Story-fixing Your Novel––Part X

There is an abundance of material we could continue to cover on this general subject, but I would suggest that if you like what you’ve seen, you purchase Steven James’ Troubleshooting Your Novel. He has so much more in that book than we can share with you in ten parts. To finish up this series, we’ll talk about revisions. Tips for revision include fact-checking, spell-checking, and proofreading. Click to Tweet #amwriting #storyfixing

You’ve drafted your story, now it’s time to revise it. Besides the fact-checking, spell-checking, and proofreading you’ll need to do, include the following:

Weed out Minutia––Details direct attention. Minutia distracts from the scene and weighs it down. There are scenes however, that need to be slowed down so the reader can savor every sense, such as smell, taste, touch, hearing, and what the character sees. Especially in romance, this is important. If you’re writing an action novel, include only the necessary details to get the story across.

Keep it Simple––Look at each one of your descriptive words. Is it necessary or does it just add “noise?” Example:

He stared at her and waited for her to reply.
A dark silence invaded the room.
“Well?” He said at last. “What do have to tell me?”

Really? A dark silence. Consider a one-word description.

He stared at her and waited for her to reply.
Silence.
“Well?” He said at last. “What do have to tell me?”

Using only the word “Silence” to describe what happens is more powerful.

Curtail Speaker Tags––Cut them whenever you can, as long as it’s clear who is speaking.

Escalate to the Climax––Make sure you save your best plot twists, moral dilemmas, and greatest punch lines at, or near, the climax. Otherwise, it has the opposite effect of tearing down what you’ve been trying to build up.

Make Every Action Purposeful––stories aren’t simply about personality or activity. They always involve intention with direction.

Keep it Believable––If you read a scene and you think “yeah right,” it’s not believable and you’ll need to change it, until you can say “oh no.”

Editing––Editing sifts through what could be and finds what should be. Don’t leave it in unless it’s a perfect fit.

Proportion & Congruence––Every scar has a story. If you mention one, make sure you tell the story behind it.

Quick Fix

Every time you make edits, it changes everything and is like a pebble in a pond, sending ripples. Make sure the context supports the change. Don’t worry about how many drafts you have to do. You’ll be done when a first-time reader (hopefully someone who supports you, but can be unbiased), plus a seasoned editor, reads the story and finds nothing that needs to be improved. Jerry Jenkins always says you’re done when your changes aren’t making the text better.

Fine–Tuning Your Manuscript

  • Where are characters acting in ways incongruent with their personality, situation, priorities, or mindset?
  • Are characters suddenly prioritizing things that wouldn’t be important in that situation, such as eating a meal or taking a phone call? What will I do about it?
  • Would a different opening serve the story better? I changed the opening to my novel “Meghan’s Choice” just within the last six months, although I’d been thinking about it for well over a year.
  • Where have I cut corners in my manuscript or my storytelling?
  • Does the ending tie in inextricably with the beginning? Does it fulfill the promises to readers? Is the protagonist’s life transformed in a way that satisfies readers?

Your manuscript should not simply be drafted and published. A friend of mine recently did just that. She drafted it, maybe did some self-editing, and loaded it up on CreateSpace. Then, she asked fifteen of her friends to read and review. I read it, but there was so much wrong with it, I emailed her about only some of the problems. I think she may have revised those things I talked with her about, but she’s a typical beginning writer. I was like that a few years ago. I didn’t want anyone to see my book before I published it.

But that is just plain wrong. I’ve embraced the fact that my eyes won’t see everything needed to make my story the best it can be. That would be my encouragement to you. Once you’ve done everything you can do to make your story great, let the critique and professional editing begin. Click to Tweet You won’t be sorry, and your story will be better. #amwriting #storyfixing

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