Sometimes the only thing between you and publication or landing an agent is a good editing job. No, I’m not saying you need to run out and spend hundreds of dollars on an editor. But I am saying that when you’ve spent days, months, and maybe even years, writing your story, you should make sure that the pacing is good, the plot conflict and characters are strong, and the dialogue is not boring. Sure, beta readers and critique partners are great at helping you. But there are some things a trained eye might catch that someone else might not.
Putting your best foot forward will land you a better chance of receiving a publishing contract or offer of representation.
To get past the gatekeepers to the decision-makers and stand out from the rest, there’s many things that an author should review before submitting. One such point should be looking at your plot conflict.
Plot conflict is different from character conflict. This is the external conflict that a character must face. A strong plot conflict will organically create obstacles and help avoid a sagging middle. The plot should be strong enough to sustain the character from the inciting incident to the climax and resolution, when they will finally face their greatest fear and complete their character arc.
Turning Points and Pacing
That includes the turning points and pacing. You want to make sure your turning points work with and for your story, create the mood, tone, or add to the conflict, as well as make sure they are in tune with what your character would do. They may even work with hooks to keep the reader turning the page. It’s true pacing depends on the type of story you are writing. If you are writing something with mystery or suspense, you will want to have more fast-paced scenes than a story that does not contain these elements. But pacing can be thrown off by too much background information or too much detail on issues that don’t move the story forward. Poor characterization can throw off the pacing as well and make your middle sag.
However, having strong characterization is more than just keeping your middle from sagging. Creating a memorable character requires giving your character depth. Is there a clear arc for the main characters? Do the supporting characters enhance or detract from the hero or heroine or both? Do your main characters have flaws? Are the relatable? Are the likeable? Is it clear what their GMC is? Do the decisions they make fit the character you have created? What about the dialogue? The dialogue is another thing that can affect character. It can show something about the character or the story, but it can also slow the pacing. Dialogue and how you use it can affect your entire story. You want to make sure that there is no mundane chitchat, but powerful dialogue that identifies the character and keeps the story moving forward.
While these are the main points that you should always consider in revisions, don’t forget about basic grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Sometimes all a sentence needs is rewording to make it more powerful, or to give it life.
Just these small checks during the revision and rewriting process can make a huge difference in whether or not your story is accepted by an agent or publishing house. Learning these tips and tricks takes practice, and may not take the place of a hiring a professional editor, but they can help your story rise above the other stories an agent or editor might be considering.
Greta is presenting her workshop, Fast Edit, where registrants will learn to get their submission ready polished and ready FAST, starting on February 13th at SavvyAuthors.
Greta Gunselman is currently working as a freelance editor and also an Editorial Assistant to Candace Havens at Entangled Publishing, where she started as an intern in December 2014. Prior to that, she edited for MuseItUp Publishing, and also did a stint as their Editorial Director. Greta has done a series of editing workshops for Indie authors at Savvy and YARWA, and regularly donates her editing skills for Brenda Novak’s On-line Auction for Diabetes Research. Greta is currently finishing up her Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. If you’d like to connect with Greta, she can be found on Twitter @editorgreta.