Tag Archives: line edits

Going Under the Knife

One of the best pieces of writerly advice I ever read was this: don’t compare your first draft with someone else’s finished product. In other words, don’t read published books and despair that your own writing isn’t of the same standard. To do that is to forget that the writer of the book you admire has been through draft after draft after draft, and then several edits either with their agent or an independent editor, and then perhaps several more at the hands of their publisher. How could you expect your own writing – which you’ve worked hard on, of course, but which hasn’t had any of that editorial help – to measure up? You couldn’t, of course. Every single book you love, and which is currently for sale anywhere, started out as a first draft, full of holes and hand-waving and ‘I’ll fix it later’-itis; they all needed help to get where they are.

And you know how ‘help’ sometimes doesn’t feel like help – say, when you dislocate your shoulder and the doctor yanks it back into the socket for you? Yeah. Well, being edited feels a bit like that. You know it’s absolutely necessary, and that it’ll make everything way better, but it’s going to hurt. It’s not going to hurt forever – in fact, the pain of it is but a moment, in the larger scheme of cooking up an idea and making a book out of it, which then goes on to outlive you – but you still don’t want to face up to the fact that you have to go through it.

Yeah. So, I started my edits yesterday.

Photo Credit: Mike Schaffner via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mike Schaffner via Compfight cc

To be entirely fair, though, I have to admit that, so far, they haven’t been as painful as I imagined. I have found myself quite happily slicing out whole paragraphs of overwritten purpleness, keeping my eye on a tendency to repeat words in quick succession (I almost wrote the word ‘out’ twice in the same sentence there, but – ha ha! – I caught it, just in time!) and realising, weirdly, how often I have my characters make the same gestures over and over. People grab one another’s hands a lot in my book as it stands, but once the editing scalpel has been passed through it, all that nonsense will fall away. Hearts currently do far too much hammering, and breaths are doing a lot of catching and glooping and stuttering – but their days are numbered. I’m like Zorro, except with the Delete button.

Harder than excising hundreds of hard-won words, however, is the fact that reading my editorial notes has made me think, really hard, about complicated plot stuff that, to me, seemed obvious. My agent (the most hardworking woman in the British Isles, and no mistake) has flagged up several places in the story wherein what’s happening makes zero sense, and that was harder to take than any slaughter of innocent adverbs. I got quite angry with myself yesterday, in fact; if I haven’t been clear, and the reader doesn’t get what I’m trying to say, I told myself, that means I haven’t done my job properly.

For rule #1 is: If a reader doesn’t understand what you’ve written, it’s never the reader’s fault.

This is a major issue, but it’s not a novel-breaker. It would be a massive issue if I hadn’t a clue what was supposed to be going on at those points in the story, either, but luckily that’s not the case. The only thing keeping my own heart from hammering my ribcage flat and my breaths from turning to porridge in my lungs is the fact that I know what I want this book to be; I just haven’t done a clear enough job of expressing it. I thought my subtle hints and my oblique references to stuff were enough to get the message across, and I thought – because these characters came out of my head and I know them inside-out – that it was clear as day when they were being sarcastic, or lying, or evasive. Now that I’ve had the privilege of reading my own story with editorial notes appended, I can see that I simply haven’t given my reader enough to work with at several points in the text. That’s my fault – that’s an error with my writing style. But it can be fixed.

It’s going to be a long, hard, and slow job of work to get these edits done. Yesterday, I toiled for hours and got about 60 pages in (less than a quarter of the book, in other words), and that was only shedding excess verbiage and fixing overwritten sentences and rejigging dialogue tags and cutting away unnecessary sentences which were slowing down the action – the bigger issues, like unexplained plot, will be tackled in a second sweep.

Then, it will be back to my laser-eyed agent for another critical assessment, and after that we’ll see. One thing I know for sure is this: it’s going to be a better book when I’ve finished this process than it would have been without it. Painful as this book-surgery is (for there’s no anaesthetic against this particular knife), it’s the most important part of the process.

So, I best get on with it, then. This slicin’ and dicin’ ain’t gonna do itself, right?

Friday Befrazzlement

This morning’s missive comes to you from a person who has been trying to put together a flash fiction piece for the past three hours, and who is starting to foam a little at the mouth.

So, here’s the deal. I have to create a story between 140 and 160 words, based around a picture prompt and a word prompt, and I feel like the proverbial camel going through the eye of the needle. My brain has a story in it, but it would take an entire novel to tell it properly, so getting it down to a teeny-tiny tale is proving (almost) too much for me. I am definitely feeling the Friday frazzle, and I have an idea that today is going to be a challenge.

My head is tired. My shoulder aches. My eyes are blurred. Writing is a hazardous endeavour, don’t you know?

Image: skybackpacking.com

Almost *exactly* like this… Image: skybackpacking.com

So, it’s been a busy few days for me. This past week, I edited ‘Emmeline’ on-screen. I thought things had gone pretty well; I’d managed to take a huge chunk out of my wordcount, bringing it down to a far more reasonable level. The book had seemed reasonably strong, and I felt I had a good, stable base to build draft 2 upon.

However, then I also started the process wherein I print out my work, in order to take a pen to it and slash it into ribbons. As before, I have been amazed by the difference between looking at a text on a computer screen and seeing it, in the flesh, in front of you; errors that I just didn’t see when I was writing the book, and even during the first editing go-round, leapt out from the printed page. I found myself drawing lines through whole paragraphs of carefully-worded text, excising them without a twinge of conscience – but it’s so much easier to do that than hit the ‘Delete’ button. Watching your hard work disappear into oblivion before your very eyes is a lot more difficult than just scribbling over your printed text. At least your words still exist, after a fashion, beneath the scribble, but when you hit ‘delete’, well. They’re gone forever.

The short of it is this. Draft 1 was all right, but not as strong as I’d thought. Draft 2 has, hopefully, started to spot all the stupid mistakes and the mindless repetition and the poor word choices and the clunky dialogue and the idiotic descriptions, and here’s hoping Draft 3 doesn’t see me putting them all back in again.

The process has been excruciatingly, painfully slow, though – I’ve only got as far as page 53 – and I hope this means that I’m doing a good job. I just want this book (complete with a shiny new name, which I’m keeping under wraps for now) ready for querying as soon as humanly possible, so that I can move on to my next project, which is already butting at the back of my brain. Such is the never-ending conveyor belt of life, isn’t it – just as you’re trying to finish one job to the best of your ability, along comes something else which needs your urgent attention. Oy vey.


Today, I need to take care of some writerly stuff, but also lots of non-writerly stuff, such as taking myself off for a long draught of fresh air, and doing some stretches, and remembering what life is like outside of my office. I may even bake some cookies, like the crazy renegade I am.

In the meantime, here is that piece of flash fiction, written in tandem with this blog post (finally):

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s) Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s)
Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

The image (above) had to be combined with the idea of ‘Destiny’. Tough, isn’t it?

So, of course, I decided I’d write about something really complicated.

The Stonecarver’s Boy

At his birth, his mother wept.

‘A daughter would have been wiser,’ frowned the doula, taking him away.

His training began immediately. He grew within the workshop, chisel in hand, prodigious and alone. From a distance, his mother watched.

In time, the Emperor took a wife.

‘Let it be his masterpiece,’ came the order.

His mother tried to warn him; once, she even passed beside his workbench, so close she could feel his warmth, but her dropped note was swept away.

The finished statue was fit for a goddess. On its raising day, The Imperial Guard came for its maker, and – willingly, unknowingly – he went.

‘You will never better this,’ decreed the Emperor. The blade fell quickly – there was no time for anguish. He never knew his fate was sealed from the day he was born, like all stonecarvers’ boys.

The Empress’ statue was anchored with its maker’s blood; a fitting memorial stone.


Happy Friday, and happy weekend.

I am a warrior! Image: cutestpaw.com

I am a warrior!
Image: cutestpaw.com



Proof Of My Silliness

As if you needed proof, right?

So, it’s NaNoWriMo, as we know. I have a project to complete, as we also know. Other stuff that I knew, but which perhaps I should’ve taken into account when deciding to bash my details into the NaNoWriMo sign-up page included:

The fact that it’s my dad’s birthday this month;
The fact that it’s
my birthday this month;
The fact that my husband is taking several days’ leave this month;
The fact that I have at least two medical appointments this month; and, last but by no means least:
The fact that I have no fewer than three really important family things to attend – yes, you’ve guessed it – this month.

Image: likeablequotes.com

Image: likeablequotes.com

Over the weekend, I attended a (very fun, and wonderful in every way) birthday party for one of my dearest and oldest friends. I got to see so many people – some of whom I hadn’t seen for ages – and much laughter and catching up was had. We also visited my husband’s aunt and uncle, and that was great too. The silliness in all this, of course, kicks in when one considers that I also knew about all this before I signed up to NaNoWriMo.


I am, at the moment, trying to do several things simultaneously, all of which are vitally important. I am attempting to do them all in the one month so far this year when I have the least time. It’s definitely silly. It’s even perhaps a little on the ditzy side. But you know what else it is?

It’s great.

Image: kwasistudios.com

Image: kwasistudios.com

It’s a privilege to have friends and family to spend time with, and it’s great to have so much to celebrate. (The medical appointments aren’t so much fun, but we’re not thinking about those, right? Right.) It’s also fantastic to be busy, and to have so many opportunities to submit and create work. Having said all that, I still really wish I’d engaged my brain a bit more before making the decision to begin NaNoWriMo. It’ll be NaNoGoSlo at this rate. I was doing really well last Friday – I was way ahead of schedule for the day, and the site was predicting I’d be done with my 50,000 words a week early if I kept up the same pace – but, of course, over the weekend it all went to hell. I’m afraid to check the website now, in case it yells at me – or, worse, tells me how disappointed it is in me, and how it expected better.

I hate that.

The current picture of my situation is like this: I am just over two-thirds of the way through my line edits for ‘Tider’, but the manuscript has been sitting on my desk now since Friday, so I hope I can get back into the right mindset to get through it. I want to finish that job and get the manuscript sent away to the kind agent who gently rejected ‘Eldritch’, but who wanted to see my other work. So, my heart is (not literally, because urgh) in my mouth as I work. Once that’s done, then it’s NaNo time, and to stay on track I have to write something like fifty million words today (approximately.) Then, it’ll be time to turn my attention to my story for Walking on Thin Ice, which has been neglected so long I’ve forgotten what it’s even about. (The closing date for this contest is coming up, by the way, so if you’re preparing a story, get ‘er done.) On top of all that, then, we have the usual stuff – living, eating, breathing, sleeping, attempting to keep the house from turning into a hovel, and all that other incidental stuff.

If someone finds me gibbering gently in a corner, don’t worry. Just leave me be. If you really need me for something, however, just waft a book in my direction and I’m sure native curiosity will drive me out of my stupor.

Happy Monday and happy new week. I’m armed with a brand new jar of decaf, my biggest mug, and my game face. Let’s do this.

Nicolas Cage speaks the truth. Image: brightestyoungthings.com

Nicolas Cage speaks the truth.
Image: brightestyoungthings.com