New? Begin with lesson one.
When it comes to handling the rewriting phase, issues don't come much easier to fix than inconsistencies and repetitive material. Yet, they can cause a lot of problems if left unattended because it can give the reader a sense the author didn't care enough to double-check their work.
But what if I need them to serve a purpose?
To be clear, I'm not talking about things like an unreliable narrator, red herrings, themes, or any other instances where these things are included purposefully. The inconsistencies and redundancies I'm talking about today are the ones that happen by mistake. Changing your mind while drafting a story, having new ideas that don't mesh with established material, or simply forgetting you've already included something happens. It's part of the writing process. It's just one reason the rewriting and editing stages are so crucial.
I have a couple passages that contradict one another. What do I do?
Well, you've found them. That's the first step. Mark where they are and read both in context before deciding how to proceed. Can you simply cut one? Would changing a few words solve the problem, or will it require a full rewrite?
Say it's something big. Maybe a character's personality has made an abrupt change, but it's crucial to whatever plot related action they're taking. Is there a logic behind the change, something that would have triggered it, or is it out of left field? If there's a logic behind it, just clue the readers in with a bit of foreshadowing. If it comes out of nowhere and can't be explained away, it's time to make a choice. Which version of the character better serves your story. Rewrite the other passage to fit. If that wouldn't work, find a logical reason for the sudden personality shift and write it in somewhere between the two scenes.
I already said this six chapters back.
You've found a bit of redundancy, huh? Happens to the best of us. Thankfully, it's the easiest fix there is. Pick the one that best fits with your story and cut the other. Slashing sentences, paragraphs, or even whole scenes or chapters you spent a lot of time and effort on isn't fun. But you'll find there are times it has to be done for the overall health of the story.
Planning a series? Take preventative action now.
If your story is the first in a series, a bit of prevention now can save you a world of headache later. While you're going back through your story to rewrite, edit, or proofread create a file of information for reference as you continue with the series. Make a note of characters. Write down their full names, descriptions, personalities, pertinent relationships, and key actions they take. Keep track of important factors in your world building. Make a timeline, or family trees, notes on commerce or trade, or any other information you'll need to keep straight as you move forward.
While working on the first novel of any potential series, I use this technique to make a "world book" for the series. It makes looking up a bit of information I'm not sure about many times easier and faster to look up and reduces the incidence of inconsistencies as I go along. Then I update the "world book" as needed during the rewriting or editing phases of each novel.
As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, I'd love to hear from you. I do answer all comments. And please come back on Monday, September 28 for our last lesson on the rewriting phase, dealing with dropped plot lines and info dumps.
A. B. England is a small business owner, home-schooling mom, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves fantasy, mythology, and all flavors of science fiction.
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