Friday, 15 April 2011

The Big Edit
In the final teaching week of my Writing Novels for Young People module, we looked at editing in general, laying emphasis on editing the novel and in particular the young adult novel. I encouraged students to forward their work so that I could photocopy it and circulate to others. Only one student did, and sent ten pages. Some students thought they did not have a class as they hadn’t in many other modules. So, a rather elite group of six gathered.
We talked through my customised list of edits. This is listed below.
Stages of Revision Young Adult Novel
1. Is the overall structure sound? - hook, inciting incident, increasing complexities, crisis, climax –
2. Is the resolution satisfying?
3. Overall time scale
4. Check format and length against target market / reader
1) Mixed genre
2) Emotional closeness
3) Leaving reader to decide
4) Pushing boundaries
5) Fast paced / high stakes
6) Characters resemble young adults
7) Bildungsroman
5. Characters. Are they consistent? Do they develop? Do you know everything about them that you should?
6. Is it convincing? Is there cause and effect?
7. Is there conflict and tension? Are there peaks and troughs?
8. Does the pace vary?
9. Dialogue
1. It should not be too natural
2. It should only say important things
3. It should differentiate characters' voices
4. When angry, becomes childish
5. Should take 2/3 of popular book
6. Should convey mood, character and reaction
7. Every speech should give information
9. Detail and description should be slipped in small chunks.
10. Show, don’t tell.
11. Kill off your darlings.
12. Get rid of clich├ęs
13. Overall flow
14. Copy edit
Interestingly, we added one more as a result of that workshop: Point of View. I cannot imagine why it was not there before. I consider it pretty important.
Each student took a different edit and worked on the text for about half an hour. I gave a general edit and tried to cover the stages the students hadn’t covered. They chose:
1. Check format and length against target market / reader
2. Characters. Are they consistent? Do they develop? Do you know everything about them that you should?
3. Is it convincing? Is there cause and effect?
4. Is there conflict and tension? Are there peaks and troughs?
5. Does the pace vary?
6. Dialogue
7. Detail and description should be slipped in small chunks.
8. Show, don’t tell.
We then fed back to the writer.
So, he had a two hour critique on his work. If he can respond positively to everything that was said he should get a good mark. And so should the others. I often find I learn from my students. I see strengths and weaknesses more readily in their work than my own, but I can then use what I’ve seen as a yardstick for my own work. I’m sure every single student there benefitted from the process.
Of course, they may have learnt even more if they’d all brought work along. So I’m now going to adopt the Big Edit in the final week of all of my courses. Everyone brings along a sample of their work and we each do one edit on the work in front of us. We change the script and the type of edit we’re doing every ten minutes or so. We do a page together at the beginning and at the end of the session. Everybody takes their heavily annotated work home and the sample pages of everybody’s work discussed at the beginning and the end of the session.

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