How many of you have edited a novel? What’s your process? Do you have any favorite books on the editing process?
I put the last word of my novel, The Tome of Worlds, to paper on July 10. Since then I have written and edited one short story on the end of Edgar Allan Poe and am at the end of another short story about an empty door frame standing in the middle of a corridor. That last short story has taken an odd turn and I want to see it to the end before I start editing my novel.
Since early July I have set aside reading fiction and have turned my eye to reading books about and taking notes on the editing process. I read The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass from cover to cover. I started to read Writing on Your Own Terms by Rebecca Dickinson, but put it aside after thirty pages because I felt that the book wasn’t going anywhere. Right now I am reading Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon.
Over the course of my next several posts I am going to discuss my editing process. The posts will serve several purposes. One, I hope to glean information from those of you who have edited novels. That editing advice can then be passed on to people who read this blog. Two, I can summarize my thoughts on the editing process. And three, I can hash out how I will edit my novel, because I am not quite ready to begin.
I have edited several short stories in my day, but this is the first time that I will edit a full length novel. I am looking forward to the challenge.
Donald Maass does not give you a method to edit your novel. Rather, he hits upon what you should look for in a strong novel. Both editors, Donald Maass and Elizabeth Lyon, talk of writing with passion and emotion. In the second draft of my Poe short story I applied this thought process to the short story. I got into the head of my protagonist, Mr. Snod, and made his character come to life more fully. My readers say that the story is much improved.
But back to Donald Maass. In this post I will focus on characters, but specifically the protagonist. Donald Maass asks the following questions:
- How do you find the strong or human qualities in your protagonist?
- What will be most effective to portray?
He contends that the answers, as always, lie with the author.
- What is forgivably human to you?
- What stirs your respect?
That is where to start, he says. He also says that readers want to be in the characters’ heads. Readers want that intimacy. What do you think? Do you, as a reader, like to know what the characters are thinking? Do you want that intimacy?
A theme throughout Donald Maass’s book is that characteristics such as greatness, villainy, and humor are not shown through narration, but rather they are measured through their impact on the world and on characters around them. To that end, if your character, or one of the supporting characters thinks that someone is a savior or ‘the one’, and you can convince your readers to believe that character, then your readers will believe.
Do you think about how your characters impact the world around them as you write? Do you think about how other characters view your protagonist?
Summary for Editing Post I
- Always, always, always write with passion.
- Live through your characters. Feel what they feel. Use your own experiences to convey those emotions.
- Show villainy, loathing, and greatness through impact on the world and characters
Editing Post II
The second post will continue the discussion of characters. I’ll discuss why the protagonist must face tough challenges, why he or she needs secondary characters, and why a story needs a strong, empowered villain or antagonist.