#writing tips
artistmarchalius · 2 days
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Cockney Rhyming Slang Phrases Part 1
In a previous post I went into Cockney rhyming slang history and gave some tips on how to use it.
In this post I’ll give you some commonly used Cockney rhyming slang phrases, phrases that I find funny, as well as some phrases that I think would be useful for Spider-Verse fic writers specifically.
So let’s get started!
Adam and Eve - Believe
E.g. “I don’t Adam and Eve it!”
Apples and Pears - Stairs
E.g. “He fell down the apples.”
Aunt Joanna - Piano
E.g. “Play me a song on the old Joanna!” Or “Get on the Joanna and we’ll have a sing song!”
Barnet Fair - Hair
E.g. “How do I fit my barnet under my mask? Wouldn’t you like to know.”
This is a very common Cockney phrase; you’ll hear a lot of true Cockneys talking about getting their barnet done.
Barney Rubble - Trouble
E.g. “Looks like someone’s lookin’ for a Barney!”
Bread and Honey - Money
E.g. “I ain’t got enough bread for that.”
Bird Lime - Time (in prison)
E.g. “He’s doin’ bird.”
Bird lime is a sticky substance you spread on trees to catch birds (now illegal, thankfully). You can understand why people relate it to feeling trapped.
Boat Race - Face
E.g. “He’s got a handsome boat!” Or “Shut your boat!” Or “I’m not just gonna show you my boat race, mate. Secret identity and all that.”
Bottle and Glass
I’m going to let you figure this one out.
E.g. “Look at the bottle on that guy!” Or “I slipped on the steps and went bottle over tit!”
Brass Tacks - Facts
E.g. “Let’s get down to brass tacks!”*
*Some people think that this phrase originates from the Cockney rhyming slang, however others say that it is referring to brass tacks used in upholstery or tacks that were hammered into sales counters to indicate measuring points. I don’t have the answer.
Brown Bread - Dead
E.g. “He’s brown bread!”
This is an example of a Cockney rhyming slang phrase that you don’t abbreviate. You always say “brown bread” and never just “brown”.
Bubble Bath - Laugh
E.g. “Are you having a bubble?”
This is meant more in an irritated sense rather than joyful laughter, like saying “You must be joking!” Or “Are you having a laugh?”
Butchers Hook - Look
E.g. “Let’s have a butchers at that.” Or “Take a quick butchers at this!”
It’s good to keep in mind that there can be multiple Cockney rhyming slang phrases for the same word, as well as multiple Cockney rhyming slang phrases that start with the same word. For example, ‘Birds Nest” and “Bristol and West” both mean chest, and “Birds Nest” and “Bird Lime” both can be abbreviated to “Bird”. For the latter, context is important for knowing what someone is talking about.
As always, I’m not an expert; a true Cockney would know far more than I do. I just want to share the knowledge that I have. I hope that someone will find this helpful, informative, or entertaining at the very least.
I’ve got more Cockney rhyming slang phrases coming, but if there’s any other areas of British slang you’d like me to go into, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!
Happy writing and happy speaking!
My other British slang posts: Cockney Rhyming Slang, British Police Slang, Terms of Endearment, Innit VS In’t - a PSA
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writingdotcoffee · 3 days
The writer isn't made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.
E. L. Doctorow
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howtofightwrite · 14 hours
I love picking at plot holes like scabs so i want my fight scenes to be as realistic as possible. However. There’s a creature in my head that says a buster sword is SICK AS HELL. What modifications would it need to be even remotely wieldable while still keeping its central appeal (huge sword big blade cool and sexy) intact?
You’ve made a mistake. You mistook suspension of disbelief for realism. This is a common problem that gets in the way of a lot of fantasy and sci-fi authors. So, don’t worry. It isn’t just you. However, realism vs believability is where your hangup is. Stories don’t need to be realistic to be believable.
The quick and dirty (and possibly unhelpful) answer is to create a world that justifies your buster sword, not a buster sword that’s trying to justify itself in a world that doesn’t want it. You step back from the sword itself and away from a world where reality dictates that it’s too heavy, too clumsy, too slow, and ask yourself: “in what type of world does this thing make sense?” And there’s about a billion different ways to create that.
The hangup with the realistic argument is that all of fiction is a lie. Good or bad, that’s what stories are. They can be very compelling, addicting, manipulative, feel incredibly good, and still be fake. The goal of a creator isn’t just to create stories that are believable, but for your audience to want to believe in them. Storytelling is always a joint venture between you and your reader. You are the salesperson asking your audience to come along for the ride. To keep their attention, you’ve got to spin up a good yarn. Build trust. The world has to feel right, but it doesn’t have to be right. Reasonable, not right. The goal is to take a cool idea and work backwards to how your society got here so that when seen from an outside perspective, the choice ultimately looks like a reasonable conclusion given the surrounding context. One of the better ways to build your reasonable conclusions is by studying the history of technological invention from the beginning to the midpoint rather than starting with the end point—the results.
History is full of weird, wacky, wild attempts and failures at creation. You’re not the first person to look at a human sized sword and wonder if it could, in fact, hit good. Or, really, better than swords that currently exist. Or, fulfill a battlefield role the sword was currently not occupying. Or, as we like to say, have real battlefield applications. The Claymore, the Zwhihander, the Zhanmadao are all real weapons that saw real, if not necessarily extensive, use. Like all weapons, they were specialized tools meant for particular battlefield uses. In this case, mainly as anti-cavalry support.
Ask yourself, why? Not just, why would I want it? Ask, why would I use it?
What actual purpose does the big cool blade serve beyond looking big and cool? What function does it fill on the battlefield? Why use the big cool blade instead of other weapons? What does it do better? What are some offsets which might account for the massive size? Technology? Superhuman enhancements, mystical or otherwise? Gravitic fields? Magic? Why is the big cool blade better suited to ensuring a character’s survival? What advantages does it provide? What is its practical value to warriors within your setting?
The initial defensive reaction is that we don’t need a reason because we have the Rule of Cool. That could be the reason, but I challenge you to go deeper. Go deeper than, “this was the weapon my character was trained to use.” The followup question is: why were they trained to use it?
In the real world, we can answer these questions both from a personal and from a larger social perspective. We may not be able to answer whether we’d use a gun, but we understand why humanity developed guns, why we use guns, and the purpose they serve both for personal protection and in their military applications. The answers don’t necessarily need to be good or smart. What matters is that an answer exists to feed your audience. When your reader starts struggling to believe, they begin to ask questions, they pick at the fabric of the narrative trying to figure out why their mind has rejected the story they were previously enjoying. What we, the writer, want to create is a chain of logic underpinning the narrative and its world. This way, when questions are asked, a reasonable answer is ready and waiting. While we won’t win over everyone, trust that your audience wants to believe. Trust that they’re smart enough to figure it out without being spoon fed. That way, you won’t fall into the trap of infodumping.
Worldbuilding always involves a lot more happening under the surface than ever makes it onto the page. Your characters will be the ones to demonstrate and act on the internal logic that’s been created for them without needing a billion questions to lead us from Point A to Point B.
If we look at human history in a wide view, we find that weapons are a fairly steady march forward that matches a civilization’s technological growth. We keep what works and discards what doesn’t. The crossbow replaced the bow as the main form of artillery in martial combat, but we still kept the bow. The bow still had practical applications. Guns eventually replaced the crossbow just like they replaced the sword, but it actually took a very long time. We had functional firearms in the Middle Ages.
Ease of Use
Ease of Training
From a military standpoint, these are the three most important aspects for widespread adoption of any weapon. Easy to use. Easy to train. Lethal. The longer it takes to train a soldier on a weapon the more time your army is losing out on using that soldier and the more effective the weapon needs to be in order to justify its expense. Why give your soldier a big cool sword if they’ll never get close enough to reach the forward line to make the assault? Why have them use the big cool sword if operating the laser cannon is more efficient, effective, and keeps them alive longer? In the coldness of battlefield calculus, it’s often better to have cheap, efficient units rather than more expensive ones that might be more lethal but take longer to produce. No matter how good they are, you’re eventually going to lose them. Therefore, easy replaceability becomes a factor.
If you can answer those questions (and the myriad of other similar ones) you won’t just have a weapon, you’ll have a world. You’ll have more than a justification, you’ll have battlefield strategy, tactics, and a greater understanding of how the average layman characters in your setting beyond your main character approach warfare and possibly a technological history. You might even have several functional armies.
Ultimately, this is a game of value versus cost. Most settings that use big cool swords sacrifice ease of use and ease of training to amp up lethality. The weapon having a specialized function or only being usable by a specialized unit helps if that unit’s battlefield effectiveness is justified. Or, you could just have a weird technological outlier where its effectiveness doesn’t quite justify its cost even if the individual warrior is effective. A good example of this is in shounen anime where one character has a specialty that no one else has, a really cool, effective weapon that never appears anywhere else, because the length of training, high skill floor, and finicky nature of its use make it difficult to justify widespread adoption.
The danger is assuming there’s a right answer. There isn’t one. The value in learning the rules of real world violence is so you can break them. This way you can tell the difference between the vital rules necessary for suspending disbelief and don’t accidentally break the ones you needed to keep your audience invested.
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novlr · 2 days
How can I end a chapter without it being too abrupt?
Writing a novel is like any craft. Each element contributes to the whole piece, and each chapter forms a part of your narrative with its own arc. However, creating a seamless transition between chapters can be challenging for even the best writers. The end of a chapter needs to be satisfying, yet also tantalizing to keep readers flipping the page. So, how do you end a chapter without being too abrupt?
End with a cliffhanger
Ending a chapter with an unexpected twist, a sudden revelation, or an unresolved situation that leaves readers hanging in suspense is the essence of a good cliffhanger. The key to a successful cliffhanger is to write it in a way that feels organic to your story. A well-crafted cliffhanger triggers curiosity, keeps the narrative tension high, and ensures that your readers remain invested and eager to read on.
Introduce the next point of action
Introducing the next point of action is a powerful way to maintain the pace of your story and end a chapter. It’s as simple as revealing a new character, event, or conflict that will take centre stage in the forthcoming chapter. For example, your character could receive a mysterious letter, stumble upon a secret door, or meet a stranger with riveting news. This gives your readers a clear idea about the next focus but keeps them intrigued to learn more.
Pose a question
Posing a question is a simple way to end a chapter that feels natural. The question could be literal or metaphorical. It could be a question in a character’s mind or a question about the events unfolding in the story. For instance, your character might wonder, “Who was the mysterious stranger?” or “What’s behind that secret door?” This method leaves your readers curious, sparking their imagination as they try to guess the answer. Remember, a good question doesn’t just ask — it hints at a deeper story.
Develop your characters
Concluding a chapter with character development can provide depth to your story and make your readers feel more connected to them. A character might go through a significant change or realisation. For example, your protagonist could realize they’ve been lied to their entire life, or a side character could decide to leave their past behind and start fresh. These kinds of character moments make your readers more invested in their journey.
Use Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a narrative device that involves giving hints about what will happen next in the story. You can do this subtly by dropping minor details that hint at future events. For example, you might describe a looming storm cloud on the horizon, foreshadowing a coming conflict or problem. Alternatively, you might make a direct statement about future events. For instance, a character might say something like, “I have a bad feeling about this.” But remember, don’t give away too much. Keeping some level of mystery is important to maintain the reader’s interest.
Reveal something
A revelation at the end of a chapter can make your readers more eager to keep reading. It could involve unveiling a new piece of information about a character, story arc, or mystery that shifts the reader’s perspective. For example, a truth about a character’s past could be revealed, or the discovery of a hidden key could introduce a new mystery. Revealing something important can cause a dramatic turn in your story and can make your readers excited to find out what happens next.
Emotional closure
If you’ve had a lot of fast-paced action, then sometimes you need to give your readers a moment to breathe by letting your characters reflect on their feelings. For instance, you might end a chapter with a character solving an issue, realizing an important truth, or simply having a moment of introspection. This allows readers to connect with them emotionally, to understand their feelings, and to see their growth. Emotional closure provides a moment of calm before your readers dive into the next chapter.
Develop your theme or subtext
Developing your story’s theme or subtext at the end of a chapter might involve reinforcing the central theme of your story or introducing a new idea that adds another layer of depth. For instance, if your story is about the struggle for freedom, you could end a chapter with a character making a decision that signifies their pursuit of liberty. This not only helps readers understand the broader context and message of your story but also leaves them pondering these ideas as they move on to the next chapter.
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me-writes-prompts · 3 days
:-Sweet caring prompts-:
(screaming, crying, throwing up. But, yeah, tag me and my sad single life :)
By @me-writes-prompts
Kissing them as they whisper 'I love you's repeatedly
Cooking them their favourite dishes
^^ “How is it? Do you like it?” “Yes, but maybe you could put a little more salt to it…or else, it’s great! My fave<333”
Decorating their bedroom with their favourite things to surprise their partner
^^ “Oh. My. God. You did not do this!!! I love it, baby! Thank youuuu” (I feel so single please😤)
Giving them soothing messages when they get back from work
Telling them that it's okay to rest and that they are there for them
Slow dancing to music while the other one silently laughs because they think it’s so silly
Preparing little gifts like flowers or homemade chocolates or even a cute little letter!
Doing their chores for them when they are too tired to do so
“I’m really sorry I forgot to do the laundry. I promise I’ll do it after my work is finished.” “No, it’s okay. I did it for you. Don’t worry, love.”
Tying their tie
Forehead kisses>>>>
Making a bath for them
Getting their favourite cup of coffee in the morning
^^"You know just how I like my coffee. That's why I love you so much." "Is it only because of the coffee???" *squints eyes teasingly* "No, you silly!"
Sharing their things, such as beauty products or food/drinks
Holding them in their arms because they both need the warmth and the reassurance of each other(<3333333)
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sprinklesdonut15 · 2 days
Advice For Making Realistic Characters:
Make them have multiple interests - Your character doesn’t have to fit one aesthetic alone. For example, I like collecting feathers and vintage keys, but also notebooks and squishmallows, none of which are all the same aesthetic
Allow for improper dialogue - We know not to use “and” at the beginning of a sentence, but humans do that anyway. We stutter and catch our breath and forget how to word things properly. We don’t have to be diagnosed with a stutter or speak multiple languages to screw it up now and then
They should all have their own voice - This is mainly for writing in multiple perspectives. Personally it’s hard to give each character their own voice rather than my own. Regardless of the language or era of your story, each character should sound unique, whether they have certain catchphrases or use more slang or talk more formally
Give them all a self-presentation - We all act differently depending on who we’re around, and characters should be this way as well
Give them mindless habits - Possibly for a filler scene or something in the background, but give your character more than just nail biting habits. Allow for a small or simple change (like moving furniture around) where your character still has a habit of doing the old thing (going where the furniture used to be, not being able to find anything after it was moved)
Let them be bored - People are always and I mean always finding ways to entertain themselves. If you’re writing a character that sits still and thinks and doesn’t always have to be doing something, just make sure that it fits their personality. I don’t know a lot of people who can go for long without some form of entertainment.
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insomniac-arrest · 3 days
Hey everyone, I just wrote a guest blog post on writing witty dialogue, check it out!
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deniselavestal · 1 day
Everything you write has value, even if it isn’t your best work 🌟 Take it for what it is — a piece that will evidently help contribute to your improvement as a writer.
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I have a whole series of ideas in my head. In the first book, the male best friend begins forming feelings for his female friend. But she won't realize in the first book because she's falling for someone else. How do I write this in a subtle way without making it the main focus until the second book? But keeping the reader wondering. The story is told in her POV.
Best Friend Forms Feelings for MC in Background
Since the story is told from the MC's POV, you will have to rely on anything the MC can observe or learn in order to perk the reader's suspicions about how the best friend feels about the MC, and you can do that while keeping the MC clueless. Here are some things you can do:
1 - MC Observes/Dismisses Physical Cues
There are all sorts of external signs that someone is feeling romantic interest and love towards another person. Things like stolen glances, intense eye contact, staring, looking away bashfully after eyes meet, being tongue-tied/nervous, voice cracking, taking opportunities to be near someone or spend time with them... Having your MC occasionally notice these outward signs but dismissing them as something else (being shy, romantic interest for someone else in the room, normal personality quirks, etc. gives the reader something to file away so that later on, they can look back and see the character was interested in the MC the whole time.
2 - Having Someone Else Observe and Report Physical Cues
"Can't you see the way he looks at you?" Having another character observe and report the physical cues is another way to bring it to the reader's attention. And here again, you can have the MC dismiss it as being something else. "What? No... it's not like that. His love for me is purely as his best friend..."
3 - MC Discovers/Learns Clues of Other's Interest
Perhaps the best friend accidentally sends your MC a text meant for someone else that says something like, "I can't stop thinking about her. I'm so glad I get to see her tonight..." and, knowing she has plans with the best friend that night, the MC is racking their brain trying to figure out who this mysterious "her" could be, coming up with a list of possibilities none of which are herself. You could also have the MC overhear gossip, find a present and card meant for them, have someone else confide their suspicions of them, etc.
Using a combination of these ideas, dropping them in occasionally, allows you to build in the clues without hitting your reader over the head with it, and still allowing your MC to remain in the dark. Just make sure you don't have to jump through too many hoops to make it believable that your MC remains so clueless. You can adjust the frequency and intensity of clues depending on how much or little you want the MC to be aware of. And when it's time for the reveal, you can ramp them up and then put it right up in the MC's face so she can't deny it.
I hope that helps!
I’ve been writing seriously for over 30 years and love to share what I’ve learned. Have a writing question? My inbox is always open!
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thatwritergirlsblog · 22 hours
How to Organise Your Book into Chapters
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courtingwonder · 2 days
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How Sentence Length Affects The Readability, Rhythm, And Aesthetic of Writing
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em-dash-press · 2 days
6 Steps to Create Fictional Creatures
Your newest story idea might require more extensive creative skills when it comes to creatures in mythology. You can use mythic creatures from centuries past or make new fictional species specifically for your plot. Check out these steps to create fictional creatures that feel just as real as any other animal or being.
1. Brainstorm a Big List
There are so many mythical creatures to consider while planning your next story. Some beloved options include:
Create a list of every fictional creature that interests you. Make sure to check out various mythologies from global cultures to expand your possibilities.
If you want to make something entirely new, list creatures that inspire you. You can draw from various elements of their backgrounds to invent something new that resonates with readers.
2. Match Creature Characteristics to Your Plot
Picture The Hobbit. Smaug is a crucial part of that novel’s plot. He represents the negative impulse to hoard wealth beyond what you need. That message wouldn’t be represented if Smaug was a kelpie, which represents perfection.
Consider how your creature’s appearance, behavior, and abilities will serve your plot or theme. If they tie together in at least one way, your mythical creatures will feel integral to your story.
3. Draft Creature Backstories
Characters need backstories because real people always have history. You don’t necessarily need to make them extensive, but they’re worth building as you create incredible characters.
Fictional creatures work the same way. They need a history on some level unless your character is somehow creating them in real time during your story.
Give your character’s species an origin. They’ll need an individual history that includes things like where they live and what their motivations are. Does your creature only care about surviving? Do they have a family they want to protect? Is there a dream motivating their decisions or goals?
You may not need to create all of these details for well-known creatures like werewolves, but they do help when you’re making an individual character your readers will get to know.
It’s also helpful to decide how your creature interacts with other creatures or humans. Are they a predator or prey? Do they act aggressively or not? These answers not only inform who they are as an individual but also what roles they can play in your plot.
4. Work on Their Design
There are some great sites for visualizing human characters, like Backstage or Pinterest. AI-generated images aren’t your only option. However, it may feel more challenging to find a generator site for mythical creatures.
You can search for creature inspiration on places like Pinterest or look up your creature’s species at places like Generator Mix. Writers with bigger budgets could also pay an artist they follow on social media to draw what they visualize based on what you’ve already figured out about your creature.
You’ll want a visual reference point for things like your creature’s physical features (plus clothing and accessories, if they wear them). When you’re one year and 200 pages deep in a manuscript, you may forget tiny details like how your creature’s scales look or whether they have mismatched toe nail colors.
A reference picture also helps writers remember how their creature’s appearance may affect their characters. A zombie gnome might terrify one character while they garner sympathy from another character who loves gnomes.
5. Add Magic (or Not)
Will your creature have magical abilities? Why or why not? The answers to these questions point out their purpose in your plot. Maybe they make magical abilities become useless in their presence. 
If your creature gets to use magic, remember to answer the most essential questions for creating a magic system, like:
What does the magic help your character do?
What can’t the magic do?
What are some external or internal limits for the magic users?
Is there a cost to using this magic?
What’s the most important reason your character or creature uses their magic?
6. Assign a Motivation
Even if your mythical creature is only running around in the dark by themselves, they’ll have some kind of motivation. That could be things like:
Finding their next meal
Discovering shelter
Tracking down their enemy
Looking for their offspring
Defending their territory
Seeking their purpose
Chasing a dream
Your creature may need a more purpose-led motivation if they play a key part in your plot. They could also just need to eat, which causes the mayhem necessary to move your plot along.
If you can’t think of a motivation, ask yourself if this creature is necessary in your story. Sometimes we get lost making creatures or characters because it’s fun, not because they’re essential to our plot.
No matter what you want to write, these tips should help you create the mythical creatures your story needs. How in-depth your planning goes is up to you. There’s no required amount of planning for any character. You can always add details to their outline or character profile along the way.
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writingdotcoffee · 2 days
I'm more of a downhill skier. I try to go as fast as I can and then I have to backtrack a lot and fill in revisions.
Margaret Atwood
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frownyalfred · 3 days
You update SO FAST. I desire your secrets to writing speed but I fear that might be a warlock pact.
Anyway, I don't ordinarily read a/b/o but I trusted you to deliver something I would enjoy regardless and BOY HOWDY YOU HAVE DELIVERED I am constantly in sweet agonizing sorrow for Bruce and loving every minute.
Thank you so much! He's going to be even more sad for a while, I apologize in advance.
No warlock pact here, just a lot of anxiety recently. I also type dialogue SUPER fast, so if a fic is more dialogue-heavy, it's a lot easier for me to crank out a couple thousand words.
I've been working with a system recently where I just sit down, write until I hit about 3-4k, and then hit publish after a quick scan. So it's definitely not my best or most well-written work, but it's what I can get out in between a job, the gym, and other life stuff.
Also, if you don't have a good keyboard, definitely invest in one! I can hit a pretty high wpm typing speed with my new mechanical one. I love it so much, it's so much easier than laptop keys.
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novlr · 1 day
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sam-glade · 3 days
My Editing Process 
Part 1/3 - Big Picture Stuff
This is what I do to a novel or a novella before showing it to anyone (including beta readers). I’m posting it in hopes that it will help someone, and I’m not expecting it to work for everyone. Take any parts that help you!
Two things up front:
‘Imperfect’ doesn’t mean ‘bad’. Good writing can have imperfections.
The goal is to get the manuscript to a stage where the imperfections won’t be distracting to beta readers.
This is my process for novella- or novel-length projects (so around 40-100k words). I don’t write short stories, so I don’t know how applicable it will be. I’m currently editing Gifts of Fate, trying to shave off a couple of thousand words, and I’ll be pulling examples from it.
I’m a pantser and an overwriter who loves checklists. I know that my early drafts include scenes that explore the characters and the setting, but don’t contribute enough to earn their keep – this isn’t applicable to everyone. I also write in 3rd person multi-POV, hence references to switching POV.
In this project, I also aim for a crisp, direct style, with minimally flowery descriptions.
I start this process when my draft is in the following state:
After I’ve replaced all [[foreshadow this]] and similar comments, added all the skipped segments, etc.
After I let the manuscript rest for a couple of months
When the overall plot is highly unlikely to change. I.e. the sequence of events/plot beats is set in stone. I may consider reframing them or rewriting from someone else’s POV, but I won’t change the direction of the story.
Big-picture stuff first
I can’t stress this enough, do this before you get into the nitty gritty line edits. You don’t want to pore over a chapter for hours, only to realise it has to be cut – and all the effort you put into editing will be thrown away.
The goal of this pass is to bring out the best parts of the story, make the focus crystal clear, and make sure everything gels together.
I make a copy of the manuscript and make sure you have the old one stored away. I often refer back to it, to see if I like how a chapter has changed.
The outline
I write a bare-bones outline, no more than a phrase per 2k words – the shorter the better.
The way I do it is to put that as the title of each chapter – chapters for me tend to average just over 2k words. E.g. in GoF, the first few chapter titles are: ‘The Rupture’, ‘The Sword’, ‘The Cutthroat’, ‘The Sergeant’, [redacted], ‘The Windmill’, ‘The Threat’, ‘The Investigation’, ‘The Plan’. Not catchy, but pinpointing the focus of each.
It’s important that each point corresponds to a similarly sized chunk of text, so that I can spot when there are long sections where not much or too much happens – this will highlight issues with pacing.
If I’m not sure what to put in the title, it’s an indication that it might be one of those meandering, unfocused chapters. I gather a list of those, to pay more attention to them.
It also helps me identify the goal of each chapter. This is the part where I’d consider reframing or even rewriting a chapter from someone else’s POV, if the current structure shifts the focus away from what it’s supposed to be about.
Two examples:
In one chapter, I had a regular POV character (Ianim) check in on the protag’s family, and the protag’s sister (Marta) filled him in on how her magical powers had manifested a few days earlier. The intended goal of the chapter: tell the reader about the powers. What it ended up being: by framing it as a conversation between them, the focus was on their dynamic. Solution: rewrite the chapter from Marta’s POV and present the events that led to her powers manifesting as they happened, rather than retrospectively talking about them.
Later on, the protag (Lissan) is on the run and struggling to survive, while feeling that he should be saving the world, not just himself. He gets a stern talking to from an old man. The intended goal of the chapter: Lissan gets over his dilemma, and makes a decision to save himself, then make the world a better place. What it ended up being: the old man’s backstory stole the spotlight Solution: spend more time on the dilemma, especially before the storytime, and less on the backstory – I want to keep it, because it serves a subplot, but I can shorten it by a few sentences. 
Meandering Chapters
With that done, I read over the manuscript one more time, focusing especially on the chapters identified as meandering, and skipping the ones with clear plot beats. I know events like the big fights, first meetings, etc. definitely won’t be cut.
In my case, a lot of these are consecutive chapters composed of 2-3 vignettes, which come up when characters spend a period of time in one place, e.g. taking time to train or make preparations. They’ll be composed of scenes with low-stake actions, some exposition, and some exploration of characters and their dynamics. I want this project to be a fairly fast-paced fantasy adventure, but these slice-of-life scenes slowed down pacing too much. They are usually identified as meandering, since each scene/vignette has its own goal, but they aren’t strung together.
I Marie Kondo the hell out of them. I list what’s the purpose of each scene, and what I lose if I cut them out – this can be a mental exercise. Will cutting each one in turn leave the reader confused? Sometimes, all the reader is losing is an additional bit of characterisation. This is how I discovered I had two chapters showing the same two characters spar, each from one of their POVs, and the only purpose the first one fulfilled was to show that one of the characters didn’t like cold weather. Yep, that got cut.
Then, anything that's set up but doesn't have a pay off UNLESS it's a deliberate red herring. The length of the set up should be proportional to how crucial to the main plot is the pay off.
E.g. I had two conversations where in the first one the protag was told that demons react to the colour red, and in the next one he found a red ribbon to put on his Sword. And that was the last mention of it. The first mention stayed as flavour, the second conversation got cut.
And I know I need the red ribbon there in the second book of the trilogy, but it really can appear closer to when it's needed – i.e. in the second book. In general, I'm weeding out set up for later instalments which are easy to forget.
Repetitive Chapter Structure
I group chapters by structure, especially paying attention to the cases when:
Characters sit around discussing a plan, with the dialogue being a civil discussion all the way through. I know I have a tendency to do exposition through pages of dialogue. I don't want to have more than 2-3 of these across 50 chapters, and I want them spaced out.
A character fills others in on events they don’t know about. This can be either 'you weren't around when this happened to me' or 'this is a legend you (and especially the reader) needs to know, to understand the rest of the story'. I want to make sure there’s at most 1 of these in my novel.
How many of each you want in your manuscript, depends on its length and genre – I’m going for a fantasy adventure with a fair bit of action, so I cut down on the dialogue-heavy or research chapters, in favour of action scenes.
If in either of these categories I have more than what I want, I try to change the setting, or sprinkle in some action – for example, talking while doing shopping or renovating a house. Sometimes, a large chunk of the conversation can be skipped with a 3-5 sentence summary paragraph – and yes, in cases like this exposition might be the lesser of two evils. I also make sure the similar chapters are spaced out, with a change of pacing or setting between them.
This is where I stop tinkering with the story on my own – if I go on further, I don’t have the confidence that my changes are making it any better.
Part 2: Ctrl+F'ing the manuscript will follow soon
Requested tag: @galactic-mystics-writes
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