You Better Shape Up

No this is not another post about the gym but it’s a post this morning following on from characters yesterday. Good characters bring the story to life, but… stories must be in good shape.

While a lot of editors focus primarily on the nuts and bolts of dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s, and how in the way you write (which is of course highly important) you must never forget story shape.

When I was working for a publisher copy editing on a regular basis, it was only copy editing or proofing. They did not offer critique or the kind of in-depth structural analysis I use for Cornerstones or my personal clients. Sometimes this was frustrating because there were obvious flaws with the plot. So there were times when I did ask the questions and suggest some thought to various aspects of plot, I guess I couldn’t help myself.

It’s harder to comment on plot and not feel like you’re hijacking someone’s story so this aspect has to be handled with care. So the best approach, I find, is to ask the pertinent questions. Not to say ‘it would be better if’ but subtly ask if they have considered something. Might this be stronger if something else happened at this point, and we often talk about motivation for action that is also key. I might suggest something specific if it seems appropriate or I might be more general prompting them to have a think.  I will always point out to a client if I am being more subjective and speaking as Debz the writer. What I usually find is we are talking about an area of the story arc that has issues and so the main point is to identify these weak points. How those are resolved comes down to my input, but above all, to ensuring the writer’s understanding of the issue and hence arming them with the tools to address it.

So never neglect story shape and when you finish a first draft of anything, and before you get to grips with if this should be a semi-colon and how to reword a sentence, make sure the story is in good shape first.

That is all. Happy Thursday folks!

story shape

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