S01E05: The First Two Steps After Finishing A Novel

This transcript has been adjusted to correct minor mistakes and provide you with the most up-to-date addresses for all the referenced links…

Hello, and welcome to Season 1 Episode 5 of The Writer’s Everything.

For our returning listeners, here are a few small updates. Season 1 of The Writer’s Everything will comprise all the regular podcasts that come out in 2021, as well as the couple stragglers from December of 2020. Season 2 is going to consist of all of the #2021NovelChallenge episodes throughout the year. Now, if this year goes well, then I might take a similar approach next year, with a regular podcast on Fridays and a special yearly project running side by side on Mondays.

One can only dream.

Also, my website has went through many, many iterations over the last month. One of the side effects is that some of the links I provided in previous episodes do not currently exist. I decided after two weeks that I did not want to make a new page on my website for every single podcast transcript, and so I decided to use blog post categories instead. So, all the transcripts can be found on TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts, and don’t let past me tell you otherwise.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that if you like this podcast and would like to support it, one of the most helpful things you can do is to leave a five star review on whatever app you’re listening to it on. It’s free for you to do, and it really helps the podcast to get exposure.

Ok. Now we return to your regularly scheduled podcast.


Today we’re going to be going over the first half of a two-part series about the editing process. This week we’ll address the minor edits that you need to make in your freshly finished manuscript, and next week we’ll address the major issues that will require even more of your attention. But first, let’s go over the writing term of the week. This week’s term is “character arc”.

Character Arc

A character arc is something that every single one of us will want to include in our story if we want the events of the plot to have deep, significant consequences for our character or characters, and meaning for our readers.

So what is a character arc? Well, it is essentially the transition that a character experiences over the course of the story between pursuing what they want and pursuing what they need.

Character wants are the starting point for nearly every character arc.

In stories with positive character arcs, the things that the character starts off wanting are either selfish or self-centered in nature, or somehow simply not compatible with their achieving a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.

For example, in Shrek, the titular protagonist starts out with the desire to be left alone in his swamp. That’s his self-centered need that he has to learn to look past in order to imbue his life with meaning.

In stories with negative character arcs, the character experiences the opposite progression of events. They start out as a better, or even the best, version of themselves, and over the course of the story, the events they experience and the characters they interact with cause them to develop increasingly negative qualities.

For example, in 1984, Winston Smith begins the story with wants that include freedom from the oppressive regime in power, but by the end of the story, he’s been brainwashed into loving the ruling class and Big Brother.

Finally, there are flat character arcs. Flat arcs are unique in that the character’s wants never change over the course of the story. At the end of the story, they remain just as good, or just as bad, as they were at the beginning. Captain America in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the Joker in The Dark Knight, both have flat character arcs.

What sorts of character arcs have you had in your stories? Let me know on Twitter @QJ_author, or share your story on my website at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts.

The First Two Steps After Finishing A Novel

Ok. So, some of you listening today are fortunate enough to have put the finishing touches on your first manuscript, adding those two fateful last words, “The End”. Hopefully you’ve had the chance to experience the joy of finally finishing the novel you’ve been working on for so long. If you haven’t, then here’s a shameless plug for the #2021NovelChallenge, which you can participate in right here on The Writer’s Everything podcast.

Now, if you’re anything like me, then you might have looked at that finished manuscript and said, “This is it. This is the story that I want to tell.” Then you went to Kindle Direct Publishing and uploaded the untouched document, along with a crappy cover you made in about five minutes on Canva.

Whether you’ve taken these brash actions before, or they remain exclusive to my own amateurish authorial history, the fact remains: your novel isn’t ready to be published just because you wrote the words: “The End”. It probably isn’t even ready to be read yet. Why is that? Because you haven’t taken the crucial step of editing your novel.

The word editing fills many writers with dread. They’d rather hide their manuscript in the back of a file cabinet than spend the time and energy to edit it as needed. It’s not hard to understand why. Editing is a huge undertaking with many different aspects. On top of that, there are so many guides and aids when it comes to writing a story, but instructions on how to edit are severely lacking in comparison.

So how can you know what to focus on when you finally take the leap and begin performing a structural edit of your novel?

Well, for this podcast, I’m going to be dividing the editing process into two parts. On the one side, you have to examine your novel as if you’re looking at it under a microscope to find all the problems with the plot, characters, theme, and more.

On the other side, you have the problems that you won’t be able to see unless you hold your story as far away from you as possible. This is the classic example of not being able to see a forest through the trees.

In this week’s podcast, we’re going to be looking at the two most important small details that you have to address when editing. Then next week, we’ll look at the big picture issues that will require your attention.


Loose Ends

So the first thing you should look for when editing your novel is loose ends. You want to find unresolved issues and unfinished plot threads. Of course, you don’t have to resolve every single problem the character ever faces in your book to a satisfactory degree, but unresolved plot threads will leave your readers wondering why they were included in the novel at all.

But why would your story have loose ends? Well, there are plenty of possible reasons that this may occur. A simple, and no doubt quite common one, is that by the end of the story, you forgot some of the conflicts and ideas that you had brought up at the beginning. This is easy enough to do when you’re dealing with a work of 50,000 words or much, much more. Even D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are not immune to forgetting elements of their stories. But that’s a topic for a whole other month’s worth of podcasts.

You also could have intended to include a certain subplot, but as you got further along in the writing, you realized it just didn’t fit with what your story was becoming.

So what can you do about loose ends? Well, basically, you have two options. Either you cut them out of the story completely, or you add to the story to bring those threads to their satisfying conclusions. Either method is a viable one, and the only way to really choose between them is to try to get a feel for your story and see whether these elements fit in with the rest of the plot and your overarching theme or not.


Pacing

The second small detail you need to address when editing is your novel’s pacing. Setting the pace for your novel is extremely tricky, and it requires a great deal of finesse on your part. I’ve been trying to give pacing a lot of attention recently as I write, but I’m not going to pretend like I’m an expert on the topic, or even passably sufficient at it.

Your pace can either be slow, or it can be fast, it can vary between these two options, or go back and forth, drawing out the details and emotions in one scene and breaking into frantic action in the next scene. What’s the best option for your pacing?

My best suggestion is that your pace should be whatever you want it to be. If you lean towards slow, detailed, drawn-out scenes, then that’s absolutely what you should write. If you enjoy keeping a quick, rapid-fire pace, then you should definitely keep doing that instead.

No one choice is going to win over every potential reader, but the thing is, there are potential readers for every choice. If you’re overly concerned with what you think your readers will want, don’t be. Write from your heart. Write what feels right to you, and your ideal readers will eventually discover you, stumble upon you, or have your book recommended to them by others.

The worst thing you can do is write in a style other than the one you enjoy working in. In that case, your work will become a hassle and a chore, and the end result will be mostly joyless.

Also, remember that the goal of pacing is to set the mood for your readers. It can keep their eyes constantly flying from word to word to word, but then give them a chance to catch their breath and relax. I mean, we all need a bathroom break every once in a while, and an entire novel unfolding at breakneck speed all the way to the climax is simply exhausting.


Ok. So, in next week’s episode, we’re going to talk about the big picture issues that you need to address when editing. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you’re listening to so that you can get notified as soon as it’s released.

And be sure to let me know your editing horror stories, either on Twitter @QJ_author, or at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts.

Character Development Question

Now it’s time for this week’s character development question, which is:

Does the character have any nicknames?

Not every character is known solely by his legal name, or even his alias, as we talked about in the last two weeks’ episodes of the podcast. Some go by nicknames which are either terms of endearment, or abbreviated forms of their original names. For example, in the Star Wars franchise, Han addresses his copilot as Chewie because it’s shorter and easier to say than his full name, Chewbacca. And in Ready Player One, Aech refers to Parzival as Z instead of using his gamer tag whenever he talks to him. 

Writing Prompt of the Week

And finally, we’re going to have our writing prompt of the week. This week’s prompt is to write a novel with all the typical horror tropes, but make it the opposite of whatever horror is. So a group of college students go out to a cabin in the woods, and as soon as they’re alone—What happens next? Let your imagination run wild, and be sure to share your resulting work with me on Twitter @QJ_Author.


Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Writer’s Everything podcast. If you’d like to read a transcript of this episode, you can find it at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts. If you’d like to listen to future episodes, be sure to subscribe on whatever platform you’re currently listening on, and be sure to give it a rating while you’re at it to let me know what you think of the podcast. The Writer’s Everything is also available as a free downloadable magazine. If you’d like to read it, simply go to TheWritersEverything.org/magazine, and download the issue of your choice. If you’d like access to exclusive bonus content, such as my list and review of the top Character Name Generators on the web, you can go to TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can do so at Patreon.com/QJMartin. For your convenience, all the referenced links will also be in the show notes.

Listen to more of Season 1 of tWE.

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