Today I wanted to talk about editing. Now this is the toughest part of the job for me, because I like to think (probably like others out there) that my first draft is going to be excellent. However, there are times when rereading my work I realize a better way of phrasing or see where things are out of sync with the rest of the story. So I just wanted to point out a few tips for editing that I’ve been able to use with some success.
First once you finish your first draft, do not jump directly into editing. This is two fold, first of all the story is too fresh in your mind and you can’t come at it clearly and second you need to break from the writing process. I know I always feel drained. I take four to six weeks and maybe start on other projects or just rest and then come back to it with a fresh eye. It helps because I can really enjoy the good parts and pick out some of the weaker points that need to be tweaked.
Secondly when you edit you need to look for three things: regurgitation, inconsistancy, and speed bumps. Regurgitation is when you as an omniscient author will merely lay down facts about a character (unless you are summing up a previous adventure) this should be avoided. There are more interesting ways to bring out things about the character through the eyes of the supporting cast or the actions of the character in question. Next come inconsistancies, these are easy to spot when you say that a character was skinny and then two pages later reference how fat they are, this creates a confusing image for the reader since you had already established the opposite (for ways to avoid this see my previous entries on taking notes for your stories at https://lagomorphflix.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/know-your-characters-take-notes/ ). The third object to keep your editing eye looking out for is a speed bump (my term), these are your bulky bits of story that tend to slow the action or pace of your story. If you are in the middle of a chase you don’t want to lapse into the crown moulding on a house that they pass. You always want your story to be crisp and evenly paced. These are the three things I try to keep the most watchful eye out for when I do my editing.
Finally, make sure the pieces of the puzzle fit. When someone has read your story you for the most part won’t want them to be scratching their heads saying “that didn’t make any sense.” So when you’ve come to the final page of your draft and you have everything wrapped up, take a step back and look at the puzzle as a whole, are there any pieces missing. You missing a large chunk of story are you? The mystery was solved, evil was vanquished and the people understand how these things occur. I’m not saying that everything that occurs needs to be explained there is always room for some interpretation when reading, but you need to have a logical train of thought following your story and its outcome. If you write a mystery, you want the audience to know how the crime was committed, why the crime was committed, and who committed the crime. If at all possible you always answer the who, where, when, what, why, and how; although sometimes stories are best left with these answers absent. It is your call as the author to make sure that the audience understands the work, so when you read don’t read it from your perch of all knowing, read it as a fresh eye who hasn’t been inside your mind.
These are just some of the things I do when editing that help me make my story a little bit better, a little crisper and a little bit clearer for the reader. So good luck editing your story.