Monday, September 27, 2010

Questions to Ask While Editing

There are many questions we need to ask ourselves when we edit our fabulous first drafts. Below I’ve listed just a few:

Questions to ask first:
Does my story fit into the market?
Does it have a hook?
Does it have a satisfying ending?
Do I have enough chocolate in the house?
Do any of my scenes lack spark?
Do I have too much backstory or description?
Is the story engaging? Can I make it better?
Is the story easy to follow?

Questions to ask about character:
Are my characters believable and relatable?
Do they have a strong enough motivation?
Does the main character grow through the book?
Is the main character strong?
Does he/she have flaws?
Is their dialogue snappy enough?
Is there any unnecessary dialogue?

Questions to ask about conflict:
Does the tension build through the book?
Do I give my readers any anti-climaxes?
Has any of the conflict turned into melodrama?
Is the conflict believable?
Am I happy with the balance of inner and outer conflict?

Questions to ask about the details:
Is my style consistent?
Am I showing rather than telling?
Are there any unnecessary words?
Are my sentences active or passive?
Do I still have enough chocolate in the house?
Is my grammar correct?
Do I have any hidden typos that Word hasn’t picked up?
Is the story still easy to follow?

There are so many more questions that could be asked. What are some questions you ask while you edit your latest novel?

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  1. I think these cover just about all the questions I try to ask, and a few more! Thanks, this will be so helpful as I get ready to do my next draft.

  2. Awesome questions. I'll have to keep these in mind the next revision I go through.

  3. These are some good questions to ask. I'm just starting to edit now so I'll definitely be chexking these as I go.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I was commenting on my phone and it double posted -- that's why I deleted the last comment.

    Oh, and I meant, I'll definitely be checking these ... I don't know what chexking is.

  6. These are some great, great questions to ask.

  7. Awesome questions! These just about cover it. The only other question I ask myself is if I did my best and am happy with the story. :)

  8. Quinn, chexking is the king of chex. They speak quickly in Chexland and words flow into one... ok, I think I need more chocolate. Or maybe less.

  9. Danyelle, yes, great questions. We have to be happy with the story. If we aren't then there is something wrong.

  10. This is a great list! The character flaws are super important- that's what I'm working on right now.

  11. Great list, Lynda! I will start my edits in two days, so I will be definitely referring to your post.

  12. Wow, I think you have them all covered!

  13. Dang! I knew I was missing something. Now I know what it is. I don't have enough chocolate in the house!

  14. I ask myself when I read a scene.
    Does the scene do three things?
    Tell us something new about the character or confirm something about the character?
    Move the plot forward?
    Evoke some sort of emotion?

    If it doesn't then it's a scene that could be cut and I'll rework it in some different way to get the information across.

  15. Good questions! There are a lot of them, but they cover all the important things. I'm not quite up to that much editing (yet) but these are definitely questions I'll be asking myself.

  16. "Does my story fit into the market?"

    it's interesting that the more I work in the publishing industry the more I'm convinced that pretty much any story can fit into the market.
    There were so many books which I found boring, bad and shallow, but yet, they've had success and they even gained fans, so everything can be sold today I guess.

  17. Oh my goodness Lyn!
    I had to print this one out! So much wonderful advice boiled down to one list...
    "Is the story engaging? Can I make it better?" that's the one i'm working on the hardest now! i started out just trying to adress the "details" list and missed all those big points! thank you so much for this one!

  18. Thanks for these, they're really helpful.


  19. GREAT list, thanks, especially the chocolate parts. I also check for:
    1. Does the villain/antagonist have any redeeming qualities to make him/her more human and less stereotypical?
    2. Do I really need ALL those adjectives? (I tend to sprinkle these liberally.)
    3. Do I overuse pet words like just, even, still, that, actually, too, then?
    4. If I showed it to my writer critiquer, what would she say? (ask this BEFORE the critter sees it!)

  20. This is a fantastic post! One of which I will be referring to when editing my next WIP. Thanks!

  21. Am I crazy? LOL That one is unique for me.

    After awhile, you will figure out your flaws and the editing sort of speeds up. At least, you learn what to look for then adapt your own marks.

    For instance, I single underline any form of 'to be' and double underline words ending in -ly. At a glance I can then see how many are on a page. I only want to see a few. If more than that, I have to edit some out. It's a rule I have. :)

  22. I love that you put all these great questions in one place. Makes it easy. I'm saving this one. Thanks:)!

  23. Rachna, good luck with your edits :)

    Laura, thanks heaps for the retweet!

    Bish, chocolate is a very important element in editing. Some people under-rate it. Poor, poor people ;)

    Erinn, excellent questions to ask! Thanks for the addition.

  24. Dez, lol, well there's hope for me yet! ;) But you're right. If a writer works hard enough (not just at their writing) then they will get published).

    Aspiring, I think that might be the hardest question too. The writer gets so close to the story it's difficult to discern whether or not it might be engaging for someone else.

  25. Carol, great additional questions. I particularly like the last one: what would my critiquer say? This helps to see the story through different eyes.

    M Pax, I actually ask myself that question a lot too. I usually come up with yes, I am crazy. Nice technique for finding possible changes.

  26. Excellent questions. I especially liked the one about chocolate. One of my tricks is to use word find and then highlight in a different color those words that I use too much or would be better if I replaced. Such as 'ly' or 'ing' words.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  27. I'll have to refer to this again before NaNoWriMo hits. Thanks!

  28. Overwhelming, and yet so important. Though I think it's only overwhelming because of what I'm going through right now with my writing.

    Once I'm outside of my own mind I'll come back to this... because this is great information!

  29. Will it ever end? LOL! I'm doing revisions right now and it feels like it's taking forever!

  30. Nancy, another great tip. I do a similar thing.

    Carolyn, there's so much I need to do before NaNo hits. eek!

  31. Jen, editing can be overwhelming. It hits me every time I finish the first draft and look back at how much work is yet to be done. One step at a time. One question at a time. Bit by bit it will get done :)

  32. Carolyn, I think writing takes about 20% of our time and editing takes 80% (maybe more). It does feel like it will never end but it does :)

  33. Let's face it, chocolate is at the heart of everything - murder, mayhem, love, and chaos. Of course, your other questions were good ones, too.

  34. Helen, I'm so glad you understand the importance of chocolate :)

  35. These are great questions. I'm going to steal them and add them to my revisions list.

    Sorry I'm late responding to this one, but I can't see your blog from work, where I've started doing most of my blogging.

    for some reason, they just don't make it easy for us. Hmmm go figure.

  36. Melissa, lol, how rude of the IT guys to block some blogs from your work ;) no worries about late comments.

  37. Great questions! I plan on applying those questions to my current WIP when I finish. I feel it is distinctly missing a hook.I need to figure one out and edit it in.

  38. Great list! I've saved it in my rapidly-growing Notes to Check While Editing file...

  39. That's a lot of questions. Do you tackle them in one good through or do you break it up?

  40. Some very good questions! I was just working on removing some melodrama today. :) Funny how that slips in.

  41. Great questions! I'm always asking myself if I overuse words or phrases. When I first started writing I used "that" all of the time, now I'm terrified of it. I check emails, comments, blog posts, see if I used that word too much. (smile)

  42. Great questions. I've bookmarked this post for future reference.

  43. Tamara, I tend not to be able to write a good hook until I've finished my first draft.

    Patti, I break the questions up into manageable sections. If I'm looking for too many things at once I miss too much.

    Janet, omgosh! melodrama! You're toning it down?! How can you bear it????? ;)

  44. sharon, my first draft is full of 'that'. It's quick and easy to throw down while inspiration grabs me ;)

    Robert, Does it work? yep great question. It's an important question to ask early...and late.

  45. Is there line by line micro tension a la Donald Maass. Good list!

  46. THIS IS A GREAT POST! Thanks!

    Unnecessary words - aka, writers' tics. I've definitely got those. Time for the red pen!


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