Friday, 31 July 2009

The Quality of My Novel is Patchy

The author may feel a mixture of exhilaration and despair when reading the first draft of the novel, comparable to that of driving over a potholed road. This is to be expected, for the first draft will rarely be perfect.

How to Edit the Novel to Perfection

To create a smooth and consistent quality throughout the novel, the following editorial issues will need to be addressed, each requiring slightly different approach.
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  • Do stereotypical characters harbour within the story?
  • Does any of the dialogue overtly serve the plot twists or inform the reader, and does this compromise its authenticity?
  • Is there too much dialogue or not enough in the novel, making it a slog to read? Can the two be adjusted to a more balanced ratio?
  • Do any of the characters stand idly by doing nothing? Would the story suffer if they were cut or combined with another character?
  • Can any of the characters be made more interesting by reconsidering their motives and past histories?
  • Do the scenes flow seamlessly from one to the next?
  • Does the narrative style tell the story in a compelling way and have a distinctive voice?
  • Are there too many purple passages containing reams of description that slows the pace of the story?
  • Is the story too fast paced, not giving the reader the chance to a breather or to build tension within the story?
  • Are the placement of climaxes in lulls in the story well-placed within the story? Could they be moved around for better effect?
  • Look out for typos, grammatical errors and presentation
How to Improve the Novel

But although the novel comprises these aspects of description, narrative prose, action, characterisation, dialogue and pace, the novel must be looked at as an entirety to see is it all hangs together in a balanced way. This can only be achieved by putting the novel away for a while, usually two weeks or more, and reading it from scratch. Over reading and analysing a novel make errors and plot flaws invisible to the author.

Some writers draft a novel up to ten or more times before the novel is judged to be satisfactory. But asking a trusted friend to read the novel is a good way of getting a different viewpoint and feedback. Editorial consultancies will offer this service for a fee, giving constructive feedback that will increase the novel’s chances of finding a publisher or a literary agent.

Troubleshooting the Novel

It is often the small things that will help the novel find a publisher. Examining matters of passive writing, overuse of adjectives, emotion words and using just the right words, will set a novel apart. At other times, receiving rejection letters, particularly with feedback, will help the author’s writing development. Setbacks and frustrations will often help the author grow more resilient and develop the characteristics that are required for good novel writing, such as discipline, persistence and perfectionism.

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