So you have written your short story and cannot wait to release it into the world. But before doing that, it is important to take some extra time to make sure your story is properly edited, despite the fact that editing is nowhere near as fun as writing.
- Spell/Grammar Check
The first step towards the best version of your story is hitting that spellcheck button and proofreading it to make sure there are no errors. A story which contains spelling and/or grammar mistakes very often won’t be taken seriously.
- Remove Adjectives/Adverbs
Sometimes, less is more, and this is especially true when it comes to adjectives and adverbs. Too much of either can suffocate your story. Instead, opt for using a stronger verb or a noun.
- Remove Repetition
This is very important to keep your readers’ attention. If you catch yourself repeating the same thing several times throughout the story, you know what to do.
- Remove Cliches
Cliches are a deadly sin of fiction writing. Avoid them at all cost.
- Begin with a Bang
If you explain too much at the beginning of your story (if you “tell” instead of “show”), your beginning might not be as effective as it would be if you jumped straight into action. Mind you, this “action” does not have to be your characters running away from zombies (but hey, I’m not judging), however, if you begin your story with a lengthy description of the weather, many readers might get bored and abandon the story altogether.
- Check For Consistency
Make sure your writing is consistent in every way. This can refer to either checking that the names of your characters are consistent throughout the story, or that their motivation corresponds to their actions. The story has to follow the rules of logic (except when its primary purpose is to twist those rules).
- Remove Unnecessary Explanation
I cannot stress this enough. Just like long beginnings, explanations are often a lazy way out which indicates that an author couldn’t be bothered to write a scene in which s/he would show something instead of telling it. Let’s face it: explanations are boring. There are many things about the characters that the writer has to know, that never make it to the final version of the story. There’s nothing wrong with that. Make sure the readers know only what they really, really have to know in order to follow your story.
- Edit Your Dialogue
Dialogue is essentially a conversation where the boring parts have been left out. Make sure that your dialogue truly reveals only the necessary information for the story, and cut all those random chats that do not move the story forward.
- Get Perspective
Okay, so you have made sure that your short story does not have any repetition, cliches, or unnecessary explanation. Now what? The best thing you can do is to leave your story alone and come back to it with fresh eyes. You can leave it for one day, or a couple of weeks, depending on your schedule or personal preference. However, I find this step very important because it allows you to gain some perspective and to see the possible shortcomings of the story more easily.
- Get Feedback
Give the story to your beta readers. They can be members of your creative writing workshop, your family or friends. In any case, they should be people you consider honest and trustworthy, and preferably experienced readers. It is better to have several opinions than only one. However, take their advice with a grain of salt: even though their feedback can be very useful, remember that you are still the author and at the end of the day should do what feels right to you instead of listening to others.
What is your editing routine? Let me know!