As you might know from my What Projects Am I Working On? post, I’m currently editing the first two books of my fantasy series together into a single story — and by “editing” I mean “smashing”, “hacking and slashing”, “pleading, begging, sobbing, cajoling, coaxing, coercing, and otherwise bribing” the two stories to fit together into a single narrative arc.
It’s been fun.
NO REALLY, IT HAS!
(I say, as a single drop of sweat slides down my brow.)
As I’m a little bit obsessed with reading about people’s editing adventures, I thought I would share what I do, when I need to hack and slash and smash. Every writer’s process is going to be different, but if you’re at that revision stage and need some advice for how to get started, you might find this post helpful!
Step 1: The Overview; Bold the Clunk
To start off, I reread my entire scene (or chapter) from start to finish. Once I’ve refreshed the scene in my mind, I go back through and bold all the clunky sections that need to be pared down. The paragraphs that run on for too long, the descriptions that are too vague and hard to visualize, the dialogue that doesn’t sound quite right.
For example, here’s a sample of a scene where I’ve bolded all the lazy, too-long, uncertain sections that I don’t like the look of:
As a general rule of thumb, I try to seriously reconsider any paragraph that’s longer than 5 or 6 lines, and any chunk of dialogue that’s more than 3 or 4.
Usually, a lot of problems with scenes not making sense come from a lack of clarification in the writing. Trimming everything down so it’s clear, concise, and moves along quickly really helps.