Nonfiction

Nonfiction authors, re-read your book this week and check for consistency of tone. Do you start out using colloquialisms and shift to an academic voice halfway through? Or do you maintain the same level of formality throughout the whole book? Watch out for these 5 things:

1. Personal pronouns. Do you speak directly to the reader through the book, or not? Pick one and stick with it.

2. Anecdotes. When you give examples, do you relate them conversationally or in a more detached way? Do you give details, or just the bare facts? Keep these consistent.

3. How you relate to the reader. Remember in January when you picked a tone to use when relating to your reader? Make sure you maintain that relationship throughout the book. If you start as an academic scholar, don’t wind up calling them “buddy” by the end.

4. Jargon. If you want a formal tone, you can use technical terminology from your field with brief definitions or a glossary. If you want a more casual tone, stick to just a few key terms you can easily explain for the layperson. Keep a list of your jargon so you can see how much you use throughout the text.

5. Depth of explanations. Do you dive deep into each topic or just provide an overview? This will vary from topic to topic, but try to keep your explanations approximately the same length for concepts of the same importance.

Fiction

Fiction writers, let’s talk characters.

Characters are the vehicle through which a story is told. They’re the people who do the stuff on the page. As a result, they’re vital to the success of the story.

Here are 5 things to watch out for as you edit your book for characterization:

1. Character Development

Describe your main character at the beginning of the book.

Now describe them at the end.

Did you write basically the same description twice? If so, you’ve written a stagnant character – one who doesn’t learn, grow, or change through the story. These are generally considered bad.

To fix this, go back through your book and look for moments where the character makes choices. Ask yourself what they’ve learned from those choices, what worldviews they’ve questioned, and how their relationships with other people have altered as a result.

Then show those changes through the rest of the book.

2. Likeability

How is the reader supposed to feel about the characters at each point in the text? Do the characters’ actions match up with that? Use caution here; what seems like a minor transgression to you might rub readers the wrong way, and what might seem like a minor act of kindness could completely redeem a villain in someone else’s eyes. Get feedback from others about this issue as you edit.

3. Voice

Did you establish a particular tone of voice for a character? Do they maintain that tone throughout the entire book? This one is pretty easy to edit if you know how each character speaks. If not, revisit Why Do All My Characters Sound the Same? and apply some of the strategies there to give your characters unique voices.

4. Backstory

Did you establish a piece of backstory for a character? A fear, a goal, a passion? Make sure those details stay straight throughout the entire text.

5. Capabilities

Does your protagonist weigh 95 pounds? Then they shouldn’t carry a 200-pound linebacker to safety in chapter twelve. Is your character slightly stupid? Then they shouldn’t suddenly know a lot about theoretical physics during the climax. Conversely, is your character highly intelligent? Don’t hand them the idiot ball and have them make stupid decisions for plot convenience.

Make sure your characters’ capabilities are consistent throughout the book. These capabilities can expand and grow as the character develops, of course, but watch out for new skills springing up out of nowhere, or established skills mysteriously disappearing because the plot demanded it. Maintain a smooth line of development for character skills.

***

You’ve now edited most of the major aspects of your book! Great job, Author! As we move into November, we’ll discuss some more detailed aspects of editing, as well as the different kinds of editing and how to find someone to do them for you.

Keep it up! Your book is well on its way!

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