I’m currently deep in editing the sequel to Amethyst Pledge. As I’ve been working my way through the story, I have been struck by how often I need to tighten the dialogue, the sentences and the structure.
It’s pretty normal stuff for a writer – reading back what you wrote, to discover that some of what you wrote isn’t actually as good as you thought it was when you wrote it.
This time I’ve been working on asking myself ‘Does this sentence/paragraph/block of text make any difference at all to the story?’
Sometimes I’ve had to delete a big block of what is actually quite nice writing, but isn’t actually necessary. On occasion, if it’s particularly nice, then I delete it from the body of the story, but stash it away in a folder in case I want to use it somewhere else one day.
One of the things I’ve learnt over the years is that accepting what an editor or beta reader has to say as valid, is actually the path to becoming a much better writer. Of course, hearing someone say what you’ve written isn’t as good as it could be, or that you’ve (quite literally) lost the plot in part of the story, is always uncomfortable.
We write what we write because that’s what we want to do. Whether what we write is good or not, is an entirely different thing. I was reading part of the Hugo packet last week and realised that I use more commas than some writers. It made me wonder if I’m an over user of commas. The answer to that is…maybe. Sometimes. On occasion I write a very long sentence. Sometimes that sentence is unnecessarily long, but sometimes it isn’t. And long sentences usually require commas to make sense.
It probably means that I write too many long sentences.
So as I’ve been editing, I’ve been working on tightening things up. Tightening things up means that the story moves along much faster, and hopefully provides a better read for the reader. Obviously, the trick is to still make sure that each character is fleshed out, with their own unique voice and personality, while ignoring things that don’t matter. It also means that I have to look at every event in the story to determine if it’s necessary. Sometimes it is. If you’ve read my Frontier series, you’ll know that there are hints about Things That Happen In The Third Book as far back as the first book.
I have to ask myself: Does the fact that character X has a dog at home impact on the plot or not? Does that fact round X out? Does X need rounding out? Is it actually important? If I leave it out, will it actually matter? Sometimes I then wonder: Do I need character X?
Anyway, that’s a little insight to the inside of my head during the editing process. I should probably get back to it.