In a previous post, I explained the difference between a developmental edit and a copy edit. Today I’d like to dive deeper into the value of a skilled developmental editor by asking a pro, Christina Henry de Tessan of Girl Friday Productions, for the most common issues she encounters. Here are her top four:
1) Show vs. tell: We all know the old adage, “Show; don’t tell.” It can be harder, however, to resist the temptation to show and tell. But if you’ve told us that “Isabel wiped her clammy hands on her too-short skirt and felt a flush of heat in her cheeks when the teacher asked her to stand up and read aloud,” you don’t then need to tell us that “She was nervous about getting up in her front of her classmates.” Nail the details, then trust your reader to figure it out.
2) Dialogue: If you want your writing to shine, it’s essential that you get this right. At one end of the spectrum, you want to avoid making your characters sound stilted or bland. At the other, you want to avoid the small talk that can drag down a snappy back-and-forth: “Hi.” “Good to see you. How’s it going?” “Ok. You?” Finally, read it all out loud.
3) Beware of metaphors and similes: These tempting little crutches can yank a reader right out of the story. “The clouds meandered across the sky like exhaust from an ailing diesel truck” is just distracting. Creative license has its moments, but straightforward language is often the best way to go. If you can’t help yourself, just use sparingly and make sure your selected imagery feels appropriate to the story. Finally, keep an eye out for the dreaded mixed metaphors
4) Character is everything! We don’t have to love them, but we do have to care. If your characters are falling flat, you’re going to lose your readers. Make them flawed, quirky, arrogant, confused. But more than anything, make them real. And then make them learn something along the way. Write a character who evolves in a credible and compelling way, and you’re well on your way.
Many thanks to Christina for lending her expertise to this post! If you’re interesting in working with her, give her a shout a firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.