I was chatting with a coworker today, who was really excited about coming to the end of her 9 page paper. Having recently finished a WIP, I could totally relate.
She said she was having a tough time editing her paper, and asked if I had any tips for her, since my works of fiction were much longer than her college paper. How did I do it?
So that got me thinking...you know, how do I do it?
Here's what works for me:
1. Write the freaking thing, but get feedback from great critique partners along the way.
2. Set aside chunks of time to take or toss your critique partner's suggestions. If you take enough of them, it might send the book in a new direction, and you don't want to realize critique partner number two was TOTALLY right about cutting that beach scene five chapters down the road when someone's already drowned and/or been buried in sand.
3. Read your completed manuscript all the way through. Find the parts you love & highlight them. Find the parts that make you laugh out loud, or cry, or wince, or elicit some sort of physical response. Make sure you keep those.
4. Find the parts that maybe you didn't respond to as emotionally as you'd like to. See if you can add more sensory details to make the writing more vivid. If that scene where the bitchy older sister is painting her toenails doesn't have the right *pop* maybe describing that horrible chemically smell of 99 cent nail polish will help?
5. Go through the manuscript again, looking for plot threads to nowhere. (I'm terrible at this. My critique partners have been excellent during this WIP. "Penny, what the hell is up with that nursing home scene? Seriously? Do you really need that?" No. No I do not.
6. Go through it again. Search for helping words. My character "could see" that could she? Not anymore. Now she "saw" it. Etc. Look for adverbs that are taking the place of showing. Look for my own "mortal enemy" words...looked and turned are huge for me. I swear, my characters do more looking and turning than anyone in their right mind. Seriously, they could stand to glance or pivot once in a while.
7. Put it away.
8. Pull it out after a few weeks, and go through it one more time. It's alarming how much you'll find.
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