Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing Tip #4 Editing for Consistency

I've been editing my manuscript as I go, but in a very light kind of a way. I write a chunk and a few days later I'll revisit it and give it a quick once over. This is my first draft so I'm not too stressed at this point about it being as tight and perfect as it'll need to be later.


My story is set in a fantasy world, complete with fantastical cultures and creatures, religion, history ... and magic.

This afternoon, as I flipped pikelets, I was thinking about the added problems this will create when it comes around to doing an in depth edit of my story - the CONSISTENCY edit.

For one thing, my editor-slash-readers don't/won't know the holistic and historical ins and outs of my fantasy world. Is this going to create issues? Will subtle inconsistencies be over looked because of this lack of knowledge? Possibly.

So then, I started to wonder about the sorts of things I should consider when I'm editing it myself. What sorts of questions should I be asking to avoid inconsistencies?

I came up with a few thoughts, and because I'm a lists kind of a girl (thanks to Granny), I wrote them down.

The more I wrote and mused, the more I thought it might be helpful to share, so hopefully you'll find my questions useful in your own editing.

And if you have your own "anti-inconsistency questions" do share them with us.

Now, please bare in mind that when I was thinking about consistency within my story I was not so much worrying about sentence structure or grammatical issues, but rather the details within the story itself.

For example:
If my heroine cut off all her hair why is she flipping long locks over her shoulder in the next chapter?
Or, if the Elders wear white robes why is that one wearing the brown robe of an Apprentice?
You get the idea.

Some questions to consider when editing each scene:

What does __ (insert character's name here)__ look like now?
Now this may seem like an odd question, but one of my characters changes their appearance a few times through out my story. So it's important that each scene deals consistently with the changes that have been made.

For example: One of my character's is a shape shifter.
Now readers would most likely want to shoot me if he's in his wolf-shape and flies away... Hmmm, yes. Not good at all.

What else has changed?
Here I want to consider everyday things like:
  • Clothing - what should they be wearing and what condition are those clothes in?
  • Injures - what fresh, healing or healed wounds do they have? how does this affect them?
  • Weapons - what weapons do they have or are they using?
  • Abilities - what can my heroine do now that she couldn't do before?
  • Culture - what culture are they interacting with?
  • Emotions - what emotional state is she/he in?
  • Personalities - are my characters reactions consistent with their personalities?

Where is she?
Because my story is written from a "third person limited" POV this next question applies more to my heroine than anyone else.
  • Place - is she inside or outside? in a village/city/castle/country? what's the scenery like?
  • Weather - is it snowing/wet/sunny/hot/cold?
  • Time - is it day or night? what's the light quality like?

As you can see there are quite a lot of things to think about - and I've probably missed a few too. Now that it's on the page editing for inconsistencies looks like a mammoth task!

Luckily I love my story so it should also be fun. Moreover, if I keep these things in mind as I write I should, in theory, make fewer errors and less work for myself later on.

For more tips on editing for consistency go here.

Another quick tip:
If, like me, you're writing fantasy (or SF), I've found it really helpful to keep a folder or notebook of information on the cultures and customs of my fantasy world. So if I can't remember an important detail I'm sure to find it in my little encyclopedia.

I have pages on the religion, each of the races, each of the main characters, maps and info on the different places (castles, villages, forests, etc), the history (including notes on historical figures), the myths and legends, and the herbology and medicine particular to my fantasy word.

As I write the story grows so I'm constantly updating the information I have. Of course, much of it will remain background stuff - for my eyes only - but it's there and the story is richer for it.

Happy writing everyone and remember editing doesn't have to be a bore it can be FUN!!


  1. A really interesting post as I'm editing too - as you know. Your list is helpful because most of it I could apply to historical fiction set in a foreign place (to the writer) I'll skip on the magic and the shape shifters though. Thanks.

  2. Just found your blog -- love your header! It's very pretty :)

    I've definitely found consistency errors when editing; they're tricky little things! I've learned that beta readers can find them better than I can, since my eyes tend to skip right over any inconsistencies after a while.

  3. Hi Lynn,
    Welcome to thedragonspen!!

    Beta readers are definitely awesome beings. The problem is finding enough of them.

    I visited your site and read the first chapter of your novel. It's great, I love it.