Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense. Her award-winning books are available in five languages. Diana has appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happily Ever After,” MSN.com, and in Texoma Living Magazine.
After retiring as a Navy Chief, AGC(AW), Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. With 33 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world. Diana is currently working on the sixth book in the award-winning MacGruder brother’s series, and is preparing for the release of her story in the anthology, “Born To Bite,” with Hannah Howell and Erica Ridley. Diana looks forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share this journey.
Diana Cosby, International Bestselling Author
Editing For Impact
By Diana Cosby ©2012
Editing is the writer’s opportunity to tighten their manuscript to ensure each word works, each sentence counts, and that each chapter supports their story and propels it forward. The following are not hard and fast rules. Like anything else in writing, the below can be bent, twisted, and ignored. The important thing is that you use what works best for your story. As I’m a visual learner, I prefer giving examples of how each topic is used.
F A S [Feeling→Action→Speech]: The natural progression in how we react is by feeling, action, then speech.
Anger flared in his eyes, then he turned away. “You’ll finish before we go out,” he stated and set the plate upon the small table.
Anger flared in his eyes, then he turned away. He shoved the plate on the small table. “You’ll finish before we go out.”
*Not only did this align the sentence into a natural sequence, but it eliminated the dialogue tag as well.
The last word and its impact: You help create calm, suspense, drama, intrigue and so on simply by the word you choose to end each sentence. I consider this one of my more important writing tools. Remember, the last read is most remembered.
Example: For a moment she could only stare, mesmerized.
Mesmerized, for a moment she could only stare.
*Do you see how by simply switching around the words the entire sentence changes? Stare is a stronger word and ends the sentence in a strong tone.
Focus and impact at the end of the sentence: If you wish to achieve a more powerful ending, keep the focus of your sentence on one thought. You can do this by removing the word and.
He jumped down to the ground and ran.
He jumped down to the ground, then ran.
Be specific: the more specific you are, the easier it is for the reader to visualize what you’re trying to create. It’s important to ensure you don’t dwell on the unimportant, but rather weave your description within the story.
It seemed like forever since he’d shown her a magic trick like that, when it’d only been a week.
It seemed like forever since he’d shown her a magic trick that made her smile, when it’d only been a week.
Use a variance of words: We all have our favorite words. When you repeat the same word over and over again, unless for a brief, specific reason, it weakens the story.
Use of odd or unfamiliar words: Use of odd or unfamiliar words will draw attention away from the story. Unless the word is needed for a specific reason, use words that the reader will easily understand.
The use of three: To give a story point more impact, choose three words which accent the moment and drive the story forward. It’s like a story breath or pause, which does anything but stall the story. In fact, it’s like a moment of poetry to your prose:
The river churned like a silken ribbon under the moonlight, a light wind rippled across the field of rye in a slow caress, and beyond that stood a cluster of elm and oak where he’d hidden and secured his mount.
Less is more: The more concise you can keep your words, the greater the impact.
Solid motivation: Ensure that each scene or action is motivated and has purpose. Otherwise, the scene or action superficial and will slow the story down.
Author intrusion: When we’re in the viewpoint of a character, we know they are thinking. In my opinion, it’s unnecessary to put, he thought.
I must get inside, he thought! Becomes→I must get inside!
Pace: Longer sentences slow the story down and bring a softness to your scene. Short sentences pick up the pace and create tension.
“Get out. Now.”
She glanced back.
“I said now!”
Sunlight slipped between the edge of the cave and the wall of water to entwine in a spectacular prism. Encased within the mist of colors along the floor’s border grew green stalks, which arched toward the sun, each stem tipped with a slender white flower.
Writing to the positive: For stronger sentences, write them with a positive spin.
“If you hadn’t of tried to escape before, I would not have given a second thought to allowing you free rein within my home.”
“If you hadn’t of tried to escape before, I would have given you free rein within my home.”
Transition to and out of past memories: Use the key word, object, or thought to transition to the past. At the end of the reflection, use the same key word, object or thought to bring the reader back to current story time.
The little things, use of the senses: Using the senses allows the reader to evoke strong images. It’s the little things you insert in your manuscript, the intimate touch, the attention to detail, that creates a visual picture in your reader’s mind and emotionally moves them. A hole in a sock? A tear in the screen? How about a field filled with butterflies? The smell of apple pie on a hot summer day?
Active words versus was: There are times in every story to use the word was, but often, we can find active words that will work as well and increase story impact.
New paragraph for impact/stand alone lines – White space: Gives reader a split second to absorb, a shifting of gears.
Show don’t tell:
Before: He was angry.
After: He shoved away from the table and stood. His eyes narrowed as he scanned the hall in search of one. Where are you! He’d find them, then they would pay.
Dialogue tags: When feasible and the communication within the scene is clear, omit dialogue tags. If you can incorporate an action verb versus he or she said, do it. Your story will move faster.
Before: “I don’t know,” John said. He stood and paced the room
After: “I don’t know.” John stood and paced the room.
Contrasting words: To enhance a moment in a scene, you can use contrasting words or opposing words. This unique blend enhances the scene moment.
Silence clattered between them.
The crowd fell into a frantic calm.
I hope these examples of writing for impact have helped. What are some techniques you feel have given your writing impact?
Thank you so much for stopping by, and I wish you the very best!