Sunday, January 25, 2009

Live and Learn

I recently returned to an older manuscript in order to do a full contact edit. "The Wings of Winter" is an epic fantasy novel I finished 4+ years ago. I always thought the story had 'good bones.' I liked the essential conflict and the characters. I had thought that it could and should be revisited and recast as a YA novel, as it is essentially a coming of age story.

After completing 4 novels, I came back to this story with a different perspective and a different toolset. Because I hadn't looked at the story for several years, it was easy to see it with fresh eyes, to read the story as a stranger instead of its author.

Thus far, I have completed a revision of the first 5 chapters, slashing and burning extraneous backstory, clarifying dialogue, and making the language more direct. I am pleased with how the story is coming into focus and how my writing skills have improved over the past 5 years. I can only hope that in another 5 years, I will look back at what I am writing now and see the same progress.

Some patterns I can see from my old writing:

--I had a love affair with the semi-colon. Effective in small doses, excess use of semicolons feel like an affectation. In most cases, a simple comma will do. In others, breaking up the long sentence into two shorter ones was the ticket.

--I thought I understood about the evils of info-dump. I thought I had been clever in how I inserted backstory. Not. So. Much. I have a much greater appreciation of how to trust the reader and the story. "BS" is "BS". It's an apt acronym.

--I spent a lot of time telling the reader something, then showing it in the story. Again, I need to trust the reader and strip out all the explaining and recapping.

I'll continue to talk about other patterns as they emerge. At this rate, I'll be able to slim this story from 125K to under 100K, which will make for a much tighter, cleaner story.

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