Long time no post! I’m back and I’ve got exciting news. Since I last posted I have got older and flicked over into a new age bracket. For my birthday, my lovely friends and family gave me enough cash so I could afford to get Conspire professionally edited. Some might say this is a bit of a boring birthday present, and those some would be very wrong. It has been so exciting sending my manuscript off to be fixed! And fixed it has been!
The editor I chose is based in England and is called Bubble Cow. I saw this editor being recommended by some other writers on Twitter, and also noticed that they give a lot of free advice to writers on their blog.
Included in the editing package was an assessment of the plot, characters and style. I was pleased to see that the editor didn’t pick up many problems in the grammar, layout and choice of words. There were also only a few typos, which was a relief since I’ve read the manuscript four times already! But what Bubble Cow, specifically Gary, was able to do was show me how to get my manuscript, in his words – from 90% there to 100%. I’m pleased he thought it was already 90% there and I’m even more pleased that the changes he has suggested, although usually quite minor, have had a major impact on how polished the manuscript is.
As an example of the changes he suggested – he removed a lot of exclamation marks. Readers of this blog will know I’m quite fond of my exclamation marks. But they are a bit childish in a real book. I have also come to realize that they break a rule that I seem to break a lot and Gary has pointed out to me how to improve this situation – the old chestnut of telling not showing. You shouldn’t have to use an exclamation mark at the end of the dialogue, as the words the character is using should SHOW the reader that the character is exasperated, excited, surprised or any other emotion worthy of emphasis.
He’s also removed a lot of the internal dialogue of my protagonist, Alex, for the same reason – her thoughts and conclusions and summaries were often evidence of the narrator (me) TELLING the reader what Alex was thinking, rather than showing it through her actions and dialogue.
I had a few paragraphs were the narrator explained to the reader what had happened in the back story in an attempt to add context to a situation. But Gary showed me where this back-story could be ‘SHOWN’ rather than ‘TOLD’ through dialogue or action. When he points out these sections to me, it seems totally obvious that I’d broken the showing/telling rule. But it’s often not until a third party shows you where you’ve gone wrong that you really understand.
All in all I’m thrilled with the feedback and after spending today taking it in and revising, I feel I’m closer to being able to present readers with a really good book.
Thank you to readers of this blog who contributed to my present. It was a useful exercise and an educating experience.
This weekend I spent the Easter holidays with my parents in Adelaide. I am incredibly lucky to have a mother who enjoys helping me with my novel writing. Just as she did with Times of Trouble, she has been editing Conspire as I write it – chapter by chapter – over many months. It is invaluable to have someone reading and critiquing my work as I go, and I’m incredibly grateful for the help.
You might not get this impression if you overheard one of our editing sessions. It sometimes appears I’m about two seconds from snapping and throwing my hands in the air with frustration. We were revising my plot for more than 12 hours over two days, and we got a huge amount of work done. But when there are numerous conversations like the following, one after the other, you can see how tension might occur:
Me: ‘Why do you want to change that part? It’s fine!’
Mum: ‘It doesn’t make sense! Read it again out loud and tell me what you meant to say.’
Me: ‘Fine, if it doesn’t make sense, what would you put instead?’
Mum: ‘Tell me what you meant to say and I’ll tell you what you could write instead.’
Me: ‘Forget it. If it doesn’t make sense, I’ll just delete it.’
Mum: ‘Then the next part wont make sense. Do we need to take a break?’
I wouldn’t say I’m precious about my work. In actual fact I make the suggested changes in about 97% of her highlighted sections. But it is never easy to have someone tell you that your work of art isn’t sitting together as it should. I also found that the style of Conspire is making it very hard to insert extra information or change the dialogue. I wrote it with the aim of being concise and not interrupting the fast flow of the action. Every chapter is around 1,000 – 2,000 words long. So when there was a plot inconsistency which Mum identified as needing revision, our biggest challenge was finding somewhere appropriate to insert more words. When I finished Times of Trouble, I had the opposite problem – 20,000 words needed to be removed.
It was very satisfying to see the end result of our work. The style is tighter now – even though there are more words. The plot unravels at the correct speed – like a snaking line of dominos, all falling neatly on top of each other one sentence at a time. I still have some changes to make, but I am not far off having a draft that is ready for friends and family to critique. Again, thank you to Mum for asking all the tough questions and tolerating my eye rolling. Every point you made was valuable. From:
‘You’ve used that word in the sentence before. Find a different word.’
‘Can a nuclear missile really fire that far? Can you please check Wikipedia again?’