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Posts Tagged using words well
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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- Southerners going north, the most romantic ruin and the town you can’t leave – interview at Chris Hill’s blog November 21, 2017
- ‘Music is the conduit through which we can discover ourselves’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Marcia Butler November 13, 2017
- Worldbuilding for SF and other fiction, reimagined for roleplayers. And pony books. Podcast at Fictoplasm November 11, 2017
- Indie publishing the 2017 way – video chat with sci-fi author Nick Cook November 7, 2017
- The pleasure of slow journeys and why we love to read – guest post at Isabel Costello’s Literary Sofa November 2, 2017
- ‘Tibetan oms and child prodigies’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Leslie Welch October 29, 2017
- ‘Writers are introverts who want to tell you a story but not make eye contact’: discuss. Interview at Jane Davis October 26, 2017