Tuesday 14 April 2015

All in a day’s editing

Working on the big edit

This in many ways is the trickiest. This is where the big changes happen. Does the story work? Is the structure sound? Is it all logical? Is the resolution satisfying? Does time work? Are the characters rounded and believable? Do they develop?
Generally speaking, if we’ve accepted something for publication, almost all of this is already in place. Unfortunately, alas, never completely. There’s always something to be done.

A character dilemma

I’m noticing now something I didn’t spot on my first read through of the novel I’m working on. The protagonist who started off being quite feisty seems to be getting weaker. Yet she triumphs in the end. This doesn’t quite compute.

The novel is good and once this is fixed, plus a few copy edit details, it will be brilliant. We’re looking forward to getting it out, actually.
There are several choices here:
·         Make the protagonist less confident at the beginning.
·         Make her grow more markedly.
·         Make the stakes higher.
I suspect the latter is the actual fix. In some ways it’s all there already but it just isn’t emphasized enough.

Conflicting advice – or not?  

There is potential in this from what I’ve said in the previous paragraph. In fact, three different editors or three different members of a critique group can offer one of those fixes as being important and that could leave the writer thoroughly confused.

Actually, though, all three are saying the same thing: the protagonist’s journey isn’t quite working. In the end, it’s probably the writer who will come up with the best fix. This is one reason I offer my comments in question form. I don’t dare to suggest I know all of the answers.

Other examples

A writing friend was told by her agent to get rid of a minor character and by her editor to make this character more visible. Both were actually saying the same thing: this character isn’t showing up enough.

Another writing friend was told she needed to start her story further in. When she did that and then showed it to an editor, the editor said she needed to know more of the back story. The problem here was in fact that the back story wasn’t being handled properly. In the first attempt there was too much of it upfront. In the second it had been abandoned altogether. Up to the writer how to fix it ultimately. She’ll do it.

All of these are issues we meet as we edit. It’s always about making good writing even stronger.       

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