I’m currently working on the editing for this years’ upcoming Indie Author Short Story Anthology. I have the pleasure of working with writers who bring a great deal of enthusiasm and creativity to their short stories.
As I go through the process of editing their stories, I will comment briefly on grammar and syntax, but mostly I want to look at the big picture.
(I also tell the writers that the story is theirs – I will not make suggestions to take the story in a different direction – I will NOT rewrite their story.)
But when I ask these writers to go back and look at something, I’m asking them to do self-editing.
Those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to afford professional editors are usually on our own. (Probably why I’ve taken editng courses.)
But where do you start?
I’ve suggested the following things to look at when you are first approaching the editing process. These items are essential to a good story.
If you think of your story’s first draft as a sketch, you can see how it is a rough piece of writing where you’ve worked on the shape. Only through the writing and editing process, will you have completed the work.
Richard North Patterson says: ‘Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.’
Michael Crichton said: ‘Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.’
Mustang Patty’s Rewriting Checklist for Authors
While it is important to remember that a short story differs from a novel, it can be said that most of the same elements need to be present – just in fewer words, less detail, and less time. HOWEVER, you cannot shortcut the MC, the plot, or the resolution.
Have you introduced the setting and taken the reader there?
Is there an inciting moment?
Have you adequately introduced your MC?
Is the genre of your story clear?
Is there enough dialogue? (Try for 50%)
Have you made promises to the reader? (Told them what you’re going to tell them?) DID YOU?
Is there enough conflict?
Have you explained something in the narrative and repeated it in dialogue? (Eliminate the description – the dialogue is ‘showing,’ and the narrative is usually ‘telling.’)
Does your MC have a distinct voice? (Or is it the same voice all your MC characters have – usually yours?)
Have you done a spell check?
Have you looked at your sentence structure? Is there a variation? Are there too many long sentences? Short? Detailed?
Have you removed unnecessary adverbs?
Have you removed unnecessary adjectives?
Have you cut out cliches?
Have you reduced the use of passive voice?
Is your POV consistent?
Is your tense consistent?
Is your pacing correct for the story?
Have you built tension?
Have you made your reader care about your characters? (Whether it is love or hate – you’ve evoked that emotion.)