Thursday, 10 April 2014

Editing and the Things I’ve Noticed



Hey all,

This is the lengthy post that I was talking about last time. I managed to cut it down to size a bit so you don’t end up reading a novel worth of random observations and comments. For the most part, the post is just me chatting about the things that I’ve noticed when I’ve been editing Dreamstate II.

First of all, I’ve been alternating editing days with writing my horror book, rather than trying to cram everything in each day. I think I was starting to burn myself out a little bit and both my editing and writing were suffering. There is little else as frustrating as checking out everything you ‘edited’ the day before only to find that you really need to go over it again because you did a poor job. I was having more and more of these days the longer I tried doing everything at once. Anyways, that’s minor observation number one—don’t edit when you’re tired because you really need to be on edge to catch everything.

Most of what I’m doing now is replacing sections of dead text. When I read my own work, I often hit packets of story that are entirely lifeless and dull. There’s no soul to them, no feeling, no nothing—they’re entirely unforgettable. Sometimes those places pack huge amounts of information in, but do so in the worst way possible. On the flip side, there are a few scenes that could probably be removed and the minor important bits spread out, but I like how they read and they’re fun. These dead parts are just that, dead zones that kill and bog down any forward momentum that the book has. One particular section that I’m working on right now involves a variant of the history of a specific people. At the time I thought it was alright, but rereading it now it’s awful. I knew a while back that it would be bad, and had already reinserted the information (and in a much better way) in a later part of the book. What I have now is dead text with almost no value outside of the position it holds in the story. I could wipe it out completely and move on, but I feel like there’s more that I can do with it. I want to use the moment that it’s at to further the interactions of a couple characters (that I will not mention), because, like I said, it’s at a very tense moment in the book where no one really has any solid idea of what is going to happen next. I can build on this tension and keep the speed of the story. What I had before dissolved any outside conflict and was just saggy and bleh right in the middle of excitement; it had to go.

On the topic of rewriting, I’ve discovered a way to play with sections late in the book entirely through changing around bits of text early on. For instance, if you look at the actions of one character throughout the course of the story, you can follow what they’re doing and why—you understand their intentions through the earlier pieces of information about their self. What I’ve been doing is changing around the earlier bits and giving characters new reasons to do things and playing with their early character development. This allows me to do practically nothing to later areas of the book, but still have profound changes take place to how you (the reader) interprets what is going on. It’s sort of like diverting a river, where I’m only manipulating one spot early on, but the impact is far longer lasting than just the one scene. I can make a character’s helpful actions into something manipulative and sinister, or vice versa by adding (or subtracting) something far earlier. At the same time I can give other characters, or the reader, a reason to mistrust someone that I had originally planned to be an upstanding character, and I can do all of this with very little structural change to the story as a whole.

I found this out entirely by accident when I left out a section of text that I’d meant to rewrite. With the background info on the character gone, everything they did seemed sketchy and manipulative rather than kind. I liked the result, even if unintentional, and am now going through and seeing what exactly I can accomplish by applying it to pieces of the text I thought I might need to do a complete overhaul on. It’s fun stuff, and has put an entire new layer onto the complexity of editing for me.

-Trevor

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