Monthly Archives: August 2015

Editing the self: the writer’s final frontier

THOUGHTS ON GETTING VERY NEAR THE END

I’m almost finished. I have three chapters of Pride’s Children, Book 1, left to edit – out of twenty.

It seems a good time to stop and review the lessons of editing, as this is the last time I’ll do this for the first time.

Editing is a good kind of boring work.

The purpose is to make things better, whether you thought your writing was already good enough, or whether you’ve been postponing all those little decisions while you were writing so you could finish.

‘Better’ is subjective AND objective.

I’m eschewing the ‘professional editor’ step.

So I have to do an especially good job myself, or be subject to the standard complaint about indies, that they really need a professional editor.

Some do, some don’t.

What is really necessary is that the WORK be edited to a PROFESSIONAL STANDARD.

So, if I’m going to do this myself, I need to put my reputation on the line. But most importantly, I need to learn to do the work, and edit my writing down to the last jot and tittle.

The writer has CHOICES to make

The hard part: take, for example, cliches. While you don’t want too many cliches in your writing (and AutoCrit flags a huge bunch of them), in every scene you have to decide if THIS character USES cliches, to that extent, and therefore they stay. Can you almost tell which character it is because of which and how many cliches are used?

Or spelling: Andrew is Irish; to make the point, I throw in an occasional ‘colour’ or ‘whilst’ in his thoughts in his pov – which either makes you think I can’t spell, or charms you into remembering he’s a bit foreign.

Or flashbacks: Bianca’s father lives on in her head, in the form of little sayings he used. Aphorisms. Am I using too many? Do they work? Is it reasonable for her to remember his words? Yes, given her backstory – and this is the only way you learn some things about her.

The main problem? I keep getting pulled in to reading.

Then I stop, pull myself back out, go back to the protocol I’ve established over the long slog of editing I’ve been doing since I finished figuring out how to format my ebooks and compile with one click.

It slows down the forward progress to keep reading sections.

I still have NOT read Pride’s Children, Book 1, from beginning to end. I haven’t dared. I want to keep my eyes as fresh as possible to catch… well, if I knew, I would have fixed it already.

But my brain does seem to be on full alert at some level, because I have run into a number of small but important things, startled myself by noticing, pulled up the whole text (all 160K words – something Scrivener does without a hiccup, and which I never liked doing in Word), and found that yup, I DID use the same saint’s name for two churches on two different continents. Not that it matters – Catholic churches all over the world share names. For example, when we moved to Hamilton, NJ, our parish was St. Gregory the Great’s – and that is the name of the last parish I had in Southern California when I was a child, before I moved to Mexico at 7, and yes, I still have the school patch from way back then. But I digress.

It was easier to give the church in Colorado a different saint’s name than the one in Ireland, Co. Galway. Easier than explaining it.

The things I’d been postponing or waiting for

I ran the parts which needed to be an accurate expression of Catholic dogma (very tiny parts, but important to what one of the characters, Kary, believes) past my parish priest – he suggested I not use the name of an actual local church. So that church had to be renamed, as well. He also kindly said my dogma was okay – no unintended flubs. That was encouraging. As usual, the author accepts responsibility, in writing, for all errors, but it’s still nice to know 1) I sought advice, and 2) passed.

NAMES – last chance

It’s not that hard to change names before you publish – but PC has a cast of thousands (okay, 64 named characters in the three books, so far), and I’ve tried very hard not to reuse names or initials, and it isn’t that easy to find a name that fits in with the rest. Welcome to St. Bartholomew’s. Phew. Nobody names a kid Bartholomew any more (thought there are some Barts out there), so it was easy enough. Fortunately, there are plenty of odd, long saint’s names, and we now ALSO have a St. Augustine’s. For which I have to decide which pronunciation of to use, as I’m planning to do the audiobook ‘as read by author.’

I give characters easy names, and keep a detailed bible, but there are only 26 letters in the alphabet (a few more if you include the letters unique to Spanish), and this is my last chance to make sure that my character names are unique, their initials are unique, and that I don’t have unintended consequences (the character whose initials were B. S. has been renamed).

Is that a plot hole? Check the CALENDAR

When you write on a scene-by-scene basis, even with a very detailed plan/outline/plot and a calendar, you eventually get to the place where everything is stitched together, and has to hang as a unit. I’m at that point, and I’m finding that I want to make small changes. I doubt anyone else will pay attention that closely, but I do believe readers create a gestalt as they go, and subconsciously notice things which make them go ‘Huh?’

I’m supersensitive – that’s my job – so a reader won’t have to go ‘Huh?’ I sincerely hope.

It’s ALWAYS the writer’s responsibility: the buck stops here

The process is slow at times: yesterday, I noticed a flaw in the editing software – I used a particular verb way too many times in one scene, enough times that I noticed, but the software never flagged it as an ‘overused word’ – and so, since I want the editing software as good as possible (so I don’t have to remember to do things on my own), I took the time to give them feedback (which they kindly appreciated). And then I tackled the job of finding replacement ways to say something that did NOT involve that verb quite as many times. Lazy brain, tired brain – each one of these original expressions was fine, and colloquial, and often the simplest expression of an idea – but cumulatively (and I don’t know how I didn’t catch them before I posted that particular scene online), too much.

Now I have to go over the WHOLE thing one more time – to see if that was an accidental bad habit one week when I was polishing THAT scene, or whether I do it all the time! Aargh!

Beta readers and commenters are HELPERS

BTW – writing in public, posting your work as you go, does not necessarily make it error free: readers who are reading for story don’t notice these things. They cut you WAY too much slack. Thanks guys – I think that means your attention was otherwise occupied.

It doesn’t excuse ME.

And that is the report from the trenches: I’m almost at the end of editing, and willing to do whatever is necessary so my words don’t get in the way of you enjoying my story when you read it as a whole.

And if you’re wondering why the blog posts have been few and far between: this stuff takes a lot of time, and a lot out of you. I’m procrastinating right now – there are those final three chapters, and that little bit to examine about the timeline, and…

If you’re a writer, comments welcome. If you’re a reader, do you think I’m crazy?

———————

PS: I’m now using Anti-Social to great effect. I added all the sites I usually surf to the list of social sites I want to avoid, and Anti-Social kindly blocks me from accessing them during my chosen working period – once I set said working period. Great little programs, Freedom and Anti-Social (from the same folks). Make one decision (breakable, but at a cost in time that makes it an actual choice), and it is now just enough harder to surf that my brain often doesn’t bother.

PPS Thanks to Quozio for the easy quotation images.

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Writer’s Reflections on Eloi and Morlock: Hummingbirds and Ants

HUMMINGBIRD AT FEEDER

HUMMINGBIRD AT FEEDER

AM I ELOI OR MORLOCK?

I put the hummingbird feeder out but two days ago, when I noticed the hummingbirds flitting around the drying coneflowers. Hamilton, New Jersey, is reaching that part of the summer where most of the red flowers have bloomed (my Bee Balm), and it is harder to find food for the little hummers that delight the eye.

And that do no work that benefits anyone but themselves and their babies.

The ants – my nemeses – have already smelled the sugar, climbed the pole, and started feasting on the sugar water not intended for them.

Hummingbirds – cute.

Ants – not cute.

Hummingbirds – deserving of treats.

Ants – NOT deserving of the drops they steal from the hummingbirds’ pit stop.

So much in this world depends on ‘cute.’

Ants work hard, toiling away with no chance of spouse or little ones of their own, caught in a permanent life of caring for someone else’s children, finding food, and losing their little lives for the good of the hive.

While hummingbirds live on their model good looks. There goes another one! I am happy! It deigned to stop and sample my free lunch.

I know a model’s life is hard, that beauty comes from semi-starvation and hours spent primping.

Don’t tell me the little bird is working hard for its babies, somewhere up in the top of the tree next door where I’ve seen them zoom at dusk. I know that. It also has a mate. It fears the predators, the feral cats my neighbor insists on feeding. But it gets to do this while being stunningly beautiful (the male. I know – I never said Nature was fair). Little Eloi.

And it gets to FLY. I would LOVE to fly unaided, as it does.

I don’t want to be an ant, lost in a dark tunnel under the earth, with millions of indistinguishable coworkers – female, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t want brief visits to the sun, laying trails for others to follow to food, having an appendage ripped off in a battle with a rival colony.

An imperfect hummingbird dies. An imperfect ant soldiers on, until it can’t.

I am an ant. Not a very good one. I’m one of those broken imperfect ones. A nice solid Morlock by training.

I would rather be a hummingbird.

You?