Last week, I talked about writing filers and how helpful they can be to lessen the blow of all that work needing to be done on the freshly finished first draft. After using the Big Picture Filters, now it’s time to polish it up with the Finer Details. There are also ten major topic areas to look at while sprucing up story to completion, they include: spelling/grammar/punctuation, emotion, style, fact checking, word choices, sentence construction, rhythm, time, clarity, and tone.
Note: These details should be left to later drafts. Messing around with these topics before getting the basic structure of the story done is a quick way to the biggest headache of your life, and it will make a lot of extra unnecessary work.
Spelling, Grammar & Punctuation
- Each must be checked; never assume they’re correct.
- Maintain consistency in all three
- Consider paying a professional editor, especially if self publishing
- Be sure you’ve shown character emotions throughout scenes and chapters
- Make sure you tapped into reader emotion, use beta readers to help determine this
- Go after more than one emotional event; induce more than one emotion per story
- Enhance the writer’s style as long as it serves the story
- Make sure the style is cohesive
- Check dates, technology and inventions, historical events. Anything that can be verified needs to be verified.
- Delete unintended repetition
- Make sure words are character, era, scene, and genre appropriate
- Cut out unnecessary words
- Understand how humor affects character, scene, tone, and plot, and use humor when appropriate
- Use specific verbs
- Remove weak phrasing
- Take out cliches and the writer’s pet words (words a writer tends to use over and over)
- Make every sentence and each word count (make your words do double and triple duty)
Questions to ask…
- Was the story easy to read or too difficult to follow?
- Were the paragraphs too short or too choppy?
- Did the author use too many long sentences, making it difficult to follow?
- Were transitions used skillfully to move from one point to another or did you have to play catch up to find out where it was going?
Things that can be done to enhance Sentence Construction…
- Use variety in construction and in sentence length. Don’t use the same sentence length and structure throughout the entire piece. This variation helps to move the story along and makes for more interesting reading.
- Ensure variety in rhythm without producing annoying patterns
- Consider giving characters unique sentence constructions, or specific words they only use
- Be sure that the passage of time is both clear and possible.
- Make sure readers understand the timing of events and scenes
- Make sure that each section, bit of dialogue, scene, and chapter is clear
- Ensure the tone achieved is what the writer intended and appropriate for the story
Some other Questions and Reminders that are Important
- Has the writer made the reader care about the character and his dilemma?
- Is the story entertaining?
- Is there enough story to the story?
- Is the story different enough to catch a reader’s attention?
- Does the story move fast enough?
- Does the story catch either the reader’s mind or heart, perhaps both?
- Put the elements to work—make each do double or triple duty. Make dialogue advance plot and reveal character and up the conflict level.
- Remember the reader—don’t edit in a vacuum (find others to give feedback for story during different stages of the editing process).
So that’s all I have! I know it’s enough. Certainly enough to wade through several drafts of that story or novel. It’s hard enough making all the corrections necessary, remembering everything to keep an eye on can be a challenge. Now you have a whole list (two of them in fact) to help light the way. You’re welcome. 😉