Thursday, July 27, 2006

Editing - A way to create the unexpected in your story

I had to think long and hard about what I could add to this discussion. Truthfully, I love writing the first draft, editing is the part I find hard.

But I have come to realize that there’s no getting out of it.( And I’ve really, really tried to find a way to write a clean first draft)

I remember going to a great talk by Lisa Gardner(smart lady and brilliant writer) at Nationals, where she discussed the editing process for her first single title. She came up with a system where she wrote a brief description of each scene on cue cards and spread them on the floor. (I’m paraphrasing here) She allowed herself two scenes for character development, but the rest of the scenes had to move the plot forward. Any scene that didn’t got cut.
Ruthless – yes. Effective – definitely.

It sounds really simple, almost intuitive, but on examining my own work, I came to realize this is really, really hard. Every scene has to tell the reader something new. No repetition, no rehash of what happened before. All new information for the reader. I’ve looked at the books I love, and they all do this, no matter what the genre. It sounds so simple, why then is it so hard?

Not only should we tell the reader something new, but hopefully advance the story in a way they weren’t expecting, but still makes perfect sense.
Essentially – giving the reader something unexpected, but completely satisfying.

This is really hard. I occasionally stumble into this in my 1st draft, but most times, I create this in later drafts, if I manage it at all.

Why did the Lisa Gardner talk resonate with me? Because, and I’m not picking on any particular books, or authors. Too many of the books I’ve read are far too predictable in their structure, the outcomes, even the characters.

As a reader I love nothing more than to be pleasantly surprised. Taken on a journey where I can’t really predict what’s going to happen. My favourite books and movies do this and I strive to do this in my own writing. (It’s most definitely a skill in progress)

It’s rarely something I manage in that 1st draft, so as well as editing for character development, and flow of writing, I also edit to add the unexpected into my story.

(AAAAGGHHH) this is my lazy attempt to add something unexpected into this blog. Can you see now why we need to edit…..


Molly O'Keefe said...

Bang on Sinead! Have you been drinking? I think in theory all of this stuff sounds so simple - give the reader something unexpected and yet totally hard to accomplish. Well - as GI Joe used to say - knowing is half the battle.

Marcail said...

So true. There's nothing more boring than knowing the outcome. That's why I prefer single titles over series. I like the Spice line so far for this fact as well. I don't know whether the romance will end with a HEA.

Maureen McGowan said...

Fabulous post Sinead! Molly's right. You've been drinking behind our backs!

Sometimes it is only with the whole book done and laid out can you discover how to add twists, foreshadowing or red herrings to make the ride most interesting for the reader.

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