Workout: Editing 101 #2


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Our second editing 101 workout session took place last night at The Writers’ Block. Again, we were happy to see more new members taking part. This week we picked apart the beginning of a novel from a New York Times bestselling author. It quickly became apparent that his name commands more weight than the quality of his writing. @kdneeley quickly chimed in.

One thing I can say is I can’t tell whose perspective this is from.

She nailed the fact that although it read as third-person omniscient, it slipped into first-person.

Wait, What is Third-Person Omniscient?

Good question. Omniscient means “all-knowing” and this is a method of telling a story, through which the author expresses the thoughts and feelings of all characters in the piece. The writer can convey significant depth and meaning about each character, much more than others in the book know about each other. The author can move from character to character and their different voices, or points of view while maintaining a god-like distance as narrator. The voice of the narrator can be distinct or neutral. In this case, there was a certain amount of arrogance to the narrator, which came through clearly. You had better be able to pull this off successfully, though, and not intrude too much into the story. Third-person omniscient is a difficult device to pull off successfully, and in this piece, we saw a lot of ‘head-hopping’, from this point of view to first-person and back.

We also deduced that some of the sentence structure was overly long and convoluted and that, in fact, entire sections could easily be cut out as they added nothing to the story. There were also a lot of unnecessary info-dumps.

In response to a question, we then went off-piste and discussed how to switch characters in a story, making each distinct from another. Next, we spoke about how much detail to use in describing the surroundings of a scene, and how important it is to make sure that those details come from the minds and points of view of your characters, and not from the narrator.

Next, the subject of flashbacks was touched upon, and how difficult it is to master this literary device. In the normal course of a scene, you could use exposition to tell your readers about events in the character’s past. In flashbacks, you have to show it in a fully dramatized scene. The author also has to ensure that the reader knows they have moved back in time, and also when you return to the present time. Done incorrectly, this can be jarring to the reader.

Finally, we discussed using formatting or different fonts to convey, for example newspaper articles or text messages in stories. In my particular case, I was thinking of using a different font in my own series, Virtual Mortality: when in actual reality the font differs from when the protagonist is in the virtual reality world. While this could work in an actual printed book, e-readers only support one font throughout a book, so in this day an age, it should be avoided.

These workshops have proved to be invaluable not only to people wishing to learn to edit, like me, but also for the writer who wishes to self-edit more. I have learned so much primarily as a writer from just these past two sessions and look forward to their continuation.

The next session starts at 18:00 EST / 22:00 UTC /23:00 GMT in the workouts-voice channel and the editing-101 text channel over on The Writers’ Block Discord server. Everyone is welcome to join.

Muxxy

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