Our editing techniques evolve parallel to our development as a writer. What looked good to us a year ago might get the ax today. My upcoming course, Shaping and Sculpting: the Art of the Edit, will take you to the next level (perhaps even several levels) in your own unique approach to molding your Best Book Possible.
Editorial styles are as individual as writing styles. Some writers blast through their first draft and then flesh out the story during the editing process. Others perform some variation of edit-as-they-go. (That would be me.)
Still others like to meander through their story, exploring every nuance of plot and characterization, and then start at the beginning and work through, nipping and tucking, until the extra material is removed to form a lean, compelling read. Despite our differing approaches, our goal remains singular and identical—to craft the Best Book Possible at our skill level. Crafting that “best book possible” requires attention to certain areas of plotting, characterization, pacing, and the technical details of PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling).
We’re going to have fun “getting violent” with our readers. They’ll love us for it! “But,” you say, “I’m writing a cozy mystery,” or, “My book is a relationship saga,” or “I’m penning the next great literary classic. The most violent event that takes place is a paper cut.” Then it’s time to learn a simple truth of our craft—outward violence in any genre is boring blood and gore if we omit the psychological and emotional impact that stirs our reader’s depths. A single sentence or paragraph of introspection can perform more emotional violence on our reader than pages of car chase or gun fight. Unless we engage our reader at their core, they are likely to close our book and lay it aside.
Next we’re going to Jerk the Slack Out of the Sag. We can’t afford soggy spots that bog the story down. We must provide our readers with the taut, emotionally resonant experience they crave and deserve when they pick up our books.
Did you know that setting details should never be written as description? The places in our story are far more than stages on which to enact events or backdrops for our characters. Our setting is a character in its own right. Unless setting is presented as active and emotionally evocative, we might as well yank it out and conduct all the action in the nebulous ether for all the benefit dry description will do our story.
Plagued by flat dialogue? A few simple techniques can transform chatter into three-dimensional communication that lends depth and fascination to our story. Do you begin and end your book—as well as each scene and chapter—at the right place? Can your characters become more real and compelling than they are right now? Do you think you’re hopeless at the technical details of PUGS?
We’ll dispel myths and insecurities during this course and place at your fingertips practical techniques to help hone your manuscript to cutting edge. Struggling with an overweight manuscript? Publishers are serious about their word count limits. At the end of the course, I’ll share a simple process to shave thousands of words without sacrificing content. You’ll end up with a stronger manuscript—guaranteed!
Jill Elizabeth Nelson is an award-winning author of mystery and suspense. She writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she delights in bringing the Ahah! moment to her students, so they can make a new skill their own. Jill and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their first grandchild, with another on the way! Visit her website at: www.jillelizabethnelson.com.
Article Edited by Rachel Firasek