This week, Joanna Penn brings us a great interview with writer and editor Kris Spisak, and it's just packed with invaluable tips on bringing your novel writing up to the next level. I know I link to quite a lot of Joanna's stuff, but she just brings in so much high-quality content that's too good not to highlight. Plus, as someone who is both an author and an editor, I had a particular interest in this post.
"When you're talking about editing, I like to look at it in terms of three different levels. You have your Does your entire plots make sense? Does your story begin in the correct place? Does it end in the right place? Are your characters fleshed out as much as they need to be?"
Of course, we all deviate from these rules a bit. For example, I find myself almost incapable of doing a first big read-through while leaving punctuation and sentence structure alone. Authors who have worked with me know I'm obsessed with grammar, commas, and overused words, and get so distracted by any typo I see that I must fix it at once. But this doesn't mean I'm missing the big picture. When I see something that doesn't work at the core level, I suggest that the author does some revisions (or, in case I'm working on my own novel, I go and do some rewrites myself).
Joanna and Kris also speak in detail about the importance of having more pairs of eyes on your work. It is absolutely invaluable. I remember when I worked on my first draft of Wild Children, I sent it to my priceless friend and alpha reader, Anna Mantovani. She said she is missing a detailed and fleshed-out villain in the novel - which propelled me to create the character of Alexander Dahl and, later, his daughter Priscilla, who became a core character of the two sequels. None of that would have been possible without an insightful reader who gave me her honest opinion.
And also this:
"So many times people think, ‘Oh, it's a talented writer. He was born that way, she was born that way,' but here's the big secret. No one is born an amazing writer. Everybody has to learn. Everybody has to practice. Everybody has to put in that time."
Certainly, writing is a form of art. But it's also a craft. Nothing is just born out of thin air; every talented and successful person, in every field, has had to put in the work. Without it, without growth and improvement, there's stagnation. I hope it never happens to me. I love learning, and I love working with authors who are ready to learn and improve as well.
Just make sure you don't miss this fantastic interview. It might well be the best thing you've read this year.