Editing: The Video Game (Levels 4-6)

We’re back with Levels 4-6!  Will the novel be completed?  How many game overs will happen?  How awesome will it be?  All this and more will be answered in:

[In case you haven’t read it, here’s part 1: Levels 1-3 (Plot, Character, Continuity)]

Level 4 Prose and Writing Style

This is the point when you have completed most of the game, opened up the entire map, and now want to get the best equipment in the game.  This could be super-armor in a first person shooter, or a big shiny sword in a fantasy RPG.  With these items, the in-game character moves from adequate to sheer awesome.

As a writer, you have looked at the overall picture, strengthened the plot, polished the characters, and built a compelling structure.  Now, it is time to pull out your literary toolbox, and tell the story as best you possibly can.

You must delve into the Cavern of Cliches, cross the Bridge of Parallel Structure, ford the River of Passive Voice, navigate the Forest of Repeated Words, sail on the Winds of Consistent Tone, and escape the Dungeon of Dullness.  Through this, you will ride your Thesaurus (both a book and a dinosaur,) play your Harp of Authorial Voice, and use your Shield of Literary Devices.

With a consistent tone achieved, a trail of fallen cliches along your path, your author’s voice clear and strong, your words fresh and non-repetitive, you may be ready to pass to the next level.

For a quick example of tone and author voice, here are openings from two famous 19th century works:

From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

This entire paragraph is one long sentence, setting up the duality of the entire novel.  It is meant to be an overarching and broad view of the world, and especially of France and England, and of the difference in classes.  Also, the “in short” section shows some of Dickens’ tongue-in-cheek humor, which gets lost in his wordy style.

Contrast this to the opening from Pride and Predudice by Jane Austen:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

Since this was written in a similar (though earlier) time period, the wordiness is similar.  However, where Dickens packs everything into a single sentence, Austen gives more room to breath.

A Tale of Two Cities is a broad, sweeping epic covering two countries, social issues, and touching on historic events impacting the lives of millions.  Pride and Prejudice is about courtship, class differences, and the drama within the Bennet house.  Austen uses more sly humor, and spaces out paragraphs.  Also, Pride and Prejudice dives immediately into the story and characters, while A Tale of Two Cities goes on about the world for another page or two before introducing the first event of the story.  A Tale of Two Cities takes careful time to explore details to emphasize the importance of events, while Pride and Prejudice glances over details in favor of telling a fun, light story.

Both books are spectacular works of literature, but have a vary their tone and voice due to both the writer and the book’s subject matter.

Congratulations!  You completed Level 4!

Experience Points: 7,543

Achievements Unlocked: Fine and polished prose

Bonus Item: Sword of Synonyms


Level 5: Grammar, Spelling, and Formatting

Grammar, Spelling, and Formatting are not necessarily harder, but do require a different skill set.  By this point, after hours of game play, or the thousands of passes through your novel, your eyes are bleary.  Things are no longer as clear.  Even though you have won the super-armor, you still need to grind through enemies in order to gain levels.  You must pass through endless hordes of the enemy, the gameplay often repetitive.  However, this often unexciting, mind numbing work is necessary for defeating the final Screen Filling Boss With Wings.

To do your best at checking grammar and spelling, it is important to take time away before checking the novel.  Then, read aloud.  Then, read through backwards.  In the end, if submitting to a publisher, and especially before self-publishing, it may be worthwhile to hire a copy editor.

This is both a perilous and necessary level.  While your story may be amazing, many people will be turned off if they are faced with the horror of a typo or mis-placed comma within the first few pages.  Grammar, spelling, and formatting is an element of professionalism.

Congratulations!  You completed Level 5!

Experience Points: 9,682

Achievements Unlocked: A professional and presentable draft

Bonus Item: Hour Glass of Verb Agreement

Verb Agreement

Level 6: Beta Readers and The Final Polish

Now, it is time to for the Final Dungeon, time to share your draft with others.

A frightening and dangerous moment.

Along the way, it is helpful to have a wise guide who you can present pieces to.  After reading it, they return it with, “That was really cheesy,” or, “I know you can do better.”  My wise guide, my sister Natalie, is leaving in August on a mission for our church, and will return in 18 months.  Luckily, I have gained a writer’s group to help with this effort.


My wise guide, and all of her dogs.
(No, the dogs do not comprise my writer’s group)

While those who have traveled with you during the whole journey can cheer you onto the end, you must present your work to fresh eyes.  You must present the heart and soul you have lain on paper to Beta Readers.  Pieces will survive, while blindspots you have developed will be revealed.  You may feel as if you have hit a game over screen, but all that really means is you must go back and re-do a level or two.  You may even find a secret pipe which lets you skip later in the editing game.

After passing the scrutiny of Beta Readers, it is time to declare the draft finished.

I believe no story ever truly ends for a writer, and, left to their own devices, writers would continue tweaking and editing till the end of time.  There comes a point when the writer must push their novel out of the nest, and see if it will fall to the ground, or go forth and fly.

(I really hope mine flies, because falling to the ground requires a lot more clean up.)

Congratulations!  You completed Level 6!

Experience Points: 10,325,642

Achievements Unlocked: A professional, completed, Beta Read draft ready for publication!!!!! 

Bonus Item: The Crown of Accomplishment!


Wait, a new quest?

Ah yes.  Now that we have completed Editing: The Video Game, it is time to play Publishing: The Video Game.  In that game, which I have yet to play, you have the choice between self-publishing or traditional publishing.

Which path will you choose?

(Cue awesome suspense music)

How is your WIP going?  What epiphanies have you reached while trying to finish your draft?  When do you know you are done?  How do you reward yourself for accomplishing each level?  How do you find Beta Readers?  If Jane Austen and Charles Dickens got in a ninja battle, who would win?  What game is the most like real editing?

For convenience, here is a repeat of the links from Levels 1-3:

From Fiction-Writers-Mentor.com 

From Blogher.com

From how-to-write-a-novel.net

And from Jae over at Lit and Scribbles, a few good “How To” series for bloggers.

14 thoughts on “Editing: The Video Game (Levels 4-6)

    • That’s actually a picture of my sister Natalie, who is my sounding board for all writing. She is a major dog person, and that is her collection of stuffed dogs. Our real dogs are pretty cute too.

  1. Thanks for the blog love. And I ❤ your video game approach to this. People need to realize writing takes some major leveling up. It's not enough to put the game in the console—you've got to actually beat it. Great advice!

    • It also helps to keep in practice. For example, the other day I pulled out Metal Gear Solid 3 – which I’ve played through several times – and utterly failed. Continuous practice makes for more awesome.

  2. The Cavern of Cliches is an absolutely horrible place. Even today many authors cannot get past it! And the Sword of Synonyms can be quite double-edged.

    How are you doing on the edits, by the way? In the post on Levels 1 – 3 you specified the time required to complete edits, so I was wondering how far you’d gotten along.

    • I just passed through the Swamp of A Difficult Scene – or, in other words, spent the last two days working on a scene that previously was two different conversations. It’s still not where I want it, but it’s better. I’m currently at 58,000 words out of 90,000 – so, not far to go. However, this section has not been read through and cleaned up as often as earlier sections, and so may take longer to polish.

  3. Wow. This is wonderful. And that nervous giggling you hear is because I’m at Publishing: The Video Game, which is a whole new ball of tissues with querying agents and waiting and feeling like I’m ready to scream.

  4. I’m blinded by sheer awesomeness! (I don’t remember the actual quote from ‘Kung Fu Panda’ but I’m referencing that.) Go go, superwoman, write that book!

    • Any quote from Kung Fu Panda is a good thing. I’m trying to find my inner peace in order to finish it, and once I’m done, I’ll shout, “Ski-doosh”

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