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.