“Editing” is one of those complicated, terrifying words that means so many things at once. It can be anything and everything between the fine-tuning details of comma usage and a commitment to consistent usage of “toward” vs. “towards” through the big-picture concerns like narrative structure and a fully fleshed-out protagonist. Here’s the big secret to where you should begin: don’t sweat the small stuff … or maybe I should say, don’t start your editing there.
That line-by-line analysis shouldn’t come until after you’ve gone through the developmental editing stage.
5 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer Before Moving on to Line Edits
- Does your story start in the right place? Just because you began writing your story in a certain place does not mean that this initial first scene is the best first scene for your final manuscript. A first chapter should set the tone and connect your reader with your protagonist. It should follow genre expectations, where they apply, and introduce the “problem” of the book, so your readers understand what to expect. This is no small undertaking. Take your time to get it right.
- Are your characters alive? Could they be swapped out for anyone else living through the same narrative or does their entire being impact the story as a whole? Does every character speak the same way, or is dialogue distinctive? Do they have unique mannerisms, or do they all follow the same patterns? People are different. Your characters absolutely should be too.
- Does your p.o.v. (point-of-view) make sense for your story? Is it consistent throughout? Do you move from 3rd person omniscient to 3rd person focused and back? Does your 1st person story closely connect your reader with your protagonist, or does it limit the potential of your storytelling? There is no universal right answer. Each story has its own.
- Does every chapter, scene, and moment drive the story forward? Beware of sections of dialogue that are fun but a bit pointless for the book. Watch out for scenes (or complete chapters) that are complete tangents away from your story. Be cautious with extended time dedicated to characters thinking and thinking and thinking. Every moment needs to drive the whole forward. If it doesn’t, it’s time to do some reconsidering.
- Does your ending do your story justice? Did you reach the final sentence of your plan, or did you truly complete your story, wrapping up loose ends and creating a sense of closure for your readers? Don’t leave your readers disappointed.
Developmental edits dive deep into your story. They can go far beyond these questions, but these are my favorite places to start—they are the places I recommend to any writer ready to move from completed manuscript (woohoo!) to the next stages (ugh).
But thorough editing is what brings a strong story to an even more powerful place. Make the effort, and your readers will see the difference.
Enjoyed this blog post? Join Kris Spisak and Julie Valerie for a podcast that discusses and expands upon topics shared in this post.
Podcast Recorded: May 2019
Intro & Outro Music: “Coming Up Roses” by Tangerine
PODCAST SUBSCRIPTION & DISTRIBUTION
At the moment, we’re hosting these podcasts on this website only. Therefore, your best listening option is to listen using your computer. Perhaps in the future, we will distribute on iTunes, Google Play and the like, but not at this time. We’re still learning the podcasting ropes and getting our feet wet. Hope you understand. Of course, this means there isn’t a “subscribe” mechanism in place for any of the podcasts. But maybe someday. Thank you.
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About Kris Spisak
Kris Spisak wrote her first traditionally-published book, Get a Grip on your Grammar: 250 Writing and Editing Reminders for the Curious or Confused (Career Press, 2017), with a goal to help writers of all kinds sharpen their craft and empower their communications. Her “Words You Should Know” podcast and “Grammartopia” events follow the same mission. A former college writing instructor, having taught at institutions including the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, Kris now works as a ghostwriter and freelance editor, specializing in fiction. She is on the board of directors of James River Writers, is the co-founder/director of creative strategy of Midlothian Web Solutions, and looks forward to sharing her next publication updates soon.
About Julie Valerie
Founder of the 85K Writing Challenge, Julie Valerie writes humorous women’s fiction and is developing a series set in the Village of Primm. Her first novel, Holly Banks Full of Angst, was sold to Lake Union, a commercial women’s fiction imprint of Amazon publishing as part of a 2-book deal and will be published November 1, 2019. Visit Julie Valerie’s author website at julievalerie.com. Never miss an update by subscribing to Julie’s author newsletter. Twitter @Julie_Valerie. Facebook Author Page fb.com/JulieValerieAuthor/. Instagram @julievalerieauthor. Pinterest @julie_valerie.