Donkey was right all along. As I dig into deeper edits of Fantastic America, I’m finding layers to the story I didn’t know existed. My writing is better since making these discoveries, and hopefully, the story is stronger for having made the changes.
Like a parfait (or onions if you’re an ogre), stories have layers. The first layer, for me, were the crumbs at the bottom. These were heaps of raw prose I dumped in during my first draft. There’s a reason writers call it a rough draft. I needed to be refine these chunks of story (more than a few times). That’s the next layer, a broad redefinition of the story from a developmental edit.
Those suggestions from an editor still required me to go back through the novel and accept or reject the changes. These were more than just questions about words on the page. I was defining how the story elements flowed together. Often they didn’t flow together at all. But I had to find ways to smooth the elements together to tell the story to the audience better.
There are more layers still, but I’ve moved from big story elements to line edits in how the words fall on the page. I looked at dialogue, removed talking heads, added description where I didn’t before, and looked for filler words and filter words. All of that helps make the novel more coherent and readable.
My focus is on the actual words I wrote. Can my verb choice strengthen the way the pages read? Of course they can, and next time I hope to avoid a majority of these edits. I’m also searching for pet words, written crutches I use without realizing it that weaken the prose. The surprise for me is how much I enjoy finding and fixing these little moles in my story.
The story should leap from the page into the readers mind. That’s the goal anyway. If my edits are worthwhile, the story will be as far as I can take it. My hope is that a literary agent and acquisitions editor agree that the story is ready for prime time. Only one way to find that out – wish me luck querying!