Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Editing: I'm Starting to Understand It Better...

After a few weeks of not writing at all because my brain was in frozen mode (figuratively) while I got some new medication sorted, and the approaching deadline for the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition just over a month away, I was starting to think I may not complete my entry in time for my self-imposed posting deadline of mid-March.

I'm still determined to do it, but I won't send a half-baked entry...

So this week, with brain now defrosted, I'm rewriting Chapter 1-again. My previous attempt was okay, but I'd removed too many things that were (for me) essential in the story set-up. So I've been combining the elements from the two versions I currently have, into one.

Getting the content of my first chapter right is essential to the plot of my novel, without it the main characters would have no motive for their initial actions.

It could be done as a Prologue, but some publishers seem to have an issue with prologues, so for the moment it's chapter one.

As I began rereading, and started to do my standard tidy-up before I moved on to the writing stage I realised my editing process had stepped up another rung of the ladder-compared to a year ago.

I've begun to pick up the smaller niggles which previously I would have missed; so when I've considered, will it cause confusion or jar with the reader? 25% of the time the answer is yes, and I've then resolved it.

For example, using 'endless' to recall his journey wasn't right in the context, as shortly after he had reached the end. So some quick thoughts from my vocabulary, cross-referenced between my big dictionary and my copy of Roget's Thesaurus, I decided which of my possible substitute words worked better- issue resolved.

Perhaps I'm just in analytical mode at the moment, so the editing is easier.

I'm sure that I'll go back to it next week with my writer's head on and make a few other alterations, but that's part of the fun side of writing.

I'm sure every writer has their own editing list, so here's my immediate issues list.
  • spelling and grammar- especially get rid of excessive commas, exclamation marks and my personal weakness-ellipsis.
  • read it aloud to make sure I've not changed tenses or viewpoint mid-scene.
  • clich├ęs-watch out for any that may have slipped through.
  • a turn of phrase that sounds too 'current' for my time setting- it may be correct time-wise but still sounds too modern for the 18th/19th C.
  • dialogue- does it sound right for that character, for the circumstances they're in at that moment, and does it flow when it needs to flow...
  • words repeated too closely together, unless for a specific reason.
  • Any inconsistencies.
I'm sure there's more I haven't covered, but that's my current list, and I'm fairly certain (apologies, overused phrases do creep into my blog posts :-) ) that ten years ago I would have only been able to manage one or two of the most obvious ones.

It's important to keep improving. And when I can see I'm improving it also helps my confidence quota. :-)

Do you have any editing blind spots, or words you know you overuse?


Helen Baggott said...

"my personal weakness-ellipsis"


Carolb said...

Hard to believe, isn't it, Baggy. :-D

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Carol - good luck with that first chapter. Like many writers I tend to overuse 'just' - but I'm sure there's are plenty more sins too!

Carolb said...

At least we realise we have these sins, and can do something about them. :-)

Diane Fordham said...

Thanks for the post Carol. Us writers have so much to think about don't we?

Carolb said...

Thanks Diane. We never stop learning more-I hope.