Sunday, 3 June 2012

My Red Editing Pen

Last week I came home from five gloriously sunny days in the French countryside. I had some lovely trips out but I also found time to edit my second novel, In Hindsight. I love the red-pen stage. It means I finished my book, I've printed a hard copy and I'm ready to read the whole piece through.

It's always surprising how the black and white pages become decorated with red squiggles or lines when I think I've paid attention throughout its creation! I find it's such a beneficial discipline to leave my work for as long as I can suffer its absence. Re-reading my story after a few weeks or months, highlights areas for improvement. It enables me to spot silly mistakes, for instance, I had a magnolia tree blooming in September! Now I always check the time of year with what's happening in nature.

I check that each chapter is relevant to the flow of the story and make sure it moves the narrative along. This is also where the odd spelling mistake jumps out at me, poor grammar is spotted and over-looked cliches are crossed out. I find that editing a hard copy is far easier than gazing at a computer screen for hours at a time. I can see where my text slows down, either from too many similes or superfluous adjectives. By now my red editing pen has left trails of ink as if a drunken snail has crawled across the page!

Now I'm home my next step is to work through the hard copy and transfer the corrections onto my laptop. I plan to do this over the jubilee weekend. Then I'll print another hard copy, but this time I'll put it into a file and read it in the form of a book. Loose sheets are great for the first edit, but I like to have my pages bound for my second edit. I feel I'm getting closer to sending it off to my agent! At this stage I'm ensuring that I've varied my sentence lengths, avoided repetitive words, minimized adverbs and improved my choice of words. I develop my characters and check continuity. I make sure I've used equal amounts of narrative, introspection and dialogue. I ensure points of view are used correctly and I've used the correct names! Occasionally I read a piece of dialogue and have the wrong person speaking!

Towards the end of this month I'll do my third and final edit. Some people do more than three and some less. I feel that after three edits, my agent will give me some feedback for my fourth edit. I can't imagine any agent has read a manuscript and said, 'Don't change a thing!'

So much has happened and changed in my life whilst writing this novel. I can honestly say that it has helped me through very difficult times. My characters became 'friends' who made me laugh and cry. My protagonist became a widow, and having lost my dad earlier this year, I changed the way she grieved. See an earlier post. I realised that grief wasn't all about wailing and hair-pulling. My characters kept me company and kept my mind focused.

Hopefully one day it will be published, and you can all read about their trials, relationships, hopes, tribulations and dreams.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Damned Deviations

A fork in the lane ahead
Heralds a choice.
Damned deviations
Which confuse and blur,
Obscuring clarity
Like breath on cold glass.
We must walk in our own shoes
Despite sagas secreted
Beneath their tread.
Despite voices urging
This way and that
As we fumble and flounder,
And cling to our routine
Like a startled grey squirrel
Clings to cracked bark.
Loose rocks in our path
Can surely become
Stable stepping stones,
Firm and resolute.
A time for change
And brave deep breaths.
Strangers lurk ahead;
Dark figures in
Unknown places.
Or maybe
They’re unfamiliar friends?
Comforting comrades
With names as yet unheard.
Be bold, hope for success,
Venture forwards,
Embrace new paths
And greet new faces.
For no-one knows
How long the meandering path
Will stretch.

Angela Barton