This is a new part of my 30-Day Editing Challenge. Start at the beginning or find other days here.
It’s time to kick our editing journey into high gear, writers. And that means starting with some hard, concrete plans for editing your story this month. Let’s try to begin with organization and purpose. So today, the goal is to set up an editing journal.
This can be part of your existing note-jotting journal, or your daily thoughts journal; it just shouldn’t overlap with the place where you write your stories. This journal’s pages should be set up for a place of organization, creativity, and thoughtful dissection.
First, choose the story or two that you’d really like to focus on for the 30-day challenge. Then Start a fresh page in your editing journal. Date it and title it and then in note form, give a rough overview of the story you’re re-visiting. Don’t just start describing the setting or characters; instead, put a big giant problem statement at the top. Then, in note form, try filling out a few of these lines:
If you haven’t heard the term “inciting incident” before, it’s the thing that gets the story in motion. It’s not the big problem driving the whole story; it’s merely the action that starts the wheels turning. A stranger knocks on the door or a surprising letter arrives in the mail; a person forgets his umbrella on a rainy day or a wife asks for a divorce. What starts the story moving?
We’ll re-visit all of these elements of story in future days of the 30-day challenge, but it’s crucial for now to establish a place where you can think freely about your story with the mindset of an editor instead of that of a writer. We need a scratchpad for these thoughts. As you embark on the 30-day challenge, try taking notes on each new assignment on a new page of the journal. When you reach the end, you’ll have a deeply-realized portrait of the mechanisms at work in your story. And that will give you the freedom to play with it.
One of the principle challenges of editing a story, and even more so with a novel, is the challenge of holding the entire thing in your head simultaneously, understanding movements and shifts in one visual sphere. Taking notes in this way will help you contain your story in a framework. It’s a valuable tool for changing the way you visualize your writing.