We are coming to the end of the questions on self-editing which you all asked, and which Renni Browne has so graciously answered. Renni is of course the co-author of the famous book “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” and is an extremely well-known freelance editor.
Here is the last question I have on my list:
Pam Halter wrote:
I’ve read a lot about cutting when editing. How do you know when you should add?
Renni answered: Lord, I think this is a gut feeling. Listen to your instincts when you read over a scene or chapter, an exchange of dialogue, whatever. Does it feel to you that something’s missing/lacking? But let’s go a little deeper. That may be exactly the way you want the reader to feel after reading the scene, which gets us to the question many writers fail to ask themselves: How do I want this scene to affect the reader? Many writers put all this great energy into working on a scene and no energy whatsoever into how the scene is going to work on the reader. If you want the reader to be, say, convinced that a wife is a lot smarter than her husband, reading over the scene in which we meet the couple with that in mind will let you know if you need to add anything to help the reader make such a deduction.
Randy sez: When I’m editing, I add text under the following conditions:
1) The scene does not have a Goal, a Conflict, and a Disaster (if it’s a Scene) or it does not have a Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision (if it’s a Sequel). (To see a discussion of Scenes and Sequels, see my article on Writing the Perfect Scene.)
2) Parts of the scene are unclear and can be clarified by adding text.
3) The pacing is too fast to support the action and needs more text to slow it down.
4) I can’t tell who’s talking.
5) The scene is not delivering a Powerful Emotional Experience because I am giving short shrift to the emotive aspects.
6) The scene lacks visual elements (or other sensory elements).
OK, any other questions on self-editing? We’ve been on this for a couple of weeks, so it’s about time to move on, but I’ll entertain questions from the floor for one more day.
Mary E. DeMuth says
I’m doing this right now, adding flesh to some of my scenes. The hardest thing for me right now is to make each chapter count. Does that make sense? I have a few chapters that just don’t push the story forward, but they provide necessary information for the plot to work. I am wrestling through them, trying to add page-turning conflict. It’s not easy, this fiction thing.
I am doing something similar: I had a minor case of writer’s block: basically I thought I was going through it all too fast and so I stopped for about a week. I started rereading my work and found that I could easily edit it and get back into the mood for it. You have already said that you shouldn’t edit much while you are actually writing it, but what about cutting and adding? I guess that when I start doing that, I can’t help but polish things a little, since I’m doing a sort of editing anyway.
Pam Halter says
So, adding to a scene can slow it down. And short scenes can make the reader feel an urgency. I see that.
I think when we come to the end of a manuscript, the tendency is to rush through it because we just want to be done. HA! That happened to me in my second middle grade story. It was longer than my previous attempt, and I was so excited, I ended it. My writing partner said I had to add something because she could tell I was in a hurry to finish.
Thanks, Renni and Randy. Good stuff.
Christophe Desmecht says
I’m currently giving NaNoWriMo a try. This is really going against my usual way of writing, where I don’t start on the next chapter until the last one is as good as I can get it.
I can see now that waiting to self-edit until later is a good thing for a couple of reasons, but I keep having this nagging gut feeling that if I don’t fix things right now, then I’ll end up not doing a good job later. I do leave little annotations as a reminder, but I still can’t shake that feeling. Am I being overly paranoid and/or is there a better way to handle this?
I second Christophe’s comment.
bonne friesen says
Good for you doing Nanwrimo, Christophe! I’m on targe for my word count and learning a lot while doing it.
Randy and Renni: Maybe this is too broad a question, but how many POV’s can you get away with in a YA novel?
My main character is separated from her best friend and we need to see what’s going on with her before they are reunited.
Also, does the WHOLE scene or sequel need to be one POV?
I’m reading Dwight Swain and everything and I still am having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. In an important scene, there are many obstacles between the character and the goal. For a complex obstacle, it seems like sometimes I need someone else’s POV on it…help!
Thanks for your generous assistance
ML Eqatin says
I’ve decided to add another POV for just one chapter. I came to that conclusion when I started looking at the whole from my reader’s perspective. I’m using three POVs, pretty much evenly balanced, each of which moves the story along in turn from a unique perspective that the others could not. But for this one chapter, a very revealing moment which set up the final plot crisis, the P.E.E. was much more powerful if I let the reader see inside this character’s head. And it took a lot less words than trying to show what went on through one of my 3 main characters.
YA is tough. Much harder than adult writing, at least for me. I picture my 14-year-old reader with my book in one hand, and a wii lying on the desk next to him, and I have to keep asking myself: will this scene keep him turning the page instead of picking up the electronic toy?