You could have already faced the most crucial challenges of the writing process if you are in the starting stages of writing your book. If you are trying to look for small faults in your story, then it’s time to take a few steps back and look at the broader picture. We all look for utmost perfection in the work we do, but chasing it will not get you there.
Before you start to fish for flat sections in your book, ask yourself the following two questions:
Firstly, Is the book done? Make sure you write the first draft to your heart’s content. This means, keep writing till you are happy with the pages you have filled.
The first draft is about making sure all your ideas are spilled over on the paper. It does not have to be perfect; it just has to be a version.
Secondly, are you happy with your process of outlining a novel? This is your last chance to revisit the plot in your head and try to punch a few holes on them before you weed out the bad parts. Ask yourself if your characters compel the story, and the story itself makes for the best read.
Now that we have that out of the way, there is another factor to keep in mind — shelf it. The legendary writer Stephen King in his memoir– ‘On Writing,’ said that once he has finished a draft of the book, he places it in a locked drawer for a week or two. This action gives you time to detach from the story you have been dwelling on in the last few months.
This practice will help you effectively find better flaws in the story that might go unseen. The mind also needs a break from the story. Over time your brain will tend to blur the lines in the story and cause mental chaos that makes it hard to edit.
Once it is time to revisit the story, give it many reads. Underline or highlight sections you find less impactful. They do not need to be corrected right away.
Keep in mind that this process should be done on a printed copy. Reading on physical paper, as opposed to your computer screen, gives your mind better attention to details.
While you are skimming through your novel, here are a few points you can look out for to make your book free of monotony and dull slumps.
1. Re Ensure Chronology.
Nothing messes up a plot like the strange occurrences of events. While you read, make a conscious effort to keep in mind the linearity of the story.
If you depend on multiple or non-linear storytellings, then check for timeline swaps and discrepancies. The broader idea is to ensure no plot-points are revealed too early or too late.
2. The Spacing of The Rising Actions.
Often in the story, you will have moments that add hurdles to the protagonist. These are called rising actions or stakes.
Only when you finish the whole book do you realize or understand the impacts of these rising actions. Sometimes they could come in too close to each other, or too far away from each other. These rises and falls will help define the pace of the book.
3. Avoid Repetitions From Exposition.
Exposition is often needed to further the plot to give new information to the reader. The same can come to bite you in the back is overdone. Some writers fall into the trap of repetition when they introduce new characters.
Avoid sections where the story is re-narrated back to the new character. This is one of the dullest moments for a reader.
4. Attention to Dialog.
Dialogs are one of the crutches to storytelling that we must use as little as possible. For as much as possible, try to show the story, not tell the story.
But there are often times when dialog cannot be avoided. In these situations, make your dialog authentic. Ensure that the dialogs match the character bible. They must also be as brief as possible.
5. Give Rules A Break.
In your time leading up to the first draft, you would have come across a hundred rules from a book writing program. The three-act-structure, defined POV, stake rising characters, and much more.
Keep in mind that these rules are a rule of thumb. It is the best way to reach a great story.
They need not be treated as the gospel. If you see any violations of these said rules, it’s alright if they make your story compelling.
6. Spend Less Time On Props.
As a writer, it is easy to get hung on one thing that adds very little value to the main story. These could be the description of a room or the scenery of the place or the cloth of a passing character. While attention to detail is excellent, if you are spending hours fixing these details, you will lose noteworthy bandwidth to work on the more important things — like the plot.
7. Mark and Revisit The Purple Prose
While you are in the editing phase, if you notice any prose that gives too many details, make them and revisit them. It is easy for a writer to get help upon descriptive and metaphorical tangents.
But not the cost of readability. When you notice something too obscure, mark it, and do not edit it right away. Revisit them in your next sit-down and try to tone them down.
To end on the same note we started, in the words of Stephen King, “To write is human, to edit is divine” — editing should be looked at as passionately as your writing. Make sure you do not try to edit the whole draft in one sitting. Just like how the novel cannot be written in a day, it cannot be edited in twenty-four hours.
Enjoy the process and take your time. You are not just looking for typos or grammatical errors. Those are only a part of writing, what you want to keep in mind is if the story makes coherent sense.