Polishing Your Written Gem
Whether you’re Indie or Traditional or Hybrid, as a writer, your editor can not only give you an unbiased opinion on your work, but they will keep your story and its many components straight.
Your character sprouts an extra arm, leg, or other appendage? Dr. Editor will amputate.
Your character is left standing at the side of the road while the rest of your cast merrily trots along? Your editing driver will send a taxi back for a pick up.
A character decides to not only change their hair color, but their height (without taking off their shoes)? Your editing beauty consultants will dash into action, adjusting color and adding (or removing) heels as necessary.
Editors chew their way through the basics—spelling, sentence structure, verb usage—all vital parts of your story, but what about the more subtle parts? The true skill of an editor will shine when they begin to battle descriptions, active versus passive verbs, points of views, character motivation and behaviors, plausible plotlines, world crafting, and believability.
But wait! Before you hit send and hurtle your written treasure at your chosen editor, you want to ensure you’ve already corrected common writing flaws. Have you and your red pen added necessary commas and periods? Were you able to haul out the large amounts of backstory weighing your first chapter down? Did you do an I.D. check to make sure your main character didn’t suddenly acquire a new name?
If so, your editor will love you. Why? Because this will allow them to focus on the other facets of your written gem, like the every popular, Show-Don’t-Tell rule.
Wait, you haven’t met this one yet? Well, since I’m a sucker for examples, let’s dive into the treacherous depths of show-don't-tell. You all know this pit of despairing darkness, because as writers we don’t want to tell our readers about our characters and world, we want to show them. This requires stronger, more active verbs, closer points of view, and vivid descriptions, which will trap your readers in your story.
We’ll use a passage that won’t land me on a hit list, as the author and I share mental headroom. This is from my first book, SHADOW’S EDGE from 2011.
The original passage read:
Raine moved like lightening to catch the little black remote before it hit the ground. Eden gave a frustrated shriek and went after Ryder's face with her long nails, scoring three long scratches before her could stop her.
Ryder cursed, yanking the doctor's arms behind her back, forcing her to face forward. Raine didn't spare Eden a glance, but moved in to the cell. She could feel Cheveyo coming up behind her. Using her magic, Raine called up a small illuminating ball of light to chase back the darkness from the cell.
Huddled in the corner was a naked Gavin. Fresh cuts, seeping burns, and trickles of blood mixed with sweat-drenched, tangled hair made macabre abstracts over the shaking arms, wrapped around drawn up legs.
This small passage is an action scene, which demands strong verbs, vivid descriptions, and showing the reader what’s happening, not telling them.
Take the very first line: Saying she moved like lightening is telling, not showing.
How is a writer to conquer this beast? They shall craft stronger verb usage.
Picking the right verb makes a world of difference. No writer wants their reader to get bored and move on. The key to recognizing and beating the crap out of passive voice is not to add -ing to every verb or tack on “was”, because that means you’ve begun to travel down the passive trail and meander into boring territory. Spice it up. Kick it around, make sure your sentences do something. Each chapter, each sentence must move your story forward.
Your goal as a storyteller is to keep your reader up late through the night to finish "...just one more page" regardless of the fact that at the crack of dawn they have a meeting their entire career hinges upon.
Watch what happens when you show your readers with stronger verb use:
Raine sprang forward and caught the little black remote before it hit the ground. Eden shrieked and raked Ryder’s face with her long nails, scoring three long gashes before he could stop her.
He cursed and yanked her arms behind her back, forcing her to face forward. Without sparing her a glance, Raine dashed into the cell with Cheveyo right behind her. She summoned a small ball of light to chase back the darkness from the cell.
Gavin was huddled in the corner, naked. Fresh cuts, seeping burns, and trickles of blood, mixed with sweat-drenched, tangled hair threw macabre abstracts over his shaking arms, which were wrapped around his drawn-up legs.
Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Want to turn the page and see what happens next? This is the beauty of showing versus telling. It's worth every drop of blood you sweat as you transfer those voices in your head to paper.
Editors will be the first to nudge you off the cliff of show-don’t-tell when you can't get your feet to move. They mind the details of your story so you won’t be inundated with emails, which politely point out the errors of your story. To be a successful writer, you need to continue to grow your craft and your skill set. Editors are here to help you hone your Pen of Magic so you don’t get caught in the subtle trap of “same story, different....” You get the picture.
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