Think of the revision process as an inverted triangle, attacking it in four stages, from macro (plot, big stuff) to micro (nitty-gritty grammar, fact checking, the works).
A reader recently interviewed me for her class project, and asked for tips for beginning writers. I don’t think she’ll mind if I re-share my answers with you.
Q: I have been working on set up for my middle grade novel, structuring it by switching points of view between main characters. One thing I'm struggling with is working out the timeline so the reader is aware of flashbacks. I could do flash back memories, but then there will be a ton of flashbacks...
-from author Melissa Yeoman
A. Think of the flashbacks as memories each character has. The character exists in the present story and may see or think of something that sets off a memory. Think of your own flashbacks. As you go back in time, you relive the scene in your mind. In the same way you can have book characters go back to a moment in their memories, then "show" the scene as it took place back in time, as if the action is unrolling before the readers' eyes. Do not describe the scene, "show" the scene -- have the characters speak words in dialogue as the action is taking place.
You can introduce the scene in a paragraph as a thought by one of the characters. For example: "Lael remembered her mother telling of her trip to see Evylyn. It had been a warm night, they had been gathering nectar, and her mother had said, "I was your age..." and then you write out the scene as if it is happening in the present. Have the character see and think about what is happening as if it is being experienced for the first time. After the flashback scene, you can have something pull the character "back to reality," like a loud sound or someone asking a question.
Another flashback technique would be to have the character think a "direct thought" about a memory or scene, so that only part is revealed. The memory or scene could be shown slowly over the course of the story. ("Johnny learned more than he wanted that night. The drive in the car, the time on the beach. ..." Then a new paragraph signals the reader we are back to the main story. "He wouldn't go there. He switched lanes and pulled into traffic...) If you find you have "too many" flashback scenes, see what can be condensed. Does each flashback serve a purpose to further the story? It can be fun to experience the same scene through the view of another character, so don't be afraid to reshow a scene. But use the different scenes to provide insight on each character. What motivates each? Show different perspectives, such as one character might say something that could be completely misunderstood by another character. Hope this helps, and happy writing!
Use “Intuitive” revising
What does he/she want?
What stands in the way?
What can they do about it?
What are their core values? In the face of adversity
Plot Summary: A Mad Lib: What happens if/when/after ________ a _________ must _______ or risk/while risking ______ (during ____).
Filling in the blanks: What happens if/when/after the inciting incident event, possibly a result of action of main character, a protagonist, brave boy/girl mustmain action character is doing in story or risk/while risking stakes. What will happen if character can’t do/risk/happen (during post-apolyptic future, 16th Century England, high school).
Building Block Questions:
What’s the ticking clock? Timeline, events in story that have to happen by ____ or else ____.
What’s the big reversal?
What sacrifices must the protagonist make?
The top of the triangle, includes: major character arc (primarily for a series), motivation, setting, theme
Top middle: minor characters, subplot, pacing, questions
Bottom middle: chapters, scenes, timeline, continuity
Bottom, the point of the triangle: language use, dialog, sentences, grammar, fact checking
Make each a separate pass (depending on preferences). Focus on one stage individually until completed, then move on to the next stage.
Read, read, read.
Write every day. Set a concrete goal, like 500 words a day. Then meet the goal. Make it a habit.
Keep a personal journal. Practice putting your thoughts and feelings into words.Wherever you are, be all there. Pay attention. Take in everything. Notice details. Use five senses.
Ask yourself, “What if....” and chase down every, “If only....” That’s where many stories begin.
Notebooks are essential. Ideas sneak up at the strangest moments. Be ready for them.
Look closely at your favorite books/movies/TV shows. Why did you connect with the story?
Join a writing group and/or find a critique partner. Take criticism graciously and learn from it.
Participate in NaNoWriMo every November. Amaze yourself.
from Featured Author, Christa Kinde
Editorial Services, all Stages of Editing
Questions for the Editor