Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish
~ Guest Post ~
Editing is the process of making new choices. I’m not afraid of editing and I would argue no one should be. It’s this space, potentially sacred space, where you stand and survey the work of your hands and your mind and you practice discernment. “Does this produce the impact I intend?”
Don’t judge. Not yet. You’re still on the journey. It’s your work, but it’s not finished work. So it can be however it is and there’s no need to feel bad about it. Tell the little judgy voice in your brain to take a vacation. You have editing to do.
There’s something terribly exciting within this freedom of the editing process. It’s the chance to choose and choose again. Some of us get stuck in endless choosing or rather, not choosing, but that’s not true editing. That’s procrastination and fear. If you’re truly editing and not hiding, then it’s this place of creation, of refining what is being born, finalizing the brushstrokes on our painting of words.
When you find yourself meeting your soul on the page of edits, make friends with it. Listen to the nasty things it whispers. Listen and set them aside. There are nuggets to learn beneath those whispers. What you fear points to your hope. What makes you cringe can show you what you would love. Listen deeper. Listen to the passion and desire, the secrets of yourself that show up in the creative journey. Take the time to watch yourself. “Oh, I wrote that? Why did I put that in? What does that say about me?” Editing may require exploration of self, perhaps with a side of dancing with your shadow. Especially if we’re writing about ourselves, veiled or unveiled.
Give yourself the freedom to work through those emotions and deal with what arrises. Our books, especially our first book or two, say a lot about who we are. It’s like therapy, to be honest. And if you need therapy, or a good listening ear during the process, please, seek it out. Choose someone who can hold space and listen to you without telling you what your experience means. The meaning has to come from you. In this space we needs guides and words shamans, not dictators and gatekeepers. A friend will keep us honest, not tell us the right choice.
Those choices, those edits, they have to be ours. The work is ours. Guard it but don’t be precious. Because even after we turn our work loose on the world, it is still evolving. We are like Pinochio’s maker, Geppetto. We create, and then when our work comes to life, what it does after we can only guide. We do not know where it will go, or how it will be seen. It is beyond us, even if it comes from us. How anyone will respond says as much, if not more, about them than it does us.
Art is a mirror. It shows us ourselves as we create and edit it, and it shows us others as they meet it and either embrace or hate it. All we can do is create the most beautiful, the most flawless mirror we can, and then release it, taking all those skills we learned creating it with us to our next project and then, slowly, by creating and editing, and creating again, we become masters of our craft.
Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?
If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask? Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books.
In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place.
Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:
– Characters and Character Arcs.
– Backstory .
– Point of View.
– A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
– Beginnings and Ends.
– Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
– Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers.
Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.
Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com.