Friday, February 21, 2014

Edit Everything!

When I am going through my submission pile, I am frequently finding stories that are almost there. Something about the premise sounded great, but... it was lacking in other areas. Ugh.

For so many authors, I think that when they get to editing their stories, or they are providing critiques for each other, they often look only at the global concept of the story. The focus on the big picture. While this is fine for one round of editing, it is beyond essential to narrow that focus in even more on some of those smaller parts. In the end, the success or failure of the book relies on all of these components working together.

I want to take this short and simple today (considering I have a full session I teach and it would take over an hour to get through all of the material if I gave you everything). This is just something to consider with your editing this weekend.

Dialogue - Obviously we want the dialogue to sound great in the story. We want to hear the characters talk. But here is the key thing - how are you using the dialogue? When you have the characters talking, it needs to serve a purpose in the story and not just simply act as a transition to another scene you want to get to. Is the dialogue doing something to advance the plot?

Along the same lines, is the dialogue natural and fitting with the characters? Again, too often I see characters saying things that, if the author had thought about the people they put in the book, they would have thought otherwise.

Narration - In this case, I always check to see if the author is showing and not telling. We don't want to just see a narration of the actions the character is doing. In other words "Bob got up from bed, walked across the room to the bathroom and proceeded to brush his teeth. He liked to use Aim toothpaste because of the colors. He scrubbed his top teeth first.... - THIS IS BAD!

Plot Elements - In simple terms, is everything fitting together? Does everything have a place? You should be looking for holes in the plot. You should be looking for scenes and events that you put in just to make something happen in the story. Everything needs to be there for a purpose.

Pacing - Here are two questions to consider. Do you keep things moving when the story needs to go fast, and do you slow down when you want us to feel the emotions? In the middle of a chase scene is not the time for introspection. In the middle of having sex, the characters are probably not looking at the scenery.

World Building - Are you painting a three-dimensional picture of the world you have put your characters in? Remember, you are the only person who has seen this place and it is up to you to transport your characters there. Along the same lines, remember to show and not just tell. Use those emotions!

Secondary Characters - Do they have a purpose? The biggest thing I see is that secondary characters are often intrusive into the story. We don't want to pay more attention to them and not to the protagonist!

Starts and finishes - Do you start where you need to? Do your chapters get stuck in a rut with a predictable beginning every time? On the other end of the chapter, do you set it up to make me not want to stop but to see what happens on the next chapter? This one relates back to pacing.

Although this is not a complete list, it should give you something to consider this weekend. Have fun!

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