Last night I did an overflight of all the work I want to edit before New Year’s. I looked at common structural patterns and did a thinking-on-paper journal bout laying out what they are. Our old nemesis the inner Editor comes in for some bad press, but now that the first draft is down, I am making use of the Inner Editor in a useful way, by chatting with it. Here’s a sample transcript.
Inner Editor: You are a terrible writer.
Me: So what are my writerly vices?
Inner Editor: Well, those openings are really baggy and talky. You do attributed dialogue instead of letting the characters speak for themselves.
Me: So what part do you like?
Inner Editor: Endgame, when you finally get your act together, it’s action packed.
(I realize that I have assimilated some of my buddy Devin the Ruthless, who pretty much did the developmental edit on Lost Pissarro)
Me: So I should edit starting from the end, and rebuild the opening so it sets up the endgame.
Inner Editor: yeah, that sounds like a good strategy. Do an outline, too. Figure out the juicy bits in the endgame, and set ’em up like the punchline of a joke.
Me *scurries off to get some work done*
That’s good advice. Mine says, do remember to add some setting and description after you’ve set the dialogue and action. Then read the whole thing over again slooowwlly so you can put in the missed words you just assumed were there.
Oh yes. Reading backwards helps too. I start with the last chapter and then move toward the beginning. Detail work, I go backward sentence by sentence. It’s the closest I can get to the old-fashioned type-setter’s check, where I’d be reading upside down and backward.
(There is a reason that computer-typeset books have more typos — there are fewer human QA layers to catch goofs.)