Push Your Writing to the Limits ~
In first drafts most writers are more interested in getting the story down than they are in refining every key moment – and that’s the way it should be. What you need to do for draft two is go through what you’ve written and highlight important moments of suspense, tension or learning.
Then, start with your favourite moment and push it as far as you can take it within the context of the plot.
Make your characters suffer then rescue them just in time.
This doesn’t need to be done in chronological order because you’re not adding any kind of linking detail here. What you’re doing is deciding, on a scale of 1-10, how big this important moment is supposed to be in relation to the entire story and how big it currently is… you might need a reading buddy or critique partner to help out with this.
I’m currently editing a story for a wonderful woman who writes urban supernatural horror. This is my third time through the book (1st was to simply read the story to know the main plot and characters, 2nd time was to help with the big things like adding to and rearranging plot/characters, this time I’m concentrating on impact, style and flow) and I’m having to look at each moment with fresh eyes asking myself:
“Would this scene impact me as the writer intends?”
Most of the scenes were given due diligence but one key episode was severely lacking in punch – a little girl was supposed to be scared out of her wits because the “monster” almost got her… but when I read and re-read the scene the impact was only hitting me at maybe a 4 or 5 out of 10. This girl needed to be scared witless! So I made suggestions for how to bring in more of an impact and to build the suspense and horror of the moment without taking it too far…
What’s too far?
Too far is a way of saying, there’s nowhere else to go… I can’t make the little girl any more scared or freaked out than she already is. This episode happens in the middle of the story but it’s a catalyst for action. Prior to this the reader is aware of the monster and how bad things are happening to unintended targets but now is the moment when it nearly gets her; from that point on the pace of the story steadily increases until the final climax.
At no other time does the monster get this close to the girl. Therefore, this moment in her character arc needs to be huge.
When in doubt, read your scene out loud (or ask someone to read it aloud for you) – it could be to yourself or a critique group. See if it matches the intensity you intended or if it falls short… and if it does fall short, why?
These moments need to be all they can be in order to pull the reader along.
No waffling allowed 😉
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