Shelley Widhalm

Revision Dread

In Novel editing, Revising, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on June 2, 2014 at 11:00 am

Revision can be the writer’s least favorite part of the writing process, but it is what turns a sloppy first draft into something marketable.

Reading your work multiple times, asking friends and co-writers to give it an edit and bringing your work through a writer’s group are a few options to identify structural problems, address issues with any of the elements of your writing and find grammatical and style errors in the copy.

Currently, I’m editing my young adult novel, “The Money Finder.” I’ve taken the first 50 pages through my writer’s group, Mountain View Writers, and got comments on minor characters that were flat and clichéd, factual errors in the plot because I lacked the experience and hadn’t done enough research, and areas in the storytelling that needed to be cut, moved or added to keep readers engaged.

One of my friends, who has no desire to write but has read extensively, is reading through “One April Day,” which is literary Christian fiction. He said the beginning drags, reading too much like a journal entry of this happened and then this happened without an overarching reason for him to want to find out what will happen next.

From his experience, most books are awkward during the first 50 pages but get better after that. His theory is that the writers are trying to find their story without going back later to tighten the telling down to the most essential, basic elements.

To edit for the needs of an experienced reader who doesn’t write, give him an opening scene where something happens right away, without putting in too much setting, summary or backstory that causes that dragging effect.

When editing for this and other readers, I like to do a first read-through for errors in spelling and grammar, words that are missing or misused, and sentence structure that is awkward or clumsy. I like to look for any scene issues, like partial scenes, or scenes that are drawn out or are lacking detail. I like to ask if the overall story make sense. Is there enough at stake in the plot? Are there any boring parts or parts that are over-explained?

Here are a few things to look for during additional edits, including:

• Looking for needless repetitions, awkward transitions and poor word choice.
• Cutting unnecessary words, sentences and even scenes that do not move the story forward or clutter what you’re trying to say.
• Using the active voice whenever you can.
• Varying the sentence structures, so that not every sentence reads subject-verb-object.
• Getting rid of clichés, unless used for a specific purpose or as a character trait.
• Writing visually and making sure some or all of the senses are used, including sight, sound, touch, hearing and taste.
• Tightening the dialogue, cutting unnecessary conversation fillers like, “How are you doing?” and areas where conversation seems to repeat.
• Checking that the characters are well-developed and seem real, not two-dimensional?
And most importantly, make sure your showing and only telling when necessary.

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