You write fiction. You’re providing emotional experiences for your readers. If you do that well, your readers will find you and your fiction will sell. And sell.
I’m fond of telling my students that writing a novel’s a lot like baking a cake. You choose your ingredients, you mix them, and bake them. When you want to make your cake truly delicious you frost it — and not with icing you bought at the supermarket either.
OK, enough with the analogy, I’m getting hungry. 🙂
When you edit your fiction, ice the cake
What’s your fictional cake’s “icing”? It’s yummy bits of business, or even entire scenes which you add to your novel or novella just for the emotional charge these elements give to readers.
The specific elements of your icing depend on the genre in which you’re writing. Do some brainstorming about what readers expect from your genre.
- Romance readers expect a Happily Ever After (HEA), a heroine with whom they can empathize, a hero with whom they could fall in love etc…
- Mystery readers expect a mystery (of course), a crime, intriguing characters etc…
Beyond the common, expected elements, bestselling and loved novels in your genre have something extra. Go back to your favorite novels in your genre, and make a list of what you loved. Example: I’m on a Jill Mansell kick at the moment. What I love about her novels: laugh-out-loud moments, interesting occupations for her heroines, and a wide cast of characters.
To ice the cake of my current novel, I could include a couple of the elements I adore from Mansell’s novels. I could add a couple of characters to my novel, and could add some humor.
See how it’s done?
Try it yourself… what could you add to ice the cake of your current novel?
Let’s look at some tips to help you with the “icing”.
1. Write your novel first, ice it later
You need to bake your cake before you ice it. (Yes, I’m sticking with the analogy… :-))
So write the first draft of your novel. Then do a quick revision — DELETE. Delete is your friend, if you write fast — and you should. Finish the novel! (If you have trouble with finishing, put your butt in your chair, and write as fast as you can.)
2. Icing your novel’s cake: brainstorm
Choose ONE, if you’re writing your first or second novel. If you’re not used to keeping a lot of novel-related stuff in your head, adding too many elements gets confusing.
3. Ice away: add sentences, scenes and characters
This is the tricky bit. You’ve written your novel. You don’t want to upset the novel’s balance, so ice judiciously. Not too much — you don’t want to end up with more icing than cake. 🙂
4. Edit your novel again: smooth on the icing
Start at the beginning, and edit, to ensure that the icing becomes part of your novel’s cake. You may need to do a lot of this, or just a little.
For example, if you’ve added more settings for your scenes, keep an eye on the timeline. Your characters will need travel time to move between the locations you’ve chosen.
If you’ve added humor, you’ll need to make adjustments in your characters, right throughout the novel. You can’t have a straitlaced character suddenly making humorous quips.
5. What if your icing is too much?
Sometimes the icing you’ve chosen doesn’t suit your novel. That’s 100% fine. Don’t sweat it. If you can see that it’s not working, stop. Choose another form of icing — you’ll find that once you start tinkering in this way, more ideas will occur to you. One or two of them will be perfect for your book.
That’s the beauty of icing your novel’s cake. Your novel becomes better, no matter how much or how little you do… and that’s your ultimate goal, right?
What to do next…
Reread your favorite novels. Highlight the prose you love, and ask yourself what emotional reaction you experienced. Make notes, to increase the likelihood that you will remember your reaction.
As we’ve said, when you write fiction, you’re providing emotional experiences for your readers. The more you think about your reactions to fiction, the more you’ll focus on writing emotionally-charged stories your readers will love. It happens naturally, so be relaxed about it. 🙂
Go ahead… put some icing on the cake of your novel. Have fun with it, and your readers will have fun too — and you’ll sell more novels.
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Updated: January 30, 2017