… which i really shouldn’t be thinking about at all because i do NOT yet have a finished manuscript! But i went ahead and read this article – Red Pencil Round-Up: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which i had bookmarked at the beginning of Nanowrimo 2012.
It’s a long article but has many gems. Here are some of the ones which i would like to highlight:
Does that mean you’ll be making fifteen or more passes, beginning to end, through your entire manuscript? Yes, it does.
i read that and my heart sank. It looks like it would take a whole lot more time with head bent low over paper and red pencil in hand than i had thought.
But i see her point. There are so many aspects of a story to look at, trying to look at all aspects in one sweep is just not going to cut it. Can you imagine thinking about plot, characterisation, grammar, narrative, dialogue, setting etc. all at once? Makes my head spin just looking at that checklist of items. :p
i love how the article is written with lots of tips and examples which clearly show you what she means and these examples could even help to generate ideas for your story. Take a look at the example she writes when explaining about the Bread Crumb Trail:
For example, if your character is experiencing cryptic nightmares and you need to convey that her grandparents raised her on a farm built atop a sacred Indian burial ground, don’t launch into a block of exposition about her childhood. Place her in a scene at the farm, have her call her grandmother and question her experiences, create a scene where she digs a secret-filled box out of the attic—choose something active that moves the plot forward and gives you the opportunity to reveal that information in an interesting way.
Here’s one i didn’t know about:
Take a look at your character list. Change any names that start with the same letter or have a similar sound when read aloud. I had one client who didn’t realize she had such an affinity for “J” names until I pointed out that she had Jonathan, Josh, Jackson, Jenny, and Jessie (along with Carolina, Connie, and Kristen) cavorting through her script and it was quite a challenge to keep track of them.
Hmmm… i have to go check my character list. i love names and i enjoy giving my characters names which are full of meaning or at least reflect their personality. It’s one of my favourite parts of the writing process: character creation. Have you come up with some great names for your characters? Wanna share?
i had to smile at her paragraphs discussing dialogue tags. Here’s the one line we all should keep in mind when writing:
Remember: You can’t smile, nod, or wink dialogue, or do anything else physical with the words.
i have never really come across the term “talking heads”. Ok, i have not read a whole ton of how-to-write books yet. But i found the idea hilarious, just thinking about it: a room full of heads just talking. She mentions talking heads in relation to grounding your characters so that the reader gets a sense of place.
This next one is would be interesting to do:
Now, put your plot to the cause and effect test. Start at the end of your story. How did your character arrive at that resolution? What happened before that? What caused that event? What came before that? Work backward from the end to ensure your plot doesn’t go on unrelated tangents. Work backward to make sure there is a logical progression that leads your character from one action to the next.
i suppose if your story makes sense going backwards, it would work going forwards as well. It has never crossed my mind to think about story plot like that.
She also covers research, grammar and punctuation.
And at the end, in Pre-submission Proof, which i most definitely will do when i have finally written and edited my story, i learnt something new and fun to do:
Yes, you need to do an audio check too. Pour yourself some tea, hot or iced. Lean back in your chair, turn up your computer speaker volume, and set the Speech function to read your manuscript aloud. The voice may be a bit robotic, but listening to your story read aloud will help you catch errors even the spell checker missed.
Now i was wondering what is this program she is talking about. i looked at my Open Office Writer and it didn’t have that function. Then i did a quick search on Google and found that Windows itself has a Narrator! Wow! Shows how little i have explored the functions of my computer. So click on your ‘Start’ button, then go to ‘All Programs’, ‘Accessories’, ‘Ease of Access’ and there you will find ‘Narrator’. It should read out loud the on-screen text. BUT…
… i could not get it to work right. It reads out loud all my keystrokes and tells me what window and what buttons are there but it would not read my text document; even though it is a saved file and there is clearly text on the page, it keeps telling me, “Empty Page/Paragraph.” i checked Help, it was no help.
Yet there is hope, i found that you can download a free program to read back to you if you like. See here. i may try that another day.
Well, i hope this has been helpful to you. It has certainly given me a push to finish my story asap, if editing the story is going to take 18 times as long as writing it!
Do go read the whole article, follow the link in the first paragraph of this post.