by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky
Welcome to my blog series on how to edit your sequel. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on Step 1 and Step 2 by clicking their links. For those of you who are caught up, let’s dive into Step 3 – Identifying key themes and flaws
STEP THREE – IDENTIFYING KEY THEMES AND FLAWS
You’ve finally made it! Today is the day you get to open up your draft novel again and start the hands on editing process. This week’s step comes with a few key ingredients you’ll need before you get started:
- A copy of your manuscript printed one-sided
- At least 4 different coloured markers – I love using Prismacolor dual-ended markers
Okay, let’s get into it.
The focus of step three is all strategic. We want to look at the big picture. That said, sometimes you’ll be reading and find a typo or turn of phrase that you can’t just let lie. I’m not some kind of editing guru nazi, I know that some itches need scratching – hence the four colours.
Colour 1 (I use green) – This is your theme identification colour, where you point out the major underlying themes emerging from your story (we’ll get to this later)
Colour 2 (I use blue) – This is your plot intrigues colour, where you highlight questions or points of interest that crop up in the manuscript and need to be resolved at some point during the story (more on this later).
Colour 3 (I use orange) – This is your copy editing colour, for things like “show don’t tell”, “maybe out of position, move to later in the chapter”, “check consistency of description in later chapters”, “would she really say this?”
Colour 4 (I use red) – This is your proofreading colour. Use it sparingly at this stage! For your ‘I can not move on from this dangling modifier!’ or ‘this word really needs to be this much better word!’ moments.
Now that we’ve covered the rules – let’s get reading. Try to centre yourself as a reader (letting your draft rest for a couple of weeks will have helped this endeavour) and pick up your Colour 3 marker (because we all know it’s the ‘huh?’/’this needs work’ observations that will be easier to spot initially).
Keep your eye out for plot intrigues – in mysteries, they are the red herrings; in romance, they are the flirtations and hinted tensions; in scifi and fantasy, they are the unique world-building aspects; and in ALL novels, they are the hints of character and plot development – promises of future awesomeness to come.
At the end of each scene or chapter, reflect on the big ticket items. What major themes are emerging? For example, in the sequel to Resistance, my first two chapters identified the following key themes:
- Anaiya not fighting her dual identity, but embracing it
- Anaiya’s pervasive guilt and need/desire for redemption
- Kane’s lessons (from the past and beyond the grave)
- Impact of new relationship dynamics (due to events of Book 1)
As I continued editing Book 2, I noted the repetition of these themes and emergence of others. Halfway through this process I have a list of around 15 key themes that I can track throughout the novel – noting where they appear, how frequently, whether they escalate (or de-escalate, or stay the same), and how they manifest in plot and character arcs.
Sometimes you will find themes that don’t really go anywhere – that appear weak and unrelated to the others. These are your red flags – rework, rewrite, eliminate. Sometimes you will find themes that jump out as critical – the driving forces of your plot and character. These are also red flags – but good ones! – ramp these up, ensure they are clear and emotionally charged and central to the story.
Image by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash
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