…now for the long wait while the overwhelmed publisher gets to me in the queue. Unless I’m the next JK of course.
Anyway, back to being serious.
I knew I was doing the last tidying of my MS for a real deadline, so I purposely (and painfully) stopped reading for a month – outside of about two dozen different PDF versions of my own work. And after the first dozen, I noticed I wasn’t studying what I expected.
Let me explain. I have a note file on my phone entitled ‘final edits’. In it are things other writers have warned me to look for:
But I wasn’t looking for these. Don’t get me wrong, these are valuable tips. I even added a few to that list:
- several (most detested word in a novel!)/many/few
- and then
- plus a few personal ones that apply to my characters.
The point is, they’re so valuable I found myself looking for them as I wrote not as I edited. And the ‘show don’t tell’ words (was, were, had, seemed, looked, etc) are less likely to get there in the first place with a good understanding of POV.
So what was I looking for? Things like:
- Dinchuses (is that the right term for a plural of dinchus? or is it dinchi? I don’t know): were they in the right places? Mine indicate time has passed or space has changed. Sometimes I had them when neither had happened. It’s incredible the powerful subconscious effect a dinchus has on a reader’s understanding of time and space.
- Chapter headings: were they sequential? Were they in the appropriate place in the narrative?
- Page breaks: did I break at the end of every chapter and only at the end of the chapter?
- Spelling: was it consistent? I found I called an Indian Mynah an Indian Myna, a common myna, a common Myna and a common Mynah. All are correct, but only one is right.
- Scene sequence: as obvious as this one may sound! I had to make sure a scene broke in the right place, and that the following scene didn’t have a better home before or after the place I’d chosen for it. Often, this came down to an understanding of Dwight Swain’s motivation-reaction units (either I’d already moved only half a scene, or I failed to understand scene structure!).
- Character consistency: this was by far the hardest. Would my character have said what I’ve written? If yes, would he/she have said it now? Or would they have said it after another event or some introspection?
The whole process of working to a tight deadline was amazing for me. Not only did I get it done, but I got it done! But also the process will totally change the way I write the next one.
Gone is the need for obsessing about adding to my word count. Why? I deleted about 30,000 of the most useless ones in the last few re-writes.
Gone is my need to find exactly the right word right now. Why when I deleted entire scenes and character traits that were ‘interesting’ but irrelevant? I remember spending two whole days on one scene that just didn’t make the final cut.
And, the most controversial of them all, I have become much less of a panster and much more of a plotter. What’s the point of excessive pansting when I just end up with a wishy-washy middle that clearly has no clue where it wants to go?
I’d love to know what others think. Do you have a list to check at the end? Is your list different again?