Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What I've Learned...

About my writing through the editing process:

1) The beginning of my story has stronger writing than the middle.

This is because the beginning gets seen the most, evaluated the most, and fret over the most.  Someone hears I've written a book, I show them the first couple chapters, right?  So those get tons of input, but the middle is often overlooked.  Not only that, but I get in my own way.  Do you do this?  You sit down to write a story; you're motivated and determined to DO IT RIGHT.  You avoid cliches, you use strong verbs, you describe vivid detail.  But then after a couple chapters, you slack off.  You don't take the time to come up with a clever turn-of-phrase, you just plop down plain words on your page.  You are too tired to show so you simply tell. Or you are so excited to write about the big plot-twist up ahead that you rush through the current scene your characters are in, leaving flat, boring prose in your wake.  Have you been there before, or is it just me? 

[A very sad example in my book was the line: "It was very soft".  Oh geeze, how boring!  (And I call myself a writer!)  How about "Soft and smooth as silk."  Better, right?  And you don't even have to know what I was talking about to know that it's better!]

2) My chapter endings are not always page-turners.

And they should be!  You don't want your reader to feel like "This is a good place to stop reading for now".  You want them to think "Oh my gosh, what's going to happen next?  I have to read just ONE MORE chapter before bed!"  Some of my chapters do this well, others might be good closers for the end of a BOOK, but not for the end of a chapter.  Sometimes (often) my chapters end with a satisfying conclusion to a big what-if, the man smiles and thinks God is good and all is right with the world, the girl closes her eyes at night happy that everything will be alright.  Ahh, sounds nice.  But too easy to stop reading!  No, no, no!  It's gotta leave you wondering what big bad problem is about to come crashing into the story, or whether boy will tell girl he's in love, or girl will tell boy her big secret.  As my friend Cathy says- Add tension!  And speaking of tension...

3) My scenes need more tension.

Some of my scenes are quaint and lovely but offer none of that magic tension mentioned above.  Sure, it's great when the hero kisses the girl and they live happily ever after- but it's more interesting when the hero kisses the girl but then finds out it was the wrong girl!  Or when the hero is on his way to meet his lady love but gets a flat tire and never makes it there.  In my story, a great deal of the tension comes from within the characters themselves.  So this means I simply need to open them up more and poke around inside of them to find out what they are feeling during an encounter that may, on the surface, appear easy and honkey-dorey.  What doubts do they have, what memories, what fears?

4) My chapter openings are prone to weakness.

Like the chapter endings, openings need to be strong and mighty and draw the reader further in.  In my case, this falls within the same category of lesson #1 with laziness at the center many times.  Take for example, this sad opening sentence of a chapter: "I was starting to settle in here."  BLAH!  Much better to say: "God was rebuilding my life brick by brick."  Now the reader wants to know what each brick is!  A job?  A home?  A friend?  Once I saw the fraility of some of my chapter openings, I understood how much stronger and compelling they could be if rewritten.  Had any of my friends ever said "You know, Michelle, that line about settling in is really boring."  No, not my non-writer friends.  Just my author friends who know the difference.  The "regular" reader didn't notice weakness but they sure didn't notice any strength there either, know what I mean?   But those non-writer friends will certainly have an even higher opinion of my work when I keep my writing strong and compelling all the way through.

5) I use too much passive voice.

Ok, I hate to include this here because I have a pet peeve about overuse of the active voice.  I like passive voice.  I don't want to sound like I just walked out of the class "Avoiding Passive Voice At All Costs 101".  But I DO use passive voice much more often than I should, and I do need to fix it.  Probably over half of the instances of passive voice can be switched to active without sounding odd to my ear and will make the sentence/scene/description much stronger.  There are still times I will still cling to my passive voice like grim death.  One day my book will BE released, it won't 'release'!  (So sorry to my friends who say it that way, but this is just me!)  I like my passives and I'm sticking to them.... just much less frequently!

*This wraps up my Lessons Learned for now.  I am almost half way through my book, but not halfway through my edits.  It's just that there were far fewer in those first chapters.  So I still have a ways to go, and only a month left to get there- but get there I must! 

No comments: