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Fiction Editing - Story Sense And Logic

Aug 17, 2007
Your story, be it novel, short story or novelette, is finished. Or is it? Before you send it to a publisher, check firstly that your story makes sense!

Maybe you read my article about The Final Draft. Well, before you reach that stage there's this one to go through. It can be hard and you need to be tough with yourself, castings an editor's eye - not that of a writer - over your work. So what is there to look for when editing and how do you go about it?

The first thing to do is to print your story out onto paper. Don't ask me why but editing just doesn't seem to work the same if you do it on your computer or word-processor. Then read your story. You might think this a waste of time - after all, you wrote it! - but I assure you that you'll find mistakes, typos and a host of other little mistakes.

They're easy to correct. Mark them in pencil as you go along. When you have finished your read through it's time to begin editing in earnest. You will have almost certainly noticed plotting errors and the usual howlers present in every first draft (I speak from experience!) but here's a rundown of vital points to check off during the editing process.

1. Do your characters behave as they should? Remember that, in fiction, people seldom if ever act 'out of character' - if your character has changed, this needs attention.

2. Do your characters react to each other as they should? Events in your story may well change the feelings and emotions your characters display towards each other. Do they mention events that have happened to them within the story? Real people would - your characters should follow suit.

3. Will it be obvious to the reader what the characters are doing - and why they are doing it? This needs to be made clear to the reader otherwise the 'thread' of the story may be lost altogether, your reader will become confused - and the story, for them, is over.

4. Do your characters react believably to circumstances? Again, this goes back to character action - don't have a character brush off a situation if their character sheet says they would go berserk with rage at a given event - if this is evident, your plotting needs to be looked at. Don't change your character's reactions to paper over cracks in the plot!

5. Does your story timeline run true? It's very easy to have someone in two places at once if you're not in control of this critical thread. If you have a sub-plot, or, worse still, several sub-plots running, this can rapidly spiral out of control. Use a timeline record to help you control event timing, i.e. '10 pm Monday - Jake and Sally at Harry's bar. Big Mike robbing bank.' This ensures that Jake and Big Mike don't 'meet up' somewhere at that hour!

Checking the above points will take time, effort and dedication. However, if you do not ensure that your story makes sense according to the points above, the only time you waste will be your own. Why? Simple. Editors today do not expect - and indeed will not tolerate - stories that simply don't 'hang together'. The days of droves of sub-editors making good your sloppy work are well and truly gone.

So - edit and re-edit. Be brutal. Be honest with yourself and your work and you will be streets ahead of those who do not take the time and effort that you do. Writing fiction is hard work - it's up to you to make certain your work is the best it can be. I look forward to seeing you in print!
About the Author
Steve Dempster writes fiction, copy and informative articles such as the above. He also ghostwrites. If you would like more information and advice on writing in general, click here
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