The third stage of editing a story is looking at characterisation. I leave this part until third because I often make a lot of changes to the characters and their reactions to various things. There’s no point in changing how a character reacts to a specific plot point if I’m going to remove that plot point from the story during a structural edit, so characterisation goes after structure.
This is the section where I have to go back to my character profiles and check that the characters’ GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) is clear throughout and the growth towards the goals is clear. I look at how characters are behaving, the way they speak to each other and what they think while they’re doing it. My focus includes:
The two right hand columns of my scene map provide the template to analyse character development. Mapping that along with the structure ensures the characters grow and change as the story develops.
As I go through the structural edit, I might think of things I need to check with the characterisation. I write them in the scene map rather than trying to fix everything at once and losing track of what I’m trying to achieve with the structure.
I’ll work through the character notes as they stand at the end of the structural edit, and make the changes noted. Then I’ll map the character profiles, particularly the GMC into the scene map and check the manuscript again. With really short stories, I can do all this in one pass. Often though, this part of the editing will require more than one pass through the document. With a lengthy manuscript, I might need to do a separate editing pass for each focus (eg, one pass for voice, one for personality glitches, one for interactions, one [or more] for individual GMC).
Throughout the entire editing process, I’m also watching for proofreading errors, spelling mistakes, grammatical glitches, homonyms, etc. I correct those as I go through the MS with the aim that the final stage of editing—proofreading—will be fairly quick. Even with all the passes through the MS, I still pick up errors in the last stage, so I make sure never to ignore the proofreading stage.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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