Reader Tips

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This is part of a series, 30 Days to A Stronger Novel. These are tips suggested by readers. Please add your own tips and help others write better, smarter.

  • Janni Simner
    Since I’m in the early stages of working on the current novel, I’ve been thinking/blogging about early stage issues. One thing I do that results in a stronger novel in the end is allowing myself to start with a messy, muddled, uneven, nonsensical exploratory draft. Allowing myself to explore and poke about and see what’s there before pulling it all together into a coherent story, essentially.
  • Liz
    I love to use highlighters to ’see’ what I’ve done – So I print out the first 50 pages on 3 holed paper and put them in a binder – then I highlight:
    pink for dialogue
    blue for tags and straight narration/internal thoughts
    green for description of setting
    orange for emotion
    [I’ve done something similar with my PB manuscripts] Then I’ll look and see what color dominates [ it’s usually pink – my mss tend to be dialogue heavy – especially the PB’s :o) ] and I’ll go through the rest of the novel highlighting only that aspect.
    I also do that for verbs — using a different draft that I’ve printed out- I go through the entire novel and highlight the verbs — usually, while I’m doing that I think of stronger verbs to use & I’ll cross out the weaker verbs as I go.
    I’ve found that even though it’s time consuming– it’s a hands-on, sort of microscopic look at the novel.
  • Clive
    Storyboard your story – I don’t mean with drawings like in animation. Use cards about 6 x 4 inches and write the beats in each scene. Lay them out on the floor and run through the entire plot in storyboard mode. It’s a great exercise in structure. You can move elements of a scene around, or move scenes around, or remove scenes completely. It gives you a really good visual overview of structure and plot of your book. You will quickly see what’s working and what isn’t.
  • R.J. Anderson | I’ve done what Clive suggested, but with a spreadsheet rather than index cards. That way you can easily rewrite/revise your beats and scenes, and move them from one place to another with a couple clicks of the mouse. Furthermore, you can easily fit the whole thing on one sheet if you keep the point size small, and print out the outline and take it with you wherever you go. You also won’t have to worry about the cat or the kids frolicking through your beautiful scene layout and forcing you to frantically reconstruct the order before you forget it…

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1 Comment
  • Helen Landalf
    November 28, 2007

    When I’m revising, I find it helps to look at each element of a chapter or scene and ask myself, “Does this belong in my current version, or is this a holdover from my last version?” Sometimes I try to revise around an element, say a character, that I particularly like, changing everything but that one element. But when I step back, I realize that the element in question must change too. Otherwise, it’s like looking at a painting of a forest with one tree painted in a different style from the others – it just doesn’t match!