Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Working through the timeline, adding scenes and drafting stories
Many thanks to Courtney Milan, the guest speaker at our writers' meeting last Thursday, whose presentation triggered the idea for this blog post. Courtney's presentation was "Editing for Voice." It could have been titled, "Editing Deeper to Take Your Story from Good to Great Using Examples and Exercises from Some of My Favorite Books."
A much longer title, but that's what Courtney did in this hands-on presentation. Her suggestions got me thinking about editing, and how changing one word or phrase in key places can give a story that illusive "voice" that entices editors and readers to buy our books.
I'm going to paraphrase a couple of her suggestions here, so my apologies to Courtney if I don't convey the full meaning of the edits she suggested.
One example she gave was to replace a literal word with an emotionally significant one. Instead of saying "John's green eyes..." watched her, say "John's reptilian eye..." While "green" is a fine and functional word, "reptilian" will generate an emotional reaction from the reader. Getting a reader emotionally involved with our characters is a good thing!
Using an example from her upcoming novel, TRIAL BY DESIRE, Courtney used several paragraphs of before-and-after editing to show how to give scenes give a consistent message. In the draft, most of the wording set a chilly scene: "a blast of cold air," "a pale and unforgiving light." However, the phrase "...painted his skin golden" snuck into this scene. The edited version made the tone of the scene consistent by replacing those warm words with "...as if he were a cold, hard statue of a god...instead of a man made of warm flesh and blood."
Courtney also offered examples of effectively using an unexpected phrase or an unusual reaction from a character to surprise readers. She led us through other exercises and examples, but I'm not going to give away all of her presentation. :)
I've added Courtney's suggestions to my editing arsenal--along with the other processes I use, such as highlighting point-of-view characters in different colors, checking for overused words, balancing dialogue and description, and making sure the hero's eye color doesn't change in mid-story. This is in addition to reading my stories out loud, and reading through several times to check that all subplots and/or story threads are resolved, and character arcs are complete.
Can you tell that I like doing edits? How about you? Do you have a favorite editing process or a suggestion for deepening the emotion in your stories and offering insights into your characters?
P.S. to Becky: thanks for the warning to expect to stay up late into the night to read Courtney's debut release, PROOF BY SEDUCTION. If anyone wants to know more about Courtney, her Web site is www.courtneymilan.com