GUESTS

04-29 Laurie Alice Eakes - Writing Blind Characters

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Editing Your Book, Part 2 Polishing

by Madelle Morgan


You've finished the second or third draft after the developmental edit (see Part 1), you've sent the manuscript out to beta readers and received their comments, and now it's time to polish the story.

At this stage, the scene structure is locked in. You will now go through the story paragraph by paragraph to:

  • improve the flow;
  • rewrite for clarity;
  • strengthen plot and romantic tension;
  • heighten emotion; and
  • add details such as what each character is feeling, thinking, smelling, seeing, and hearing.

Here's an example of the difference between the draft and polished versions of a Caught on Camera scene snippet. Rachel, dressed in an oversized white bathrobe, is taking the little Maltese dog for her evening walk.

DRAFT
Blurry movement in the deep gloom under the pines beyond the terrace caught Mickey's eye. A ghostly wraith drifted between trees beyond the corner of the building. A white ball appeared to roll at lawn level. He inhaled sharply.

Holy Hotel California. Twenty feet from the terrace, at the limits of the flickering torchlight, the creepy forms halted.

"Mickey," the taller phantom hissed, beckoning with an undulating wave of an unearthly arm. "Over here."

Mickey cautiously stepped off the flagstones onto the grass. "Who are you?"

FINAL: I punched up Mickey's reaction, added a movie reference, and hopefully made the exchange more amusing.

Blurry movement in the deep gloom under the pines beyond the terrace caught Mickey's eye. A ghostly wraith drifted between trees. A white ball appeared to roll at lawn level.

Mickey inhaled sharply. Holy Hotel California. He held his breath as the creepy forms advanced to twenty feet from the terrace and halted at the limits of the flickering torchlight. Where are the Ghostbusters when you need them?

"Mickey," the taller phantom hissed, beckoning with an undulating wave of an unearthly arm. "Over here."

"No thanks," he demurred. "It's not my time yet."

"Mickey!"

He cautiously stepped off the flagstones onto the grass. "Who or what in hell are you?"

Read the Story Aloud

By this stage in the book crafting process, you've read the manuscript so many times that it's impossible to notice the problems. Listening engages another part of the brain, helping to identify what needs to be fixed. While reading your story aloud, or having someone else read it aloud, you'll be taking notes on these issues:

1. Does the dialogue sound like something a man, woman, teen or child of that age would naturally say?

I have to remember that I'm writing for ages from "Does your mother know you're reading this?" to "My granddaughter recommended this book and I love it too!"

2. Is the vocabulary suited to the target readers? Are you using a sophisticated or old-fashioned word when a simple, more current word would do?

A young Wattpad.com reader commented that the draft's language was "so 19th century." It compelled me to revisit my word choices in the entire manuscript. For example, the hotel general manager has a staff policy against "fraternizing" with the guests. The prim and proper GM might say "fraternize" but the young staff would use the term "hook-up". I made many similar changes to update the vocabulary.

3. Are the pauses in the right place for reading aloud at a public reading or in an audiobook?

Even if long sentences are grammatically correct, they can be problematic if and when your book is made into an audiobook. 

4. Are you using certain words over and over and over?

Replace words that occur frequently. For example, I tend to use "sprang", "wildly", and "dragged" repeatedly. An online dictionary and thesaurus is a writer's friend. Use the software's "Find" function to search your document for specific words. You'll be amazed at how frequently—oops, I mean—often you used them on the same page or even in a single paragraph without noticing.

5. Is the meaning what you intended? Can it be misinterpreted?

A beta reader saved me from considerable embarrassment. Micky and Halden, the groom, are discussing Halden's sister Asta, who is a stuntwoman.

DRAFT
Mickey said only, "Speed is Asta's drug of choice."
"She's a daredevil, all right. Keeps Mom up at night worrying."

FINAL
Mickey said only, "Adrenaline is Asta's drug of choice."
"She's a daredevil, all right. Keeps Mom up at night worrying."

I totally missed the fact that "speed" is the street name for amphetamine!

After you've spent a week or longer polishing the story, it's time to send it off to the copy editor. In Part 3 I'll describe the copy-editing of Caught on Camera.

Goodreads Giveaway!

Enter a Goodreads Giveaway starting October 13 to win one of two paperback copies of Caught on Camera (Hollywood in Muskoka, Book 1). This giveaway ends October 20, and is open to residents of the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as the United States.

Caught on Camera is available for $0.99 and £0.99 on Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks, and is now available in paperback on Amazon for $9.99 and £5.99. See the description, playlist and buy links at MadelleMorgan.com . 

Subscribe at MadelleMorgan.com for news of the October 26 Five Secrets about Caught on Camera guest post, November blog tour, ebook giveaways and grand prize giveaway.


Madelle tweets and posts about Hollywood, filmmaking, the settings for her stories and of course, writing.

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5 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

There is always something---actually more like something(s)---I pick up when I read my stories out loud. Our eyes don't hear how awkward some sentences read. Thankfully we have ears that do.

Your examples are clear and specific and illustrate what you are talking about. Great post, Madelle.

Sarah Raplee said...

Awesome information! I'm going to look into Wattpad. Getting reaer feedback would be amazing!

Diana McCollum said...

Great blog post. Reading aloud is such an important part of the editing process. I've found that Beta readers are important too. and having beta's of different age groups certainly helps catch some of those modern terms for contemporaries especially.

Madelle Morgan said...

Sarah,
I had 5,000 readers read my story on Wattpad.com, and several provided really great feedback. For example, I used "colt" instead of "filly" and I had the wrong attribution for a Goldie Hawn quote - a reader noted correctly which movie it was from (never trust the internet!). I also extended a love scene at the end due to popular demand. ;)

I'm posting draft chapters of my next book, Sex and the Screenwriter, on Wattpad.com, and hope to repeat the positive experience. Signing up on Wattpad is free!

Madelle

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Madelle!