In January I blogged about what I thought was the final edit of my forthcoming novel. My editor had sent me some notes, I had my beta-reader do one more pass, and I busted my butt to make a fair number of changes to the doc. Then I handed it off, glad to FINALLY be done with it.
Yeah, well, I’m knew here.
Miles To Go
In May, my editor sent me the copy edited version and asked me to read it over again. He said “This is your last chance to do whatever you want to the book. Once you get page proofs, no rewriting is allowed other than checking for typos and missing punctuation.”
And wouldn’t you know it, as I read it over again with that pressure of “this is your last chance…” I saw so many changes I wanted to make. But I only had three weeks to turn this draft around. So I set everything else aside and let it consume me.
Getting Down To It
As I got down to the nitty gritty, one of the main things I was doing was replacing words. For instance, the word “dark.” I got a little obsessive about it and at some point my husband asked “why the big concern over using a word more than once?”
And he had a point. I mean, there are tens of thousands of words in a novel. Is anyone going to notice if I use the word “dark” more than once, or even more than five times?
And the answer is no, no one is going to notice, but the words I overuse are generally, when I look with a critical mind, crutches. They are words used in place of better words. And given the choice, an author should always go with the better word.
Take this line for instance:
The broken yellow line flashed along the desolate highway in the growing darkness.
Noticing the repetition of “dark” there I considered if I could make the sentence better and came up with:
The broken yellow line flashed down the middle of the desolate highway, the steady rhythm of it entrancing.
I like “entrancing.” I consider this a better sentence.
Better Word = Better Sentence
Ultimately, I got rid of 15 instances of the word “dark” in the manuscript. That’s 15 sentences made better, more specific. I went through the same process with any word that caught my eye as repetitive.
I spent about a week doing this. I could have spent longer. It’s totally possible to get sucked in to the tiny nuances of words. And an absurd amount of time can pass as you debate the merits of “green” over “emerald.”
At a certain point, you just have to step away. Which I guess is one of the upsides of having a deadline.
So sent in the draft. And as hard as I worked on it, I didn’t feel the need to celebrate. I mean, how many times can you celebrate finishing the same manuscript? And also, I’m not falling for that. I know I’ll have to go over it AT LEAST one more time.
This whole publishing thing is not for the faint of heart.