Keep Your Self Editing on Track

Secret in the Mist: An Abi Wunder Mystery
has taken many months to write and revise.
I never gave up on it. It will be available soon.

By Linda Wilson   @LinWilsonauthor

It’s been a while since posting my Writers On the Move article, “One Last Edit: Re-think before Submitting,” https://www.writersonthemove.com/2022/09/, and yet I’m still editing the same book as when I wrote that post. It’s my latest chapter book, the second in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secret in the Mist. As we all experience, life intervened, and I had to delay the project. I picked it up again and have been editing and revising ever since. In a nutshell, here are some of the points made in the section, “Take One More Look,” of the above article that I haven’t yet covered.

  • Making sure each character has an arc.
  • Making sure my main character’s flaw/need is satisfied by the end.
  • Doing scene checks to give them a beginning, middle, and end, and to make sure each scene moves the story forward. 
  • Checking the clues and red herrings to make sure they are in place.

A More Detailed Final Check

  • Timeline: Make a sketch of the timeline to make sure the days and times of day are accurate. In Mist, Abi, the main character, has come for a visit at her friend, Jess’s house, at the end of the summer. There are only a few days left before the first day of school, and due to circumstances beyond their control, the mystery needs to be solved during this short visit, or it could be too late.
  • Do a Story Overview: After a timeline check, I found that studying the story overview was valuable as the next step. The overview is for continuity, to make sure the events follow in sequence. Most important is making sure that each scene moves the story forward. Before  embarking on a story overview for Mist, I realized the word count had swelled beyond the suggested word count for Chapter Books, 1,500 to 10,000, or for Young Middle Grade books, which is 15,000 to 25,000 words. I took a hard look at scenes and realized about three of them—which were long— could be cut out. I took the ax to these scenes, but I’ve saved them in a separate file for later use if needed. The word count is about 25,000, for a Young Middle Grade book.
  • Check Chapter Word Counts: Some Mist chapters were too long. I broke these chapters up to make them shorter, being careful to leave cliff hangers at chapter endings. This sometimes took a bit of revision.

Tie Up Loose Threads by Making Lists

Make sure there is follow through with each part of your story, and avoid repetition. My method for doing this is by making lists. Here are a few examples from my recent work on Mist.

  • List each time the ghost appears: Each time the ghost appears I hope to give my readers the goosebumps. I have copied and pasted these scenes into a new document titled, “Ghost Sightings.” I have given the text throughout the book from this list a beginning, middle, and end. I’m making sure each appearance escalates the tension, from a somewhat “soft” first appearance to a grand-finale story climax. I’ve paid special attention to the way the ghost appears, making her appearances as eerie as possible, to how she’s dressed. Also, other details are checked for accuracy.
  • List the characters: This can be done in Word by using “Find.” I copy and paste each mention of the characters to make sure the changes they experience are the result of their efforts, and that their arcs come to a satisfying conclusion. Particular attention is paid to the main character, Abi, followed by her sidekick, Jess. Also, it’s important to make sure each character has a role in the story. Characters who don’t have a role need to be removed.

In the first Abi Wunder mystery, Secret in the Stars, thanks to the help of Chris Eboch, the professional editor I hired to review the book, www.chriseboch.com, I had to remove an entire chapter about kittens. Chris was very gentle with me. She said she knew that the chapter must have been dear to my heart, but it didn’t move the story forward. I took her advice and left it out of the story. At the time I had photos taken with two kittens by a professional photographer because of that chapter. Regardless, I have used these photos. And now in Mist, a kitten has a teensy part as a supporting character. I'm hoping the kitten in the story along with the photos will find their way into readers’ hearts.

  • List each time special symbols are mentioned. A locket is an important symbol in Mist; listed is how the locket is described and when it appears in the story.
  • List the clues and red herrings to make sure they’re done correctly.

Now that the Mist story is complete, there are still some checks I need to do before sending it off to beta readers and a professional editor. I’m preaching to the choir when I say that editing and revising our work seems like a never-ending job. I thought Mist would have been finished long ago. As an editor once told me, it’s not so much the talented among us who make it to publication, it’s those writers with determination. Reader, you must have the talent and determination to aspire to publication to be reading this article all the way to the end. Please be sure and let us know here at Writers on the Move when your book(s) comes out! We’d like to congratulate you for a job well done, and mainly, for sticking with it!

The kittens in this photo finally
found their home in the second
book of the Abi Wunder mystery
series, Secret in the Mist

Linda Wilson is the author of the Abi Wunder Mystery series and other books for children. Her two new releases are Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me! (2022) and Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere (2023). You’ll find Linda on her Amazon author page, on her website at LindaWilsonAuthor.com, and on Facebook.




4 comments:

Terry Whalin said...

Linda,

Thank you for this excellent article about taking one more look--something all of us need to do before we publish anything.

Terry
author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I love that you applied your lessons to your own work. I also was taken by your addressing your reader as “Reader” rather than you. I have never tried that. It is effective because it feels more personal!
Best,
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Nina said...

Thank you for the advice, very useful! Good luck with your book it sounds interesting!

Kind regards, Nina

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, these are very useful tips on self-editing. I love the one on List the Characters and use Word's FIND to keep track of their arcs. It's also a good way to make sure their characteristics are consistent. I'm also working on a client's MG and he doesn't know yet, but I'll be deleting two or three chapters. I may have to put them back after he sees it, though. LOL
Thanks for sharing!

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