Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writing Advice Wednesday: turn your novel into a short story.

(I am seeing how many silly "day of the week" themes I can come up with before someone objects. Maybe you guys are not paying attention because it's August. Maybe you like the silly.) 

The fabulous Charlie Jane Anders at has an unusual suggestion on how to revise your novel: once you've finished your first draft, try rewriting the novel as a short story

Why would you want to do this? There are a few reasons. For one thing, this allows you to see more clearly what the main arc of your story is. For another, it's a great way to make sure that the things you've decided are subplots are actually subplots — and that you haven't somehow elevated a subplot to "main plot" status while keeping the main plot squished into the space of a subplot. Paring away all the subplots, more or less completely, lets you see what's left. But most of all, this is a way to convince yourself that your protagonist(s) and your story are really epic and perfect as they are — and convincing yourself is half the battle, when it comes to revision.

I'm intrigued. Anyone out there want to give this a shot and report back? I'd be glad to host a guest post on the subject.

What other revision techniques have you tried? Here are some favorites of mine:

-Go through the manuscript and highlight all the dialogue tags ("she said"). Delete as many as you can without sacrificing clarity. 

-Read it out loud, to yourself, to your pets, to your partner. To a tape recorder if you're really brave. If it sounds clunky, fix it till it doesn't sound clunky any more.

-Storyboard the entire arc of the novel, scene by scene. What's getting too much "screen time"? What's not getting enough? Does anything feel repetitive, viewed through this "lens?" 


G.M. said...

Well, my novels started as short stories. I didn't write them as short stories but they were. There was the main storyline as a short story and then I added subplots, twists and characters to expand it into a novel. Hence, if you expand a short story into a novel, the advice of Anders isn't that useful. Your two other tips ,of deleting dialouge tags and reading out loud, are very useful.

DustySE said...

This is a fun idea. I personally have found Cheryl Klein's Second Sight to be very useful in revising - especially her plot and character checklists. And once I'm done with those, I do the reading-out-loud thing...

Jessica Brockmole said...

I've never done this exactly (my short-story writing skills are abysmal), but I often do detailed synopses after finishing my first drafts to check those very things.

And I can totally go for some silly. Especially on Wednesdays.

Kara said...

I'm a big fan of storyboarding. I do it a little differently than the link suggested, but essentially you end up in the same place...are you actually telling the story you set out to tell? I also read to the dogs. Constantly. Bless their hearts. ;)
I agree with Jessica...keep the silly. At least through the muck and mire that is August and early September.