By Dawn Field
Unity in writing is about unifying the contents of a book, no matter how disparate and divergent, to create a finished ‘whole’. Unity operates at every level in a book from the concept, premise, and base structure, down to each word you chose. Unity is built around the central idea of your story.
There are endless ways to break the unity of your writing because anything that jars, distracts – or is missing – ‘disrupts’ a story.
When looking at books, there are many ways unity can be broken, but here are five birds-eye-view examples of the concept of ‘disunity’.
Sometimes a draft manuscript is super for the first half and then seems to morph into ‘something else’. The second half can also be super, but the problem is the disjointedness. If the two parts fail to fit, they don’t really make a book as expected.
‘Twinning’ of stories can happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps two ideas were put together but kept living separate lives despite the best intentions of the author. Perhaps one idea spawned a second that the author found equally delightful and couldn’t help running with it until it overran the boundaries of the first ‘great idea’.
- To fix such a story, the two parts must be engineered to harmonize, or better, the dominant story must be fully developed without the ‘crutch’ of the secondary story — perhaps it can be a second book.
Great parts bolted together make a Frankenstein
Sometimes a writer has a book-sized manuscript, but upon inspection, it turns out to be a cobbling together of too many independent ideas. They can all be good, but in a book, they just act to turn the reader in every which direction without really going anywhere.
- This is a hard manuscript to fix — and perhaps it’s time to start over if one idea can’t be elevated.
Sustaining a great plot can be difficult. Parts can be strong, but then a writer slides into long-windedness. Authors can be intrigued by characters or settings and linger on in far too many pages without delivering the goods.
Overly long passages don’t advance the plot sufficiently to keep readers hooked.
It’s like skating on thin ice. Good books have solid ice from start to finish that readers can feel safe on.
- Fixing this means tightening up the afflicted scenes.
Writing requires bravery. Often memoirs suffer from authors being too shy or fearing exposure to pour all their misery onto the page. Equally, this can happen in novice fiction. Writers go ‘easy’ on their characters, saving them long before things get ‘too tough.’
Such manuscripts lack unity because they aren’t complete. They don’t offer a well-rounded experience.
When emotional parts are dialed back, missing, or glossed over, the reading experience is muted.
- Fixing this kind of book requires releasing the brakes, often a difficult task and sometimes not possible for privacy reasons.
The climax is a bump and not a bang
The climax is the most important piece of architecture in any book. It’s a huge plot point and builds on everything that has come before it. The climax is the reason people read books. It’s where everything comes together with a bang, and all is explained and resolved.
- The fix for this is to tackle the action and emotions of the culmination of the story head on – it should be the subject of most of the full third act, or the last quarter of a traditional novel.
A call to Action
If you would like to have the unity of your work assessed in the context of a developmental edit, please contact me (http://unityinwriting.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dawn Field is a scientist now writing her second book for Oxford University Press. She has published over 50 articles on writing because she is fascinated by what makes great writing, the writing process, learning how writers create, and how fiction impacts society. She loves reading book drafts at any stage of completion, brainstorming writing projects, and hearing about the diversity of writing experiences.
Connect with her to collaborate, or converse, at UnityinWriting.com.
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