Monday, December 13, 2010

Post NaNo Edits and a Story Contest

After you have a first draft, you'll have to rewrite and edit to get to your second draft. And your third, and your fourth. Do you have an organized way of doing edits?

I incorporate all the comments from my critiquers that I think appropriate (that means the ones I agree with), then set about going through my stuff. Here are some of the tools I use.

Scene by scene, I make sure each scene has some sort of purpose. Either the standard goal and obstacle with either resolution or further complications resulting, or explanation of a character or his/her actions, raising the stakes, changing the tempo, or something. A good reason for being in the story, in other words. Chris Roerden has a good list of what scenes should do in her book, DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.

At the beginning of each scene, I ground the reader. That is, let her know where we are, when it is, and who's there. This is especially important at the beginning of each chapter, in case the reader put the book down and went to sleep! Which, of course, we don't want him to be able to do.

I set hooks where I think they need to be, based on Chris's book and a course I took from Mary Buckham on pacing.

Mary offers interactive classes as well as lecture packets.

I also like to try to put each of the five senses in each scene. Taste is always the hardest for me, but it's surprising how often I can work it in if I try.

Eventually I go over my manuscript with colored markers and a summary from Margie Lawson's class called "Empowering Characters' Emotions". This shows me the balance I've achieved between dialogue, exposition, and description, among other things.

Also based on that course, I see what little tricks I can incorporate to wring the most out of my words. Backloading is one of these that is also recommended by many teachers. That is, rearranging a sentence so you're putting the most powerful word in the sentence last. There are several others that I learned from her that I like to make sure I'm using.

When the scene is shaping up well, I put it through some paces. I use to see which words I've overused. My critique partners usually catch these, but not always. I seem to LOVE the word *little*.

The last thing I do is take each chapter through the free downloaded program, ReadPlease. After I paste in the chapter, I start ReadPlease, quickly switch over to the open Word document, and follow along. I'm watching for awkward rhythms, repeated words I haven't caught yet, typos of course, and anything else that just doesn't sound right. When I detect something I want to change, I pause the reading program, make the change in my document, then start it up again. This gives me a very clean final copy for submission. I'm sure some typos still get through, but I catch tons of them this way--words and phrases that my eyes and the eyes of my readers have skipped over, making them right in our brains, but leaving them wrong on the page.

I can't recommend classes by Margie Lawson and Mary Buckham too much. Nor Chris Roerden's books. The one she wrote for non-mystery writers is called DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION.

LASTLY, here's a fun short story contest using fairy tales for a basis.

Good luck if you submit here!


  1. Kaye-I just heard about another way to get those rough NaNo drafts in shape. Go to: for their EditPalooza. It could be fun!

  2. A post on editing gets praise from an editor? I'm pumped! Thanks so very much, Ramona!

  3. Wow! Thanks for this.

  4. Hope you can use something here, Kath. Thanks!