I recently had the great pleasure of attending Centerpoint Legacy Theater's production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The costumes were colorful and beautiful, the cast talented and the songs stirring. As I enjoyed this night of romance and high adventure, I found myself thinking, as I often do, of writing. I know, I know, the curse of all writers is that we are never quite free from our characters, plot-lines, and ideas for improving our WIP. So here are three things The Scarlet Pimpernel taught me about the craft of writing and editing.
1) As I took my seat and settled in to enjoy the production, I noticed colored tape all over the stage. This proved very distracting. The blaring tape could be seen even when the lights were dim and constantly shouted 'amateur theater' to me. My expectations about the quality of the play were drastically lowered from the beginning.
You are probably asking, what does this have to do with writing? Easy. What message are you sending with your book? Is it polished and professional? Or does it scream 'novice' with all the grammar, spelling and formatting errors? Don't leave any 'marking tape' for your readers to find and that my cause them to lower their expectation about your work. Whether you are planning on traditional or indie publishing, take the time to carefully edit. I would take advantage of all the amazing skills of those already in the professional editing business. *wink wink*
2) There were a couple dropped lines in the play. The actors hurriedly corrected themselves by saying the right line, but the damage was done. I was confused and the flow of the story was disrupted for a moment.
With your writing be sure your characters are saying what you mean them to say. If the dialogue is confusing, or the characters aren't staying true to themselves, the suspension of disbelief you have created will be shattered. Your reader will return to reality with a jarring bump and may have to work hard to return to the fantastical world you have tried to craft, or they may never return. Be true to your characters and your story, and avoid missed lines!
3) I am always impressed with any theater production I attend and their ability to create an illusion of another place, and often another time, with minimum props. In fact, the best play are those that are driven by dialogue and the emotions you can see portrayed by the actor's body language, rather than flashy sets and bedazzling costumes.
Writing is exactly the same way. Your story can thrive and flourish with well written dialogue, and choosing the perfect words. One right word can carry your meaning better than ten wrong words. Make your manuscript less bulky by taking the extra time to find words that invoke the right feelings, or images you wish to portray.
Now go write and maybe take time to enjoy The Scarlet Pimpernel, or another local production in your area. :-)