If you’ve been following these “8 Steps of Getting to the Publishable Point” videos, you’re no doubt familiar (maybe even sick of) the following list. But since we’re up to Step #5 here, I feel it only fair to lay out the other four for anyone just tuning in.
Here they are:
Figure out whether you need to put in research time before you get started.
And #5: Revise your third draft.
If you’re finished revising your second draft, you’re starting to stand on some much more solid publishable-point ground. Your plot is looking a lot stronger, with fewer holes to fill in and connections to make. Your characters’ personalities are more consistent. And your setting stands out as being an actual place instead of a figment of your imagination to some degree or another.
That’s great! So now you get to move on to strengthening your sentence structure and dialogue.
That’s what revising a third draft is more about. If you find plot, character or setting issues still – and you might – then fix them, of course. But this is where you want to focus more on how your words flow together to really make your story an enjoyable read.
For example, does your writing style seem unnecessarily choppy? Do you start out too many sentences with pronouns. Like this:
She turned the corner, his words still weighing heavily on her mind. She couldn’t stop thinking about them when they rang with such truth. She had been fixating on her past far too much. She knew that was true.
Or are you using too many short sentences (or long sentences) in a row. Like this:
The air was hot. Not uncomfortably so. Just to a noticeable degree. Maybe that was normal though. He wouldn’t know. He’d only arrived the other day. Maybe he should ask.
Or perhaps you’re using too many adjectives. Like this:
The roly poly puppy bounced happily down the stairs, his friendly tail wagging with each new slippery step he triumphantly conquered.
While pronoun-leading sentences, short sentences and adjectives all serve useful functions within the novel-writing world, they’re normally best when used more sparingly than the examples just given.
So read through your third draft looking to improve on such aspects.
As for dialogue, I just published a great little e-booklet on the topic called Don’t Dread Dialogue Writing. It's just $2.99, but here’s a few freebies all the same:
Unless we’re trying to emphasize something, most actual people speak with contractions (i.e., isn't, wasn't, can't). So to make your characters sound like actual people, have them use those too.
If you’re not already familiar with them, make a point to understand any actual people or groups your story is based on. Don’t just assume you understand someone’s mindset, jargon or expressions because you saw a TV show about them. That’s true across the board on race, politics, gender, age, nationality, region, religion, occupation, etc.
Dialogue isn’t entirely like spoken speech. There’s a lot more to it than the obvious, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve got the whole dialogue-writing thing down just because you have the whole speaking thing down.
With those tips taken in, you’re now better prepared to handle revising a third draft. If you want to be even more rock solid, then Don’t Dread Dialogue Writing is at your downloadable disposal. It won’t even take up much of your time since, again, it’s an e-booklet, not a book.
And here’s wishing you the best of luck with your ongoing journey of getting to the publishable point! I’ll see you all next Monday.