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Thoughts on Margaret Atwood’s Ten Editing Tips, For Your Fiction Mss.

Margaret Atwood’s Ten Editing Tips, for your Fiction Manuscript, has caught my eye.

Especially tip #6:

6. Readers are readers. They are good at reading. They are also post-film, and are used to swift cuts. They will fill in quite a lot. At any point, are you telling/filling in too much? The author needs to walk through the moves in his/her head – like practicing a dance or a military exercise – so that no actual tactical mistakes are made – the character doesn’t go out the door before he’s put his pants on, unless intended — but then the planning steps, the connect-the-dots steps, are pruned out so that what the reader gets is a graceful, fluid execution. We hope.

This is true on most levels these days with the advent of movies and technology. The reader knows more than you give them credit for. Teach them, but don’t bog down the book with unnecessary extraneous verbiage.

Also, Tip #7:

7. Dialogue. How do people actually talk? Too much for prose fiction, as it turns out. Dialogue in a novel should: give the illusion of real speech; indicate character; not tell us stuff we can assume or don’t need to know, unless the point is that the character is boring; advance the plot; be funny if intended; not sound too wooden. Look at contractions: it’s, he’s, shouldn’t. Look at use of “that”—in speech, we rarely put it in. ‘The tree I saw,” not “The tree that I saw.”

This tip ties into tip #6 for me. If you dumb it down, the reader will get bored. SHOW, don’t TELL. Advance the story. Make the character pop in the reader’s mind. Too much dialogue and the reader gets bored and skips along. You don’t want the important piece of information that you are hoping to impart in that particular scene buried to the point where the reader misses it.

All ten tips are definitely worth looking at and reading. .. and taking to heart in your writing.

Check out all ten tips at Margaret Atwood’s Ten Editing Tips, for Your Fiction Mss.

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