Friday, November 7, 2014

4 Craft of Writing: Micro Level Revision – AKA “Line-Editing” by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Today we welcome back to the blog Kimberley Griffiths Little, MG and YA award-winning author. Kimberley has a lot to celebrate this week. Her amazing historical YA novel, FORBIDDEN, released Tuesday from HarperCollins, earned a coveted starred review in Booklist, and has already received a wonderful mention in USA Today as one of 3 "Must-Read YA Romances"!  We're so happy for her and can't wait to share her detailed and important craft tips with you.

Micro Level Revision – AKA “Line-Editing” by Kimberley Griffiths Little

You’ve been working on your story for awhile now, maybe months, maybe years . . . it’s drafted, rewritten several times, you’ve had feedback from trusted readers, the characters are deeply developed and motivated and three-dimensional, your plot is a rockin’ page-turner. You’re ready to start sending it out to agents! Yay!

WAIT! Hold the presses! That manuscript is actually not quite ready. Be sure you’ve done that final spit, polish and ***sparkle***. Here are a few tips to infuse it with professional polish. I’ve created a list for you to check off as you go through your manuscript once or twice more before hitting SEND.

And don’t worry if you begin thinking, “Ack! I do all these things!” We’re all guilty of every one at one point or another – and in every new manuscript we write! Thankfully, they’re all fixable!

HOOKS, CLIFFHANGERS: Look DEEPLY at your First Page(s); they’re the most difficult because there’s so much to set up in an interesting and intriguing way (characters, setting, hook, foreshadowing the problem). Those pages are the first impression to your reader, and sometimes, (unfortunately), the last impression.

CHAPTER ENDINGS: This is another area to make sure the chapter ends in the *right* spot with a cliffhanger or teaser that keeps the reader turning the pages. They can’t stop at “just one more chapter!”

CHECK THE FIRST LINES of every chapter and make sure they’re active and pull you right in, maintaining the action and emotion from the previous chapter. (It’s easy to have clunky transitions, especially when we work on a book over several months time).

VOICE: 1st Person, 3rd Person close, 2nd Person, Omniscient, Tenses. Double check that you’ve stayed in the same tense throughout. Play around with different POV and tenses to be sure it’s the strongest one for your story.

PET WORDS, REPEATED WORDS: Look for those words that you use too often. Everybody has a few and we don’t usually recognize them in ourselves. Ask your critique partner or beta readers to help you pick them out.

CUT WEAK WORDS and PHRASES: “a lot,” “really,” “something,” “always,” “sort of,” “look,” “kind of,” “that,” “slowly,” “very,” “realize,” “suddenly,” “it occurred,” “smile,” “nod,” “feel,” etc.

TOO MANY DIALOGUE TAGS: Especially after a comma. Use an action of the character to show their personality and what they’re doing in the scene and leave out the he said/she said with those added qualifiers such as: “I don’t know where it is,” she said, rummaging in the drawer,” OR “He spoke to the professor, twiddling his No. 2 pencil between his fingers.” Too similar phrasing becomes wearying if it’s constant.

EXAMINE AND CUT: “ly” words or qualifiers. “She said sharply.” Let the words or dialogue speak for themselves. Try not to “help” them by adding qualifiers.

SPECIFICITY: Watch for too many phrases or vagueness. Use specific verbs and details to bring the characters and setting alive.

EXTRA THOUGHTS: Delete extra internal character thoughts that don’t move the story forward, or that repeat what’s already been stated.

EMOTION: Watch for emotion that becomes heavy-handed or melodramatic.

REARRANGING SENTENCES: Look for how rearranging sentences or paragraphs might give your manuscript better flow, better clarification, and better pacing and punch.

SENTENCE LENGTH: Make sure your sentences are not all the same length. This tends to create a monotonous rhythm. Change it up. Vary short and long.

DIALOGUE: Watch out for dialogue that’s too “on the nose” (a common screenplay writing term). Go here to read more about this:

NAMES that fit your characters and setting: Remember “your” characters and “your” setting and choose appropriately.

SHOW/TELL: When using adjective, metaphors, similes, think about the setting, time period, and characters of your story. For instance, don’t use winter/snowy metaphors for a book set on a tropical island. Watch out for that weak verb, “to be.” Rewrite sentences to eliminate the verb “was.”

A few more tips!

1. Make your manuscript’s font small and single-spaced so you can see the big picture of the book for pacing and repeated scenes; lay out the pages on the living room floor so you can see it all at once instead of trying to scroll through hundreds of pages on a computer screen.

2. Change the font and formatting by moving margins and using a different font that mirrors a published book. The story will suddenly look and read differently. You’ll find yourself tightening and editing in a whole new way.

3. To get the *big* picture of the entire novel, write down each chapter in 1-2 lines and watch for the story’s plot ARC and the character’s individual ARCs.

4. READ your manuscript aloud. You’ll catch clunky sentences and rhythm and repeated words, too!


Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little Hardcover HarperCollins Released 11/4/2014

In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart.

Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying. With a forbidden romance blossoming in her heart and her family’s survival on the line, Jayden must embark on a deadly journey to save the ones she loves—and find a true love for herself.

Set against the brilliant backdrop of the sprawling desert, the story of Jayden and Kadesh will leave readers absolutely breathless as they defy the odds and risk it all to be together.

Purchase Forbidden at Amazon Purchase Forbidden at IndieBound View Forbidden on Goodreads

Plus, watch the trailer for FORBIDDEN below! Stunning live movie of a Middle Eastern actress in the desert with voice-over—camels—and pictures Kimberley took in the deserts of Jordan from her trip.


About The Author

Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico with her husband and three sons in a solar adobe home on the banks of the Rio Grande. Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell and makes way too many cookies while writing. She's stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; held baby gators in the bayous/swamps of Louisiana, sailed the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria. Kimberley's Awards include: Southwest Book Award, Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel, Bank Street College Best Books of 2011 & 2014, Crystal Kite Finalist, and New Mexico Book Award Finalist.

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  1. This is an AWESOME post!!! Many of these things I already do. But, it's good to see them echoed by a rockstar author such as Kimberley!!

  2. Gosh, what a wonderful, useful, and, for me, timely post. Thanks so much for this, Kimberly.

  3. Kimberly, this is just fantastic! I feel like you hit ALL the key points, and succinctly, too! Thanks SO much!!! Good luck with FORBIDDEN. Can't wait to get my hands on it in person instead of all this virtual stuff :)

  4. Thanks for all the great comments and feedback, everyone. So happy this piece was helpful! And thank you for the book kudos, too!!


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