Don’t be Afraid to Fragment, Part 1 –
Tackling your manuscript in its entirety and trying to keep every little thing you’ve ever learned about editing in the front of your mind as you painstakingly reread your work from start to finish will not result in the best edit you can afford yourself.
Digging into your first revised Draft does not mean only looking at the material once. No, you need to fragment your editing in order to get the best results. Create an editing list for yourself:
What I Know I Need to Work On
(include tasks like…)
– character building
– enhancing setting and atmosphere
– cut chunks of back story in half
– which answers have I given to the various questions throughout (and which have I purposefully not answered)
Then break your list down even more.
Consider Character Building… you can say you want to make them more “realistic” and infuse different elements into expanding what the reader knows of personality – but how do you do that? By considering where to include subtle references using the 5 senses.
… one sense at a time.
Don’t look at me like that – this is important stuff and you don’t rush a masterpiece. The goal is to have only 15 or so pages in your head at once. If you write short chapters then combine a couple of them for this practice. The reason I suggest to limit yourself to one or two senses at a time is that it’s easy to get into a rhythm where you add little moments only using one or two. You don’t want to limit yourself like this.
Review those 15 pages with touch and scent in mind.
Then go and do something else that is relatively mundane, like washing the dishes or vacuuming. While you are completing this task, let your mind wander over the pages you’re working on and consider taste and sound. Then go back to your manuscript and look at it from this new perspective. You may or may not use all of the senses in a given chapter – in fact, only use the ones that are necessary to help bring credence to your characters. I have not intentionally highlighted ‘sight’ because that is the one sense that comes natural to most writers.
Don’t add detail just for the sake of adding detail.
This kind of sensory attention brings a sharp focus to your character and the moment. Make sure it’s the right moment you’re drawing attention to.
When you’re happy with the attention you’ve given that set of pages, move on to the next set and start over again.
Just think, once you’ve gone through your story for characterization, you still have 3 or more items on your list to consider…
Keep your chin up and a genuine smile in your heart – this is editing.