Giveaway Ends 7/25
Making Your Story Perfect
by Terry Korth Fischer
Writing, revising, and editing are part of the writing process. The trick is to know when to do each and when to hold off before tackling the task. For example, in a first draft, we write what comes to us easily, which is hardly ever the sparkling prose we hope to arrive at before publishing the story. But this is not the time to edit. Even knowing the pages will be revisited, I fight the desire to tweak it, then and there. However, completing the piece is the immediate goal, and I have learned to strive for progress, not perfection. So, at least in the first draft, I get the words down before beginning the editing process—no matter how tempted I am to “pretty” it up. Then comes the actual work.
Taking a written manuscript from a messy first draft to a final crafted manuscript is tedious. If done correctly, it takes numerous passes through the entire manuscript before arriving at a point where the writing is ready for the world. Some authors need as few as three complete edits, while others regularly do dozens of passes through the work before feeling satisfied. But, perhaps like me, you have already made so many attempts at perfection you can’t face reading it—one—more—time! Yet, once done, I always arrive at the end with a flushed feeling of accomplishment and a much better manuscript.
If possible, give yourself a break between completing the first draft of your novel and the first edit. I recommend at least two weeks. Although, longer is better. Then, when you return to your manuscript, you’ll see it with new eyes. You’ll want to revise on two levels—one is a content edit, which is the big picture. Then, after you’ve done a round of content editing, you’ll need to line edit. This run-through is about dropping down to the sentence level and ensuring grammar, spelling, and pacing are right.
Here are some tips for reviewing and editing a manuscript before you move to the next step, be it hiring a professional editor, self-publishing, or submission.
- Check story and character arcs. Keep in mind, the narrative arc is the overall story’s path, with Rags to Riches, Cinderella, and Man in a Hole among them. In contrast, a character arc is a road a specific character travels during that story. The story arc is external and affects all the characters. A character arc is internal, happening to a single person, and always contains a change. Ask yourself, are the arcs complete? Do they work well in your story?
- Stay on point. The one thing you don’t want to do is misdirect or confuse your reader. A reader needs to know where and when the story takes place. Who are the characters and their desires, what is at stake, and who is in the way? Too much fluff: description, rabbit holes, and side plots can gum up the works. The story must always move forward. Remember everything you, the author, knows doesn’t belong in the book—no matter how interesting.
- Be concise, not redundant. Refrain from telling the reader something twice, even if you do it in two different ways. Readers are smart. Trust them; they remember. They also recognize when you reuse a turn of phrase, gesture, or utterance. I recently read a book where characters used the same hand gesture over and over and over again. Not only was it distracting, but it was also eye-rolling sloppy writing.
- Remove favorite words. Mine are “maneuver,” “wince,” and “of.” Yours could be verbs or adverbs, adjectives, or conjunctions. Unconsciously, you allow them to make their way into your writing, and their overuse weakens the manuscript. Weasel them out with prejudice.
- Write active, not passive prose. Sentences in the active voice are more robust, precise, and direct, bringing your reader closer to the story. In the same vein, substitute strong verbs where you find weak. Finally, if you’re writing for today’s reader, it’s important not to burden your reader with convoluted paragraphs. I don’t suggest you “dumb it down,” but such a writing style is old-fashioned. And worse, these passages are often skipped over or cause the reader to stop reading.
- Eliminate qualifiers. These are words like “very,” “quite,” “almost,” “fairly,” “just,” and “many.” Consider the sentence: She was quite pretty. Is she less than gorgeous? Or is she a bit better than average-looking? Say what you mean because qualifiers dilute word meanings.
- Listen to your story. Include an audio review of your manuscript. This medium can uncover missed words, misuse, and odd or awkward phrases. Listening to the book is nothing like reading it. Things your eye misses, items your brain fills in, become much more apparent. Text-to-speech software is available, accessible, and modestly priced. Apple and Microsoft include a feature that will read your manuscript to you. Take advantage. We all need all the help we can get.
- Persevere. Writing a novel is a long-term commitment. And as they say, every published author is a writer who didn’t give up.
It takes a lot of work to make a manuscript great. And, I firmly believe every author benefits from the help of a professional. However, self-editing will save money by allowing a professional editor to concentrate on big problems and not minor ones, like spelling. Unfortunately, many writers can’t afford to hire a content editor, and line editor, and proofreader. I suggest doing as much as possible yourself and then finding the best help you can afford. Will your story be perfect? Perhaps not, but it will be pretty close.
About The Book
Accepting second best is good for her career, but first-grade teacher, Retta Curt, delays signing up for the disappointment. Given two weeks to reconsider her contract, she retreats to Gram’s cottage on Moon Lake, the last place she felt contentment. But the cottage is derelict; Cousin Julie, distant; childhood beaux, Dean, bitter; and Sweet Picks, the family ice cream stand, in danger of folding. Magruder, a surly newcomer, is buying and then neglecting properties until nothing remains of the idyllic lakeside community she remembers. When vandals target Sweet Picks, Retta’s dreams to recapture her happy childhood collapse, and the return to Moon Lake becomes a decision worse than accepting her teaching contract. Star-crossed, can she save the family business and rediscover happiness, or is Retta destined for a second-best future?
About the Author
Terry Korth Fischer writes short stories, memoirs, and mysteries. Her debut mystery, Gone Astray, introduced Detective Rory Naysmith, a seasoned city cop relocated to small-town Winterset, Nebraska. The Rory Naysmith Mysteries continued with Gone Before, January 2022. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two guard cats. When not writing, she loves reading, gardening, and basking in sunshine. Yet, her heart often wanders to the country’s heartland, where she spent a memorable—ordinary but charmed—childhood. Learn more about Terry at her author website: https://terrykorthfischer.com
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/terrykorthfischer
Goodreads Author: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14349440.Terry_Korth_Fischer
BookBub Author: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/terry-korth-fischer
BookGems Author: https://www.bookgems.com/profile/tkfischer/
BLOG Website: https://www.terryiswriting.com
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