Monday, 18 April 2011

My Novel is Important to me

I want to see my novel published and climb the best sellers chart. Ambitious, I know but dreams are made of this. So my relationship with my novel demands my time and energy, lots of it. I don’t know the conventional Publishing industry yet, however I have made a promising start as a new writer by entering the digital age, via Ether Books who have published some of my short stories.

My novel is just a bunch of words around 75,000. But finding the right words and stringing them together to convey exactly what I mean, how a character feels or setting a scene is getting tougher. As I am editing I am getting more critical of my own work!

On re-reading sometimes I can see that I forget, I assume the reader will keep up with my active imagination, see what I see, so occasionally I have to be remind myself to give more detail. A short time ago I wrote a closely observed section in a chapter that I was sure was padding. However I got a pleasant surprise, my ‘critiquers’ loved it. Said it was good, gave them a clear image and sense of place. So it has stayed in the chapter. I hope a future editor agrees too.

When I write I try to have a clear idea in my minds eye of what I want or need to achieve before I start to record a chapter. Then I write free hand and I can be slap dash, so my scrawled handwriting can become barely legibly as my hand attempts to keep up with my though processes which race to the finish. Then I try not to edit it until my work has settled.

I literally write as I think, or speak within my head. I deliberately do not edit as I am thinking, or writing because I try to allow the words to fall out on the paper and it’s for this reason that superfluous words can creep in to my written work. My speech patterns often encourages colour and embellishment especially if I want to emphasize a point, however, sometimes I do over-egg it as I write, but I don’t want to loose the energy and the vitality in a piece. Learning that ‘Brevity often delivers action,’ has been hard.

After the work is typed up to an end copy, I use ‘Control F’ and scavenge for specific words all those superfluous idioms and unnecessary parts of speech that slip into my/our colloquial speak. Then I print off my work and sit and read it out loud. A minor battle can commence as I return some of those deleted words, and then on re-reading re-remove them a second time. Before finally deciding that if a passage flows better an offending word may remain included. If it works the superfluous word gets a reprieve. It gets to stay. (You see there I go again over-egging it: tell 'em once, tell 'em twice, tell 'em three time’s, old habits die hard and a sales pitch is not what I’m writing!)

My list of deletions start with: all, but, yet, just, only, and I always check correct usage of: it’s or its and their, they’re, and there or too, two, and to. So why do I do this? Because I want my work to look polished. It’s not about ‘a quantity of words but their quality,’ they have to work, to earn their keep and place in my novel.

Which words do you remove? I'd love to know...


  1. Great post Kay
    I could relate to every word you typed! I also type as I think; my fingers almost falling over themselves to put my imaginings onto the screen before they disappear. And as you say...when do you step back and say 'I've finished?' I'm sure I can ALWAYS change at least one word!
    I wish you every luck with your book and I'd love to read it one day.
    Love Ange X

  2. Great post! Your process of writing resembles mine a lot. But I'm having difficulties writing without editing. I must learn to stop censoring myself on the first draft.
    I also pay special attention to words like its, it's, their, they're. I'm not a native speaker of English, so I often re-read my work more than a dozen times before I submit it. I'm terrified of handing in a piece with some silly typo. And despite all the proof-reading, it still happens. :-)

  3. Control F is my friend! My word is sudden. Suddenly, all of a sudden. I use these WAY too much. I also find that I will change a title partway through writing. The Teacher become Professor or the banker becomes a manager. Great way to make sure I've caught EVERY reference.

    My writing process tends to depend on the story. Most come to me chronologically, but occasionally, I jump vast portions of plot to write the conflict I see clearly and then write my way up to that point. Writing chronologically leads to a lot of missed fore-shadowing opportunities. That's one of the big things I do on re-reading.

    Thanks for the glimpse into your process!

  4. Kay,
    I completely relate to your post too. I found it very hard to write my novel without editing it at the same time. In hindsight, I think I should have edited at the end of each chapter for typos and grammar then left the big picture plotting / character edits for the end of the book.
    It is refreshing to see the process other writers go through for editing. Thank you.

  5. Check out Hemingway's theory of the iceberg about writing. It makes wonderful sense. He, btw, rewrote OLD MAN AND THE SEA 200 times - a bit obsessive.Best of luck to you.

  6. KG: I had the sudden problem, and then I heard/read Billy Collins' poem Tension. Google it.