Archives: editing

Six-Month Checkup: 2014 Edition

I can’t believe the year is already halfway through! I’ve got some news to report about The Ageless, my post-apocalyptic futuristic sci-fi with fantasy elements, as well as the new novel I’ve only just begun.

The Ageless: Beta Readers

crushed-ideas-Broken-by-aunullah-on-Flickr.jpg

Crushed Ideas (Broken by aunullah on Flickr)

Not long after I created the Gantt chart I mentioned in my 2014 Writing and Publishing Plans post, I decided what I really wanted to do was to break up my beta readers into two groups. I had enough volunteers (~20) that I thought it would be better to do two rounds. Namely because I didn’t want 10 or so people all telling me the same problems.

I thought by breaking it into two groups I’d be able to get feedback from one group, make revisions, and then send it to the next group to find out if I’d improved it.
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Self-Editing: Second Pass

A while ago, I talked about how I scoured the Internet for tips on self-editing a novel and concluded that three passes made sense. Today I’m back to share a checklist for revisions. (See the first pass here.)

Tomorrow, I’ll send the first five chapters of The Ageless off to my beta readers, which means I’ve already done most of the second and third passes on those chapters. I’ll talk more about the third pass in March.

The Purpose of Dividing Self-Editing Into Passes

As a copyeditor in my day job, I’ll be the first to admit that no one can truly self-edit. You’ll need outside eyes to spot all the errors your brain skipped. Dividing your editing into three passes can help you focus and avoid missing obvious things. (Though you’ll still need actual editors, of course.)

Additionally, it doesn’t make sense to polish up your prose on the sentence- and word-level when you haven’t finished slicing and dicing the scenes and chapters yet. During my first pass, I deleted at least three chapters, rewrote several chapters from scratch, and even added a few new ones. Polishing the prose on any of those beforehand would’ve been a huge waste of time.

So the first pass was for major story arcs, story structure, escalating tension, character development, etc.

That’s my revision board to the right. I do big revisions on the computer, and most of my notes are also on the computer. But sometimes, I have to think in ink.

Revising a Novel: Second Pass

Every writer is different, so what I’ve listed here may be part of your first pass or thirteenth pass. But if you’re trying to find a place to start, this may help. For me, there was some slight overlap between Pass 1 and Pass 2.

  • Setting:
    • Establish where and when at the beginning of the scene
    • Add refreshers throughout so the setting doesn’t fade
    • Portray setting from the character’s POV
  • Sensory details:
    • Help your reader experience the scene
    • Try to use at least three senses
  • Dialogue:
    • Read dialogue out loud
    • Make it unique to the character with diction, cadence, etc.
  • Internal voice: Match internal monologue to their dialogue style
  • Character:
    • Realism: Is this really what this char would do?
    • Realism: Does this seem out of char?
    • Development: Their arc should continue compared to past/future scenes
    • Voice: Their voice should be unique
  • Style: The narrative style should change depending on POV char
  • Viewpoint:
    • Establish viewpoint character in first line of scene
    • If third person, avoid sliding between limited and omniscient
    • Watch for POV violations (viewpoint character knowing another character’s motivation)
  • Emotion:
    • Show emotions through actions
    • Make motivations clearer through emotions
  • Foreshadowing: Add where necessary to support later events
  • Repetition: Avoid saying the same thing multiple ways or times on the word, sentence, and paragraph levels
  • Metaphors:
    • They have to match, noun and verb
    • Example: A ball doesn’t bloom, so a “ball of fear blooming in his chest” doesn’t work
  • Consistency of story terminology
    • Example: Changeling vs. transmelder
    • Example: Unstained vs. Purebreed
  • Exposition:
    • Overload: Is all this info necessary right now?
    • Consider trimming down or cutting internal monologue
    • Show, don’t tell (but don’t go overboard)
    • Tell when it makes more sense than showing
    • Eliminate exposition in the middle of the action — there’s no time!
  • Tone: At the end of the scene, ask yourself if it invoked the right emotions in the reader

The examples above are from early drafts of The Ageless. The checklist itself is inspired by suggestions I found on the sites below, my own hurdles (problems that kept cropping up), and feedback from my wonderful critique partners on what I should improve. For example, I often added way too much internal monologue during fight scenes, which would slow down the action.

Along the way, I’ve learned that writing the novel is quite possibly the easiest part. Revisions take time. I toiled over the first pass for an entire year, which you can always see on my writing calendar. I’m hoping future books will go a lot quicker!

Resources for Revising a Novel

Are you in the throes of editing a novel? Leave a comment below or find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+, the perfect place for writers of science fiction and fantasy to hang out.

Self-Editing: First Pass

Edited Version of First Book

Edited Version of First Book by Joanna Penn | Flickr

As a copy editor in my day job, I know that no one can truly self-edit. However, as a novelist, you also won’t receive the full benefit of a professional editor’s attention if you don’t clean up your work first. Especially if you’re a messy first drafter like I am. This is my first time revising a full-length novel, and here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

Three Revision Passes

I haven’t gotten to the second or third passes yet, so for this post, I’ll talk about what I’m looking for in the first pass. Roughly, I’ve broken down revisions into three areas:

  1. Scene audits (determine the nature, purpose, and necessity of each scene)
  2. Storytelling devices (refine setting, character, dialogue, exposition, voice, and others)
  3. Details (polish sentence construction, cadence, and language)

My ideas for what to include in each pass came from a variety of sources, including Writing Excuses and other podcasts, my coursework at university, Fictorian EraThe Creative Penn, SF Novelists, Magical Words, and other blogs I read on a daily basis.

I’ve just mashed everything together here so as to better analyze what worked and what didn’t in the future. The first pass is going smoothly for me so far. So what do I look for during a scene audit?
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