Tag Archives: editing

Editing for Romance Writers: How to Map Out the Relationship Arc

I’m guest-blogging today at Fiction Blueprints about editing for romance writers, demonstrating a technique for mapping out the relationship arc:

http://tinyurl.com/mtp5ul2

This is a quick-and-dirty way to figure out if there’s enough variation in your character’s relationship as it develops and to identify sections of story where it feels like the arc isn’t progressing.

Hint:  you don’t have to wait for edits to do this, either. You can use it on your plot outline to test the romance arc before you write the story.

See you there!

Do You Have a System for Getting Unstuck?

Last week, we talked about how systems make it more likely that you’ll achieve your goal.  Today I’d like to talk about creating systems for overcoming the obstacles that we all hit at one point or another.

In other words, systems for getting unstuck.

Because we all work a little bit differently, one size doesn’t fit all here.  What helps me might not help you.  The first step in creating your “unblocking” system is to take a few minutes to think about how you’ve written in the past. Continue reading

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (and What Does)

The idea that next year could be different–that we could be different–it’s almost irresistible, isn’t it? Next year could be the year we lose that weight, get organized, and write the novel that’ll make us famous.

So many of us set ambitious goals for ourselves in December, only to drop them before the end of January. The goals we dub “New Year’s resolutions” aren’t enough.

Sure, you start with the goal. Write a novel. Or a non-fiction book. Or a collection of short stories. Or a memoir.

That’s the “what.”

But you also need to create a system to help you achieve that goal. Continue reading

Editing for Story, Part 3: Scenes

Welcome to the third video in the Editing for Story series!

Today we’re talking about questions to help you evaluate the content of your scenes and look for overall patterns as you create your revision list.

The Editing for Story videos are a companion to the Editing for Story ebook–don’t forget to download your free PDF after you watch the video.

Editing for Story, Episode 2: Non-Traditional Plot Structure

Welcome to episode two of Editing for Story!

Today we’re talking about how to analyze the structure of a story or novel that doesn’t fit into one of the traditional plot structures, or where the structure is so complex that traditional structure is difficult to identify.

This method is a little bit outside the bounds of the advice you’ve probably already heard about editing a rough draft, but it gives you a clear picture of how conflict and stakes are generating organic “plot points” in your story.

Next episode:  how to make sure your story’s scenes stand up to scrutiny!

Editing for Story, Episode 1: Plot Structure

In honor of those who’ve finished NaNoWriMo and will be editing their new baby later this month or next year, we’ll be talking about the editing process for fiction.

Today’s video: tips for editing, why plot structure is important, and how to analyze the plot structure of your story.

Also, don’t forget to download your free copy of Editing for Story: http://tinyurl.com/kws5c5w

The 30 Day Novel: NaNoWriMo Series, Day 30

Welcome to Day 30, the final day of NaNoWriMo!

Today we’re talking about your story’s resolution and how to tie up all those loose story ends, as well as the emotion that you’ll end your story on.

Thanks for stopping by! Come by tomorrow–we’ll talk about what to do next and how to get started on editing your novel.

The 30 Day Novel: NaNoWriMo Series, Day 30

Welcome to Day 30 of NaNoWriMo!

Today we’re talking about what makes for a great resolution, how to end your story on the right emotional note, and–you knew it was coming, didn’t you?–EDITS.

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Congratulations on making it to the end of NaNoWriMo!

Next week, we’ll be talking about some things to consider when editing a first draft–I hope to see you then.

Editing for Emotion: How to Show What Your Characters Are Feeling

Have you ever written a scene that made your heart race and your eyes tear up—only to be told by your critique partner that it needs more emotion?

It’s a common problem. When you’re imagining the scene in your head, it’s natural for you to feel the characters’ emotions. But because you’re already feeling them, it can be hard to tell whether you’re capturing those emotions with the words you choose.

That’s okay! Just keep writing. Some emotions will make it onto the page. As for the rest—it’s easy to layer them in when you’re editing.

What are the ways that character emotions are expressed in words on the page?

  1. Dialogue
  • What characters say
  • How they say it
  • What they don’t say (change subject or leave things out)
  • When they’re silent
  • What they want to talk about and what they won’t talk about

Read through just the dialogue in the scene (out loud, if it helps) and identify the emotion the character should be feeling when speaking each line. How does this line of dialogue suggest or hint at that emotion? Identify how the emotion is expressed on the page:

  • Content
  • Word choice
  • Curse words, exclamations
  • Unusual grammatical constructions
  • Terse or abbreviated sentences
  • The way the character’s voice is described
  • Punctuation or formatting used for emphasis
  • Etc.

Does every line of dialogue in the scene express an emotion? If not, why not? Is the character deliberately masking their feelings? Are they delivering factual information that they don’t care about?

For each line of dialogue that is emotionally neutral, decide whether you will rewrite it to have an emotional charge. A character might say something shocking or hurtful but phrase it matter-of-factly, and that’s not a problem—in fact, the contrast between what a person says and how they say it can strengthen the emotional impact.

  1. Action
  • Voluntary physical action
  • Involuntary physical action (fidgeting, self-touching, and other unconscious movements)

The physical action in a scene is going to be directed primarily toward the characters achieving their goals, but since the drive to achieve those goals is emotional, action is a great way to externalize character emotions.

How a character chooses to perform the simplest physical action, how they interact with objects (voluntarily or not), and even which actions they choose to avoid can telegraph what he or she is feeling.

  1. Body Language/Non-Verbal communication
  • Gestures
  • Facial expression
  • Posture
  • Proximity (distance from another character or an object

Body language is an often-underutilized tool for expressing character emotion. Giving a character body language that contradicts or otherwise doesn’t match what they say is an effective way of adding subtext to dialogue.

One of my favorite resources for body language is the Center for Non-Verbal Studies’ website, The Non-Verbal Dictionary: http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/6101.html

I also recommend reading books on body language and making lists of non-verbal behaviors that cluster together: for example, an angry person doesn’t just narrow their eyes, they may also tense their shoulders, make fists, grit their teeth, draw their eyebrows together, or snarl, depending on how angry they are, who they are angry with, if they are trying to hide their anger, etc. Once you have a list of non-verbal behaviors that cluster around the emotion of anger, you can then decide what combination of these each character might display when he’s angry in a particular situation.

  1. Thoughts and Feelings
  • Interior monologue
  • Narration
  • Visceral sensations (involuntary reactions, like a shiver or nausea)
  • Intuition (often expressed as a visceral sensation followed by a thought that interprets the sensation)

This is the most obvious way character feelings show up on the page—narration, interior monologue, and descriptions of visceral sensations. It’s important to have a good balance of these on the page, without relying on them too heavily.

What’s “too heavily”? That depends on the tone of your story, your characters’ personalities, and whether you’re writing in first person or third person (first person will usually have more of the POV character’s thoughts and feelings than third person, as in third person you want to create the illusion that the reader is witnessing events rather than being narrated to by a character).

Putting It All Together

Once you understand the four modes of emotional expression through which characters’ feelings are revealed to the reader, you can have fun with it.

You can show (or hint at) a character’s inner conflict by using conflicting modes—for example, your hero’s body language and thoughts might reveal anxiety, even though his words and actions suggest confidence.

You can subtly show conflict between two characters who seem to be working together by making sure that their respective body language expresses the conflict that both of them are working to hide on the surface.

If you’ve got a character who’s deliberately masking their emotions to other characters, you can be sure that her thoughts and feelings give hints of emotion to keep the reader connected with the character.

And you can intensify the emotional impact of a big scene by making sure all four modes slam the reader with variations of the same emotion.

Happy editing!