Any good book on grammar and punctuation can teach you much of what a low-level revision requires. The low-level revision is also known as the line-edit. It’s the last thing a writer needs to do. Literally. You don’t have to worry about that until the last draft before it goes to an editor to read, but it’s good for the beginner to run one earlier to start seeing what the mistakes are. You can start training yourself to just not do them, or do them less often.
For fiction, you may also need to know conventions of representing speech and thought (very different than MLA Handbook quote conventions), and looking for infodumps, telegrams, reaction before stimulus, and other fiction snags. An eye for spotting these is probably best developed in online workshops, where writers critique each other’s work. I suggest online because in-person critique workshops can be emotionally rough and, since they are based on only the few people in your immediate geographic vicinity, not common interests, sometimes they aren’t a lot of use. Different genres have different templates and the experience of many of us is that someone who never reads romances cannot decently crit a romance novel; someone who never reads specfi has no idea of its conventions of how to read a story, which is very different than the rest of fiction (as James Gunn explicitly pointed out in his courses).
What has been missing is a guide on how to do high-level revision, which is about plot structure, world-presentation, characterization, and templates, not commas and Tells. It requires looking at the very basics of your story. Rather than looking at the beast and deciding it needs dark hair rather than light, you are looking at whether it should have fur or feathers or scales, or maybe be a plant. Because the high-level revision addresses the underpinning of the story, it’s not easy to set down as simple rules the way low-level revision can be. Also, what is good or bad depends on your genre as well as many other things going on in the manuscript. These blogs can guide you, but you must apply it with your own wit and judgement.
As writers have met each other online, in groups of hundreds and thousands, not just the six or ten in our local area, we have found that there are different wirings involved here. No one method of writing suits everyone. Some people have their writing ruined by trying to force themselves into unsuitable patterns.
There are three spectrums onto which we fit, three axes of a 3D graph of where we lie among writers. Of course, few people fall onto the far ends and most of us mix traits in the middle. Read the rest of this entry