Monday, April 11, 2011

You're Not Alone in your Despair

Editing is hard. It's difficult to find fault with a manuscript I loved so much while I was writing it. It's painful to accept the changes that ought to be made to improve the book. Just because I can see that it's going to be better doesn't mean that I like having to make those changes.

 Some of the changes are simple. I have several characters whose names begin with the same letter. That can quickly become confusing to the reader so some of those names are getting changed. Some of the changes are more complicated. I have a cast of a gazillion minor characters. Some will be merged into a single character. Some will sadly have to go.

And some of the changes are more complicated. My hero does something that doesn't really work. Can I give him a better motivation for his action? Will it be better to cut that part altogether? Does that scene work better if I move it later in the story? Those are the kind of things that can leave you doubting yourself and your book. That is the struggle that is editing.

Storywonk's revision class was very useful in trying to organize the process. Lani has a podcast where she talks about what we learned in the class. You can listen to the podcast as streaming video or download it as an mp3.

In brief, Lani says you have an opening scene, three turning points, a climax and a resolution. These things are sometimes given different names by different people, but when defined, they refer to more or less the same thing. The turning points are simply the scene that ends one act and sets up the problem for the following act.

Most stories and books, plays and movies have a three act structure. In simplest terms, a beginning, a middle and an end. It sounds so simple and really it is pretty straightforward. In theory anyway.

If you click through the links on three act structure, you'll see that the Harlequin article uses a movie as an example and Paula Graves refers to a book on screen writing. Take their advice and really spend some time thinking about the story structure in the movie or TV show you are watching. It's easier to see the structure in a movie. It's shorter than most books and the turning points are often clear. So you can sit on the sofa, eating popcorn and claim that you are working.

The nifty posterboard is to hold post-its for all of my scenes. I've got all my stuff and I've made all my notes. Now I get to make something pretty.


  1. Hi Julia!
    I can't say I follow the three act structure, at least not formally. I'm a pantser so I don't do much outlining beforehand. But I do keep in mind the necessary story elements and where they need to be.
    I just finished up a month of revisions/editing. (With my first book it took over 5 months so I'm improving.) But it's still a daunting task.
    Good luck with your edits! I'm rooting for you!

  2. Congratulations at being at the editing stage, that's amazing progress. And so encouraging that you can see the changes to be made - character amalgamation, doubtful motivation, all important but hard to spot in our won, beloved wip. Good luck, can't wait to read it x

  3. It's wonderful to get to the end of the first draft and begin the work of sorting through the scenes to see what works and what doesn't. I hope to get to that stage one day. I find it very hard to plan. I tend to feel my way as I go along which does create it's own problems.

    Good luck with the edits!

  4. Julia,

    Very nice post. I'd like to use it as guest post on my blog if you're agreeable. Of course I'd say nice things about you :-) to introduce it. My readers have heard so much about the class from my POV--I think it would be nice for them to get it from another perspective. Just let me know.

  5. Thanks, Wendy!! I'll take all the encouragement I can get.

  6. Rose I"m hoping that I'm making good changes!

    Alexandra I don't plan too tightly, but with no plan at all I begin to ramble. I can go on for pages with nothing really happening. This keeps me in check.

  7. That sounds great, Kay. I'd love to do it.

  8. Great post Julia. Thanks for the links!

  9. I like the claiming you're working thing. :)

  10. Great post, Julia. And what awesome links, thanks for sharing.

    All the best with your edits!

  11. Good luck with the editing, Julia! I'm in the same boat so know exactly how you're feeling. Great links by the way :) x