You’ve written a novel! Fantastic work! Now it comes down to the nitty-gritty job of heavy editing. Everyone has their own personal voice and writing style, but there are still some universal tips and tricks to making our stories stronger. Today, I’ll address three of my go-to’s when editing and review swapping.
1. Don’t tell. Show.
This is my number one piece of advice for new authors and seasoned novelists alike. There’s a massive difference between:
The thought of performing on stage made Cat nervous.
As Cat surveyed the audience, her heart raced and a thin layer of sweat coated her clenched palms.
In the first example, I told you how Cat feels. In the second, I showed you. Showing a reader is what puts them right on the stage with her, wondering if the performance will go well. Create an experience for your reader.
2. Everyone has an agenda
This is a big one for me. It’s something I struggled with for a long time and it takes a bit of practice. Every character in your story–no matter how minor the role–has an agenda they’re pushing, and their own set of standards or beliefs.
For example, let’s say our main character is held at gunpoint in a back alley. But, it’s the middle of the day. What your other residents do at this critical moment is crucial to your story telling. Your assailant has an agenda they’re pushing, your main character has the plot to push, and every person who passes by will build your world depending on how they react. If there isn’t a reaction, it’s important to note. If there is a reaction, it’s equally as important. Think of your world as another living, breathing being.
3. Kill the adverbs
“I believe the road to hell is paved in adverbs.” -Stephen King
This is probably the most difficult of the three. Adverbs are easy. They’re descriptive and convey emotion in one word. However, they’re weak.
This is probably my least favorite sentence that I read all of the time.
He smiled gently.
This isn’t the worst sentence in the world. It’s not.
The situation and character reaction should already insinuate this (show, don’t tell, remember?). That makes “gently” a redundant word. I also see this sentence often used as a dialogue tag. For stronger options, readwritethink.org has an amazing list of varying dialogue tags to help writers not sound like robots when multiple characters are speaking together. I know if I string together too many “he said,” “she said,”s, I feel as if my batteries need recharging.
That’s it for our lesson today, fair readers. I hope this helps to clean up your work in progress. Happy writing!