Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish
By Bethany A. Tucker
Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?
If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask? Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books.
In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place.
Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:
– Characters and Character Arcs.
– Backstory .
– Point of View.
– A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
– Beginnings and Ends.
– Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
– Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers.
Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.
Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com.
Intro and Extract
There’s a long running joke in the writer community about our internet search histories. Half of us look like we’re plotting murder based on what we look up. My friend recently tagged me in a meme that read as follows:
Person 1: Text: “See? She searched for chloroform, blood spatter patterns, acid that dissolves bodies, various blunt-edged weapons, and the difference between the degrees of murder charges. Should I set her as a security risk?”
Person 2: ”No, look here. She also searched for coffee memes and about three dozen synonyms for the word ‘carefully.’ It’s another writer. Move on.”
I responded to my friend, “I feel this!”
It’s been a problem for years.
Right after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed, which made library checkout histories available to the federal government, my father asked me if I had anything checked out that was of a suspicious nature. This goes to show that my father certainly had seen books sitting around my living space of questionable topics. I’m very honest with my father, so I told him I had a book checked out on biochemical warfare. I was researching a possible plot line. “Return it right away, and request that your history is purged before the act goes into effect,” he advised me. I did, as I knew it would help him sleep at night, but in my head I was thinking, “But what about all the other books I’m going to check out in the future?” Because I am, after all, a writer. And we have to look up rather odd and possibly criminally-aligned topics somewhat regularly. It’s part of the job description. If anything, more of us should probably be doing more research!
Which is why the following passage appears in my book:
EXTRACT: From Part VII
Writing What you Know, Or Not…
As writers, we cannot be subject matter experts on everything we write, but we owe our readers the attempt to at least not butcher topics. For example, if an ambulance is called on to a scene, we should have some idea of what’s going to happen. Enough of our readers are either EMTs or have had an ambulance called for themselves or a family member. We should try to not lose the reader’s trust by presenting an entirely unbelievable narrative, unless ridiculous or fantastical is what we’re going for.
While writing, it can be easier to set aside research and tackle everything at the end. This is fine. Make sure you go back and do your research and refine this subject matter before handing the book off to anyone. Unless it’s a subject matter expert you’re consulting.
Two major subjects I’ve seen new writers struggle with are medicine and combat. Watching Star Wars over and over will not realistic medieval warfare fighting scenes make. If you’re writing fighting scenes regularly, I recommend you take martial arts or at least self-defense. Local YMCAs often have these classes at a low cost and sometimes local community agencies or even police departments organize self-defense courses. This isn’t a viable option for everyone, but as someone who has two solid years of training in hand-to-hand and sword fighting, I can swear to the difference it makes.
Getting your facts straight can improve your writing career. Look at Tom Clancy. He did phenomenal amounts of research into modern warfare and it showed. Think of it this way: if you’re writing a book where everyone traveled on horseback, you might be able to write a $40 trail ride off of your taxes and make your work a bit more real to the reader while you’re at it. (Note: I am not a tax accountant. Always get professional advice.)
The same goes for anything else in your book. There are limits to what we can do, but try to get as close as you can. Get curious. Lots of experts enjoy being asked questions. My former history professor was happy to email me the names of several Norse language experts when he couldn’t answer a mythology question for me. And that was after several years of no communication.
Think of subject matter issues as concrete reasons to make friends and get out of the house.
As you go through your structural edit, take the time to make sure your research is in order. Now is the time to track down the answers to questions you left yourself while writing, or satisfy that feeling in your stomach that you may have skimped on a critical detail or historical fact. After all, you don’t want to be putting new carpet in your metaphorical house if you ruin it by moving a plot wall. As I told one writer mentee recently, “Whether or not your protagonist has access to a particular technology during this year will matter for the entire plot. Figure it out now before you have to rewrite the draft.”
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