There is this phrase running around the internet, content is king. Now obviously you thought the story was worth sharing, or you would not have written it; but that doesn't mean you are done. Now it is time to make sure that you are telling the story you wanted to tell. Make sure as you read through that all the story pieces fit together.
Are there gaps in your story, where it is not clear how the characters got from point A to point B? Fix it. This is not t.v. or movies, you don't get cut scenes in books! Are you spending a lot of time telling us what is happening? Pick some good spots to show us what is going on (through your characters thoughts, feelings, reactions). Don't spend the whole time showing, or the whole time telling. Mix it up!! (for more on showing vs telling, check out this interesting article)
Make sure the story flows. Give rich detail in the slower scenes, keep the fast paced scenes flowing. Remember in our planning phase, how I showed on the dry erase board the slowly building tension, a few dips as smaller issues were resolved, but all still building to the ultimate conclusion? Make sure you can feel that as you read. If you get bored, find out why it is boring. If it is boring to you, the author, what is it going to feel like to someone who does not have an emotional investment in its completion?
Cut out the inconsistencies. A lot of this will be easier to catch if you have your charts from our pre-planning phase at easy access when you are editing. Is there a point where you say someone is a cousin, then later make them an uncle? Look back to your character chart. Is there a point when you tell the readers that a character is one age, then later make them a different age. It should be on your character chart! Do you have a minor character that is falling flat, because you cannot connect with him/ her? Add a small side story that fits in with the big story, but gives the readers more about him/her. It should be easy if you have your character charts!
Is the story long enough? In the modern world, a novel is at least 60,000 words. Don't rip your readers off. If your story is only 40,000 words, figure out where you can add scenes to enhance the story or set it up for a sequel. Fluff on the slower scenes and give rich detail. Don't let your readers feel cheated. Give them what they are paying for, a full story.
What if your story is too long? This is a little harder to gauge, and really depends more on the genre you are writing. For example, science fiction and fantasy readers tend to be more forgiving of a long complicated story (as long as the pace is kept) whereas crime thrillers and romance readers want the nitty gritty and get bored with extraneous information. If you are writing a crime novel and getting into the 120,000 word range, you may want to look at cutting extraneous scenes, and check your pacing. The average novel is 60,000 to 80,000 words. As long as every scene is necessary and adds to the development of the story then you will be forgiven if it is a little long. But if you spend two pages describing a sitting room that has no significant relevance to your plot... you might want to revise!
Make sure that your story has a clear ending. Even if you are setting it up for a sequel, there needs to be a conclusion to the main plot in the story. Sure, you can leave a teaser at the end to whet their appetites for the next book, but don't leave the story hanging. Set it up for the next story to leave them wondering what will happen on the next adventure. Don't leave a bunch of unresolved issues, just have one or two threads to draw them into the next story.
If you are not planning a sequel, please DO NOT leave any story line incomplete! It will drive readers mad! Make sure everything that left questions in the readers mind is resolved at one point throughout the story. Wrap it up and slap a bow on it!.
And there is our first read-through in one easy post!
Until Next Time,