Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Making A List, Checking It Twice...

Actually, you'll be checking your manuscript many more times than twice. If you thought you only had to do it once, maybe twice, this is a very rude wake up call. For Sirenz (1st book), the revisions led to a stack of paper (between my co-author and I) to about my height (I'm 5'9"). Yep. I have boxes of revised, discarded, marked up pages. So, don't get too comfy, we've got a lot of work to do.

So grab your tablet, your Monte Blanc, your laptop. We're making a list of the things you need to look out for when editing.

The Easy Stuff  (Things you should know, but we're going to remind you.)

-Grammar (know if you use an apostrophe, a semi colon, a double quote. If you don't, consult one of the books I mentioned in previous post that you should have in your possession.)
-Spelling (don't rely solely on spell check; it doesn't know between read and red.)
-Consistency (If you've changed your character's name, town, eye color, gender, etc. make sure it's the same all through the novel.)
-Cliches (Unless the character is making a bad joke, eliminate them all, along with slang phrases that will date your work.)
-Dangling Sentences (Authors can take some artistic license, but if your sentence)
-Dialogue Confusion ("Go away," she said. She flipped her hair back, "I don't want to talk to you." If this one gal talking, or two? Make sure dialogue tags, modifiers and context make it clear who is speaking.)
- Repetitive Repetitive Words (There will be certain words that you love- everyone has them-but you use them way too often. Trim down the places where you use it.)
-Appropriate Language (Middle graders will not say "I must consider all the ramifications of your actions." Make sure the language fits not only the age, but the situation, place, and culture of your character.)
-Descriptive Language (Can't have too much, can't have too little; you have to find the balance between boring us to death with drawn out descriptions of everything and everyone, and leaving us struggling to picture the character or the scene.)
-Fact Check (even if you write fantasy, science fiction or contemporary fiction, you need to do basic research. The laws of physics have to work on other planets unless you can explain how they don't, but then you need research, right? If you're writing adventure stories, maybe you need to know the difference between a trebuchet and a catapult. Have the right highway when a villain gets run down. Don't wing it because readers will pick up when you're wrong.)

The Hard Stuff (Things that will take more than one glance, may have to be read aloud or by someone else to be picked up.)

-Solid Characters (Characters can't be perfect, too insipid, stupid, or blind. Moments of those things, yes, but not all the time. Make sure they aren't one dimensional; they need a personality and some depth.)
-Clear Plot (You remember high school English- your story must have a setting, rising conflict, climax, and resolution. Action is required even in 'quiet' books.)
-No Info Dumps (This is where the author spends numerous paragraphs--or pages--'telling' us background info instead of weaving it in through dialogue or internal thoughts, observations and knowledge of others. The rule is show, don't tell.)
-Unrealistic Elements (If your character knows what someone else is thinking, unless they're a superhero who can read minds, that's unrealistic. No one can know what's in another's head. Another example is knowing always the right thing to do or having everything work out perfectly. That doesn't even happen in fantasies)
-POV (Point of view- can't have everyone's thoughts jumping out, shouldn't have too many viewpoints-unless you're doing speculative fiction, you're really good at it, or you're famous and people let you get away with it. Know the difference between first person, third omniscient, et al.)
-Time Skips (Your character is going to the store on a Monday afternoon and suddenly they're waking up to Thursday morning. Unless they were drugged, in a coma, knocked out, went through a wormhole or have black outs, you're jumping the time line.)
-SAT Quizzes (Don't use big, fancy, overly pedagogish words. You're not checking SAT knowledge. Say it clearly. This is where that thesaurus comes in handy for synonyms.)
-Flow (Does the action flow consecutively? Do speech and reactions make sense, are in the right place? You don't want your character to ask a question that never gets answered, or the other character answers 5 pages later.

Yes, this is a long list- and it's not everything you need to check. As you learn to review your work more thoroughly, you'll pick up more with each pass. No crying or whining because this is part of the writing process. If you want to get published, and even if it's just for you to write and read, it should be the best it can be.  So...

We're in this together. We all made mistakes and need to correct them. If you think anything should be added onto the list, add it for yourself.

Until next week, keep positive.


(All images courtesy of Microsoft)