Editing Lesson No.1

Every single character must have a profile.

First I’ll give you a little bit of background to ‘Unit 16’. A couple of years ago, not long after I first started writing, I wrote a short scene.  Perhaps I should explain, I get ideas/scenes and need to get them down. Most of the time I don’t do anything with them but occasionally I do.

I liked what I had come up with and had always planned to take it further.  Two years later, I did.  This scene became the prologue for ‘Unit 16’.

When I wrote the piece it was exactly as I imagined in my head.  Which is fine, until you make a story from it.  Because the characters were not fleshed out I spent some time addressing that.  Except for one of them.

This particular character dies on page one of the prologue.  I thought to myself, why does he need a profile?  He doesn’t live beyond the first couple of paragraphs, it’ll be a waste of time. That would have been fine if he didn’t have any influence on the rest of the story.  He does.

That led to the minor (ish) crisis that was the subject of last week’s blog.  Fumdamental questions were not asked; Who is this guy?  What does he do?  Why is he about to be killed?

Answering those questions is what I’ve been trying to achieve last week.  Unravelling this character has helped pin down the time period of the prologue.  Having thought long and hard about it it looks like I can potentially keep the year as it is but possibly change locations.  It feels such a relief that I can essentially keep things as they are!

Plot Holes

How I wish I had the literary equivalent of a plaster which I could apply to any plot hole to cover them up.  Alas there is no such thing which leaves me the difficult task of correcting the error.

Plot holes are fine and dandy when they are small but when they look like they could scupper the entire story, then you have a problem.  That’s what I’m facing now and I’m not finished editing the Prologue yet!

For some reason I decided to peg my story in the real world.  Okay, so its a fictional story but what surrounds it is real.  The problem comes when reality doesn’t quite match up with what you have in your head.

The best way to get around it is to do more research until you find firmer ground.  In the last couple of days I have been lucky enough to find some, however, it is nebulous at the moment.  For one thing it brings the prologue forward by five years.  The second issue revolves around the location.  The world can change a lot in five years.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, after all the next firm ground occurs a further seventeen years into the future.  Picking that would incur a whole host of problems (aka re-writes).  I have already come to the conclusion that the more I edit, the more I have to learn.



Photo from shutterstock.com

It’s perfect as it is

Yeah, right, of course it is.

The first time you do something, no matter what it is, will end up being perfect, right?  As anybody with any life experience will tell you (in a polite way), is no.  This is the basis for editing.

When you have created your masterpiece, you might want to go back and take another look.  Don’t do it straight away though.  Give yourself some time away from it, so you can see it with fresh eyes. Then you can spot the mistakes you’ve made; words missed, poor punctuation, grammatical errors and other such mistakes.

Next, and this is where you go into more depth, look at the language you used.  Is this what you wanted your characters to sound like?  Are the sentences too long?  Tip; try reading dialogue out loud.  If you’ve run out of breath or get stuck on a section, it’s probably too long.

The next issue is a little more subtle; does the balance feel right between descriptive language and dialogue? This is tricky as it depends on the individual writer.  We all have our own writing styles.  Some are descriptive heavy, like Tolkien for example.  Others prefer to paint a basic picture of the world at that point in the plot and are happy to leave it at that.

Finally, look at what you have written and ask yourself; is this the best I can do?  In the heat of the moment, we need to get the writing down on the page.  Yet when we look back, it seems to be lacking in sophistication.

Editing is like digging a mineral from the earth, washing it and then cutting it to make it into a jewel.  The raw beauty looks great, but there is nothing so inherently beautiful as a cut diamond.