Friday, January 11, 2008
If You Can't Write, Edit!
I've been trying to get back into the JASPER novel to continue writing the first draft and finish it. Turns out that's not so easy. Not because I couldn't pick up any other novel right now, but that particular novel is tricky. I had a very particular mindset while writing it, drawing from a very particular sense of humor. Since I set it aside, I haven't been able to recapture that mindset yet to my satisfaction. I don't want to write on it until I know I'm back in the particular grove that this one story requires.
So, I've finally decided to push on and edit the JACK & JILL novel. I've worked my way through the first five chapters already, and was very happy to see that what I wrote, after it had sat for a while, seemed very readable, very tight overall, and actually pretty darned good, in my humble opinion. I was quite pleased with it. That's good, in that I should be happy with my work at this point, in general. If you can write and you've developed some skill at it, then what you write ought well to be readable and engaging, at least in general. It would be unusual if it weren't any good -- a sign that there are problems that need to be addressed! I think I'd address them to someone who cares, and put extra postage on them just to be sure they make it there. (haha)
Only one scene needed any rewriting, since I needed to change the tone of the interaction. Otherwise, the changes were mostly a word or two here or there, or tightening up a sentence, or joining two sentences together or breaking one sentence in two. The minor stuff that makes the text more readable, easier and faster to read.
I was impressed by the clarity of the text. The images and sense of what was happening in each scene was all very clear. There was a tight focus: each scene was about something specific, and ended with a clear sense of how it went, and where it needed to go. The chapter endings in particular were able to raise suspense, or create some impact that generated a sense of "I wonder what happens next". The shorter chapter lengths and goal-driven style really do pay off. There is a goal in each scene, a motivation, an obstacle (or two), and an outcome. Questions are raised, some answered right away, others left dangling there, raising the intrigue and suspense.
Okay, I love to gloat when I feel something I wrote worked well. It's a bad habit, potentially impolite, and certainly something that can define one as a "bore". But, there is a point here -- to become a writer, we must change our self-concept from "wannabe" to "I am a capable writer". Seeing that something you wrote works is part of that process, as much as seeing what doesn't work. I think we need to allow ourselves to see the growth, the progress, and feel good about it. It's not bragging, it's reaffirming for ourselves that what we are trying to do ... is something that we can do, and something we are in fact doing.
As for the editing, I anticipate the first half of the story will go along fairly smoothly, then the second half will turn into a real nightmare, since the later part of the story was less certain for me as I wrote it. I'll probably have to completely rewrite several chapters, maybe even the entire second half. However, that's only 35k words or so, and manageable. I was quite pleased to see that the basic outline held tight, and it's very easy for me to plug new ideas in for minor tweaking as needed, to enhance, draw out the significance of plot details, etc. I also figured out how to rewrite the ending. At this point I have no real questions left regarding this story, which is excellent. I should know it by now. I hate not knowing. Knowing is good.
Back to the bliss of editing,