Monday, February 25, 2013

Continuity, Clarity, and Crispness

I’m making my last revisions to the print version of Jenny's Revenge, A Steve Dancy Tale. I want to share my goals for a final pass-through for any of my books. After I have the story the way I want it and falsely believe that I've caught every error, I do another revision for continuity, clarity, and crispness.

In film, a script supervisor makes sure the placement of furniture is consistent from scene to scene. Novels need similar scrutiny. During this revision, I keep an eye out for characters getting up from a chair more than once or magically changing rooms, clothing, or weapons. I also review each character’s dialogue to make sure what they say is consistent with their character. Last, I review the timeline to make sure I haven’t excessively compressed or expanded time.

Oftentimes an author knows exactly what he intended, but a reader goes, “huh?” Making things crystal clear alternately means adding a bit of explanation or deleting extraneous description that might lead the reader down a false path. Clarity also means making sure the reader knows who is talking. This can be especially confusing when there are more than two people in a conversation.


Good narratives move crisply. Sometimes this means deleting a sentence that interferes with a smooth flow, but it usually means deleting superfluous words. I think of this process as removing speed bumps and filling in potholes. As Mark Twain said, "Substitute 'Damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." Ideally, every word, sentence and paragraph should move the story forward.

I said ideally because I always fail. Despite my best efforts, the manuscript comes back from the editor with marks on every page. Sometimes they fix errors, but most of the time they suggest ways to improve continuity, clarity, and crispness. Thank heaven for editors. 

No comments:

Post a Comment