Now that we’ve learned how to plan and write a short story, Faith Blum is here to teach us about editing. This is the last of three guest posts for the Turning Point Story Contest, which is open for writers age 9 to 13 until January 30th.
You just finished writing a short story. Now what? Well, it’s time to start doing what many writers dread doing: editing. Whether you like it or not, editing is the most important step to writing a short story because this is when you make your idea a polished, finished work. Aside from writing the first draft, that is. I’m here to break down the steps of editing into more doable steps.
The three-phase approach
This method is simple to explain, but not as simple to execute. The first thing I usually do is set my story aside for a bit. For a short story, usually only about a week or so. Then I do the big edits. This is where you take an overarching look at your story. Does the plot make sense? Do the characters learn their lesson, or have an arc? Does your theme come through without being preachy? And other things like that.
Next up are the medium edits. This is at the scene level. Do the scenes make sense? Does each scene have a start, middle, and end?
Last, but definitely not least, are the small edits. This is at the sentence level. Does the dialogue make sense? How is my writing? How does it flow?
For each phase, I go through the story a separate time. Otherwise it is too hard to concentrate on so many things. I also have other people read through my story after the big edits are finished to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And after the small edits, I have one last person read through it. I don’t know about you, but even when I’m careful, I still miss some of those pesky grammar and spelling errors!
As I mentioned, there are many methods for editing. Some would work with a short story and others wouldn’t. I’m going to list a few methods that I know of.
Edit with a specific topic in mind. With this method, you go through your story many times, each with a different topic. Some topics could include show vs. tell, active voice, character, plot, dialogue, etc.
Questionnaire/checklists. There are questionnaires that you can find online to work through. I have one I haven’t personally used that is over two pages long. It goes through different categories of the story and has multiple questions per category. This can be helpful especially for a beginning writer who doesn’t have much experience with editing. Here is a very in-depth checklist.
Read it out loud. This is something that can be done with any method and should not be used exclusively, but it is a good practice. Reading your story out loud is a good way to catch any awkward wordings, unrealistic dialogue, and more. There are a few ways you can do it, too. Either read it out loud yourself, have someone else read it out loud to you, or record yourself reading it and listen back to it.
Trimming your story
My story is too long! What do I do? The Turning Point Story Contest requires your story to be 500-1200 words, but it can be so easy to get absorbed in your story and go over.
Warning: Some of these tips may be hard to do as they will require cutting scenes and/or characters you love.
First, you should read through your whole story—preferably in one sitting. As you read through it, pay special attention to any scenes that your story would work without. If it is still too long, are there any characters that are just filler that could be cut?
Second, go through each scene carefully and find any frivolous dialogue that can be cut.
Third, ask someone else to read through the story and help you find anything else that can be trimmed out of the story.
If you are having the opposite problem and your story isn’t long enough, one of the easiest things you can do is add some description. How do the things and places in your story look, smell, taste, sound, and feel? Using the five senses is never a bad thing.
Submitting your story
So you finally have a story that is edited, made the perfect length, and ready for the world to read. Now what?
Now, you can either publish it yourself or find a contest to submit it to. For the sake of time, I am only going to talk about the latter.
The first thing you want to do when you find a contest is to read all of the rules very carefully. Make sure your story fits the contest guidelines, length, font type, etc. And yes, some are super specific. Some may want you to have a header with your story’s title and your name. Others don’t want your name anywhere on the document. Read carefully so you don’t get disqualified.
After your document is ready to submit, push the send button and go celebrate! Two quick notes: If you don’t have an email account, I recommend asking a parent to email the story for you. Also, it can be hard to know what to say in the email, but it is best not to obsess over it, just say something polite like “Thank you for considering my story.”
And most importantly, even if you don’t win, you finished your story and took a big (sometimes scary) step by submitting it to a stranger to read and judge. That is worth celebrating!
About the Author
Faith Blum is a small-town Wisconsin girl. She has independently published over 25 books in over five years. Most of her books are Christian Historical Fiction with an emphasis on Westerns. During an eBook sale, she was #2 overall in Kindle eBooks on Amazon.
Faith resides in Central Wisconsin with her husband, son, and their cat, Smokey. When not writing, you can find her cooking, doing dishes, sewing, reading, or spending time with her husband and son. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her on her website: https://faithblum.com.