If you’ve been on Quora, you know that the site has people who ask questions and communities with experience who answer them. It’s supposed to come off as subject matter experts giving in depth answers to the many questions people ask. I’ve taken to answering some questions on Quora and have certainly asked a few in my time.
My answer considers creating a round character. Someone with actual goals and motivations that are clear. Someone or something that has flaws and qualities, knowledge and things to learn. Sometimes a villain is simply an antagonist who doesn’t learn the lessons and grow as a character in contrast to an MC or protagonist. This can make a villain empathetic, similar to Regina in Once Upon a Time. This can show just how hard it is to change in comparison to the protagonist who does make a change and learn the lesson.
Let me know how you write a villain. Do these tips help? Thank you for reading.
When writing it’s important to revise and to
edit the document. This is one way to approach editing. It isn’t the only way.
It’s just a way that has worked for me.
Note: This is a personal writer edit. This does
NOT replace getting a writing critique or hiring an editor.
In fact, I recommend this process order for
Write the first draft.
Do a personal edit. Use an editing method. I
use a color method. *I share this later on in this document.
Revise the draft based on the personal edit.
Get a writer critique performed on the piece of
writing. A writing critique will be a small group of writers that give in depth
feedback on the craft elements of writing for each other. It may include
grammar, punctuation and spelling, but should focus heavily on craft. Craft
includes voice, POV, character development, plot, world-building, themes,
dialogue, literary devices and scene/exposition. They will provide feedback on
what is working well and why. They will give feedback on what isn’t working
well and why. If this doesn’t happen, form a different group for critique.
Note – you should not be paying
for this. This should be a group of writers about the same level of experience
and talent that work together to improve the quality of writing within each
other’s work. It’s supportive, but honest. The focus should be on the writing,
not the writer or trying to write the story for the writer. Create a group of
up to about five writers.
Based on the writing critique, do another
Get beta readers. Have them read the story from
a reader’s perspective. Is it readable and interesting? This shouldn’t be super
in depth. You might get simply what works and what doesn’t on a basic level
from a reader’s point of view. This is NOT the same as writing critique. It’s
what a reader might like the most in a story or why they wouldn’t read a story.
Note – I don’t recommend paying
for this either.
Do a revision based on the beta reader’s
Note – At this point the piece
of writing has gone through a personal edit/revision, a writer critique based
edit/revision and a beta reader edit/revision.
The last step is HIRING a professional editor.
YES you do need to do this for a professional level edit. Do this before
submitting to a publisher or self-publishing. It’s important. It separates
well-written works from sloppy writing. It shows professionalism. Have respect
for the reader and be a professional. A professional editor may only be someone
who edits based on grammar, spelling and punctuation or they may also provide
content edits. It’s up to you the type of editor you hire. You may want to hire
someone that does both.
Finally, you are ready to self-publish or submit to a traditional
publication. Good luck.
Select a color for each editing category. I use these colors for
each category, but you can assign whatever color you want.
YELLOW,highlight any areas of the Work in Progress (WIP) that requires a revision
of grammatical, vocabulary, spelling or punctuation errors. Make the edits in
track changes maybe or another editing software.
Some of the things to look for:
Verb tenses consistent
Consistent style rules; AP, Chicago, your own
Spelling – American English, British English,
another language. Is the spelling correct?
Are there too many adverbs?
Too many repeated words?
Are there too many gerunds?
Empty sentences or vague words that do not
supply concrete detail, plot, world or character revelations
Empty modifiers (huge, very, really)
Correct word used (may be spelled right, but is
it used correctly)
Do sentence styles vary? Do sentences serve the
story? Meaning, do they show character, plot, and/or world-building?
Have you taken advantage of nouns and verbs?
Check that punctuation is correct for whatever
style you’re using.
Are sentences active, passive? Passive clues
(to be verbs and sentences that do not begin with the subject)
Clauses correctly formed
What is the readability score? Have you checked
throughout the piece?
In ORANGE, highlight any areas
of the WIP that requires an edit for character issues. Take notes. Some of the
things to look for:
Are the characters well-developed?
Are they flat? If so, how will you make them
Are their behaviors and motives consistent to
who they are?
Are they believable?
Do they exhibit flaws?
Do they have preferences?
Check their actions and choices. Do they make
Check their emotional responses. Are they
believable to who they are or who they are becoming?
Do they have histories? (Even if you don’t
share all of it)
Do your characters have “enemies” or people who
dislike them? Do they have people they dislike?
Do they grow, change, learn a lesson, fail?
Are they surprising?
Are the characters’ voices distinct from one
another and consistent throughout?
What are the character interactions and
relationships like? Are they well-developed and believable?
Are their reactions to events in the novel
Do physical descriptions remain consistent?
Are character names consistent?
I use PINK to highlight areas
of the WIP that require an edit for plot issues. I may also make notes for each
issue to fix.
Are the stakes high enough? Believable?
Is there tension throughout?
Are plot twists believable? Do they surprise?
Do the events unfold naturally, or thrown in
without context or jarring to the reader that confuses rather than surprises?
Do the scenes drive the story forward?
Are there hooks at the start and end to each
Are the “promises” made at the beginning of the
novel fulfilled by the end? Or in a tragedy, is it clear why the protagonist
In BLUE, highlight issues with
dialogue. Make notes on what to fix and how.
When the characters speak through dialogue, are
they moving the plot forward?
Are their words providing character and scene?
Are their interactions believable?
Are their word choices true to who they are?
Do they speak like real people within the
context of the world? Example – If the character is from Manchester, do they
have a feel in the dialogue of being from Manchester?
Did you describe how the character sounds,
their accents and slang consistently throughout the story?
Are the speakers distinct from one another?
Would it be confusing to the reader to
understand who is speaking?
Literary Devices – A NEON GREEN
I use a neon green or light
blue for this. Here is a great resource that defines the types of literary
devices – https://literarydevices.net/. This is more of a strong
recommendation to use literary devices to create dynamic, interesting ways to
present sentences and story structure. There are so many types to use that
having a checklist would be difficult. Perhaps take note of ones that you intentionally
used or find out that you used and check to see if they work with the tone and
voice of the story. Add them if they work for the story.
Here is a list of some common
Epistrophe, Epizeuxis, Antanaclasis
I use PURPLE for setting. Take
note of any issues with setting, world-building, time/place.
Are the place names, locations shown to the
Is the time shown to the reader?
Is there enough detail about the world to
immerse the reader?
Do the details about the world make sense?
Are the details consistent throughout the
Are physical items consistent from one scene to
the next? Such as if the character took off the coat in the chapter opener,
they shouldn’t be wearing it at the end unless that is also shown.
World-building may include:
When applicable, are each of these things
consistent and believable?
I use GREEN to mark necessary
edits within a scene. Scene is also called “showing”. Good stories either weave
exposition and scene together or balance exposition with scene. Important plot
and character development should be shown in scene. The story events that move
the reader through the beginning to the end should have scene. Check:
Are the right events shown?
Do scenes work to move the story forward, show
character growth or interesting surprises/reveals?
Does the scene keep the reader interested?
Is the scene important information better given
through quick exposition?
Break down the scene into acts; do the
characters react and behave how they should? Is the action moving or dragging?
Is it too fast? Is it too slow?
Does the diction work for moving the story and
Does the scene leave the reader wanting more,
feeling something, connecting to the story and/or character?
Use RED for exposition. There
is a use for exposition. Important information the reader needs, but would drag
the story down (scene is a slower pace) should be written in exposition. Tip –
weave exposition at the right time during scenes and it doesn’t feel so
expository, but definitely use it when you need to get information out fast,
but wouldn’t work well in scene.
Is the exposition important for the reader to
Would it be better in scene?
Does the exposition come at the right time
during the story?
Does it balance with scene, so that it doesn’t
come as a massive information dump?
I use a GRAY or light blue pen
or marker for this. Voice is the form or format used by the story’s narrator.
Yes, there is a narrator to a story, usually a character either known or
unknown to the reader that the “author” uses to tell the story. This is also
sometimes known as the author’s voice or style. Voice is the personality of a
Double check that the character/narrator’s
voice is coming through each scene. Is there too much of an author presence
dominating the character’s voice?
Is there a personality to the narrator? Does it
Is the narrator’s voice consistent? Do they
have a distinct personality?
Do the words fit the character’s personality,
knowledge and experience?
Do their mannerisms fit their location in time
Does the narrator behave according to their
identity markers? Occupation, sex, sexual orientation, religion, class, creed etc.
Do the characters in the story behave according
to their identity markers?
I have some metallic markers
that I use, so for this I pick SILVER. Tone is known as the mood of a story.
Tone, much like voice is shown with diction, syntax and literary devices and
structure. It can be confused with voice and structure, but each term has a
different definition based on the effect created by the tools used.
there a mood to each scene or even piece of exposition?
Considering each scene or point of exposition,
does the mood created fit?
For theme I use GOLD, but be
careful of trying to manipulate the reader into learning a theme or lesson. Let
it come naturally throughout the story. Themes are pondering those questions of
life such as; coming of age, good vs. evil, survival, heroism, prejudice,
class, gender, courage, love, friendship, the underdog etc.
I think for a writer, it’s important to see
what themes arise in the writing.
Does the story serve the theme or themes?
Point of View
Underline point of view issues
in black or mark them in black. Point of view is 1st, 2nd
and 3rd person. It is how the narrator is presented in the story.
1st person may be
considered an unreliable narrator, because the story is usually about them and
each person will have the bias of only their view. They may have biases about
themselves and how others see them. They may have biases about themes in the
story and may seem like they are telling the reader what to think.
2nd person is “you”.
The narrator is telling a story about “you”.
3rd person can be a
close and immediate read, it can be omniscient, it can be limited and it can be
a distant read. It can have many 3rd person POVs. It’s also
considered to be a reliable narrator, having little to no bias, because the
story is not about them it’s about something they’ve seen or at least took part
in, but maybe was not the main character. Example – King Arthur stories are
frequently told about him by other characters in the story, even though he is
the feature. It’s that eyewitness that saw something recounting what they saw
to the best of their ability (in limited 3rd).
Determine what the POV is and check that it is
If you mean to have POV shifts, check that it
happens in the right spot and that it is clear to the reader.
Does the POV work for the story? If you wrote
it in 1st, would 3rd be better? If you wrote it in 3rd,
would 1st be best?
Are multiple POVs necessary? If so, when is the
best point to change? Many authors choose to change by chapter rather than
within a chapter or paragraph, but this also happens too. Does it work? Is it
Structure and Formatting the
I use brown to note structural
issues. Structure is the format and sequence of events in a story. There are
different types of structures including the 3 part and the 5 part. The 5 part
includes; introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.
Check the structure of your story.
Is the format of the manuscript consistent
Are sentences single-spaced? Are rows
Are there 1 inch margins or whatever is
required for publication?
Is the cover page formatted according to
Are there page numbers? Where?
Is your contact information present?
Are indents formatted the same from beginning
Did you select a readable font? A serif font is
often preferred for the clear difference with the letters and number liLt1IT. Sans
serif can be difficult for numerous people to differentiate those letters and
the number 1 for how similar they are, which does slow down the reading and
take the reader out of the story. This also can happen with serif fonts for
some people, so consider your audience.