I confess. I don’t like first drafts. Working out the story, initially, is always the hardest part, for me. When it works out, it’s great, but most the time, it’s a slog that requires hard work and persistence that’s sometimes really hard to stomach.
To me, the best part is the rewriting–taking what was meandering and barely readable and turning it into something entertaining that other people might actually want to read.
Of course, when that’s done, the story is down, all the plot and character issues are worked out, and the book is revised, and re-revised, it’s time for some polish. As Kylie mentioned in her post on Editing, just re-reading the manuscript isn’t enough. To really polish our works of art, we often need help. Everyone’s got their little tricks for everything from pacing problems and varying sentence structure to catching typos. Clancy told us about using “The Writing Code,” and that got me to thinking. What other tricks are helpful for catching those little things that keep our stories from really shining?
I’ve collected some over the years. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Reading the story aloud
- Probably the best way to catch problems with rhythm and flow. If you stumble over anything, it probably needs to be revised.
- This is helpful to locate those words I use too often, fixing spacing problems, finding to-be verbs so I can change them to active voice, or any other problem I know normally crops into my stories without my noticing.
- It’s amazing the things you find when you turn a Word document into a PDF or print it out.
- This is a handy trick to find typos because you can’t get lost in the story.
- You can use a simple note card, an Excel list, the keyword feature in Scrivener, or whatever works for you. This is basically just a list of what plots are being serviced in each scene, so you can tell which scenes are pulling their weight are which aren’t.
So, it’s Show and Tell time. What tricks work best for you?