In the last segment of effective editing, A is for Action, I reiterated the need to outline and used Freytag’s Pyramid as a supporting point for keeping Action at the forefront when writing or editing. I touched on Substantive/Structural Editing and Developmental Editing/Rewriting.
Today’s installment covers the Benefit of your work: What is the objective? Who will gain what by the time the story or work is completed? While Action is the big picture, the Benefit plays the important supporting role. The Benefit – to clarify content and co-ordinate information in an organized manner – falls under both Substantive/Structural Editing and Developmental Editing/Rewriting.
Remember your big picture has a purpose. Scrutinize your writing, applying the Action and the Benefit of that Action. I highly recommend making corrections in steps using various drafts, saving them and naming them as you go. No need to get fancy. Don’t replace or discard the drafts, as it is handy to refer back to the heart of the idea as your work progresses. This will also preserve your original voice, as your piece changes.
Not sure how to examine a piece? Some suggest the difference between literary and genre fiction is the Benefit the Action has on the characters. If there is a tidy solution and things are wrapped up at the end, many consider this type of work genre fiction. Likewise, if the main character changes in some way but doesn’t necessarily solve a problem, and the issue is still there in the end, then it’s literary fiction.
The Benefit is the definer. For nonfiction, it’s the same: consider your objective, and let it be your guide. The Benefit may be to educate a reader, entirely different from fiction, and similar to poetry. Whatever you are writing, keep the Benefit of the Action in mind.
How do you edit for the Benefit of Action? Refer back to your outline and make changes necessary, clarifying information in context. Inconsistencies will cause your reader to pause. And if your reader pauses, you may lose the momentum, perhaps even losing a reader permanently.
What are specific ways to clarify information?
Check your setting for consistency: day/time/place. Cut scene stealers, useless content, and verify that your objective thread is recognizable.
Study the sentences: does every part of each chapter push the story forward, pointing toward your purpose? Or, with nonfiction, is the article moving toward your end goal?
Watch out for runaway characters: sometimes there’s too much dialogue, background material and/or inconsistencies with the main character. This isn’t character development, but avoiding glaring inconsistencies with characters, or subtopics in the case of nonfiction.
When your Actions Benefit the objective (see ABCs and 123s) your work is tighter, professional, and readable.
Bottom line: we’re still focusing on the big picture Substantive/Structural Editing and Developmental Editing/Rewriting, not proofreading or copyediting. Those come later. And before it’s too late, have you caught the rest of the series? Entered the editing package giveaway? It’s fast and painless, peek at the rules…
Next week: What do you C?
Oh, hey, I got through a whole week without geometry. Is the spell broken? Until next week, namaste 😉
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photos by Roxie Hanna all rights reserved