New Home #movingblogs

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Hi everyone my author and Stitch Says blogs now have a new home!!!!

http://ahowland.org/wordpress/

Here you can find everything. It’s still a working process, but all the blogs and comments are there. You can link to other social media and still enjoy my blogs!

Author Ashley Howland

Author Ashley Howland

Thank you for joining me here – I look forward to seeing everyone commenting on my new site. As always have fun!

Loud and Proud #amediting

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This is Stitch and Chewie’s favourite part of the whole writing process (next to making the material of course!). Yep it’s time to read that story out loud. Now my dogs love to come down for story time and they are wonderful, but they don’t fix holes in the plot. Stitch groans – not sure if that’s because it’s bad or because Chewie is usually lying on him… So I have two other willing recruits for this part of the editing process. My girls. No one can pick a hole in you plot like six and five year olds. I read them the story and they tell me what they think. This works two ways.

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The first is when you read a loud you tend to read what is actually written. Well more closely that when you read in your head. Often reading to yourself is a case of what your brain tells you it says, not what it actually says. So reading out loud is important. Plus if you write children’s books you want parents or teachers to read your stories out loud. The need to flow nicely.

Second: I write for kids, so if my kids don’t get it then I’m not on the right track. It helps that my girls are book worms and have always had a love for story time. They are never backward at telling me when something doesn’t work.

The down side… well it’s not really a downside, just an interesting note. Since I have been reading my manuscripts out loud to the girls I have generated many more writing ideas. How so… well they come up with great suggestions. They even use my characters in their own creative play. At the moment they are sharing an imaginary friend. A fairy named Fidget…. Who I created… Needless to say Fidget now has a whole host of stories I need to write.

The only other issue is my girls don’t quite understand how long it takes to publish a book. So after I read it to them they want to take the finished product to school to share… I’m not that quick, sorry girls!

I recommend reading out loud. Either to yourself or someone else.. give it a try oh and as always have fun!

Editing – Where do I start??? #amediting

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The same could be said about editing, but you just have to get in there and do it. I set myself daily goals – four chapters, or something like that. It really depends on the size of the story. However that actually comes later. The very first part of editing is to read your story – straight through. I print a copy (you may be able to read from the computer, but that is too hard for me). I do this with a pencil in hand. It’s not about going through every word here. To me this first read through is just to see if I have a story or a mess. Usually it’s an opportunity to note things that haven’t worked and to pick up glaring typing errors. I don’t spend too much time on each page – just quick notes where they are required.

I don’t know if that works for every one, but have a go. Do a first run through and see what you have.

Have to laugh the first time I did this to a completed manuscript was Ghostnapped. I remember reading it and saying to my Husband “I like my story!” I can laugh now, because it seems silly, but that was a big step for me. It meant I was ready to move on as a writer.

Recently I re read one the manuscripts I am editing and my gut reaction was “wow that was like a real story!” Which is stupid considering I now have three published books and a handful of stories in anthologies, but it is still surreal to me. In some ways I think that helps me as a writer. Certainly it pushes me to keep improving. Must get back to the editing (three chapters to go today!!!!) until next time – have fun!

Now for the hard part #amediting

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The first draft is done… you can lie back in the shade and relax…
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Well for a while anyway. Now you need to begin the hard part, EDITING!!! It is also one of the most important parts. This month I will explore the editing process.

There are a lot of authors out there who are probably much better at this than me. Editing is like everything else. It’s a learning process. I am still learning, but am definitely getting better. I am a firm believer in professional editing, but you need to do a lot of work (some more than others) before you get there. This month it won’t be a how to guide, just a look at what I have discovered and learnt as I have progressed as an author!

Watch this space for lots of interesting ideas, that may help you in your editing process and as always – have fun!

First Draft Done! #amwriting

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Jump for joy!

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The completion of the first draft is reason to celebrate. Now you actually have something to work with. Of course I rarely expect the finished product and the first draft to be very similar. My first Novel – Ghostnapped had a completely different villain in the first draft. It was a witch, not the cool unique monster I finished with. Obi’s first draft was actually only the first chapter – so to speak. I was going to leave the story there as a picture book. It was too wordy for that so I re did the first draft and made it into a chapter book. However my kids weren’t in it. it was far to wordy without speech and I didn’t want Obi to talk to everyone. So the kids got a gig. The Homework Goblin was pretty close. There was plenty of refinement, but I think the essence of the story is the same. Should go back and check.

The two manuscripts I am currently working on have certainly undergone changes and will continue to do so, but I think as I get better with my writing the first drafts are becoming more structured. This process that I have been blogging about certainly helps with my organisation. Which means the first draft is better than it used to be. It takes longer, but is a better product for me to work with!

If you have completed your first draft jump for joy and back it up (I always have at least three back ups electronically and usually a paper version!). Even if you don’t use that first draft for anything, never throw it away. One of the stories I am editing now is actually a combination of two. They worked really well together so I molded them that way.

I don’t usually start editing straight away – will blog about my editing process next month. Now is a good time to put it away, recollect your thoughts. If you are in any challenges then I would say go over other bits and pieces and begin something new. That way when you do start to edit you are fresh and more likely to detect issues.

Speaking of challenges I recently completed my first for the year:
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This was a wonderful way to start 2014. During this time I have used these prompts to write three flash fiction drafts. I have also come up with an idea for a new chapter book and continued to work on a few other ideas. It gave me some excellent tools to improve my writing this year and into the future! So much fun and now I have so much to do. I love a busy life, until next time – have fun!

Write Now #amwriting

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Everything is in place. Put you butt down on a chair and write… that’s the only way to get it done. For me at this stage there is only one rule:
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This is so true. Editing as you go is just a way of procrastinating – almost as bad as watching your dog…

Get the first draft down, from the beginning to the bitter end. Even if each chapter is not fully complete – it could be what I call a skeleton draft. It’s still there and then it can be improved.

This is the first thing I learnt when I did a writing course. I actually had to complete stories, because they were assignments. They didn’t have to be good, they just had to be done. I love this phase. Just sitting and writing is awesome. No one can tell you its horrible, no one can give you ideas. It’s just you and your computer. You can do it any where. I love sitting outside in the fresh air, but this is not always possible. When I am at the is phase I have been known to take my computer every where. I have stolen minutes at lunch time (yes even with kids and dogs around me), written in gymnastic halls, in my car while waiting for kids and so many other places. When ever, where ever I can get a minute or two.

Where are your favourite places to write?

I guess the final piece of advice I would give you at this stage is to as always have fun!!!!

Planning your story #amwriting

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We have our characters, our setting. Now we need….. a plot! Well it is kind of important. Sometimes it all just comes together and you write. Just sit with the computer and clack away with complete certainty your work will flow. That’s fantastic. Other times you get distracted by the weirdest things:

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Yep that is often me. What do I do then? I start a plot sketch. That’s what I call it. Sometimes its a few words for each chapter, a basic plan to follow. Sometimes it’s just a list of ideas. Sometimes I do research and jot down a plan from there.

Planning is not always important, but I find plans come in handy later. When you have a draft half written it’s good to look back and see where you though the story would go. It may have changed and the old plan may add to the story. So I recommend watching the dog less ( there I said it…) and getting a notebook! Do some planning, have some fun and see where it takes you. Until next time – have fun!

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