It’s easy to get overwhelmed when revising your novel. You’re hit with slew of decisions that need to be made all at once. Should you add a character? Cut a secondary? Why is the dialogue so stilted, and where is the setting, and should you add more sensory detail or axe it altogether because the pacing seems to drag?
Coincidences do occur in real life. And if you’re writing, say, a paranormal, where you have a curse or a spell or some object that keeps landing in the possession of brides left at the altar, that is one thing. The coincidences are part of your world-building.
But if you need to have a scene between the hero and heroine, so you have them run into each other at the grocery store, and then at the post office, and then in an elevator, and then at a ballgame … ugh, ugh, ugh. If your character is trying to solve a mystery, and she keeps stumbling on clues by total dumb luck, another triple ugh.
Do you write dialogue? Did you know that many acquistions editors at publishing companies use dialogue as the "test" for whether a manuscript gets read?
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King tell the story of interviewing different editors in the publishing industry. What do you look at first, when reviewing a manuscript? they wondered. More than one revealed this: Editors scan through the pages for a section of dialogue and read it. If it's good, they read more. If it's not good, the manuscript is automatically rejected.
Somewhere in your writer’s head is a Master Plot, an idea of what a story or novel should be like, how it should progress. For writers who don’t outline–the write-by-the-seat-of-their-pants writers–the Master Plot is hard-wired into their brains.
For the rest of us, the idea of a Master Plot is helpful.
Hero’s Journey. The hero’s journey can be used for anything from Star Wars to the middle grade classic, Bridge to Terabithia.
It was breathtaking and I couldn’t stop reading it!
That’s the experience every reader wants and those are the words every writer wishes to hear. The adage that if your character is sleeping, so is your reader is all too true. So if your novel is stuck in the big swampy middle, so will your reader be and he may not have the fortitude to move on. So, how does one gracefully dance across the swamp without getting stuck? There are many books written on the topic but here are three things I’ve learned:
Story rhythm arises when values within a section of narrative alternate in charge. This can happen within a single scene, between scenes within an act, and between correlated scenes within different acts. McKee reminds us, for example, that the two most powerful scenes in a story are the last two act climaxes. Seen as a unit, they orchestrate a crucial rhythm, which can only arise if the value of the one scene differs from the other.
Suzanne McConnell, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s students in his “Form of Fiction” course at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, saved this assignment, explaining that Vonnegut “wrote his course assignments in the form of letters, as a way of speaking personally to each member of the class.” The result is part assignment, part letter, part guide to writing and life.
How do you create suspense? I’m asked that question often, and it seems that every writers’ symposium has a class with that title. It’s an important technical issue, and not just for so-called suspense novels. Every novel needs a narrative engine, a reason for people to keep reading to the end, whatever the subject, style, genre or approach.
But it’s a bad question. Its very form misleads writers and pushes them onto an unhelpful and overcomplicated track.
I have draft of the story, but it’s rough with more than a few typos. Rather than dive right into revisions, I plan to rewrite the whole thing as a short story. Yes. That does sound like a lot of work. So why toil away?
I know that just because I have a 50,000 words, doesn’t mean I have coherent story. If I can successfully condense this into, say, a 5000 word story, then I could get to the meat of the narrative.
With the herd of folks with brand new manuscripts ready to revise, I thought it would be fun to dust off a favorite golden olide for today. The telling red flag roundup.
One trick I use to jump start my editor's brain, is to search for words I know are frequently found in trouble spots. Red flag words. I can clean up those areas and get into the groove of editing, and that puts me in the right mindset to tackle the larger revisions. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail in this post (it's a round-up after all), but there are links to posts that go into more detail with more examples and ways to fix these rough spots.
Most people don't really think much about how they learn. Generally you assume learning comes naturally. You listen to someone speak either in conversation or in a lecture and you simply absorb what they are saying, right? Not really. In fact, I find as I get older that real learning takes more work. The more I fill my brain with facts, figures, and experience, the less room I have for new ideas and new thoughts. Plus, now I have all sorts of opinions that may refute the ideas being pushed at me. Like many people I consider myself a lifelong learner, but more and more I have to work hard to stay open minded.
Does your novel open like this: Main Character staring out a window, riding in a car, train, plane or spaceship? How about the dreaded Back Story? Many first novels open with elements that slow and in some cases, kill off the reader's sense of movement.
It's not hard to bring a novel opening to a standstill. Fortunately there are ways to remedy or prevent stagnant openings.
Virtually every story features at least two characters, either pitting them against one another or having them working toward a shared goal. This mirrors our lives, where we’re in contact with others daily, sometimes hourly. Sometimes every single moment of every single day.
Even the least social among us must rely on or deal with others. Unless we’re totally self-sufficient, someone else makes our clothing or our food or our mode of transportation or our homes.
To accomplish anything, you must believe you can do it. After all, there have most likely been those before you who have done it, right? And if they can do it, so can you. If you don’t believe you can do it, then perhaps you don’t want it badly enough. You may give up on it, settle for less, or not even try. You may feel completely discouraged.
The trick is to imagine yourself in the act of accomplishing your goal and picturing yourself successfully completing it.
Some people love doing it, while others loathe it.
But love it or hate it, editing is a vital part of the writing process.
I use to fall into the hate it camp, because after a while, all those words would run together and turn my brain to mush. It didn't matter how careful I tried to be, an embarrassing number of things would still slip through
When choosing settings for your scenes, you want to think about the kinds of places that will allow the emotions, needs, dreams, and fears of your characters to come out. Certain places will trigger these things to come to the surface and will stir memories. Your character has a past, and even if she never visits any of the places in her past in your novel, other places can draw out feelings and memories. This happens to us all the time.
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