A while back, I polled some of my fellow writers about why they wrote. One of the things I (and I think they too) would admit to not love about writing is editing.
I’ve been getting a lot of up-close-and-personal experience with this less-than-joyful side of writing recently as I work my way through the final process of getting my novel, “A Dream Before Dying”, whipped into shape for submission to a real editor. Going through the pages, finding errors I should have seen while I was writing, fixing problems with dialogue or how characters interact (or even just getting the name of a character consistent!)…I seem to have seen it all in my travels back through my work.
One thing I had not done until recently was to assemble the individual chapters into a manuscript…and that was where the real fun began. I knew the book was going to be good sized, even large, but even with the two chapters I have yet to finish not included, I find myself with a behemoth that is nearly 700 pages long. That’s over 208,000 words (and counting).
So, I gotta lose some stuff….okay, a whole lotta stuff!
I again reached out to my fellow writers for advice, and they all concurred: I gotta cut a whole lotta stuff out of my manuscript!
They had many suggestions, some of them I am not sure I could follow if I tried (like outlining each chapter that I have already written), and some I know I can (like going through the material and finding ways to say the same thing while using fewer words). I tried a couple of other ideas, and the results were enlightening.
One suggestion was to read each chapter out loud while recording it so I could get an idea of how well the text flowed. I tried that suggestion with a short (not even four page) passage…and learned a new respect for actors. After all, they have to not only read a script, perfectly, they have to remember it that way too. I made several errors in my short reading, and while the resulting recording did not suffer significantly, it was enough to tell me there is no way I could do that for a whole chapter.
A related suggestion was to take the text and use a computer to read it so I could get the same effect without the potential of errors. I tried that too, but as a Linux user, I don’t have access to some of the software that runs on Windows or the OS-X platforms. That I probably could not afford any of that software is a completely separate matter. In any event, I am not sure that the results would have been markedly better than my experiment. Using GeSpeak, an open-source package that takes text file and reads them in either a ‘male’ or ‘female’ voice, I tried the first chapter. This was mainly because it is one of the shortest, but even in that short time frame, I quickly became annoyed with the quality of the voice. If you ever saw the original “Battlestar Galactica” from back in the 1980’s, you might remember the voice of the android Cylon soldiers. If you do, well, you have a good idea what the voice I was listening to sounded like. Not wanting to be tempted to destroy my computer, I decided that this was not going to be an option either.
Several of my fellow writers suggested I consider ‘breaking’ the manuscript into smaller sections and turning one book into two or more. How I can manage that….I can not even begin to imagine.
So here I am, stuck with the need to make a huge project small(er).
And you thought writing was easy? Dream on!