Polish & Shine—Elizabeth Engstrom
Elizabeth first covered her writing process. When she starts a novel, she sees the end and works her way toward it. She has a writing goal everyday, say five pages. Once she has them, she does whatever else Life requires of her (unless of course she’s on a roll).
The next day she does some mild editing to those first five pages, prints them, and files them away. She DOES NOT look at them again until the first draft is finished. Then, she does day two’s writing. Day Three, she does mild editing on work from day two, prints it, files it and writes day three’s work….. And so forth and so on. Never Ever looking at work that’s already filed away.
Plots can change while you’re writing. So she keeps a note pad, jotting things down along the way, but doesn’t go back to fix things.
After the first draft is written and all the pages are filed away, she takes a two-week break from the novel. Here, she really stressed this break in order to look at your manuscript with a critical eye for editing.
She works on articles and short stories to keep herself writing. After the break, she reads the manuscript, in one sitting if possible, with her notes nearby.
We were all relieved to know that her first drafts are bad, so she says. They’re full of grammatical and spelling errors, telling instead of showing, backstory….All the same things we do.
She rewrites the story one more time, all the way through, making changes according to her notes. Now she has a second draft, which she takes another two-week break from.
For her third draft, She focuses on making it read well. Then, she has an amazing checklist (as well as other writing tips that can be found on her website, HERE) she uses for editing the third draft.
1. Take out all the side trips. If it doesn’t further the plot, take it out.
2. Flesh out the telling parts.
3. Take out the following words: very, causing, here, this, now, today, just.
4. Investigate the use of the word “IT”
5. Investigate the sentences using “There is” or “There are”
6. Investigate every Adverb (-ly words)
7. Replay every conversation. Make sure every person is attributed correctly. EX: He is referring to the last male who spoke.
8. Take out: almost, nearly, kind of, sort of
9. Take out distractions or Shin Busters* :anything that pulls you out of the story—unattributed dialogue (who said what), inaccuracies, unclosed quotes, speech in paragraphs
10. Make sure reader is grounded in space and time at all times.
11. Investigate every use of “to be” (was, were, etc.)
12. Investigate all use of Passive Voice (by)
13. Make sure every sentence furthers the story, you need tension in every single one.
14. Make sure every chapter has structure and is weighted at the end.
15. Make sure the opening grabs the reader and flows. Start with action
16. The ending echoes the beginning.
17. The protagonist needs an internal revelation separate from the external problem
18. Don’t let ancillary characters take over the show and don’t introduce a main character after act one.
19. Avoid cliches
20. Be interesting with every sentence.
21. Vary the rhythm of sentences
22. Use a sensory image in every paragraph.
23. The only slowing should be a subplot complication
24. Can you increase tension or tighten suspense, drawing out the action
25. Have you answered all the questions posed to the reader.
26. Omit unnecessary words.
27. In the final read-through, it should read like the wind!