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  1. #1
    Aver0n 2o11

    Macro & Micro Edits

    Just on editing because someone was asking about it before. I got some questions re editing as well.

    I can do micro editing just fine because I'm a perfectionist with OCD (very minor not severe) so I notice the little things. What I can't do is macro edit. I can't look at a work as a whole (especially if I'm the one that wrote it) and go this or that needs fixing but if I have a problem scene or a problem sentence, I have no problems editing that.

    I can do spelling and grammar edits and I've learnt how to deal with names (used to take me ages to come with a name for a character). However I don't know for long term character development or plot development if a particular scene is relevent. They say that every scene should serve a purpose or else cut it out - I don't know where to cut or where to expand.

    I'm fairly confident with my language use so I don't question whether I've constructed a scene properly, I would always answer "yes I have". It's when you start asking me "where does that scene fit in? what does it do? what's its purpose?" that I start to panic.

    So yeah: Does anybody have any tips on macro editing?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Perhaps a rough time line will help? If you have the major scenes where you can see them at once, maybe it will be easier to see where everything fits in. I don't know, just an idea.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    The most important thing I do is get beta-readers and listen to what they say. I'm lucky enough to have several people around me who can give me great feedback, and will put in the time to read my entire MS, but even if you have just one person, they'll help more than you might think. You'll probably find that if they mention a scene which they don't think is working, you'll agree. In the back of your mind you already know what isn't working, a lot of the time. You might just need someone else to point it out.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    Macro editing is a weak spot for me, too. I'll pass along a few of the things I've picked up that seem to help.

    Plot the tension of each scene. Use whatever works for you, but I usually use a 1-5 scale. Each scene or part of a scene gets a number. Then I look through all my numbers to see if, say, I've got several low tension scores in a row and several high tension scores in a row. If so, I scrutinize those sections. It's not always bad to have several high tension scenes in a row, but in general I want the tension level to be always on move.

    I do the same thing on the scene level. One of the simplest ways to see if a scene is doing its job is to see if the tension level changes during the scene. If it doesn't, that could mean you've got a scene that isn't necessary or isn't doing enough. One of the macro edit things I'm always doing is to make scenes do more.

    This also helps make sure you get in and out of a scene in the best way. Ask yourself do I get into the scene at the last possible moment and get out at the earliest possible moment?

    My current mentor is a playwrite and she recommends thinking of your plot as a central question. Picture that question as a clothesline and ask yourself if each scene hangs off that line. I've been trying to apply this to my WIP. At the moment, I'm thinking that play plotting may be a bit simpler than a some novels so the clothesline maybe be more several lines. Don't know, but am using this central question thing as I straighten out my plot.

    Another plotting bit I love, love, love is the hero's journey stuff. Chris Vogler wrote a book called "The Writer's Journey" that simplifies Campbell's stuff about the universal phases of classic storytelling. This stuff really helps me to get a handle on what maybe be lacking or out of place once I get the general plot and characters down.

    Oh, and a new thing I'm doing with this novel. I've dedicated a wall in my office as a crazy wall (you know, the sort serial killers always have in their basements). I stripped of everything and just use it plot ideas, slap up images, move scenes around. Scribble notes. I try to keep it from becoming linear because one of my problems is getting too linear in my thinking. It gives me a visual place to play with ideas.

    Hope something here helps.
    Last edited by C K; 05-26-2011 at 07:33 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    If you know what you want to do in terms of plot and character development, it should be straightforward to decide whether a particular scene or section furthers one or the other. (Whether to delete a scene that furthers neither is ultimately an artistic decision and I would not necessarily adhere slavishly to the "rule" that such scenes must be cut. Where would Moby-Dick be without those asides about the whaling industry?)

    That being said, ask yourself whether you really have thought through the story and character arcs - if not, spend time clarifying those in your mind, then go back and re-read and hopefully the macro edits should be more obvious.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    I use a modified story boarding technique. I write a one-sentence description of each scene on an index card and then arrange those cards on a giant bulletin board in my office. This gives me a visual representation of the big picture, and I can start to see things such as lags in the plot and/or tension, dead scenes that do not advance the plot or enhance the character, scenes in the wrong order, missing scenes, etc.

    C.K. recommended Chris Vogler's book, which is very good. Another book you might find helpful is Screenplay, by Syd Field. This is a classic work for screenplay writers, but he does an excellent job of analyzing the basic three-act structure--a format that also works with novels. You can apply his analysis to your own books to see if they work.

    And I'd also recommend you read Donald Maass's book, Writing the Breakout Novel. One thing he talks about is the importance of internal and external conflict, something a lot of writers tend to overlook. They load the book with external conflict thinking that is what makes the story, but they forget that readers are emotionally invested in the characters.

    Some things to look for in macro edits:

    Scene order
    Dead weight scenes that are pretty but add nothing to plot or character development
    Long sections of expository prose
    Too much back story or flashback
    Missing scenes
    Pacing--Does the scene or chapter build to an acceptable climax? Are existing issues resolved (at least partially) and new issues introduced? Do you try to tie everything up with a neat bow at the end of a chapter or scene? (This is a no-no.)
    Balance of dialog and narration. Too much dialog makes your novel read like a play. Too much narration often results in "telling," rather than "showing."
    The order of scenes/chapters--I see this a lot when I edit people's manuscripts. They forget about important scenes or have them in the wrong place. Remember, an action triggers a reaction, but if the reaction takes place 50 pages after the action, your order is probably off.

    Hope that helps.


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