Thursday, June 17, 2010

Editing, the Process: Second Read-Through & Revision

Wow... did I ever get lost yesterday! I have so much to make up for. I think what will happen is I will push the rest of the scheduled posts this week one day back so there won't be a double post. After I type this up, I will fix the schedule, too.

So, where was I on Tuesday? I mentioned fixing problems with narration and setting. I suggesting turning the narrator of the story into a character as a way to keep the voice consistent. I also talked about making a graph to create a good and believable setting.

What will I be discussing today? What to look for in your second read-through and major revision.

The second time you read through your novel, you want to read it like you're reading someone else's work. As in, not looking for spelling or grammar errors like the last time. In fact, I think the best way to accomplish this read-through is to print what you've got. Sure, it may be over 300 pages long at standard 8.5x11in. but you'll be amazed at what seeing your words on paper will do for you. It pushes you and makes you want to get it out there. Hold off for just a little longer and I promise it will be worth it.

After you've gotten yourself into your comfortable clothes and fished out a bag of chips or milk and cookies, climb into that favorite reading spot--mine is on the love seat sprawled ;)--and get to reading. I suggest even having something be slightly distracting going on in the background for this. Not something pressing though, you don't want your attention diverted at the wrong moments. Turn the tv on and keep the volume low. Here's why its important: When you start reading your favorite (or favorite so far) book from the same genre your writing, you get sucked in. Or, maybe you don't. But you know what its like to read that book and how it keeps your attention. There are just books out there that will hold on to you until the very end. You can't put it down until you see those two little words on the very last page of the MS. You want the same for your book, too! Right? So, you have something mildly distracting in the background, but once you start reading, even though you know what's going to happen, you should get sucked into your own book. [NOTE: IF THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN, YOU NEED TO CONSIDER A HUGE REWRITE RIGHT NOW!] This is good. It means you're on the right path.

What are you looking for, though? Well, if you can get through the whole story without getting distracted or wanting to sit it down, then you are good to skip this step, but I think even the best of authors would be hard pressed to do that at this point. So, every time the tv (or whatever) is able to distract you or you just feel like putting your book down, mark that spot. Highlight it somehow. My favorite methods: neon colored post-its and markers. Bright markers. How can you miss that? What is this going to tell you? There is something lacking in that particular place. When you come around to more editing, you can take a closer look. Maybe its too much info, or the info isn't clear, or your charactes aren't flat, or confusing, or the sentences are too passive (More on that tomorrow). Either way, you need to fix it. It may be your story and you know it inside and out, but its missing something. How do I know? Because you noticed it before anyone pointed it out.

I'm not going to lie... This was my favorite part of editing. It really showed me that I was getting close to the goal. It showed me that if I could manage to clean up these spots, my story might actually be worth something to someone else. Other people might want to read it. (SQUEE) You want to feel this too. You won't want to throw your story away anymore. Promise.

To continue though, the next thing to do after you've read through and marked the slow/confusing/odd parts. There will be something you will notice overall about your story. How was the ending? Did you enjoy it? Did you feel happy or sad for your characters? Did you get teary-eyed at some point? I hope so. If you can't give positive answers to all these questions, you may need to rewrite. I know, its a terrifying thought.

I dreaded my rewrite. More than that... I was in full edit mode and writing creatively was just out of the question. Why do you think I started blogging? LOL. I also started reading through every first person POV book I could get my hands on. I looked for specific things I like and things I didn't. I knew what my story needed in a rewrite, but I was so scared that by bringing the bad guy back to life for a few more chapters, it may totally change the way the story ends. Breathe. If this happens to you, it isn't the end of the world. You can still use some of the material you've slaved over for months. Break it into logical pieces and catalog it. It was hard for me. There were whole chapters that I could keep, while other chapters were broken into paragraphs sometimes. I brought the bad guy back from the dead, changing when and how he died. How'd it turn out? ITS SO MUCH BETTER! How so? My bad guy is much more frightening. And he's got more depth. Sweet success. And that isn't the best part. I got to keep the ending and spare one of my characters the emotional trama of killing a person.

You're looking for a climax. How do you make it work the right way? You have to look at all the coflict in your story. Make a list. Also, with each conflict, make note of how important it is to the plot line. You'll find a lot of minor conflicts that can seem important, but are really just side-lines to the story or the main conflict. Mine was my bad guy. No one could be happy or safe with him around. That's major to the plot! And so, I had to center my revision around him. The climax has to come when the major plot-riding-on-this conflict is going to be resolved. Now, as I say this, I don't necessarily mean there will always be a happy ending, but with the resolution, there is finally an answer as to what will happen. You're story should build on that simple question. What's going to happen to this/her/him/them? How will it all end? The way you build up to it, is to keep it constant throughout the story. Don't let the reader forget that question. Before you answer it, you want your readers on edge. They NEED to know. But if you do it soon, the reader gets bored before the end of the story. That's no good either.

You'll hear that the climax needs to be in the final third of the story, but that's too vague. You want the conflict to end in the second to last chapter of the story. It leaves the reader hooked until the very end and gives you a chance to show what happened after all that tension, to slow it down, to conclude the story or even set up for a sequel. Sometimes that means, taking a few of the conflicts you have in your story and removing them, or even a character. (I had to kill off my extras... :(  Shame on me, right?)

Amazingly, there isn't much left after this. And so far, this was one of the shortest steps for me. While the others took a month or more, this one only took about two weeks. That included the reading, and I probably read six different books! This one means your getting close. I took a break one night and started researching agents who might be interested. Hint hint...

StrangersAnyway, that's it for today. Tomorrow's post will be about the difference between Passive and Active voice in narration and how to fix those last unavoidable errors.

Special today: What am I reading? Strangers by Dean Koontz. I'll give it a review when I get finished!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment! I love getting them.