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Developmental Editing: Finding your Story

You should be editing your work. Yes, I know you’ve gotten great comments and even been published and hell, maybe you’ve even won awards for essays that you dashed off, skimmed once, and hit publish on.

You can do better.

Editing is more than half of writing. Editing is where you breathe life into your nascent story, where it becomes fully formed, honed, and polished. Editing is how you make your story say what you want it to say. Editing is how you make your written words sound like the story sounded in your head when you first found yourself inspired to write.

That doesn’t happen in a first draft, even if you are a really good writer. That’s why authors have editors – people who get paid to plod through their every word, making suggestions at every level – story, structure, sentence, and word – to make the work more of what it is supposed to be.

As a blogger, you have to be your own Max Perkins and edit for yourself. This month, Rowan and I are going to divide that task into four parts – a checklist you can follow each time you write so that you are refining every aspect of your story before you hit publish. Be sure to read Rowan’s nonfiction know-how kickoff post for an overview of this month’s lessons on editing.

First up, what I call developmental editing. In the editing world – and both Rowan and I make our livings as professional editors – these terms are defined differently by almost every outfit that hires editors. Here’s what I mean by developmental editing: Editing at the story level, what we here at yeah write would call the “so-what level.” This is where you read through your piece to make sure you’ve chosen a literary conflict that matters to you and your readers and that you’ve narrowed it down so it works in 1000 words. Want to learn more about literary conflict? Check out these yeah write posts on “Conflict in writing: What is it and why do you need it?” – Part 1 and Part 2.

So how do you perform a developmental edit? First, identify your literary conflict. Then grab a highlighter and mark any place where your essay appears to go astray from your main point. Now, you don’t necessarily have to axe those tangents. Tangents aren’t bad, per se, so long as you can tie them into your main conflict and their meandering serves a point. But if they are just meandering for the sake of meandering, serving only to distract, cut them out.

Next, make sure you have a single literary conflict. Are you telling more than one story? With flash nonfiction like we practice here at yeah write, you really don’t have time to do that – your piece will almost always be stronger if you choose one story and stick with it. So take a different colored highlighter and mark up any place where your piece veers off into another literary conflict. Save those story ideas for a different week’s grid.

Developmental editing is high level editing, so at this point you’re not looking at story structure, transitions, flow, syntax, or word choice. I don’t even care if you have comma errors or typos. You’re focusing on the clarity of your message and carving away all the parts that bog it down.

Yeah write super challenge

The first round of super challenge #3 is currently underway! Good luck to all of our participants as they await the results. Did you miss out on registration? Sign up for our email blast so you don’t miss out on any announcements.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Nonfiction know-how:

editing

This month’s nonfiction know-how is a little bit of a throwback. We’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about how to get writing that appeals to your audience onto the page; for Valentine’s Day we’re going to remind you how to show your writing a little additional love. Editing. It’s a task that makes the best of us cringe. We’ve talked about it before, and this month Cindy and Rowan are going to walk you through some specifics with the nonfiction posts and roundups. So what is editing, anyway, and how is it different from writing? Learn more from Rowan here.

Want more info?

Is this your first time here? Check out Sunday’s post which kicked off the week here at yeah write. Our email subscribers can also join us in the yeah write coffeehouse at its home on Facebook. If you’ve never taken the time to read them, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our submission guidelines. The rules are a little different for each of our challenges and we’d hate to have to send back great writing on a technicality.

Did you happen to end up here because you suddenly saw yeah write in your stats? Sometimes members of our community spot excellent writing and they send those posts on over to us. We hope you don’t mind. Take a look around and get to know our community. We’re sure you’ll be happy here.

Have questions you can’t find the answer to by poking around the site? Email us or find us on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll happily help you out.

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How to submit and fully participate in the challenge

Basic yeah write guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.

1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog

Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.

Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

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