I’ve recently read a couple of drafts written by more-or-less novice writers who had asked me for feedback, and as a result I’m now contemplating the best way to write tight, compelling movement into a story without making it too action-driven. The first recommendation I’ll always have is ‘don’t listen to me. Go read a book you really like that does it well, and pay attention to it.’ A good story will catch you up in the world and you’ll miss the way the writer pulls you in and hooks you. Also… style is very much A Thing. Different writers are going to do this in different ways, so read several good stories, and make notes, and then go back and look at your draft. Me? I tend to be wordy. I need to literally tighten up my sentences. Other people? Might want to consider condensing their introduction of character and setting into something more cohesive and perhaps even have it happen alongside plot. Sprinkle it in like stage setting with dialogue. But not too much!
There are no real rules to writing, but there are an awful lot of ways you can do it wrong. Having an editor to help you is good, yes, but what happens when the editor asks you to make changes you don’t think are going to help the story? Say you chose to give only one side of a conversation. This can be a helpful tool in keeping a hint of mystery in a story. Or it can simply be a way to keep from bogging down a scene by having all the minutiae brought into it. I think all of us can recall a conversation where we only heard one side, and that was enough to cue us into what was going on. I’ve certainly had those where I wasn’t even really listening but by the time my First Reader put the phone down I knew we were going to be going to visit the Moms, or not, as the case may be. Stylistic choices are up to the writer, and sometimes the writer may need to gently push back at the editor to maintain their style.
Also, turn track changes on in any document you send to an editor. Every word processing program is different in how you do this. Google is your friend, here, to find the specifics for you. I think I’ve told the story before of how I hired my first editor, paid an amount I could ill afford, and much later, realized that the changes I naively assumed were necessary were… well, my later editor who helped me restore the manuscript pointed out that my authorial voice had all but been stripped away by the work done. And because I’d not saved an earlier draft, there wasn’t a way to easily undo that expensive mistake. It is your story. You told it. Yes, taking critique is very important and especially if you have submitted it, you should be listening to the editor. But editors aren’t perfect, no one is. Ask for help, if you’re not sure. Find a trusted friend who knows what they are doing and is willing to be critical if need be, and check your gut. Chances are, you’re right. You know how I know that? Because if you were that wrong and arrogant, you’d not be doubting yourself so much!
Got a bit you’re not sure of? Put it in the comments and I’ll look at it along with the other commentators. Keep it fairly short, please, and remember: you don’t have to make changes based on anyone’s recommendation. Trust your own instincts!