Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Back on the Editing Train

I haven't even looked at Schism in the past few months, but I'm also in between books right now, so I decided that it was time for my first chop on the novel.  Enough time had passed that I could look at it with fresh eyes, always key for an edit.

Schism is a bit different in that I wrote it as a four act novel rather than a continuous stream of thought, so I've been able to focus on Act One.  I'm proud to say that that's done, so it'll soon be time to move on to Act Two.  However, before I do, I thought I'd share the lessons I learned from what I just completed.

1.  No matter how good you thought you were on your first draft, it'll always need work.  Don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because you put your heart and soul into something that it can't get any better.  I found lots of  errors in Act One - there were extraneous words, lots of adverbs that were unnecessary, and the styles didn't always match.  What I mean by the last part of that sentence is that I tell this story through the interposing of news broadcasts and blog comments, and they didn't always follow the same format.  Readers like consistency because it'll help them follow the story, and I had some issues in this.

2.  Speaking of extraneous words, always pare down a sentence until it no longer makes sense.  Re-look the words you use and figure out if another, more descriptive word, can make the sentence shorter.  I had to go back numerous times and remember that people aren't "very tired" - they're "exhausted."  People "sprint" - they don't "sprint quickly."  There were lots more examples that folks won't see because I eliminated them.

3.  Double check your characters to make sure you keep the same person talking.  In conversations that didn't involve the main character, I found that I'd accidentally switched who the speaker was without noticing.  When you're writing the draft and just chugging away, this is easy to miss.  However, when you go back to edit and start reading again, this can sow momentary confusion before you realize the mistake...and it's a lot more common than you might think.

4.  Be willing to cut parts that don't contribute to the story.  No matter how wedded you are to a section or how well you thought you crafted it, if it doesn't move the plot forward, get rid of it.  Of course there are some things you need to leave in so you can properly set the scene, but this has to be done judiciously.  Too much fluff bores the reader, and I was as guilty of this in Act One as the next person.

These are just a few thoughts as I dive full force back into editing.  I'm still glad I don't do this as I go because it would disrupt the flow, but it serves well to make what you think is a decent product into a better one.

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