Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Small Chunk Your Edits - The 3 Point Plan

You can't eat it all in one go.
Doesn't matter if you've planned your book to the last detail or written it in one mad impulsive splurge fueled only by coffee, cake and the urge to create (think, NaNoWriMo), there are always things you can improve.

And when first come face to face with the prospect of editing, it’s very easy to be daunted.

Don’t be!

1. My advice is to start big. Start with structure. Does the plot hold together? Is the pacing right? Do the characters have credible motivations? Are they doing things in the correct place and at the correct time, or do you need to rearrange a few scenes/signal an important plot point/get rid of irrelevant detail/iron out your continuity bumps … and so on.

If you are in any doubt about this, it pays to write a chapter by chapter synopsis of the main plot points. As you go through your manuscript doing this you get a clearer picture of the structure without getting drawn into detail. It may take several drafts to get it right, but when you finish this blow by blow account, you will have achieved some objectivity and know which bits need changing - and which bits don’t.

2. Move on to the chapters and individual scenes and repeat what you just did but in finer detail. Every chapter, every scene, needs scrutiny. You can add language to your edits here, making sure that each character has a distinguishable voice and behaves in an appropriate way. You’ll need to check pacing and make sure your beats are in the right place.  Get rid of extraneous detail and unnecessary exposition which neither adds to the plot nor enhances character. Be aware of your showing and telling

3. And when you’re through with that, it’s down to the fine tuning. Look at the words. Are the words appropriate? Would your protagonist really use that word? Does that sunset really need to shout cliché? And so on. Look for repeated words or phrases. How’s your spelling and grammar?

The reason you start with the big stuff is because this is the framework everything else hangs on. You need solid foundations before you can let loose on the paintwork and plumbing, and finally the decoration.

Now stand back and admire your work.

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