Have you ever read on an agent or publisher’s website that ‘your novel must be polished’, and thought, how the heck do I polish my novel, it’s not a car!? You’re not alone. That term is ambiguous, and in my opinion, annoying because it doesn’t it’s not informative. In fact, if you want to get assholic, the sentence - Polish your novel – is TELLING and not SHOWING. In other words, it tells you to do something but does not show you how.

What Is Polishing Your Novel?

While we’re not polishing a car, we can use a car to illustrate polishing your novel. It is the act of buffing out all the scratches and dings, and where the damage is worse, getting out that dent plunger and straightening the metal. Of course, if that metal is also scratched, we may need some touch-up paint.

 

Removing the Dents

A dent is an area of non-uniformity. If you’ve ever stared at a dent in a vehicle and watched the light, it bends in all sorts of directions. If you run your hand over the dent, the metal dips in where it shouldn’t, and if the dent’s been there long enough, the surface may feel rough and show signs of rust.

When it comes to removing the dents from your novel, you first need to read the pages. Are there any areas in your novel that don’t make sense? Do you have scenes that are unclear or unfinished? Do you have scenes in your novel that do not push the story forward? These are all dents that must be removed. 

For example: I just undented this scene: For some backstory, Brian just got done terminating two of Avia’s house employees. He’s going back to where she is but must drop his car off first. This scene is necessary, but it doesn't do enough.

 

It didn't take him long to drive back to Avia's estate. Brian parked at the front doors.

"Did it go well?" Charles asked as he took the keys from Brian.

"It went well enough," Brian said. "Thanks for the water."

"I thought you might need that," Charles said.

"It's hotter than hell today," Brian said. "I'm going to walk back to the pier. Avia is probably pissed at me. I'm extremely late."

"She'll be happy to see you," Charles said. "I'll get this car put away."

Brian turned and walked off the property.

It was after four by the time he walked through the front warehouse door. He found Avia watching TV on the couch with a drink. "How was your afternoon?"

 

While necessary, this scene is dead space. Nothing new happens, and it doesn't further any plot threads, other than he’s having his car hidden. Now, I have a thread from AVIA III that needs pulled forward. (This is AVIA IV.) This dead space is a great place to put it, so I did.

 

It didn't take him long to drive back to Avia's estate. Brian parked at the front doors.

"Did it go well?" Charles asked as he took the keys from Brian.

"It went well enough," Brian said. "Thanks for the water."

"I thought you might need that," Charles said.

"It's hotter than hell today," Brian said. "I'm going to walk back to the pier. Avia is probably pissed at me. I'm extremely late."

"She'll be happy to see you," Charles said. "I'll get this car put away."

Brian turned and walked off the property. He was almost halfway to Avia's pier warehouse when his phone rang. "Yeah..."

"Sir, the Vitalis are at the gate," Charles said.

Brian turned around to view one of the signature black Vitali sedans. "Let them in, and don't let them leave until I have a chance to talk to them."

"When will that be?" Charles asked.

"Tomorrow morning," Brian said.

"I'll show them to some rooms," Charles said.

"Appreciate it. I have to be at the warehouse tonight," Brian said.

"Very good. We'll see you tomorrow morning," Charles said.

Brian ended the call.

It was after four by the time he walked through the front warehouse door. He found Avia watching TV on the couch with a drink. "How was your afternoon?"

 

Now, you may be wondering how that little bit of text helps anything? The last time the Vitalis were scene was in Texas after they’d just shot up an undercover police car for the Company (organized crime family). This scene takes place several days later in Sarasota, FL. The Vitalis are also filtering some money for the Company, and Brian wants his money. Brian is also pissed at them for taking so long, so he’s making them wait.

Filling in the Gaps with Touch-Up Paint

Next, fill in your gaps. Just like with a car, you don’t want any missing paint. There could be areas that you’ve deliberately skipped, so it’s time to look for all your tags. Do you have any sections where you simply wrote – Sex Scene goes here or Fight Scene goes here? If you do, it’s time to write all those scenes you skipped. Now, you may have filled those in during previous drafts, but I always find one or two when I’m right at the end of the novel-writing and drafting process. Of course, if you no longer need those scenes, you can just delete your tags.

 

If you have any recurring secondary characters with no names, it’s time to give them names. I’m notorious for putting in – the chef said or the officer said. If these are recurring secondary characters, they need names. I’m also notorious for forgetting my secondary character names, so don’t forget to add them to your character names’ list.

 

Do you have any abruptly started or ended scenes? Early in my writing career, I had a bad habit of dropping readers into the middle of scenes and ending scenes abruptly, like having the characters in the middle of a conversation, then BAM, the conversation ends, but there was no conclusion, or at least, it didn’t feel finished. And no, I didn’t pick that conversation up later either.

 

For Example: The front of a bad scene.

 

Let’s say the previous scene ended with her in a hotel room, watching TV.

 

Avia threw her cards down on the table and stormed off toward the bar. She caught the bartender’s attention and ordered a rum and Coke. Then, she starts taking to the bartender about things unrelated to the card game. Maybe she’s trying to get laid.

 

Now, in this scene, she’s in the middle of a poker game in a bar, but there was no lead-in. At the end of the last scene, she was happily watching a movie. We don’t know how she got to the bar. We don’t know why she’s at the bar, and we sure as heck don’t know what went on during that card game to cause her to throw those cards down. In other words, we need to do some work here to explain how she got from the hotel to the bar. Why she went to the bar, and why that card game didn’t go well. Readers want to know. It also needs to tie into the previous plot. She can’t simply be playing cards to be playing cards. One of those guys in that card game needs to be important to the plot. Or, maybe she needs money because she’s down to her last $50. Whatever it is, we need to go back through this scene and explain it.

Buffing out the Scratches

Do you have any redundancies in your novel? Do you have any unneeded scenes in your novel? It’s time to delete those. Any scene that doesn’t move the story forward needs to be deleted. If your characters keep talking about X thing over and over again and getting nowhere, it’s time to delete all the conversation on X thing that doesn’t move the story forward.

You may also find drafting mistakes. My biggest mistake is adding in new scene material, but forgetting to make sure it flows with the existing material. When it comes to dialogue, I’m really good at clarifying it, but then leaving in a line or two of old dialogue that no longer makes sense. All of those mistakes need to come out. If you have a scene you really like but it doesn’t fit in the current story, you can always save it in a separate file called – Deleted Scenes from X novel.

Shining the Paint

Now, it’s time to do your proofreading. This means that you need to make sure you used all the same verb tenses. If you’re writing in 3rd person past tense, make sure you didn’t accidentally throw in a few present tenses. Clean up your grammar. Remove unnecessary words. Look for those missing or extra commas, and give it one more good read-through to make sure the entire book makes sense.

 

If you got this far, congratulations, your novel is now polished and ready for an agent. If you plan on self-publishing, it’s time to format, add your front material and get a cover.

 

Read More on Editing

  1. What Is Over-Editing, and What Can You Do About It? ...
  2. 6 Tips for Performing Your Final Book Edit Before Formatting and Publication
  3.  HOW TO DEAL WITH 5 COMMON WRITER PROBLEMS
  4. Should I Hire an Editor for My Novel Before Submitting It to an Agent?
  5.  8 Tips on How to Quickly Self-Edit a Novel
  6. Extreme Fiction Manuscript Editing ...

 

 

 

Read More from Stacey Carroll

 

AVIA1BookadfullcoverThunderstorms and .45s: 2018 Avia Version Kindle Edition

 

Avia might be able to con a rich woman out of 50 million dollars before her vacation to Hawaii, but she's going to need some help to do it. She has to call in people she terms her "cousins," and she has to deal with the fact that she is still an alcoholic and heroin addict. With the help of Benton, can Avia actually pull off this heist and get out of town before it is too late?

 

 

 

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