More Editing Progress!
Updated: Dec 20, 2021
I have continued to edit my novel to make the story more engaging and easy to read, to build character and tension. There are three broad categories of editing, according to Ethereal Books: Structural editing, Copy Editing and Proof reading. I have used several techniques in each category while editing my fiction novel.
Before even beginning to write, I worked on the structure of my novel, selecting the stories to include, and organizing the content in a logical sequence. These scenes were chosen with the goal of showcasing the women actually present in the gospels. The novel includes every woman mentioned in the Gospels, many of whom have been maligned, belittled or forgotten. I listed each woman with their Biblical reference. I charted a synopsis of the gospels and the sequence in which events occur, and tracked Biblical references by chapter. I researched geographic locations and logical movements of the characters through the space and time. I worked on the logic and timelines of the plot. After the plot was all written chronologically, I chose the scene with the most tension and moved it to the first chapter to bring the reader to empathize with the main character and her goals. What was previously chapter one became chapter two and had to be re-written.
Part of the structural editing involved naming the genre and themes and having the characters and context demonstrate these themes. In my case, I show Jesus empowering women as students, patrons, disciples and apostles. However, I did not want to portray an unrealistic idea that believing in Jesus solves everything; I show the characters facing challenges, gaining insights, and growing in strength. As part of my structural editing, I made a spreadsheet showing how the events of the novel impact the character development. I plotted out when they make progress towards their goals and when they face a crisis, moving two steps forward and one step back on their character arc to their final goal. I hope that their techniques for overcoming problems will inspire and empower readers to face and overcome their own challenges.
To develop my characters, I visualized an image for each of my main characters and wrote details of their appearance, clothing, actions, backstory, motives and goals. I detailed the scenery, describing the world in which the action takes place, adding specifics of what the characters are seeing, smelling, eating, and thinking. At the beginning of each new scene, I had to be sure to show which people were present, where they were and what they were doing.
Structural editing also means cutting where there is repetition or preaching. Plot show the problems that come with inequality: when weak are abused or mixed-race persons are excluded. Preaching is not needed and detracts from the story. Editing means leaving some conclusions for the reader to discover for themselves. It means looking at each sentance and asking if it contributes to the movement of the story line or character development.
When I reviewed the novel for copy editing, I focused on making the language readable, engaging and clear. Did I use the best vocabulary choices, avoid repeating words? Could I cut an adverb by using a more descriptive verb or showing emotion visually? Are the words relatable, in everyday use and not unique to religion? Do they carry a double meaning for the past and the present to reinforce the theme? Could I make the meaning more clear by changing sentence structures from Passive to Active voice?
My first draft was written with me narrating the story, popping into the mind, thought and emotion of many characters. The plot was more a series of anecdotes. To engage the reader with the characters and their goals, I decided to tell the whole story in third person with the point of view limited to the thoughts and experiences of two main characters. I needed to focus on one character's point of view for an entire scene or chapter, including only what that character could see or hear or feel. It means the reader does not know how other characters feel except by the observations of the main character: posture, facial expression or dialogue. Narrator comments and thoughts and feelings of other characters were cut. Some scenes had to be moved to a different chapter. Each scene had to quickly indicate whose point of view was being told.
Copy editing meant checking that there was a new paragraph break where needed: when changing focus to a new idea, topic, event, or character, or moving to a new setting, and whenever a new character speaks in a dialogue. It meant evaluating dialogues to determine when that was the best way to tell the story. I cut monologues and gave the conversations a more realistic flow. I used specific topics and styles of speaking to reflect the characters' personalities. I built jealousy, love, anger, resentment and other emotions into the relationships of the characters. I cut adverbs and descriptive dialogue tags. I reduced the number of dialogue tags and simplified them. I learned that dialogue tags prior to dialogue can stop the flow of the reading. To draw readers in, the narrative shows the speakers actions or emotions, and the dialogue is placed at the middle or end.
This is the micro focussed category of editing. It includes such things as spelling, grammar, punctuation, repeated words or typographical errors. For this level of editing, I used three techniques:
a) Word editor feature, which can be set to identify issues with punctuation, clarity, conciseness, inclusiveness and vocabulary. Once all of these areas are addressed, Word provides a summary of Readability Statistics, sentence and paragraph length, reading ease and grade level, and use of passive sentences.
b) Word also provides a Review/Read Aloud feature, and as your laptop reads your document aloud, you will notice things that you would not notice in reading, especially in reading something that you have read many times.
c) Grammarly is an extension to the Chrome browser, and you can use the free version or pay for the premium version. As I put each chapter of my novel through Grammarly, it identified sentences that may have been unclear, compound sentences that could be shortened, and any vocabulary, spelling and punctuation issues.
Now I have been through my novel a number of times, each time looking at specific details. The attached Readability Statistics show my progress over the last two months. The character development and themes are revealed in the plot and actions. The end result is an engaging story of two women, Maru is broken by abuse and Joanna by racism. Both are taking steps towards wholeness and hope. May reading it also help you find hope and peace.