Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Blog by Paul Carroll: The Red Pen of Death

It's time for another Literary+ Blog Tour!  Today's brilliant Guest Blogger is Paul Carroll.  He is currently celebrating the achievement of writing, editing, and publishing Balor Reborn in a single week! 

Literary+ is a writer based project brought together and lead by Shen Hart. It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to efficiently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take its members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.

The Red Pen of Death
After writing at a ridiculous speed, or even at an average speed, one thing every writer needs to do is edit. When I was writing Balor Reborn, I set out thinking I’d need to do a lot of work. With this in mind, we get the Red Pen of Death, akin to the javelin throw for two reasons: you’ll want to throw it away as far as you can, and it could easy kill someone. In your book’s case, that’d be a character that just doesn’t work. 

However, if you’re writing on a tight schedule, how are you supposed to know who to eliminate and what to edit? I got in touch with a friend before writing, asking him to beta read. Your beta reader needs to have a few qualifications, beforehand.

1. They need to be a fast reader. If they’re not, you could end up waiting on them for a while, which will hinder the progress of your book. For me, I asked the fastest reader I know, who ended up reading the book in an hour. He has since performed equally impressive feats with other texts.

2. They need to be intelligent. I’m not saying they have to be a genius, but getting an answer beyond, “It’s good, yeah” is generally considered helpful. My beta reader supplied me with feedback and suggestions on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

3. They need to fit your target audience. My beta reader reads quite broadly, but he is known to read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Balor Reborn is a Fantasy, in a sense of the genre, and so with his ability to read quickly and his preference to the genre, he was a perfect choice.

Know your beta reader. It helps. If you have more time, look for readers you aren’t familiar with, but when it comes to a quick project like a book in a week, it’s easier to work with someone you know and trust and who can put up with receiving the book to read at any given moment in time. I was thankful he was around a lot during the writing process, so he was aware of roughly when he’d get the book to read.

With the feedback from your beta reader(s), read through your book. Mark anything that’s been pointed out by them with the aforementioned red pen, if you work with a printed copy of the manuscript like I do, and keep a close eye on anything that doesn’t read correctly.When you’re ready to make your changes, make sure it’s for the improvement of the book. Making things more complicated isn’t necessarily a good thing, if you have the time.

If you’re working to the same timescale as I was, giving myself a maximum of two days to edit the book, you can’t afford to make massive changes. I focused on correcting two things: the coherency of the book, and the phrasing used to describe particular things. Specifically, in the case of the latter, I followed the advice from my beta reader to change Netherworld to Otherworld, and Fay to Aos Sídhe, an Irish term for fairies (literally, ‘people of the mounds’). They were small issues, but they help in firmly placing the mythology in Ireland.

When you go about editing, there are certain things you’ll need to focus on.

1. Coherency. If a sentence is too complicated, change it. Read it out loud to be sure.

2. Characterisation. Your characters ought to change somewhat as the story progresses, so be sure that something happens. With a smaller book like Balor Reborn, being part of a series, there wasn’t much room for developing Fionn, my protagonist. However, to compensate, I allowed readers a look into the life of Stephen, the antagonist. There was a lot of pain in his history that relates to the overall story of the series, and so it was necessary to explore it, rather than Fionn, in more depth.

3. Plot continuity. There’s nothing more unsatisfying in terms of plot than an unresolved element. Think about Lost, the ABC show from a few years back. By the time it reached its finale, there were still so many questions left unanswered that resulted in a lot of annoyance for viewers. On the other hand, The Simpsons often utilises multiple micro-stories to get something going, with small stories leading into one another in a way that remains satisfying. 

One instance coming to mind: Bart and his friends are rummaging through garbage and Bart finds a coupon book; Bart gives Homer the coupon book. This ends that story. Homer then uses that coupon book in various instances, leading him to the garage; there, he meets a travel agent who draws his attention away from the coupons and on towards something bigger. Homer is known to be easily distracted, and so this makes sense, ends the coupon story, and moves us on to the main plot of the episode: the Super Bowl.

In the above example, we notice that the plot doesn’t leave anything unexplained, it leads to greater stories, and it remains entertaining. When you’re editing your book, especially a longer book, or one that wasn’t written with a plan, keep note of the developing plots and plot-objects (such as the coupon book) to see whether or not those stories reach a satisfying conclusion. Their function is to set up the larger story, but did they achieve that in a story of their own?

Don’t be afraid to change something in your book. However, when you’re writing to a tight deadline, you may be better off leaving the red pen down until after the first draft is written. Keep the mindsets separate between Creator and Critic, and you’ll find the process that little bit easier when it comes to finishing your book with minimal error. When you’re done, throw the red pen away, and hope it doesn’t hit somebody.


Paul Carroll is a writer from Dublin. He is studying to be a teacher of Religion and English at second level, while working in a bookshop at weekends. His 'free time' is divided among assignments, fiction, poetry, articles and blog posts, as well as college Drama and almost weekly trips to the local cinema.He has been writing since the age of twelve, with a love of words going back further than he can remember. When he isn't reading or writing, he likes to make use of social media, bake, and talk to friends. Often, he'll watch a horror film alone in the dark for the sheer joy of it.

He can be found online at

About Balor Reborn

Old Ireland is returning, as an ancient evil arrives in Dublin. A single glance from his eye is all it takes to kill. Stephen Fox is haunted by the memory of his wife, and suffers from guilt at abandoning his new-born son. The spirit of the tyrant Balor has come back to take his vengeance on the country. A hero must rise in the unwilling form of Fionn Murray, a university student with a mysterious past.. As a world of wonder unfolds around him, and with no one but his house mate Michael at his side, he’s left with the choice of running, or facing the evil that could consume the world.Based on the old Irish myth of Balor of the Evil Eye, Balor Reborn is the first in a series that seeks to revive the magic of Ireland. It was written and published in one week.

Where to buy:

Balor Reborn on Paul's Website 
Balor Reborn on

Previous Stop on the Blog Tour: Book Trailer Videos Hosted by JD Savage
Next Stop on the Blog Tour: Formulaic Formatting Hosted By Sophie Duncan 

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