7 Things You Need to Know About Plotting and Editing

7 Things You Need to Know About Plotting and Editing

7 Things You Need to Know About Plotting and Editing

When starting a new novel, a writer needs to overcome several challenges. Planning your plot is definitely one of those. You must decide on the elements that will define your story and that will help you deliver it to your audience in the right way, by creating a clear structure that helps readers progress from one part of the story to the next. Just as importantly, you must understand which emotions your writing should communicate to support the direction of your plot and ensure your audience’s emotions follow those of the characters–especially during the Climax.

Then, once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s time for self-editing: a process proves stressful for many writers. This is why it’s essential to have a plan in place so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Editing can happen in different layers; you don’t need to correct all aspects of your writing at the same time.

Last but not least, proofreading: Definitely not the most creative part of the process, but at the same time, it is something no writer can avoid. It’s the final polishing of your work and, once again, there are tips and steps to follow that have been proven to work for many authors and can substantially improve your final result.

In this article, I would like to share with you a collection of tips on plotting, self-editing, and proofreading–all of which come from our community of published authors, who offer guidance and support to aspiring novelists. I hope you’ll find them useful!

Planning Your Plot: 3 Things to Consider

1. Choosing Your Narrator’s Voice

This is not your voice, not the tone you live in. It is a voice written by you specifically to tell your story; it’s the tone you write in.

Think about your tone and approach.

Choosing the right voice is essential to how your story will be delivered, how it will make readers feel, how they will perceive it.

For example, imagine Lewis Carroll delivering Pride and Prejudice. Would it have been the same Pride and Prejudice as we know it today? Not really. It probably wouldn’t have become as successful either.

2. Show More Than You Tell: Let Your Characters Act, Speak, and Think

Your characters must feel like actual people. For this to happen, you must let them act, speak, and think for themselves.

Rather than constantly telling the reader what characters did, said, or felt, let them “watch” what the characters are experiencing it. For example:

The writer tells: Then Mary approached Tim and told him he was the most annoying person in the world.

The writer shows: Mary approached Tim. “You are the most annoying person in the world!”

Notice the difference? By using dialogue, you give your characters their own voices, rather than filtering them through the narrator.

There must be a balance between showing and telling. Finding the right balance is the key to great writing.

3. Emotion Determines the Direction of Your Plot

Emotion is perhaps the main contributing factor in delivering an effective plot. The emotion of your writing determines how effectively it is delivered, as well as the feelings your characters are experiencing.   

How do you want your readers to feel at given points in your story?

For instance, it would be detrimental if at the Climax readers feel bored. This is the ultimate point where you want them to feel that they can’t stop reading, that they are now part of the story and experiencing what the characters are experiencing.

Choose words that can both communicate the right emotions and direct the story in the right way. If your story conveys the right emotions at the right times, your readers will internalize it better by remembering the different emotions they felt as it progressed: different emotions will be associated with different parts of the story.

Editing and Proofreading Your Work: 4 Things to Consider

1. Write First, Edit Later

Writing is hard enough; just the thought of having to edit as well can be overwhelming. Set the editing part on the side to begin with: get the words out there first and you can focus on the nitty-gritty aspects of your writing later.

2. Concentrate on One Layer of Editing at a Time

You may have the urge to edit everything at the same time: your structure, your plot, your characters, your syntax, and your vocabulary. This can be exhausting and can make you risk losing your train of thought altogether. Instead, work through the different layers of editing separately.

3. Seek Feedback From Someone Who Doesn’t Know You

Advice is invaluable and finding beta readers for your work can be extremely helpful. Because friends and family may try to avoid hurting your feelings, you probably won’t get objective and constructive feedback from them. Instead, find someone who doesn’t know you personally.

Inkitt, the first data-driven book publisher and an online community for readers and writers with over 700,000 members, is a great platform for emerging authors who want to share their work, find an audience, and get feedback even if it is still in progress. We also offer support by providing resources for writers and hosting AMAs and group discussions with published authors who are eager to share their experience and tips. And what is most important is that if readers really like your novel, you might get it published: Inkitt’s vision is to democratize publishing by putting the decision in readers’ hands. The Inkitt algorithm analyzes reading behaviors to understand which novels have a strong potential for success. The next one could be yours!

4. Print It Out and Edit It by Hand

Screens can be deceptive. On a printout, it is much easier to spot grammar mistakes and underline and highlight phrases. Plus, technology can let you down: we’ve all had our computers crashing or acting up, and this is when you appreciate the value of having printed out a few copies of your work.

Bonus: The Importance of Strict Deadlines

Last but not least, this is something many published and successful authors have shared: actually sitting down and writing toward a set goal is tremendously important and helpful.

To get started, set yourself a word limit: for example, Graham Greene wrote 500 words a day, whereas Jean Plaidy wrote 5,000 words before lunchtime. What works best for you?

Once you’ve set your goals, be disciplined: sit down at your writing spot and actually get it done, even if these 500 words are the worst you feel you’ve ever written. Don’t forget: it is easier to improve and polish something that’s already there compared to finding the courage to face a completely blank page.

I hope this mini-collection of writing tips, gleaned from published authors with years of experience, will be of help.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What are your best tips for plotting and editing your fiction? Tell me in the comments!

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About Eleanna Sbokou

Eleanna Sbokou is passionate about digital growth marketing and content. Bookworm. She combined all of them and joined the Inkitt team, on a mission to democratise publishing.

Comments

  1. Good advice. I usually don’t use an outline when I’m writing (this year’s NaNo is an exception) but I will often create an outline when I’m editing to look at the plot and character development.
    When we I’m reading on paper I also use a different font. I use three colours of highlighter, one for things which should be deleted or reduced, one for things which need to be expanded and one for snarky comments.

    • Thank you Alex! That’s actually a very good point about using different highlighter colours, it can actually work as a ‘mental shortcut’: you code the information by colour and you can quickly distinguish between the different types of edits required. Will actually share that with our writers community!

  2. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Eleanna!

  3. If I didn’t plot out my stories I’d be driving in circles for pages! But I gather that’s the difference between Plotters and Pantsers. And I absolutely agree on letting the editing go until you’ve got something substantial on the page. It’s too easy to fall into a “fix it” trap and spend more time fine tuning the story rather than writing it out completely first.

    • Thank you for your comment, Pike!

      It’s true, isn’t it? And it’s not relevant to writing only, it’s a trap we can fall in whenever we are creating or planning something. Trying to get every single aspect of a project perfect right from the start is rarely effective. It’s mostly exhausting and ends up in you achieving a lot less than what you were aiming for.

  4. Good information, as usual. Thanks!

  5. I was drawn to your point about the narrator’s voice. I’ve actually set the narrator’s tone for my three novels as a feminine voice rather than a masculine voice and I think that is influenced by the fact that all three of my novels feature a strong female protagonist.

    My writing style is gentle and lyrical and I just find that whenever I read my manuscript back to myself, I’m hearing a woman that is wise and strong, but gentle – such as a Judi Dench or a Joanna Lumley or even a Sigourney Weaver – who is relaying my story back to me. I usually bed down the narrator’s voice right back at the beginning of my writing method, so each project has one from the get go.

    To contrast that though – having heard your voice via your podcast now K.M. I’m reading “Storming” with your voice in my head. I don’t know if that’s weird though. Is that weird?

    I’m weird.

  6. I would add a “4a” under #4. Read it out loud!

    • That’s actually a great point and it really helps. I tried myself a few weeks ago at a writing workshop and was amazed at the number of things requiring an edit that suddenly jumped out front my manuscript!

  7. Eleanna, some really helpful tips. Think I entered NaNo just to have a definitive daily deadline with an ultimate goal of having a viable first draft at the end. Think the most challenging things for me are the voice and well, everything. It’s pretty hard not to get overwhelmed.

    Really liked the point of focusing on one layer at a time (editing). I watched a timelapse screen capture yesterday of an artist’s concept drawing. They were creating a fantasy/marvel character and started with a rough wire-frame sketch of the form then built, refined, added, erased, colored and shaded until it was finished.

    • Hi Greg, thanks for reading and happy to hear you found them interesting!

      Writers are artists too and the example you gave with the concept drawing applies perfectly to writing! Perfection is not achieved at once: it needs a process with defined steps, patience and sometimes even taking a few steps back and returning to your project. Each step/layer builds on the previous one; that’s why it’s essential to move from one to another in the correct order.

  8. hakimblue99 says:

    Basic tips, but very effective.

  9. I am a poet who meets in critique groups for writing. I find myself saying the same things over and over. Succinct is best — use the words you need and no more. Vocabulary — a varied vocabulary can help much in tightening narrative. Literary devices — use them, they add spark and flare to the story. Awake the reader with unusual word usage and groupings, after all reading should be an adventure.I find reading not containing these elements to be day regardless of the tension of the plot. This is just an aside from the basics of just relating a story; an incursion into the mechanics of spinning a tale.

  10. I might have to consider those tips. They might come in handy.

  11. Awesome advice, and it’s coming at a good time for me! Thank you, Eleanna.

  12. I can’t even begin to imagine starting to write without a clear idea of what I’m writing, so the idea of starting without an outline seems very very weird. I know when I start a book that I’m talking about a process that will take me a year or more, I’d never do anything so long term without a decent plan. How can you get started, if you don’t know where you’re going?

  13. Regarding editing: I just discovered today that reading the chapters out of order (and printed) helped me find errors that I missed after five read-throughs. I will definitely use this technique in the future.

  14. K.M. ,

    I am trying to edit or revise book 1 with show and not tell. I do not want to have a lot of details which as then the Leilani or Zane or someone else snaps. I do know characters have emotions too like us humans. Leilani’s eyes change with her mood also. I hope the co-author book gets published next year. Or does it need to revised and edited again.

  15. K.M. ,

    I am trying to edit or revise the co-author book 1 with show and not tell. I do not want to have a lot of details which as then the Leilani or Zane or someone else snaps. I do know characters have emotions too like us humans. Leilani’s eyes change with her mood also. I hope the co-author book gets published next year. Or does it need to revised and edited again?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      There’s no firm rule on how many times a book needs to be edited. You just keep revising until it’s as good as it can possibly be.

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