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Some writers know where they want to go in the editing process, but many of us have no idea where to start.
Published author and longtime writing instructor, Kathy Dunnehoff, shares her proven method of creating a polished manuscript through the editing and re-writing process. Enjoy (and start that revision)!
Revising. Rewriting. Editing. Whatever you call it, in the world of e-publishing, it’s no longer an editor’s job… it’s the writers.
For many writers, it’s a task they’d prefer to avoid. But we’re only hurting ourselves if we do. (Can you tell I have teenagers and know how to frame obligations with the proper amount of forboding and guilt?)
Still, it’s true. An early draft of a novel that finds its way into a reader’s hands will disappoint.
And you’ve only got one chance to pull a reader in and make them want your next book and your next and your next.
Maybe you rushed it, and the plot hasn’t cooked long enough and simply won’t hold together. Maybe the characters are underdeveloped, flat, without an arc that makes a reader appreciate who your hero/heroine becomes by the last page.
Or perhaps the story itself, which may be terrific, is marred by typos, funky paragraph breaks, or simple mistakes easily corrected that left uncorrected will send the reader right out of the story.
Start with “Revision”
So, how do you tackle revision, rewriting, and editing? How about start with the word revision itself? It means to see again, and that’s just what you’re going to do.
Read it. Not in bits and pieces like a writer does. Be a reader of your own work.
When I do this, I like to picture my audience (women in the middle of their lives who want to make it count. I seem to be writing for myself, so that’s handy.)
Read it quickly and without the ability to fuss with it. I often print my manuscript single spaced with narrow margins and pop it in a three ring binder. I read it in a day or two just like a reader would. I do not have a pen or pencil within reach because I refuse to head down the rabbit hole of rewriting when I am re-visioning.
Think BIG… Then Small
As I read I think big… overall how does the plot work? Does it whip along at the right pace? Build? Are there lulls or clunkiness? Are important chunks missing that would make the story better? Are there unnecessary chunks that need to be chain-sawed out?
Then I think smaller and smaller… Is the main character (protagonist for those of you fond of official term) interesting? Is their journey, adventure, struggle, change, believable within the world of the story? Are they interesting and compelling? (For your own kind of story you may add words like entertaining, funny, scary, sexy, or freaky.)
You’ll want to do this for your bad guy/gal protagonist if you’ve got one. I tend to write characters who are their own biggest problem, but you may have an honest-to-god villain.
I also think through all the other characters because the side-kick, the sibling, the neighbor will add almost as much to a story as the main character does.
Are they all those juicy things too, and do they have their own story with change and growth?
I may consider some other big picture stuff too, depending on the story. Setting is generally a big player in a novel. I ask if I’ve captured the place, the feel, the details of it. Again, you may really need to focus your attention in a unique way here. I tried to capture Vancouver, B.C. in The Do-Over. You may be inventing a new planet, society, or diving into a gritty culture you’ve experienced only in research, so your setting may be a main character for you.
After my thoughtful reading, I think some more and let it all roll around in my head for a while.
Regular humans underestimate the power of what is inaccurately referred to as “day dreaming” or its negative cousin “wool gathering.” A writer knows that thinking is a huge part of the process and that we can trust our brains to do some heavy lifting even when we are drinking coffee, napping, brushing teeth, walking, or drinking coffee (did I already say that one?)