Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Editing is so different! June 5, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:54 pm
Tags: ,

I’m making slow but steady progress with the rewrite/ edit of Lock and Cady’s story.

I’m now half-way through chapter two, and I’ve set a goal to sub the partial by June 20.

I’ve never really done this before, not properly. I’ve completed or nearly finished first drafts then not edited them. I’ve written first chapters that I’ve laboured over and tried to edit then gone no further because I knew they weren’t good enough (actually, the problem is I know know that I write my way in, the real story for all those abandoned attempts started in chapter two or three!). This is the first time I’ve ever written a first draft, sat down and worked out what needed to be fixed, then set about doing it. It’s an interesting process, and far slower and more thoughtful than the first draft writing was.

A lot of the first draft  will go. The whole first three chapters will be new, completely different. There are several later scenes that don’t move the story along and can be compressed or removed. There’s a lot that needs to be changed. Which is good because that leaves more room for the real story, the relationship, the emotions. Room to go deep.

Chapter one is done now, I think. It’s been tweaked and retweaked. I added around another five hundred words to it today. The new words don’t change what happened, but they go deeper into the POV characters’ heads, and strengthen the body language and emotion (I hope!). Also deepen the emotional conflict too.

I’m taking this class with Margie Lawson. My characters’ physical reactions have been so cliche. They nod and smile and blink and grin hundreds of times. So non! She actually makes us check. I had 76 smiles in the first draft. I’ll probably still have a lot of smiles in the second draft, but I’m hoping I can describe them in ways that are a little fresher (but not TOO fresh- nothing like a startling simile to jerk the reader right out of story). Margie is good at pushing us to look at things differently. Hopefully I can also discover other things my characters can do besides smile and nod!

The other thing I’m giving close attention is the Donald Maass guideline- “Have conflict on every page”. I certainly didn’t have that in first draft! The potential for conflict was there, and some pages have it, but I have whole chapters where  the characters are doing things but not much is really happening on an emotional level. They don’t need to be scrapped necessarily. Conflict can be as simple as the character thinking one thing and doing another. It can be the tension of the character wondering if her secret will be discovered. It can be the will-they-or-won’t-they of the hero and heroine who want to act on their attraction, but have too much past history getting in the way.

This is one of my favourite articles on editing, by Melissa James. I think my writing process might be very similar.

We’ll see if I succeed. I’m having fun with it, anyway!


7 Responses to “Editing is so different!”

  1. Chelsea Finch Says:

    Hey Jane,

    I’m glad that you’re trying a new process and that it’s working for you. I admire anyone who can write a whole draft and then polish it up since that’s about as far from my process as its possible to get. Yay for a self-imposed sub deadline, and I love the way you’re working to meet it!

  2. >>My characters’ physical reactions have been so cliche. They >>nod and smile and blink and grin hundreds of times.

    Oh, god, mine too. I just did a find search on “gaze”, “grin” and “laugh”. Brutal. Often I find myself just completely deleting the reaction rather than substituting for something else, simply because I do have a habit of badly overwriting stage directions in my first drafts… ie: “He reached behind him, then grinning, grabbed the condom.”

    Am in an editing process myself, so thanks for the links and the thoughts. (And good luck!)

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    Chelsea, if I wrote as well as you do, I wouldn’t worry about what my process was!

  4. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL Rachel! I do just the same- the string of actions.
    LOve the look of your blog, BTW!

  5. I read Stephen King’s On Writing ages ago, and seem to remember him saying that you should pretty much just delete 10% of the story right off the bat. So true! (But then Stephen never quite had to deal with getting the condoms off the shelf, ripping open the package, sliding it on, and then worst of all, finding a subtle way to get rid of it afterwards!). LOL.

    And thanks re: the blog! It’s a bit bare at the moment, but will hope to unpack and decorate more shortly 😉

  6. waitingforthecall Says:

    So true! My poor hero wasn’t expecting to get lucky the first time, so he has to search around and finda darned condom too, it’s not conveniently to hand in his night-stand!

  7. Chelsea Finch Says:

    Jane, you never give yourself enough credit. Cady and Lock are fabulous!

    And since I write such laid back heroes BOTH of my characters are happy and agreeable… and therefore always smiling and nodding 🙂

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