Saturday, August 31, 2013

Editing Tips for the Big Picture

Editing has two phases: the writing itself covering beats, showing/telling and awkward wording etc, and the ‘big picture’ items like character arc and pacing. The web abounds with tips to help correct writing problems, such as filtering, but it's a little tougher to find information on the big picture problems.

So when a friend asked for short editing tips to share on her facebook page, I wanted to go with something unexpected. I decided on five suggests for making a stronger main character and keeping the plot headed in the right direction. 

Keeping these 'rules' in mind has helped me with my big picture troubles. Maybe they'll do the same for you. Oh, and if you'd stop by Cliffhanger Editing on Facebook and give the page a 'like,' that would be much appreciated.

1. As far as big picture problems, I read a lot of first draft manuscripts with passive main characters. Characters who sit around and wait for something to happen. A main character, like a detective, has to get out there and instigate and investigate matters. Don’t let your character be a reactive, flabby mess or an armchair quarterback, put him/her out there and have them get busy.

2. Another ‘big picture’ problem I see in manuscripts is coddled main characters. We love our characters, and we don’t want bad things to happen to them. Bull Sh*t! Main characters have to suffer. They need to get clobbered with physical pain as well as mental suffering. Break their arms, add a little blood, have their boyfriends destroy their hearts and their best friend crash their car. Conflict drives a story, and a main character who never gets hurt loses effectiveness. Remember pain is gain.

 3. Beware the damsel in distress syndrome. A main character has to rescue themselves by the end of the story. He/she may have to have help to escape a problem, but the brains and the determination has to come from them. Avoid letting an older and wiser secondary character continually step in and save the day. No Snow Whites in this day and age.

4. Make sure each chapter builds and add to the story. In other words, one thing must lead logically to the next. If the porridge is too hot in chapter one, then chapter two should be the bears going for a walk and leaving the door unlocked. You don’t want the porridge too hot, then in the next chapter they’re playing Wii bowling. In other words, the plot shouldn’t involve a bunch of random adventures in each chapter that have nothing to do with each other.

 5. As in the beginning so in the ending. If you main character is shown to be afraid of heights in chapter one, then I’d better see some horrible scenario involving skyscrapers in the action finale. The best queries start out with a hook and bring that hook back around for the sinker. So too the best stories need that character arc. Take what bedevils your main character and make them face it down at the end. 

Please share your big picture advice. What rules do you live by when weaving the entire story into perfection?


  1. Oh Thank you for the shoutout :) YOu did a great job, with much of our followers clicking and reading :)

  2. *stands and applauds* lol Though I'm always wondering if my MC is too passive. I'll let someone else tell me to be sure. ;)