Monday, December 1, 2008

Edits make the world go around

The question over at Mavens of the Pen this week is what things do we look for as we edit our work. As I've traveled this road of being an author, I've learned more about what I write, how I write, and yes, my weaknesses.

My first drafts are mostly dialogue with some body language tags and a little backstory sprinkled here and there. This is a big change from my very first book which was an unappetizing collation of introspection and coastal setting. Now I've cut back so much on setting details that I have to layer them in on a successive draft.

So my style is to shape the plot through the first draft. On my first comb through I make sure the plot threads are addressed. I used to leave pacing until last, but I check the pacing next. I want to make sure there's a reason to turn every page. Next I track the main characters and see if they stay in character throughout the story. On my next pass I layer character description and other setting info into the work. After that its sensory and emotional input.

The final pass is tightening phrases, eliminating passive verbs, checking to see that sentence construction is varied and doesn't detract from the story, searching for key words that I overuse. My Achilles heels are: just, seem, appear, as, and -ing verbs. I also have a tendency to start sentences with a person's name. Too much of that isn't a good thing.

Anytime I'm in doubt, I'll read a passage aloud. I haven't read an entire book aloud in a while, but I certainly read troubled passages aloud - that helps me with the rhythm and blend of words.

Unlike others, I relish the job of editing. I get so caught up in it that I have to hit a mental reset button to go back to the creative part of conjuring the first draft from thin air. I would stay in edit mode a very long time if I didn't set goals and be ruthless about keeping them.

Speaking of goals, I need to get started on something else!


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