Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Editing my saga

I'm working on the final edit of book 1 of the FORTUNE saga.

I had originally conceived a trilogy, had my titles picked out, rough synopses and timelines. I knew how this story that started in book 1 would end.  The drama, the tears, the adventure, the danger, the steamy sex comprise the meat between the beginning and the end.

And then I had second thoughts. Book 2, while it continued the story, consisted of a lot of padding and filler, and unnecessary subplots to bring the word count equal to book 1.

I decided to streamline and combine books 2 and 3. This will, I believe, make for a much stronger story. And the end, that longed for desirable ending will come that much sooner.

The story has undergone many revisions since I first  began working on it. Presently, it bears no resemblance to the first draft written years ago. I've also done numerous edits, and feel that this is my final go round at it.  The next will be done by a professional editor.

I've been able to take out words, sentences, entire paragraphs that do not drive the story forward. And it's easier than I thought to take out my "darlings," those delightful turns of phrase that showed I could be eloquent, yet say nothing at the same time.

And though I knew during previous edits that –ly adverbs were a writer's bane, my search turned up a large number of them. Solution: search, destroy, and find a powerful verb that does not require description.

Adjective overuse is another weakness of mine. I found strings of two, often three adjectives to describe people, places, events. I needed at most one pertinent adjective, maybe none at all. This is where a strong noun comes into play.

I have read scenes out loud, but was still too close to the writing to pick out flaws. Then, I found that hearing my words spoken by someone else helped point out overused and wrongly used words, and structural deficiencies.

I have a program that lets me highlight a section and click "read that." A computer voice does the reading and the words flow. It's a female voice with a British accent, and it works well for me.  After all, the story takes place during the Victorian era.

In one paragraph there were four occurrences of the word "had" and one "had not." And I read this myself many times and didn't notice until "someone else" mentioned them.

Another thing I'm doing is keeping track of the pages per chapter. I can see how each chapter works, almost like a three or five act play, with a beginning scene, heightening of tension, a climax, a brief relaxation, with a final return to tension to lead into the next chapter.

Not every chapter follows this pattern, but it seems to be working so far. And I have noticed in the last two chapters that I've edited that I have several long scenes that are basically explanations to inform the reader.  These explanations, however, are more for my benefit than for the reader's, and can be reduced or written out. Let the reader learn these things when the character learns them. No point in over explaining.

– Cat

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