Posted by: Katie B | March 21, 2012

Alvina Ling Shares a Great Editing Tip

Alvina Ling, Editorial Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, was a guest lecturer and offered one-on-one critiques at this past weekend’s Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) writing retreat.  Not only is she incredibly kind, putting the most-nervous of writers (insert self) at ease, she’s approachable and immensely helpful.  (Too many adverbs in that last sentence, I know.  But how else to effuse my genuine thanks?)

In her speech “Exploring the Narrative Voice and Structure”, she offered one great take-away which I’ll share with you:  the effect of structure on the viability of your novel.  She used examples from her own portfolio where reworking the structure of the novel impacted its success.  It wasn’t something I had considered before in my editing process.  If you find yourself stuck with a sagging middle or flat arch, another tool available to fix issues is structure.

Examples? I hope I’m not revealing industry secrets here, but…In the middle grade novel, Bird in a Box (which I’ve read, loved, and reviewed on my Book Review page), the author had originally written the book with four point of views. Three kids POVs and one adult.  In the end, the adult POV was removed.  A structure change that impacted how the story was told.  Obviously it was a good change, as I never missed the fourth POV.  In the middle grade novel, The Candymakers (which I’ve also read – fun for a kid), the author had originally written the book in a linear fashion.  The final version is completely divergent.  It includes the same story told four times by four different POVs.  Each version layers secrets and plot reveals omitted from the previous storyteller.  Fascinating.  Again, structure change is what developed the uniqueness of the tale.

So I offer her bit of wisdom to you.  Don’t forget to analyze the structure of your novel as you’re considering ways to edit and improve it.  Happy writing!

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