Well, here I am in the editing stage. I finished the complete draft of the book on Sunday, and now I'm going back through, making sure I've nailed the core conflicts, layering in bits that are missing, foreshadowing and all that good stuff. Editing is grand. It makes a good story better. And then my editor gets a crack at it and makes it better still. Because that's what editors do.
I was reading a post somewhere yesterday - and I don't remember exactly where - but the writer was saying how sometimes you go over a story so much that you can't read it with the clarity of a fresh set of eyes. I agree with this - for example in my last revisions, my biggest job was to make the hero's conflict arc more defined. I tweaked and read over and over and in the end I wasn't sure if it was as effectual as it needed to be - because I'd seen it so many times by that time that to be honest I couldn't see what bits I'd added etc. In one way that's good, because stuff doesn't leap out so hopefully it won't pull the reader out. But a fresh pair of eyes are crucial.
Right now my eyes are somewhat fresh as I go back through the story. I do not have a lot of word count wiggle room, so for every bit of layering I do I am seeking an equivalent amount of words to delete. This sounds very clinical but it's a precise thing. I am keeping my eyes open for things like repeated introspection and ideas, circular conversations that do not move the story forward, long bits of narrative that can be pared down. Deleting those bits make for a tighter, pacier story, which in turn hopefully keeps the reader turning the pages.
There was one scene in particular that I knew was troublesome. I needed my hero's reaction to a turning point - so his POV. I needed to see him making a decision to go back to the heroine and it just wasn't working. I ended up with four pages of introspection that was just...draggy. And yet bits of it had to be there.
Part of the problem was I hadn't made it hard enough on him (remember this from an earlier #WW post on being too easy on your characters, and I said I would have to go back and add in this element). And I'd introduced a conflict thread that really didn't add to the story (added it in a search for adding depth, but it didn't work). I took that thread out, layered the stronger conflict in, and then cut the scene in half - about 500 words worth. Of those deleted pages, one got completely deleted as it was superfluous. The other page ended up filtered into a later scene - which has action with the heroine.
Hopefully it strengthened the scene considerably and gave it some motion rather than being four pages of the hero "thinking about it".
Cutting for pace is important. I have a tendency to also use 2 sentences that say essentially the same thing in my MRUs (motivation reaction units). We have the action, the physical reaction and then the emotional reaction to each thing. I am finding that in my emotional reactions, I can often delete an entire sentence without affecting the meaning. If anything, the extra sentence dilutes the emotion and by making it more succinct it has more punch.
More depth does not equal more words. It may mean fewer words but more important words. Same goes for dialogue. If you are writing dialogue and you find yourself going back to something your characters have already said, you've gone in a big circle. Sometimes this is good, because when they return to the idea the reaction can be different. But often it just means you've gotten nowhere. Move it along, people. If it isn't moving things forward, delete it.
I may have rushed my ending, so I really can't afford to be wordy. I expect I will end up adding a scene - probably another 1000 words as well as layering. Seeing as I'm already at 52k, I need to be very, very careful. But it's a good thing. Deleting unnecessary words and phrases will only make for a tighter, better story.
Until next week,