Editing Tip # 4: Edit Backwards to Improve your Editing Efficiency

Editing is all about trying to see the story that’s on the page, not the story in your head. You can attain greater objectivity by changing the font or not looking at your story for a few weeks, but when it comes to the actual changing of the words, there’s another trap many writers fall into. The trap is that you’ll simply skim through your chapters, changing maybe one word a page, and reach the end feeling like you’ve accomplished something. In reality, you’ve probably made your story only slightly better. As busy writers, slightly better isn’t a great result for the amount of time you’ve used.

Fear not! There is a better way: Instead of editing the way you read, edit backwards.

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Why you must Remember your Story isn’t Real to Craft True Suspense

Picture this: it’s the middle of a dramatic story and the main character is being lowered into a pit of ravenous crocodiles. Meanwhile, the villain is launching a doomsday device which will destroy the whole world!

Does this strike you as suspenseful? Are your nerves shredded by the metaphorical food processor that is tension? This scene certainly seems to have high stakes, but does it really?

Chances are it doesn’t. Why? Well, will you really kill the main character in the middle of the story? Is it believable that the villain will kill the whole world? Probably not. I’m not denying there’ll be loads of suspense, but there’s more to creating suspense than just having high stakes.

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Dialogue Tags and the Hidden Power of ‘said’:

Writers hate to repeat what’s been done before. This is particularly apparent when it comes to dialogue tags (those things that come after a line of dialogue and let you know who spoke):

“The bit after the dialogue is called a dialogue tag,” he explained.

What’s wrong with the above sentence? The answer is simple: the dialogue tag (‘he explained’) adds no value. It’s obvious that whoever’s speaking is explaining something, which makes it redundant to tell readers that things are getting explained (and as discussed before, redundancies are bad). You don’t need ‘explained’ – you just need ‘said.’

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The Case for Genre: Why Reader Expectations Matter

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to make an original, creative story is to use a unoriginal premise. Sound crazy? It’s not as weird as it seems, and here’s why.

Readers use their knowledge of other stories to form expectations about yours as they read. If these expectations are met with no surprises, they’ll come away viewing your story as bland and uncreative. If you subvert (that is, challenge) their expectations, readers will think your story is unique. Simple, isn’t it?

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