Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Revision-Self Editing-Continuity
By OFW chief editor:
Published: April 18, 2013
We’ve tossed this term around several times now, so let’s explore it a bit more. Continuity in writing refers to how we order events and facts to make them consistent. Any issues in continuity can completely ruin a good novel. For example, perhaps a young woman’s hair is short in the first description given, but later the writer shows her flipping it over her shoulder. What? How? These are things the reader will remember, whether they’re major details, or tiny slips.
Continuity flaws are not for the new writer alone to worry about. Every writer makes mistakes. Consider that as we write our story, becoming more and more involved in the plot, characters, and such, the chances we’ll slip here and there increase with each page, with each new character or event. Problems arise in positions, dialogue, and actions. We don’t see them because we’re engrossed in the world we’re creating.
This is where our list, the one we make while line editing, is vital. We list small details about characters as well as the large ones. We’ll see the slips immediately and, because we list page numbers beside these items, we can quickly correct them. We also list events, whether characters are involved or not, to track them and determine if we’ve made any errors in the timeline.
For example, on page 34, they’re approaching Christmas. A character says she can’t wait to see her son’s face next week when he opens his present. Strangely, the event does not occur on stage, as though Christmas is forgotten. This is a continuity error. Another more likely example occurs when we begin a scene with a character tossing his alarm clock across the room. He hates early mornings. He gets up, dresses, chats with the paperboy, and eats breakfast. His neighbor across the road waves, the setting sun casting a golden halo around his head.
How can the sun be setting already? When line editing, we write each event, no matter how insignificant, into our list.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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