The Writing Life: Momentum

Another rapid freehand blog today. Which means five plus edits after publication – my apologies to those of you who get version one mailed to you!

My face is hot. I think because I’ve been talking for hours. To myself. I’ve been reading The Killer and The Dead aloud, and I’m here to say (thankfully not aloud) that it is harder than you’d think to read your words, and actually say every single one of them, and not skip over some.

Of course that’s a good thing – if you notice that you keep skipping over some words in a sentence, then maybe they don’t need to be there. Cut! But what about the times you don’t notice, and blithely pass over those extra words? Well – that’s why there are multiple passes of editing, you give yourself the chance to catch that sucker next time!

I’ve heard tell there are apps now that will read your work to you. However tedious I may find reading my own work (when I’m not descending into giggles at how good parts of it are (and yes, just let me have that right now – I have enough other periods of despair at how awful it all is too!)), I think listening to machine voice read it to me would be worse. But fellow authors have assured me it is a great tool to help you catch mistakes and awkward phrasing in your own writing, precisely because the program does not unconsciously skip over any of your words, and so faithfully renders every syllable back to you, whether you like them or not! I should give it a shot.

Anyway, I’m just about half-way through now, and have hopes I could get near to done over the weekend. One more phase complete, another layer of dust removed from those glass tables. After that I think I will do some Don McNair word searches (plus some of my own I came up with when following his advice last time out and through that recognised tics of my own that needed to be reined in. I won’t give examples because otherwise you will totally notice them!) and maybe then be just about ready to declare myself done and allow others to proofread – so I can inevitably be shocked (and oh so grateful) for all the things they catch!

The important thing is the sense of progress I’m getting again. Momentum has been gained and text is being read, parsed, corrected and improved as I pass. A couple of darlings have been killed, a very random piece of extra lore has been added, and a handful of good notes created for me to address. Continuity niggles to check – I’m having to be mindful of the “what did he know and when?” issues for my narrator, and caught one potential reference to information he should not have had today, though I need to recheck the first hundred pages or so to be sure. It might be justified, but it might not, so I’m going to have to go back and be sure I planted the right seeds earlier, and did not just forget and add authorial knowledge to my character in that scene and accidentally forsehadow information he will only discover 30 pages later.

Writing, it is a headstretcher, for sure.

But this is part of what I love – so much work by now has gone into story and character that you want to get all the touches right, and the novel becomes part puzzle, part engine, a thing to be put together properly so it can run as smoothly as possible for the reader. Copy edits, and these final run throughs are the carb cleanings, the radiator flushes, the fresh spark plugs the book needs for everything to work as it should. I’m really reaching there, sorry!

Once again I can see how easy it would be to fall into the obsessive rabbit hole of perfectionism at this stage. I have on this run spotted a bunch of unintentional repetitions that are not good, sometimes pages or chapters apart, but all that does is tell me I’ve missed plenty of others. The best is when I go looking for one thing, and discover something entirely other that is an issue. On page one. It is fixed now. But this is how I come to understand those authors who never release the next book. This phase can literally go on forever, if you let it.

I’m going to avoid that, if I can. I have momentum, and I have a goal, and I want to share this with others, not hoard it to myself forever, feverishly polishing. I can’t lie, this is (as usual) taking longer than I’d have wanted, and is delaying my timetable for the next book, but part of my sense of momentum today is the feeling that the detailed work is right, and necessary, and as long as I can keep powering into it and it doesn’t turn into a procrastinatory frittering of time, then it will be useful. The skill is to know when that corner gets turned!

Okay folks, see you later – keep writing, and reading, in your outside voices!


4 thoughts on “The Writing Life: Momentum

      1. Comic Con was fun. Obviously English books aren’t going to be as popular here as they would back home. Things have been quiet since the summer though. Been spending most of my time working and writing has taken a backseat. No new releases for a while I think. I’m grinding a new novel/episodic season, which is really the only thing I’m working on right now. I feel you on being out of touch.

  1. Pingback: The Writing Life : Speed Bumps – Roderick T. Macdonald

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