Art of the Edit – Part I
I was lucky enough to participate in a webinar called The Art of the Edit by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry (The Book Doctors), wonderfully helpful and experienced pros of the book publishing world. They shared a lot of helpful advise (especially for me while I’m in editing mode), and I wanted to pass it along to all my friends.
How Editing Can Save Your Life
Just lock up your inner editor for the month of November, if you are doing NaNoWriMo, or during whatever time you are doing the rough draft. After that, you need to be able to look at your manuscript with a critical eye. “This is deeply problematic [with many writers].” There can be a giant chasm between where the book is and where you think it is.
How Do You Make Your Lump of Clay into a Novel?
Arielle was David’s agent, and also ended up as his editor, helping him polish up his first novel. The editor or agent will not fix your book for you any more. It is expected that the book will only require minor polishing before being published, which puts more responsibility on the writer.
The Knockout Beginning
- Everyone, including readers, doesn’t have time for a slow intro.
- Take the most exciting thing about the book and put it at the beginning
- This can create tension and suspense
- The first page will close the deal in the bookstore
- Download the free first chapter of a book
- Pay attention to how you begin and end chapters – start your chapter in the middle of a scene, then catch up with details and back story. If you grab them, it will hold them through the exposition. End chapters with cliffhanger endings. Create suspenseful endings. Make people want to stay up all night reading your book.
- The first 25 pages have to be even better than the rest of the book.
Big Picture Arc
- The character wants something badly and is driven to reach his or her goal. We follow them because we want to know if they succeed or fail.
- We need to cheer for the character, even if they don’t like them.
- Place as many difficulties in the path of your protagonist as possible. (This totally makes me think of Jim Butcher. Good heavens, I sometimes wonder if he likes his characters. ;D )
- How does your story fit into this arc?
- Make a drawing of all the events
- All of the characters also have their own arcs
- Don’t drop your secondary characters either
- Do an individual edit for each of these topics
- Suspense is created by good character arcs
- Remove the use of “suddenly” as an attempt to create suspense
Vibrant and Immersive Settings
- Be sure to set the scenes and give the reader the idea for the environment. Need to flesh it out more than stage directly.
- Chuck Palahniuk likes to use bathrooms for settings because everyone knows what they are like and what they expect to find there
- Have to root the reader firmly in the world
- Make sure the world is unique, no matter the genre
- Spend some time on world building
- Remove weird writing ticks like “the truth is” or anachronistic verbage
Making sure that my world was unique and taking the time to show that to the reader was a huge ah-ha point for me. For example, drinking coffee might not be important to a scene, but if something about the coffee (how it is prepared, the ritual to drink it, where it came from, what it says about people drinking it, etc.) can show a unique aspect about the world, then maybe I shouldn’t cut it from the scene. I might have been paring some of my scenes down to the bone in my attempt to get rid of “fluff.”
I will follow up with Part II of the Art of the Edit tomorrow.
Music for the Day