Ciao, SEers. Today is part ten of the series, and we’re getting into self-editing. The first step in the revision process is to work on the macro-level, or on the biggest issues. Joan introduced us to the basics in self-editing in this post. I’m going to dig a little deeper. I suggest two read-throughs in this section. The first just to get a feel for the story. The second is when you start to make notes on issues. Here are the things to look for.
First, hooks. We’ve already talked about this. The beginning of your novel needs a great hook, but to a slightly lesser extent, all your scenes do. Do you have great hooks? Did you start with a compelling first sentence, then grab the reader with a fascinating concept? Do they come early in each scene? Do they inform and be informed by character, conflict, theme, and setting?
Study your characters. Have they been introduced early enough? (The more important a character, the sooner readers should meet them.) Have you revealed the necessary information about them, and have you done so at the proper times? Have you sufficiently explored the internal and external conflicts they face? (Bonus points if the solutions to these conflicts are in direct opposition to each other.) Do they encounter enough roadblocks to their goals, and do they handle them in ways appropriate to their personalities? Do they have complete character arcs that show growth or a decline? Have you illuminated character flaws and solved them or worked around them? Are they relatable and realistic? Have you avoided making them stereotypes?
Study your scenes. Do you have both actions and reactions, and do they follow each other in a logical and balanced way? Do you continually raise stakes? Do you foreshadow important events (and hide those clues in plain sight)? Did you choose the correct POV character for each scene, or would one or more of them be more effective from someone else’s perspective? Do your scenes end with cliffhangers to encourage readers to continue?
Does the story have proper pacing and flow? Did you show or tell? Is the action chronological (or if you chose an out-of-sequence flow, does it achieve your purpose)? Does the story progress logically? Do your transitions work? Are there slow parts where you were inclined to skim or skip? Have you avoided info dumps while still imparting necessary information? Is there enough character backstory (or too much)?
Is your voice consistent throughout? Are your characters’ voices true and consistent? Have you always found/maintained appropriate tone?
Did you use symbolism in your story? Did you go overboard or not use it enough? Was it appropriate? Was it something readers will understand? Did it enhance your theme? Even without symbolism, is your theme clear and definable?
Do your scene endings work? Does the story’s ending work? Is the climax interesting, inevitable, and surprising? Did your characters achieve their goals? Did you tie up the critical loose ends? Is your denouement appropriate in content and length? If you chose an ambiguous ending, is it still satisfying?
To summarize, work on:
- Pacing and Flow
- Theme and Symbolism
These were all the broad issues to address in your story. Next time, we’ll delve into self-editing on the mid-level. Until then, I’d love to know more about your macro-level editing process. Please leave a comment below. Grazie!
Links to the Whole Series:
January 7: Idea Generation
February 2: Story Bible
February 28: Character
March 25: Dialogue
April 20: Plot
May 16: Constructing Chapters
June 10: Pacing/Tension/Suspense
July 6: Writing Suspense
August 1: Writing Action
August 26: Macro-Level Self-Editing
September 21: Mid-Level Self-Editing
October 17: Micro-Level Self-Editing
December 7: Planning a Series
Note: Links will only work on and after the date the post goes live.