While life’s biggest mysteries are the most obvious targets for world-editing, let’s not forget to consider some of the small questions people neglect to ask because they think they know the answers. Take advantage of the “monster under the bed” effect – enigmas lurk in unwatched and unexamined places. That one house on the corner whose inhabitants you’ve never seen. Those weird symbols on money. The timing of traffic lights. The camera that’s pointed at you right now.
Even in a world constantly under smartphone and satellite surveillance, there are plenty of unanswered questions, so this is your chance to come up with the wildest answers you can. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Where does human inspiration come from? Was the universe created for some purpose? What makes two people fall in love? What happens after death? These and other perennially unanswered questions create opportunities. Even in fiction, the educated public might scoff at supernatural explanations for diseases, weather, or the movement of the stars — but when it comes to life’s most intractable questions, you have freedom to provide creative answers without insulting readers’ intelligence.
- Which real-world setting(s) do I know best?
Your own neighborhood is often a good place to start. Choosing a setting because it’s trendy or glamorous may be tempting, but nothing beats the ring of authenticity that comes from personal experience. Even if you think the town you live in or grew up in is boring, it might be fascinating to someone who has never been there. You, better than many other writers, are equipped to find the most mysterious or surreal things about your hometown and expand on them. More importantly, all those mundane details you’re so familiar with can be crucial in grounding readers before you take them on a wild ride.
Read and re-read the ending over and over again like it’s new each time. Picture yourself as a reader getting to the end of your novel. They have invested time into your story, so did you deliver an ending they’ll find satisfying? Or did Cousin Burt save the day with his magic toilet brush just in the nick of time?
Go ahead and treat it like your first love for awhile. But don’t be afraid of recognizing a few flaws. The BEST thing about anything we write is the simple fact that if it stinks like Limburger cheese, it can be fixed/changed. It can become that nearly perfect love of your life.
After all—we are traveling through another dimension, a dimension of not only sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Writing Zone! First loves? Tuck away the fond memory and find someone who’ll love you, long nose hairs and all. Even if you can’t throw a football.
Take a chapter at a time and focus on mechanical things like commas, run-ons, and ambiguity. Overuse of certain words or phrases. After that—make a list of concept oriented edits where you make sure characters stay consistent, you don’t head hop, and you have added enough twists to keep the reader reading.
There’s nothing like a little comparison contrast when it comes to writing. Study how the writer sets up the ends of chapters, creates tension and suspense in the reader, and writes action/ dramatic scenes. Note their word choices and use of literary devices like metaphors and similes, personification.
Some sentences look amazing on the page, but when you read them out loud, oh boy. Tongue twisters annoy some readers. Too much alliteration can give your prose a sing-songy feel. Unless that’s the effect you are striving for, reading aloud can help you catch those awkward places.