ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group. Continuing my previous post on 'Be Your Own Structural Editor'.

Hello there!

Following last month's post, I promised to continue this topic. As many authors are publishing e-books, some good, some bad, some riddled with spelling, grammar and structural mistakes, I thought it was timely as self-pubbed authors don't have access to all the editorial help available to those who are lucky/unlucky (depending on your experience) enough to go the traditional route.

My first post talked about writing the first draft, putting it away for a week, month, whatever, then getting it out again and seeing what is to be done. According to the structural editor I conferred with recently at Queensland Writers Centre, the first stage of the editing process is structural, i.e. seeing how the larger elements of your work fit together.

A good idea is to start with a chapter breakdown (you may have done one in the planning stage, but quite likely it has changed during the first draft) before you begin your structural analysis. This provides a skeleton structure of your ms and is useful for analysing plot lines and characters' story arcs. Maybe you'll find a key plotline fades out before it should, or a character you meant to be key throughout the novel vanishes altogether in an early chapter.

Structural analysis is hard work. It's best to break it down through a series of questions for - CHARACTERISATION, NARRATIVE VOICE/POV, PLOT, STRUCTURE.

This post will look at CHARACTERISATION. I'll look at the others in future posts if this post appears helpful.

CHARACTERISATION - questions to ask yourself:


  • Does your story have a clear main character with a developed story arc?
  • Do you know what the secondary characters are contributing to the story? What is their function?
  • Do your characters DO things, or are they passive?
  • Do you know why your significant characters act the way they do (their motivation)?
  • Are there too many characters? Could you merge minor characters that fulfil the same function, or remove characters without a clear role?
  • Is there a balance of narrative text and dialogue, i.e., are you letting your characters speak?
(These dot point courtesy of Nicola O'Shea, freelance editor for a wide range of Australian publishers/authors. Go to www.nicolaoshea.com for more...)

Further points:

At a recent Toolkit for Writers workshop it was stated that your antagonist wants to be the protagonist. Is your antagonist strong enough to have his/her desire met?

I read a related article at KM Weiland's Helping Writers Become Authors, where she states your mc needs not one, but at least two conflicts. Another thing to think about when you're being your own editor.

  • I hope this was a helpful post for IWSG. The purpose of Alex J Cavanaugh's group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Go here for more participants...

A word before I go. RomanticFridayWriters' next challenge is Being the Perfect Ex. 400 words of prose or poetry. Open to all writers. You can learn more here...






43 comments:

  1. Ouch! Hard work indeed :) I've been so focused on the finer details so far, I dread to think what sort of shape my overall structure is in.

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    1. Ah, it's coming Botanist. You can't avoid it. Weirdly, I like this part. D.

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  2. I am very happy about this post. All good tips. I also think the more eyes you get on your manuscript the better. Others are much more likely to find inconsistencies your writing than you are. I am an editor by day and I can tell you that it doesn't matter how many times I read through a manuscript, each pass I find more errors, or ways to refine, etc. The truth is, you could edit forever and never be done. Usually a project is done, when the deadline hits.

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    1. James, nice to meet you. So I guess you're a writer by night? I agree, no matter how long you polish, there'll still be ways to make it better. D.

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  3. Fab tips here! I feel like going back to do another edit of my book now!

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  4. This is helpful, I've never concentrated on structure with my edits, most of my stories just have rising conflict until it's resolve, the end. But it is a good idea to make sure the structure hosts the character arc. Holly Lisle in her 'How to Revise Your Novel' course get's you to write a chapter sentence and create a synopsis that way, each sentence contains the characters what they are doing until... insert conflict. That would be a good way to check that structure and character arcs.

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    1. Yes Charmaine, I like what Holly suggests. Thanks for sharing. D.

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  5. These are some great tips and reminders of what to include when creating characters. I must admit I'm a huge pantser and normally just use characters to advance a plot. I really need to print your list off and put it somewhere to remind me I should be investing more in my characters.

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  6. Those are good questions for any writer to consider!

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  7. These are great tips for writing a book, whether self-publishing or not. Thanks!

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  8. Excellent tips. If a writer is determined to go the indie route, I think it's imperative to hire an editor to help get it right and fix mistakes. At the very least, join a solid writers group and have beta readers critique different things.

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    1. Yay, spot on Isis. We can't skip on this. D.

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  9. Useful tips, Denise. Based on the various bases that need to be covered while editing, I understand exactly why it takes me so long each time.

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    1. Yes a huge job if going it alone Joy. And even if you have help. D.

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  10. Structural analysis is very hard work, and the more intimately you know your story and characters, the better off you are when grappling with this editorial stage.

    Denise, this was a great post.

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    1. Thank you Suze. I feel I might keep them coming then. D.

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  11. These are all excellent tips. Writing is a craft with set stages and skill-requirements. You did a fantastic job with this. Roland

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    1. Thank you Roland. And I didn't even mention our friend Hemingway. Restrained myself. D.

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  12. Hi L'aussie
    Thanks for visiting me - this is a great blog and the structural tips really useful - I for one would love to see more :-) Also like the monologue reference (I've written a full monologue, and have no idea what to do with it now, but I loved the experience, so I'll be taking a look at your link!)
    Because I am a complete duffer, I can't work out how to follow your blog, without going through Facebook, because I don't use it - can it be done please?! Hope so because I'll be keen to keep up with all your excellent info!

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    1. Hi. I hope you got to read the monologue. D.

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  13. These are wonderful tips. For some of us (mostly pantsers I'm guessing) it is important to move from the floor to the balcony when revising. I cannot focus to tight on the structure without stepping up to the balcony for a big view of what is happening. Switching it up is vital for me or I get overdone and underdone sections of my work. Thanks for all the encouragement. I will see you next month!

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  14. Hi Jan. I'm a pantser too, sort of, so I'm speaking to myself here. D.

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  15. These are great tips. I've found there are many editors who will look over one to three chapters for free. Writers can at least do this much to get a general idea how an editor will respond and make necessary adjustments on their own.

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    1. True, Stephen, and it's my experience as a critiquer that the flaws you find in the first few chapters are just continued throughout so getting a professional reader for the first three sounds awesome to me.

      Denise

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  16. For me structural editing is the hardest--but it's the most important. Great tips and great questions to ask when doing this kind of edit.

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    1. Very important. It's certainly hard. D.

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    2. I'm working on some structural editing at the moment and am looking for someone who has a talent for critiquing that kind of thing...

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  17. Good post, informative, thanks. You do keep busy, Denise!

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  18. Great tips, Denise. Thanks for sharing. I'm in the second draft, working on that characterization so really appreciated your info. I've had to give one of my characters a swift kick to do more, LOL! (Yipes, maybe this character is ME!)

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    1. I love that picture Kittie. We do have to do that at times. D.

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  19. Character motivation is so important. What happened in the past, what's that characters dreams, what are the strengths and weaknesses, surroundings, etc.

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  20. Very helpful post! Characterization is something I struggle with, so I'm definitely bookmarking this for future reference.

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  21. I'm getting ready to revise a draft, so I found this helpful. :)

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  22. Hi, Sis. You ARE busy. I came over to see what you're doing. Today we FINALLY got an aide, a very good one, young woman, age 34 with six children and husband (I add husband because a lot of women are single parents - thank goodness our Felicia isn't. Great personality. Good back. She can lift Jen. Did everything today, first day, hands on PERFECTLY. I now have FOUR hours to myself five mornings a week. I think I may just get that memoir co-authored with my friend in California, the one with the severely disabled son. SO, I might do a little blogging, but I still have to spend a lot more time with Jen. She needs more attention than I was giving her, and I need more time to relax, read, smell the roses, etc. When you have a few minutes for an email, I'd love a note from you. BTW, I LOVE your new header photo!!! Awesome!!!! (((hugs)))

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    1. So excited for you Ann. Will email you shortly. Thanks for noticing my new header. D.

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  23. Great checklists Denise. Yes, I found it so helpful I bookmarked it for later reference :)

    .......dhole

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  24. Great pointers re: characterisation. They make great revision reminders, too.

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  25. Those are great tips, Denise! I'm not sure I could trust myself to edit my own work. Scary!

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  26. This is an excellent post Denise, very helpful. I'm glad I was able to comment and tell you so.
    Cheers,
    Nancy

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  27. Doing a chapter breakdown is a vital and helpful thing to do. I'm doing this now on the memoir I'm ghost writing for my friend who has the very disabled son (which I'm finally making progress on after FINALLY resolving two issues, one the aide who owes me a lot of money, and my sister-in-law whom I had invited to live with us, which we both now see as not a good possibility). I've whittled the structure down to four parts, with short chapters (1, 2, 3, etc. that will go throughout the manuscript). This is helping me to weed out dross, and to see more clearly what needs to be added to flesh out scenes, and to have it all make sense. How many drafts/years has it taken me to get to this point? Many drafts, and almost three years. So to any writer blogger who reads this...persistence is where it's at!!

    Excellent post, dear sis!!

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