Back to Back Issues Page
What happened next? Editor's Notes #140
February 28, 2013

At the heart of every issue
is a human element
that leads to the three most beautiful words in the English language:
What happened next?

--Katherine Lanpher

In this issue:

1. What happened next?
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site

1. What happened next?
Writers of both fiction and nonfiction pull readers through the text by constantly asking and answering the question, What happened next?

You may be writing to change minds or to inform. You may be exposing a scandal. You may be showing a character under pressure. No matter what you want to do, the reader wants to know what happened next.

The balance between asking and answering the question of what happens next is what we call the pacing of the story. Some writers have a gift of storytelling that keeps readers turning page after page relentlessly until the final sigh of satisfaction. Some of us need to edit our work closely to achieve the same effect.

When a book I'm editing has a problem with pacing, it is usually because there is too much detail in a section. Details add a sense of reality and used well, show character as well as plot points. Too many details in the wrong place tempt the reader to close the book.

Editing your own work for pacing is often difficult because you already know what happens next, so you aren't reading the same way your reader is. A professional editor comes to the work fresh just as a reader does. An astute friend or fellow-writer may also be able to let you know where attention wanders.

If you learn that parts of your story drag, try cutting the details. Does it matter if the blouse is blue or orange? Is the weather critical? Do parts of the dialogue plod unnecessarily?

How much can you cut so that the reader rides smoothly down wave after wave of, What happens next?


2.Tickled my funnybone
With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.


3. Interesting Web site
One way to keep readers interested is to use new and interesting language instead of clichés. Check this list for clichés you may be using.

Join Writer's Helper Facebook page at
Follow me on Twitter @AudreytheEditor

If you know a writer who would appreciate receiving Editor's Notes, forward this issue.

If someone has passed this on to you, you can get your own free subscription by signing up at

Back to Back Issues Page