Saturday, 28 July 2012

Editing and polishing my manuscript

Trafficking that was.....

This photo shows the first complete version of Ham and Jam that was completed two years ago on the Arvon Tutored Retreat that I was awarded. It has now undergone several reincarnations including two total rewrites. One where I took the number of points of view down from four to two and the latest one where I moved the setting of the whole story from France to the UK. At times it has been like pulling teeth, at other times it has flowed, totally unstoppable, like lava down a volcano.

The original story had sex, drugs and alcohol in it - after all that was my PhD. The latest version has none of these but does have a bit of violence and a shooting. I am pleased with this version and am confident that the rewrites have definitely improved the story. I realised I was writing  a thriller, something that never occurred to me I would ever write. But I loved doing it and look forward to doing more.

Having done the rewriting, I am now in the position of editing, editing, editing and polishing. It can be quite painful and tortuous as you try and make the manuscript as perfect as possible. This weekend I will find myself asking questions of the MS such as:

Am I telling anything I have already shown?

Is the dialogue relevant the story and moving it on or is it a bit 'talking heads'? (talking heads is where characters are doing a lot of talking but not moving the story forward)

Have I just info-dumped? Instead I need to drip-feed this information in. Resist the urge to explain.

Have I remembered to use the setting as a character? It can create moods etc - think the moor in Wuthering Heights.

Have I left some stuff to the reader's imagination?

After that, and using the 'Find' tool, I will search for the following words and try and replace them: 'as', 'very', 'then' and 'suddenly' - plus any other 'ing' and 'ly' phrases. I may not get rid of all of them but I will check that  there is no better way of saying it.

The slightly disheartening part of this is that you know if, and when, you show your completed manuscript, which you have lovingly crafted and can't see how it could possible be improved, they will promptly spot holes, mistakes and ways of making it better. Don't give up, listen and see what works for you, but most importantly don't ever be precious about your manuscript.

Right I am off to pull a few teeth ;-)

This song, Paper Birds,  is written and performed by one of my ex-students, Meg Burrows:

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