Monday, June 22, 2009

Guest Blog: Kristin Briana Otts - Editing: The literary version of Nazism

So, after Kody’s spectacularly flattering intro, I’m kind of terrified to write this blog post. I mean, now that you’re all preconditioned to think I’m awesome, I feel immense pressure to write a blog that is equally awesome. So please excuse any stuttering / blushing / nervous nail-biting scattered throughout this post, and just blame it on Kody. It’s her fault.

Okay. Moving along.

If you’ve recently finished writing a novel, you probably feel pretty dang good about yourself right now. There is a chance you have already regressed into a Gollum-like state, stroking those shiny new pages and crooning to yourself, “My precious…my precious…”

Well, stop it. Right now. That shiny new manuscript? That is not precious. That thing needs work, and you must harden your heart against your book, because otherwise what comes next might feel like chopping up kittens with a hacksaw.

You need to edit.

No one’s book is perfect when it’s hot off the press. Good? Sure, some people can write a good first draft. (Kody is one of those people. Feel free to hate her now.) But no one, not even those writers who produce bestsellers every time they sneeze, can write a perfect novel without revising.

So when I say you need to edit, it’s not because you’re book sucks. It’s because your book isn’t perfect yet.

That said, I’m going to warn you about some of the issues I run in to when I’m beta-reading first drafts. Because I care. And because your Gollum-esque crooning is starting to freak me out.


Repeat after me: Commas are not periods. Semicolons are not periods. Colons are not periods. The only punctuation mark that can act as a period is…a period. Which is why it gets frustrating when I see a long line of dialogue that looks like this:

“I don’t know why, I just feel like I need to get out of here, you know? Like, I’ve been hanging around this town my whole life, and I’m starting to feel like I’m dying here even though I’m only seventeen, I don’t expect you do understand, you just moved here, but…”

Periods are important. They turn long rambling bits of conversation into purposeful, decisive statements. They let the reader pause, take a deep breath, and let the words sink in.

“I’ve been hanging around this town my whole life. I’m starting to feel like I’m dying here, even though I’m only seventeen. I don’t expect you to understand. You just moved here…”


Have you ever been in the middle of reading a book, and suddenly you realize that the hero’s eyes have abruptly changed from dreamy emerald-green to warm chocolate-brown? Kind of ruins the mood, doesn’t it?

I’m pointing this out mainly because this is my Achilles heel. This is the issue that kills me when I’m revising my first drafts. Dax turns left – and now he’s in the sunlight! He turns right – and now, lo and behold, darkness is falling! Serenity’s dress is green – no, blue – nope, wait, it’s green again…

This is irritating. Really irritating. Try to avoid it.


…Or who exist simply to drive the plot forward. This is very, very bad. It means that your characters have no souls, no personalities, no quirks or habits or dreams of their own. It means that you have created two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs that walk and talk and breathe only because the story demands it.

Why is this such a terrible thing? Because your readers will not care about the story if they do not care about the characters. If your heroine walks around like a robot with little ambition and no real goals, there is no conflict. Your story will die, even if you have the coolest plot in the world. What makes a good story is how the character reacts to situations. But if your character has no mind of his/her own, you’re screwed.

I hope this post was injected with enough Awesome to satisfy you. But more than anything, I hope you can now see your manuscript with fresh eyes, understand where you can improve, and make your book fabulous.

~Kristin Otts


Kody Mekell Keplinger said...

Thank you, Kristin! That was a fabulous guest blog. We'll have to have you back some time!

Sarah said...

Thank you Kristin! I'm currently through my fourth edit of my novel, so your post was very informative (and I love your humor).

Hannah said...

The literary version of Nazism!! Lol. Great post, Kristin.:D

Leah Michelle said...

Thanks! I'm working on round one of my editing. This will indeed help :D

Chanelley said...

Loved it!

Joanna said...

Great post, Kristin! Agree with all of it.

Amy Platon said...

I loved the imagery of the book as a pretty little pet. So true! But it is a dangerous place to marinate. You gotta chop your kittens. Good reminder. Thanks.

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