In a story, the devil is in the details.

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I’VE BEEN REVIEWING a book by Michael Seidman–The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction – put out by Writer’s Digest. He is an editor with many years experience and shares his secrets simply and thoroughly. I bought the book some years ago, went through it, and decided to remove it from my shelf recently and reread it. I will never give it away because I have highlighted so many passages for my own education.

Mr. Seidman covers all aspects of writing as a listing of each chapter. In addition, he provides questions the “editor” writer should ask in order to give the manuscript a thorough going-over. I’m finding so much information for critiquing the scripts I get from my critique group, which benefits my writing as well.

Each chapter is a mini-course, if you will. He begins with The Building Blocks of Beginning and Quarrying. Quarrying is an interesting chapter because he compares writing to a sculptor fashioning a beautiful stone statue. The book continues with discussing the elements of a story–Plot, Character, Point of View, Dialogue among others. Then he discusses refining and revising–Style, Pace, Language, Imagery, Details.

Patricia La Vigne
Patricia La Vigne

Within each chapter he poses questions to ask while you review your manuscript to keep you focused. At the end, he summarizes by giving the author a checklist.

I love research, editing, searching for what makes a good read. I am a “detail” person, but even in my writing and reviewing, I miss important points. But learning more from a “real editor” helps me be more aware of these points. When I look at a story that has a sentence that rambles for several lines, I know exactly how to redirect the author to more concise writing. One time I counted one of those sentences. It consisted of forty-seven words and at the end, I had to ask myself, “What does this say–really?”

My greatest weakness is keeping point of view intact because I tend to jump from one POV to another in the same paragraph. So I really zeroed in on Mr. Seidman’s chapter on Point of View. Guess I’ll eventually memorize it.

I still fail to understand why a writer would be satisfied with haphazard work. If my name is on the cover, I want the reader to know right away I’ve done my best work–especially since they are paying me for it. And because I want them back for the next book.

As I said in a previous blog, pay attention to the little things in your writing. You’ll be a better writer and your audience will love you for not having to plow through your errors. Happy Writing.

Patricia La Vigne is the author of Wind-Free.

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