Posted in editing, good writing, great writing, how to write, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing process, writing advice

Writing Filters to Use: The Finer Details Filters

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.

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Posted in better writing, editing, good writing, great writing, how to write, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing process, writing, writing advice

Writing Filters to Use: The Bigger Picture Part 3

The first and second part of Writing Filters to Use talked about filtering through plot, character, conflict, dialogue, scenes, and point of view. Now let’s go more into structure of a story and look at pace, setting, continuity, and balance.


Questions to ask…

  • Did the plot/subplots move fast enough to keep your attention?
  • Did it skip around too much to keep track of the characters and plot?
  • If nonfiction, can it be tightened?
  • Are there enough examples (non-fiction)? If so, where and how does the writer need to improve pacing?
  • Does pace vary?
  • Is the pace of each scene appropriate?
  • Does pace influence tone?
  • Does pace increase/decrease tension?
  • Are action and dialogue balanced? Characters should be somewhere doing something when they speak; actions alone will keep the reader at a distance- outside looking in. Pages of description is no better than empty space. Speech that neither defines character nor moves plot can be deleted. In general no more than four lines of dialogue should be written without a break: some action, even a gesture.


 Questions to ask…

  • Is setting conveyed sufficiently?
  • Is the setting appropriate for the story?
  • Would a different setting work better?
  • Is setting used to advance plot, to create tone, to increase tension?
  • Are readers given a clear sense of place and time for each scene?

Things that can be done to enhance Setting…

  • Verify details
  • Make sure setting details are appropriate to story and scene
  • Make sure setting doesn’t overwhelm action and plot
  • Include props that characters can handle and use


Questions to ask…

  • When you finished reading, were there loose ends that were left unresolved?
  • Was there anything that needed further explanation?
  • Were there any inconsistencies?
  • Do the characters plod through the story? It is not necessary to record each step the character takes. Can some details be deleted allowing the reader to take an active role through the imagination and inference?


Questions to ask…

  • Is there too much going on in the story?
  • Is the author’s hand too visible? Does it stick out?

Things that can be done to enhance Balance

  • Ensure balance between elements; make sure no one element overwhelms
  • Balance character thoughts, dialogue, and actions with setting and description
  • Balance sections, scenes, chapters, and acts

I know it’s a lot to take in. Take a deep breath. Just remember to focus on a few areas at a time. Once you feel like you’ve nailed all the bigger details, don’t think you’re done yet. There’s more to do! Now it’s time to get to the smaller details. Check out the followup post Writing Filters to Use: Finer Detail Filters.

Posted in editing, good writing, great writing, how to write, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing process, writing, writing advice

Writing Filters to Use: The Bigger Picture Part 2

Here is the second part to Writing Filters to Use: The Bigger Picture. This part goes over dialogue, scenes, and point of view.


Questions to ask…

  • Did the words seem natural to the characters and fit their personality?
  • Was there too much or not enough dialogue? It’s okay to tell the reader some of the thoughts of the thoughts of the main character, but we should only know the thoughts of other characters through their words and actions, i.e. did the writer show us the story or did he tell it to us?
  • Whose story is it?
  • If dialect is used, is it used effectively and appropriately?
  • Were there enough/too many beats in the dialogue?
  • Was the dialogue used to move the plot forward or as a weal way of cramming back story?
  • Does dialogue advance the story?
  • Is dialogue appropriate to the scene?
  • Does dialogue increase conflict?

Things that can be done to enhance Dialogue…

  • Ensure that characters sound sufficiently different
  • Make sure it is dialogue and not conversation
  • Use genre-appropriate dialogue tags
  • Keep adverbs in dialogue tags to a minimum, unless genre allows them (use he said, she said’s )


Things that can be done to enhance Scenes …

  • Make sure there are a sufficient number of scenes
  • Make sure individual scenes satisfy and that they are different in terms of action events, character combinations, dialogue patterns, and type of conflict
  • Give scenes variety in length, format, depth, and pattern
  • Use a variety of settings for scenes (or play against variety and stick to only a few settings)
  • Make sure scenes are in the best order to cause problems for the character and induce tension in the reader
  • Make sure the right scenes are dramatized and the right scenes are summarized

Point of View

Questions to ask…

  • Story view point (first, second, third limited, omniscient)
  • Is it the right POV for the story and for the scene; would another be better?
  • Is POV clear?
  • Is POV maintained within scenes?
  • Character view point
  • Who should be the viewpoint character in each scene?
  • Is the story in the right character’s POV? Would another character work better?
  • If the story is in multiple characters POV, should it be changed to just one character?
  • If the story is in one character’s POV, would the story work better in multiple characters POV?

Things that can be done to enhance POV

  • Make sure that viewpoint character doesn’t change within scenes (no head-hopping)
  • Make sure viewpoint character knows only what he could really know
  • Use a change in POV or viewpoint character to bring story and character closer to the reader or to hold the reader at a distance when necessary

The final and third part of this series goes more into structure of the story.

Posted in editing, good writing, great writing, learning to write, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing process, writing, writing advice

Writing Filters to Use: The Big Picture Filters Part 1

fountain_penOkay, so the initial first draft of your short story or novel is completed. Congratulations! Throw a big party. Pat yourself on the back. That was a lot of hard work. Then things calm down, and you decide to sit down to work on draft number two. You take a gander at your masterpiece to discover it isn’t as glamorous as you first thought. Sure, you knew it needed work, but not that much! Where to begin? What to do? The text before you becomes blurred. It gets hard to breath, and you wonder if maybe this might be what insanity feel like. But before you commit yourself to an insane asylum, there’s hope, and it’s as simple as just a little focus.

That’s where writing filters come in. It’s the process of keeping a few things (usually 2 to 4) in mind while going through subsequent drafts of a story. These “filters” help narrow things down so you can focus on what needs to be done instead of having a panic attack. Sure, there might still be a few panic attacks here and there, but at least you can move through the muck of your jumbled mess. There is a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere, and using writing filters can help distract you until that light can be glimpsed.

Continue reading “Writing Filters to Use: The Big Picture Filters Part 1”