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When Editing Becomes Tinkering

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Hope you didn’t come here to find out where that line is. I suspect it’s different for different writers.

I finished the fourth draft of my novel a few weeks ago and have jumped into what I hope are final edits (at least until someone tells me otherwise). I am no stranger to revision and trying to make my work the best it can be, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to make it better.

What I worry about is that I will delve deeper into things as I look for spelling, punctuation and clarity errors. It seems like things can always be improved and I worry about slipping into full revision mode.

I suppose when it comes down to it, there are worse things that can happen, but there’s that line between improving and ruining that’s hard to define. It’s like over-mixing your pancake batter and getting rubbery disks, that, while edible, are hardly memorable.

Here’s a pretty cool take on How to Stop Making Yourself Crazy with Self-Editing from Coppyblogger.

Once the brain makes enough mistakes — and corrects them — it now has a database of information that it can call upon at any time. Your brain has now reached its level of competency in that field, be it walking, talking or writing.

Makes sense.

And there you have it. Writers write and all that. Now, off to make more mistakes.

Hey Baby Hey

by Jonathan 0 Comments

One of my favorite Greg Brown songs. One of my favorite songs, period. Last verse just about brings me to tears every time. This one’s for my baby.

The sea was rollin’ in slate gray
I looked at you and I looked away
I was cryin’
Because I was happy

I didn’t want you to see
I was afraid of such mystery
And afraid of losing
So afraid of losing

Later on on a balcony
We had a good talk and we felt free
I was comin’ to you from far away
Light was dim but you showed me the way
In your arms all I could say was
Hey baby hey baby hey baby hey

My heart was torn I’d made up my mind
I’d keep to myself and just be kind
And need nothing
Just need nothing

Love my folks my kids my friends
And make it on through to the end
No more suffering
Over loving

You get to me like old time religion did
In my heart when I was a kid
You’re sweet gospel music to my ears
You know how to ease all my fears
And from my heart to yours all I can say is
Hey baby hey baby hey baby hey

And as we go on through the deal I
I know that we won’t always feel
Real wonderful
Life ain’t like that

But I want to stay right by your side
Check out the view enjoy the ride
With all our loved ones

I want to plant a little garden with you now
Take care of a piece of the earth somehow
And tend it when we’re old and gray and
Try to straighten up and say, well,
I’m so glad to see you today
Hey baby hey baby hey baby hey

Oh yeah, coming up on the end of draft #4 of The Cloud Chamber. Can’t say much other than it’s better than #3.

Rock on.

Three Years and Counting

by Jonathan 2 Comments

Steep Hill in Edinburgh

Today marks three years that I’ve been writing fiction with regularity and vigor. Sounds like a Metamucil ad.

Part of me (and probably most of those who used to ask about the book) thinks, “holy hell, I’ve been at it this long and still haven’t finished?”

Another part of me thinks, “holy hell, it’s been three years already? Feels more like six months. I need another three years.”

I’ll admit, I was hoping to be further along, but when I look back I see:

  1. Rough draft – no one reads this but me. Deciding it’s awful, I shelve it before actually finishing it.
  2. 2nd draft (total rewrite) – Outline the first five or six chapters and get rolling. Get rid of some characters, introduce new ones.
  3. Revisions & editing of 2nd draft –My wife is kind enough to read it all the way through, as do I. There are moments, but it still lacks the depth I’m shooting for. Consider changing the entire POV, but in the end stick with my protag.
  4. Summary outline for 3rd draft – I outline the entire story. For the first time I have a beginning, middle and end, mile markers if you will. I find the outline helpful for thinking through some things and allowing me to firm up the story in my mind.
  5. 3rd draft (75% rewrite) – I use the outline for a guide, but still deviate from it. Feel like I’ve finally got the shape of a story I like and enjoy telling.
  6. Revisions & editing of 3rd draft – prepare the manuscript for public-ish consumption. Cut roughly one sixth of the manuscript.
  7. Send out beta copies (first time anyone other than my dear wife glances at my work) & receive feedback.
  8. Second round of revisions on 3rd draft – I’m between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way done on those. I’ve reduced the number of character POVs, tightening things up, reworking still some elements of the story, writing some new chapters, revising others to be from different POVs. It feels better. I look forward to reading it when it’s done.

When I put it that way? I’m copacetic with where I am. The learning curve has been steep as hell and, truth be told, I don’t think I’m quite into the more gentle grade as of yet, but that’s cool.

What’s next?

I’ve been debating whether to send this next version out to readers or just going ahead with the query process. I imagine it’ll depend on how it feels when I’ve had a little time to let the manuscript sit for a bit an can go back and read it.

Probably like most writers, I feel like things aren’t happening fast enough, that I’m somehow missing the boat (especially with all the stuff going on with e-books, self-publishing and the publishing industry itself). However, what’s the point of sending it out just to send it out.

I’ve seen a number of places the advice to enjoy the first novel, the time you get to lavish upon it. That sounds reasonable, but I’m also leery of the “Wonder Boys” syndrome of continually tinkering with a work to the detriment of setting it free. I’d prefer to set mine free to the world, but not like this: