Editing Beyond Grammar – Let’s talk Details and Realism

You think when you edit a novel, you’re looking for grammar, inconsistencies, POV switches and spelling errors. Those are the most flagrant crimes that authors deal with at first. But then, when you really delve into the book, you find the “other” errors.

I’m one of those people that can edit a novel into the next millenia. It’s never good enough for me and I know that each time I re-read the novel I can add something to make it better. And if it’s printed and I re-read it? I try not to cringe when I see things that I’d definitely want to change.

My recent WIP is finished and professionally edited. The story is flowing, it works, my rules all line up. The last part of this process will be for me to delete unecessary chapters, but that’s for another blog – one I’ll probably rant about next week where I feel like I’m killing my babies by deleting scenes. (I’ll admit, I’m having a hard time) But, I’ll leave that bloodletting to next week’s blog.

This week I want to talk about details and realism. I’m going line by line in my WIP and I’m still finding a few inconsistencies. Or, at least details not added that should be. In one chapter, it’s February, my main character is on a job outside at night, in winter, and she has to dress provocatively for an assignment. Um, where’s the coat she was wearing while she staked out the place? Why doesn’t she have goosebumps after a bit once she changes? Can she see the breath of her “target” as they parole the perimeter? I realize I have to add those tiny details to keep the realism in the scene.

In another segment I have her on the run in a jungle, her partner with her. They are being chased and hide behind a huge kapok tree. She hugs the tree, her partner flush against her as they try to make themselves as small as possible. I just remembered, this morning, she’s wearing a backpack. How can he be flush against her and she can feel his breath on her neck? I need to have her either drop the backpack or reword how he’s holding her. Will the reader recognize this? Maybe, or maybe not, but I did and so now I have to fix it. I’m still figuring out how to fix it though… the backpack is loaded with stuff and I have to decide is it one of those that clip around your waist or is just a standard fare? It will change how I fix this scene.

Editing goes beyond just grammar, missed words, spelling and POV switches. Things have to make sense and must be realistic. The last thing I want to do is have my reader stop and get confused by anything I say. “Hey, that doesn’t make sense” is something that will make me cringe.

So, my one word of advice is this… take the time and care after your novel is done and put to bed to do that one last line-by-line read-thru… or two line-by-line read-thrus. Don’t rush. Your book will be better for it.

6 thoughts on “Editing Beyond Grammar – Let’s talk Details and Realism

  1. Every artist I’ve ever known – writer, painter, photographer, whatever – well, at least the really good ones, have been perfectionists. Workaholics and perfectionists. It’s a killer combinations. (Now you know why so many of the great ones die young.) The same is true for computer programmers where perfectionism is a job requirement (the computer will never do what you want it to do — it does precisely what you tell it to do). You can’t create great art without at least attempting perfection. Thus, every project I ever worked on had to be dragged from my hands. I could always make it better. (It’s true, I could) But, someone always intervened (someone paying for whatever I was working on) and declared, “It’s good enough”. I suppose every masterpiece hanging in a museum or gallery was “good enough” to the artist’s patron. Every novel was “good enough” for the publisher. But, none of them were really as good as their creator could have made them.

  2. Realism is important to my writing. It’s one of those big buggaboos I hate when the characters are stacking out a scene in winter and forget their coats. Unless they’re macho characters that the friggin cold doesn’t bother them. 🙂 Good points here. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets worked up about this stuff.

  3. I’m very fortunate to have a friend that edits my work prior to submission. She always catches those little logic errors. Thanks goodness because it’s often hard to see them in your own work (I see what I want to see). 🙂

    Good article! Thanks!

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