Self-Editing for Genre Fiction Authors
Apologies for my absence. I have been fitting in writing the manuscript whenever possible to create a working first draft.
DAY 25. Week Seven. What has to be done by the end of this week?
- Work on the second draft of manuscript.
- Revise the text so that the main storylines are clear then careful check for spelling and punctuation.
- Then send the manuscript to my editor for copyediting and proofreading.
Why Self-Editing Matters
The answer lies in technology and the way that you and I have access to, and chose to read, the written word.
The English speaking world has developed an insatiable hunger for the written word and demands to read those words on every kind of reading device created.
But all of that material creates a very serious problem.
The proliferation of reading devices and content has created such a deluge of material, that the tidal wave has washed away traditional pricing structures for books.
There is a glut of books, and readers expect to pay either very little for those books or even get them for free.
This is especially true for genre fiction. Romance and crime readers are voracious consumers and love bargains. And it applies whether you are traditionally published or self-published.
I am both, and know how tough the current fiction market can be, irrespective of the niche that you are writing in.
The Quality of the Writing and the Format
The challenge is that these eBooks are often published online without proofreading, copyediting or the correct formatting for that digital platform.
This has created an expectation in many readers that self-published books are often badly written and it is better if they stay with authors they are familiar with.
How do you stand out in the crowded fiction market?
By investing the time to understand and apply story craft to create a satisfying emotional experience for your readers.
Then we might just have a chance of finding the readers who would love our stories.
Editing for Genre Fiction Authors
There are three main types of editing:
One of the things they don’t tell you when you sign the contract with a traditional publishing house is that the editor who loves your story proposal and your voice is going to read your finished manuscript which you have slaved over for months, and then tell you all of the things that need to be revised before they agree to publish it. And pay you.
Revisions? Sometimes I have had to rewrite whole chapters and update a complete storyline or character arc.
Next there is copy editing:
“the process of reviewing and correcting written material to improve accuracy, readability, and fitness for its purpose, and to ensure that it is free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copy_editing
And finally line edits and proofreading.
But what happens when you don’t have the services of a traditional publisher?
My Self-Editing Process
Everything starts with the characters and the story idea, so for me it is essential to work on Story Editing and be happy with a final draft of the manuscript before moving onto the copy edits and proofreading.
Crime Fiction. Story Architecture for Cozy Mysteries
I am tracking 4 storylines in this cozy mystery.
A MAIN PLOT = the murder mystery plotline which is the spine of this book. A specific crime will be solved by the end of the book. Different crime each time.
B SUBPLOT = a longer running storyline which will continue in the series Problem relationships and family. Lottie and her relationship with her mother, and the extended Russo family. Linked to her self-belief and plans for her future.
C SUBPLOT = a romance or relationship storyline which will continue in the series. Create powerful internal conflicts for both sleuth and the cop/romance character. Matt Ridley, private investigator and nephew of her neighbor Lucien. Former fund manager. Ex -military and aristocratic.
D SUBPLOT = a character based conflict subplot. Lottie’s continuing relationship with her old school friends and neighbors in the village. Has to start in book one and continue as ongoing subplot.
Step One. Start with the Murder Mystery
The first thing I will do is to print out the complete manuscript and read through every chapter and write down how the murder has been solved. This has to be based on the clues and knowledge presented and the sequence of steps that takes the reader on an interesting journey from start to finish.
I have no problem scribbling all over my pages in red or green pen, striking through or correcting text, and adding sticky notes for changes.
This is the spine of the book and the book ends when the sleuth identifies who killed the victim or victims. This storyline therefore has to include all of the clues and distractions, actions and reveals that lead the sleuth to the killer, in hopefully a logical and entertaining way.
I have already shared my starting point – a 16 step Combined Story Plan for a Cozy Mystery
This is there as a guide to the main storyline but is not designed to be used as a checklist. Simply an outline to spark ideas and keep me on track.
Because this is a short book [target 40 to 45,000 words] the pacing has to be kept brisk. No hanging around talking for two chapters.
My Process? Create an outline of the steps from chapter one to the end.
*What happens when the scene opens?
*What happens next? An Action or Reveal followed by an Emotional and Physical Reaction.
*What happens next? Action or Reveal followed by an Emotional and Physical Reaction.
*What happens next? Action or Reveal followed by an Emotional and Physical Reaction.
…and so on. To create a series of clues, actions, reveals and reactions.
- Does every scene move the story forwards or reveal something. Is there conflict of some sort in every scene?
- Does the story make sense? Or do I need to add another scene and/or rewrite a flat one?
- Can I cut and streamline to increase the pace without losing content? Do I really need that long introspection?
The goal is to provide an emotional experience that satisfies readers, not great sections of exposition showing off all of the research that I have carried out on bizarre murder methods. Rare tree frog venom anyone?
The B Subplot. Have I woven in those scenes and snippets where Lottie is interacting with her mother and the extended Russo family, so that they feel organic and unobtrusive? Does her introspection track from start to end to create a powerful character arc? And most importantly, does the reader see how Lottie has changed from the person she was at the start the book? Character change = interest and engagement. Can I use symbolism to demonstrate the change from the first pages to the last?
The Main Character and Sleuth is Lottie Brannigan
- What is her short term goal when the story starts – a simple external goal with a clear endpoint and pref linked to a chance to achieve her longing or need – she has to do this to make a big change in her life? This could be as simple as making it back in time for her birthday party.
- What are the stakes? What happens is she does not achieve this goal?
- Why now?
- What is her long term goal – her longing- that deeply held desire which she has not found the courage to go after yet?
- What is her need? The thing that is missing in her life which will make it complete?
- What is her wound – the unhealing source of continuing pain? This has led to the identity mask that they show to the world – which will be chipped away during the story journey.
- What is the one overpowering dilemma in this story? And who does it belong to? The dilemma is the choice between staying in the past or moving forward and taking the risk – and it belongs to the person who changes most.
The C Subplot. Have I introduced Matt Ridley as a potential romantic interest in a subtle and believable way? Have I show her reaction to him and made him come alive through dialogue and actions?
The D Subplot. Lottie and her pals and neighbors. Have I introduced at least 3 to 5 core characters who will be coming back in other books as supporting cast, who all live in this community? They have to have quirks and mannerisms and feel real. Have I shown them chatting and interacting and adding balancing humor?
Step Five. General Fiction Editing
I want this to be a fast-paced, short read, so there is not a lot of space for filler backstory or exposition.
Setting. Have I created a sense of place for my fictional village through careful use of a few specific details? What time of year is it? Why is this important? Where does my sleuth live and work etc.
Point of View, Dialogue and Dialogue tags. I like third person point of view so I can use introspection as part of the character’s reaction to events and revelations. This does create a challenge for speech tags.
Characterization. Focus on a few key aspects and let the dialogue and reaction from other characters fill in the gaps.
Theme .The theme of the story is around finding your true happiness and making a commitment to going for it.
Line edits and proofreading, including formatting.
Send the final manuscript to an editor who is a specialist in this genre, or beta-readers and friends for them to read on condition that they are going to be ruthless in their feedback.
Romance Fiction. Story Architecture for Romance Fiction
There are 4 overarching components of any piece of romance fiction, irrespective of the length.
- The Main A Romance Story. How the romance relationship builds.
- B Plot. The Character Arc of the Heroine over the course of the story.
- C Plot. The Character Arc of the Hero over the course of the story.
- D Plot. The external story situation which will bring the hero and heroine together, even if they are battling against one another for the same prize. In most cases this acts as the spine for the story.
Use the same process to track the storylines from start to end.
After 19 novels I can share with you the fundamental truth. The book that your readers will buy is a more compelling story because of the editing and revisions. No doubt about it.
Now to finish the editing and send the text to my editor!