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Editing to Life – Characterization

There is a saying in writerly circles, that a manuscript can reach a point where it’s been edited to death. The writer has produced so many new drafts that the life has been sucked out of the story, leaving nothing but a dry, cracked shell. Not even a shadow of the author’s original vision for the piece.

To prevent this morbid scenario, you must have a plan for editing to life. To start, it is a good idea to take a break from the story once you’ve typed END. Step away from it (still keeping it in your sights) and work on something new for a while. However long “a while” is will be different for each person.

The longer I refrain from working a story, blocking its outlet, the built up energy creates illumination. The brighter it shines, the more clearly I can see into dark corners of the story that need rearranging, redesigning, or recycling. This is macro editing. When a true lightbulb moment occurs, I will apply the revision to my manuscript and then let it all simmer again.

Once you feel there is nothing more significant you can do in terms of macro editing, you enter the dangerous territory of micro editing. The project has officially exhausted you (you just want it to be done already!), and because you narrow your focus down to the minutiae, you start seeing more that is wrong with your work than what is right. You can easily lose sight of what got you excited about it in the first place.

Micro editing is where manuscripts are either murdered or are given vibrant new life. All the major cuts have been made. All the major holes have been filled. This is where characterization is whispered rather than shouted, where descriptions are sprinkled rather than dumped, where foreshadow is carefully planted rather than pounded into the wrong soil.

The number one thing in any novel–any genre, any type–that gets me to keep reading, is characterization. A unique premise will initially get my attention, but that readerly excitement can disappear within the very first chapter if the characters aren’t up to snuff.

I’ve found the following tips and resources to be extremely helpful to my own editing process.

Has anyone else tried these tips and resources? What were your results? Do you have anything to add to this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy Editing,

~Lydia

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photo courtesy of Michal Marcol [8]

About Lydia Sharp [9]

Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp [10]) worked a number of different jobs, everything from retail management to veterinary medicine, before turning her passion for stories into a career. She is now an editor for Entangled Publishing and writes young adult novels with lots of kissing and adventures. Her debut YA novel, WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU, released from Scholastic Press in January, 2017. For info about her books and more, visit website [11] and follow her on Twitter @lydia_sharp.