The problem with using symbolism like this, however, is that it’s not only obvious, but often used as a crutch in writing. It’s a lot easier to fit out an antagonist with symbols and motifs that are shorthand for “bad guy” – spikes, snakes, the color black, fire – than it is to actually show how they’re a bad person. It’s also a lot less interesting and, frankly, insulting to the reader.
Well, the best way to learn is through example… Mission Impossible 3 did this and I thought it was done very skillfully. The main thing I noticed they did was establish, without a shadow of a double, that the first scene was in the future (aka present) and the rest was in the past (leading up to that first scene). So the viewer didn’t need to be confused about what was happening. The same should go for any novel — clarity is more important than anything. You see ways to do flashbacks right in Once Upon a Time. This is because they make every detail of it plot relevant – overly puffed up flashbacks lose interest, because they’re not directly valuable to the main narrative. And we’re here for the main narrative.
So making bookends out of flashbacks is totally acceptable! Just make sure you’re clear in what you’re doing, so the reader doesn’t get lost; and make sure it’s important!
Here are some great posts you’d like:
Leading into a Flashback This really awesome for writing flashbacks.
Writing Dreams This about dreams, not flashbacks, but it illustrates the importance of non-main-narrative scenes not being too fluffy.
I hope this helps. Good luck on your first novel!
Whatever sort of writing you do, it’s important to revise and edit your work – especially if you write academic essays, or articles or short stories that you’ll be submitting to editors. However much time you took over the piece on the first draft, you’ll always find a few mistakes to correct.
This is the method that I’ve used for years when writing essays or short stories, to ensure they’re as good as possible before a lecturer or editor gets to see them!
Do nothing (for a day or two)
Set your work aside for a period of time – don’t hit ‘Save’ on the first draft then start again straight away on the second pass. You’ll come to the work afresh if you leave it alone for a while.
As Michael said in Write First, Edit Later:
Let your writing sit for a while. It may make more sense if you sleep on it. Or, it may make less sense after you have slept on it. At least you’ll know which.
For essays, try to allow at least a day. Short stories can sometimes need longer – your mind will carry on mulling over the ideas whilst you’re doing other things. And many novelists advise putting your novel aside for at least a month before starting the revision process.
Read over your whole piece quite quickly. Circle any typos and mistakes that you spot, but concentrate on overall flow. If it’s an essay, check for any gaps in logic or any sides of the argument you might have missed. If it’s a short story, do any passages drag – or go too fast?
Print out the first draft, and read through the whole thing, concentrating on the overall flow of the piece. Circle any typos or mistakes that you notice, but focus on the big picture.
- If it’s an essay, are there any logical missteps, points you’ve not backed up, or angles to the argument that you’ve missed?
- If it’s fiction, do any scenes drag or go too fast, and are there any plot holes or inconsistencies of characterisation?
This is the stage to sort out any big problems. I often rewrite the whole thing (especially when working on fiction), starting afresh with a blank document on the computer. If you’re better than me at getting it right first time, you may not need to do that – but you could find yourself cutting out whole paragraphs, adding in new material, and changing the direction of the piece.
After you’ve done this, you might want to ask a friend, classmate or colleague to read the piece. Tell them not to look for tiny errors like typos or clumsy sentences at this stage: ask whether they think it’s broadly OK, or if they have any reservations about the overall direction of the article or story.
Editing and proofreading
Once you’ve sorted out the big picture, you can start fixing any individual sentences and words. Again, it’s a good idea to print out the document and do this on paper: I find I miss errors on screen (especially typos which are valid words, such as “they’re” for “their”).
Look out for:
- Typos and misspellings (a good tip here is to read backwards! You’ll go much more slowly, focussing on every individual word).
- Clumsy sentences and confusing or misleading phrasing (try reading your work aloud).
- Unnecessary words (check for the ones in Five Words You Can Cut).
- Commonly misused or confused words (there’s a whole list of these in the Misused Words category).
If you’re not 100% sure about a spelling, double-check with a dictionary: try Merriam-Webster for clear, succinct definitions. When you can’t quite find the right word, using a thesaurus can help (again, Merriam-Webster is good).
Do you have a great tip for revising and editing your work? Or do you have a horror story about an occasion when you handed in a first draft with a glaring error..? Share your experiences in the comments below!
If not, why aren’t you showing us that?
That’s another way of saying you should start your story as close to the end as possible. While it sounds counter-intuitive, I think there’s truth to it. Beginning your story relatively close to the end also means that there should be, at least in theory, a lot of stuff going on.
You don’t need your character waking up, showering, eating, leaving the house, talking to five different people, then sleeping, then talking some more, before an actual problem rears its head.
Possible solutions are to begin writing somewhere in the middle, or at least skipping ahead something like 10-20%. For me that seems to be working out pretty well. In my experience, you are going to rethink the opening a dozen times anyway, and in truth you aren’t even going to know what will make for a good one until you’ve finished your story.
If not, make it more interesting.
Add conflict, backstory, characters, or something else that will grab my attention and make me read the rest of your book. Describe the world to me, show me stuff that’s amazing and unique. Get me hooked.
Often the solution is to have a good central question: Will she catch the murderer? Will there be peace between the factions? Will he fail completely?
If there’s no point to it, chances are readers won’t care
Sometimes writers feel the need to go into frightening detail when there’s no point to it, and then I get impression the writer was just doing it to increase the word count. Don’t get me wrong, that’s totally fine during drafting, but you should get rid of that stuff during revision.
There should be a reason for every single word you write. It sounds extreme, perhaps, but if you can’t justify something being there, you should probably rethink it or cut it altogether.
If you want to throw questions at me, my askbox is always open.
Post, post and post. Oh and be about something. I think people follow me, because I’m brutally honest and I am a writer, so I talk about writing and give tips.
Find something you love within books and make it your niche. Post often and on time. My followers also know that I post quotes and reviews, regularly and that I often post content.
Oh and don’t post what you think people want, for opportunity to get more followers. I would still post on this blog if I didn’t have followers, because this blog is about all my interests!