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Eight editing tips and tricks

Dear Valentine,

How in the name of Satan's left elbow are we already halfway through February 2021? This is my first Necronoppicon newsletter of the year and it feels like I'm writing to you in January.

I'll admit, though, to having been somewhat fortunate, in that I've managed to find my creative groove so far in 2021. So if you're in lockdown and the year already feels a whole year long, then please accept my apologies and empathy and... oh, and some editing tips!

Right now, I'm editing a thing. And since I'm editing a thing, I thought I might tell you my thoughts on 'best practice', if such a thing exists, for editing things! All of these will apply to prose, scripts or essays.

1) When you reach the end of Draft Zero, leave that thing alone for as long as you possibly can. Obviously, deadlines can make this impractical to a certain extent. But if you have no deadline, seriously, leave the thing be for at LEAST two months. Your goal is this: when you return to the thing, it should pretty much feel like it was written by someone else. You wouldn't BELIEVE how much easier that makes to edit your work with minimal prejudice. You're way more likely to kill your darlings when you can barely even remember having created them. If you were to spend one whole day writing a great big scene, then someone told you to delete that scene, you would understandably kick, gnash and flail. Three months later, you'll wipe that thing from the face of the Earth without a second thought. All you care about now, after all, is the well-being of the book or script as a whole. 

2) Print out your thing. This is especially useful when you get to the stage where you're wielding a fine-toothed comb and looking for typos and the like. But to my mind, it's great, right from the start of the editing process. Reading on paper feels so different to reading on the screen. Plus, wielding a red pen is fun! Oh, and ergonomics. With printed sheets, you get to stretch out on your sofa AND call it work. I'm guessing you need no further convincing at this point.

3) Read your work aloud. This is mainly for the second or third draft. When you read your stuff aloud, it forces you to confront every word. You do spot typos, but much more importantly, you spot unwieldy or downright bad dialogue and description that no actor should be forced to try and speak, and no reader should be forced to read. Don't forget: even reader's brains can run out of steam as they try to absorb horribly serpentine sentences that we should have caught in the edit.

4) Create one or two handy side-docs. As you edit, you'll want to delete stuff. Some of these parts will clearly never be required again, and that's fine - send those fetid off-cuts hurtling towards the bin. Other stuff, meanwhile, you might not be so sure about, and that's where the side-docs come in. These are docs into which you can cut-and-paste chunks of text that you may use or recycle. I call one doc Stuff To Definitely Use Again (for stuff that's perhaps just in the wrong place) and the other Stuff I Might Use Again. Between drafts, perhaps, you might refer back to the snippets you've slung into these docs, and end up reusing/re-editing the odd gem.

5) Searchable markers! This is something you can do during the initial writing phase, to help Future You. In most novels or scripts, anything long-form, you'll want to quickly locate certain points throughout the fiendish labyrinth of your plot. Say there's a wedding ring that plays a vital thematic role in your story, or is key to the plot, and you want to be able to find the moments in which the ring appears. Now, you could just perform a simple search of your MS to find all the instances of "ring", but among your search results you'll also find ringing phones, rings of truth, etc. So I use a specific marker, eg <RING>. That way, when you search for "<RING>", you'll know you're going to see all the wedding ring moments.

6) Start off with a wider focus. Now, I have to confess I don't always stick to this, but I really should. Here's the logic: during your early edits, why dwell on every single word of any given segment, and strive to get the wording exactly right, when you can't even be sure you'll ultimately need that segment? Obviously, there are certain tent-pole parts that you KNOW to be permanent fixtures, but for anything else, don't spend too much time on the details just yet. Save that fine-tuning for the later drafts, when you know for a fact that your plot is rock-solid. 

7) Create a new outline. Inevitably, your story will have warped, or at the very least taken the odd detour, during its initial journey to the page. During my first edit, then, I find it incredibly useful to create a new step-by-step outline, in order to regain my overview. All you need is a brief line for each plot point, because this is for your eyes only. JOHN FINDS THE CELLAR. THE CELLAR DWELLER EATS JOHN. That sort of thing. Of course, it's possible you're one of these incredibly gifted Steven Moffat types, who seem able to retain multiple incarnations of an entire story in their heads, but if you're anything like me, then a new outline will bring much clarify to your edit.

8) Try to enjoy the process. For the most part, I actually love editing. Every single change I make is (hopefully!) improving what I have, and that's a good feeling. If editing ever feels like a long slog (and my God, it so does), then guess what? This almost certainly means you're doing it right. You're applying due diligence and being thorough. Your readers and viewers and editors will thank you for your toil. Trust me: they will not thank those writers who believe themselves to be first-draft geniuses, oh no. 

PS If you'd like help with creative motivation and accountability, check out my weekly second newsletter, the Sunday Confession Booth.

Why I made a NEW YouTube channel!

Yes, I finally went there - I started a YouTube channel that specialises solely in METAL.

Entitled Jason Arnopp's Possessed By Metal, it promises to be a lot of fun, with reviews, interviews (including audio from my own archives, if the channel takes off), ranking lists and a great deal of vinyl.

So why did I do this? After all, my 'main' channel Jason Arnopp's Terrifying House Of Obsession is a retro variety affair which already includes metal content. There are three main reasons:

1) I often have ideas for metal videos that feel a tad too niche for the main channel. And so I like the idea of having a channel for my more specific tastes, such as German thrash metal! But don't worry, there will be broader content too.

2) I'm intrigued to see how much easier a channel performs when it's solely about one thing, right from the start. How much more do viewers like that? How much more does the fearsome YouTube algorithm like that? We shall see. 

3) I just like the idea of having my very own metal platform/brand. Possessed By Metal! Yes!

Here's an example of how I'm seeing the differences between the two channels:

The latest video on my main channel is a metal video, Top 10 Best Dio Songs.

The latest video on Possessed By Metal is Top 20 Best Dio Songs! Now, this will be a rare example of (partially) shared content between the two channels, and is something of an experiment in itself, but hopefully it demonstrates the difference that I envisage between the two audiences. If you're more of a casual metaller who remembers Dio from back in the day, you might well be up for a Top 10 video to remind yourself of the greatest hits. Whereas if you're all about Dio, then the Top 20 list could be the one you want, including B-sides and all sorts.

I launched Possessed By Metal one week ago today. While it's fun to start a channel from scratch, it's a stark reminder of how tough it can be to attract a new audience. I told myself that I'd be happy if my first video - a Dio vinyl unboxing delight - gained 100 views in the first 24 hours. And funnily enough, that is exactly what it pulled! Happily, several Terrifying House Of Obsession subscribers have already crossed the rainbow between the two channels. 

While I'm realistic about how long this new empire will take to build, any and all help YOU can give me will be hugely appreciated. If this is your type of thing, then do consider checking out Possessed By Metal, then Liking, subscribing and sharing with your fellow metal heads! I can't tell you how much that sort of thing will help me out and guarantee the channel's long life.  

Ghoster half price on Kindle

Pretty self explanatory headline, huh? Yeah, my latest novel Ghoster is currently half price on Kindle at Amazon UK. Just £1.99! I have no idea how long this will last, but if you've yet to grab this tale of demons, dating apps and digital addiction, then now would be a good time. If you do pick it up, I hope it makes an enjoyable, if chilling Valentine's Night read!
Well now, it's been a while since I had any event news to share, for blatantly obvious reasons. But the plan is for me to mingle with humans again, one year from now! Yes, come February 2022, I will be a guest author at a weekend writers' retreat run in Exmoor by The Writing Haunt. I'll give a workshop and a Q&A, which will all be tremendous fun. Maybe see you there, who knows, eh? 
Thank you so much for subscribing to this mailing list - and for reading to the end. You are tough as nails!

Please have the finest, and safest rest-of-February you possibly can. I look forward to sending you another missive when I have more Important Things to tell you. Until then, perhaps I'll see you on one of the social media outlets represented by the various icons below. Click on any of them to join me on those platforms - and feel free to forward this email to anyone who likes editing, or metal, or discounted Kindle chillers, or writing retreats. Byeeeee!

P.S. If you'd like to join the growing community I've founded over at Patreon, where you can support me in exchange for perks, then come on in, the water's deep red
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Here's where I can mainly be found online these days...
My retro variety YouTube channel. Lots of Doctor Who!
My metal specialist YouTube channel
My website
Instagram author account
Instagram rock journalist account
Instagram retro fun account
My Twitter account
My author page at FB
Copyright © 2021 Jason Arnopp, All rights reserved.

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