Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Bethany A Tucker, author of Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish, has kindly agreed to be the first author interview on here for 2021! Read on to discover her answers to my questions as well as more about her and her book . . . .
Splashes into Books: Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
Tucker: This past spring, Emma Dhesi, who runs the Facebook Group “Turning Readers into Writers” (go check her out, she’s doing awesome work for her community), asked me to speak during her August event. We talked about what her audience needed and I sent her three proposals. During our exploration call, she zeroed in on the need she’d uncovered for more education around how to self-edit. I am an editor, with a focus on the developmental stage, which can also be referred to as a structural edit, so I sent her back a proposal and away we went.
Or so I thought.
When I sat down to outline what amounted to an hour class on self-editing structure for beginning writers, there was so much that needed to be said. I’ve been writing for twenty-two years and it started to pour out on the page. What was supposed to be a small PDF handout bloomed. I have to give credit to all the fledgling writers who have worked with me and brought me their questions and manuscripts for helping me have perspective on the subject. Without them, I would have been writing just my own personal habits and ideas but they’ve pushed me to really get perspective on the process of digging through those first few drafts of our first few books.
Splashes into Books: What is your writing process?
Tucker: For non-fiction I sit down with the prompt, either written by myself or someone else in bold at the top of the page and just start to answer it, usually in bullet form. Then I fill in the bullets.
If it’s a larger project without one concise prompt, like this book, I start with mind-map. Big pieces of paper and color pencils or just graphite pencil depending on my mood. Everything goes down on the page, lots of lines drawn to connect one idea to another. It’s usually an intense first session where I let everything that’s been brewing out, all in one go. Then I put it away, perhaps stick it on my wall, but I get it off my desk and give it a rest. I clear my mind for a day or three, maybe even a week if I have the time, and then I come back with fresh eyes and start outlining with the mind map beside me.
Then it’s a matter of answering each line of the outline, treating it like a prompt, leaving the project to sit, coming back to edit, and putting it out to alpha readers and then an editor. For this book, I also took the time to read it out loud to myself at one point.
For fiction, I wash dishes. Lots of dishes. Walks. Pick a playlist, scribble notes down in a Scrivener file. Keep a notebook near to hand for ideas. Then I plot the book as it comes closer, the characters and moments moving into focus. I sit down when I’m ready and plot most of a book all at once in one exhausting session. The whole point is to get out in words enough of what’s in my head that I can follow the steps through later and fill in the outline. My version of plotting is to make beats, a few paragraphs and snippets of dialog if I “hear” them while plotting each chapter. Then I walk away again. Catch my breath for a few days and start writing, beginning to end, working my way through the outline.
Splashes into Books: Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
Tucker: Both. Pen and Paper for notes, and editing comments to myself but the computer for real word counts. Since I can type almost as fast as I can think, it’s gotten annoying to write down any long scenes. I’ve even typed up scenes on my laptop while commuting by train. I’m grateful to my father who told me I had to become a good typist decades ago. It’s a serious asset.
Splashes into Books: Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
Tucker: For Editing Your Novel’s Structure I suppose my favorite character is you, the reader who will be reading the book. Each line has been written thinking about you, how to help you, and what you might need to know to reach that moment of completion, your own work of fiction sparkling and beautiful, printed up in your hands.
For my fiction, I really don’t have a favorite character. That’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. Each character has suffered and given me gifts and lessons in their own way. They are real to me. I joke that if people knew how real my characters are to me, they’d think I’m crazy. I know they don’t have physical bodies and were never on this world, but they “live” for me. I talk to them and they talk to me. They have fits and pout and get excited or mad. Sometimes they absolutely refuse to do what I want them to do and other times, they break my heart because of what they go through on the page. My family knows not to try to comfort me if they come in and I’m typing and weeping at the same time. It means the writing is going really well and I need to stay in that place and capture every bit of emotion, like a reporter at a historic event.
Sometimes I push myself writing, because I need my characters to get to a better place for my own mental health. And then it’s such a relief to be able to give them that flash of hope, that moment of affection, that closure. I get up from my desk, tired, maybe even sore, but elated.
Splashes into Books: If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
Tucker: In Editing Your Novel’s Structure I’ve been that writer, making all the mistakes, trying to figure out what to do with their first messy draft. Actually, I’ve been there many times. My first books were written relatively young and my only resources were books on writing fiction in my local library. I read pretty much all of them, some more than once. They helped, but they didn’t save me from many, many mistakes. I wrote this book because I would have loved to have had it back then.
Splashes into Books: What drives you to write?
Tucker: I have to tell stories and I have to educate. If I’m not writing something, I’m not at peace. I knew before grade school what I needed to do. Life has added a lot of nuance, but not much has changed at the core. Story is Myth. Myth is identity, inspiration, hope, life lessons, truth, and lies all wrapped up in a web that is the essence of being human with its triumphs and its failures. Storytelling is my way of fully engaging with existing. Writing is how that storytelling survives beyond me and reaches others, like so many writers before have written pieces of existence and given them to me.
Thank you for being my first author interview for 2021 and sharing your knowledge and expertise as both an author and editor with us here today and through you books. All the best to you all for 2021!
Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish
Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?
If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask? Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books.
In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place.
Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:
– Characters and Character Arcs.
– Point of View.
– A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
– Beginnings and Ends.
– Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
– Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers.
Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.
Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com.
Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for providing content and materials for this post and organising the book blitz it is part of.