This week: Little Things Mean a LotEdited by: Joy
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“Writing is an adventure.”
“Your first draft is not a gold nugget. It might be a nugget, but it's not golden.”
“The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.”
“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Hello, I am Joy , this week's drama editor. This issue is about what to look for in the first revision after the first draft.
Thank you for reading our newsletters and for supplying the editors with feedback and encouragement.
Please, note that there are no rules in writing, but there are methods that work for most of us most of the time.
The ideas and suggestions in my articles and editorials have to do with those methods. You are always free to find your own way and alter the methods to your liking.
Welcome to the Drama newsletter
While we write the first draft of our story or novel, we focus on the flow and flexibility more or less within the boundaries of a rough outline or an original idea. This is fine. In fact, that first draft is my favorite part of any writing I do because I like the freedom of it.
Having said that, the first draft is hardly what a reader would love to read, don’t you agree? Wouldn’t you want that first draft improved so that your beta readers or the professionals you have hired to fix your manuscript can get to the gist of what you’re trying to say so they can give you more helpful feedback? For that reason, just as there is the concept of pre-writing, the work will benefit greatly from a pre-professional revision.
Provided, the basic plot, the protagonist(s), the main conflict is already there in the first draft and you have given the text a do-over as to spelling, sentence construction, etc., your objective of a good story can be taken care of with the following steps.
One of the things and possibly the first thing to look for has to do with giving the reader credit in understanding the basic meaning of a scene or story. Thus, cutting the unnecessary explanations helps.
Two secondary characters speaking:
She said, “I don’t want to work here anymore.”
He smirked, rolled his eyes, and drummed his fingers on the desk. “Okay,” he said.
This is a fine example. What she says and how he takes it are clear. The subtle emotions are hinted at and what took place is already shown. For that reason, there is no need to evaluate.
The author, however, through her/his disregard for the readers’ grasp, doesn’t let it go. So, the author adds to the above scene something like this:
Being self-centered and cruel, he doesn’t give a penny whether she stays or goes. The workers in his field are a dime a dozen. Nothing will happen to him if she leaves. He knows that she, on the other hand, will suffer. Granted, she hardly matters.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the addition either. If you put the two together, it reads fine, but it would be better if the additional part could be put in small sections inside the character’s thoughts or it could be left out totally. To begin with, these two are secondary characters and especially if the plot is complicated and detailed, such additions will make the story far too long and boring.
Search for redundancies. Are all the characters repeatedly nodding, clearing their throats, shrugging, gasping, sighing, etc.? In the same vein, is there too much stage direction, which means the author doesn’t need to tell what each character is doing in detail with their extremities, facial expressions etc., unless these relate to the central idea or the conflict in the story? Also, is the same setting described twice or several times over in different scenes? How about the metaphors? Are they too many in any one scene?
Check for POV errors. Does each scene have a single point of view? Although head-hopping is done a lot in Indie publishing, the romance genre, and even in some older (archaic) fiction-writing practices, changing the POV within the same scene produces a shock effect on the reader. I try to avoid this like the plague.
What about, not just the cliché phrases and words, but the cliché situations? Such as, love interests knowing they’ve found each other at first sight, a character influenced by a dream, a character describing himself while looking in a mirror, waking up to the alarm, a diary that alone solves a case, etc.
Then, does each scene or section of the story relate to the theme or the purpose and the internal truth of the story? To do that, the writer has to understand the core conflict of the story. This is a rather crucial yet painful step, especially if not much preparation is done before writing the first draft; however, a true professional will pinpoint this immediately. If this may become too difficult, it is a good idea to get help or to wait for it.
Are the characters memorable and different from one another, in the way they speak, they dress, they feel, etc.? Is any one of them too good or too evil? Now, you may not have intended to make any character a goody-two-shoes or the devil incarnate and you might have noted their quirks, positives, and negatives on the character sheets, but do those show in the actual writing?
What about the dialogue? Do conversations end effectively? Do they sound natural and believable? Do they show the different ways each character speaks?
I wish you perfect stories and manuscripts for all time.
Have a happy, healthy, and very successful 2020!
There was this elf, see.
Not your everyday ordinary kind of elf, mind you, but an honest-to-goodness Santa's Helper kind of elf. He had tiny little hands, a turned-up nose, tiny little feet with turned-up toes. He'd never walk, he'd never run, he'd always jump cause it was much more fun. His name was Jump-Jump, jolly little Jump-Jump, work was always play. He was quick as a wink so you better not blink or he'd be on his way.
A frigid December wind prickled Rufus's cheeks. He hunkered in bushes across the street from the target's residence and checked his watch: midnight. A faint chorus wafted from the Christmas Eve service at the church in the next block. It came upon a midnight clear. He let a sneer bend his lips. He was coming at midnight, all right.
Martha took a deep breath and stepped into the inspection line. She reached up and fingered the necklace hidden under her blouse. She knew the presence of the cross would condemn her, maybe more than her Jewish heritage did. She prayed for strength knowing if she was directed left, a certain but quick death awaited. If she was sent right…. Well, death there would just take a lot longer.
A light, gentle breeze rippled throughout the mystical woods, as Serenada spoke to Princess Cinnamon.
"Serenada, you mustn't say such things!" Princess Cinnamon said, as she fluttered her fairy wings, trying to stay level with Serenada's eyes.
"You knew when you took human form, it would be only for the month of December!"
Feather Dove was so glad her tribe had went to bed. She had taken a pipe and tobacco out of her uncle's stash in his tent. She loved smoking a pipe. She was fifteen years old and still missed her Grandma Lightfoot who had died a couple of months ago. Smoking a pipe relaxed her and helped eased the pain of missing Grandma.
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This Issue's Tip: Any manuscript is usually improved if you cut away the fat.
Feedback for "Dealing with the Backstory Issues"
Write 2 Publish 2020
What a great NL. In writing this novel I had the entire back story to my serial killer in my mind. I knew why he did it, how he did it and he isn't even in the story until the end. I tell his story through his sister's brother-in-law. The reader just doesn't know it till later. My MC has her own back story and issues. I reference her father and his actions affect on her. It pulls her back story into the novel without devoting time to TELL the reader. I hate it when an author pulls me from the plot to tell me back story.
Yes, your novel sounds really interesting. It is much better if at least a good part of the backstory is revealed at the end, especially when a mystery is in the works.
The backstory article is clearly written and easy to read. The reader doesn't need to guess what the writer means. Keep up the good work!
Thank you very much for the feedback.
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