Editing and revising, Cat in the Hat-Style
What makes a good long-form narrative story? According to editor John Mecklin, the story with a perfectly structured narrative is Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat.
It has all of the elements that make a good long-form piece. It has protagonists, Sally and her brother, who are buffeted by the whirlwind of events set in motion by the antagonist, the Cat. Most important to the long-form piece, it has rising action. As the Cat's antics grow increasingly wilder, the tension in the story rises, and the heightened anticipation of what will happen next draws the reader deeper and deeper into the story. Will Sally and her brother get caught with the Cat in the house? Will they clean up the mess before mother gets home? Mounting suspense is the essence of narrative and the essence of a long-form narrative story.
Use your understanding of rising action, conflict, climax, resolution, and denoument to craft a story rather than just reporting the facts.
When I evaluate your features, here's what I'm looking for.
Are the characters fully developed? Do their actions and voice sound authentic? As you, as the author, and character? How does your authorial presence affect the story? What is the relationship of all of the characters to the theme? Characters typically set out to achieve something; what is it?
This is the answer to the question What is this story about? Every element of the story should reinforce the theme. Is the theme discernable without being preachy? Is it shown rather than told? Do readers feel that it is important?
The conflict comes into the story when the characters encounter obstacles to what they want to achieve. Conflicts and their resolution drive the narrative forward.
Who is talking here? Whose point of view represents the reader? Does this voice sound authentic? Is the tone appropriate to the content of the story?
Readers move through stories in order to find out how they end. What is the resolution to the conflict in the story? Is it satisfying? If not, is there a good reason for the absence of a clear resolution? Are the loose ends tied up?
I will also be looking for quality narrative detail (not just quantity), quotes that illuminate the persona of the person speaking as well as relate facts, appropriate setting, and action that helps readers visualize the story.
While most research in long-form narratives is invisible or blends seamlessly into the story, I will be looking for all three types of research that we discussed in class: library, interview, and immersive (going and doing things that help you understand your topic).
As our own Dr. Loewe says, surface errors in a paper are like bug splats on a windshield. A few don't obscure the road and you might not even notice them until there are several. More than a few make you more aware of the existence of the windshield than you might be otherwise. At a certain point, the bug splats obscure the important thing--the road--and prevent easy navigation. Imagine the horror of large birds. Edit for big picture stuff, like continuity and story, medium picture stuff, like paragraphing and transitions, and nitpicky stuff, like spelling, mechanics, and sentence structure. Make sure that every word is the right word.