Sunday, July 26, 2015

Help! I can't Edit to Save My Life!

By: Stephanie Burkhart

How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said it yourself? I know I’ve said it. I realize it’s important to edit my first draft, but I had no idea how to go about it. I’d try to do it all at once. That can be overwhelming. Then I discovered layers. It’s a much more rewarding technique.

 When you try to edit all at once, you’re bound to miss something. The work can be time consuming and mentally draining. By using the layered technique, the work has a tendency to go quicker since you’re focusing your attention on only one aspect of editing.

 Layer #1: Narration
This involves the voice of the narrator and the point of view in which the story is told. It’s important because this is how the reader is going to experience the story. You need to ensure the tense is consistent and the voice is authentic.

Layer #2 Characterization
Characters tell the story so it’s important to ensure you’ve done the following: What does the character want, how does the character change in pursuit of what he wants, and what happens if he fails? If you don’t understand your character, try writing a short story outside of the story you’re writing so you can get to know the character better. You can always put yourself in the character’s head and “method” write, which is similar to method acting. Don’t neglect your supporting cast. It’s important to have them resonate with readers, but don’t let them take over the story.

Layer #3 The Plot

Understanding what motivates a character drives the plot. I tend to think of a plot like a play. In act one, you meet the characters and come to understand the conflict. Act two involves rising action along with the climax. The main character must make an important decision. In act three, you have falling action and the main character has to deal with the repercussions of his choice. What works best is simplicity. Don’t throw too much stuff at your character, and have an outline that allows for flexibility. Characters are dynamic and changing. A rigid outline might not allow the character to grow in the way the story requires.
Layer #4  Scenes

Examine your scenes and see if they need tweaking. Consider items like your description, dialogue, world building, and theme. With description, touch on the five senses and use just enough to place the reader in the scene. Their imagination will do the rest. Keep dialogue to a minimum. Remember that how we talk doesn’t translate well on the page, so saying less and being concise is best.

Layer #5 – Proofing

In this read through, you’re looking for spelling errors to include grammar and punctuation mistakes.

Question: How many of you use a layered approach to your editing? Does it work for you? is there a layer you add?

Reference for this blog: Writer’s Digest, Sep 2015, “The Great Revision Pyramid,” by Gabrela Pereira, pages 28-32.

 Stephanie Burkhart’s Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She grew up in New Hampshire but now lives in California. Her books with 4RV Publishing include: The Giving Meadow, First Flag of New Hampshire, and Brady’s Lost Blanket. She likes chocolate, adores coffee, and enjoys walking. She’s also a den leader for her son’s cub scout den.

1 comment:

  1. I would add one suggestion for editing: Find a good literary editor.