How to Self-Edit

Self-editing is a task that I absolutely have a love-hate relationship. I love knowing that at the end of the process, I will have a much better story. And of course, my main aim is to produce quality work. I despise it because it is tedious and, at times, seeming impossible. It can be a daunting job to tackle. In fact, some writers get so entangled in editing that it is the sole reason for them never completing their novel.

I need to stop here and point out that there are different types of edits and different styles of editing. There is no right or wrong other than omitting it completely. That’s a no-no. Some writers choose to edit as they go. Some choose to edit at the end. Some do a hybrid. What I’m writing about today is the process of self-editing. Self-editing should not be the only editing that a writer does. I realize that hiring an editor is expensive, but think of it along the line of having your car serviced. There’s nothing that says a person cannot change his/her own car oil. Having a professional do it is simpler in many ways. For shorter works, only doing self-edits may be feasible or even wise. However, professional editing versus self-editing is a controversial discussion for another day.

I’ve previously written posts about editing. Those have been some time in the past. I’m sure that much of the information may be repeated, but I’m sure that new stuff is included here. Also, a refresher never hurts.

Briefly, let’s discuss the type of book editing. (NOTE: The types of editing are listed in alphabetical order and not necessarily in the order that most writers do them. It also should be noted that some will argue that there is no order for these edits to be conducted or that all of them are necessary. However, it makes practical sense that some types of edits occur before other types of edits. Otherwise, the writer will waste time doing double work. For example, what is the point of doing line edits when the entire section of work needs to be deleted/omitted?) Furthermore, the following list of types of edits are not exhaustive. However, these are some of the most common ones.

  1. Copy Editing/Text Editing: This type of edits focuses on ensuring clarity and consistency by looking at issues such as capitalization errors, filler words, grammar, dangling participles, dialogue tags, industry-standard writing style (APA, CMoS, MLA, etc.), pacing, passive voice punctuation, sentence structure/parallelism, spelling, story inconsistencies, typos, verb tense, and word usage. This list is not exhaustive.
  2. Developmental Editing. This also is commonly referred to as structure editing. Developmental editing usually occurs at the onset of a writing project. This heavily focuses on plot and direction an idea to help shape it into an organized story.
  3. Fact-Checking: This is exactly what it sounds like. This type of editing may be covered in other types of edits, but sometimes, it is good to do this as a separate edit. When a writer focuses on one aspect, he/she is likely to find more errors or items that need to be corrected. Quick aside: I once was working on two manuscripts at the same time. In the process, I accidentally mixed up a character’s age. It seemed to be a small thing, only the error caused another aspect of the story to be factually inaccurate. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have caught this error, but I’m sure readers would have. It was a significant goof on my part. Luckily, my fact-checker caught this.
  4. Formatting: Again, this is self-explanatory. A formatting edit focuses on the manuscript looking the way it should. This edit is especially important when a manuscript has been edited by multiple people. It is easy for a tab to be hit or button click that causes a formation error. A tip I use to assist with formatting issues since I write in MS Word is that I turn on formatting symbols. At first, I found this feature to be annoying. But as I advanced in my writing, I’ve come to appreciate that it helps me quickly see extra spaces, inadvertent page breaks, and other formatting problems. For example, if I’m having difficulty with a section, I may put it in red or bold. When I get ready to turn it off, I may not select everything. Then, when it prints or I add something, it’s the wrong color or font.
  5. Line Editing: This is very detailed work that examines a story’s content and flow in-depth the content. This carefully scrutinizes characterization, pacing, and the point of view from which the story is told. A line edit is an equivalent to a microcopy edit. If this edit is done properly, it can elevate a story from good to great.
  6. Proofreading: Proofreading is the last edit that is performed typically. This occurs when the manuscript has been finished and is about to be submitted for publication. The purpose of a proofread is to identify any typos, inconsistencies, and/or formatting issues before the novel is printed. Consider this the last call of writing that ensures that every possible mistake is found and corrected.

Now, that the type of edits has been identified, it’s time to look at how to go about self-editing. The best way I know how to do this is to discuss my self-editing process. Editing is one of those things that is very personalized. Each writer will need to determine what works best for him/her.

Keep in mind that I’m a panster. That makes a difference in the order and how I edit. For me, a developmental edit isn’t something that I do initially. I write the first draft. Most times, I write scenes as they come to me which means the first draft usually isn’t in the order it needs to be. So, it’s only until I have the complete first rough, rough draft to I attempt a structure edit.

I do light copy edits as I write. For example, if I complete a chapter, I may read through it and correct typos, grammatical errors, or note errors in pacing or plot. I also write notes about what needs to be added or deleted or something to keep in mind. Something I recently started to do is to write down the characters’ names. I have this habit of changing a character name, and when I get to the end, I may have multiple names for the same character. I also do this for location. By having this list, in the end, I can do a search and replace. It makes life easier.

By this stage, I do another structure edit. This time I’m looking for pacing and if I created new plot holes after shifting around the text. I look at flow and chapter transitions. I check to ensure that I’ve included all key elements that I want to be included and be sure that I have all the necessary story beats. I don’t have to have any of this perfected at this point. I only need it to be workable. At this point, I’m still working in sections, and I’m noting any problem areas that I don’t have an immediate solution. By the end of this, I should have a true first draft.

Here is where I differ from many writers. Now, would be the time for my first read through. If the structure is good, I do a very heavy-handed copy edit. I refer to this as a line-by-line edit. Basically, I look at everything. I clean up as much as I find, whether it be grammatical mistakes, formatting issues, plot holes, character development, or whatever. This is the version that I will use as the foundation. I won’t make major changes to the structure or the characters. If I were a plotter, this would be my outline. All essential elements will be in this draft. I critique every sentence. This perhaps is the most brutal of all of my edits. But I don’t do just one line-by-line read through. I make several passes, evaluating if the changes that I made work. My line-by-lines tend to be in some people’s opinions as “obsessive.” I usually make more than a dozen passes, each pass focusing specifically on a certain aspect. For example, one pass I may be looking closely at the dialogue. Another pass I may be focused on location descriptions. Here is when I stop counting my draft numbers.

After the line-by-line, I do another overall structure edit. This is to ensure that I didn’t accidentally shift or delete something crucial to the overall plot while being nitty-gritty with everything else. I check for inconsistencies and most of all fluff and flow. If I’ve done everything as I should, this is the easiest of my editing, and I am able to quickly move on.

The next step for me is fact-checking and polishing. I refer to my notes and reach out to critique partners to ask questions. For example, I wrote a story that the protagonist was a firefighter. I contacted someone I knew who worked at the fire department to double-check if what I had written sounded authentic. Polishing, as I like to call it, is when I go in with my personal touches. This is when I make the writing sound like me. It’s getting deep into character and breathing life into the words on paper. This is the most fun of the edits.

After the polishing, I do several more line by line. For these, I use a check sheet. There are some errors that I make no matter what I do. I specifically check for those mistakes as well looking to pick up any others. (Search and replace is my friend!)

Finally, I tackle formatting, but I need to be honest. I’m probably very loose on this. I mean, I do clean it up as best as I can, but generally, by this time, I’m sick of looking at my manuscript. I can’t see any errors because my mind is allowing me to see what I want to see whether it is there or not. In short, I’m incapable of seeing my mistakes. I’m more relaxed on this edit, only because I know it will be heading to a professional editor at the publisher.

I’m traditionally published, and my manuscript will go through several professional edits by different editors. Typically, it will have a structure edit, two copies (at minimal), one fact (usually mixed in with the structure), one formatting, and two proofs (one from the editor and the final from me.)

Hopefully, reading my editing process will help other writers discover a writing process that works best for them. Again, editing is very personalized. So many writer friends have told me that my way of editing would never work for them. A plotter friend told me that if I outlined, I wouldn’t need to do so many passes. WHATEVER! I say to him, “Mind your business.”

Let me know in the comment section about your editing process. Was this post helpful?

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my new steamy, sports romance, Ice Gladiators, guaranteed to melt the ice. It’s the third book in my Locker Room Love series. Available at https://amzn.to/2TGFsyD or www.books2read.com/icegladiators.

Taz has problems: a stalled career, a coach threatening to destroy him, a meddling matchmaking roommate, and a thing for his other roommate’s boyfriend. The first three are manageable, but the last… well, that’s complicated. Because as much as Taz is attempting not to notice Liam, Liam is noticing him.

IG GC AN

Missed the two books in my sports romance series? No frets. Out of the Penalty Box, where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime, out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. Visit www.books2read.com/penalty. Defending the Net can be ordered at https://amzn.to/2N7fj8q or www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

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Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy about what could go wrong on vacation, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.

Life_s Roux- Wrong Doors

For more of my stories, shenanigans, giveaways, and more, check out my blog, Creole Bayou, www.genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com. New posts are made on Wednesdays, and everything is raw and unscathed. Climb on in a pirogue and join me on the bayou. If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search me on Goodreads or Amazon Authors.

Until next time, happy reading and much romance.

They Aren’t Better Than You. They’re Just Better Liars.

Hi all. It is the first Wednesday of the month which means this is my post dedicated to some aspect of writing. I know the title of this may be triggering for some; but before judgment is passed, please consider reading with an open mind. This article is not written to be an attack on any person or group. While the incidents discussed herein may sound similar to other situations; it is doubtful that the majority of readers will know the particular incidents in question as they occurred quite some time in the past and were not well-publicized. Identifying information has been omitted. Furthermore, for brevity, the complexity of these situations has been simplified. Also, keep in mind, there is always another side to any given situation. The persons involved are not here to speak for themselves. This post is intended to be informative and not to belittle or demean anyone. Please do not speculate on the identities of any persons discussed.

Several years ago, I met two people who I thought were knowledgeable in the writing field. At the time I was first introduced to them, they had plenty of people praising them and kissing their asses. They presented themselves as writing gurus with dozens of accolades. They peddled their writings and “professional advice” to novice writers who were eager for guidance. It was upon the backs of these people that they built their business.

I read their works and wasn’t impressed. However, I figured this was because I wasn’t advanced enough to grasp and comprehend their writing genius. (Let me point out that just because a reader does not enjoy a writer’s work does not mean the writing is bad. I tend to dislike anything dealing with zombies. Sorry, that’s just not my glass of sweet tea. So by saying I wasn’t impressed merely offers my singular opinion and does not speak for any group.) I, like so many others, wanted to impress them and win their graces. I felt they could validate me. Silly, right? Yeah, I know, but at the time, I kept my mouth shut and sung their praises like all the other sheep. But the truth of the matter was they had pretty horrible personal character and spouted nasty things to people.

One day, one of the two people went too far in his nastiness, and it became a mob mentality in the group. Once one person spoke up, others who had been victims of that person’s forked tongue came forward. The ironic part was that when the mass came for the person, it wasn’t the worst thing he’d said. Little by little, he was exposed. The first person’s “partner” tucked tail and remained silent for some time. I suppose the second person was trying to gauge the outcome before entering the battle royal. It was soon obvious that the second person’s partner would not recover and was being marched to the guillotine. The second person turned on the partner and served the partner up for slaughter once the mob began turning a second side-eye towards him. It was disintegration from there, and their business partnership dissolved.

After stepping back for re-evaluation, I realize their sole “fanbase” was hopefuls seeking to get published. They were paying these two people as “experts” when neither had real credentials. They built their numbers from within their group, almost like a pyramid scheme—only legal. The two had risen to the top by making others feel small and proclaiming their personal preferences as gospel. Every now and then, they would name drop some B-list celebrity. Later, some of these names were found to be fabricated. However, by that time, they had formed hundreds of “stands,” making them practically untouchable. The interesting thing was when the one partner was cooked, there were others in the wing vying to take his spot. I later learned that this type of incident was not isolated and saw it repeated a similar fashion with another group of writers.

I realized that I didn’t want to be another carbon copy. I returned to my roots and did what I did best. Soon after, I landed a publishing deal. When I reflect on the situation, I realize there were lessons learned. Would I have learned them without these two? Probably. After all, they were regurgitating the same generic information spread wide across the internet. Their “secret tips” weren’t so secret. In fact, some information they gave was misleading or just plain wrong. However, they had their good and served a purpose. In a way, they did bring writers together. And some of the information, even the generic, was good information to have for beginners. At the end of the day, they were attempting to make a living, too. Their dishonesty, if one decided to label it as such, was not much different than a paid advertisement. They were very particular and guarded as to how things were worded. No laws, to my knowledge, were ever broken. They simply had a business model that allowed them to profit from the uninformed and desperate.

A second conflict I observed involved earnings. Money is always a sticky subject but especially in open or public forums. Let me preface this by stating a couple of facts. One: writers need to have tough skin. There is a world of rejection and disappointment in the publishing world. There’s no need to add any extra drama. Two: trends in the writing world are constantly changing. Opportunities are easy to miss. Three: there are dozens of reasons why a book may fail to sell. Four: writing is an entrepreneurship. It must be taken as seriously as any other job. Even if a writer cannot be a full-time writer, he/she must still diligently put in the time and effort as any full-time writer would. Fifth: success is measured differently by different people. If a writer sells five books and earns $50.00, another author sells twenty books and makes $45.00, and the third author sells fifteen copies and wins a prestigious writing award, who is the more successful author?

That being said, a discussion began about how much writers had earned. Some figures were large and others not so much. This discussion had a polar effect. Some writers felt encouraged to see other writers prospering while other writers felt discouraged that they were struggling to sell. When I opened this discussion in a small writing group where we discuss all sorts of writing topics, that group wasn’t nearly as divided—probably because many in the group have like personalities. But one member posed an interesting thought. “How do you know they are telling the truth?” The natural response was, “Why wouldn’t they?” He then proceeded to list a lot of plausible reasons. This does not mean that any of his reasons were true (and personally, I don’t think they were). He simply was playing devil’s advocate to provide an alternative point of view. In his argument, he pointed to YouTube (of all places) and at how many influencers had been exposed for faking how well they were doing. They had used Photoshop and green screens to appear in all sorts of exotic places and have luxurious amenities (e.g., mansions, private jets, designer clothes, etc.). However, it can’t be denied that a “fake it until you make it” subculture does exist in this era.

One final situation I wanted to discuss involved a similar situation. A writer who many other writers deemed successful frequently discussed her prolific publications and achievements. Some saw this as the writer being boastful while others considered it as informative. Some people were critical and doubted if the writer was being honest. Yet, some believed the writer and were jealous. Eventually, it came to a head, and the writer found herself under fire. Internet sleuths dug into the writer’s past for evidence to discredit her. They didn’t find it because the writer was being truthful. However, what these sleuths failed to do was to have an intelligent, open discussion with the writer. I later did this, and what I discovered shocked me.

In my discussion, I learned several facts that did not diminish or discredit the body of work this writer had done but altered how I viewed it. First, the writer disclosed that many of her publications were in very obscure magazines or media outlets with low readership. Second, although she considered her writing short stories, they technically could be classified as micro fiction, which explained how she was able to produce such a prolific body of work. The amount of work she created remained impressive. However, there is a difference between writing ten five hundred-word stories and ten fifty thousand-word novels. Third, the majority of the works were not being professionally edited. Considering the small word count, self-editing and having a proofer was likely to sufficient in this case. Fourth, many of the publications that printed her work accepted any work submitted. Therefore, the quality of the work was not a factor in acceptance. Fifth, this writer had developed a professional relationship over the years with many of the publications where her work was featured. Thus, these publications accepted her work because they had worked with her previously. Sixth, the writer did no marketing or promoting of any of her work. I’ve said it multiple times, writing is a business. It involves more than putting words on paper or typing into a word document. Marketing and branding are part of it, and those things take time. This writer chose not to invest that time which gave her more time to write and produce. And finally, this writer was not being paid by the publications.

For this writer, money, fame, and prestige were not what she valued. She just wanted to write and have her work shared wherever and however possible. And as long as she is satisfied, who is anyone else to question her? The bashing that she had endured previously by those who were either uninformed or jealous had occurred because they could not conceive how someone without a ghostwriter and whose name did not appear to generate much recognition be both writing and publishing at such a high-volume. I didn’t understand it, either, honestly, until after I had spoken with her. I never doubted her, but I was baffled. How was she able to write and have traditionally published fifteen to twenty stories every month? Easy. She had put herself in a noncompetitive market which was more conducive to being published.

The point to all of this is that situations may not always be what they appear to be. New writers need to be aware that judging themselves by others is a huge flaw in the writing industry. There are so many reasons why writers perform differently and not all the writing advice is good advice. I will have a part two this post for those interested; so, keep an eye out for that. Let me know what you think of this post in the comments below.

Coming February 2020… Ice Gladiators

Preorder: www.books2read/icegladiators

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Ice Gladiators… Be prepared to melt the ice.

Taz has problems: a stalled career, a coach threatening to destroy him, a meddling matchmaking roommate, and a thing for his other roommate’s boyfriend. The first three are manageable, but the last… well, that’s complicated. Because as much as Taz is attempting not to notice Liam, Liam is noticing him.

Enjoy sports romance and athletic bad boys? Check out my adult romance, Defending the Net. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It is sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. DTN is the second in my gay sports romance novel series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

Missed the first book in my sports romance series? No frets. Out of the Penalty Box, where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime, out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. Visit www.books2read.com/penalty.

Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy about what could go wrong on vacation, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.

Copies of my romance short stories, anthologies, books, and novels are available in paper, eBook, and audio on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. The links are listed on my Writing Projects page (http://bit.ly/2iDYRxU) along with descriptions of each of my stories or novels.

NEWSLETTER! Want to get the latest information and updates about my writing projects, giveaways, contests, and reveals first? Click https://genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com/newsletter/ and signup today.

Don’t forget to visit Creole Bayou. New posts are made on Wednesdays, where no Creole, Cajun, or Louisiana topic is left unscathed. Plus, get how-to self-help tips, how to writing tips, and keeping the romance alive and fresh suggestions. If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search me on Goodreads or Amazon Authors.

Finally, take the fear out of rush/pledging. If you or anyone you know are interested in joining a college Greek life organization, check out my special series posted each Monday for everything you wanted (and didn’t want) to know about college fraternities and sororities. In these posts, you will find information about both formal and informal recruitment for both NPC and NPHC organizations. Don’t know what NPC and NPHC are? No problem. It’s all explained in this series. This series also provides loads of information for parents who are unfamiliar with the processes, what is expected of parents, and how to be supportive. Visit Sorority Bible Table of Contents to view any or all of these posts.

Resources:

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Full-Time vs Part-Time Writing

Unless you’re an heir or heiress, changes are you must work at a job. Contrary to what some may believe, writing is a job. But anyone can write, right? Technically, yes. However, writing involves skills. Yes, anyone can type words but not everyone is a storyteller or possesses the ability to communicate in words clearly. Not everyone knows grammar and syntax. It doesn’t mean these things can’t be learned. It simply means, like mostly everything else in life, the craft of writing must learn.

That being said, many skilled writers are unable to support themselves, at least, initially, with their writing. House mortgages, care notes, insurances, and utilities must be paid—not to mention, groceries. For that reason, many writers find themselves working a nine-to-five (or other eight-hour jobs) to fund the basic necessities in life. This means the writer must seek other employment. But if the majority of one’s time is spent at a full-time job, then the writing often becomes the secondary fill-in-the gaps business. And that can be difficult not being able to do the job full-time that one is most passionate.

However, say that a writer has managed to finish a manuscript in his/her spare time, the writing business does not stop there. There remains editing, proofing, selling, and marketing regardless of the writer is published traditionally self-published. It is the extent of each of those elements which fall upon the writer that varies. It is easy to identify how difficult and exhausting being a part-time writer can be.

So, how does one do it? How is one successful being a part-time writer, or is that even possible? Yes, it certainly is possible.

  1. One must remember that many bestselling authors began writing part-time. It may have been while they were a student or intern. How one starts does not always matter. Beginnings must happen somewhere. It’s wise to keep this in mind.
  2. There are plenty of spare moments that one can steal to write. For example, while waiting in the lobby of the dentist office, instead of thumbing through magazines or twitching with anxiety, one could jot notes in a journal or create an outline. While on lunch break, one could write a killer paragraph or map out character sketches.
  3. Part-time writers must stay motivated. Well, all writers should stay motivated, but part-time writers may need more in this area. Full-time writers have an understanding that writing is their livelihood. Not writing to a full-time writer means no income. However, to a part-time writer where his/her primary income is another source, motivation may slag more. Self-deprecating thoughts (e.g., not being good enough, wasting time writing, having multiple other obligations, etc.) may seep in. It’s important to make the most of what available time one has count. It is possible to get much accomplished in a short amount of time.
  4. Ignore word count. That’s right, I said it, and half of the writing community probably just exploded. But I received some sound advice once from a very successful author. What good is it to write 2,000 words in a day if you have to ditch 1,999 of them for being crap? Wouldn’t it be more efficient and effective to write 500 words and have all 500 be meaningful that can be used in a story? It’s a matter of quality versus quantity. I’m not saying that word count goals can’t be good motivators or keep writers on track to achieve deadlines. However, if what is writing is a bunch of garbage, at the end of the day, it won’t matter how many words were written. I listened to a song that was a hit in the 1980s. In fact, it became a number one single on the US Billboard Hot 100. The entire song consisted of 21 words. The words were well-constructed and communicated the artist’s thoughts. The song was over three minutes longs, I’m certain some producers and promoters were concerned at the lack of lyrics. However, what was important wasn’t what wasn’t there but what was there. Good writing trumps bad writing any day. Not meeting a specific word count in a day does not indicate an unproductive day. In fact, writing a lot of gibberish cannot only waste time but may also sway the writer in the wrong direction.
  5. Most writers struggle, and you’re not alone. Let me repeat that. You’re not alone. Reach out to others. If you are short on writing time, a critique partner could be your best friend. A CP may be able to keep you on track or help you create a better story faster. In times that you can’t spend writing, maybe your CP could be making notes for you on what you do have. Using this method allows writers to have their manuscripts worked on even when the author is busy else place.
  6. Recognize the social media lie. I had a difficult time with this one, too. Most writing advice will say to build social platforms. What they don’t tell you is the heaping helping of potholes. For one, many writers fall into the trap of asking other writers (who also are building their platforms) to like their page, join their group, or follow them. Many will, but it’s an empty number. The person may join but never interact or read the posts. The effort the writer is putting in is being lost of phantoms. This isn’t always the case, but it happens frequently enough to mention. When asking someone to join a newsletter or page, be sure this is someone who wants to get to know you and are interested in your work. Likewise, make sure you are interested in them. Get to know them. View their page and actively support their platform. Use social media as a tool to allow people to get to know the writer as a priority. Using social media as solely and primarily a place to make sales may lead to disappointing results. Sure, people may decide to purchase books and merchandise from writers, but this usually comes after they have learned something about the author. This is branding.
  7. The social media market is big enough for everyone, but it is also saturated. The people who have carved their niche did so years ago. Newbies struggle to be found and noticed. The effort being placed in building social media platforms may be better spent writing. Does this mean part-time writers should abandon or not bother with social media? Definitely not. It simply means newbies must balance their time wisely. If writing on social media is the goal, no problem. You’re set. Otherwise, plan your time for platform building so that it does not deplete a large portion of your writing time.

Enjoy sports romance? Check out my new adult romance, Defending the Net, released on November 10. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It will be sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

Missed the first in my hockey romance series? Don’t worry. Out of the Penalty Box, an adult romance where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. For more links where to purchase or to read the blurb, please visit http://bit.ly/2i9SqpH.

Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.

Copies of all my books and stories are available in paper, eBook, and audio on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. The links are listed in my Writing Projects page (http://bit.ly/2iDYRxU) along with descriptions of each of my novels or stories.

NEWSLETTER! Want to get the latest information and updates about my writing projects, giveaways, contests, and reveals first? Click https://genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com/newsletter/ and signup today.

Finally, if you or anyone you know are interested in joining a college Greek life organization, check out my special series posted each Monday for everything you wanted (and didn’t want) to know about college fraternities and sororities. Visit Sorority Bible Table of Contents to view any or all of these posts.

DISCLAIMER: Creole Bayou is not sponsored or being paid to endorse any business, website, person, podcast, broadcast, videos, philanthropy, or products. Any shoutouts given is due to personally liking a product or cause. There is no intention to slight any competitors or introduce bias. If you have a product or service that is related to anything mentioned in this post and would like a shoutout in the future, please do not hesitate to contact via email to inform me of such product or service.

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Constructing a Writing Plan

Writing a novel can be stressful. From coming up with an idea, transcribing that idea into words (either on paper or electronically), to publishing a process. Getting from A to Z may be a daunting task without a plan. However, there is no need to not have a plan of some sort—even for pantsters. So, here are some steps to create a solid writing plan guaranteed to reduce a writer’s stress and ensure a completed manuscript.

  1. One may think the first step is to develop an idea for a story, but nope. There is so much that needs to occur prior to that. The very first step is to set goals. These could be deadlines, word counts, deciding genre, the location where one will write, time that will write, marketing plan, etc. Goals may be broad or narrow, but they need to be in place. The more specific the increased chance of success, but sometimes being specific isn’t possible or hinders writing.
  2. Before continuing, understand that writing and publishing is a process, and it takes times. For most people (established celebrities excluded), things do not happen overnight. Getting to where you want to be takes time. One of the most important steps is understanding this and being prepared to put in the hard work required.
  3. Another thing to prepare for initially is to expect setbacks, or, as the old folks say, expect the unexpected. This is a “when” and not an “if”. Life happens, and not always in a good way. Things will hit the fan, splatter, and be messy. Arm yourself with a good mop and bleach and be prepared to clean up the fallout. It’s okay because it happens to everyone, and with determination, you will trudge through it. Look at setbacks as learning moments and then keep trucking. Understanding that obstacles may be looming around corners need not throw you off your game if you are properly prepared.
  4. That being said, be sure that you are passionate about writing. Writing can be frustrating, difficult, and isolating. If you want to produce a good, completed novel, you need to love what you’re doing in order to push through the difficult times. Writing a novel is like a marriage—in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for rich and for poorer…remember the poorer. You may find that you will need to miss events or make sacrifices in order to write. Not having a passion for it may later lead to resentment.
  5. Write your goals down or put them in your phone calendar as a constant reminder of what you need to do. It is easy to overlook, ignore, or forget a rule if it isn’t documented. Sure, some people are capable of grocery shopping without a list. However, utilizing a list may simplify your life.
  6. Hold yourself accountable for your goals. Setting goals are one thing. However, if there are no reward or consequences for meeting or failing to meet these goals, often there is not a motivation for achieving the goal. Since the process may be slow (especially in the beginning), it is important to check regularly that you are meeting the small goals that lead to the bigger ones. Think about a person on a weight loss journey. Participating in a weekly public weigh-in may be the determining factor for having a slice of triple-layer chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting or skipping dessert.
  7. Prepare the environment. Gather any materials you will need for writing prior to sitting down to write. For example, if you frequently use a thesaurus or enjoy snacking while writing, have those things ready. There is no bigger waste of time if one has to search for needed items or leave to get something. Consider a school kid who needs to ride the bus each morning but who does not to pack his/her backpack, get papers signed, or decide what to wear the previous night. When the bus arrives, books and other school supplies may be scattered across several rooms. The odds of forgetting something increases. In fact, in the mad dash to gather the items, the child may not hear the bus and get left. Then the parent must drive the child to school, causing the parent to be late for work. Constant tardiness of this sort may lead to reprimands or firing. And all of this happened because time was not taken to gather materials. Additionally, looking for materials may break the writing flow. By the time one returns to continue, the inspiration may be gone.
  8. Get rid of known distractors. If you have a bad habit of checking your phone, turn it on silent, put it on airplane mode, turn it off, put it in another room for it to charge, or you can turn the data off for the app. If your vice is social media, sign out or turn on your invisibility sign. It’s not rude to unplug for a while. Friends and family will understand your need to stay focus to work. If anyone hassles you for doing this, ask yourself if they are really supportive of your craft.
  9. Consistency is key. It may be difficult, but making writing a habit greatly will improve one’s work. A person who writes consistently quickly will find his/her voice. He/she will begin to see patterns in his/her writing, which comes in handy when editing. The writer will be able to identify personal strengths and weaknesses in their works. Even if the effort does not appear to be paying off, one still needs to write or remain involved in the writing process. Sometimes, it is the additive effect, or the sum of all parts, that matters most. Keep plugging at it.
  10. Keep an open mind and be willing to learn. Learning will allow one to grow as a writer. For example, the more one writes, the more one may pay attention to grammar. This may enable to the writer to develop better first drafts or require less editing. (Note “less” not “none”.)
  11. Block out a time to write or a time to work on writing. For example, a writer may reserve Mondays for posting on social media, Tuesdays for marketing, Wednesdays for editing, and Thursdays through Saturdays for writing new content. Or one may decide to write for two consecutive hours daily. Or one may choose to write in a certain location.
  12. Do not be afraid to evolve and change direction. Where you start and think you want to go may not be where you finish. Writing can be a winding path. Explore the various options and find the one that works best for you. However, do not venture too far from your starting path or you may find yourself wandering aimlessly in the wilderness.

Enjoy sports romance? Check out my new adult romance, Defending the Net, released on November 10. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It will be sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

Missed the first in my hockey romance series? Don’t worry. Out of the Penalty Box, an adult romance where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. For more links where to purchase or to read the blurb, please visit http://bit.ly/2i9SqpH.

Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.

Copies of all my books and stories are available in paper, eBook, and audio on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. The links are listed in my Writing Projects page (http://bit.ly/2iDYRxU) along with descriptions of each of my novels or stories.

NEWSLETTER! Want to get the latest information and updates about my writing projects, giveaways, contests, and reveals first? Click https://genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com/newsletter/ and signup today.

Finally, if you or anyone you know are interested in joining a college Greek life organization, check out my special series posted each Monday for everything you wanted (and didn’t want) to know about college fraternities and sororities. Visit Sorority Bible Table of Contents to view any or all of these posts.

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Confessions of an Overwriter

My name is Genevive Chamblee, and I’m an overwriter. I find myself not only chatty in conversations but rambling in words. I’m an extrovert and come from a family of talkers (mostly)—a community, in fact. It may seem a copout, but it’s the culture. I’m convinced southerners are born long-winded. This bleeds over into my writing. If you’re a panster like me, this may lead to significant problems.

What problems? First, and probably the most obvious, is publication problems. For self-publishers, this may not be an issue. For writers seeking to go the traditional route, hang on because it’s about to be a bumpy ride. Most genres have suggested word counts. Now, let me stop right there. The word is “suggested”. It is not mandatory. It is not a rule. It is a suggestion that anyone who isn’t a celebrity, bestselling author, or famous media personality should follow.

Second, writing is a business. Agents and publishers are seeking financial gain by selling books. Publishing costs money, and many of those costs are tied directly to the length of a book. Longer books take longer to edit, which means more time an editor must spend working with it. The more hours an editor clocks in, the more the charges. In brick and mortar stores, larger books take up more shelf space. Shipping fees are more. Paper costs increase. Many agents or publishers won’t consider works over specific word counts. Like it or not, right or wrong, they may agents or publishers believe it is too risky to invest in longer books by lesser-known writers. They compare the cost of publishing to the profit they expect to make. The lower the financial investment on the front end, the higher the potential profit.

Second part B, it cost self-publishers. Self-published books need a professional edit—not a computer program or a good friend or even an English professor. Self-published writers should hire a professional editor. There are plenty of self-published writers who would argue this is not the case. But the bottom line is when a book is not edited well, it makes it harder for all writers. Readers are extremely angry when they pay for a book riddled with typos and grammatical errors. And since so many self-published books have not been appropriately edited, self-published books in general been stereotyped as lower quality, and some readers will not purchase a book that has been self-published based on the stereotype.

The argument then becomes that hiring a professional editor is too expensive. Aha! And this is where word count enters. Most independent editors charge per word. Lowering word count prior to sending to an editor may save the writer hundreds of dollars. Plus, it allows the editor to focus on other issues the text may have. The editor may complete the job in a shorter amount of time, which may mean the writer can publish sooner and can begin generating sales.

Three, many readers are impatient and prefer instant gratification. They want their stories short and sweet. Consider the state of traditional newspapers and magazines. Many subscribers get their news online. Why? Because there is no waiting and constant updates. They do not have to leave their cozy bed to venture outside into the blustery January wind and fish their paper from a bird bath. Other readers do not have time to read longer works. They cram their pleasure reading in between work meetings or while commuting on the bus or subway. Binge watching series have spoiled a generation and taught them waiting does not have to be an option. It is not uncommon to see a movie previewing in selected theatres to have spoilers on the internet several hours later. Packages are rushed delivered.

Fourth, if the book is hardback or paperback book, readers may not have room in their backpack or suitcase. Or they may be too burdensome to transport or too bulky for compact apartments. We are a society on-the-go. Smaller books are easier to pack.

But stop! Hold the delete button. Wait a minute before cutting that scene. Many writers get caught up in writing X-number of words because it’s a “rule” when the focus should be writing the story until it is finished. At the end of the day, content is what is the most important and not the word count.

Oh, that sounds like a contradiction. But it isn’t. Here’s the real tea. A well-written story can get away with longer or shorter word counts than suggested by the general guidelines. However, many times, books with shorter word counts are underdeveloped and longer word counts are dragging in parts. In other words, those stories may benefit from additional editing, not because of word count but to improve the quality of content. Again, this is not always the case, and there are exceptions.

Before a writer begins slashing their work, he/she needs to take a critical look at the entire story. Does the story work? Is the plot concise or convoluted? Are parts of the story boring? Are there unnecessary scenes or characters? Are there too many subplots? Has the story become repetitious in places? Is there more than one story, or is the story better told divided into two parts? Are some sections too complicated or complex? Does the story remain on target or ramble? Is there a better way to express an idea? Has the genre of the story been identified appropriately? All of these questions need to be asked and answered before any cutting is done.

I want to discuss the last question a little further, as I feel it often is one overlooked. Has the genre of the story been identified appropriately? Each genre (and subgenre) have suggested word counts. Some genre suggested word counts are higher than others. Therefore, if a writer has miscategorized the genre, the writer may be aiming for the wrong word count. In that instance, a writer may be well in the range of the suggested word count but not know it. I found myself in that position once. I spent weeks agonizing how to cut additional words to meet my goal when I realized my story had grown beyond my original concept. When the idea first came to me, I delayed writing it. After my first draft, I set it aside for several months. As I edited it, I saw plot holes and then a big shock. My “end” wasn’t the end. It was the climax that required a resolution. After more editing to correct the plot, my story switched genres, but I did not realize it. I combed through the story line-by-line more than a dozen times, failing to meet my goal. All the fat had been trimmed, and there was no extra. It wasn’t until I started asking why I couldn’t get my word count to where I thought it needed to be without losing content. It was because I needed the extra words for worldbuilding, something I had not done in previous works. After re-evaluation, I still needed to cut words but not as many.

And here’s one final note before hitting the delete button. A writer should be confident in their story. Just because a beta, critique partner, sensitivity reader, or editor suggest something be cut does not necessarily mean it needs to be cut. Those groups of people offer suggestions to the writer in order to improve the story. However, it is the writer’s decision what, if any, of those suggestions to accept. Sometimes, a writer’s vision of the story may not be the same as the persons helping. If that is the case, then the writer may need to re-evaluate who he/she has helped.

I once presented a story in a critique group. They suggested I cut my entire first chapter. When I followed this suggestion, the heavy-hand chop devastated my story. The group said it was my ego that made me feel that way. They accused me of being overly sensitive and not objective, and for a while, I thought it might have been. It took weeks for me to see the issue. Each time I read my story, it sounded more and more generic and disjointed. I was not happy.

Yes, the first chapter was bulky and may have been a little “telly”, too. But that was not the main problem. The biggest issue was that part of the chapter was in the wrong place. It needed to be pushed back to chapters three and four. The second issue was the critique group was not the same demographic as my target audience. Third, the main information they suggested I cut was necessary information that had to occur in a particular order to maintain a logical timeline. For example, they would suggest that information be explained later in the story or by a different character. Explaining later would cause confusion and using a different character would cause inconsistencies. Joe can’t explain something to Sally in chapter two if he vanishes in chapter one—unless I wanted to dig my grave in flashbacks. And adding flashbacks would have increased my word count.

In short, I had a problem. I knew I had a problem, which is why I presented it to the critique group. The critique recognized there was a problem. They pointed out valid problems. But they also wanted to take my story and stuff it into a mold of what I consider trendy writing, such as death to all adverbs. One boasted his novel didn’t contain a single adverb. I’m sure that’s great for him and his novel. Didn’t work for mine. As an author, I didn’t ask the questions that I should have to my critique group. Because I didn’t have a firm grasp on my story, I did not enable my critique group to give me the necessary feedback. They did their part, but I hadn’t done mine.

It required a great deal of work, but I managed to get the first chapter where it needed to be. My cuts were in sentence structure. I had to add words to flush out scenes before I could cut to a lower word count. Being an overwriter can be a huge pain in the butt, but recovery is possible.

Enjoy sports romance? Check out my new adult romance, Defending the Net, released on November 10. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It will be sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

Missed the first in my hockey romance series? Don’t worry. Out of the Penalty Box, an adult romance where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. For more links where to purchase or to read the blurb, please visit http://bit.ly/2i9SqpH.

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How to Get a Literary Agent

Today’s topic is nailing getting a literary agent. These tips will provide writers looking for an agent useful advice. So, let’s jump right in and get to it.

  1. Learn the agents who will be interested in your book/novel. This may be done in several ways.
  2. Internet searches
  3. Books (e.g., the Writers Market)
  4. Online websites that list agents and their bios
  5. Professional writing groups
  6. Word of mouth/asking other authors
  7. The acknowledgment section in published books in the genre a writer wants to publish. Sometimes, authors list their agents in the acknowledgment section
  8. Writers conferences
  9. Query letters. A query basically is an introduction/cover letter from a writer to an agent. It should be professionally done, as in edited with proper grammar, format, and information included. It should be under a page in length with concise paragraphs. Make it interesting but saver the flowery language for later. It should give a brief description of the main character(s), plot, and relevant information from the writer’s resume (e.g., previous publications, writing awards, memberships in professional writing organizations, educational degrees, and anything that lend credibility to the writer’s writing ability. Many agents list the guidelines for what they want in a query on their websites.
  10. Create a pitch that shows an agent that the writer is knowledgeable in the genre. This does not mean listing a litany of everything one has ever learned in a creative writing class. But it does mean demonstrating that the writer is competent in subject and theme of critical elements necessary for inclusion in a genre. For example, a science fiction novel needs to have science in it. It’s not the same as fantasy. The two may overlap, but if it’s all mermaids and fairies and no science, it’s fantasy and not science fiction.
  11. Send queries in batches. This is done in steps.
  12. Compile a list of agents that the writer is interested in working with. There should be at least a dozen names on the list.
  13. Prioritize the list to the agents most interested in working with to the least.
  14. Personalize each letter. Do not send mass letters that say “dear sir/madam”. Take the time to address each agent by name and throw in something about the type of client that agent tends to prefer or represent. In other words, indicate that you how done your research and know about the agent and his/her agency.
  15. Know how the agent prefers to be contacted. Most prefer email these days, but some still may be old school and prefer snail mail. Yet, others may have online query forms in lieu of letters.
  16. Mail/email 5 – 6 letters initially and wait for a response. Use any rejection feedback to improve the query. (Note, there is an exception to this that I will address later.) If no offers/acceptances are made and the query has been updated, send it to the next 5-6 agents on the list. Continue this process until agent is obtained or the listed is exhausted. If the list is exhausted and having an agent is still desired, do more research and begin again. Be sure to consider any elements in the story that might be putting off an agent, and be sure that the queries are sent to agents in the desired genre.
  17. Do not send multiple agents in the same firm queries at the same time. Select one. If a writer decides to later query another agent within the same agency with the same manuscript, write a new query. Do not send the same letter. Remember, agents talk to each other.
  18. Understand that obtaining an agent may be a lengthy process. Be patient.
  19. Have a complete manuscript prior to querying. Now, here is a point of debate. The manuscript may need editing, but no agent will expect perfection. (Note: there’s more to this.) However, it should be a final copy, meaning the story has a beginning, middle, end, and has been spellchecked, proofed, in standard font, and properly formatted. It should not be a draft.
  20. Don’t get set on one agent. Keep an open mind and query widely. Although a writer may desire to work with his/her favorite author’s agent, that agent may not be a correct fit.
  21. Understand that landing an agent may not translate into that agent being able to sell the manuscript to a publisher quickly or at all. It may take months or years for an agent to sell a manuscript. Having realistic expectations and acknowledging them may cause an agent to be more willing to work with a writer.
  22. Know the agent’s resume and sell record. If an agent has dozens of clients but hasn’t made any sells, that says something. Be sure to select an agent who is not overextended.
  23. Do not automatically rule out new agents. Some agents just beginning are thirty to prove themselves and work diligently to find new writers publishers. Remember, agents, make a living by selling manuscripts. New agents will work hard to make the sell. Some of the more distinguished agents may take on new writers but prioritize their more established clients. Thus, a new client may not receive as much attention.
  24. Agents are not editors—at least not all of them. While some agents may give editorial feedback on a manuscript, their main job is to sell and not edit. That is why a manuscript needs to be the best that a writer can make it. But in #7, I wrote a manuscript didn’t need to be perfect. And I also said there was more to this. This is it. Most traditional publishers have an editing staff and edit all books to ensure they meet the publishing house’s standard and criteria. However, editing costs money. With the amount of competition that exist and the push to have manuscripts published quickly, both agents and publishers expect manuscripts to be near perfect. Agents need a decent product to sell.
  25. Although agents’ main job is not editing, they will have input to improve the manuscripts. An agent may ask for changes in the manuscript based upon what he/she knows he/she can sell to a publisher. Be prepared to work with an agent on that level.
  26. There are perks to having an agent. However, writers can be successful without one. Many small publishing houses consider working with writers without agents. Of course, self-published authors don’t need agents. That doesn’t mean they can’t have one, but self-publishers are their own agents and aren’t negotiating deals with publishers. The point is, not finding an agent does not mean a writer won’t have a writing career. There are many successful authors without agents. Having an agent is most important when trying to publish with a large publishing house.
  27. Expect reject. It’s all a part of the process. Very few writers land agents with the first pitch or first query. It is not impossible, just difficult.
  28. Now to revisit #4 regarding using agent feedback to revamp query letters. Before using that information to rewrite the query, read it carefully. Many agents are busy and send out form rejection letters. As with everything else, over the years the look of these letters has changed. Templates have been created to make some of these letters appear more personal. One new writer posted to a writing group what she thought was a considerate and glowing rejection letter. Shortly after she posted the letter, several other writers posted a very similar letter from the same publisher. The recommendations for changes were identical, although, the names of the books were personalized in each letter. That is not to criticize the agent. However, basing changes off generic feedback is mostly useless. Be sure that the feedback used is genuine.
  29. Finally, beware of bad agents and scams. Agents do take a part of the money when a manuscript is sold. That is how they make their living. However, writers should not be paying agents unexplained fees. If an agent is asking for money upfront to represent a writer, the writer should be cautious.

That is it for this post. Don’t forget to visit Creole Bayou again. New posts are made on Wednesdays. Furthermore, my special series on Greek life, sororities, and everything parents or students wanting to join a sorority (or fraternity) should know is posted each Monday. If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search me on Goodreads or Amazon Authors.

Enjoy sports romance? Check out my new adult romance, Defending the Net, released on November 10. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It will be sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

Missed the first in my hockey romance series? Don’t worry. Out of the Penalty Box, an adult romance where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. For more links where to purchase or to read the blurb, please visit http://bit.ly/2i9SqpH.

Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.

Copies of all my books and stories are available in paper, eBook, and audio on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. The links are listed in my Writing Projects page (http://bit.ly/2iDYRxU) along with descriptions of each of my novels or stories.

NEWSLETTER! Want to get the latest information and updates about my writing projects, giveaways, contests, and reveals first? Click https://genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com/newsletter/ and signup today.

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Big/Little

Thank you so much for everyone who has been following my bonus content Greek Recruitment series. I hope it has been informative and helpful. After I completed doing through the recruitment process, a coworker inquired about the Big/Little process and asked that I do a post. So, here I am once again.

I want to begin by saying that Big/Little week has a lot of variety in how it works, depending upon the sorority and university/college. It’s not something that I have heard occurring in NPHC organizations, but that does not mean it doesn’t. For this article, the information may be very general. Laid out here, it may seem that elements of Big/Little occurs in steps. However, it is important to note that many of the events occur simultaneously. It’s just difficult to illustrate that on paper.

Let’s start with definitions. If you have not read my previous post of GLO definitions, I will link it below. It is packed with information that makes understanding Greek life easier for people who are unfamiliar with it. So, what is Big/Little? A Big Sister or Big is an active member of a chapter (sorority) who is paired as a mentor with a new member (formerly called a pledge). A Little Sister or Little, of course, is a new member who is paired with a Big. The goal of a Big is to provide guidance and to answer questions new members may have. Bigs help teach sorority traditions and history and explain further about their philanthropy. She also is to be a beacon of sisterhood.

I should mention here that at some universities/colleges and sororities the terms Big/Little aren’t used. Some use the terms mom/daughter. Despite the names/terms, the concept and purpose are the same. This leads into other terms such as grand Big which I will discuss shortly.

The pairing of Big/Little can happen in a number of ways. One of the most common ways is that after formal recruitment has ended and a new member has been able to spend time with and get to know actives, the new member will be asked to create a short list of actives who she would like to be her Big. Some sororities set up mini dates for member, a time where Bigs can meet Littles on an individual basis for coffee or lunch to determine their similarities or personality compatibility. After meeting, the Bigs list who they would like to be their Little(s). A Little can only have one Big but a Big may have more than one Little. Again, this is something I will discuss later in the post. After both the Bigs and Littles have indicated their choices, the sorority has a person or committee that makes the assignments. This ensures that all littles get matched and no one is overlooked. It also ensures no Big is assigned too many Littles. As with what happens on Pref Day/Night, sometimes the Bigs and Littles are not assigned their first choice.

Many sororities participate in a Big/Little week. This is where the fun begins. Now, some Big/Little pairs are informed of their match from the start. For others, the identity of the Bigs are kept hidden from the Littles. Often, the Big acts as a “Secret Santa” and leaves gifts (sometimes with clues to her identity) each day for a week. The clues are usually a mixture of vague facts about the Big and a misleading statement to prevent the Little from guess who her big is. Depending on location and chapter, Big/Little week may last anywhere from a day to a week. The most common is 3-4 days. Usually, each day has a theme. For example, if the sororities mascot is a puppy, one day may be puppy day. The Bigs would gift their Littles presents that have a dog theme. The next day may be sweets, and on that day the Bigs would give candy. These theme days would continue until Big/Little Reveal Day.

The budget of Big/Little gifts also depends on the sorority chapter. At many large southern universities, Bigs go all out and lavish their Littles with an abundance of gifts. This may sound expensive, and it can be, but re-gifting is not only encouraged but tradition. Passing down used items is treasured. It’s similar to a mother giving her daughter a wedding dress that has been in the family for years. The most common item to be passed down are t-shirts from swaps and philanthropy events. This allows new members to connect with the past. However, anything can be passed down.

Additionally, many gifts are DIY canvases. These are extremely popular because they are easily personalized and is an inexpensive way to quickly build new members’ paraphernalia. In one haul, a Little may receive over two dozen items. Again, this depends on the chapter, the number of days held, and any price caps enforced. Smaller chapters may scale things far back. I read one article where Littles received little more than a card. But in these things, it truly is the thought that counts. Think about it. These are basically strangers sometimes giving a gift for nothing in exchange other than the joy of adding a member to their family. Many Littles state that after experiencing being lavished with gifts, they can’t wait to become a Big and pay it forward. And make no mistake, lots of thought goes into Big/Little week. Plus, for the Bigs, it’s a way to bond with their sisters decorating, shopping, designing crafts, and creating ways to surprise and awe their Littles. And face it, it’s an excellent way for a Big to clean out her closet.

The gifts given is determined by the Big. Many Bigs go to the Little’s social media pages to get ideas of her likes. Remember the pairing meeting? Commonly during the pairing meeting, the Big will inquire about the Little’s likes and dislikes. The recruitment application also contains information about the personal tastes of Littles, or Bigs may contact relatives of legacy new members. Sometimes, a Little may have several friends already in the sororities who knows her well. The fact is, Bigs are sneaky (in a good way), and they gather intel like regular sleuths.

Gifts are usually arranged like Southern Living photo shoot. If the sorority has a house, the gifts are left there for the Littles to retrieve. Sororities without house may rent a location or have the gifts delivered to the Little’s room. Some Bigs even decorate their Little’s room while the Little is in class.

On the final day of Big/Little, there is an event where the Big reveals herself, sometimes by holding a sign with her Little’s name on it or providing her Little with a matching t-shirt/outfit. Or the Big may wrap herself in wrapping paper like a gift for the Little to open. Once the reveal is made, the Big welcomes the Little into her family.

Speaking of family, Bigs and Littles form what is referred to as a family. Understand, that chapters consider themselves sisters. Therefore, Big/Littles are families within a family or a mini family. A Grand Big or GB is the Big of the Little’s Big, and the relationship is comparable to daughter, mother, and grandmother. Thus, a GG would be a Little’s Big’s Big’s Big, and so on and so forth. I’m sure you get the picture. Bigs must be, at the minimum, an active member for a year. Most times, the Big is one class above her Little. But there is no across the board hard and fast rule that limits class deferential between Big and Little. Therefore, a Little may have a GB, GG, or GGB on campus.

If a Big takes on more than one Little is the same class, the Little is said to have a twin, triple, or quadruplet. I’ve never heard of quadruplets or higher, but I suppose it’s possible. However, that seems unlikely, as it would be a heavy burden to the Big financially and time-wise. Good Bigs regularly spend time with their Littles to build their relationship and provide mentorship.

And that is the gist of Big/Little week. If you like this series on Greek life, please let me know your opinions.

To catch up or view this entire series, please visit my Sorority Bible Table of Contents for links to all the blogs in this series.

Don’t forget to visit Creole Bayou again. New posts are made on Wednesdays. My special series on Greek life, sororities, and everything parents or students wanting to join a sorority (or fraternity) should know is posted each Monday. If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search me on Goodreads or Amazon Authors.

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