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Sunday, 1 April 2018

Editing: You are now at the 'chop chop arrrgh' stage

All right, calm down. Deep breaths. Now. You've written your novel and you've followed my instructions and you are now staring at pages and pages of scribbled on manuscript, convinced that this is the worst idea you've had since you bought that outboard motor and strapped it to the swimming aids in the local pool.
To be honest, that was NOT your finest hour
So now what do you do?

Sit down, have a large cup of tea and a packet of HobNobs, and a think. Do you have one of those Kindle thingies that reads to you? Doesn't matter if not, you can do this with your own voice. If you have got a fancy Kindle, save your manuscript to it and get it to read it aloud to you. If you haven't, then you're going to have to do the DIY version, and read it aloud to yourself. As you go, make notes, and bear in mind that EVERY SINGLE WORD has to earn its place. Remember what I said about huge long descriptions? And lots of words about things that are never going to appear in the book again? I don't want to have to come round and slap your hands...

Notes. Lots of notes.
Thsi is what organised writers do. Apparently
This is the time to move scenes and people around if they don't work where they are. Or kill them, killing them is good - not necessarily really killing them, unless it's that kind of book, but if they don't seem to work, or they appear on the page, say something vital and then go off never to be heard of again - try to think of a different way that information can be got over. Merge two people into one (don't try this in real life, they don't like it). Make your characters REAL. Just take out the boring bits of real life, nobody wants to read about cups of tea, walking the dog, cleaning the toilet...if your characters must do these things then at least have them talking about things RELEVANT TO THE PLOT while they are doing them.

And I cannot stress this enough...every single word you write must advance the plot or deepen the characters. I know you've done lots of research into tree felling, but the readers don't care. They don't need to know how you fell an oak, they just want the characters to do it and move on to the next thing.
Yes, it's complicated. Yes it takes work. But your readers want 'chop chop arrrrgh' not a lecture
In fact you need to get your book distilled down to the 'chop, chop, argggh' stage. Cut out all that flabby prosey stuff, where you describe the night sky for four pages. Readers know what a sky looks like, they want to know what is going to fall out of it.

And, as you cut stuff out, you are going to be thinking 'chop, chop....arrrgh, I love that bit, surely I can leave that in?!' Just think about how important it is to the plot...

Next week I am going to be working on your 'flabby middle'. Won't that be nice?

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