Hi folks, this is last in my series of novel craft. I'm offering tidbits of advice to those that have completed solid drafts and want to take their novel up a notch. This week I'm going to chat about polish. I'm dividing this into three categories: the global, mundane, and the sublime.
First the global look. Here are some questions to help you add polish followed by my fun answers.
- Is the timeline solid? It takes longer than five minutes to drive to Boston from Houston. Really.
- Does your story make sense? You can't leave a character in a closed car for hours in a Texas summer. Nope. Highly illogical, says Mr. Spock.
- Does your pacing make sense in a global way? If all the action bunched at the front then nothing for pages and finally something happens at the end, you have to fix that.
- Does your character cry all the time? I hope not.
- Do you have any info dumps? You spent five pages revealing the backstory of you character through a guy talking to a basketball. All info dumps have to go. ALL! Dribble out the details
- Did you add sufficient texture your characters to rise them up above the level of cliche? Add some quirks and makes some unusual decisions.
- Is your protagonist a snot at any time during your book? No one want to read about a snot.
- Is any side character taking over the plot? Stop them! Perhaps they need their own book. I'm thinking sequel.
This list will add some shine to your story.
And now the mundane. My friend Kathy Whitehead has a saying: "Make the writing pretty." You have a solid story and know you are going to pick apart each line from beginning to end. Is your language clumsy or wordy? Purple language goes. This isn't 1920. You want to clean up frequently used words like there, was, it, -ly, had, have, feel. Next, check for words you abuse regularly. Clean it all up. I find tools like the fee based AutoCrit Editing Wizard can help with this stuff. Lovely writing is important and don't assume that your writing is lovely unless you analyze it.
And finally comes the extra polish; the sublime or the pixie fairy dust or the superhero power -- whichever way you roll. Stare out the window, take a nap, go for a walk and think about what your book is about. Is there another twist that would just take your book up to another level. Have you achieved what you intended? Warning this takes absolute honesty with yourself. The sublime is just that. You are seeking out spiritual, moral, and/or intellectual depth in your story. Do you have any idea what were you were trying to say? Did you get it across? Here's the trick -- I'm sure you don't need to put this into words but you do need to know it. Is there anything in the universe that would make your purpose more clear? Add that and then breathe. Well done!
I hope my polish thoughts help you. I hope you achieve your best book. :) Seize the day.
Here is the doodle: Yellow-horned Thang.
Here is my quote for your pocket:
"Dimidium facti qui coepit habet: sapere aude" ("He who has begun is half done: dare to know!"). Horace