The Joys of Rewriting.

Blogging the Editing Day #6

Chapter Five was my favourite chapter from the start. I would happily rewrite my entire novel to make it work. Fortunately I don’t need to because I already did it three years ago. Back then, it was the absolute standout chapter, but when read in context with all that followed, it felt like it didn’t belong. I made a weak attempt at forcing it to fit; but in the end, each of my little patches were obviously just patches. If I couldn’t fool myself into believing they belonged, then how could I fool my reader?

At the time, I already knew about William Faulkner’s wise words: “Kill your darlings”. Easy when you say it quickly. Not so easy when you’re unsure of which darling to kill.

After a week of contemplation and angst, I realised that the problem was not with Chapter Five. It was, in fact, with Chapters Six to Thirty. In contrast, One to Four, needed a minor rewrite. Five shone. The rest were highly polished waffle, written several years before, when I’d yet to learn the difference between a first draft and a second.

Thus began what was rapidly becoming a habit. Another major rewrite.

Yep, I’d completely rewritten this novel more than once. This was attempt Number Three. Now it’s behind me, I can happily say, I have no regrets. My novel ended up with a narrower focus which gave me room enough to explore its major themes in a believable manner. Chapter Five is no longer just fun and edgy, but now foreshadows later events, develops character, progresses plot, reinforces world-building and ends with an unpredictable logical twist.

It’s still my favourite chapter. Better still, it fits.

The rewriting process turned out to be a bonus, allowing me to identify which sub-plots were working, which characters were necessary, and which weren’t. As a result, a few more darlings were sent to the gallows. C’est la vie.

Waffling, De-Clunking and Passive Voice

Blogging the Editing: Day #3

4th January 2018

I only managed to edit half of Chapter Four today because 1) it’s a long one, and 2) I needed to eliminate a good deal of CLUNKINESS.

Chapter Four turned out to be structurally sound with good bones. It works for the way it builds on conflicts that have been set up in Chapters 1-3.  But, oh dear, what lost opportunities for CHARACTERISATION! What was I even thinking when I submitted it to publishers and agents three years ago?

Anyhow, half of Chapter Four has now been tightened, brightened and whipped into shape. Fortunately the dialogue was lively enough to not need more than the odd tweak.

Summary of Problems I sorted out:

  • Too much TELLING in places where SHOWING would elicit emotion.
  • SHOWING where TELLING would work better, because who wants to know the minutiae of every routine action?
  • Too much preamble at the beginning of scenes, also known as WAFFLING.
  • Not knowing when a scene has ended, and weighing it down with unnecessary epilogue — another example of WAFFLING.
  • An excess of repetition, unnecessary words, wrong words, awkward phrasing.
  • PASSIVE VOICE in places where ACTIVE VOICE works better, which is actually most places. Occasionally I use passive voice when I need to vary sentence structure or emphasise an interesting concept, but I make sure it’s pulling its weight before I let it stay.