These days, I’m sporting new progressive bifocals for reading and driving. I think they make me look taller. Anyhow, it reminded me of writing. Pretty much everything reminds me of writing.
This creative process is very much about stepping in to handle the details and stepping out to see how it fits as a whole. This is what a bifocal approach to story editing looks like.
- Wave 1 – Typos, passive language & obvious mistakes
- Wave 2 – I read it through at least once from each character’s perspective
- Wave 3 – I use info from wave 2 to address overall plot issues
I won’t go into an explanation of Wave 1. It should be your number 1 mission to get a clean manuscript.
Wave 2 is helpful on several levels. First, I’m making sure the character’s thoughts, words, and actions at the beginning of the story are building to where they should be at the end. Are there subtle clues to what they’re hiding? Have I made their personal story enough for the reader to see a person and not a caricature? Second, every character has a plot that pushes and pulls them in relation to the main plot and theme. Real characters, like real people, are a sum of their experiences and relationships, and we all have baggage. This wave strengthens the characters and, in turn, supports the overall plot.
After Wave 2, the challenges in Wave 3 should be easy to fix. Wave 3 is the stepping back. You’ll see from your characters that they either have too much information or not enough. You’ll know if they need more angst, urgency, or another story arc. You’ll know in your gut what to do, and you’ll have the fortitude to follow it through.
Now, hand your book to strangers (family and friends will lie to you) and be prepared for honest feedback. Take it like an adult; they want to make you better. This is the ultimate stepping back as you let go of your emotional attachment and consider how to engage readers best. Be grateful for honest feedback; it is a gift.
At the end of the story, be proud of what you’ve accomplished. It took guts, hours of labor, early mornings, late nights, and heartache, but you are now a novelist for the rest of your life.
My bifocal approach works for me; it helps organize my thoughts and keeps the small details of my writing supporting the broader picture.
Ever notice how jigsaw puzzle pieces look alike? I think of most things in life as a puzzle. I like to look at the details and see if I can make them fit together in new and better ways.