We’re about there. No, really. Okay, its not professionally presentable yet, but the main, the spine, the backbone, the story is there, how i want it. It has arcs. It has pacing. A beginning, a middle, an end.
Next comes the line edit. This is the fiddly bit where you apply the polish, and though time consuming, doesn’t have the stress and agony of doubting the basic elements of plot and character – it just means you refine what you have.
So here i attempt to define my criteria –
- Paragraph by paragraph edit – an amazingly effective approach, this one – what does this paragraph do, and where does it pass on to the next one? It’s very revealing.
- Watch the pacing, think of your reader – refine phrasings, cut unnecessary text, err on the side of pace.
- Check Point of View – if you’ve used multiple point of view, check text for consistency – this is something that can go astray after multiple re-writes.
- Cut out repetitions, monitoring any too-frequent use of particular words
- Do this with particular characters in mind – do they overstate their views, repeat themselves, say something out of character, or before the right stage of their development?
- Do we have (preferably scant) physical description in there early, on or near the first time they apear? It’s annoying when that comes after the reader has already generated one themselves
- Similarly, don’t overstate these – it pisses me off when the author is desperate to get me to notice some fancy pants distinguishing feature – “His yellow-grey eyes flashed yellowly” every other paragraph.
- Check use and consistent definition of any hokum foreign/made up words for things, people and places
- General typos, spelling and grammar.
- Scene too bland? Cut it – often, the effect of these throwaway scenes can be ported into another with just a line.
- Too much visual/physical description? Cut to the chase.
- Speaking of “Cut to the chase” (i found this particular phrase in a recent edit), watch your anachronisms, look for turns of phrase or language inconsistent with the rules and period of your setting. For example, “Cut to the chase” has its origin in cinema, and is therefore unsuitable for the industrialising era i’m working with.
I think its important to try and focus properly on each section/chapter, but the natural tendency – for me at least – is to speed up and skim read the further you go. Part One of my MS is of discernably better quality simply because the front end, being the bit you submit to publishers, has had so much more attention paid to it. I’m going to attempt to combat this in two ways:
First, for this round of editing, i’m going to skip Part One entirely – i know i’m reasonably happy with it. The other parts need bringing up to par.
Second, i’m going to attempt to use blogging to inspire a reflective, taking-my-time kind of approach. This hopefully will help me break down the chapters, and oblige me to say something about each edit – and to make it vaguely interesting.
Of course, if i see some tasty call for submissions somewhere, i’ll just insert all the chapters in a word document, press F7 to run a spellcheck on the first five pages, then email it straight away to “Dear Sir or Madam” without reading through the submission guidlines.
Only joking, professional agents and publishers! *wink, nudge, etc*