This is going to be really short. I have an AP test tomorrow and I’ve been studying (Oh, the inconvenience of education).
I have two quick tips for you that I’ve come to appreciate in the process of editing. While editing HMB, I’ve atually realized how important these are, and how much it can open your eyes to the problems in your story. Especially when you know there is a problem, just not quite what it is.
First, look at the story like you are a reader. After you’ve gone through a few drafts, start from the beginning. Forget everything you know about your story, or at least try to, and read it like a reader would. By doing this, you can better see what is going to be confusing to them. As the writer, you know everything about the story. You know exactly what’s happening at all times. But that means that you might cease to explain that clearly to the reader, or you word things in ways that are hard to understand for someone who doesn’t understand.
Go through as the reader. You’ll find things to fix.
That doesn’t always work as well as you’d like, since it is kind of hard for you to just forget your own story. So here’s the second tip.
Remember in school, when you had to peer edit papers and writing? Yeah… they were really on to something. When you polish yours story up to a certain extent, get other peoples’ opinions. I find it better to do this before your final final draft, so that if there is a major problem in the story itself that you need to change, you can do it without ripping everything apart too badly. Get people who are experienced writers to look at your work. Get people from your target audience. Get people who are interested in your genre in general.
This is where the whole beta reading thing comes in. Beta Readings are pretty much just a higher level of peer editing. You get your story out to a mass of readers and just let them tear it apart (while you cry into your pillow). The great thing about this is that it is actual readers who don’t know anything about the story except from the description. Along the way, you can ask them to answer questions. Figure out what they are predicting at certain points in the stories, what chapters they like the most, etc.
And at the end of all of that, you will have a big mess of words and comments to sort through. Not to mention that manuscript that is shredded to pieces. But remember. It’s a good thing. You want them to find problems with your story. And if they say there aren’t any problems… they either aren’t looking or they are lying. There is always something to fix. After you’ve gotten that many people to find the issues with the story, you can fix them. And after that? Polish it up some more, maybe have a follow up reading. Publish it, whatever.
For example, I’m hosting the Beta Reading of Holding My Breath right now and I’m learning a lot about my own writing that I never noticed before. I didn’t realize how much I used repetition. I mean, dear lord it’s all over that book. It loses the effect. And that chapter I spent forever trying to fix, but couldn’t figure out what it was that made it bad? It was simple. A beta said it moved too slowly. And you know what? They were right.
My challenge for you is to take a look at a part of your story as the reader. Just one part for right now, then you can go back to writing or whatever stage you are at. Edit it a bit. Then let someone read it. Just one person, someone you trust. It’s a baby step towards these scary mass beta readings…
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And welcome! I know I recently got a horde of new readers, so here’s a little highlight that you may have missed: I’m hosting a beta reading for my next book, and if you participate you will get to read it for free before it’s out and get your name in the acknowledgements (among other things)! For more information about the beta reading, how to sign up, and what it is, click here.
Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!