With only one new submission from my critique group I was able to focus on finishing the full novel critique for a friend. I took some time, and 3k words, to talk about ways to improve the story. Many of these suggestions can be applied to any novel, so I thought I would share them with the rest of the world in a three post series about editing. Without further ado: Editing Resources.
Not all writing tools work for all writers. The ones I list are ones were particularly applicable to the book I critiqued. If they don't work for you feel free to throw them out the window.
Pyramid of Abstraction - More details make a piece feel more professional. This tool looks into why. The more grounded the reader is in a scene the more crazy shit the author can talk about without losing the reader. More specific details, particularly dealing with the senses, will help ground the reader. This is from Sanderson’s seventh class. (Which is the best in the series so far.) Definitely worth a listen.
Cutting 10% - In the realm of editing it is said that cutting 10% will help streamline a story. This isn’t supposed to be a generic guideline or goal – it's a learning process. The hope is that a writer will learn the economy of words, making sure each one adds detail, character development, action, or plot. Once an author understands the economy cutting 10% usually isn’t needed or wanted. (That being said, one of my favorite books ever, “The Mote in God’s Eye,” was the result of a request by the publisher to cut 10% even though both authors were well established.)
Sanderson’s Laws of Magic – There are three laws, the first one is usually the most relevant. “An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.” Powers needed to be expanded upon is because the novel does use magic to solve problems. If the reader doesn’t understand the magic, and the limits of that magic, then they can’t really get used to it. There is a video or text to learn more about this law.
The best example of this is LoTF. Gandalf seems all mighty and powerful, yet he cannot take the ring to Mordor himself. BUT because the magic system is completely undefined the readers don’t question it. On the other hand there’s the ring, which has the clearly defined power of turning the MC invisible. This is used plenty of times throughout the book and when it’s used to the MCs advantage the readers love it.
Motivation/Reaction Units (MRU) – For easier reading a motivation should come before the reaction. The door needs to creak before a character has a reason to look at the door. Realizing that the photos don’t look like the apartment has to happen first, the reaction is a feeling of regret. This was from the book “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View”, I’m not sure you’d get anything else useful out it, the rest of their suggestions don’t really suit your writing style.
DitS - Editing Lesson 14
14 Flash Fiction Pieces