One of the choices I’ve made is that before anyone else gets a hack at my novel, I will self-edit it thoroughly. What does this mean? It means I will slogged my way through it multiple times looking for gaps in the story, lack of hooks, inconsistency, weak characterization, weak plot, expository writing, passive writing, weak dialog, poor word selection, not enough conflict or tension, etc. Each of these issues may require a separate pass through the entire novel. And when all that is done, a final line editing for spelling, punctuation, and grammar (SPAG) is required.
I am in my second edit with weak characterization and inconsistencies being my targeted issues. When I started the novel, I only had vague ideas of who the characters really were. I now realize that at the beginning of the book I had depicted my male main character too weak and another character too powerful. My female main character was inconsistent in her responses. A priest was too evil, while another priest was not evil enough. After I finish this second draft, I will create data sheets on each character and read through it again quickly to ensure my characters’ dialog and actions are consistent with my final (I hope) characterization of them.
Other inconsistencies I’m examining include historical facts, the layout of the Hastings burh, and the movements of the characters through the burh and the surrounding countryside. For the layout issue, I created a 3D model (see previous post) of my fictional Hastings. The location of Alfred the Great’s burh at Hastings is unknown. No archeological data has been found for the burh. All that is left, at least for now, are historical records which point to the burh being located where the Norman castle was built: i.e., on top of the cliff. Other has postulated different locations, such as near Wilting Manor on the east bank of Combs Valley. But until hard proof is obtained, I’m sticking with the top of the cliff.
The layout in my 3D model is based on other burhs that have been excavated, on the Burghal Hidage, an ancient document summarizing Alfred’s burhs, on other historical documents, and on discussions with a local historian.
Once I am done with the consistency issues, the next focus will be on tension and conflict. Every chapter needs its own story arc, with tension and conflict, a climax, and some kind of resolution that leaves the reader turning the page to the next chapter. Intertwined in the tension and conflict focus will be the identification of too much expository writing, weak dialog, weak action, passive writing and poor word selection. All of these issues can lead to a loss in engagement by the reader.
Keeping the reader engrossed and totally engaged, as well as educating the reader about the historical times, are my ultimate goals.