Friday, February 3, 2012

Editing the Indie Novel, Part Two

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Today I'm going to touch on content edits. A book that ignores this step is probably doomed to failure.

First you should tackle editing content. This is where my friend Angela Carlie comes into play (as I referenced in my last blog post). Yes, she tells me if my commas are in the wrong place or if I misuse a semicolon, but the bulk of what she does is examine my style choices and plot.

Let's talk style first. Characters have their tics, just like we do. They tend to talk in ways that are indicative of their personalities, or react physically in certain ways. Bella, in Twilight (y'all have heard of that book, right?), was really, really clumsy. It was a character tic.

Where could that tic have gone wrong? If Edward was always walking into walls or Jacob stubbed his toe every time he turned into a wolf. Then it becomes an author obsession with clumsiness and not a character trait that makes Bella special. Just imagine how silly it would have been for both Bella & Edward to be in a cast at prom!

I know, I know, you think that's so obvious and no writer would ever do that. THEY DO. It happens. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's subtle. That's why you need fresh eyes to read your book.

Okay, let's jump to plot. In Chapter Two the author introduces a character named Jimmy Joe. He interacts with the main character, indicates he has a piece to the mystery she's trying to solve ... then she solves the mystery on her own and Jimmy Joe never makes another appearance.

This requires editing. It's very common for a writer (especially a pantser like me) to introduce characters, get swept up in the story, and then forget they totally exist. This is another huge issue that content editing picks up on. Someone who isn't intimate with the story will notice it right away and let you know before you publish your book. Imagine if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Watson to Holmes, then never mentioned him again. Lame, right?

What else goes into content editing? Sentence structure (make sure it's varied and interesting), chapter-to-chapter flow (end with a cliffhanger, start with a bang), continuity (make sure the facts in a sequel agree with the facts from the previous novel), word repetition, etc. I could go on for ages - but there are books dealing with this topic. Read them.  (Manuscript Makeover by Lyon; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King; The First Five Pages by Lukeman to name a few.)

Bottom line: Don't stress about punctuation until you've done a full and complete content edit of your book. Why? Trust me, when you revise those big issues, you'll flub up your punctuation again. You'll type 'first' instead of 'fist' and your 90-year-old grandpa will find it when he reads it (yes, that happened to me). Deal with the content - then deal with copy edits.

Go forth and revise! (Then do it again and again and again!)

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber


DeenaML said...

The tic thing is so true! I do it accidentally with a character's dialect, making more than one character talk in the same "unique" way. :-P

Emily Marshall said...

Excellent tips Megg!