Novel Editing Insights: 9 Big Lessons from Critique

Editing the imagination provides many learning opportunities. Instruct authors and help them align what they say with what they say Wants To say takes a specific set of skills, but also offers extended biblical insights with each completed project. Read 9 insights from working as a fiction editor (plus home ideas for tweaking your own):

Learn Editing Narratives of Criticism and MS Ratings:

  1. Write now, reduce down later
  2. Decide the basic views
  3. Look for personality contradictions
  4. Watch the narrative structure on multiple levels
  5. Be familiar with the invention
  6. Keep the puppeteer hidden
  7. Let the reader’s imagination
  8. Avoid early, easy and unearned solutions
  9. Know your intent in fictional editing

Let’s explore these ideas further, drawing on examples from novel editing (discussed in broad terms, to maintain client confidentiality):

1. Write now, reduce later

The main challenge of the creative process is that we want our progress to look good. We want scenes and chapters to appear as publishable in composition, font, image, and theme.

However, writing drafts is really a messy process.

When you give yourself a license to write freely – even overwrite – it makes novel editing a much freer process than if every word and phrase were already tuned in and polished multiple times to a hardening along the way.

Example: overwrite to find the correct line

Now Novel’s editorial client wrote a fascinating historical story in which the main character is finally executed.

Towards the end of the novel, the author wrote a paragraph of stunning prose describing a vision of the hero just before its execution. The vision connected the entire history of the character and their great passion for their last moments.

The author kept getting past this point, including scenes from the afterlife, unaware that they had already written a powerful and profound final paragraph that unified the book’s imagery and symbolism in a moment of goosebumps.

Leading the reader up to this point was the ax about to fall And no more, the author could, in a sense, transcend recorded history with something more beautiful and impactful that matches the redemptive tone of the work.

In this example, writing behind – on the other side The manuscript’s more natural end point made it easy to find and highlight what was truly useful, influential and totally worth presenting in the work.

2. Determine the basic views

When editing a feature book and training writers, one often finds that the author has become associated with one or more non-core viewpoint characters.

When is a POV unnecessary, you might ask? This is when the character is (for example):

  • Dilutes or blurs the focus of the story’s plot and/or themes
  • Removes suspense and/or tension in the narrative, adding seemingly unrelated story segments
  • “Hijacks” the story so that it becomes unclear exactly who POV POV

This is where it helps to keep a summary of each character’s main goals, motivations, internal conflicts, and any ways they change over the course of your story.

When you introduce a new POV, how do you relate to the goals, motivations, and struggles of your existing characters? If there is no connection, what do they contribute to the flow and focus of the story?

3. Look for personal contradictions

Narrative editing, and evolutionary editing in particular, provides an opportunity to analyze character arcs at the scene level and throughout the book.

The latter is a common method for errors.

When you focus on the detailed view and stunning landscapes, you might not notice that your character was a battle axe in the first three seasons but (unexpectedly and confusingly) it was sweet and light in chapter 10.

Create a character inconsistency checklist

If you are editing the manuscript yourself, create a character checklist:

  • Are the character names and nicknames consistent (and any naming changes indicated?)
  • Are the characters’ personalities stable, or if their personalities change, are these changes driven by psychology, beliefs, or experiences (personality development)?
  • Do characters ever act “out of character” and, if so, is the reason clear enough for the reader to believe their behavior in context?

And the list goes on.

One advantage of working with a good editor to do a developmental assessment or adjustment is that they will check each character for these kinds of inconsistencies (the kind that don’t make sense and might frustrate readers).

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4. View the narrative structure on multiple levels

Narrative structure is not something one necessarily thinks about while drafting (unless you are a grapher by nature). However, it is essential to think about it when editing or revising your story.

why? Because when some scenes and chapters go on, you have a strong chance of losing the reader.

When you’re competing with other books, Netflix, and many other forms of entertainment, it pays to keep the focus narrow.

Example of Editing for Narrative Structure: Sticking to the Character

Often, as writers, we get attached to a line, an image, or an idea. For example, “This minor character will write letters to my hero.”

In one of the stories, the author had an interesting secondary character who wrote long letters to the protagonist.

The structural narrative problem was that these regular updates, while full of detail, sound, and visuals that were engaging, did not present the main story in any clear or immediate way.

Since the reader will likely experience the secondary character as a path, given their short appearance, the reader will likely not have a “horse” in their own “race”. There was no suspense in the relationship or uncertainty in its possible direction.

The effect was that the messages, though well-written and expressive in their own right, dampened the broader velocity and rate of new information that was revealed, distracting from the story’s most pressing central mystery.

It may be recommended in such cases Cut out what is “good writing” at a line level, but not necessarily at a synthetic or macro level.

5. Be aware of the invention

When you search for “editing a novel,” many articles are about how to edit your own writing.

There are advantages to self-editing, and cost is the main advantage (having a free review process versus a paid review process). However, the pitfalls you face in editing your own work include the lack of nuances such as forced or artificially read storytelling.

MacGuffins (things or events that you include in a story just to give an accident or other event a cause) can the job. However, they work best when they are intentional and not the result of either laziness or trying to break out of a hole in the plot.

It’s wise to know about pictures or plot points that may seem particularly “ready” to readers. This sense of awareness develops with reading widely within (and without) your genre.

Examples of common contrived plot lines

  • The protagonist is incredibly lucky, to the point where no danger seems like a real threat
  • Romantic threads are brought together because the genre or structure of the story is dictated by it (for example, the imitation of Shakespeare’s comedies that end in hasty marriages—a fabrication of his time joyfully heated up in a sitcom based on his life and work, cocky)
  • Any development of the story feels not gained from what came before, making it less believable

Indie author E.B. Dawson makes this last point well:

When people say something is contrived, it usually means that a certain element of the story has been imposed. For me this means that the author has become lazy. Example: two main characters were legitimately quarreling with the whole story and in the final chapter they fall in love. Even if your reader secretly wanted them to come together, if you didn’t take the time as an author to make this match believable, even your most loyal readers would slack off.

E.B. Dawson, “What makes an element in your story ‘confusing and how to avoid it’,” March 30, 2017

6. Keep the doll’s engine hidden

One of the biggest signs of a novice writer is the tendency to expose the author’s hand.

For example, a conscious literary style. Tears are described using 101 synonyms for water and something seeping from the character’s face.

There is no shame in simply saying “cry”; In Remember KISS, the old acronym (“Keep it Simple, Stupid”).

One way you can modify the curtain to pull over any thread tension is to show more, and say less. It does not mean, “Show, do not tell,” like the decree. But instead, be wise about when you choose to show, and when you choose to say (this is something an editor familiar with the nuances will help you with).

Editorial benefits - Quote from Stieg Larsson

7. Invite the reader’s imagination

Editing novels involves, in part, thinking like a reader. Not only the type of reader you are, but also the ability to imagine a hypothetical reader who might bring radically different interpretations and personal connections to the work.

One thing to keep in mind when self-editing or working with an editor is the idea of ​​”invitation”.

Do you invite the reader to be active in making meaning? Or do you tell them what every little detail means, how exactly do you hear the rustle of the wind through the dry leaves, while leaving no room for their music to be made?

Reader Invitation Example: (No) telling readers what they already know

Many editors have their own personal concerns. A good editor will keep these in mind, and have any insight or analysis stem from a more subjective/biased perspective.

Personal bugbear is the unnecessary onomatopoeia (sound words). for example:

“Gunja,” he shouted, lifting the heavy bag.

Chances are your reader has heard someone make a sound like that. Saying “He grunted while lifting the heavy bag…” invites the reader to provide their own audio file.

Look for places where you can ask the reader’s imagination to do a little more heavy lifting on its own.

8. Avoid early, easy and unearned solutions

In editing novels, it is important to focus on many aspects. Not only the style and the spag but Moreover The dramatic structure and cause and effect, what feels learned Through the sequence of events is thus believable.

Time and time again, good stories provide the satisfaction of well-earned decisions. All the broken pieces of the story conflict are gone, not because they disappeared into a magical “Poof”, but because the author actually swept the house (to use an analogy).

9. Know your intent for fictional editing

Self-editing for your work is not recommended. Often times we miss our mistakes. If this is your only editing option, make it systematic. Consider making separate passes through a scene for different items:

  • Speed ​​and narrative structure
  • Tension and suspense
  • character development
  • Describe
  • show vs say
  • SPAG, style and format

Because our manuscript evaluation template is divided into 14 sections, each section requiring substantive and actionable feedback, this structure helps ensure that we pay attention to the multiple elements of the story that determine whether or not the writing has a memorable impact.

Being an editor, one knows that the first and last goal is to help the text and story shine and maximize (and highlight) their potential.

Structuring your editing process and knowing your intent (whether it is evolutionary or simply for spotting SPAG and style errors i.e. copy editing) will help you keep the review process focused.

Get a free editing sample when you submit a non-binding quote request for Now Novel novel editing services, and weekly editors critiques with any Now Novel plan.

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