I’d like to welcome Rayne Hall, author and editor extraordinaire. She’s written more than forty novels in a variety of genres, under different pen names, and has been published by twelve different houses in six countries. In addition to writing novels and short stories, Rayne has also penned a series of instructional guides to help authors improve their craft. She’s agreed to give us a few tips on how to edit our manuscripts to make them shine.
BW: Please tell us a little about yourself and the stories you write.
RH: I’m a quietly eccentric introvert and I have a black cat named Sulu whom I’ve recently adopted from the cat rescue shelter.
My stories are mostly fantasy and horror. My horror is subtle with a lot of atmosphere – more creepy and unsettling than violent and gory.
BW: I’ve heard it said that authors don’t earn their paychecks until they learn to revise their work. Do you have any secret tricks or tools you use to turn a draft into a fabulous manuscript?
Revision is important, and I enjoy revising. It’s fun to shape those crappy first drafts into something great. There’s nothing secret about my revision techniques, and I’m happy to share them.
Above all, I invite tough, thorough, thoughtful critiques from other writers – the more, the better. I choose which of the suggestions to apply, then I revise, and then I send the story out for new critiques.
Reading aloud helps, and text-to-speech software is even better, because I can hear flaws that my eyes have overlooked.
Unless a publisher has given me a deadline, I like to set each story aside for a while before I tackle he final revision, so I can look at it with fresh eyes.
BW: I feel like writing is something we get better at with practice. Where have you seen your skill as an author grow the most? Or maybe a better question is, where do developing authors tend to fall short?
When I read the stories I wrote years ago, I cringe. The writing is awful! At the time, I thought it was great, but now I see embarrassing flaws. So I have definitely grown as a writer. One of the areas where I’ve grown most is pacing. My early works were long-winded, wordy and waffling. Now my writing is much tighter and more exciting. I’ve also learnt many techniques for making my writing vivid and compelling.
Other authors have their individual weaknesses. Some flaws are common in developing writers’ works, and I see them a lot in slush pile submissions.
First, there’s the overuse of certain words. For some reason, novice writers use certain words a lot (look, turn, could, suddenly, slowly, begin to, start to).
Often, they also overuse certain sentence structures, e.g. starting too many sentences with a present participle: Xxxing, she yyyed. Yyying, he xxxed.
Many developing writers have a limited vocabulary of body language. Their characters always nod, smile, shrug, frown, raise eyebrows and sigh.
BW: I totally make the begin-to and start-to mistakes! *searches for mistakes in ms* How do you avoid writing tics?
RH: Every writer has words or phrases they overuse. Herman Melville applied the word ‘silvery’ whenever he described the sea in Moby-Dick, and J.R.R. Tolkien relied on ‘sudden’, and ‘swift’. Our critique partners can spot these quirks and warn us about them.
In the first draft of one of my novels, the character was constantly biting his lips. I thought that was a memorable character trait, but my critique partners told me it was tedious. They also alerted me that I had too many short sentences, linked too many clauses with ‘but’, and overused the words ‘try’ and ‘velvet’. Seriously – I went through a phase where every chapter contained the word velvet several times, and didn’t realize it until my critique partners pointed it out. The hero had a voice like smooth velvet, the night sky was like dark velvet studded with rhinestones and so on. Then came a phase when I overused ‘hand’ and ‘face’.
Once I’m aware of such a tic, I use the ‘find&replace’ function to highlight every instance, and then I substitute different words where possible.
Actually, my critique partners tell me that in blog posts, I use the word ‘actually’ and ‘hopefully’ too much. Hopefully, I can wean myself of that habit.
BW: Is there one specific lesson you’d like to tell writers that will take their improve their writing?
You want one lesson to fit all writers? Hmm.
Here’s a weakness I see a lot in novice writers’ submissions, so maybe it will be helpful for many of your blogs’ readers.
Check your manuscript for ‘start to’ and ‘begin to’. These words can often be deleted without changing the meaning, and the result is a leaner, more exciting style.
He began to run. > She ran. Rain began to fall. > Rain fell. She started to shiver. > She shivered. His lips started to quiver. > His lips quivered.
BW: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!
ABOUT RAYNE HALL
Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (creepy horror stories), Thirty Scary Tales, Six Historical Tales Vol. 1 and 2 (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), The Colour of Dishonour: Stories from the Storm Dancer World, Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic, Writing Dark Stories, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels and Writing Scary Scenes (practical guides for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance, Dragons: Ten Tales of Fiery Beasts and more.
Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat sanctuary. His name is Sulu and he’s the perfect cat for a writer – except when he claims ownership of her keyboard.
Amazon’s Rayne Hall page: http://www.amazon.com/Rayne-Hall/e/B006BSJ5BK/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Short video: Ten Random Facts About Rayne Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXR4ThBrEFg