Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Hard Facts of Editing

I am thrilled to reveal the cover for my latest Regency Gothic. Hopefully, it will be available within the next two weeks. I have yet to write the blurb, but it is primarily set on the Surrey downs and is my longest Gothic, at close to 95,000 words.



Found on Facebook


And, like last week's horse galloping down a suburban street, here is another "neighborhood" photo from Nextdoor. Seminole County, though small, is bisected by a large "preserved" woodland, and we have the creatures to prove it.

Bobcat, Lake Mary, Florida


 Last week I focused on an egregious example of a book guilty of diarrhea of the keyboard, every last thought in the author's head poured onto the page, willy-nilly, each word such a precious gem that there was no possibility of deleting so much as a single word. At least that is the impression that was given by a book that ran to well over a thousand pages. Sigh. Thank goodness most of us are aware that most readers don't want to venture into something longer than three or four hundred pages. So no need to preach further on that topic.

Nonetheless, every author, from newbie to old hand at the game, needs to put in the hard time necessary to get our creation right, to show respect for our readers by offering interesting characters, a well-thought-out plot, colorful descriptions, motivations, a well-delineated setting, and as few typos and missing words as possible. (Perfection in this last does not exist. Take my word for it.)

Some edits, however, are easier than others. If you are writing for a print publisher, an editor is provided, and you have only to agree or disagree with their comments. (I still advocate turning in the cleanest possible manuscript you can. Make your publisher love you, not put you on the bye-bye list the next time there's a cutback.)

But most of us have gone the indie route over the last decade or so. And for us, it's a case of "Edit the blasted book" or spend a good deal of money to have someone do it for you. (I am talking about content editing, not simply proofreading for typos and lack of continuity.)

My experience from just this morning (Thursday, March 23) is a good case in point. I typed the latest revisions into the final three (short) chapters of my latest Regency Gothic, Menace at Lincourt Manor, and ended up making so many additional changes as I went along that I had to reprint all three and give them yet another once over before I could declare the book finished.

Consider this:  I edited those chapters when first written. I edited them again when I edited the entire last section (Chapters 36-43). I edited them after a run-through of the first draft; again, when doing a second "from the top" of the entire manuscript. And STILL, I tore those chapters apart this morning and just finished typing in the revisions. Aargh!

As I have said many times in the past, there are a few highly prolific authors who must get almost every word perfect the first time around or they would not have published so many books so close together. But I have never had that luxury. I agonize over nearly every word. And though I grumble—to the point of grinding my teeth—I keep going, knowing that's what I have to do to create the book I am asking people to read.

So, for what I would guestimate as ninety-five percent of the authors out there, Editing is absolutely essential. And if you've hired someone to do it for you, listen to them! Yes, there are always points to be argued, but never fall into the trap of thinking every word you write is so precious it cannot be expanded into something much better, or perhaps deleted—what we used to call "getting left on the cutting room floor."

I cannot say too often that Editing is far more than looking for superficial errors or questioning if a sentence makes sense. Way, way back, when I was writing my first Romantic Suspense, Shadowed Paradise, I created some great passages from the serial killer's (anonymous) point of view—one of the few times, after multiple edits, I didn't change a word. But about half-way through the book I realized none of the characters I had put on the page so far were villainous enough to be revealed as the anonymous killer. Uh-oh.

So I had to create a new character and go back and insert him into what I had already written. (All right, I can hear the mocking laughter from those who painstakingly plot out their books ahead of time, but I'm "seat of the pants" all the way, can't imagine creating any other way than "out of the blue.")

My ploy was successful, I'm happy to say, though, thank goodness I never had to do anything that drastic again. But in my latest novel, Menace at Lincourt Manor, I realized at about the three-quarter mark that I needed to delete a character. The reasons kept multiplying: 1) he was detracting from characters who were more important; 2) he was providing a layer of protection for my heroine when she needed to be more vulnerable; 3) his hiring put the hero in a better light than I wanted him to be at that point.

If you think adding a character is hard . . . 

Even after I made what I thought were all the adjustments, his name leaped out at me in a final edit. And yet the bother was well worth it, the story more smooth, the sense of menace where it should be in a Gothic novel.  But still the questions went on and on: Have I kept the proper tension between hero and heroine—the doubts and anxieties, the ever-present struggle to salvage a relationship that seems shattered? Have I created other characters who do not pull their weight? (If they were not significant to the plot, I should not have made so much of their introduction into the story, elaborate descriptions, etc.) That, too, must be adjusted.

This was also a more complex plot than most of my Gothics, so much so the ending required one of those everyone-in-the-drawing-room scenes, where the intricacies of the plot are finally explained. This plot had so many twists and turns I kept scribbling notes as I did a top-to-bottom edit: Explain this, explain that! I can only hope I managed it.

For the many other things you need to look for—characterization, motivations, descriptions, etc., I refer you to the many articles I posted on Writing and Editing from 2011 to 2021. (See Archives, or Making Magic With Words, available on Amazon, with all topics organized and indexed.)

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 For a link to Blair's website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page  click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


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