So here are five tips I posted on the wall of my workspace to help me when I am editing:
1. Stay in the past tense.
Yeah so I won’t go through a whole tense lesson, though it would probably help me, but the default verb in Fiction is past-tense. It can be fun and purposeful to buck convention, but first you have to understand the convention or it can get sloppy.
2. Eliminate Unnecessary verbiage.
Writing that sounds good when your jamming out in your own creative space just sounds wordy and affective to others. People are reading for the story. Overly complicated and confusing metaphors and similes only distract them from the story which should be interesting enough. These beautiful pieces of imagery should work into the story itself. They should arise naturally in detail. Don’t try churching it up on folks.
3. Where are we? And what are we doing?
This connects to the butchering we talked about last post. I’m having to just ditch pages to get to the little nugget of action which is what we are after. We repeat ourselves in the initial writing phase because we are trying to figure it out, by the time we share the story it needs to be figured out.
I think new writers can wander. We have a general outline of a story, but we have undeveloped legs and so we stumbled around. We need to soberly evaluate where am I and what in the hell am I doing here?! If this is unclear it needs to be brought into focus. Meandering without purpose is perdition.
4. How does this help the story?
Once I know where the hell I am at, I need to ask, why in the hell am I here? Do we need to see your protagonist at age seven eating her Cheerios, probably not. This is exactly what I was accused of in my initial critics, giving too many pointless details.
5. The critic is right. The reader is god.
This one is hard to swallow for me. I bet many others suffer with this too. Writing is a narcissistic exercise for sure. Books are edifices created for an individual’s glorification.
The problem is our glorification cannot occur until we share and are found approved. It is a contradiction of intention to offer the world something to eat and then say I don’t give a damn what you think about it, choke on it for all I care. I am not yet a mad enough bastard to say that, so at this point I say the reader is god. I must appeal to their pleasures.
6. DO THE WORK!
Writing is a pleasure and editing is work. That’s my opinion anyways. You can ignore the world and the criticism and make the stories just for yourself, and maybe your manuscripts will be picked from your dead hands, and the world will discover you and you will arise with some new-age Hermetic disciple holding your ghostly hand and manuscript, and you can rest then in the ethereal realm and bask in rays of your shared glory. Even then though, a good story requires loads of work. If you want it, you have to earn it.