Tag Archives: how to edit a novel

How get your story back on track… #amwriting #NaNoWriMo


Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about reconnecting to the main message of your story via your plot and thesis…

Ok, so, today, for me, it’s all about two words: thesis and plot. I say these two things because, right now I am facing a very important edit of the second book in my thriller trilogy, working with my, frankly, awesome editor, and something has cropped up, something that is crucial not only to my writing, but all story writing. Yep, it’s the two words I mentioned above. And if you are either editing your work right now, are in the middle of a first draft or simply planning, listen up.

A thesis in a story is what the author is saying about the book summarised in one sentence. For example: crime doesn’t pay, love conquers all etc. My thesis for book two is: The truth will out.  Now, here’s the rub: the thesis is the most vital part of a book and is what holds the attention of an editor and reader throughout the book and beyond. Try this: think of your fave novel – what made it stick in your head for so long? What was it saying to you? That is the thesis talking.

Often, as writers, we focus on the plot and while that’s crucial, it is often done at the detriment of the thesis. I have found, as we all often do, that, in the sea of writing, I forget, sometimes, my thesis, forget to communicate what my book is trying to say. And when that happens, it all goes wobbly.

So what to do? Well, that’s the easy part, because you see, the function of the plot is to communicate the thesis of your book. And that’s it. Do that, and your story will have coherence. Don’t do that, don’t communicate the thesis via the plot and your story will simply be a string of events with minimum significance outside the drama of the narrative you’ve created. This means that when you create a plot development, bear in mind your thesis and only include it if it is underpinning your thesis. If not, it is a piece of bark floating in a sea, unconnected to anything else – and it has to go.

So, today, that’s my advice to you – and to myself. Always check in with your thesis. Ask yourself, ‘What is my book trying to say? Is my plot communicating that thesis to the reader?’ Sometimes you may find you’re on the right track, others, like now with me, you may discover you need to steer the ship back on course. And it doesn’t half feel good when you get on the right route again.

So that’s me, today, steering my writing ship, trying to communicate, through my plot, what on earth my novel is trying to say underneath, between those black and white lines. Simple, right..?

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

Diary of a hopeful author: Hey! How an iPad can help you edit…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 These iPads are the thing aren’t they? I mean, really, they’re snazzy. Have you got one? Tap it. Go on. Hmm? You‘ve not got one? Okay, so reach over and tap someone else’s. What’s that? It’s the bloke’s next to you sat on the train? What the hell. Give that screen a little slide.

You see, as I write this, I have an iPad by my side all flat and sleek like washboard stomach at a gym. But, thing is, I haven’t used it much for writing. Well, I say much, not at all really. And the Love Film app, it turns out, doesn’t count. You see, if you follow this Wednesday Waffling/Diary blog (and MASSIVE thanks if you do) you’ll know from previous entries that I am in the throes of editing my second novel. It’s not been going so well.  Thankfully, I’ve figured out that editing a book is like painting a picture – it’s got to be done in layers, like the colours on canvas. I’ve also figured out that it takes time and patience. I know, doesn’t take Einstein to figure that one out. 

The tricky thing I’ve been finding this week though is that when I’m editing my novel, I’m not reading it, you know? I mean really reading it, like a reader. But woman! You may be saying. You are reading the thing, goddammit, you’re editing it! And yes, my friend, you’d be right. But, trouble is, I’ve not been reading my novel like I would if it wasn’t mine – and this is the nut at the centre of my issue. 

iPads- snazzy & handy for editing. Who knew?

You see, when you’re at stage one of editing a novel you have to look at the bigger picture issues. Does the plot make sense? How is the characterisation working? Is the POV – the point of view – right? All bullet-landing questions and ones, I’ve discovered via mild swear words muttered at my laptop in the small hours of the morning,  that I cannot fully answer when I’m pouring over every detail on the laptop screen, my eyes literally seeing double as I stumble jelly legged to the kettle in desperate need of more caffeine.  

So, imagine my surprise when I discover that the answer to all my problems lies not in a new foundation from Bobbi Brown (although, given my current caffeine complexion, that may also help), but in the iPad. My iPad. And, specifically, the Kindle app on my iPad. 

What I didn’t know that I do now is that you can send PDF files to a Kindle/Kindle app and then read it on said technology. Whoa! This is the gold nugget, people. Because, you see, reading on a Kindle is, you know, just like reading a book. Are you with me? And so, if I sent my draft novel as a PDF to the Kindle app on my iPad… yes! Do you see where I’m going here? Of course you do, you sharp tack in the box, you! By reading my novel on my iPad/Kindle, I can view it JUST LIKE A READER WOULD. Ta-da! Seriously, I cannot believe I didn’t think of this before. It’s like discovering that I actually do like dark chocolate all over again. 

So, what I am doing now is going through the 1st edit stage of my novel using my iPad/Kindle. I read my draft as I would any other book on the Kindle app and then, on the table, I have open my laptop on which is the novel as a word document. Then, when I read something that needs editing, I tap on the laptop and hey presto! Progress! You knew? It’s the ‘reading it like any other book’ bit that’s the key here. By reading my novel in this way I am more objective. I can see what readers might see, not just what I see, which is, let’s face it, coming from a highly critical stance. Yup, writers are their own worst critics, and, as it turns out, their own worst eyebrow pluckers, but that’s another story (why do tweezers hurt so much?).

So, for the rest of this week I shall be iPadding. I will be using my iPad Kindle app thingy to edit my book at this all-important big picture stage. Hopefully, it will help me steer the novel in the right direction. And if not, at the very least, it will mean that I am using my iPad. It has apps! It has games!  It has instant celebrity gossip magazine access! Oh yes, iPads really, really are the thing.

So what d’you think? Is the iPad really the thing? What’s your thing for editing or, hey, reading, you know, books? Let’s hear it.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m going back to wind turbines and looking at the cold, hard data, people…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to edit your novel like a painting…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Do you sometimes have days where you don’t know what to do? Well, welcome to my week. Yup, these past few days I have been procrastinating with a capital P, and here’s why: my editing sucks. There said it.  The editing of my second novel is going worse than a knees up at a party political conference and it’s doing my head in. You may recall me mentioning my editing issues before, and for this, I apologise. Thing is, it is now reaching boiling point and do you know what? I know why. I do. So, I’m going to be honest with you now. The reason why my editing is going so badly is because I am utterly impatient.

When I first began writing books some years ago, editing seemed easy.  Yes, it appeared like a breeze on the wind after a long trek through the desert. But now I know better. Oh yessurey. You see, editing a novel cannot be done in one go, as it turns out.  And it is this I have to come to terms with.  Think of editing a book as a painting. Paintings are full of colours, textures, layers, but of course, they were not all put on in one go. Oh no. And, hope you’re sitting down, because here is my analogy.

Look at all those layers..!

Paintings have a base layer of colour. For a book, this base layer is equivalent to edit number 1. Yes, edit number one is your base edit. ee? It is the very first edit of your work after the idea has spilled out of you on to the blank page. At this first stage, you need to edit your style. Read through each chapter, adjust your lines, your dialogue.  Ask if your writing is good. How are you characters?

What you can’t do at the same time as edit one is figure out pacing. Pacing goes to edit number two, or, if you’re a painter, your next layer of colour. This is the one that gives the artwork dimension. The pacing for the novel is how the chapters flow together. Ask yourself is it fast enough? Slow enough? Cut and mold your chapters. Include here too how the characters fit together. Cull also anything you don’t need.

When your washed out doing that then your ready for the final edit – edit number three. This is your final layer of colour, if you will, the layer that makes the eyes visible on the face (stay with me). At this stage of the novel edit you need to proof check like crazy. And then read the entire thing back through again. Check for the flow after all your work from the other edits. Read it as if you are a reader. Ask yourself would you buy it. You may find you need to tweak, and God forbid, you may need another mini- edit, but it will be the signature on the canvas, so to speak.

And so there you go – the reason why I am impatient. Because editing comes in layers. If I want to do it well  – and I really, really do – then I have to do it like this. I have to stage my edits, polish my work so it ends up shining enough for someone to want to read it. And all that takes time.

So, I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and get on with it. Yes, it’s going to take forever, but it will be worth it. Better than a knees up at a party political conference any day. Now, where’s my paintbrush.

How do you edit? Do you do anything different? Or does it take forever too?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the badger culling in Gloucestershire…**