November 2nd, 2016

Final Pass Edit Fun

Last month I wrote about editing 1200 pages in 12 weeks. Today, I give you Part Two of my revision journey for the first book I plan to self publish.

Late Friday night I will send The Book back to Tiffany Yates Martin for her third and final pass. Sometimes I think, “Good! Then I can take a break.” But there are those random moments that I’ve wanted to see if she’ll make a fourth, maybe a fifth pass to be sure I’ve done the best I can do. When I’m rational again, I know there will always be at least one more thing (or ten) that I can do to improve the book, whether it’s the flow, the action, the character arcs, or the story.

Why? Because my brain never shuts down. And when I’m at the computer revising eight hours (or more) a day, my brain is on overdrive. Great for the book, especially while I’m still working on it.

But, back to this story.

Revising after a second pass by your editor.

I didn’t know what to expect from Tiffany’s second pass. Happily, I’d fixed most of the problems she noted in the first half of the book. You know, missed opportunities, emotions, transition scenes after an action-packed, knock-down chapter endings. So the first half  of the book’s revisions were line edits, cleaning up questions about my science fiction language and technology—small things that didn’t require a lot of thought or angst, just time.

Now I’m to the point where the changes are bigger, whole-book details. Like updating all the tech. Naming a colony ship then searching for references to “the ship” on every single page of the document. Starting at the beginning and adding in subtext and thoughts in just the right places, to show one character questioning the identity of the other. I’ve entered the realm of the Time Sump, looking for ways to show a gradual build-up of emotion or trust. Or distrust.

This week, I’m working on revising the ending. I did that after the first pass, but not enough. Read that as not hard-hitting enough for a climax that’s been building since page one.

Thank goodness for Tiffany. She doesn’t let me get away with glossing over anything. There’s no magical hand-waving over this revision. Her comments are not pedantic or put-down-ish. Her suggestions end in, “What do you think?” or “OK?” And every time, she’s pointed out an angle I couldn’t see from my writer’s perspective.

This is why I’m working with an editor. I get so caught up in the story that I know so well, I forget to communicate it to the reader – to put it on the page. And that’s my job. Thank goodness I can admit that I need all the help I can get.

What can you learn from second-pass edits?

1. Check the ending of each chapter.

Did you leave out important thoughts, feelings, or actions that should have occurred before we see the characters on stage at the beginning of the next chapter?

Remedy: Add that information at the end of the chapter as a final scene. If you want to end the chapter on a cliff-hanger, show your character twisting, literally or figuratively, at the beginning of the next chapter. Take advantage of those raw emotions to move your story forward, to deepen character, an move the character along his/her arc. Don’t miss the opportunity.

2. Check for “muddied motivation.”

If your character isn’t acting in a way your reader identifies with, you haven’t supplied clear motivation for her goals.

Remedy: Go back to the beginning, or at least several chapters. Look for places to add subtext that implies those goals. If you can’t be subtle, find where you can add one line of backstory that will give your reader that “Aha” moment for why your character acts the way he does. If you have to reinforce that motivation later, be sure it’s a deeper motivation.

3. Show reactions more clearly. 

It’s easy to show the reactions of your POV character. Heck, we chose that character’s POV because she had the biggest stake in the scene. But we need to see the other character’s reactions, too. That isn’t easy to do when you can’t be in their heads.

Remedy: Check your non-POV character’s reactions – body language, expressions, dialog ‘cues’. Have you shown  physical response to the confrontation? Stress or surprise? Your POV character can recognize, and react to those responses. Your POV character can interpret body language, like a stance or lack of swagger. You can share the non-POV character’s mind-set in dialogue, particularly by using words only used when stressed (a non-swearing character swearing, for instance). The delivery of those words will show the feeling just as much as the words will.  

Do you have a “final pass” revision tip? Maybe a “while-you’re-still-writing” revision tip?

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ABOUT FAE:

Fae RowenFae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak.   Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present.  As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.

A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.

When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen.

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