Have you ever felt damned by a cold inward stare as you try to write to the tsk, tsk tsk of your inner critic? Time and time again we hear that working with a developmental editor can replace that destructive little devil with a constructive inner guru. Here's testimony from one such client. Please welcome guest author Donna Galanti!
We may write alone, but we can’t get published alone. A developmental editor can help you see the power in your story as well as improve your own self-editing. Here are the top five things my editor has taught me:
1. Backstory’s purpose is to motivate your characters for the story they are in now. Weave it into your story organically by slipping through portals like sense memories, pictures, setting, or unique phrases. Include only backstory that deepens the character’s story goal and/or reveals character. Continuity words like never, always, still, and another suggest your character's world before the opening of this story. Example: My dog ran away again. Things revealed or discovered, such as items in a purse or pocket, can suggest backstory without needing to break for a flashback.
2. Know your genre. Rid yourself of prose ADD by knowing the elements of your genre and exhibiting them from the opening pages to the end. Read bestsellers in your genre to reinforce its elements. Knowing what kind of story you are telling will reveal the book’s premise or “reason to be.” How to find that? Fill in the blanks: ____________leads to___________. Example: Facing problems together leads to healing.
3. Zero in on emotional turning points. Aim for concision everywhere else but lavish word count on emotional turning points, which are crucial both to character development and the reader's sense of story movement. As things go from good to bad or bad to worse, what does your character learn about himself, and how has he changed? Example: A daughter risks losing her mother, realizes that she will not always be cared for, and now sees herself as more than just a dependent. Turning point! Now, choose powerful words to end that scene and let the impact resonate across the white space.
4. Craft your inciting incident with care. This event upsets your main character’s equilibrium and arouses his desire to restore balance—and creates a bond with the reader by arousing her curiosity as to whether the protagonist can achieve his goal. Not sure? Ask yourself, “what is the worst thing that can happen to my protagonist?” This can reveal to you his deepest desire, and point you toward his story goal. In turn, this will help you construct an inciting incident which carries the story through to the end–and provides the tension for readers to keep turning the pages.
When Laura Armstrong's loved ones are murdered one by one, her unique powers lead her to the site of a crashed meteorite. There she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents' death the night the meteorite struck. The connection between the two seems to lie with the madman who haunts Laura's dreams. Can Ben and Laura stop him before he fulfills his promise to kill her next?The inciting incident can't be the death of Laura's loved ones alone, because that wouldn't raise the question that ties her to Ben. You must aim the reader toward your intended conclusion so the ending satisfies.
5. Increase tension to make your book a page-turner. Building tension involves raising stakes, manipulating pacing, and raising questions (Why is he getting so drunk? How can he go on now that his family is murdered?). A sudden wind, a rising stench, or a jarring noise can be a portent of doom while ramping up suspense. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The same can be said for tension-filled writing: it's our job as writers to manipulate atmosphere and pace to the best possible advantage.
Donna Galanti has worked on several creative projects with developmental editor Kathryn Craft of Writing-Partner to find the power in her stories.
What words of wisdom does a writing mentor whisper into your ear as you write?
Donna Galanti is an International Thriller Writers (ITW) Debut Author of the suspense novel, A Human Element and the short story collection The Dark Inside. She is a member of the ITW Debut Author Program social media team, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. She is also a first-reader for the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. Connect with her on GoodReads, Facebook, and at her website.