Monday Craft Tips #15: Structural editing problems that prevent a story from being interesting

wordsIt never ceases to amaze me that writers published by a legacy publisher still manage to produce work that has not been properly edited. Forget the typos, what I’m talking about are structural editing problems.

Without mentioning any names, I will simply say that I recently read one novel by someone employed by a top MFA program that was clearly lacking in basic storytelling skills, i.e. how to hook a reader and keep their nose glued to the page, another written by someone in another well-regarded MFA program about a couple of passive-aggressive characters in a stagnant story, and a third, also a teacher in a well-regarded MFA program, who wrote a novel with too many characters.

What to do? And how can one tell if the story at the center of our attention really works as a story?

Print your scenes on separate sheets of paper and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Can you change the order of your scenes? If so, then it’s likely that your story isn’t sufficiently driven by consequence.
  2. What happens if you cut your protagonist out of your story? If the only thing you would lose are the protagonist’s interior monologue, then it’s likely that you story isn’t sufficiently driven by agency.

For a story to work, it needs to have both consequence and agency. Without these ingredients, your story won’t engage the reader. And they will throw your novel away, half-read.

Just another gem, I thought I’d pass on. Have a fabulous week!



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