Step-by Step Editing

Step-by Step Editing

By Natalie Bright

The editing process is a never-ending task. For me, the first draft is extremely difficult, and the editing process is fun especially if I’m really into the research and in love with my characters. It’s a satisfying experience to see the story that’s been percolating inside of your head take shape into real words. Here’s the list I keep on my bulletin board for self-editing:

Step 1. Plot structure and character development.

Does the character dialogue ring true with their profile, does the plot make sense, and is the underlying theme carried throughout the story?

Step 2. Remember the 5 senses:

Add description, imagery, sensual details. Check for historical accurateness of dress, food, etc.

Step 3. Read out loud. Revise at the word level.

And there you have it. Three different passes through your finished manuscript, and this works for short stories or novels equally as well. I usually let it sit for days, even weeks in between each step. Sometimes not because I want to, but because of life demands. I’ve never been able to multi-task editing. That’s to say I cannot work on character dialogue and enhance five senses at the same time. You may be able to work differently.

Side Note: I got this in part at a writer’s conference many, many years ago when I first started writing, and have altered it several times since to fit me. Apologies for not giving credit to the speaker who provided these tips.

Cheers, and all the best on your writing journey!



Dialogue that Rings True

Dialogue that Rings True

By Natalie Bright


I’m reading an excellent novel this week, however I find myself distracted from the story line because the dialogue between the male characters doesn’t ring true for me.

With two teenage boys and a husband, I know all about guy talk. Let me take that back, I try to understand the chatter around me but honestly, half the time I have no idea what’s so funny. Men don’t chit-chat the same way as women. In addition, teenagers have a whole lingo going that’s all of their own, which is very different from middle graders, for example.

Dialogue is important in moving your plot and story along, but it has to ring true for your character. It’s a distinct part of the character profile, as much as their motivation and personality.

Self-editing check list for dialogue:

1)   Read your work out loud, from beginning to end in one sitting, if possible (as recommended by Stephen King, ON WRITING). This really makes a difference in how you perceive the plot, character motivation, and if the dialogue stays true to moving the story along.

2)   Don’t take away the intensity of the scene on pleasantries: Hello, How are you? I’m doing fine today. What’s new? Get right to the heart of the matter between these characters. In business this is good manners. In fiction it’s just boring.

3)   Be careful about dating your manuscript with trendy jargon.

4)   “Writers who use tag lines other than “he said” or “she said” most often are young in the craft and are trying to spice up the text…the reader hardly notices the tag line at all; he quickly checks with a sidelong glance to determine, almost subliminally, which character is speaking and then leaps back into the story.” Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction by Harvey Stanbrough. (This book would be an excellent addition to your writing reference library.)

Happy writing!