Our fiction writing class members have been tackling editing. In the class, we covered light editing, as well as more comprehensive editing.
Essentially, we’ve focused on story flow, which some authors call it narrative flow.
“Flow” means what you’d think. Your story reads smoothly — no lumps and bumps which stop the reader. That is, no bumps on a micro level, when the reader has a “huh?” moment because he can’t figure out what you meant by a sentence, or on a macro level, when the reader stops reading because he’s bored.
Let’s look at some tips from the class.
(BTW, the class has finished. I may run it again next year, time permitting.)
Fiction writing and editing: when should you edit?
You’ll do some minor editing while you’re writing. Major editing happens once you’ve completed your first draft.
Minor editing: let’s say that you’ve decided to call your main character Jasper, rather than Todd. You do a search and replace, and it’s done.
More minor editing: perhaps you’ve decided that Jasper needs to be a keen fisherman, because: plot. So you add a few sentences here and there in your first few chapters setting up Jasper’s love of deep sea fishing.
It’s also minor editing when a paragraph sounds weird the way you’ve written it; so you move sentences around.
As we’ve said however, you’ll leave major editing — deleting and adding scenes — until you’ve completed your first draft. At this stage, your novel’s done, you’re just making it better.
1. The backstory hunt: kill it
As I said in this article, be merciless. Kill backstory wherever you find it:
Info dumping of backstory is a challenge for new authors, and some established authors too. There’s a solution. Kill it. You’ll write a better novel…
“Backstory” is everything that happens before your story starts.
You probably won’t want to delete all the backstory until you’ve finished a draft. However, mark it in some way — turn the text red, or highlight it, so that you remember that it needs to go.
2. Lightly edit for story flow as you go, but don’t make major changes
I like to start the day’s writing on a novel by rereading the previous day writing to catch nonsense like calling a character by the wrong name, and similar. If I stumble when reading a paragraph, I toss it into Text2Speech, and listen to it.
Listening to the text solves challenges. Try Text To Speech, it’s free.
Perhaps I’ve forgotten that Character A has a dog. Fido wandered through the first few chapters, but he’s gone missing. So I either make a note to add Fido to a few scenes when it’s time for major editing, or I bite the bullet and do it immediately.
3. When rereading, eliminate any “as you know, Bob” moments
Judging by the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, many readers dislike repetition; it’s an insult to their intelligence. If you’ve told them that Tiffany is an accountant, they’ll remember.
So, when you’re lightly editing for flow, look for any “as you know” constructions, such as: “As you know Bob, my wife Tiffany is an accountant.”
Basically, avoid repetition. Nuke repetitions when you find them.
Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’re using repetition for a reason. You may want to mislead readers…
An example: you’re writing a mystery novel, and a strand of red hair has been found at the crime scene. You’ve twice said, deliberately, that Tom, your prime suspect, is bald. It’s a red herring.
Be aware of flow in your fiction. Beta readers can help with this
When you’ve done your own editing, and before you turn the novel over to a hired editor, ask a couple of your beta readers to read through the draft for flow.
Where did they stumble? Why?
Where were they bored?
When you’re writing fiction, flow is vital, otherwise readers get jolted out of their fictive dream.
That said, don’t sweat it. The more you write, the more you’ll be aware of it when your story has flow problems; the awareness comes with experience.
Have fun. 🙂
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.More info →
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