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Posts Tagged words
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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- Searching for places, emotions and characters – The Undercover Soundtrack, Gwendolyn Womack June 14, 2017
- Everyday chaos. Just another day in the genesis of a book June 11, 2017
- ‘A language to explain feeling and atmosphere’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Libby O’Loghlin June 4, 2017
- Kind ways to deal with damaged POD books – guest post at Alliance of Independent Authors May 22, 2017
- Making a living as a writer: how social media can be a long-term investment for your career May 14, 2017
- ‘A dead soul, a journalist in a dystopian Scotland, and painful family memories’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Philip Miller May 13, 2017
- A plea for reviewers – can we open up a dialogue about self-published books? April 23, 2017