Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Fiction Editing Process

Giving credit where credit is due, I learned a great deal by studying Sol Stein’s editing triage formula from his great book, Stein on Writing.

After the first draft, I put the book down for two weeks. Then, I quickly read it through, taking notes on the big picture: story development and book architecture; character personalization ideas; ideas on adding, subtracting, or modifying chapters/scenes; improvement in the placement, degree, and growth of tension, suspense and terror.

FIRST EDIT: I examine the scenes in the book and decide which I like the best; I give them a rating. Then, I figure out why the lowest ones are low and either cut them or rewrite them.
Then as I edit, I pay attention to the following:

CHARACTERS: I examine and improve personalizing of all characters: The antagonist must be truly demented, evil, and at the same time charming. The protagonist(s) must be flawed, conflicted and growing—changing. The minor characters should be memorable—personalized.

CONFLICT: I ensure the elements of plot are credible in pitting the antagonist and protagonist overcoming impossible obstacles.

CREDIBILITY: I validate the credibility of the major actions by characters. Motivation and capabilities have to be either planted ahead of time or provoked by circumstance.

After putting the book down again for two weeks, I begin the SECOND EDIT. Here I use a Sol Stein suggestion: I pretend that an author I regard wrote the book; it helps to keep me unbiased.

At the beginning of every chapter or scene, I mentally review the elements I will be looking for to help me accomplish my constant objective of evoking emotion from the reader while I polish and enrich the prose and dialog:

--Be careful to show not tell.
--The beginning of every scene should pull the reader in. He or she must be compelled to go on.
--The end of every scene should leave the reader hanging in some way, wanting more.
--The main characters should grow/change during the book.
--Beware of unwanted changes in point of view within individual chapters or scenes.
--Eliminate unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.
--Convert passive verbs to active.
-- Shorten descriptions; be clear and concise.
--Cut out clichés.
--Beware of repeating words; use effective synonyms.
--Use similes and metaphors.
--Eliminate as many off-stage actions as possible.
--Cut words, phrases, paragraphs, even scenes that are not absolutely necessary.
--Maintain stress, tension and pace.
--Remove any gush, sentimentality or overblown prose.

Now I’m ready to submit the manuscript to my chosen developmental editor; then it comes back to me for consideration of changes. Then it goes to my chosen copy editor for diction/enrichment, grammar and punctuation; then back to me for consideration of changes. Then, I send it to two outside reader/proofers; then back to me for repairs and the final read through. These editing functions should be paid services; the cost can be held to as little as $1500 if you invest the time to choose wisely. Without these professional outside services, your chances of garnering the interest of an agent or publisher in your book are remote.

For those interested in fiction thrillers, the status of coming adventure-thrillers and other books under construction can be found on my website: www.marshallchamberlain.com.

Smile. Regards,

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