Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

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

10 comments on “Art of the Edit – Part I

  1. Christi
    May 31, 2013

    Editing is such an important part of the process. Thanks for sharing these great tips from the webinar! The big picture tips are especially helpful.

    • tracycembor
      May 31, 2013

      Yeah, I found some of the big picture ideas to be really helpful too. I’m glad you enjoyed!!

  2. John W. Howell
    May 31, 2013

    You must be a world champion note taker. These are great. Thanks

    • tracycembor
      May 31, 2013

      Yes, I have a graduate degree now to prove that I can take notes. xD Glad you found them useful to you.

  3. mrschmoe
    May 31, 2013

    Reblogged this on Just another inane writer and commented:
    I reblogged this, good read indeed. Plenty of good points

  4. ericjbaker
    May 31, 2013

    I’m not sure I’ll ever “get there” with all these points, but I’ll die trying at least.

    • tracycembor
      May 31, 2013

      Just pick one per day. I figure over a month’s time it would all even out, right?

      • ericjbaker
        May 31, 2013

        I meant implementing them while writing. You have to do all these things as you write, not after the fact, because you’ll end up with a confused mess if you consciously try to impose these concepts on an existing work. In other words, it takes a lot of writing before these things come naturally, if they ever do.

        I once read a brutally honest piece by an agent who wrote, “So you finally finished that first novel, after hours upon hours of research and then countless drafts, to the point that it’s the best it can possibly be and you are proud of it like its your child. Great. Throw it in a box and forget it, because it sucks.” It’s just something a lot of us have to go through. I thought my first manuscript was the best thing since mint cupcakes when I finished it (after about 12 drafts). Even as I queried it and piled up rejections, I began to realize that it didn’t work at all. I’ve written a second manuscript and heaps of short fiction since then, and I doubt I could read the first thing now without cringing.

  5. Arlene
    June 2, 2013

    I’m right in the middle of editing/revising, so I need all the tips I can get. Thanks for sharing your notes!

  6. melissajanda
    June 3, 2013

    Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on May 30, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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