What to expect from a structural edit…

What to expect from a structural edit

So I’ve almost completed the structural edit for Wish You Were Here. There’s work to be done- of course there is, but on the whole, I’m pretty happy. Thankfully Nicola, my editor, likes the story and the characters- so that’s a great big sigh of relief from me.

The biggest piece of rewriting this time around has been in the second half of the book- mainly to do with the way in which I bring my characters together. Nicola has come up with some ideas to strengthen this and make it more believable.

Naturally there’s more throughout the manuscript as well, but none of it rankled with me and all of Nicola’s suggestions have made perfect sense. The story will absolutely be in better shape once I’m finished.

The hardest part of the structural edit process is the first time you get your edit back. The book you’ve laboured over has issues that need to be corrected. What’s worse, someone is telling you about that. It’s the literary equivalent of asking ‘Does my bum look fat in these jeans?’ and receiving an honest answer: ‘Actually, yes, it does. And your tummy is hanging over the top; the pockets in the back are doing you no favours; the colour is a tad 2015 and you might want to reconsider the waist height at your age.’

Here’s the deal:  you’re paying your editor to tell you what isn’t working with your book. 

What’s a structural edit, I hear you ask? Rather than looking at grammatical details, typos and spelling issues, a structural edit does a deep dive into:

  • Pacing
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Characterisation
  • Motivations
  • Voice
  • Perspective/ Point of View
  • Consistency
  • Readability

A good editor should be able to provide suggestions that shape and organise the manuscript- with a view to improving the flow of words, and the overall telling of the story. A good editor should be able to do all of this while keeping in mind my- the writer’s- intention.

What you should get back from a structural edit is:

  • A report giving you an overall idea of the shape that the manuscript is in, the parts that the editor thinks works…overall…and the areas that don’t.
  • A marked up copy of your manuscript with constructive comments and suggested alternatives or rewrites.
    Some editors will split this into two parts, and quote for each separately. In these cases, you’ll get a report or assessment done on your manuscript, an opportunity to put the suggestions into practice, and then the structural edit will be an additional step. This can be good if you want to prepare a manuscript for submission, have no idea which direction the story is heading in, or simply want to know what track you’re on.

Generally speaking, your structural report should help you look under the covers of your manuscript- see the wood amongst the trees…so to speak. It may contain suggestions regarding moving chapters, changing tense or perspective and possibly sending your characters in a different direction than you had planned for them. Some suggestions you’ll agree with, some you’ll dig your heels in about.

The end point to all of this is to make your story the best that it can possibly be.

Your editor will usually quote you an approximate price based on word count and anticipated hours. The more work your manuscript needs, the longer your structural report and the higher the price…it’s that simple.  Therefore it makes good economic sense to have your work as tight as you know how to make it before sending it through.

What’s next?

Copy edit- when those pesky grammatical and spelling issues are highlighted and corrected. My editor is busy, so to make sure I work to deadline, I booked that in when I got the structural edit back.

In between, I need a cover…and to confirm my publication date.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

I use Nicola O’Shea from Ebookedit for all my editing.

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6 Places To Find Names For Your Characters…

whats your name

Rhonda and Wanda came along with us on our recent road trip. Rhonda was the Google maps lady on my phone, and Wanda was on Miss T’s phone for those occasions when I had no cell reception. After all, I couldn’t continue to swear at the voice with no name. It didn’t sound right:

‘You want me to turn where?’


‘For f$#%s sake Google Map Lady!’

See what I mean?

It was much more civilised to say things like:

‘How would I know which way to go? Let me ask Rhonda!’ or

‘Rhonda says we have to take the second exit- not the third,’ or

‘For f#$%s sake, Rhonda!’

The process of naming the Google Map Lady filled in some otherwise uneventful motorway time. Each name we came up with had an association with someone else- and generally someone we liked. I couldn’t yell and curse at someone I liked. None of us had a friend called Rhonda…or Wanda…

I’m having a similar yet different problem at present. I’m trying to name a character who I don’t like. In fact, if I knew this person in real life, I’m sure that she’d be on my list- and trust me, that’s not somewhere that you’d want to be.

It’s like that old saying:

Don’t upset the writer…

You could end up in a book…


But let’s not go there in case I incriminate myself, or slip into revenge fantasy mode.

Sometimes I think I spend longer on the names of the characters I don’t like than the names of the characters I do like. Why? Partly in case someone I do like is offended, but mostly in case someone on my list imagines that I’ve based the person on them. And, in case you’re wondering: so far I’ve resisted the temptation- although I have come close….and no, I’m not telling…

So, how do I go about naming a character? Here are my favourite places to find names:

  1. Those google searches where you type in things like “most popular girls names in New Zealand in 1989,” or “most popular boys names in Australia in 1978.” Believe it or not, there’s a world of difference between popular names in 1989 in Australia, England, New Zealand and the USA. Just saying.
  2. It’s important to keep the cultural background or class and upbringing of your character in mind. If I’m after someone a little more upper middle than middle class, I might google the names of school captains of particular elitist establishments. Another favourite source is searching player names from sporting teams. For my current male protagonist, I googled All Blacks teams- yes, he’s a Kiwi, and no, he’s not named after Dan Carter…although I was tempted. I like to think he could look a little like Dan Carter…cue swoon now.
  3. I make a note of names I like of people who are a similar age to my characters in reality shows- my viewing repertoire is limited to cooking and renovation shows…but you get the idea.
  4. The credits of TV shows.
  5. Characters in TV shows.
  6. Cyclone names. Yes, really. There’s a Wikipedia site- you can google it. How do I know? I went through a stage where my ideal job was to be the person who gets to name the cyclones.
    For any writers out there- where do your characters names come from? Do you have any suggestions for me?

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10 Reasons Why I Love Scrivener…

10 Reasons I Use Scrivener...

I’m a pantser rather than a plotter. This means that sometimes I truly have no idea what’s going to happen until it does. I write scenes as they come to me, and generally get a draft out quickly. Because of this I need an app that doesn’t mean that I’m cutting and pasting whole rafts of words through larger rafts of words.

So I use Scrivener. For these reasons:

1. Project Targets

I need this. I set myself an imposed deadline and tend to stick to it. I pop this into the targets, decide how many days a week I’m going to write, and hey presto I have a daily word count.

The little line graph starts off red, moves to amber, and becomes greener as you get closer to achieving your daily target. You can even set it to alert you along the way.

2. The Folders

I allocate each chapter a new folder, and then add sub-folders for each new scene.

I label the folders with a sentence that tells me what that chapter is about, and each scene gets a few descriptive words too.

3. Flexibility

As I said, I tend to write in scenes.

Scrivener allows you to pop a synopsis of each scene, sort of like a post it sticker. This means that when I’m looking for something, a passage, whatever, I can just browse the synopsis. In Scrivener, this is available in a corkboard view, document view or outline view.

More importantly, you can drag scenes, and chapters around- before or after other scenes. There’s no cutting and pasting, no risking losing chunks of words.

You can even drag scenes down to a deleted scenes folder at the bottom of the page, so you can easily retrieve it if you change your mind later.

4. Word Count

Aside from the project total, Scrivener also keeps track of the words per scene. I don’t like my scenes to drag on too long, so this helps me work out where some trimming is required.

Apparently in The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton decreases her chapter length in proportion to the previous so that it spirals into an ending. It’s supposed to mimic the waning cycle of the Moon. The astrologer in me can appreciate it, the commitment-phobe in me hasn’t yet committed to reading it. Having said that, Scrivener would be good for that.

5. Character Sketches

Ever had to trawl through thousands of words trying to remember what you named the best friend’s husband? How old her kids are? Their names? Don’t stress it. There’s a handy little character section especially for that.

I sometimes find a celebrity who I think could look like my character and attach that image. I’ll also attach images of outfits that they might wear to work, or coffee, or on a date. It’s almost like having a pinboard.

I use this space to write any backstory that I need to write, and to keep track of things like goals, motivations and conflicts.

6. Location Settings

Similar to character settings, I find it helpful to pop in a pic or two, as well as some descriptive words. If there’s any history that can help me with backstory, it goes in here too.

7. Colour Coding

This is a new discovery for me. I Want You Back is an ensemble cast and is written in three different points of view. Colour coding allows me to see at a glance who is saying what. I also used this when I was editing Big Girls Don’t Cry to indicate which scenes still needed work.

8. Research

There’s a whole folder where you can store your research. Cut and paste directly into it, or write back stories to your hearts content. It’s all here, all handy.

9. Trash

I prefer to call this folder my “out-takes”…the words that when they first came out of my brain seemed so clever, but in the context of an actual story, are a tad too contrived. I save them down here. Just in case.

10. Compile

Then when you’re done, the whole thing compiles into a word doc (or pdf or whatever) at the touch of a command.

Too easy! I can’t say the same for the writing, or the editing…

Scrivener isn’t just for novels- there’s a format for all types of long form non-fiction as well. I use Scrivener for mac (purchased through the app store), but there’s also a version for windows users. Google it.

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Pinterest for writers- how to make it work for you

Pinterest For WritersI’m about two-thirds of the way through the current re-write for Wish You Were Here. All going well it will be done next weekend and off to Nicola at ebookedit for copy editing at the end of the month. Yes, we’re nearly there.

As I’ve mentioned before, this story is about movement, and it covers a lot of physical territory- some places that I’ve seen and taken inspiration from, and some I haven’t been fortunate enough to visit myself.

That’s where pinterest comes in handy. Pinterest? Get off the internet and keep writing, I hear you say. The thing is, it’s not all about procrastinating…truly…

I’m yet to fully explore pinterest as a method for growing my list or my readership (although this post will be my go-to when I do…) but I do use it as a pinboard or ideas board as idea triggers for when I write. It helps to fill the gaps, to add the layers.

I pin pictures of locations, houses, outfits, pubs, foods, tracks…you name it. Essentially I pin anything that my protagonist might do, the places that she might go, things that she might see, and looks that she might wear. It helps me picture places that I’ve never been- or didn’t take enough notice of when I was there. For those places I have visited, the pins show me what they might look like in other seasons.

In the early days of Wish You Were Here , I also pinned pictures of celebrities that I thought could be inspirations for Max and Richie- so that I’d start with a picture in my head of how they looked, the way they smiled. As I got to know them better, I took those pins down- partly because I didn’t want to feel tied to these images, but also because I didn’t want anyone else to have a pre-conceived notion of who Max and Richie are.

Without giving too much away, here’s the link to my board for Wish You Were Here…make of it what you will. The bluebells in the main pic in this post represent a major scene in the story.

Over the next few weeks I’ll create another board- inspiration for my cover art…naturally I’ll share that with you too…

As for the actual locations I’ve used? I’ll tell you about those sometime soon…

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