Writing: I've Got Gadgets and Gizmos a Plenty...

Combing through Novel Drafts: How I do it

This morning I’m combing through my novel, M.B., for what is probably the three hundredth time–without exaggeration. If you want to write, and write well, get used to this process. As you scan back and forth over your novel’s pages, like a scanner hovering silently over the moon’s craters, you will find mistakes, blip and puddles that will need to be fixed, altered or mopped. This is good, normal and part of the writing process. I enjoy the process and bring tea, snacks and Enya music along for the ride. Make yourself comfortable and go.

Here’s some ways how I go about the revision and editing processes…

  1. Read your story out loud.
    • Read a paragraph or two out loud, whatever you need. See where you have to catch your breath, where you stumble, or when you become lost in the wording. Your moon scanner is beeping. Something is amiss. This works for academic writing, too.
  2. Check the Time Flow
    • When I was rereading my novel, time moved quickly. The pacing felt good, my brain lost track of time passing and I was engaged in the story–even after all my rereadings. Think of your favorite book and how all you wanted was to get home and finish reading it, getting lost in the pages and dialogue once more. If you’re writing fiction, you probably want your novel to behave and move along like this.
  3. Check the Motor for Clunkiness
    • I poke fun at myself here. “She ran down the hallway”, “She moved into the kitchen”, “She felt sorrow.” Sometimes I write like this just to have words down, particularly if I’m not sure how to write something at the moment. Revisit this, writing with action verbs this time and avoid the Jane and Dick writing. Show, don’t tell. You want a smooth, cylinder ride not a Model-T.
  4. Higher Level: Check your Timelines
    • When is your novel taking place? Present day, like mine is? I realized yesterday the 1990s happened almost 30 years ago. A character in my novel referenced something from the mid 90’s and said “This happened about 15 years ago?” My, my. That’s an edit. And a humbling one.
    • This applies also to when your characters are born and hence their ages, their life experiences, etc. It sounds complicated, but think of it as your family tree. Would you ask your 10 year old cousin what she thought of 9/11? No, she wasn’t born yet, was she? Or Uncle Frank about the Vietnam War? No, he fought in Afghanistan, different time period, different everything. It’s that kind of thing and it lends credibility to your writing.
  5. Read in Different Formats
    • Trick your brain into finding mistakes. Read on your laptop, then go to the library and print out a hard copy of a chapter or two. Read through this. Found mistakes you missed, right? Fix these. Now read the novel through again on your laptop or on your cell phone. Missed some more, didn’t you?
    • This may not work for you, but it’s doing wonders for me. I’ve even taken screenshots of my writing, formed them into JPEGS and read through the prose. I’ve found even this unique approach helpful. Whatever works for you.

Happy writing. Leave one of your personal tips and methods below!

Song: “Feel it Still“, by Portugal. The Man.

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