In order to ensure that your manuscript is the best version of itself before you release to the world, you have to properly edit your work by yourself. Even if you are editing as you are writing, you have to be able to read through your work with a critical eye and, as objectively as possible, diagnose any possible problems. Below are listed some problems that have to be spotted, diagnosed and cured, so that the end result is not just a good story, but a story that’s tight, coherent and has an impeccable plot.
1. Flat scenes
Every scene in your manuscript needs to have tension infused in it, whether by action, or through characters’ internal or external conflicts, and even when they seem calm, there should be an underlying awareness that not everything is as well as it seems. However, if the scene doesn’t have this type of structure, then the scene falls flat. In order to avoid this, look for the focal conflict point in the scene, and then analyze the previous and following paragraphs. The previous paragraphs should provide a good interlude to the conflict, and anything other than that needs to be cut out.
2. Unnecessary tangents
Tangents occur when, in the middle of writing, you start feeling uncertain about whether you’re writing down what is essential to the plot in your novel. Tangents are like side quests in a video game that don’t get you closer to your goal. However, they might be some of your best writing. In this situation, you can do two things. You can continue on the tangent and see whether it leads the story where you initially wanted it to go. Another solution is to go back and find the last scene before you started diverging from your plan, and re-summarize the scenes that might have originally followed, using the consequences of that last scene to help you. Then compare what you have. If the tangent creates a fresher storyline than the one you had in mind, then by all means, follow it. If not, go back to your original idea.
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3. Mishandled flashbacks
Flashbacks are necessary, but they create a problem – as in they stop the momentum of the story to take the reader into the past lives of the characters. The best way to handle flashbacks is to follow several steps. First, decide whether the flashback is strictly essential to the story. If not, cut it out. Then, use triggers that happen in the present so that the narrative flows naturally. When it’s over, use sensory details (sound, touch, smell) to bring back the narrative to the present. Additionally, flashbacks should be written as a scene – with proper tension and focal conflict point, or, try to relate the information from the flashback to the reader through dialogue.
4. Domination by characters
We’ve all heard authors claim, with a small, satisfied smile, that their characters simply grabbed hold of the story and took it in their own direction. But characters often create more of the useless tangents, rather than move your story forward. To avoid this, get to know your characters in a writing exercise. Put them in random situations with random people, and have extremely unlikely things happen to them. See how they react, and what they do. Do they retaliate when someone hurts them? How well do they deal with pressure? Hear their voices and let them become real and well formed in your head. And that way, you will ensure that your characters not only let you have the creative reins, but they will also help you get where you want to go in your story.
5. Writing difficulties
This is an opposite problem from writer’s block. You are writing, but it feels like every word has to be pulled out of your brain like a tooth. Even if you’re using an outline and have planned everything beforehand, writing it down gets more and more difficult, until it eventually leads to writer’s block. There are several solutions to this problem. You can go back and find the last place where the writing flowed easily, and look for the root of the problem. Also, you can jump ahead in your story, and then come back and fill the blanks. Or, you can write something unrelated to switch the focus of your mind and give yourself a break without breaking your stride.
Image credit: mike krzeszak on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic.
As a 22-year-old art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.