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The Red Pen ~ Friend or Foe?

Updated: Apr 16, 2018

(Originally published August 2010)

I had some new post ideas lately, but none of them seemed “post worthy” and I’m finally realizing it may be because I’ve stopped generating large amounts of new content for the book and started editing instead. Only now, that I have been in the editing process for a few weeks, do I finally have something to say about it – “Me no likey!”

Don’t get me wrong, there are fun parts. You go back and re-read sections that really work or you massage the dialogue just right and get something so much better than your initial words, but I’ve been considering some minor plot changes that might cause some major re-writes, so it’s been tricky.

One minor change means that I have to sit and think what that will change with dialogue or action later in the story. Will it mean a major cut? Maybe just a shift of some dialogue? Or add in an entire new chapter? And that is only for plot changes.

I went back to my old college days and dug up some of the dusty rules of style that are so key in writing lean and mean.

1. Don’t mix tense! Big fat duh, but sometimes while you’re churning out ideas, you don’t think about past or present, you just write. And if you’re an amateur, you might mix your tenses. Big no-no.

2. Every scene must increase momentum of your story. Scenes should be crucial to the advancement of plot, character or both.

3. Characters should always be moving forward; doing new things, challenges, learning – keep them engaged so your readers will be too.

4. Give each of your characters their own voice. Sometimes this happens during the first draft, sometimes you must bring this alive when editing, but you must be able to tell characters apart.

5. Create dynamic characters that your reader actually cares about so they continue reading.

These are only a few of the key things every good story needs. I feel like a dolt for not reviewing them before I started writing, if not before every time I sat down at the computer. That’s the daunting thing about writing your first book though. If you get lost in the rules, the should and should not, you might never sit down and type out that oh so crucial first page that gets you rolling.

“What I have crossed out I didn’t like. What I haven’t crossed out I’m dissatisfied with.” Cecil B. DeMille

For being so close to finishing, I feel very far. I have to admit, it’s not as fun as churning out content, thinking, “If it’s crap, I’ll fix it during editing.” Fixing the crap can be challenging, however it will make me more accomplished, because honestly, what’s the big deal about spitting out a big ‘crappy’ book that would never have a chance at getting published and more so, that no one would ever want to read. Anyone can do this. I want to produce work that people actually enjoy.

So, I will forge forward, continue editing and I will learn. Next time, I may be a touch more careful when writing or maybe I’ll naturally improve with practice, meaning less editing, but at least now, I will accept the editing process for what it is.


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