Saturday, December 5, 2015

Eliminate THAT and Cross the River - Final Steps on a Manuscript

When I finish a manuscript, I go through a process very similar to that which my fellow Whores have talked about this week.  The FIRST thing I do is spend two to three days laboriously combing through the entire manuscript for my very own personal pet words. The list somehow always starts with THAT. I am totally enamored of this word, no idea why. It will have by far the highest count of repetitions in the entire book, no matter if this is a 48K word book or a 125K word epic.

It's an excellent exercise though, because in the process of eliminating my lazy words like that and very, I'm forced to do some more creative and elegant writing, so the manuscript comes out stronger. Until the point where I find myself re-inserting words I know I've deleted, so then off it goes to my developmental editor. I never edit myself on these words when I'm in the process of writing the story initially. I think authors can create a self paralysis state if they edit too much when the Muse is still trying to get the story down that first time. (Not that I really want to tell anyone else how they should write - I can only speak for myself.)

My freelance developmental editor is also on to all my 'tricks', which is where the river comes in. On one of my first ever books, the characters have to cross a large, treacherous river on horseback while being hotly pursued by a lot of angry clan warriors. Well, the first time through the book, I just literally wrote "They crossed the river and escaped." Uh huh. No. I needed to describe all this tense action and plot development. In the actual finished book, this takes about 1400 words. This episode became shorthand between my editor and me, and even in my most recent (as yet unpublished) manuscript, she made me go back and write about the month-long journey the characters take to reach their temporary haven. 4240 words of character development and key incidents later.....I always know which part I'm avoiding writing, I have no idea why I do it...she always catches it...and her suggestions always make the book better and stronger. Yay for editors!

My copy editor just returned this same manuscript to me, and flagged endless spots where I'd capitalized words that really don't deserve the honor. I decided I might be a Reincarnated Victorian Novelist, because they loved to Capitalize Things for Emphasis. She also caught that I had people shrugging left and right, as if there was an epidemic of this physical tic happening on this planet. Sigh. I usually do better than that!!! (I love exclamation points too but I know better than to overuse them in a book to be published.)

Oh, and as long as I'm telling tales on myself, in one science fiction romance I discovered at the formatting stage (which is rather late in the process) that I'd had one character utter so many things in italics he sounded like a Valley Girl. which doesn't work for a big brawny Special Forces guy.

I know, I know, I really should read the entire book out loud before I send it off to the editor but have we discussed my impatience issues in this space yet? If I could afford it, and he was willing to do it, I'd love to have my audiobook narrator read all my manuscripts to me as part of the final edit process but alas, that's not going to happen.

I am making an early New Year's resolution or two, about not being so impatient when I get close to the publication stage - to take my characters "across the river" in full detail without waiting for my editor to flag it, and to go back for a second edit after all the changes are made, which we're doing on this new portal fantasy I've got. It's killing me not to have released this book already, but I want to take a bit more time and really burnish the prose.

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