Tuesday 4th July 2017
I’ve been doing some delicate editing today.
The first couple of chapters are the real challenge in this edit. I have to make some subtle changes to blow the protagonist’s agency through the roof. It basically means that his plans have to be a little more solid.
Of course, this means making his plans a bit more watertight. Originally, he came back home, blinded by vengeance (as you do!) and muddled his way through. He needs to be a bit more competent, which means explaining things that (until now) I’d just excused as poor planning.
The start of Black as Knight has always been the biggest issue. I rewrote it 2 years ago and gave it a completely different start, but as the edits have progressed it’s involved tightening it up more and more.
It got to the stage with this edit that I had to talk through my character’s plans with my agent to ensure I wasn’t leaving anything out.
The only issue with this is trying not to make any small changes that could result in huge changes later. I mean, if I have to do that, I will, but as it stands, I reckon I can make the changes to the chapter without having to resort to creating a load of continuity errors.
On my initial pass back at the beginning of June I think I got the issues ironed out. But reading it back over the weekend, I was very much of the impression that it made the first chapter very muddled.
My first temptation was to move reveals further back. I think it’s really easy to overload a first chapter with too much information when it can be drip-fed over the rest of the book. But the very reason I was making these changes was to make the protagonist seem in control of the plan. Leaving the explanation to later wouldn’t solve that problem.
So I had a think about it in the car last night, and came to the conclusion that the problem was that the new sentences I’ve added have been dotted all over the place and detract from the function a paragraph is trying to serve.
Instead, what I needed to do was to find the right places in the chapter to give the reader this information and do it in a dedicated paragraph.
I’ve been thinking about it all day today and feel I’ve identified where the information needs to be imparted to the reader.
And so this evening has been a lot of careful, dedicated work to craft those paragraphs and ensure that the chapter flows again. It’s been incredibly cerebral work and so I’ve made a point of not rushing it and taking a lot of breaks. Sometimes the answer is to blast through, sometimes it’s to take your time and get it right. Given that I was taking breaks to think about the problem rather than taking them to just goof off, the latter seemed the right move for me.
So I’ve probably added two paragraphs all day today, but they are the right paragraphs in the right place. I just now need to make sure that the narrative flows, isn’t confusing or overwhelming to the reader.
I’ve compared this process to cooking (probably because I’ve had Australian Masterchef on in the background as I did the day job today). What I’m used to doing with my writing is the equivalent of taking a ready meal out the freezer, piercing the film lid and then whacking it in the Microwave for 6 minutes. What I’m trying to do now, is the equivalent of a gourmet chef using a pair of tweezers to ensure garnish is in the right place and that the plate of food looks stunning.
Whilst I’m normally the first person to beat myself up over taking too long, I’ve made a point of being kind to myself. This is the most tricky change in this round of edits, plus it involves using new skills. Therefore, I’m not worried about taking a few days over it in order to get it right.
That said… I think I may have been able to create chapter 1 without having to make substantial changes to chapter 2. That means that if I leave it overnight and give it a check in the morning, I might be able to send those chapters out to beta readers to see what they think.
I’m anticipating that once I’ve got this bit nailed down, the rest should be much easier by comparison. However, it may take me a few days to get there.
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