Tuesday, September 8, 2009

General TidBits in Cleaning up our Manuscripts


I’ve been writing about Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts. This morning I want to point out a few general tidbits for you to think about as you are in the editing/cleaning up/re-writing phase. That’s where I am now. Once I complete a first rough draft, where I let myself just write it out, then I start back at the top and read, making changes or notes as I go until I reach the end, then I do it again, and again….until I am “Done” – and then I print it out and read it for a different perspective….which always highlights more that I need to change or fix. And, as I said in a post below, now I have a bee buzzing round my pea-brain that tells me I will need to read it aloud as well. Then, once the publishers get the manuscript, they’ll read it (and I hope they love it – that has to happen, too), and they’ll have suggestions or find errors or whatever. And on and on it goes.


I recently read a novel that was almost all narrative. The writing was intelligent and beautiful and expertly crafted . . . but that is what I noticed: the writing. Personally, for me, I need dialogue to help move the story along and keep it energetic. Pages and pages of internal monologue or narrative frustrate me. After a while, appreciating the writing isn't enough to keep me reading, and I did what no writer wants: I put down the book. But I sure admired the writing . . . too bad. I could not stay engaged and the story plodded. A shame. I looked longingly at the book I’d just put down, but couldn’t bring myself to pick it back up.


I also recently read a novel where the word “had” was used so many times all I noticed was “had” – watch your use of “had” when you are describing a past event while in past tense . . . “had” can be a tic word! After a while, I was going “okay okay, had had had, I know what you mean, stop with the “had” already!


In the same vein, most of us have heard of the “repeater words” where we use the same word more than once in a sentence or paragraph—use your instincts or judgment and decide if what you are doing is effective or distracting . . . is used for effect, On Purpose. Remember I talked about how we do some things On Purpose, as a Device, in our writing. We are Aware.


I had a character in the very early versions of Tender Graces who wasn’t very nice (not Aunt Ruby). I went to town on this character—gave her a big mouth, bleached out hair, loud clothes, etc. I went on and on about this character. In re-writes, I recognized that I was “getting back” at someone from long ago. Someone I needed to vent about and never even realized how something had stuck in my craw. Well, MY vent did not belong in my novel. MY rant had no place in what would become Tender Graces. I ended up keeping a version of the character (Mrs. McGrander), but she became part of Virginia Kate's world and Virginia Kate's story, not mine. Be aware of when you are inserting yourself into your character’s world. If you are angry with someone or something, be aware that you do not use your novel as a forum for your own ideas or rants or anger—unless it really, truly does fit there.

As I always say: Write your draft with joy and abandon, but edit with that critical eye....be mean, be fearless, be aware.


And remember: enjoy all the process; enjoy all the moments. This is what you love.

14 comments:

Barry said...

Some great advice, Kat

Even my little blog (which seldom exceeds 500 words) routinely gets edited 4 or 5 times before I publish it. Then I notice 4 or 5 other things that need changed.

And if I dare go back and re-read a post some months later, I notice still another 4 or 5 changes that need to be made.

I shudder to think what I'd discover if I ever printed it out on paper!!!

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Great tips. Like Barry, I edit my blog. However, once posted something invariably jumps out that I missed. It screams at me on the blog, but somehow it slipped by in the first or second edit. Thank goodness we still can go in and tweek things even after we post.

I am now thinking I should edit my comment here (I rarely take the time to edit my comments), but when you are writing for the writer . . . makes one a little self-conscious . . .

So, just did a reread and found a place with "I" instead of "it". Proof about proof-reading!

Lazy Writer said...

Great advice! Loved the picture of the dog, by the way.

T. Anne said...

Wish my dog was that talented!
Thanx for the great advice. I'm need of some cleaning myself.

Strange Fiction said...

Your reference to the use of the word 'had' makes me think of people who use 'you know' in almost every sentence when they're speaking. That kind of repetition is so annoying! Great advice!

Deb Shucka said...

This was a nice way to start my writing week. Thanks for the friendly advice and the great laugh with the picture.

Analisa said...

That dog pic is classic. Great post! I know I feel really bad when I read a book and feel like I don't want to finish because it is so bogged down with whatever. Too many long descriptions.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

excellent advice! I follow almost all of those steps when drafting and revising...except I think I revise more than most people, my last ms going through some 20 drafts before submission!

Barbara said...

Yes, Kathryn, great post. The whole narrative thing bugs me as well. Those pesky pacing issues...They're tough. But when the writing seems too much about the 'writing' and not about the story telling, that's when they lose me,too. I've read a bunch of well published lit. fiction books for school that read that way. And I always go, "Where was their editor??" :p) I think, who am I to say they're wrong? But sadly, I have a bull's eye on my wall for books like that,too. Thanks for the reminders!

Lori said...

Back to editing. It's so hard. Thanks for all your insight. It's truly useful.

Missy said...

Hi Kathryn:

There is an award for you at my blog!

http://missysbooknook.blogspot.com/2009/09/honest-scrap-award.html

Helen Ginger said...

Sometimes your "tics" go right past you. You have to set aside the manuscript for a long while, then read it with fresh eyes. Then you discover that you rely on passive verbs or you start every third sentence with a conjunctive or your favorite word is "seriously" or "coincidentally" or whatever.

I do find it helps to read the manuscript out loud. I've even tape recorded it and listened back.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Sheila Deeth said...

I love the picture. I shall think of that as soon as I start the next draft. Thanks.

Amy said...

Great advice. Printing this out and keeping it close by as I'm in the editing/rewriting stage as well. So many things to keep in mind!!