Editing your fiction helps you to write novels and serials which sell. You want your readers to love your stories, so that they buy your next ebook, and the next. Think of editing as polishing a diamond. In its natural state a diamond is just a dirty rock. When cut and polished, it sparkles.
To sell, your fiction needs to sparkle too. Your editing — cutting and polishing — ensures that it does.
Why you need to self-edit your fiction
You may be thinking that since you’re hiring an editor, you don’t need to worry about editing your book.
That’s not so. As I said in How To Turn a Mess Into a Book:
Leaving aside the fact that if you dump a mess into an editor’s lap it will cost you a small fortune to get it cleaned up, your own editing is important, because:
* It’s your chance to discover the story you want to tell (this applies to both nonfiction and fiction);
* It’s your big chance to make your book better.
If your editor’s too busy cleaning up messes, she can’t help you to improve your book. The better your self-editing, the happier your editor will be, and the more you’ll get out of the money you spend.
Editing your own work gets easier over time. Initially, it’s excruciating. Over time, you’ll slash and burn with abandon — you know you’re making your fiction better.
Start with macro editing: do you have a STORY?
New authors think of editing as messing around with words. However, if you’re focusing just on the words when you begin editing, you might as well be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Your story comes first. Do you have a story? No matter what you’re writing: a novel, a serial, a novella, a short story, your first concern is that you’ve got a story.
Very loosely, a story’s defined as: “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.” The operative word is entertainment. You might also want to ensure that you’ve got something that passes as a plot, of course. 🙂
However, when you begin editing, your first and only task is to make sure that everything you read is entertaining. Read through your story. Where does your interest flag? Does your story make sense?
Cut anything that’s not entertaining.
Entertainment is subjective. Be ruthless.
If you’re a new author, you’ll struggle with this. Everyone does. You don’t want to trash the words, paragraphs, and entire scenes over which you’ve struggled. But you must — you’re turning your grubby rock into a priceless diamond, remember. So cut.
You’ll find cutting easier if you save what you’re cutting. Drop your deleted material into a “Later” file. You’ll never use this material, but saving it will make you feel better.
Cut first, then assess where you need to add
Your first step is to cut away everything that isn’t entertaining. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to add material.
At this stage, focus on scenes.
Where are your BIG scenes? Make them bigger
The success of your fiction depends on your big scenes. Locate them, if you’re not sure where your big scenes are. Make them bigger — as exciting as you can. Spend time over these scenes.
Be aware that it’s not uncommon to discover that you’ve completely missed writing several major scenes. You’ve been unconsciously avoiding them, so, write them. Big scenes are the focus of your novel. If you don’t write them, you’re not making the most of what you have. So call up your courage, and write that love scene, or battle scene, that you’ve been avoiding.
Micro editing: introducing characters, enhancing dialogue, etc.
You’ll notice we’re STILL not focusing on words. No, we’re not. We’re focusing on entertainment.
As I said in Bestselling Fiction: Create Characters Readers Love:
Fiction isn’t words, it’s feelings
New authors can focus too much on “writing”; on the words… try to take it to heart that your words don’t matter. What matters, is your effect on readers.
That effect doesn’t come from words unless those words have heart. To make readers feel, you need to feel.
In micro editing, you’re moving into your scenes, and are looking at where and how you’ve introduced characters, and are making sure that all your characters don’t sound the same.
As a rule of thumb, when you introduce a major character, choose three details which make him or her stand out, and write them. You want readers to remember your major characters; make their first impressions count.
When you’re editing dialogue, listen to the character in your imagination. Read your dialogue aloud. It’s useful to use a text to speech app, and run your dialogue through that.
Are we done yet? Looking for holes in characters and plots
Fiction isn’t real life. In real life, people do things for no apparent reason. In fiction, you need to show why one character hit another with a blunt object.
In your final micro editing run-through, look for holes. Make sure that your characters are seen to be motivated. Read through each scene, and make sure that your main character has a goal as he enters the scene. Make it plain whether or not he achieved his goal at the end of the scenes.
Now you can edit the words… 🙂
Once your macro and micro editing of your fiction is complete, you can get down to worrying about the words you’ve used. Finally, right? 😉
Editing your fiction is a lot of fun. Your primary goal is to entertain readers. And if you start editing your fiction with a goal of entertaining yourself, you’ll entertain readers.
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 →
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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