Monday, June 23, 2008
Editing Down the Road Less Traveled
Blogging today caught me by surprise—I need to have reminders a week ahead! Anyway, summer is in full force…I’m grading student papers as the first summer session winds down at the college, my daughter has swim practice or a swim meet every day of the week, plus art camp in the mornings.
And I’m writing! I’ve been getting in some ten pages a day days, which don’t rival the 20 page a days I got in a few years ago before even my summers got so busy, but I’m happy. So, I’m now at the halfway point for my current work in progress. Time for taking stock, checking my plotline, and for me, that nasty word, editing.
Since this is “only” my fifth or sixth manuscript, depending on if you count the ones I didn’t finish or the one I wrote PK (pre-kids, this may not be as well-known an acronym as some I can’t figure out), my method may or may not be the best. But this is what I have gleaned from several sources over the years…
I print the whole shebang out. Using Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days method, I cut the pages apart to distinguish scenes. My method—I listed the scenes with a bullet on each. Next to the bullets—I might type this out the next time, this time—I write who’s POV this scene is in (would it be better for someone else to tell this particular part of the story), what day is it (does anyone else have to count? I’m also creating names for the units of time in the world I’m creating), how many pages am I devoting to this scene (some need more, some need less), and where does this fit into the traditional plot line of black moment and so on.
I also finished moderating an online course about editing. This course was taught by Jane Toombs and Janet Walters…whose book is titled Become Your Own Critique Partner. I won’t, of course, give away everything they taught in their course, but here are some of the pointers I took away with me. First, we may need to ask ourselves, why is this scene in here anyway? If there’s no purpose, consider cutting your baby. Of course, there’s show and don’t tell, but what I took away is permission to write horribly at first and then go back in and rewrite those sections where I lapse too much into narrative and not enough into showing. Also, it’s not enough to be told to show and not tell. I need examples. One method is to look at the best writers and list their verbs; another is to list the descriptions they use. I have real trouble with using like and as too often.
The final source I’m relying on with editing has already been mentioned on this blog by Mel—Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Benni Browne and Dave King. I already had that one on my shelf, had read it dutifully last winter, but now I find it most useful when I’m actually in the process of editing. I’m going to take just one point from the book…again, about the show and tell. You can overdo it. If a scene is not that important, summarize it and move on. Right now, I have scene after scene full of dialogue and little narrative.
So, it’s (hopefully—once I’m done grading papers) back to the editing board.
And…to share why the quirky title. My daughter read to me from Lemony Snicket this past weekend…The author wrote that he knew a man once who took the road less traveled. The road was beautiful, but because it was less traveled…when some night creature attacked, and he screamed, there was no one there to hear his cries for help!
Certainly the way editing makes me feel sometimes…and I thought the road less traveled was only meant to be the beautiful, peaceful one.