by Gale Martin
My second novel GRACE UNEXPECTED, contemporary women’s fiction, was released this week by Booktrope Editions. Unlike my first published novel, this one was completed (and shopped) way back in 2009, more than three years earlier. When it was picked up for publication earlier this spring, I laid eyes on the entire manuscript for the first time in about two years.
Here are several tips I used to make my book stronger, and I hope they’ll be useful to you, too, in your editing passes.
- I wish all authors could put their books in a drawer and revisit them years later. I thought GRACE U was a good book three years ago. However, the newest editing and revisions done with a fresh pair of eyes—mine and the editors—have made it the best it can be. Lines of dialogue that I thought were funny at the time I wrote them now came off like I was trying too hard and *clearly* had to be redone. Areas that needed more character or story development stuck out like flashing neon lights and were easy to improve. Time is truly your friend and ally if your goal is to write quality fiction.
- You can reduce more dialogue tags than you think. The final copy editor slashed away a little bit at the “saids” (I said, he said, she said, somebody said) she found. My dialogue flowed well and didn't need quite so many reminders of who's talking, which can be helpful but can also interrupt the flow of the story.
- Take the path of least resistance. On the opening page, one of the characters originally said, “There oughta be a law against . . .” I thought she would use “oughta “since she’s from the Deep South. However, I spent more time than was prudent trying to determine out the right spelling for “oughta.” In a moment of clarity, I changed the line of dialogue to read “ought to” and never looked back. Hang the slang if unsure.
- Add punctuation for clarity. Some writers are enslaved by punctuation rules they might have learned from former grammar teachers like me. As a former language arts teacher turned novelist, I would advise you to remember that punctuation is a resource to help you achieve clarity. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Despite what you may have picked up from your grammar teacher, punctuation wasn’t created to confound you. If a comma lends to increased clarity for the reader, then use it.
- Your “darlings” become murderable. If there were turns of phrase or plot diversions you had to retain in the last draft, they become much easier to kill off with a little time and distance. I’m sure you never do this, but if one of your characters is a conflation of several hateful people in your acquaintanceship, you might be tempted to go overboard in having them say or do things that give you pleasure (the hateful people are squirming in your mind’s eye) but don’t really resonate with the reader. Do yourself and your reader a favor. Kill your darlings. Everything you do, every choice you make should serve the story. Not your ego. Not your refined sense of justice. The story.
So, there are a few quick editing tips that I used during revisions of GRACE UNEXPECTED. I hope they prove helpful to you in your next editing pass.
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Gale Martin’s humorous backstage novel Don Juan in Hankey, PA was published by Booktrope Editions in 2011. Grace Unexpected, contemporary women’s fiction also from Booktrope, was just published July 16 of 2012. She has a master of arts in creative writing from Wilkes University. She has worked in higher education marketing for ten years and lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a rich source of inspiration for her writing. Her blog “Scrivengale” can be found on her website at http://galemartin.me.
In addition, there are a limited number of print review copies of Grace Unexpected available and numerous eBooks for early readers on a first-come, first-served basis. Simply email galemartin (dot) writer (at) gmail (dot) com to request one.
You can find Gale at: