The Writing Life: The Power of the Spoken Word

This is an update.

After losing/significantly depleting my GAF as previously described, I decided to do my usual (i.e. done once before) final step of reading my book out loud to myself as a way to interrogate each sentence and catch egregious typos.

This is now done. Yay. I fixed some sentences here and there, a paragraph or two, and felt glad to have done the work. Genuine improvements were made.

The problem is I discovered not one, but two significant (but not book-breaking) issues that somehow slid by me in the previous I am now guessing hundreds of times I have worked my way through this manuscript. That is not an exaggeration, oh how I wish it were. There are some 70 odd minor notes to deal with in addition, but maybe half of them are allied or involved with the two major issues I identified.

So I’m going to make fixes. But I can’t lie – making fixes at this late stage, even if they are valid and necessary, is a PITA. It puts an ache in my soul. Because I want to be done, but can’t be. I have to move the protagonist’s brother’s house. Have to. Because where he is now makes a mockery of his motivation, and who he is. I did not realise it until I read the words aloud. The meanings didn’t change, the context did not change, but reading it aloud made different bells ring in my mind, and I realised that there was a problem. Other readers did not catch it. My editor did not catch it. Reading aloud, to myself, caught it.

It is an easy(ish) fix. Hopefully I will execute it tomorrow. But it is just one more thing, one more swing at a tree I’ve been trying to fell for years, and seems to have developed an iron core.

The other issue is also resolvable, but it is like a lace spread throughout the text, touched on here and there, never obvious, just some background detail that yelled at me when I spoke it aloud, and told me I had to fix it in many places across 390 pages of double spaced text. Fix and leave no new inconsistencies. Anywhere.


But I will persevere. The changes needed are necessary to make an antagonist more unique and powerful, and will also help to inform and enrich the societies of both the living and the dead in the book. What I have now is a shade too simplistic (done as a writer’s shorthand in the first draft and never gone back to later, I now suspect, not addressed when larger structural and thematic issues were to the forefront, but now visible), and could create awkward questions in the reader’s mind – and why risk that? So I have to fix it. That means multiple small changes, and then another read-through once I’m done to make sure everything now hangs correctly. A-rgh again.

No doubt then I’ll spot something else.

This is why, dear readers, some authors take years to release their next book. It isn’t because they’re blowing off their audience, it’s because they care about them. And perhaps because they are discovering they are a little OCD. Or a lot OCD. I never imagined I’d care that much about details when I fantasised about being a writer when I was twelve. Now I’m consumed by them. I hope this is not a case of wood for trees, or shrubs for grass, at this stage, but I trust myself on this, because these are details that add depth and resonance to the world, that line up with my larger plan for that universe, which I have spent a long time putting together. I have trust in what my spoken word revealed to me.

If you write, and do not read your book, painstakingly word for word to yourself, I strongly advise you to do so. You may be surprised and grateful at what you find, and can correct, through that process.

I cannot wait to continue writing The Red Palace, and publishing what will be a proofed first draft, because I want to capture the initial energy of creation, and see how it is received. The liberation of it will be intense. The recriminations afterwards… I’ll have to deal with. My fellow writers out there will understand what I’m talking about!

I will update further as I draw closer to concluding my work on The Killer and The Dead. (I’ve had great ideas for a couple of the appendices/apprentice’s reports!) I thank you for your patience. Stay safe, and keep reading and writing!



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