Tag Archives: editing

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Your novel is DONE! Kudos… Now it’s time for editing.

Start by thinking about your readers. Writing is all about the reader. Sometimes we forget that. In the back of your mind, you always need to remember the reader, and his reactions as he reads.

In nonfiction, you write to inform, or to entertain, or persuade your reader. When you’re writing fiction, you write to give the reader an emotional experience.

Think about the emotional experience you want to give readers before you start writing, when you choose the genre of your novel. Are you writing a mystery? A romance? A science fiction epic?

Think about how you choose what you’ll read too. If you’re reading a mystery, why did you pick up that book? What attracted you to it? What emotional experience are you hoping for?

Once you start writing however, you’ll forget the reader, and that’s how it should be. In your first draft, you simply write. You’re discovering your story, and its characters.

Let’s imagine that you’ve completed your first draft. You ensured that every scene you wrote had a viewpoint character, who had a goal. Each scene contained conflict, and ended in a disaster for your viewpoint character.

Now it’s time to revise and edit your novel.

Nitty gritty revision: Motivation Reaction Units

Sadly, it’s VERY hard to get what’s in your head onto the page.

One of the best ways to ensure that you do that, is to make sure that every scene, and its sequel, contains a sequence of MRUs.

Randy Ingermanson has a wonderful explanation of MRUs. “MRU” means “Motivation-Reaction Unit.” They’re a way of decoding what’s in your head, so that your reader has the experience you want him to have. Once you understand MRUs, and apply them, your writing will instantly improve.

As this article, Dwight Swain’s Motivation-Reaction Units | The First Gates, says:

“Motivation-Reaction Unit is the fundamental building block of an action sequence (it’s important to stress that it does not apply to description, exposition, or reverie). It’s pretty simple: something happens, the hero reacts to it, the situation changes, and something else happens. “

MRUs are the way your reader experiences your fiction. Your reader is in your viewpoint character’s body, seeing what he sees, and reacting as he does. They’re powerful. You need to learn how to use them, and then write in MRUs as you edit your fiction.

Watch how writers use MRUs in your reading, too. Getting your head around MRUs is a challenge. Focus on scenes first. Does the viewpoint character have a goal? What’s the conflict? How could you make the conflict more intense? What’s logical? What’s unexpected? What’s the disaster?

In revision, you’ll find that in some scenes, nothing much happens. Be brave. Delete those scenes. You’re providing your reader with an emotional experience, remember. If there’s no emotion, the scene must go. Save deleted scenes to an “Extras” file, if it makes you feel better.

Discovering MRUs, and using them, will immediately improve your novel. Sometime today, take an early scene in your novel, and rewrite it, using MRUs.

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
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 →
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Updated: January 22, 2018

Your First Novel: Why You Don’t Need an Editor Yet

Your First Novel: Why You Don’t Need an Editor YetYou’ve just completed your first novel. Everyone’s telling you that you need an editor. They’re wrong.

Here’s why. After writing your first novel, you’ve learned a lot. Getting to the finish line was a huge accomplishment, so kudos for that. However, at this stage, you’re much too close to your novel to see it clearly. You’re too attached to it — it’s your baby, after all. Since that’s the case, it’s unlikely that an edit will help you. Much more likely, it will hopelessly confuse you.

So, if you’re not getting an edit, what should you do?

Write your second novel

You need to write your second novel. Take a short break, by all means. But don’t make it a long break — start your second novel as soon as you can.

Here are the benefits of writing your second novel, immediately after you’ve finished your first:

  • Working on your next novel clears your mind. Once you’ve completed it, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve learned. You’ll reread your first novel, and you’ll immediately see how you can make it better.
  • You can use what you learned in writing your first novel, in your second. Your second novel will be better than your first.
  • If you’re working on something else, you won’t be heart-broken by anything your beta readers tell you.

I know, I know… you’re hoping for fame and fortune from your first novel, aren’t you?

Will your first novel make you famous?

Anything’s possible. It could. However, if you decide that you’re not working on anything else because your first novel is sure to be a bestseller, you’re in for quite a reality check.

Don’t sit around waiting. For one thing, you’ll be waiting a long time, and for another, you’re wasting valuable writing time. Even if your first novel is a HUGE success, you need something else for people to buy, so get on with it, and write Novel Number Two — start writing now.

I conducted a mini-poll among my traditionally-published friends. I asked them how many novels they’d written before they got one published. The results? These six novelists wrote between six and seventeen novels before one was published.

I asked my traditionally published friends, because today anyone can publish anything and can call it a novel. That’s huge freedom, and I’m all for it. However, now matter how you publish, you need to learn your craft. And there’s a lot to learn.

When should you edit your first novel?

After you’ve written your second. You’ll be able to see your novel more clearly. Edit it yourself. Once it’s as good as you can make it… you think it’s perfect… Hire an editor. At that stage (you’ll be writing your third novel at this point) you’ll be able to make the best use of any advice you get from an editor.

Your editor’s advice: remember it’s YOUR book, your name’s on the cover

When I got the revision notes from my editor on my first novel many years ago, I argued. I spent a lot of time defending my characters, my plot, and my word choices. From memory, I received around eight pages of notes on a 70K novel. My whining and arguments exceeded those pages.

That was long before email, so I didn’t send the letter, thank heavens.

I argued. I sulked. Then I slept on it. It took around a week, but I eventually realized that my editor was right in 80% of what she said. The other 20% I argued for, and won a couple of the arguments.

I’m telling you this story, because I finally realized that my editor made my story better. She also taught me a lot about structure and editing.

An editor makes your story better. However, you need to be able to put aside your emotions. You also need to be able to see your story clearly. If you’re working on a current project when you get an editor’s notes on your novel, it’s much easier to do that.

Keep writing. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

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You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell. More info →
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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
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 →
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Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

I’ve received some questions about fiction writing from new authors. Here’s the thing. In fiction, worry about the story first. You can sort everything else out later. Please don’t try to edit first.

Write first, edit later

I’m currently completing the final scenes in a romantic suspense novel. I adore the two main characters, so I’ve decided to create a series of three novels about them.

This means that a bunch of scenes — around seven, from memory — don’t belong in this book. I’ve moved them into book two of the series. They’ll wait there, until I’m ready.

It’s tempting to edit as you go. However, you’ll often find yourself in a situation where a few scenes become irrelevant, as in my situation. I need to write a whole new bunch of scenes so that the climax and ending fit my new writing goals.

That’s the primary reason you edit LATER — the scenes you’re sweating over may be deleted.

Your story always comes first

New authors tend to rewrite early chapters. That’s pointless. Nine times out of ten, you won’t even use the first few scenes of your novel. You’ll start the story later, or you’ll decide that you want to add something or other, and need to rework the first scenes.

Until you’ve got the STORY down, and have finished your first draft, there’s no point in rewriting, or editing.

Put stuff in, if it’s SHORT

I encourage my students to write their first drafts straight through. But what happens if you get an idea for something, and you want to add it to earlier scenes right now? Put it in, if it’s short.

In my romantic suspense, I came up with a cute McGuffin. I needed to write about it in my current scene. So I went back and added it to the first scene immediately, and mentioned in three more scenes.

Here’s why. I wasn’t sure how to play it. It was just an idea, and I wanted to see how (and if) it worked. It did. So I wrote a few hundred words, then went back to the scene I was working on when I got the idea.

If I’d had an idea for a completely new character, or an event, I would have made a note, and added it in the second draft. My McGuffin was short. Writing it took less than half an hour, and adding it didn’t disturb my forward momentum.

In your first draft, momentum is everything. If you linger, you may lose the thread of your story. Chaos and migraines ensure. Keep going — get the story down.

As a rule of thumb, you can add stuff in a first draft, if it’s immediately relevant, very short, and easy to add.

To repeat: EDIT LATER. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →