Monday, May 21, 2012

Writing Workshop – Finished Yet?

So, you’ve just written the last word of the last line of your newest novel. Now what? Do you send it out to agents and publishers? Do you go the indie route?

Neither. Writing the novel is only part of the work. Now, it is editing time. Sure, you can send your work to have it edited professionally. But, you should never send your novel anywhere until you have had the first edit.

Editing goes deeper than just reading for typos. Sure, cleaning up those typos is important. But just as important, if not more so, is checking your sentence structure, reading for flow, and making sure that you have been consistent from beginning to end.

Sentence structure sets the tone of your novel. Ideally, your sentences should be of varied length and syntax throughout a paragraph. I am not one to stick to rules. Playing with your sentences can help move the story along. You don’t want long sentences entangling the reader during a fast action scene. Short sentences and paragraphs will help the eye catch every word. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading an exciting scene, my eyes move much more quickly down the page.

Length of sentences is closely related to syntax. Syntax is simply the order in which words are placed. More broadly, we can use clauses before, in the middle, or at the end of the main part of our sentences. Clauses usually begin with prepositions (making it a prepositional phrase) or chronological determiners such as when, before, after, then, once, and while. These too should be changed from sentence to sentence so the reader doesn’t get bored whilst reading no matter how intriguing the scene.

Reading for flow is almost self-explanatory. Sometimes when you were writing, part x made sense but, when it read it through, you realize that part x needs a little more or a little less. The reader shouldn’t wonder why something feels disconnected.

Consistency is both the easiest to want to fix and the hardest to do. I find myself having to write down character descriptions so I don’t unknowingly change the color of the hair or eyes. Before I do my first read through, I also write down what I want to have capitalized and what the spelling should be of words I create.

More than just mere words or descriptions, consistency pertains to a character’s character as well. So many times in books, tv shows or movies, a character will do something out of character. It seems that in order to progress a story, y must happen. The creator has one of the established characters do or say y. When the character shouldn’t be the one to do or say y, it comes off as odd. Easy plot fixes are very transparent. Perhaps y can happen a different way. To be consistent, either y or the character must change.

Once all of those have been addressed, then you can give it to someone else to do a second edit. That can be a professional editor, a proofreader or a beta reader. Often, we read what we want to be there instead of what is written on the page. The extra pair or pairs of eyes can help with typos and inconsistencies that you missed as well as address any areas that are confusing or need to be expounded.

After you feel that the manuscript has been polished, then you can consider publishing options. Editing is a close friend, not an enemy. Giving editing the time it deserves in your writing regimen, it can ascend your work to new heights of greatness.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. It's like the old carpenter's rule; measure twice, cut once. Write once, edit at least twice.