If you're like most writers I know, including myself, the editing and revison process can be a nightmare. I think we all hate it, yet we know that it has to be done. We can't submit a manuscript without doing a mountainous amount of editing and revising. If we did, that would be like going bowling butt naked! Even if your team consisted of only women, it's still not the best way to present your...er...striking position, is it?
I'm now editing and revising AJ's story for the last time. I mean it. The absolutely, positively, definitely LAST time...at least, until an agent or editor asks for something else.
Right now, AJ is not cooperating at all. She's the little gal who woke me up in the middle of the night, demanding to have her story told. Which I have done...over...and over...and over...and over. Each time she has more or less agreed with me, but now she is a sulky little witch, pouting and telling me I am NOT getting it right. She has become demanding and obnoxious. I am sure if she could come out of the computer, she'd be standing over me with eyes glaring and fists on her hips. Neverthe less...
We all do revisions differently. Some people are very organized, have a system that they follow, and others, like me, start with the first sentence and go on from there. But there are a few things I believe we all need to be aware of as we go along. These are:
First Five Pages: How do we get started? Do we begin with dialogue, backstory ( always a bugaboo), narration? However we begin, will those first few paragraphs grab the reader's attention, and keep them reading through the next four pages? Do we start with some kind of action, or does it take more than five pages to really get into the meat of the story? ( If the answer is yes, that's bad news.)
The Main Character: Will the reader know what the MC is all about within those first five pages? Will the MC display enough of his/her characteristics to cause the reader to bond with her? Is she someone who changes and grows in some way be the end of the story? What about her will make the reader want her to succeed: is she a heroine in some way; someone who is the underdog but overcomes it; someone who is funny and sarcastic; someone who knows what she wants and how to get it, and lets nothing stand in her way? In other words, do YOU know this character well enough for her to know herself, AND the reader to fall in love with her? or even, Love to Hate her?
Conflict: Is there more than one conflict? Is the MC engaging in this conflict emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually, or any combination of those? Is the conflict believable for the MC's age? Is there more than one conflict, and if so, are you weaving them together concisely and believably, or do you have a loose end somewhere? Is the conflict one that your reader can relate to, in terms of both age and experience?
Voice and POV: Both are difficult, but I think voice is probably the hardest for all of us. First, we have our own voices, the way we write, the style we use. Then we have to consider the voice of each of our characters. We can't have a 13 year old girl sounding like a 6 year old child, or a 30 year old woman. Not only do we have to have a realistic voice for our MC, but the voices for each of the characters must be different, too. If the MC is a 13 year old girl, she shouldn't sound like her 16 year old brother. If we have 10 year old twins, they can't sound like their sister, brother, or mother. ( In case you're wondering, AJ is the 13 year old, with a 16 year old brother and 10 year old twin sisters.)
So finding the right voice, in terms of vocabulary, how she or he speak, the phrases and words they use...all the elements that go into having a distinct voice for each character...are all very important. They are definitely things to edit closely.
POV is another sticky wicket. I love to write in 1st person past tense, but this is not the easiest thing to do, and I sometimes slip up. For one thing, it's hard to carry 1st person through a whole novel, because nothing can happen in the novel that your MC is not privy to. She has to be with the other characters in every scene, or she has to be in some place where she can see and hear but not be seen or heard. None of the other characters can think about something, because she would not be able to know their thoughts. They can't have "looks" come over their faces, or "feel" something, because the MC can't do that for them.
Most writers use 3rd person past tense, and write from the MC's POV. But even that can cause problems, if you're not careful.
We'll talk more about some of the other pitfalls of editing next time. In the meantime, when you begin your edit, pay close attention to the things we've talked about here.
Until next time, that's a wrap.