Dawn L. Stewart
The first draft
is done. Now comes the hard part — reworking the words into a tight, riveting
manuscript. Sometimes rewrites are like constructing a jigsaw puzzle only
to find a few pieces missing. Here are some ideas to make your editing
manuscript aloud. Awkward dialogue and phrasing, missing words and wordiness
become obvious when the words are spoken. Make notes on the manuscript
as you read so that you can revisit the rough areas.
first page grab the reader? Is the middle of the story interesting without
losing momentum? Is the ending satisfying, answering all the reader’s
questions? Are the characters well-developed and "real"?
read the manuscript. Use colored highlighters and assign each color a
task. For instance, to check grammar, highlight weak verbs in pink; adverbs
in yellow; wordy phrases in green; clichés in orange; words to questionable
words in blue. Or, review the story constructs by highlighting dialogue
in pink; narrative in yellow; use of the five senses in green; descriptions
in orange; flashbacks in blue. This will help determine if the writing
is balanced, shows where weak words and wordy phrases are located, if
narrative outweighs dialogue, or if more sensory detail is needed.
weak verbs (is, was, are) and "to be" constructs with active
verbs. An active verb will replace several words and increase story action.
Weak: The dog was running after the car. Strong: The dog
ran after the car.
to the manuscript by replacing general words with specific nouns. Weak:
The dog leaped into the truck. Strong: The Dalmatian leaped into
the fire engine. Also delete filler words (really, very, quite) to tighten
SAY IT AGAIN
the same thing twice. Weak: In the event that the baby puppy wets
the floor at 12 midnight, clean up the mess if he does. Strong:
If the puppy wets the floor at midnight, clean the mess.
drag the action rather than add to it. Prune unnecessary adverbs. Weak:
He crept quietly down the stairs. Strong: He crept down the stairs.
phrases make writing sound trite. Strive for original descriptions and
wording. Weak: Sam is sick as a dog. Strong: Sam thought
he would incinerate the thermometer before he could read the temperature.
AND MORE DETAILS
the manuscript for consistency. Did you change a character’s hair color
midway through the novel or rename someone in the story? Make sure character
descriptions, traits and names are consistent throughout the manuscript.
Verify any fact you are unsure about. Readers will catch errors.
all subplots and foreshadowing lead to conclusions. During the writing
process, new subplots are introduced, characters either dropped or replaced,
sometimes the location changes. Create a list of all the subplots and
their resolutions and verify that the resolutions are apparent to the
reader. Does a character removed from Chapter 2 suddenly reappear in Chapter
8? Don’t leave logic-holes in your manuscript.
When the corrections
are finished, set aside the manuscript for a week. Then read the material
again with fresh insight. Eventually all the puzzle pieces fit together
and the writing flows. When finished, congratulate yourself, send the
material to an editor, and begin the next story.
© 2001 Dawn L. Stewart
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be
copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.
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