Friday, January 30, 2009

Less is More and Other Tales of Editing

I find something completely satisfying about editing. No. Really. It's like weeding a garden. What you take away can make the whole stronger.

I've been immersed in the world of "The Wings of Winter", the first novel I completed in 2005. I knew it had 'good bones'--an intriguing premise, a solid plot line and complex characters. It is a 'big fat fantasy', with a large cast of characters, and told in mulitiple 3rd person point of view.

Probably not the kind of challenge a first time novelist should tackle, but there you go. That was the story I needed to tell.

Now, 3 novels and 4 years later, I'm a much better writer. Because I want to make sure I have several projects ready to go when my agent sells "The House of Many Doors," I decided to revisit "Wings".

This week, I finished wrestling an ungainly 150K+ word manuscript into a 122K word manuscript. There is likely more that can be cut, but I need to wait for feedback from my first readers--my family. One of the major things I've learned about myself from this process is my confusion about foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is not info-dumping.

(Pause for 'V-8' head slap moment.)

Repeat for emphasis: Foreshadowing is not info-dumping. I can't begin to count the number of places where I thought I had to hit my readers over the head with clues, littered across the manuscript with all the subtlety of a neon sign. (Though there's no neon in this world. No electricity, no modern technology.)

Sentences, paragraphs, and even whole scenes got chopped and the read is both smoother and better paced.

It's fascinating to me that a shorter, sleeker story is also a fuller story. With less digression, the story can unfold for a reader in a way that feels organic.

The other part of editing that I found fascinating is that after a lapse of several years, the story was new again. Yes, I wrote the thing, but in some ways, I am no longer the person who did write it. I was pleasantly surprised at discovering scenes and twists in the narrative that I had completely forgotten.

In the end, I think the story has legs. It may need another slight pruning--there were places I injected notes to myself with some questions. Is this scene needed? These named characters are seen once and never again, rework, show the elements needed in a different way. Rename this character. But, overall, it works. My teenaged son is begging for the next several chapters. Always a good sign.

No comments:

Post a Comment