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Monday, December 08, 2008

Top five things to look for in editing your rough draft

Given my prolific writing of late, I'm now in the lovely, fun, and most dreaded position of editing my manuscript. I don't mind editing if I know what I'm looking for. And many people think I'm quite good at editing their work. The problem... I can't see the forest for the trees (look, I'm being trite) in my own writing. So I asked my good friend, critique partner, and owner of The Story Sensei Fiction critique service, Camy Tang, for her advice.

So here she is... the amazing... Camy Tang!

Top five things to look for when revising your rough draft

1. Before you even start to revise, set the manuscript aside. Two to three weeks is ideal.

When you’ve spent months on a manuscript, you’re just too close to it. Tuck it away. Don’t look at it, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it will be not to even think about it.

When you finally do go back to revise, you’ll be amazed at how fresh everything will be.

2. Passive verbs. Do a “Find” on your word processing program for:


Replace as many as you can with strong action verbs. Sometimes you won’t be able to, but try your hardest because you can never have too few passive verbs.

3. Opening and closing hooks. Spend as much time as you need—which will probably be more time than you anticipate—on creating a killer opening hook to your novel.

But in addition, spend more time—yes, more than you think it will—on crafting killer opening hooks to every single section.

And then, spend time crafting killer ending hooks to every single section.

This really will improve your story flow, because the reader will be hooked at the opening, hooked at the ending to every section (and induced to read on) and hooked at the beginning of every section (also induced to read on).

4. Redundancies, especially in dialogue. Pounding out that first draft is a long, hard process—and because a scene can sometimes take 2-3 days (or 2-3 hours) to write, pages of dialogue can meander and repeat information. Target your dialogue and condense it, make it concise.

5. Backstory and telling. Get rid of it.

If it’s there, it should be short (one sentence or two short sentences).

Don’t have more than one instance of backstory/telling for every two pages (not a hard and fast rule, but just a rule of thumb).

While lots of multipublished, bestselling authors have oodles of backstory and telling in their writing, they’re multipublished, bestselling authors and have more leeway than an unpublished writer trying to break into the industry.

Because of the stiff competition for those few publishing slots available each year, writers have to write to a higher standard so that they stand out from the thousands of other manuscripts that editors read every year.

If you’re not rock solid on what exactly is “telling,” then read up on it. There are tons of articles on the web, and on my Story Sensei blog, I have both articles and a list of websites that have more articles.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her chick lit Sushi series is out now, and next year she’ll release Deadly Intent with Love Inspired Suspense.

She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in book doctoring. DECEMBER SALE: Right now, all full manuscript critiques are 10% off! Visit http://www.storysensei.com/ for more details.

On her blog, she gives away Christian novels twice a week and ponders frivolous things. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ and sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!


kalea_kane said...

Thank you Danica and Camy! What wonderful information. :)
This is a really nice top five list.



Camy Tang said...

Thanks for letting me guest blog today, Danica!

Anonymous said...

Great advice. THANKS!!

Robbie Iobst said...

Thank you Danica and Camy! I wrote a non-fiction book and will pick it up to edit in January. I can totally use your list. Woo-hoo!

Avily Jerome said...

Thanks for having Camy over, Danica!

I love all your advice, Camy! You're a great writer, and you give very valuable info in an easy to understand way!

Jessica Nelson said...

Wow! I love the hook advice. So great. Yeah, I'm also using my search button to find "that" and "it".

Danica, I'm with you. While I can see how a sentence needs to be changed, I have difficulty with the overall plot. GMC, characterization. The works. :-)

Rhonda L. Jones said...

Hey thanks for stopping by, and the well-wishes for The Maestro's Butterfly. This is a good subject for an article, btw. Doing an edit can be a pretty confusing process for a newer writer. But it's my fa-a-avorite part! I love tinkering.

Have a good week and Happy Holidays!