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?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Odd Book Titles Voting Time...

Yes it's time to vote (if you're so inclined) for the fun titles in the shortlist for the Diagram Prize, the Oddest Book Title of the Year- for 2011. You can read about it here on the Bookseller website.

"The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was first awarded in 1978 to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice""

(The fact that it is still going suggests there's a slightly dippy portion of the population who like it- me included- and authors who are smart...)

I've voted, and have to say it was a tough choice this year. :-)

My personal favourite is the Estonian sock patterns, but I don't expect my choice to win this year, when it's up against titles like 'Cooking with Poo' ( it's actually Crab) or 'The Great Singapore P*nis Panic...' I think the latter is going to rate highly- and it's the only one available in digital format...

For the full list and voting form, go here. You can see the book covers too- which are quite normal, considering the titles.

If you've managed to miss this prize, then you can find out about it's history and discover what the winning book titles from earlier years were actually about, here.

If you're going to be in the running for a fun award, this is it. And you can be sure that it will get publicity and sales for books that wouldn't get much recognition beyond their own circles, or interest groups...

The winner will be announced on the 30th March.

Are you voting?