Story Advent – Instruction no.24

24 – Editing Instruction 4 – This time you are reading for spelling, punctuation and grammar.  

  • Go through and identify and correct any mistakes.  
  • Look out for splices and comma splices.  A splice is when two sentences run on/run together when they should be separated by a full stop.  A comma splice is when two main clauses are separated incorrectly by a comma.  The three key ways of correcting a comma splice are: 1) simply changing the comma to a full stop, 2) changing the comma to a semi colon (if the second sentence directly relates to/links back to the first) or 3) putting a connective/conjunction before the comma.  

Congratulations for completing Story Advent.  I hope that you have found the process enjoyable and useful in terms of learning about some of the key ingredients that go into writing a short story.  I look forward to reading your stories.  Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Story Advent – Instruction no.23

23 – Editing Instruction 3 – This time you are reading for clarity.  Does your story flow? Does it make sense? Are there any sentences that you need to reword in order to make them clearer?  Get someone else close to you to read your story.  Are there any parts that they find difficult to follow?  Re-write any sentences or parts that aren’t clear? 

Story Advent – Instruction no.22

22 – Editing Instruction 2 – This time you are reading for language.  

  • Have you included a wide range of language devices to interest and engage the reader?  
  • Have you included imagery to create a vivid picture in your reader’s mind of certain elements in your story? 
  • Have you varied your sentences to add variety and for different effects? For example, have you used longer, complex sentences to build up description, and shorter simple sentences or fragments to build tension?
  • Have you varied your sentence starters?  Think ISPACED.  I – ing words, S – simile, P – prepositions, A – adverb, C – connective, ED – words beginning with ‘ed’
  • Have you varied your vocabulary and chosen specific words to create specific effects?
  • Have you varied your punctuation and for effect?  Check that you have used an exclamation mark, question mark, an ellipsis, speech marks (accurately), parentheses (brackets) around extra information or an embedded clause and a dash at least once.

If after reading back through your story, the answer to any of the above questions is no, use this opportunity to edit/alter/change or add to your story so that you can say yes to all of the above questions.

Story Advent – Instruction no.21

21 –  You are now entering the editing stage.  Editing means perfecting your story by checking it, making corrections and altering it generally for the better.  

For professional writers, this is a crucial stage as it prepares their story/novel for publication.  It can take a very long time, and sometimes stories/novels can be edited several times before the writer and publishers are happy with it.  Often the finished article (the story that gets published) can look quite different from the story’s first draft.

Editing instruction 1 – After you have left your story for a day or two, go back and read through it again.  This time, you are reading for structure.  

  • Does your story have a clear beginning (opening/exposition), middle (rising action/build up and climax) and ending/resolution.  
  • Does each section build suspense (make your reader want to read on to find out what happens next)?  
  • Are your rising action/build up and climax the longest parts/sections of your story?  Does this part of your story have some sort of conflict/complications/frustrations that your main character has to overcome?  
  • Does your story have a cyclical structure?  Does it start and finish roughly in the same time and place after having come full circle through the flashback?
  • Have you used structural features for effect? E.g. flashback, foreshadowing, repetition of ideas and single line paragraphs?
  • Does every paragraph have a function/add something to your story whether it be characterisation, creating atmosphere and setting, building tension and/or suspense or moving the plot forward?  If you have any paragraphs that aren’t really doing any of these things, would they really be missed?  If you deleted them, would it make your story better or worse?

If after reading back through your story, the answer to any of the above questions is no, use this opportunity to edit/alter/change or add to your story so that it is doing all of the above.

Story Advent – Instruction no.20

20 – Finish the end/resolution of your story.  Introduce your second character (the one that you contrasted with your first/main character) into the present somehow and end your story with a plot twist or cliff-hanger. 

Congratulations, you have now finished the first draft of your story.  Now, have a rest and leave your story for a day or two (if you can) before starting the final instructions.

Story Advent- Instruction no.19

19 – Instructions 19 and 20 are back in the present time and form the end/resolution (your story should have come full circle now and you should be back where you started, or close to it).  

  • Depending on your narrative and the tone/atmosphere you have created, either try and make the transition from the flashback to the present smooth/coherent by linking the last thing you describe/mention in the flashback and the first thing you mention in the new paragraph in the present (you could begin by focusing back onto the important object that you have just introduced in section 14), or make it jarring on purpose.  There are examples of a smooth and jarring transition below.
  • Reveal a little more information/detail about the main/original character’s current/present situation.  Also, mention/make reference somehow to the significant aspect of their appearance that you introduced in instruction 8 (this aspect of their appearance can either have changed slightly or remained constant while other aspects of their appearance have changed, depending on your story). 
  • Bring the important object into the present.

Example 1 – a smooth/coherent transition, using the object from instr.14:

Billy passed me a letter.  “It’s from Dad,” he said nonchalantly, as if the thing he had just handed to me had no more worth or importance than a piece of bog roll to wipe my arse with.  I grabbed it and looked at the handwriting.  It was Dad’s.  

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“He gave it to me before he left.  Said if he was ever gone for more than a week, to read it with you.”  

“What?  Why didn’t you show me this before? It’s been months!”

He shrugged.

“He left us Mal.  There’s nothing in that letter that’ll make it right or change a Goddamn thing!”

Billy’s ‘I don’t give a shit’ facade slipped into anger.  Over the past 6months he would often flip between these two modes.  I get it.  I don’t give a shit is easier.  Being angry all the time is tiring.  It’s a self-preservation thing.  

As my thoughts drifted back into the present and the current shit-storm I was in, I wandered how different things would have turned out if I had had the same attitude as Billy and we had decided not to open it and had never discovered the contents of that letter.  “There’s nothing in that letter that’ll…change a Goddamn thing!”  Billy always did have a knack for getting things wrong…

Example 2 – the jarring effect:

Billy’s ‘I don’t give a shit’ facade slipped into anger.  Over the past 6months he would often flip between these two modes.  I get it.  I don’t give a shit is easier.  Being angry all the time is tiring.  It’s a self-preservation thing.

A sudden splash of water, then sounds of spluttering and snorting just a few feet away, abruptly awoke me from my daydream.  I tried to recall my last memory when I was hit over the head with a wall of freezing water that felt like thousands of needles pricking the surface of my skin.  I gasped.  And this time the spluttering and choking was my own.

‘Have you reconsidered?’ 

I jumped.  Then shivered, and found that I couldn’t stop.  

Whoever the voice belonged to was so close to me, I could feel their hot breath in my ear…

Story Advent – Instruction no.18

18 – Your main character now makes a decision regarding the important object.  This decision affects/changes everything and what happens as a result of this decision and the object forms the climax of your story.  The climax is the most exciting/intense part of the story and often when the main conflict/problem/dilemma that the main character has to overcome is resolved somehow.

This part of your story will form the end of the flashback so try and end this part of the narrative on a bit of a cliff-hanger.