TumblingLetters-LRMost good authors find they have to rewrite many times and divide the task into specific types of edits they concentrate on. Here are some of the typical tasks for the second and third major revisions. Usually the rewrites shown here are done after those shown last month and before those I’ll mention next month. By this point, you should not need any major plot or character changes. This month I cover the points of focus for this medium-scale editing.
2. Medium-scale Editing (chapter and page level)
a) Have you followed all themes or motifs that you started?
b) Are there any extraneous events (Remember Chekhov’s rule, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third act it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”)?
c) Are there any scenes without conflict? If so, change or eliminate.
d) Are there some hints of the climactic (to the narrating character) impending doom in the early parts of the novel?
e) Would any scene or chapter work better in a different position? Earlier? Later?
f) Does the novel start with a major hook? Should you skip the first part, perhaps even many chapters, and start later?
g) Does the story start in media res (in the middle of things)?
h) Can you eliminate any adverbs? Adjectives? Eliminating all of them may not be possible, but drastic cutting is usually desirable. Adverbs on speaker attributions are particularly anathema. (Consider Elmore Leonard’s Rule of Thumb on adverbs, “Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”)
i) Do you have imperfect tense verbs (verbs ending in ing)? Change “she was thinking (washing, painting, …)” to “she thought (washed, painted, …).”
j) Can you user stronger verbs?
k) Does every scene invoke at least three sense (better: all six)? Does it evoke the narrator’s emotions and foreboding?
l) Have you shown your story? Are there any descriptions that can and should be put into scenes?
m) Have actions and behaviors been foreshadowed?
n) Is your dialog, both internal and external, realistic? Apropos?
Characters talking about events is telling, not showing. Put the description in a scene.
Never convey information to the reader by having characters talk about it, especially if they both know it. Maid-and-butler or Y’know, Bob dialog never rings true. Better just to tell the reader.
o) Can you clean up any paragraph? Long paragraphs are intimidating and discouraging.