The hidden art of home libraries
The school year sags into holidays and this fascinating year of 2020 drags its feet, unwilling to relinquish its fervent grip on the throat of human hope. Coronavirus continues to rage in parts of the world, serums designed to reduce the virus' impact bring possibilities but not cures or prevention, Sydney has another outbreak while the rest of Australia holds their collective breaths as Christmas travellers clutch tickets, and I hope to see my daughters and grandson in the new year.
Daytime work for 2020 stopped on Friday. Actually, it was meant to end on Wednesday, but small unfinished tasks lingered through Thursday and Friday, drawing me back into the office to add detail and 'do the right thing', whatever that actually is in a working world.
There are also distractions. Friday and yesterday I chose to build a dream - a wall library in the lounge for our books (or at least for some of them). I'm no carpenter - I failed Woodwork at school - but I managed to recompose a combination of IKEA bookcases, Bunnings kitchen cabinets, assorted sections of melamine, sweat, determination, creativity and careful measurement into a library (picture below). Finally, a space in our house feels like a writer should be here.
Editing of Chasse's Song has therefore been interrupted and slow, but the aim is still to finish the first edit before Christmas Day weighs in. Rearranging word order to improve the scansion (yes, I know it's prose, but the inner poet can't let go of a sense of rhythm when writing), selecting 'better' words, finding one word to replace three, reducing same word repetition, testing alternative words, adding and removing details, and checking for typos, misspellings, grammatical inconsistencies and really stupid mistkaes (yes, Dad joke irony) continues to be the prime imperative in this part of the writing process. I'm hoping the next couple of days will be fulltime writer days to aid this process.
I suspect my next post will be either between Christmas and New Year or in the new year. Either way, I wish you all an amazing, restful, Coronavirus-free, loving Christmas. Let's see if the contract for 2021 has any fineprint or hidden clauses. I'm hoping it brings everyone a fresh perspective, energy, productivity and joy.
The first cuts are the deepest...
Before you know it, a month storms by and we are racing into the Christmas period. And I haven't posted.
This week I completed a hard copy first edit of Chasse's Song. The process of working through the current 93,000 words was spread over a three week period. I begin by saying it is an exciting and scary experience to read a novel draft in its entirety for the first time.
Among the aspects I scrutinized were:
The editing process in Chasse's Song sent me several times back to Tamesan's Song (Book One) to check consistencies in culture and characters. While it is tempting to take licence and adjust aspects of the original story, I've disciplined myself to make sure the second book follows the original in matters, for example, such as the ages of Chasse, Tamesan and Jaysin.
Facts and consistency aside, the edit also involved checking for effective descriptive passages and images. Where appropriate, I added colour, names, details, weather, light, sound, odours and texture to immerse the reader deeper into moments and character experiences.
I also checked, edited and added opportunities for Chasse to be reflective and thoughtful - in other words not just an action and dialogue character. Because he is a young warrior startled by the violence of his role in the Harbin community, Chasse faces the effects of trauma - basically PTSD - in the form of nightmares and personal uncertainty. I have been working through to make this side of his character, and his learning/growth, believable.
Establishing dragon and wizard culture in a side story to Chasse's main story also influenced sections of editing to ensure the 'lore' established in book one is visualised and developed in book two.
Reading silently and aloud is a crucial action in the editing process. I use it to test expression, fluency and dialogue feasibility and consequently rewrote a significant number of sentences and phrases to improve the reader's experience. Searching for clumsy expression, awkward expression, archaic expression, stumbling expression is probably the most challenging and in some ways neverending editing task. This also touches on sentence openings - juxtaposition of phrases to add variance to the rhythm of the writing.
Reading dialogue aloud is a crucial part of the editing process to ensure the characters' interchanges are character-consistent but also flow as in natural dialogue. Where the dialogue sounds/felt stilted, I've made changes.
The edit also explores the storytelling flow - how actions and events integrate and how and where to 'break' them in order to arrive at the next part of the story. This is particularly important in constructing the chapters. My aim is always to make a chapter a 'little story' in itself that is connected by character and the larger tale to preceding and subsequent chapters. This also involves looking for how and where seeds/connectors/hooks can be inserted to keep the reader wanting to know what happens next.
And there is the obvious editing for typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors - the mechanical, secretarial editing that ensures the reader's attention isn't derailed by an obvious language blunder. Sadly, as careful as I try to be from the outset, there are always quite a few to fix.
With the hard edit finished, from tomorrow I begin to transfer those into the original digital manuscript. This process becomes the second edit because it involves the second full reading of the manuscript. Experience tells me that I will make additional changes as I work the first edit fixes into the text.
On a different note, today I started the third book, Jaysin's Song - okay just the first two hundred words, but I have the concept emerging so the next few weeks will be an interesting challenge with Christmas bearing down. I am hoping to get at least one more blog entry done before Dec 25th. Let's see.
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...