Before I get started this week I wanted to provide you with a couple of links to really helpful articles. Please read them. They outline important points.
Here is an article about ten steps to a better story.
It is from The Blood Red Pencil.
I also have another link for you to read about writer’s voice from Rachelle Gardner who is a literary agent. Don’t miss this one.
Last week I spoke about how it’s never too late to get published and the importance of persistence and not giving up. It is important to adopt that philosophy as a writer. It is equally vital, however, to know when to give up on a piece that just isn’t working, that may never work.
The truth is that writing is very much like a game of poker. Sometimes the cards (and the words) just don’t fall the way you wish they would. It is crucial to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.
That is why you have to learn how to edit your work.
Editing, particularly self-editing, is the only way you can learn to assess the worth of your work. However, before you do any editing at all the number one thing to do is to focus on the narrative. Get all of your ideas out. Get the story moving along. Do not edit as you go, it will interrupt your narrative flow. You can correct things and change things afterwards.
I have compiled a few tips to help you with the editing process. Before you start editing give yourself a bit of time off. This will allow your story to settle both on the page and in your mind. It will give you clarity. Standing back, even just for one day, is a beneficial step.
So here we go:
1. Read the entire story, poem, play, novel from start to finish without attempting to correct anything. Allow yourself to act as a reader. This step will give you an idea regarding the flow of your work and whether or not you are conveying what you intended to. Most importantly, it will allow you to discover if your work is engaging, if you want to keep reading.
2. BAD HABITS. I have put this step in capitals because it is something most writers are guilty of – sloppy, lazy habits that detract from the quality of the writing. Be aware of your bad habits. Things like poor spelling, too many adverbs, sentences that run on for too long. You know what you are guilty of doing. Put yourself into bad habit rehab right now.
3. Proofread. Look for mistakes with grammar, spelling and so on. Also focus on word choice. Are you using the same word over and over? Are you using too many words to describe something? Less is definitely more when it comes to word choice.
4. Read your work aloud. I cannot stress the importance of this point enough. Reading aloud highlights tone, rhythm, whether or not dialogue works. You may feel silly doing it but it will help and it will bring to light problems you might otherwise miss.
5. Avoid a lot of backstory. This is a problem most writers grapple with. You know your characters intimately. Their motivations, their inner workings, their history, their background. Conveying what you know about your characters to your readers is an art in itself. It is important to avoid large treatises on the ideology of your characters. It is tedious to read and detracts from the narrative. It is better to weave the fabric of who they are into the story. This allows the reader to discover the characters for themselves rather than be told about them by you. Mastering backstory is very difficult. Don’t be put off if you don’t get it straight away. It will come with practice.
6. Learn the technique of SHOW, DON’T TELL. This ties in with backstory. Show your readers the important subtext of your stories, through actions, dialogue, and so on. Don’t just tell them about it. This is the premium skill you need as a writer or an editor.
Telling could also be described as narrative summary, a secondhand report, almost like a journalist covering an incident.
Showing is an immediate scene where the reader watches events unfold, where he or she is part of the action. It allows the reader to become engaged, to be drawn into the world you have created.
Here is an example for you.
TELLING – Lulu was depressed.
SHOWING – Lulu, subdued and white-faced, sat at the dinner table saying nothing as laughter rose around her. She picked at her food, her napkin was in tatters. Her hands were shaking slightly. Not even Gordon’s silly song written especially for her birthday could make her smile.
7. Get another reader. Enlist the help of a trusted friend. Join a writing group. Blog. Get your work read. It is always handy to get another person’s opinion.
Hope these tips help you.
If anyone has any other tips they find useful when editing I would love to hear about them.
Let’s work together to improve our writing.