Your Own Editing Kit (Thanks Kate!)

February 9, 2012


Edits in red ink

Your Own Editing Kit


Blog commenter Kate Warren offers us her exercise  to let me show you all how to create your Own Editing Kit, a few questions you can ask yourself about your 1st Drafts.

The cool things about these questions, is that you can try them with any of your work or use these ideas for asking more questions of your own making.

But anything you want to revert to is still saved off in your 1st draft. This is a way to stretch your writing ‘What if’s’ in a structured way.

Kate Warren, commented:

I tried the exercise and wrote from the point of view of a man (always a challenge).

Here’s what I got:

“I dreamt of someone I once loved; of her soft brown hair, sliding through my fingers, the feel of her skin beneath my palm, the changing colors in her eyes, following the shifts of her mood.

I dreamt of the wonder we shared, discovering life together, of the happiness we felt for oh, so brief a time.

Then came the end, swift and violent. A torrent of burning feelings, made worse by the raging storm outside, trapping two hurt and angry people within too small a space.

I dreamt of the frantic longing to keep her with me, the struggle to decide whether I could sacrifice myself, my truth, to appease the fury within this woman I had grown to feel I needed as I needed breath. Terrified of failure, I said nothing. When the rain stopped, she walked out of my life. I have not seen her since…except in dreams.”

Here are some editing questions to ask yourself when you’re looking at work in a voice that’s not your own – in Kate’s case, a male narrator. Her goal is to save off a new draft for asking these questions. Her 1st draft remains untouched.

  • How people talk:
    • Do you know about the way men talk compared to how women do?
    • Did you know they sometime use fewer words than women to express themselves?
    • Did you know they use fewer pronouns?
    • A woman might say: “I like that shirt on you. That’s a good colour for your eyes.” When a man might say: “Nice shirt. That colour works well.”

Can Kate edit for sentence length considering this narrator is a man? (Kate’s example is 152 words long, 8 sentences, and average words per sentence: 19)

Can she keep all these feelings, but express them in fewer words per line?

  • Who is being spoken to:
    • Speaking of this Male voice – who do you see him speaking to?
    • Is he narrating to the reader?
    • Telling his tale to an unseen presence?
    • To himself?

Knowing this allows Kate to step closer to speaking these words with a purpose.

We speak to different folks in different ways, depending who they are to us.  Think of that with this next point:

  • Bringing in a second voice:
    • What would happen if Kate used this 1st draft as notes and rewrote so that these things from 1st draft were in the narrator’s mind, alluded to, but not all spoken outright?
    •  If she, the author,  tried to shift this monologue into a scene where her narrator is struggling to get this info across to 1 of 3 persons?
      •  (Kate’s choices):
        • His distant cousin, or someone who he’s sitting with on a boat, tied to a dock, while at a large family reunion. (this puts narration into scene & dialog and offers a character in action/motion)
        • His landlord, or someone who is standing at the door, while the narrator is drunkenly trying to write out a check for late rent. (this gives Kate a chance for injecting strife that can be watched (showing), not just told to us (telling).)
        • A woman, who loves this narrator and so is willing to hear, once again, about this lost love.  (brings in plot opportunities – with this woman the Male is narrating about, the male himself,  we add in the woman now listening to him – we have a triangle – prefect for plot advancement)

A cousin would know some of this and might be embarrassed to hear it, so all that is thought of would have to be constrained or held back a bit.

A landlord, might allow your character to ramble, showing more of his state of mind.

A woman would bring in all kinds of opportunities – because men speak to women differently than they do to other men.

Like Kate, take your own 1st draft and try building your Own Editing Kit. Show us some 1st draft  and edits exercise drafts in the comments.

Happy Writing!


3 Responses to “Your Own Editing Kit (Thanks Kate!)”

  1. Kate Warren Says:

    A less poetic, more succinct version based on some of your points, E,J.

    I had a dream last night about a girl I loved. Brown hair, smooth skin. Eyes…I never knew what color. We were young and crazy. For a while life was good. We were happy.

    We broke up during a thunderstorm. Hard to say what was louder, the shouting or the thunder. She left as soon as the storm stopped. Haven’t seen her since…except when I dream.

    • ejrunyon Says:

      Quite a shift from your, possibly, ‘comfort zone’ of your 1st draft.
      Kate, What did you think of your line about how the girl and the storm both left at the same time? I thought that was great. Really sounding like a guy trying to explain something hard and painful.
      Great exercise.
      Thanks for playing along. Hope you got something eye-opening out if trying it.

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