Assuming you have got to know your character and have a skeleton outline of the story that will become your novel, you are just five stages away from completion …
- The stage when you are telling the story to yourself.
- No need to concentrate on spelling, layout or punctuation, just get the story out of your head and onto the page.
- Careful planning prior to commencement of writing the story makes this easier.
- Try not to edit anything at this stage. Editing cancels out your creativity.
- Just keep going forwards, one page at a time until you have finished.
- At this stage you can type up your handwritten draft.
- Decide whether your novel has started in the right place. Writers often launch in too early, giving too much explanation or backstory rather than going straight in at a point of action.
- Be discerning and omit episodes, scenes and characters that either are not really adding anything to your novel or moving it forwards.
- Places that you’ve ‘skipped over’ may need expansion – sometimes scenes that are too descriptive may need ‘playing out’ using dialogue and character action.
- Wherever possible, ensure that you are ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling.
- At this stage you should go through the typed draft, from the beginning through to the end on the screen.
- Keep the momentum with this read through so you don’t ‘lose’ what you have already read.
- Check every word is the best it can be, using the ‘synonyms’ function on your computer. Every word counts.
- Ensure consistency in terms of viewpoint and character details.
- Beware of ‘overwriting.’ Of being too wordy. Less is often more so go easy with the adjectives.
- Keep asking yourself whether you have got a story that your reader can get ‘lost in.’ Make the novel ‘universal’ rather than ‘personal.
- Remember that reading should be an active process – enable the reader to ‘fill in the gaps’ themselves sometimes.
- Now you should print out your entire novel and annotate with a pen. You will notice things on the page that you didn’t on the screen
- Again, keep the momentum with this read through so you do not forget earlier details and the characters continue to live within you.
- Ensure consistency in terms of tense – it is so easy to slip in and out of past and present tense.
- Check everything relating to spelling, grammar and punctuation
- Are there any incidences in your novel that you need to improve – where perhaps it is important to check your facts through further research.
- Can any scenes be improved with more sensory detail? Go beyond just the visual.
- Check all your chapters are demarcated where you want them. Does each chapter offer a beginning, middle and end?
- Do the scenes within each chapter contain a beginning, middle and end?
- Return to the screen and make all theFifth Draft
- necessary corrections
- Read the novel aloud, k
- eeping all the aforementioned points in mind and editing as necessary.
- Reading aloud, paying attention to the dialogue. Is it authentic?
- This out loud reading will highlight any general clumsiness and interruption of flow.
- If possible, get someone else to read it. A proof reader should spot mistakes and will be able to comment on content.
- Congratulations! Your novel should now be the best it can be so get it sent of to an agent or
(c) Maria Stephenson