Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?
If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask? Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books.
In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place.
Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:
– Characters and Character Arcs.
– Point of View.
– A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
– Beginnings and Ends.
– Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
– Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers.
Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.
When and where do you prefer to write?
Before the pandemic, I loved cafes. I’ve written in cafes in four countries and always found a richness in my work being shoulder to shoulder with other people going about their lives. There was a table in a Starbucks inside Takasaki Eki where six of us, strangers all, would group together, just one little space each, all working away on our own projects. Who exactly shared the table changed week from week, but it was a good place to work.
These days, with three of us in my family all needing private home offices, I work from my bedroom at a desk my father cut down to my size. I’m 5’1’’, in U.S. measurements, so quite short. Now my feet can touch the floor, which is much less painful. One half of the room is sleeping quarters and one half is very clearly office.
Do you have a certain ritual?
Yes. Collect water. Make coffee. Dark. Always dark. Pour coffee. Smell it. Put on my headphones. Turn on the playlist for the project I’m working on. Sit down. Turn over my phone so I can’t see the screen. Then write.
It’s a ritual I can use anywhere. When I started traveling and needing to work from a variety of places, I realized my ritual couldn’t be location specific. When I can drink coffee, any drink, preferably warm, can work as a substitute trigger, though it’s not quite as effective. Thus the reason to back it up with audio input in the form of music.
Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?
Coffee, as I said already. These days, it’s decaf…sigh. I miss that punch and hyper focus of caffeine. Also, I’ve added water to the line-up, alongside the coffee, because I work so long these days and seem to be unable to remember to go drink, even with alarms. Once I’m focused, I pretty much have be jolted out of what I’m doing. It’s like my body isn’t there, but if there’s a drink at my elbow, I’ll mindlessly keep drinking from the glass or mug. Even after it’s empty, I’ll repeat the motion of lifting and drinking.
What is your favourite book?
There is no way I can choose one. Goodreads has informed me I’ve read in the ballpark of 2,000 books.
That said, a few rise towards the top. In no particular order, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, The Beautiful Monsters Series by Jex Lane, Great Books Don’t Write Themselves by Larry Brooks, The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, and The Great Passage by Shion Miura as translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter.
I believe in reading widely and deeply, to keep my craft from becoming stagnant.
Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Frequently. I already write in epic fantasy, YA fantasy, and now, with this book, nonfiction on writing craft. I think I’ll stay with these three areas for now, but in the future, I’m considering historical fiction.
Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Yes and no. I’ll lift traits and problems but generally I’ve never wanted to base a character on anyone. My characters usually arrive very much themselves before I ever start working on their backstories. I “see” them and don’t feel like I make conscious decisions about who they are or what they do. When I edit, I do massage the base concept, but it always feels like building on an original that showed up of its own volition.
The one character that is somewhat based on someone I know, didn’t reveal to me who they were based on until I was well into the first book of writing them. It’s funny, too, because the character is a woman and the person they sometimes resemble is a man. The man in question knows about it too, and finds it hilarious, mostly because they like reading the character and agreeing with everything the character does. In the end though, the character only shares mannerisms and some of attitude.
Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
Yes! Well, I did before Covid-19. Now I’ll make notes on my phone, if I’m out, because I can sterilize my phone quickly and paper doesn’t like to be sprayed with Lysol very much. The magic of writing every day is that my light bulb moments have become more disciplined about showing up when I’m ready to work. I still find myself reaching for my notebook when doing housework, since I solve so many plot issues while getting things clean.
Which genre do you not like at all?
I have genres I don’t find personally appealing, but none that I don’t like at all. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but my ability to appreciate things not written for me has developed significantly. Being an editor has introduced me to manuscripts that I would never have picked up to read myself and I’ve ended up enjoying them.
That said, and this may get me in trouble, I really struggle with most heterosexual romance these days, contemporary especially. And I don’t think it’s because of my own orientation; I’m as excited about a guy as anyone else. I just really want to see more depth of character in the protagonists of most romances. And “big misunderstandings” or “love triangles” often don’t work for me. That said, these are my own inclinations. Please enjoy writing and reading these stories. They do fulfill a true need.
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I am co-writing a book! With Mariëlle Smith. And producing a podcast on the topic while we write it. The book is as yet untitled, but the podcast is being released in January 2021. Look for Doing Diversity in Writing on your favorite podcasting app, or visit representationmatters.art.
If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
You have really good questions. I spent a year in a country and got an entire degree because of my first book. I wrote it as a teen and it partially took place in what I imagined was China. During the course of my research at the local library, I only had access to books written mostly by men from the U.S. and Europe about China, but nothing by the people of China themselves. This frustrated me, deeply, as I already understood that outsiders often didn’t understand insider culture. The more I explored, the more I wanted to be part of filling in the gap of communication. I applied to Denison University, took a degree in East Asian Studies, and lived in Nanjing for a year during my junior year. It was absolutely amazing. In the course of my studying, I had to scrap the entire book; I grew up and realized the plot didn’t hold water. My research had also totally crushed my imagined ideas of the country.
Traveling has informed all my work since though, from architecture, to the tension and excitement of cultures meeting and tangling with each other. I would like to spend significant time in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Actually, there isn’t really a place I don’t want to visit at least for a day, as long as I have a good chance of getting in and out in one piece. I’d love to see as many ancient ruins as I can, especially the Mayan pyramids and Gobekli Tepe. I don’t know exactly how it would show up in my work, but I know each experience will. The temples, palaces, villages, and skyscrapers of Asia and North American have already informed my work as it stands. Oh, and I really want to see Venice while it’s still above the waves. I hope they can protect it in the years ahead.
Thank you, Bethany A. Tucker and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com.