Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Yes, ^that’s a movie title. 🙂

However, these four words got me thinking about what happens to a manuscript after it’s been written, buried in soft peat, and recycled as firelighters. Oops, those last two steps might be what happens later. 😛

Soldier:
When I dive back into a manuscript, I always like to play soldier first. This is where I get to take guns, swords, knives and a whole plethora of weapons and utterly terrorize the plot. Hack and slash, chop and dice. Get your weapons in there and murder the rhythm, blow holes in the story, and smash over the head any character that has no purpose but to exist for more names to add into the hat.

Tailor:
Pull out your sewing kit. This step is where you get to move everything around and restitch the order of events. If you’re like me and shoot from the hip during the first draft (don’t cry… I outline after finding the story’s pulse sometimes), then chances are moving scenes and pieces around is utterly necessary to the flow. I use Scrivener (which is a lifesaver), so the scenes simply get rearranged, renumbered, and ready for the next step.

Spy:
Llama suit not required (which about three people on the planet will get… I digress). Pull out your binoculars, slip on your listening gear, and get your hands dirty. What are your characters doing? What are they not doing that they should? Time to be a peeping Tom. If your love scene is glossed over, get in the room and light a fire under your characters. If a scene leaps from one moment to many hours ahead, how have you transitioned this? Get in there and find out what your characters are doing. A few lines might be needed to make the leap, or a sequence of events that helps stitch the scenes together.

Tinker:
Again and again and again. By this step your manuscript should be stitched back together, the holes minimal (or non-existent) and the pacing pretty damn smoothed out. Start tinkering with the fiddly-bits. Look at the spelling, sentence structure, dialogue tags (or lack of). Look for redundancies (both words and movements), missing punctuation, anything that needs cleaning, clean it. If you’re in the tinkering stage, this article by Kristen Lamb is really fantastic.

Good luck on those stories! 🙂