Saturday, December 25, 2010

Editing Continues Apace

One of my hopes for Christmas vacation, as you may recall, is that I'd be able to do a thorough edit of "Considering How to Run." I'm now three-fourths of the way through the manuscript, and I recognize more and more that as much as I like the story, I've got a lot of work to do before I've got a draft that's ready to send to an editor.

But, as I am prone to saying, that's okay.

Found some interesting flaws today, most brought on by the method I used to write the thing: Since I wrote it in bits and tried to sew them together into a whole, sometimes I've popped a seam or left out part of the overall pattern. The name of the protagonist's youngest, most favorite sister, has changed from one part of the manuscript to another, changing to a name that I used for a different character altogether about two-thirds of the way into the book. So that's a major error that this first run-through has caught.

Then there are the constellation of other errors, where I state one thing will happen, for example, and then it really doesn't happen, or at least happens too subtly that it's not evident that it's happening. I know some subtlety is a good thing in a novel, so I've either got to bump up the occurrences or get rid of the more blatant hints. And I can't make a blanket pronouncement on either getting rid of one or the other, either, because in some places one method works, while the other method stinks.

And I also noticed that at the point I decided to end the first novel and start the second, but then reconsidered and added the rest of the stuff I'd written to the first book that there's some re-exposition that I need to re-examine in order to decide if it adds to the story or if it makes the pace suddenly slow down. Not that the pace is break-neck, but still I have to ask myself: Does it need to be there?

What's important, though, is that I still like the story, and that's happened after it's been set side for three or four months before I began reading it and editing it. I can tell, however, that it's got flaws in language.

So what's the next step from here?
  • Finish the edit.
  • Begin rewriting. Sofar, most of my edits have been to point out where the book needs fixing, and I have only done some preliminary patching as of yet.
  • Read it aloud. Once it's rewritten, I'll read it aloud to see how it sounds. If it sounds klunky in parts -- which I'm sure it will -- I'll have to fix it. But reading it aloud is critical because as I read books in my head, I can tell if the writer got too writerly in writing. If a book sounds written, in my opinion, you're in trouble. I call it the "Human Tooth Yellow" problem, a title I take from an old radio interview in which the reviewer obsessed about the writer obsessing about finding the exact yellowish color to describe something. Who cares, I have to say. My readers won't. So I can't include those writerly tells.
The character graph I started has been invaluable, too, as it's helped me note the changing name of the youngest sister, and to see what names I've used for what characters in what situations so I can track them for future inclusion. And as I mark the characters in this way, I can tell that I need to work to make them more human, less cardboard. Some will remain as cardboard characters, of course, but those to whom the story is central, they've got to have character in their characters. Then again, i think part of my voice as a writer is not to reveal too much about characters, and not to concentrate too much on the relationships between characters (though I know I've got one relationship I've got to seriously re-investigate in order to increase the tension the two characters feel between themselves as the story progresses).

Hm. All this writerly talk is beginning to upset my stomachs. Centurions! Come to attention!

I'm also wondering about the shadowy enemy. It's a cliche, of course, to have a shadowy enemy, but in part I'm using the shadowy enemy as a red herring, so maybe that's okay. But I still need to keep an eye on the Weird Shit-O-Meter to make sure I'm not going overboard with the real enemy of sorts.

So in other words, I'm still having fun as a writer. I love that part.

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