How to self-edit using Checklists courtesy of J.S. Lakin from 5 Editors Tackle the 12 fatal Flaws of Fiction

How to Self-Edit Backstory Violations Cheat Sheet

Before

How To Self-Edit Examples

Ophelia thought about her life-long friendship with Pedro. He had always been there for her, but he was her best friend and that was all. After making her way through the jungle to sit on the bench that Pedro had crafted for her from a fallen branch near the honey tree. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him and she felt sure he would understand, eventually. Her thoughts turned to daydreams and Tomas’ chiseled jaw and fiery eyes. The warmth in her abdomen came next. Ophelia crossed herself, but her feelings took over.
Her hand rubbed the texture of the wood under her softened by hours of sitting on it with her friends. Daydreams, fantasies of her embracing Tomas surfaced. She wondered how she’d tell Father Olvida about her yearnings at confession on Friday morning. She crossed herself again. It couldn’t be wrong to want to caress the man she loved. The profile of Father Olvida’s face in the confessional kept on getting confused with Tomas’ face in her fantasy, ruining the joy. She got up, pressed her damp clothes down flat and decided to move on, go home. She knew that this spot was the first place Pedro’d look for her and she wanted to stay far away from him after what she’d said to him by the waterfalls.
A howler monkey let loose, but Ophelia had grown up under the volcano and her friendship with Consuela had trained her in familiarity with the fearsome sounding animals. She remembered the first time Consuela took them into the jungle to follow the beasts. They had all made movements, mimicking Consuela, copying her practiced monkey dance, learning their ways.
Ophelia looked up at a family of monkeys in a tree to her left. One of the larger animals was lying in the v-shaped crook of a branch far over the path. Its arms lolled over the sides until it scrunched its shoulders and dropped through the space between the branches. Muscled legs held it in place as it dangled and made what could only be called a laughing noise. Ophelia sucked in a breath, certain it was about to fall. It didn’t.
She continued walking but her mind went back in time. She remembered bursting into laughter and disappointing Consuela as her monkey friends took flight because Ophelia stumbled in the forest. Even back then, Ophelia couldn’t understand how Consuela could be interested in the monkeys when Tomas was close by. Her thoughts turned to her mother as she sauntered along an animal track Consuela had showed all of them. For the first time in her life, she wondered if she could confide in her Mother about Tomas. Ophelia broke into the clearing down the road from her home. She lunged across the ditch beside the road and walked in the dusty path near the gravel surface until she got to the place where her father and the other men were spreading creosote made from boiling the barks of trees and used to subdue dust in the village during the hot season. She waved to him and he tipped his hat up with his index finger.
As she neared her home, (Description needed here.)Ophelia could hear her mother singing her favorite calypso tune along with the radio. A few years before, her father bought a wringer washer for them, but the purchase had a strange side effect. They saw less of their friends because the wash-day meetings on the back porch under the shade of the large trees stopped. Everyone had their own machine, so there was no need to meet. Ophelia thought that perhaps Pedro’s constant whining about the end of their friendship being caused by their not meeting every week to do the laundry had some merit after all. Pedro’s complaint came into her mind. “Electricity makes life easier but people grow apart because they no longer need to help each other so regularly.” Ophelia thought of how her father had stopped telling them stories every night when the television arrived. She shook her head. ‘Maybe Pipi’s right,’ she thought. Her hand was tapping the beat of her mother’s favorite tune on her thigh. The floor boards creaked when she came into the house.

After 

How to Self-Edit Examples

After making her way through the jungle to sit on the bench that Pedro had crafted for her from a fallen branch near the honey tree. Ophelia thought about her life-long friendship with Pedro. He had always been there for her, but he was her best friend and that was all. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him and she felt sure he would understand her affection for Tomas. Her thoughts turned to daydreams and Tomas’ chiseled jaw and fiery eyes. The warmth in her abdomen came next. Ophelia crossed herself, but her feelings took over.
Her hand rubbed the texture of the wood under her. Even though she knew Pedro spent hours polishing it, she ignored his efforts in favor of fantasies of embracing Tomas. Ophelia made the sign of the cross and wondered how she’d tell Father Olvida about her yearnings at confession on Friday morning. She crossed herself again. Her daydream filled out in her mind. An overpowering desire to caress Tomas troubled her, but didn’t dissipate. The profile of Father Olvida’s face in the confessional kept on getting confused with Tomas’ face in her fantasy, ruining the joy. She got up, pressed her damp clothes down flat and decided to move on. Knowing that this spot was the first place Pedro would look for her, combined with her desire to escape from the alternating images of Father Olvida and Tomas in her reveries. She wanted to let time heal the wounds stemming from him after what she’d said by the waterfalls.
A howler monkey bellowed, but Ophelia had grown up under the volcano and her friendship with Consuela had trained her in familiarity with the fearsome sounding animals. A happy memory of a simpler time in her youth made Ophelia smile. She remembered the first time Consuela took Pedro, Tomas and her into the jungle to follow the beasts. They mimicked Consuela, copying her practiced monkey dance, learning their ways from the budding naturalist. Some monkeys rustled branches in the canopy above her.
Ophelia looked up at a family of monkeys in a (what kind of tree?) tree to her left. One of the larger animals was lying in the v-shaped crook of a branch that extended far over the path. Its arms lolled over the sides of the branches until decided to move. The monkey scrunched its shoulders and dropped through the space between the branches to a lower perch. Muscled legs held it in place as it dangled and made what could only be called a laughing noise. It defied gravity appearing as though it would fall. Instead of falling, it spit into its hand and threw the spittle at Ophelia, missing her by inches.
She continued walking but her mind went back in time again, laughed as she remembered disappointing Consuela when the young naturalist’s monkey friends took flight because Ophelia stumbled in the forest. Even back then, Ophelia couldn’t understand how Consuela could be interested in the monkeys when Tomas was close by. Her thoughts turned to her mother as she sauntered along an animal track Consuela had showed all of them. For the first time in her life she wondered if she could confide in her Mother about Tomas. Ophelia broke into the clearing down the road from her home. She lunged across the ditch beside the road and walked in the dusty path near the gravel surface until she got to the place where her father and the other men were spreading creosote made from boiling the barks of trees and used to subdue dust in the village during the hot season. She waved to him and he tipped his hat up with his index finger.
As she neared her home, (Description needed here.) Ophelia could hear her mother singing her favorite calypso tune along with the radio. A few years before, her father bought a wringer washer for them, but the purchase had a strange side effect. They saw less of their friends because the wash-day meetings on the back porch under the shade of the large trees stopped. Everyone had their own machine, so there was no need to meet. Ophelia thought that perhaps Pedro’s constant whining about the end of their friendship being caused by their mother’s not meeting every week to do the laundry had some merit after all. Pedro’s complaint came into her mind. She remembered his exact words. He had said that electricity made life easier but people grew apart because they no longer needed to help each other so regularly.
Ophelia thought of how her father had stopped telling them stories every night when the television arrived. She shook her head. ‘Maybe Pipi’s right,’ she thought. As she walked, her hand tapped the melody of her mother’s favorite tune on her thigh. (Listen to the Costa Rican Calypso CD to find the words of a song she could sing aloud here.) She found herself humming the melody when the floor boards creaked as she came into the house, alerting her mother.
“Ophelia? Is that you? Come out here, dear.”
“Mama, I’m busy.”
“Don’t, I’m busy, me, child.”

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