a major theme here, is it? And authors, they don’t see that. In fact, dialed it back a bit in the next draft, which was fine. I think, people don’t want to expose themselves quite as much as they do.
But imagine, you’re hoping for some approval, and you’re hoping for some appreciation and you’re hoping that someone will tell you, “This has the potential to be a really great book,” and I say, there’s no story.
What you going to think? Are you going to think: well okay, in that case, do I have to start again completely? And it’s pretty terrible. It’s terrible for me too though, because if you paid me to tell you what’s wrong with your book and explain how you can fix it, and what I say is, there’s no story, that’s not an easy thing to fix, but it happens.
I’ve just finished working on a book, where literally…I think it requires a certain amount of…I’m going to say talent, or I don’t really believe in it…but it requires certain amount of ability in the writer to see how to do it. And in this case, there was a switch of tenses, some reorganization of the chronology, and the injection of the few important incidents that influence the ways the different threads of the story interacted, that certainly meant the structure came in to be.
Sometimes that happens, sometimes you are chipping away at layers and layers of unnecessary stuff to discover the story underneath. And sometimes it’s like, what it’s like the most often is, you know the installation the liberate topics, where they have the Tar and there’s this models of animals that raise out of the Tar?
Joanna: No, but it sounds cool.
Harry: Because you know, when you get tar on the surface, it preserves the skeletons of animals. And the thing is, sometimes you can’t see what the animal is until it’s risen out far enough. That’s what you’re trying to do sometimes.
Sometimes the story is there, it’s just heavily obscured. How do you deal with all of that?
Physiologically I honestly think, you have to remember that, you’re on a learning cliff. It’s like a Learning Curve, only it’s vertical, and it’s stays vertical for a long, long time. And I think most people realize that quite quickly. They realize actually, they’ve got an enormous amount to learn. And, if their first book is even publishable by the time it’s finished, then that means that, their second book is going to be way, way above it, in terms of its quality.
Joanna: I think that is the point. It’s a shame but it’s the truth, with your first novel the learning curve is going to be the highest. You assume because you are a reader, you’ve been reading books for so many years, you assume, because you can write a sentence or an email, you can write a novel.
I think, we all go through this realization, which is pretty hard core. Final question, I wanted to ask you about some tricks for self-editing. Because the book is about actually, how to edit it yourself before sending it to an editor. So, what are some tricks for self-editing? Because often is seeing our own mistakes is super hard.
What are some of the things we can do to make self-editing an easier process?
Harry: Bear in mind that, my field of intervention is in the story structure, it’s in the narrative. So, seeing your errors is not the easiest thing. The way that my book is in fact structured is actually it’s old advice that I’ve given to actual authors. Because my thinking is, I’ve seen this problem several times in this book.
I’m going to give you three examples of what the problem is. But also, I’m going to tell you, there’re are several more examples in the books, find them yourself, fix them yourself. That’s the kind of advice I am giving and that’s the kind of advice in the book.
If I was going to give a piece of advice to your listeners and watchers, it is that in order to edit a piece of narrative what you need to do is, think in advance. When you’re writing it the first time, you should have actually said to yourself, imagine a writing a scene, you know what has to happen in this scene. By the time you reach the end of the scene, some piece of information is got to be passed from character to another.
That’s an objective for the scene. You write the scene, if that happens then it’s done. You can edit the same way. In fact, what you can do it, you can divide the book up into chapters before you reread it. For each chapter say, what you think is supposed to happen in that chapter, before you reread it. And then for each chapter, do the same.
For each chapter, chop it up into scenes and for memory, say it to yourself, I think there ought to be scene in this chapter. I am pretty sure I wrote a scene in this chapter where this thing happens. And each one of those is an objective.
You can have objectives at lot of different levels, you can have objectives for an entire story, or you can have an objective for a chapter, or group of chapters, a scene for a descriptive passage, you can even have an objective for three line of dialog. And indeed you can have an objective, if you getting really fussy for individual sentences and individual words.
Honestly, I think when you go back and you self-edit your first chapter, you should have an objective for the first sentence, an objective for the first word, for the first paragraph, for the first page, for the first three pages.
Because, at the very beginning of your book, your first sentence has got to get you enough goodwill from the reader, that they read the second sentence. And the first two have got to get you enough goodwill to get to the end of the first paragraph. So, those are the things that are got to be absolutely spot on.
You’ve got to be able to say it to yourself before you reread it, this is what I think it should be doing. And then, you can see if it is.
Joanna: You’re almost outlining after you’ve written it, and I think that’s a big tip. I don’t do an outline before I write, I have a rough few scenes. But then, if I am editing and there’s a story problem like, I really think there’s something wrong with the story, something is missing, I don’t know what.
The first thing I do is go, what’s the point of this? And by re-outlining even if you have an outline. You can actually find some of these problems. I do want to add on the first line, the first paragraph, the first chapter, to me that’s the thing that gets rewritten the most. The most heavily edited part of your book is that first chapter. So, I want to just tell people, if they are writing their first novel, don’t start with the first chapter. Or, if you start with that, don’t bother editing it. Just remember, you going to edit is so many times.
If you obsessed over the first paragraph, and the first chapter now, you may never finish a book.
Harry: The self-editing advice, I give in my long course “Read Worthy Fiction,” is when you reach the end, I say, “Delete chapter one.” Just delete it. Honestly this is for anyone who is attempting their first book.
Write the first chapter. When you get to the end, delete the first chapter. In fact if it’s your first book, based on recent experience, delete the foreword, the prologue, the preface, and, delete all of those. Delete the first chapter. Often actually the first chapter begins into the third or the fourth paragraph of the second chapter.
In fact, writing chapter one yeah, it’s really difficult. But where is your story? Your story is here. It’s not on the page, your story is in your memory. When you created a great story, it exists as a continuous process in your memory. So, when you go back and outline, don’t be reading and outlining.
Outline your story from memory, and then see, if what you wrote matches it. Because that is where you will find where you really went wrong in your narrative, and where you got self-indulgent and so on.
Joanna: Which we all do. That’s fantastic, and you’ve given us lots of tips. I’m satisfied with that given people ideas for their own books. Now, just tell us where people can find you, and your books, and your services online?
Harry: Okay, head over to harrydewulf.com, and I’m going to put up a page specially for your listeners, so harrydewulf.com/creativepenn. And, that should take you directly to the page…and most of the stuff that we’ve discussed on…I’ll put links into any of the stuff that we’ve discussed, and I’ll put in some exclusive content as well, and I’ll put in some coupons, and I’ll put in a sneak review of the course I’m doing later in the year. So, lots of goodies for your listeners.
You can also find me on Facebook. My Facebook page is called Densewords, D-E-N-S-E-W-O-R-D-S, as is my Twitter, and so is my YouTube channel. And, I have a YouTube channel, where I do Q&A and I put up answer to an author question, or a question about write, some of them are readers question, some of them are author questions, some of them are editors questions, and all sorts. But, it’s all mostly about writing, and I put one up once or twice a week.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Harry. That was great.
Harry: Thank you for having me.