Editing Hints & Tips
“Books are not written–they’re rewritten.”
Almost every writer in existence will have heard advice similar to the Michael Crichton quote. While searching for the above quote I came across similar versions from Roald Dahl, Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Nabokov.
Anyway the reason for the above quote is that today we are talking about re-writing or editing as it is also known. Below the break we’ll have lots of hints and tips for you to think about when you are editing your stories.
Common Mistakes Made By New Writers
Let’s start with the common mistakes most new writers make. This list comes from Writer’s Relief. In their article Do You Make These 5 Surprising Short Story Mistakes they also kindly give suggested fixes. We are only going to note down the ‘headlines below. You’ll need to go to Writer’s Relief to read the detail behind each point.
1) Giving the story to a non-essential character.
The Fix: Play with your Point of View
2) Packing in too much plot.
The Fix: Explore your motivations and intentions
3) Leaning too heavily on one narrative idea.
The Fix: Play with some opposing elements that work against your character’s central desire.
4) Lame titles
The Fix: Ask your friends to read your story (or check out our post Coming Up With A Title)
5) Going on too long
The Fix: Aim to keep your word count under 3,500 words (but we’ll also cover some of this below as well)
Five more Quick Writing Fixes
Over at the Scottish Book Trust, Sarah Stewart has her own five tips on how to improve a person’s writing in her articles Five Things: Quick Fixes For Your Writing. Again, below will only be the highlights. You know where to go to find all the detail behind Sarah’s points.
- Get rid of Adverbs
- Cut down on similes
- Carry dialogue with care
- Delete all clichés
- Use the five senses
A Realism Audit
Our final suggestion is from Joe Bunting who recommends that once you have finished the first draft of your story you should carry out a realism audit. Taken from his article How to Write A Great Short Story on Let’s Write A Short Story, a realism audit has three steps:
- Read through your dialogue aloud. After each line, ask yourself, “Would this character really say that? Is that true to who he or she is?”
- Look at each action made by a character, and ask, “Would this character really do that? Is that true to who he or she is?
- Look at the more spectacular events in your story. Are you taking things too far in order to create false drama? Remember what John Steinback said, “I never exaggerate. I just remember big.”