Tag Archives: howIwrite

The Process of Editing, Kate-Style

Am I getting better at editing, or am I just getting more picky?

OH I HAD THIS THOUGHT AT 3AM SO HAVE A RANDOM EMAIL ABOUT CHARACTER MOTIVATION

If you consider the villain as the hero for a moment, how do they expect their plan to work? What are the political, logistical and financial aspects? What do they expect to happen, and what steps have they taken to ensure that opposition is squashed or neutralised? And where do ridiculously huge, magical war-machines fit into all this?

More toe-bones for everyone!

Sometimes it’s not killing your darlings for the fun of it; it’s identifying the threads in the book, identifying the core story and the core moments, and taking short-cuts to get the characters there. It’s identifying something that builds the character up (or tears them down) and making that happen without the intervening 50-page build-up.

YOU CAN’T KILL THAT CHARACTER HOW VERY DARE YOU.

I don’t have a background in English Lit and I’m sure there’s proper words for everything, but I’m just going by “I’m not sure starting with action actually works, because he’s not in a place to command the narrative, ok? He’s coming in with no plan and then it absolutely fails which obviously it would. Him getting arrested is a much better place to start, because that’s definitely more in-character at that point.” I think I’ve ended up at literary theory via practise, which is basically pointing at a bit and going “I don’t like that, it would work better like this.”

…STOP THREATENING TO KILL THAT CHARACTER IN EVERY SYNOPSIS!

The idea of every scene being needed, and advancing the story; but! not necessarily for plot. Character interaction and worldbuilding are just as necessary. However – and another BUT here – that doesn’t mean that those threads can’t be wound into the plot-related scenes. Worldbuilding and character-building are two of the things that need to wind around the bones of the plot, and if you have a scene that just builds characters, check with yourself: do you actually need it? It could be The. Most. Adorable. Thing but if it just adds texture, could that texture go somewhere else? Could it be threaded into another interaction?

THIS IS SO GOOD AND COOL AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH

And the other side of that is that we do need to feel for the characters. We do need to care: otherwise it’s a bunch of DnD murder-hobos running around. Why is that specific character doing that specific thing? How would they react? What are their feelings about a thing? How are they saying something, or doing something? If you don’t have enough character building and then throw them into something, we’re just reading for your snazzy description of sword-play, and not because we’re genuinely worried about what could happen.

WE NEED MORE FROOF

(As you may have summarised, I’ve been doing a lot of editing recently! It’s been on a wide variety of books, which has been very fun – I’m going between space opera to the cutest necromancers to a rather terrifying dystopia to sword-fighting ridiculousness. It’s actually been really interesting, because I’ve read two of the books before – about five years ago! – and it’s been fascinating to see what I pick up this time versus what I did then, and also how much firmer I am in my opinions. Editors are as prone to Imposter Syndrome as anyone – and actually, probably more so, because we’re the ones that Know Best and Make Things Better and We Are Right – and it’s fascinating to me to see how far I’ve come from “so, if you possibly did this would it make this happen?” to “LOOK JUST REWRITE HALF THE BOOK OK?”

It is hard work. It is tough. It is a knotty, thorny minefield of character interactions, bits I don’t want to cut, characters I love, wordcounts I have to get down and threads I want to tug. It’s so so interesting to see how different writers approach things, and how their ideas feed into mine – and vice versa – to make a book stronger. But it’s also very very fun!)

(Also, I have the best authors. They’re all a joy to work with!)

Going back to things is scary…

The really satisfying days start with a punch to the face.

Not usually my face – although there have been exceptions – but there is something very satisfying about kicking someone else’s butt. Literally.

I’ve found myself, over the past few months, thinking of bits in No Man’s Land and the associated writing I was doing. Sentences keep coming back, and I keep thinking of parts I loved. I wonder about dipping in again, or find myself explaining bits and jokes and snark to Otter. It’s sort of bubbling back to the surface…

[Crib notes: modern urban fantasy with two magical people, who are incidentally exes and also incidentally hate each other, trying to save the world. The slight spanner in the works is that everyone might be going mad. It’s fun.]

I paused on NML because I’d had feedback that the first third needed to be better integrated – and they’re right. The danger needs to start sooner, and it can – that’s fairly easy to do, in plot terms.

But when I got that feedback, I was deep in burnout. I knew what I needed to do and I could see the shape of that, but when I started writing it just… didn’t come. Went flat. It was all words and no characters, no emotions, no flow.

I reluctantly put it aside when life went to hell, and promised myself I’d go back to it. And that fact it’s bubbling to the surface suggests that I should.

But I am scared.

I know that diving back in is going to bring back a lot of memories and emotions; I tend to write with a word cloud mixed with music mixed with emotions, and every book has a different one – so bringing that back again is going to hurt. The book was written at a very different time in my life, so that’s going to have memories; it has a lot of people and associations that are going to be hard to process.

And simply in writing terms, too, I’m going to have to dig back in. I’m going to have to figure out how to work it. I’m going to have to remember a whole bunch of stuff and backstory and details and then figure out how to change it.

But… diving back in might be good. I’ve had a break, and levelled up as an editor, so looking at this with fresh eyes will be good for it and for me.

It’s just going to hurt. And I’ve had so many hurts of the past few years that I don’t really want to face another one – it’s going to require a lot of falling down and getting up again, and I’m going to be falling on already-bruised knees, if that makes sense.

Hey ho.

Well, no one ever said the writing life was easy.

A Brief Conversation About The Bechdel Test

So I was chatting to Otter about their writing, and they expressed worry about the Bechdel Test. “I mean, if I have a male main character, should they… overhear a conversation? I mean, I could have them eavesdropping. Or maybe just walk in on one? But that would mean they’re in the room-”

“Hang on, hang on. They can be present during the conversation.”

“Oh! Ok. I thought it was a conversation without a man present.”

“…no. The bar is literally set low enough that it has to be a conversation.

And there was a moment of silence as we contemplated exactly how low the bar was that just one conversation between two women is hard to hit.

“And it can’t be about a man?” Otter adds.

“So… an argument about who’s turn it is to wash up?” I got another ‘really?’ look. “Yeah. Seriously. Hey, have you come across the Sexy Lamp Test?”

“You have got to be joking.”

“And Sexy Lamp With Post-It. Ok, go look up Mako Mori. That’s a good one.”

Some more contemplation was had, possibly about the state of the world.

“So… what happens if you don’t meet the tests?”

“Nothing. It just depends if you want to your books to be bought by readers who don’t want to consider women as characters.”

“Ah.”

Writing a Blurb from Gareth L Powell

Having done my “thoughts about pitches” a few weeks ago, I came across a template from the fantastic Gareth L Powell on “how to write a novel pitch or blurb”:

I know those of you on Twitter will have seen it already, but it’s worth saving! And if the tweet isn’t showing up above, here’s the image, and you can find the original tweet here.

Writer’s Block: Building Your Sandcastle

Have you heard the thing about writing a first draft; it’s like piling sand into the bucket, and the second draft is then building the castle?

My writer’s block at the moment feels like the sand is that really hot, dry sand you get sometimes at the beach; the sand that slips and slides and just falls through your fingers when you pick it up.

So I can grasp a handful, but it just trickles through my fingers: and even if I did manage to get it into the bucket, I’d tip it out into my castle and it would just melt away again.

I’ve got the ideas; but I can’t put them together into anything. I can’t flesh out the bones: every word is a grain of sand picked up and put in the bucket, and then taken out again.

Here’s hoping the tide comes in, and then there’s some damp sand again!

Image via Pexels.