Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More Tips to Edit Life Into Your Novel

Doesn't matter what kind of book you're writing, what genre you've dipped your toe into, you already know it's a necessity to bring that story to life if you want to captivate readers.

But how?

Here's the thing.  Many new writers seem to want to avoid the painful themselves, so in their stories, they tend to skip right over the intense parts of the tale.

Two characters break up - three pages later they're divorced. A character contracts a deadly disease and one page later that character is already dead, alone, no fanfare, no drama.

I think we can all agree that in our lives we prefer to eschew conflict and even laugh at the 'drama queens' we know.  But when you're writing a story, that story absolutely desperately needs that drama, that conflict.  Without it the story dies.

It's through writing and reading that we, as, human beings, get the opportunity to examine those darker, and much less fun aspects of living are all about. Fiction is all about drama, conflict and character and it's also about evolving, resolution and growth.

In a broad sense reading provide a sort of therapy to the reader who wants to know how that divorce shook out with the drama of fights over property, children and unresolved issues between the characters.  They want to see into someone elses life to discover how they handled the death of a close loved one who battled illness.  They want to know if push came to shove, how the hero or heroine rose above obstacles, displayed true courage and came through it all.

And there is a wonderful balance to be found in fiction. When you write, you provide a multidimensional view of life, hopefully reflecting the good and the bad, examining the lives of your characters on many levels and providing a rounded view.

Here are a few things to think about after you're written your story and are rereading/editing it, before you send it on to a publisher or agent for consideration:

1.    Can you see your characers and the world you've created for them? The reader's imagination takes over, but you have to have provided the groundwork.  Make it real.  Do your research if it is an area you are  unfamiliar with, but don't just 'fake it'.

2.    Have you demonstrated and shown your readers the motivation for your characters doing what they do and given some backstory to let us know what pushes them forward?

3.     Are your characters balanced?  Is your Hero just too good and your villian nothing but black evil?  Even a serial murder can love a cat.  Even a hero can lose it and do something hurtful or damaging. Think about it. Who's your personal hero and what are his good and bad actions?

4.     Have you shown and told throughout your story?  It's not "show, don't tell", but rather some of both. You want to draw your reader into the story, engross him or her.  To do that you make them part of it and to do that you must draw them into the action by 'showing' and give them bits of information by 'telling' backstory.

5.    Have you kept a balance of the number of characters you have?  Have you dumped them all on the scene in an overwhelming mob or have you introduced them as they were woven into the story? The mob makes it hard for your reader to sort things out and is very confusing.

6.    And here's a big one - have you foreshadowed major events and have your characters grown and changed? If all remains static, if nothing builds your story to its climax...then there is none. You don't want to spell out what will happen in advance, but you want the reader, at the close of the book to say, "Oh, wow, I should have seen that coming!"
Those are just a few pointers as to what to keep an eye out for when you're reviewing your own work.  Fiction is all about change - for better or for worse. That change has to move through your story, be a part of it. It doesn't just spring out at the reader on the last page. As you read through your work with these few tips in mind, you'll naturally think about others and either nod your approval at what you've accomplished or dig down into that rewrite.

Have at it and made that novel shine!


  1. Great advice! Personally, I have to slow myself down when writing intense scenes. My instinct is to rush through them. After all, my heart is beating fast...I can't take it lol

    But, I find as a way to help draw it out more, I step away for a bit, and come back after I've calmed down. This lets me pick it up, and move it along again. This process helps overcome "the guy threw a punch, and the other guy fell to the floor" type of thing.

  2. Thanks Carolyn. Each writer has different methods, but many times advice can kick in the thought process and we find other ways of accomplishing things that are better. I know what you mean about stepping back & returning.


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