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Posts Tagged literary style
This week I’m running a series of the sharpest questions from my Guardian self-editing masterclass. In previous posts I’ve discussed three/four-act structure, endings, characters who are either bland or too disturbing to write and making a character distinct through dialogue. Today I’m tackling a fundamental misconception about self-editing.
Editing is not just tweaking the language
One lady in the masterclass shared a story that illustrates a common misapprehension of novice writers. She said she had come close to a publishing deal, but the imprint folded. Before that, they mentioned the book had some problems and were talking about editing. On her own again, and unable to ask them any more details, she assumed they must be talking about the language, and so she worked to write it in a more suitable way. Still, though, she was unhappy with it and she knew she hadn’t solved the problems.
Editing veterans will be nodding sagely here, knowing that language is only one of our considerations. I’ve leaped into this trap myself. In the early days when I was querying agents, I’d get feedback that mentioned a few rough areas. I made the only possible assumption – that I needed to make the ‘writing’ somehow better. And so I fiddled, line by line, adding and pruning here and there. I probably ended up with an over-bloated muddle and didn’t touch the underlying problems. I had no idea about the mechanisms that work under the words, and that language is really the skin on top of the structure, pacing and character arcs.
Tomorrow: Putting the book away to get distance
How about you? Have you made the same rookie mistake about editing? Or a different one? Let’s discuss!
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- Do this before that: 5 production steps for brilliant books – guest post at Alliance of Independent Authors February 18, 2018
- 3 wondrous paradoxes of a slow writing process February 4, 2018
- The writer’s persona in the narrative, MFA courses and Englishness – interview at Rain Taxi January 27, 2018
- Biggest challenge as an indie author and how to stay creative – interview at ALLi January 22, 2018
- ‘What is hope and how do we make more of it?’ The Undercover Soundtrack, Dwight Okita January 15, 2018
- Reaching readers if you write in multiple genres – could crowdfunding be the answer? An interview January 12, 2018
- The culture of a close marriage and weird little trips – guest spot at Victoria Dougherty’s COLD January 6, 2018