So, you’ve been diligently working away on your story and you think it’s just about done. You’ll either think it’s a work of heartbreaking genius or the worst tripe you’ve ever read or written, or if you’re lucky somewhere in between those two extremes. But now what?
Creating new work and redrafting it use different sets of skills. For first drafts we have to show our inner critics the door in order to get anything done at all. Our imaginations need free reign to be as silly or as serious or off track as they need to be.
But then, once we’ve created the bulk of our draft – the chunk of stone our beautiful masterpiece will be sculpted from — the wonderful work of rewriting begins.
First drafts are only the beginning. The real fun starts at rewriting.
Let your new piece rest for a week or two (move onto something else). Then put on your critic’s hat!
Yes! It’s time to get serious!
First of all is what professionals call THE STRUCTURAL EDIT.
Basically what that means is
THE BIG STUFF!
- Find the HEART of your story (what is the story really about?) and shape the next draft around it. Go deeper into this heart if you can.
- Think about the STRUCTURE of your story – have you started and ended in the right place. Does it build in a satisfying way? Are you moving the reader between hope and fear?
- HOOK – have you set up a hook within the first couple of paragraphs?
- Is your story compelling?
- Does your story reach a CLIMAX? Is it at the right place – almost at the end?
- Write a list of all your SCENES – is there any repetition? Do all scenes need to be there? In each scene – get in late and get out early.
- Check whether you’re writing in scenes, not just telling the story. SHOW mostly, TELL a little bit.
- What is at STAKE? It must feel vital to the protagonist even if it’s something small.
- Is there enough CONFLICT? And/or SURPRISE?
- Your MAIN CHARACTER – Do they make efforts to achieve their goals? Do they ACT in some way? How has their CURSE or CALLING affected them? Do they show both good and bad? How have they CHANGED through the story?
- Other characters – have you developed the important ones fully?
- DIALOGUE – have you included dialogue in your scenes to bring them to life?
- Does your dialogue demonstrate character and further plot? WARNING – do not use dialogue for info dumps or to relate what happened in a scene we’ve already read.
- SETTING – have you made the most of your settings to create mood, develop character and reflect emotion, hidden meanings? Specific sensory details?
- POV and VOICE – have you chosen the right character to focus on? Would it be better from someone else or in 3rd/1stperson?
- CUT irrelevant passages of description that don’t further the forward movement of your piece. CUT anything that isn’t moving the story forward.
“If you are writing without moving toward an ending, you are probably just piling up information and- it’s all but a dead certainty – being a bore.” Stephen Koch
Then, once the big job of the structural edit is done it’s time for the line edit – or in other words –
CHECK THE NITTY GRITTY TOO!
- Reshuffle the order of paragraphs so the story makes more sense.
- Cut any repetition – of words or ideas.
- Correct any spelling or grammatical errors – read aloud to catch them.
- Check that your sentences are meaning what you want them to say. Are they clear and easy to follow?
- Cut almost all adjectives and adverbs and unnecessary speech tags.
- Use specific nouns and strong verbs instead.
- In dialogue, sometimes use a character’s actions beside their speech instead of speech tags.
- Have characters speaking at cross purposes.
- Do you finish with a strong image or memorable moment? Try ending sooner.
“You should aim for an effect similar to that of the final bars of a symphony. Hearing those, you as a listener know that this is the conclusion, that the work is finished.” H.R.F. Keating
Once you’ve done all that, and a close proof reading as well for any spelling or grammatical errors, typos or formatting issues, then it’s time to get feedback from someone else, preferably another writer or an editor who’ll help you pin point things you may have missed.
Hope that helps!
If you’ve got a manuscript well under way and would like some advice on how to progress it further towards publication standard, come along to the next RELAX AND WRITE RETREAT! December 11 – 13 at Springbrook in the Gold Coast Hinterland. This retreat is specially for those with a substantial amount of work done on a larger piece of work or collection of shorter works, looking for some feedback, ideas for self-editing and help redrafting. See HERE for more details. HURRY! Spots are filling fast 🙂
And if you’d just like to get in touch, would like to get more info or sign up to my email list for lots of hints and tips and writing opportunities then CONTACT ME!
Let me know how you go with your rewriting. Which do you prefer, first drafts or rewriting? I used to love first drafts much more but now I’m a fan of the fun of rewriting too 🙂
Take care and happy writing!
lots of love
7 thoughts on “SELF EDITING 101 – Putting on your critic’s hat :)”
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Some great advice here, Edwina. Mmm, now how do we get you more followers? I want to reblog this to my WordPress blog, but don’t see a reblog button.
I’m not the most techno of writers Carole but I’ll figure out how to put that button on. Thanks for the tip! xx
You’re welcome! You have a really great blog and the more followers you have, means more people will get to see it.
Thanks Carole. Working on it. Can’t seem to find the reblog button though! xx
Love these tips, thanks Ed. Might help with my current flailing story! xx
I’m sure it’s working much better than you think honey! See you soon xx