The Fifth House Edits: Week Four

translatorsrevenge

I’ve been so busy, I skipped the Week 3 post, but this week and last have pretty much been the same. At a pace of three chapters a day, I’m going through The Fifth House and making improvements. This includes clearing up confusing sections, cutting out redundant words, sentences and sections, and checking that the characters and their actions flow together from one chapter to the next.

That last part is no small task. When I write 1000 words a day during the first draft, I sometimes have to change my plan for the story in mid-stream. I don’t have time to go back and change what I’ve already written during my drafting stage, so I drop a comment into the document noting the change and advising Editor Andy to go back and fix it later. Other times, I just write filler describing what I wanted to but couldn’t write, or I write something and leave a note explaining that what I just wrote was horrible and could I make it better during edits.

Editor Andy hates First Draft Andy for pulling this crap, but that’s the way it goes. It allows me to keep writing up until The End without getting bogged down in repairing what I’ve already written. Still, it gets frustrating. Here are some of my favorite comments to myself, that make me curse First Draft Andy aloud.

“Confusing. Delete.” So if it was confusing and I should delete it, why didn’t I just do that during the first draft? Because then I would have had to write more to reach my 1,000-word goal for the day.

“This can all be shown instead of told, second time through.” All you have to do is snap your fingers!

“Stood stood stood” I guess I used the same word in three consecutive sentences…

“repetitive” “comma overload” Self-explanatory

“I don’t like this whole paragraph, but I’m moving on for now.” Now you’re just being mean.

“Not taking into account word count, this would be a good chapter end.” In other words, what’s wrong with a 300 word chapter if it’s got a nice hook at the end?

And my favorite: “This makes no sense to me.” In my defense, I get up really early to write.

You get the idea. At my average pace of three chapters a day, I should have this editing done by Valentine’s Day, a gift to myself. And then what? I start all over, undoubtedly finding all new mistakes and confusing sections to fix.

I’ll most likely take a one- or two-week break between this editing pass and the next, though, to work on some short stories and to get a little distance from the book.

There you have it. Writing, editing. It’s work and it’s not always pretty, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo credit: Translator’s Revenge by Daniela Vladimirova.

The Fifth House Edits: Week Two

roadblock

I am now about 72,000 words into the first pass edit of The Fifth House, which is the sequel to The Only City Left. (You can sign up for my newsletter to be notified when The Fifth House is released.) As I mentioned last week, I am using this first pass to look at the structure of the story as a whole, from where the chapter breaks are, to character arcs through the book, to where certain scenes need to fall in relation to one another.

In the process of rereading my first draft, I’ve come across a series of chapters that will require some major rewrites, if not completely new versions. When I write a first draft, I write write write, at least 1,000 words a day, every day. It forces me to keep going when I might otherwise stall out. Generally, it’s a good thing, but sometimes, as with these chapters, it can take me far down a dead end path.

So I need to go back and rework those chapters, but at least this time I have a better sense of where not to go with them. In fact, reading them and seeing where the story went wrong , I was able to make an outline for how to guide the story in a better direction. Edits like these can feel a bit like I’m moving through molasses, but I’m hoping that once I have the structure and pacing locked down, I’ll be much better able to focus on the sentence-level work of making the writing flow and sound right, confident that the big picture is working for me.

Photo Credit: No Cars-1 by Ze’ev Barkan.

The Fifth House Edits: Week One

legochainsaw

I am 40,000 words into the first pass edit of The Fifth House, which is the sequel to The Only City Left. (Sign up for my newsletter to be notified when The Fifth House is released!) For this first pass, I am looking at the structure of the story as a whole, from where the chapter breaks are, to character arcs through the book, to where certain scenes need to fall in relation to one another. More detailed edits will have to wait for the second pass.

Already I have pushed back the introduction of one character and relegated her to a smaller role in the book, because she was fighting for attention in an already-crowded novel. That change allowed me to cut down the length of the first chapter she appeared in, but of course this also requires cascading changes throughout the rest of the book. In the end, I think it will be worth it, though. Plus, any character I cut like this usually shows up again, whether in a short story or another work altogether.

I should mention that I have two point-of-view characters in Book Two, as opposed to only Allin in Book One, and they switch off chapters. This is done to expand the story possibilities in this book, and to have the action be more wide-ranging while still allowing me to tell the big-picture story I want to tell. Reading through my draft, I realized that the second character was sort of defined by her relationship to Allin. Since she should be as important a character as Allin, I wrote an entirely new introduction chapter for her, and I think this makes the story flow much more smoothly.

Finally, when I wrote this draft, I was more concerned with getting the ideas out than making the chapters the perfect length as I went. This meant that some of my “chapters” were 4000, 5000, even 7000 words long, whereas my preferred chapter length is about 2500 words. Breaking the chapters down to that size is complicated by my dual-narrator approach, but it’s a challenge I’m having fun tackling.

So in the first third of the draft, I have cut chunks of exposition, removed a character, added in a new chapter, and cut the existing chapters into smaller, more manageable pieces. Not bad for week one of edits!

Photo credit: [44/365] I am Jack, hear me lumber! by Pascal.