By Margaret Lucke
is no such thing as good writing -- there is only good rewriting."
You've come up with a great plot. You've created characters that your readers will love and root for (or root against, in the case of a villain). Now that you've finished that first draft, or the second one, what else can you do to make your book a standout?
Part of my "day job" involves critiquing and editing manuscripts for other writers. Based on what I've learned from reading and analyzing many manuscripts, and from reader what writers wiser than I am say about our craft, I see the revision process as having two main goals. Here they are, along with some tips to help you achieve them both when you're going over your work with a red pencil in hand:
Nonfiction provides information. Fiction is about plunging your readers into your story world and giving them a rewarding experience there. If you engage their emotions and make them feel like participants in what's going on, they'll come away satisfied.
1. Show, don't tell. Yes, this has become something of a cliché, but there's a reason--because telling the story mainly through action and dialogue makes it more lively and engaging for the reader.
2. Tell the story in scenes. Make each scene a mini-story, in which a specific action occurring at a specific moment and in a specific place.
3. Keep the point of view consistent. Put your readers in one character's mind and keep them there for the entire scene--or the entire book.
4. Stay in the present moment. Keep time in your story moving forward. Let your readers feel like the story is happening right now in front of their eyes.
5. Use vivid details. Details are the bricks you use to build a bridge between your imagination and the reader's. Make them specific, sensory, and in keeping with what your POV character would notice.
6. Make your dialogue sound like real people talking. Give your characters individual, colloquial voices and keep their conversations interactive.
This doesn't mean you can't write a long story or use lush, detailed prose to tell it. Just be sure that every word makes a real contribution to the effect you're trying to create.
7. Make every word earn its keep. Ask yourself: How can I say this more sharply, effectively, succinctly?
8. Watch for the 3 R's. Try to avoid too many repetitions, rhetorical questions, and ruminations (those long passages where a character does nothing but think).
9. Don't overexplain. Draw readers into your story world, show them what is happening there, and let them reach their own understanding.
10. Remember that shorter = faster. To pick up the pace, use shorter words, shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and shorter scenes.
11. Don't hide your strong points. If a dramatic moment occurs, don't bury in the middle of a paragraph. And construct sentences and paragraphs so that the strongest word or idea comes at the end.
12. Choose words for their effect as well as their meaning. Consider their energy level, emotional impact, sound and rhythm, and the mental picture they create.What are your favorite self-editing tips?