Editing Your Sequel – Step 3

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Welcome to my blog series on how to edit your sequel. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on Step 1 and Step 2 by clicking their links. For those of you who are caught up, let’s dive into Step 3 – Identifying key themes and flaws

 

STEP THREE – IDENTIFYING KEY THEMES AND FLAWS

You’ve finally made it! Today is the day you get to open up your draft novel again ad start the hands on editing process. This week’s step comes with a few key ingredients you’ll need before you get started:

  1. A copy of your manuscript printed one-sided
  2. At least 4 different coloured markers – I love using Prismacolor dual-ended markers

Okay, let’s get into it.

The focus of step three is all strategic. We want to look at the big picture. That said, sometimes you’ll be reading and find a typo or turn of phrase that you can’t just let lie. I’m not some kind of editing guru nazi, I know that some itches need scratching – hence the four colours.

Colour 1 (I use green) – This is your theme identification colour, where you point out the major underlying themes emerging from your story (we’ll get to this later)

Colour 2 (I use blue) – This is your plot intrigues colour, where you highlight questions or points of interest that crop up in the manuscript and need to be resolved at some point during the story (more on this later).

Colour 3 (I use orange) – This is your copy editing colour, for things like “show don’t tell”, “maybe out of position, move to later in the chapter”, “check consistency of description in later chapters”, “would she really say this?”

Colour 4 (I use red) – This is your proofreading colour. Use it sparingly at this stage! For your ‘I can not move on from this dangling modifier!’ or ‘this word really needs to be this much better word!’ moments.

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Now that we’ve covered the rules – let’s get reading. Try to centre yourself as a reader (letting your draft rest for a couple of weeks will have helped this endeavour) and pick up your Colour 3 marker (because we all know it’s the ‘huh?’/’this needs work’ observations that will be easier to spot initially).

Keep your eye out for plot intrigues – in mysteries, they are the red herrings; in romance, they are the flirtations and hinted tensions; in scifi and fantasy, they are the unique world-building aspects; and in ALL novels, they are the hints of character and plot development – promises of future awesomeness to come.

At the end of each scene or chapter, reflect on the big ticket items. What major themes are emerging? For example, in the sequel to Resistance, my first two chapters identified the following key themes:

  • Anaiya not fighting her dual identity, but embracing it
  • Anaiya’s pervasive guilt and need/desire for redemption
  • Kane’s lessons (from the past and beyond the grave)
  • Impact of new relationship dynamics (due to events of Book 1)

As I continued editing Book 2, I noted the repetition of these themes and emergence of others. Halfway through this process I have a list of around 15 key themes that I can track throughout the novel – noting where they appear, how frequently, whether they escalate (or de-escalate, or stay the same), and how they manifest in plot and character arcs.

Sometimes you will find themes that don’t really go anywhere – that appear weak and unrelated to the others. These are your red flags – rework, rewrite, eliminate. Sometimes you will find themes that jump out as critical – the driving forces of your plot and character. These are also red flags – but good ones! – ramp these up, ensure they are clear and emotionally charged and central to the story.

Happy editing!

 

Image by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash

 

LIKED THIS? WANT MORE?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

RESISTANCE

 

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Editing Your Sequel – Step 3

Editing your sequel – Step 2

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently, I wrote about my experience in drafting the sequel to my debut science fiction novel, Resistance (Divided Elements #1)and promised to share my upcoming experiences in editing said sequel. Last week was Step 1 – Reviewing Book 1. Which brings us to Step 2 – Seeing your strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of your readers.

 

STEP TWO – SEEING YOUR WORK LIKE YOUR READERS DO

You’re probably champing at the bit to actually rip into your draft manuscript, but trust me – it still needs more resting time. Going back in to a work in progress too soon after typing ‘the end’ can be like trying to reflect on a relationship a week after the break-up: All you’re going to get are hot, messy tears or a rose-tinted view of the belle epoque (neither of which are helpful).

If you’re like me, you’ll be spending this time working on completely unrelated projects – the half-drafted Nano project from two years back that you’ve been holding out on, various short stories for upcoming competitions, beta reading for crit partners, etc. If you’re not doing these things, you should seriously consider them. At the very least, bury yourself in an amazing book that can act as you ‘palate cleanser’, benchmark and inspiration when it finally comes time to review your own novel.

So, while waiting for our WIPs to get to room temperature, it’s time to kick off Step 2 – Seing your work like your readers do.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges and advantages of writing Book 2. One of the advantages I neglected to mention was having the benefit of third party reviews – from crit partners, beta readers, ARC reviewers, and book reviewers.

Getting feedback about your writing style, your plotting, your characters, your world-building – it all adds up to a more refined blueprint for making your second book shine. When you write your first book, you send it off for publication not knowing how readers will respond or engage. With your second book, that uncertainty is not as all-encompassing.

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For those of you playing along at home, this is what I did:

  1. Take out your notebook or open up a new word or excel document – anything you can divide a page into 2 columns. Title the first column “Positive” and the second column “Negative.”
  2. Go to the Amazon and Goodreads pages of Book 1.
  3. Take a deep breath (you’ll need it) and start by filtering for 1* and/or 2* reviews. If you’re lucky enough not to have these, start with your 3*.
  4. Ease the pain by looking for the good amongst the review – even ‘bad’ reviews usually have something positive to say. When you find something good, write it down in the “Positive column”. Where multiple readers raise the same thing, underline/highlight/bold the entry.
  5. If you have less than 100 reviews, repeat step 4 for all them. If you have more, consider doing a dip sample from each of the rating categories.
  6. Now go back and look for the negative points. Write them down – but maybe not verbatim. Bad reviews tend to be full of emotion. Strip that away and get to the core of what the review is telling you – e.g. “All humans have a ‘lifeline’ that plugs into things. All I could think of was [a] silly looking plug-in device. I actually giggled each time it was referenced or used even if it was a serious moment” (yes, that was written in the 1* review for Resistance. sigh.) becomes “lack of understanding about / poor characterisation of world-building technology “.

 

These lists of things – of what your readers loved/were fascinated by/engaged with and what they hated/were turned off by/didn’t understand – become your touchpoints as you edit. The entries become the red flags for things you need to either a) incorporate more strongly or b) consider removing/reframing.

Here’s a snapshot of my list to get you started:

POSITIVE NEGATIVE
·       Original world-building

·       Dark tone that built tension

·       Great character development

·       Thought-provoking

·       Too philosophical

·       Didn’t like the main character

·       Didn’t understand the technology or mechanics of population control

 

Interestingly, of the three negative points listed, I’ll only address one: the lack of understanding about the world-building mechanics. The other two – character likeability and philosophical bent – won’t change. And that’s the thing with reviews – sometimes they just come from readers who didn’t like your book and not because your book was poorly written.

Remember, you’re not trying to please everyone. You want to engage the readers who want to love your story. Remove the obstacles for that love, but don’t try to write the book they wish they could have written.

What about you? What critiques or reviews have been left about your first book that you will incorporating in your Book 2 edits? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

 

LIKED THIS? WANT MORE?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

RESISTANCE

 

Editing your sequel – Step 2

Editing your sequel – Step 1

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently, I wrote about my experience in drafting the sequel to my debut science fiction novel, Resistance (Divided Elements #1)and promised to share my upcoming experiences in editing said sequel.

So, here it goes – a look into Week One of my editing process.

 

STEP ONE – REVIEWING BOOK ONE

 

I haven’t read Resistance since I did the final check prior to publication. Crazy right?

Part of that was because I was terrified that I would read it and hate it; effectively caught in a writer’s purgatory where you hate the words but can’t take them back. But it was also because I had no time to read – my TBR pile of books on my bedside table is already its own Jenga stack and everytime I opened a page I would always feel guilty that I wasn’t writing words instead.

So, last week I sat down and read Resistance. Read it in two days. And (happily) I loved it (and hope I can do it justice with Book 2).

But it wasn’t all recreational reading. I had a purpose here – actually, I had two:

  • Identify the unresolved or hinted plot intrigues
  • Create a first-pass style list of key terms, phrases and spelling conventions

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For those of you playing along at home, this is what I did:

i. Took a deep breath and opened to page one

ii. Read the dedication and reminded myself why I was doing this

iii. Read the first chapter as a reader – no pen in hand, no keyboard in reach

iv. After the initial read-through, wrote down all the plot intrigues – all those hints of conflict, the developing complexities, the world-building points of interest.

I can be pretty left-brain at times, so I used a spreadsheet: the first column for the chapter number, the second for the plot intrigue, and the third for whether it was resolved by the end of the book (fully, partly, not-at-all).

For example, in chapter 4 we see Anaiya (the protagonist) playing a time-wasting / tactical-sharpening game on her wristplate. The game is faintly reminiscent of Solitaire. It was a nod to the retro days, but it was also a reminder that not all technology is ‘new’ in the future. It’s the 21st century and I still use a strangely shaped piece of metal with a fine-toothed wheel to open cans, I still use a metal key to open my front door, I still check the mailbox to find paper letters from companies who want my money, and I still occasionally use tiny rounds of copper and nickel to pay for paper movie tickets. All this in a world where space travel is commonplace, libraries of information can fit into a portable drive smaller than my hand, and video-conversations can happen in real-time with multiple people on the other side of the world.

I touch on the concept a little in Book 1, but it’s such an interesting concept to me, that I think I will elevate it in Book 2.

v. Read the chapter again, focusing on the ‘mechanics’. Again, all this was captured in a spreadsheet, but for this step I used multiple tabs –  one each for character descriptions, location profiles, unique terms, capitalised terms, turns of phrase, spelling conventions, timeline milestones, etc, etc.

This is where you should pick up on things like which words you capitalise or hyphenate and which ones you don’t, e.g. rundown or run-down, the Emancipation or The Emancipation.

More important are the character, location and story-specific nouns. The last thing you want is a diminutive character in Book 1 becoming tall and imposing in Book 2 (unless that’s the sort of sci-fi you are spinning).

Sci-fi and Fantasy have it tougher than most. I can’t tell you how many made-up and manipulated terms I have for things like plastics and metals or city infrastructure. Keep track of them and their descriptions and write it all down.

The list of your character descriptions is also useful because it doubles as a character list – use them! Don’t invent new characters for Book 2 if a supporting (or cameo) character can do the job.

vi. Repeated step 4 and 5 for the subsequent chapters (not forgetting to go back and update whether a plot intrigue has been resolved).

vii. Closed the book, sighed a happy sigh, started planning for the next stage of edits.

 

What about you? Are you going through the editing process as well? What other steps do you walk through in your approach? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

 

 

LIKED THIS? WANT MORE?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

RESISTANCE

 

Editing your sequel – Step 1