Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dinner Party Editing: Meat

The previous re-writes were very much about getting the novel into its finished shape. Once I'm happy with the outside shape and feel, I'm now moving closer to the substance of the novel: the scenes. This is where the meat of the novel is.

Rather as I looked for problems with the novel's overall structure, I'm looking for problems with the scene as a whole - outside working in again.

* is it clear where and when the scene takes place (preferably contained within the first para)?
does the timing make sense, do people have long enough to go from A to B, or conversely, if A and B are close together, do they cover the ground quickly?
* are people active throughout or are there any bits when the characters are waiting for something to happen? Do I need to re-write to correct this?
* is it clear what the characters' attitudes are to each other, the location, the situation?
* are any patches of description too long? too wordy? too complicated?
* is there enough description of setting etc?
* if I have to describe a place or an action, is it easy to understand what's going on?
* are characters moving about, or are they static - worse, are they drinking tea? Could I move it to another location which would add a new dimension to the scene?
* if there is flashback, is it justified? Is it adding to the storytelling in an active way? Is there any way i could incorporate the information into the narrative?
* am I moving the story forward?
* is the scene anchored in reality or has it floated off?
* does the balance of white space to text work?
* is the scene too long or too short? Is there enough going on, or too much?
* does it end at the right place?
* would a reader want to read on?
* does the scene have the right pace, is there a good shape to it?
* does something happen? Or is it just events?
* are the characters plausible, consistent, believable, sympathetic? Would I like to spend time with them?

I go through every scene in this way and re-write until I feel I've dealt with all the queries, issues and problems. This may involve moving bits around, cutting and adding. That done, it's on to pudding...


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this meal, and I'm wondering why comments are so thin on the ground. The set of meaty questions have certainly made me think about editing in a different way. Very useful - and thanks.

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

Yes I agree. This is a great series of articles, clear and instructive, so thanks again.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks! I think I don't get many comments because people are stunned into silence by my brilliance...

Seriously, the feed for Blogger doesn't work properly for some reason, so many people subscribe by email, and I guess if you get the post in your inbox, you don't then go to the blog to comment. I have been thinking about altering it so you're forced to come to the blog to read the full post, but that seems a bit mean and self-serving.

I'd really like to get the Blogger feed sorted out - it's sad when I'm listed on someone else's blog and it says I haven't posted for 8 months when I do it every day. Any Blogger experts out there who know the solution?