Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring Cleaning

It’s a traditional activity for good reason. Over time, things pile up, and the season of renewal gives many of us—writers and otherwise, a chance to refurbish when we have the most energy we ever will.

So get going. Clear up those smudges that block the view. Identify debris; either dispose of it or place it where it belongs instead of piling up wherever you dropped it. Finally, clear out all the stuff that accumulated. How long since you assessed what’s on display for those entering your world?

A significant task, like sprucing up a home, yard, or novel, can feel too big for a single swipe. Instead of getting discouraged, divide the tasks into logical parts. That’s not only manageable. It’s downright inspiring. Start by assessing what you might revise for a sounder foundation.

  • Structural clean up
~ Are your characters multi-dimensional?
~ Does a dilemma drive your novel?
~ Do the events of your plot flow causally into each other? Do you ever rely on coincidence?
~ Have you developed your idea into a High Concept, one with universal appeal and emotional

That’s the big picture. But a picture’s only as good as the individual elements composing it.

  • Detail clean up
~ Does this description add?
~ Do you position information in the best place?
~ Do you transition between details?
~ Do you ever “tell” and then “show,” or “show” and then “tell”?
~ Does each detail perform more than one function, i.e. speaker attribution plus escalating

If specifics are crucial, so is how you convey details to readers.

  • Sentence clean up
~ Are any passages wordy?
~ Do you seek active verbs that don’t require prepositions, i.e. illuminate instead of “light up”?
~ Do you emphasize by contrasting long, flowing with short, punchy ones?
~ Do you resort to passive voice when you needn’t? There are (sic) few instances when you
   need it.
~ Are you using “and” too often, and are you not noticing and thus are you also wasting words
   and weakening causality with that habit? Once you notice, it’s not a hard habit to break.

Tip: Let spring infuse new growth into your characters and their world.

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