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Friday, January 6, 2017

Going Beyond the Big Picture

After I do my cutting and deepening drafts I move on to actually editing. My personal editing style has two steps: macro and micro-editing.

The macro editing is still in the realm of the big picture and that is why I do it before I micro-edit.
The things I look for during this edit are:

  1. The story moves under its own power and that nothing about it feels forced. 
  2. The story is dramatic. No one wants to read a story where there is no conflict. We might say that we hate drama, but that only applies to our own lives, we want drama in our fiction.
  3. It is intimate and I don't mean it has sex in it (but it isn't a problem if there is.) What I do mean is that the reader gets to know and care about the characters. Good stories have characters that readers bond with and feel as if they really know.
  4. The story takes place in a special world. It doesn't have to be the magical wizarding world but it does need to feel exclusive while also being relatable.
  5. It is somewhat compressed. I am neither a minimalist or a maximalist, I fall somewhere in between. When I look for compression in a story I look for a day to read like a day and not like five days. Sometimes writers get ahead themselves and pack too much action into one day and that only works in stories that take place in a day and doesn't work well for series. (I also make sure each paragraph is no longer than eight sentences long, no one wants to read a wall of text.)
  6. The language is consciously crafted. The words being used to tell the story have to reflect it. I would never tell a story about the Battle of Culloden and have the characters speaking with New Yark accents and using American slang. 
  7. Lastly, the story is complete and satisfying.
If I have to fix anything from above in my story then I go back and do another cutting and deepening draft before I move on to micro-editing.

When I have looked for all of those things and feel satisfied with it then I start looking at the small stuff. I read each sentence out loud. Doing that allows me to find the missing words, the typos, the misused punctuation, and the grammar mistakes. I also have someone else read it as well. That someone doesn't have to be an English major, they're just a second set of eyes to help you catch things.

After editing the whole story, I save it and walk away from it for a while. I give it a couple of days and then at look at it again. I look for the same things, the same mistakes, and fix them.

I hope that helps you with any future editing.

I am not sure what next week's post will be about, but I'm sure I will come up with something. Have a lovely weekend!