Content Edit 101

Ever thought about going back to school and getting a Masters in Creative Writing? I have, I just can’t do it at this point. Instead, I’m getting a crash course at the UAS (more on that in a moment). Consider the two week period of working on my content edit as a course on the subject offered by a Creative Writing University, and this was the FINAL EXAM. For your consideration:

20130620-192817.jpgNow that I’ve finished my first deadline-based content edit, I feel like a freshman after his first final; “dead week” is over and I feel just a bit “wasted” – and I don’t know if I flunked, passed, or maybe even got a good grade yet! I feel like I’ve just been through a very intense exam on the subject of my book, “South Pole Vendetta”. Here are my thoughts on the process.

My feelings about how I did on various parts of the exam I was asked to answer (addressed as essay questions on the test):

1. Question One: How well are you doing in creating a story that appeals to a vast number of readers?

You can learn a lot in a “lab-based class”. I’ve had a number of people critique my work, but getting the expectations of a “publisher-based” critique let me know that I have a lot to learn. Rather than just getting individual and biased feelings, emotions, and desires; I was getting what a professional wanted to make the book successful – so they’d be successful. I’m quite sure that the reason for these changes is to make the story as appealing as possible, so I trust that addressing those things will result in a better read.

My editor did a great job of explaining what I was lacking in the areas of POV, dialogue, character creation, and so forth. What I learned over the period of two short weeks was of great benefit. If I can remember what was wanted (it’s all written down, thankfully) my next story will be better to begin with as I make changes in my writing BEFORE the story goes to the editor.

2. Question Two: How advanced are you in the area of being a professional story-teller?

If I thought I was at the head of the class before, I feel like I’m at the back of the class now. There is so much to learn about this craft that you constantly feel a bit overwhelmed.

I could look at my story before the edit and say that it was very similar to a lot of books found on the shelves of libraries and bookstores, in the level and ability of the writing; I wouldn’t think there was more than a minor amount of differences. But, now, I find myself saying, “Most of those who are writing are going to be able to do it with a fairly high level of ability, it’s the five to ten percent difference that sets a piece apart. That small difference that speaks to professionalism.”

After finishing the edit I’m quite sure that my work is MUCH better than it was before, but I couldn’t see what I was missing until it was shown to me. Once I realized that there were several things not up to par, I could address them; but before that I couldn’t even change something I was unaware needed to be done.

3. Questions Three through (um) Ten?
There were some questions on the test that I know I got right. Yeah, I have the ability to be a writer. I may not be a senior, a junior, or even a sophomore – but I am in the University of Advanced Story-telling. The UAS has a ring to it, wouldn’t you agree?

My editor liked a lot of things I had done. I was told that I wrote about war quite well, my dialogue was basically pretty good, and I have a story that a lot of people are really going to enjoy. There were enough things in my story to interest Tate Publishing, so there are some people out there that want to read it.

So, what grade did I get?
Asking a student to grade their own work is always a bit “iffy”, but I’m going to give it a try. 20130620-192942.jpg

Let’s start with the questions I got right:
Story plotting – A (I think it’s a great idea; timely, intense, and exciting)
Dialogue – B (Got some good stuff going on, but I missed on some parts)

Questions that had some problems:
Character development – B (Main characters were good, but minor characters needed help)
POV – D (Big problem here. I was trying several different POV in the story, and didn’t do it well – now I have most of it in 3rd Person Limited, and some in 1st Person s the MC draws the reader into his thoughts and actions)

Overall grade: 95 – 85 – 85 – 70 divided by 4 = 83.75 (round up ‘just cause’) 84—C
I’m pretty sure I didn’t flunk, but I have plenty of room for improvement.

So, how about AFTER the edit? Using the same four scores 98 – 95 – 95 – 93 = 95.25—solid A
The indication of a good professor is the ability to assimilate knowledge (done), correct error (done), and encourage growth (done).

No doubt whatsoever, the class was well worth it. Now it’s time for Content Edit 201! We’ll see you in class next fall.

I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I wanted to get some of my first reactions down before they fell into the abyss of my short memory. Content editing is so helpful, and an unbiased, outside voice is even better.

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