Hi, all ...
I'm sorry I've been MIA for quite some time. I lost my husband very unexpectedly, and it's been a long road back. Hopefully I can start posting again here more regularly - although Sunday is supposed to be my chosen day. But I decided to get my feet wet ... I hope you don't mind. I've been doing a lot of editing lately and wanted to share some thoughts.
Some people think editing is just proofreading. It’s a lot more, because you’re not only looking for typos, misspellings and random punctuation, you’re looking to see if your writing is publishable, are you too wordy, will someone care about your characters, and lots of other things. No matter what you’re writing, you can always use some editing to make your writing shine.
I wanted to share with you some tricks and tips to help you do better editing on your current project. Editing and tightening to make it concise and interesting and keep your reader on their toes. That’s our goal – first, to make an editor NEED to read on, and then to make your readers care what happens in your stories and keep coming back for more.
One of my best tips to writers is find a writing group, whether an in-person one or online or however it works for you, and ask for help with your manuscript. Fresh eyes are a wonderful thing – sometimes you get so close to your writing, you can’t see when things are not working. If you’re an RWA member, there are critique groups in many of the chapters. Most national writing associations have one. If you’re kind of out there on your own, find people who love to read. Try the library or bookstores – employees are great. Many of them work there because they love to read. Also, chains like Barnes and Noble now have book clubs, so you’ve got lots of options to have someone look at your work. Not all of them are going to be “professional” editors like myself, but having someone read it and say “this part didn’t work for me” will help keep you on track.
Here is a short list of things I watch for when editing.
1. Did you start with a compelling hook? What can you do to make it more exciting?
2. Is as least one of your main characters AND the conflict introduced on the first page of your story? If it’s not, you’re probably not in the right place – begin where there is change.
3. Is there a good flow of action, dialogue and narrative? And do you have enough dialogue tags and actions to show your reader who is talking when?
4. Is every page moving the story along without excessive description, character dialogue that says and means nothing or characters moving around a stage without moving the story forward? Take out anything not needed to keep the story going.
5. Are the characters acting consistent with the way you’ve introduced them? I’ve seen characters who one minute hate something – like pancakes – and two chapters later are having pancakes for breakfast. That’s not the greatest example, but you see what I’m getting at. Keep your characters in character – be consistent with their likes, dislikes, faults and features – don’t confuse the reader or you’ll lose them.
6. Have you identified your plot weaknesses and fixed them? Does your story hang together, and can you explain it clearly to someone when you’re pitching? This is very important, because at some point or another in your career, people will say, “Tell me about your story.” If you’re not clear on it, they won’t be either.
7. Are you using the five senses to build your characters, setting and situations? Can you smell fear? Maybe not, but a lot of people equate certain smells with places, people or even emotions, like hot chocolate when you come in from the snow or chicken soup when you’re sick.
8. Do your characters resonate with the readers? You want them to want these people to succeed in what they’re trying to do, to overcome problems and to win in the end. Make sure you give them an emotionally satisfying ride!