Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Version 2.0 Begins

I read the entire first draft of my Luna book in one day yesterday, which is a good sign--it only dragged at one point, and not at the dreaded 1/3 mark. The prose was less clunky than expected, considering how fast I wrote the draft. Because I worked from an outline (for the first time) and wrote the book from beginning to end (for the first time) rather than skipping around writing scenes here and there, the basic story structure is solid.

I have a lot of work to do, though, much of it involving research on little things (did they have silk back then?) and big things (when the hell is "back then"?).

In several places I found remarks like this: "[finish scene somehow]" Great.

The biggest problem for me was the tone--too sentimental. Luckily, this can be fixed by excising particularly barfy sections like
A look of understanding passed between the two men. Rhia felt a lump in her throat. She loved both of them so much, and the rancor between them had carved a wound within her that now had a chance to heal.
GAG! I'll make a list of these bad lines and look at it whenever I need a laugh or a dose of humility.

Anyway, I'm trying to formulate a revision plan. Usually I take several passes over the same manuscript, looking for different problems each time. I use my entire collection of highlighters to mark things like cliches, adverbs, boring "filler phrases" like
she sighed
he smiled
she looked at him
which are fine in small doses (especially during a fast-paced scene when readers' eyes and minds need to digest the action quickly to move on and find out what happens) but when overused give a sense of flatness to the prose.

Where was I? Oh yeah, a plan. As always, I'll start with a quick refresher of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, which is the single most useful writing book ever. Then I might take a look at Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Then I'll....

I'll let you know.


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Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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