Author Archives: Sean Curley

When is “done” done?

By Sean Curley

One of the things writers ask me is how I know when a manuscript is done? The answer isn’t as easy as you might think. It can be incredibly difficult to just complete a novel. When you are done, however, you aren’t really done. The revision process can be long and harrowing. For me, the feedback I received from (non-friendly) reviewers of my first novel, Propositum – A Novel, prompted me to put the novel on hold for over two years while I improved my craft. Once that was complete, I re-wrote the book, not quite from scratch since I had a great plot, but close.

When that was complete, my editor and I went through a serious of reviews and edits. We started at a macro level and looked at plot and consistency. Then we looked at flow and transitions. Finally we went to paragraph structure and wording. You might think at that point that the novel is complete and ready to publish. However, each subsequent review yielded more changes that improved the book. From cleaning up the sound (try reading it aloud) to making it more concise to correcting outright errors (grammatical or semantic), every review found issues. In revising this novel my editor and I each read the book a dozen times or so. Each time it improved. By the end, after a couple of months of this, I decided I was fed up with trying to make it perfect and gave it to the publisher to generate a test copy. That would be my final review of the novel. I found that reading it in print yielded some surprising results. Issues were found that I had never seen when reading on a screen.

I suspect that we have all read books where there are many errors and been frustrated. None of us want to be the author of one of those books. On the other hand, there is a point of diminishing returns when continuing to review and edit means you are trying for a perfection that, in my opinion, isn’t necessarily worth it. Maybe if you want to publish a single “Great American Novel,” it would be worth the effort. But, in my case, I want to publish a number of novels and can’t afford to spend my life improving every single word in just one.

In general, I practice the following steps when revising a novel (don’t do this alone as your specific idiosyncrasies may cause certain errors to be difficult to discover; find someone who is willing to critique you at the right level – meaning point out real issues, but not try to rewrite the novel for you):

  • Let it sit for a while (after the draft is complete) and then read it again
  • Confirm the plot and story are complete and that the book flows and ends well
  • Review the novel for paragraph and sentence structure and for word choice
      1. Check for replication of unusual words
      2. Check for similar words too close together (within a few sentences)
      3. Check for year/location- and world-appropriateness of words
  • Tighten up the language and make sure it reads smoothly
  • Re-review the text until you are comfortable it is close (so repeat as needed)
  • Read it aloud as a final test of readability
  • Use a POD service like Lulu to print a single copy and review the hard copy
  • Call it good and be proud of it!

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Sean Curley - Author Photo

Sean Curley (1961-) was born and raised in California. His Catholic upbringing shifted to Philosophy and Computers during college. Others have referred to him as a Renaissance man because of his diverse educational background in Computer Science, Philosophy, Management, Space Studies, and Creative Writing. He is frequently found speaking on diverse topics such as Humanism, management, parenting, separation of church and state, and religious history. He has published one non-fiction book, Humanism for Parents, and one novel, Propositum – A Novel. He is currently working on two more novels. Mr. Curley lives in Colorado with his children.

Viewing the World as a Writer

By Sean Curley

As part of my efforts to publish a professional-level book independently, I went back to school at the University of Denver for a graduate degree in Creative Writing. One of the concepts school tried to teach me was to view the world as a writer. I didn’t understand that for a long time. However, as my craft grew I began to see the nuances in writing all around me. I had just not been paying attention.

One key moment for me was while I was sitting at a Sting concert one evening. He was playing at the Red Rocks Amphitheater (the best venue in the world) with the London Philharmonic. The wind was whistling through the rock formations and the lights of Denver scintillated in the background. Part of the way through the concert, I actually lost track of the music for a while as I sat pondering the words and their hidden meanings. And then, I started to see how the music presented a mood to go along with and enhance those meanings. Of course, it helps that Sting is an intelligent person and writes complex, almost 3-dimensional, music.

After that, I started paying attention to the subtleties and the art of the written word. I saw it in posters and advertisements, on the sides of buses, in lyrics and speeches, in lectures and well-done movies. Sometimes, I even found it in casual conversation and wondered if the speaker knew how clever his/her statement was.

It also completely changed how I read books and possibly not for the better. Now, I tend to notice a word here or a phrase there and how they change the feeling of the writing. Poorly written books also annoy me more than they used to. Reading as a writer is improving my writing, but I think in some ways it has lessened my pleasure in reading because now I am as much critic and student as I am reader.

As I see it, viewing the world as a writer is one step in the journey to becoming accomplished at our craft. Each time we see the subtleties in how others form their words, sentences, and paragraphs, we improve our own writing.

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    About the Author:
Sean Curley - Author Photo

Sean Curley, Author

Sean Curley (1961-) was born and raised in California. His Catholic upbringing shifted to Philosophy and Computers during college. Others have referred to him as a Renaissance man because of his diverse educational background in Computer Science, Philosophy, Management, Space Studies, and Creative Writing. He is frequently found speaking on diverse topics such as Humanism, management, parenting, separation of church and state, and religious history. He has published one non-fiction book, Humanism for Parents, and one novel, Propositum – A Novel. He is currently working on two more novels. Mr. Curley lives in Colorado with his children.