Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Major Edits

London pub - shared by Eloisa James on Facebook
I've seen many beautifully "flowered" English pubs, but nothing compares to this one. Major kudos to whoever takes care of this incredible hanging garden.

William Clifton's photo, shared on Facebook by Florida's fabulous nature photographer, Clyde Butcher
For a panorama of Clyde's photos, click here.

Riley's going to be in a Girl Scout pageant - but not in this dress - it was  $500!
Nonetheless, doesn't she look great!

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Talking about Major Edits

 In the spring of 2014 I finished the second of a three-book SF series contracted to Ellora's Cave, and after what I thought was my customary careful editing, I submitted it well before deadline. It was only several months later, when my Blue Moon Rising series was orphaned by EC shutting down its Blush line, and I was forced to prepare my first query letter in years, that I discovered Sorcerer's Bride was 11,000 words shorter than Book 1, Rebel Princess. Surprise!

My first reaction was that the months directly before and after spending a week in the hospital were probably not the best time to write a worthy book. Sigh. So before I even looked at the manuscript, I sat down and made a list of things I suspected needed expansion. And, yes, I was amazed at how fast they hit me in the face when I stopped to think about it, even though I hadn't seen the manuscript in four months.  

Fortunately, when I settled down to yet another head-to-tail reading of Sorcerer's Bride, I discovered all was not lost. Most of the book read well, but, yes, I had missed emphasizing some important moments. And overall, there were quite a few places that needed more depth. These were not short revisions - many of them ran to a full page or more. Obviously, not something that can be shown here. But I will attempt to explain why - beyond simply increasing the word count - I added what I did.

Qualifying an absolute.
 My son, the SF buff, was the first to notice that I had made the visions of a fey young teen who doesn't talk too absolute. I had left no room for suspense. Perhaps his graphic visions of the future were only wishful thinking, not unquestionable prognostications. And my son was right. There is no suspense if you have a character who is infallible. 

Solution: I added three paragraphs near the beginning in which one of his sisters questions his visions. And added another bit of doubt near the end.

Failure to paint a complete picture.
In the pageantry of a court scene I concentrated so hard on the hero and heroine that I failed to describe some very important secondary characters in the hero's entourage. 

Solution: I added a description of the hero's mistress in her disguise as a well-dressed but dull, middle-aged diplomat. I also mentioned the hero's two bodyguards. All three are important secondary characters and should not have been skipped when they made their initial appearance, no matter how well disguised they were at the time.

Another inadequate description.
The sentence, "She'd beg her mother not to go into the crystal shop . . .," left readers hanging, a true "Huh?" moment. Okay, maybe if readers remembered the heroine's first visit to the crystal shop and made the association, but really, that's a stretch.

Solution: Seven paragraphs that included the heroine's sharp introspection, doubts, and a better description of the shopping excursion. 

A major moment sloughed off with a passive, after-the-fact description.
Evidently daunted by the task of describing what the heroine does the night she tries out her newly discovered psychic gift, I chickened out and described the aftermath, not the action. A true no-no.

Solution: I added sixteen paragraphs of not only what the heroine did, but I emphasized her growing loss of control, her eagerness to do something totally against the principles instilled in her since childhood. Creating a much stronger message, which was vital to the plot, as the dichotomy between her upbringing which treasures life and her part in a rebellion that is forced to take life is a constant problem.

Sex scene revisions.
Book 1 in the Blue Moon Rising series is a true love-at-first-sight story. Two people who dreamed of each other through four years of separation. The romance in Sorcerer's Bride was much harder to write. A hero and heroine forced to marry by royal edict. A heroine who must play third-fiddle to her husband's first love, her own sister, and to his long-time mistress. The hero, a sorcerer who has begun to realize why most of his kind stay celibate! None of which made the sex scenes easy to write.

Solution. I had already used the device of the h/h discovering they were physically attracted to each other in spite of all the drawbacks, but in this new revision I added more dialogue, more introspection, more of two childhood playmates becoming reacquainted. I also added more emphasis to the fact that the sorcerer has to change - grow up, if you will. That he has to become less self-centered, pay more attention to the people around him. Including his unwanted bride. Sometimes these additions ran to a page or two, sometimes only a paragraph. Added throughout the book, I hope they paint a better picture of two people struggling to become a happy couple.

Missed emotions.
I was so busy describing the h/h's wedding, followed by a major action scene in which they rescue hostages from a jail, that I totally missed the wedding night! Perhaps knowing they had already enjoyed each other, I happily skipped from the hostage rescue to the next morning. Oops!
Solution:  No, this wasn't the moment for a grand love scene. Our heroine, the pacifist, has just killed ten men while rescuing the hostages. The emotion she feels is anguish. And her brand new husband must deal with it. Two pages added.

Important point missed.
I had a scene in the court of the Emperor that I had not touched since the original. It simply seemed to work the first time around. On a fresh reading, I realized I left out something vital. We are in the Point of View of a five-star admiral who has just aided a battlecruiser and its crew to slip away from their home planet and join the rebellion. And I had him wondering why he has been summoned to court! 

Solution:  I added the obvious. The admiral had cause to worry!

Hero's missed emotion.
As part of the hero's redemption, readers need to see that he is learning to control his temper.

Solution:  An added paragraph that describes him reining in his temper when he wants to tear his enemies limb from limb. (And he has a not-so-illusory dragon that can do just that!)

What to do about the hero's witch?
As the story progressed, I realized I couldn't just cast the hero's mistress out into the cold. So even in my initial version she took on a greater role in the story. But on a new reading, I realized she needed to have her Point of View revealed earlier in the story.

I added an introspection scene in her Point of View just prior to a dramatic event that begins her escalation into a major character, and very likely the heroine of Book 3.

Better plot & action descriptions needed.
Although I scarcely touched the book's romantic ending on this last edit, the action scene preceding it needed work. There was a too-abrupt switch from the final rebel "rehearsal" to the actual execution of their plans. And insufficient details about the disaster that interrupts their joyous victory celebration.

Solution:  Two setting-the-stage scenes added just before the action scene. And an almost total re-write of the action itself. 

With the above major edits, plus bits and pieces added throughout, I added c. 5,000 words. I'm going to put Sorcerer's Bride away for a few weeks before reading it through once again from first page to last to see how all those additions fit in. (I'm hopeful all will be well as the final chapters were so mangled, I had to read those revisions right way to make sure I'd understood my own scribbles! And, thankfully, the section was vastly improved.)

Hopefully, my trials and tribulations, outlined above, will help you find places in your own work where more depth is needed, where you totally missed a reaction that should have been there, or any other of the myriad mistakes we can make when we're rushing, rushing, rushing ahead so fast we forget to take a really good look at what we're doing right now

The modern author must be able to edit his/her own work. And, no, not just because you're indie-publishing. Budgets are so tight and the competition is so stiff that even if you are submitting to one of the major New York print publishers, or to a major e-publisher, no company is going to want to shell out the time and money it takes to edit a badly presented manuscript. You have to be sure you submit a manuscript that is not only properly spelled and punctuated, but one with depth, all the descriptions, emotions, reactions, and evocative dialogue in the right place at the right time. 

Moral of the Story. I downloaded a whole bunch of books to my Kindle before going on a week-long cruise - and ended up tossing two of them before the end of the first chapter. I plowed my way through a third because the author had potential - good plot, good characters - but the book was severely marred by multiple mistakes in both historical facts and presentation. And, no, the books weren't all indie-pubbed. One of the ones I chucked to Archives was from a major NY publisher - all "tell" and dull as dishwater. I couldn't believe anyone was still publishing work that reads like a fourth-grade language arts text. Ah well, I can't do much about that, I guess, except refuse to buy any more from that author. But for indie authors and those trying to break into the market, whether NY or e-pub, please, please, please! Don't just write your grand opus and send it off. I beg of you, EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK! Yes, it takes time and anguish, but you'll be glad you did.
And don't expect the first edit to be enough. It never is.

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Next week: Updated Index to Grace's Writing & Editing Blogs
FYI, I will be presenting my 2-hour workshop, "A Wise Author's Approach to Writing a Book," for the Southwest Florida Romance Writers on Saturday, October 18, 1-3. Guests are welcome. For the SWFRW website, click here.

Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post...thank you for sharing your process. It sounds like you were able to step back and really see what your story needed. That's a difficult thing to do. :) You are so right. Edits are critically important to an Indie book.