Friday, July 11, 2014

15 Ways to Edit the Feel


The Basket Maker's Wife

You’ve written the whole story and it’s time to edit. Last century, when I started writing, I began writing with a big checklist: Who, What, Why, When. Then there’s the 5 senses, etc. And making punctuation work.
There’s the Plotter and the Plunger style of writing. Sometimes to just get into the story, to get into the pulse/heartbeat of it, I try to write whatever in the set-up, pushing it. I’m fine with Dreck, if it gets the story rolling.
I’m editing now and toning, darkening/lightening, watching those paragraphs for dialogue/narrative positions. If dialogue is placed within the body of a paragraph's narrative, it will be overpowered visually. Thus, either at the beginning or the end of the paragraph.
Right now, in the final stages, I’m feeling my way through what works and doesn’t. 

So here's some hot tips to Massage/Edit the work:
1.     Are subcharacters too strong, trying to overpower the main characters.
2.     When paragraphs change mood, that is the time for a new paragraph.
3.     Today’s e-novels need shorter paragraphs.
4.     Today’s readers may want more quick action up front. (The writer has to be very well known to pull off a slow start and build now.)
5.     If the story lags, is it time to drop a dead body into it, or at least change POV?
6.     Watch the em dashes and ellipses. If interruption is needed em dashes work. If pausing, ellipses. Use them to create more normal dialogue, rather than rattatat back to back sentences.
7.     Someone long ago said to watch how many clauses in one sentence. 2 are usually enough or max.
8.     There’s the old: Is the second chapter a better place to start?
9.     Is too much background packed into the first chapter?
10.  The first paragraph in a chapter has more impact, if it is shorter.
11.  Likewise, the first chapter is the come-on, so a little shorter.
12.  Who’s talking tags aren’t always needed, but if Dialogue is back and forth, some tags are needed to keep the reader within the story. Some physical action, rather than blah-blah-blah. !!These are live people, who move, whose expressions shift.
13.  Breaking a tense scene. Be careful not to distract from the weight by noticing outside elements, i.e. a bird in the window. However. If that bird intensifies the scene, then it is valid.
14.  Ye Olde: All questions should be answered—or not, depending.
15.  Flashbacks: Keep to a minimum. Make certain you introduce the Flashback and then Exit it to the current Now.

Every writer has their personal difficulties, and that’s why we have editors. Good editors. IMHO some editors work better with nonfiction, while others are better at fiction. Some have a talent for exposing humor, emotions, character. Repeat: Talent.

If an editor is not “talented”, he may edit only by the book/rules. This might not serve the work well. Keep in mind that the writer owns the work and style is the writer’s domain, this over a suggestion that does not work. But take all suggestions and mull them. What works, works, right?

If the wrong editor works on a fiction piece, or too many “cooks” are critiquing, it can suck the life right out of the work.

Would love to have your comments on Editing the Feel.


Tamara Hunter said...

This post is exactly what I needed! I am in the edit phase and my constant use of "feel" are about to send me to the insane asylum.

Thank you, Cait!

Cait London said...

How nice, Tamara. I get the Feeling:) sometimes that my blog isn't read and really try to offer good stuff. I do believe in shaping the mss by feeling.

BTW, if you overuse a word there are software checkers to help pinpoint them. In draft, I once used breathlessly repeatedly.
I'm doing a second dose whenever on this same line. Check out my Writers tags for more.