A Lesson From Narnia

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Thanks everyone, there was some great feedback on the first look at Dark Energies. And by “great”, I don’t mean everyone told me how amazing it is and what a genius I am. Although to those of you who did say just that, I love you more than cake. And boy, do I love cake.

No, by “great” I mean comments that have genuinely, within the space of 24 hours, helped shape the way the next edit of the first draft is going to go. As I’m right at the start of that process, the timing couldn’t have been better; it’s saved me a massive amount of re-work later.

Two key points were made a number of times and they bring me to the real point of today’s post. Make sure you can always see the wood for the trees.

As an “indie” author (yes, it’s National Quote Mark Day) there’s no input from an agent, editor or publisher to tell you where you’re going wrong. You write away day in, day out and it can be all too easy to get on a roll and stick with it. Sometimes that works, other times it leads you off on a dangerous tangent. One thing I’m learning is to always maintain a level of objectivity. To step back and see your work through the eyes of your readers.

Of course when you’re actually putting words down on paper (I write longhand most of the time and type it up later) you need the subjective immersion in what you’re writing. You have to be there, right in the scene, hearing it, smelling it, tasting it. Living it. Otherwise it won’t live for your readers.

But.

When you hit the editing stage, pull yourself away from the world and imagine you’ve just spent money on a book. A prime example from yesterday is the over-use of adjectives. Clearly, when I wrote the prologue, I was in a descriptive frame of mind. Very likely influenced by whatever I’d most recently been reading. I obviously thought “Wow, I don’t use enough description. Better throw some more adjectives at it!” Either that or I was just in a wordy frame of mind, which isn’t uncommon for me.

Hence, everything got described in minute detail, which had the knock-on effect of slowing down the pace of what should be a driving scene. It took peer reviews to point that out. Even re-reading my own work, I was pulled back to the place, time, situation, emotion, whatever, of when I wrote it. Objectivity took a back seat and the writing suffered as a result.

Which, I guess, is a long way of saying, immerse yourself in writing but make sure you’re towelled off, changed out of your trunks and sipping a hot cappuccino before you start editing.

All of which was encapsulated far more succinctly by C.S. Lewis in this letter: C. S. Lewis on Writing

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