A Life Of Fiction XLIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Editing: It has been suggested that I do not edit my work enough, and that I should do more drafts of my novels. This criticism, though, has been made by people who have not bothered to read my work.

The fact is that I tend to edit my work as I go along. I will toughly sketch out a chapter, and then the next, and then the next. Then, before getting too advanced in whatever novel I am working on at the moment, I will go back and fine tune the first chapter, making sure that I get it into as good a piece of work as I am able to write at that particular instant in time. Then, as I sketch out more of the novel, I will slowly rework the other early chapters, correcting any bad grammar and syntax, sometimes inserting more details that might foreshadow events later in the novel, and so on.

I would be the first to admit that my grammar is not quite as good as I would like – although better than some published works which I have read. I still make the off minor grammatical error, usually when I am tired, having been writing all day. The Word programme will highlight some of those. But Word is not perfect, and will sometimes suggest changes which are grammatically incorrect.

Any iffy grammar I can improve on with a little thought, anyway. I try to write as I speak, saying the sentences out loud if they don’t look quite as they should. If they don’t sound right then they get altered.

Sometimes, though, I will break the rules of grammar for effect. I think that this is fine as long as it is not by accident. This example, in italics, comes from the novel Shadows and Ghosts, to illustrate what I mean:

Population 616.

Population zero.

Population six one six.

Zero.

Technically that could be considered to be poor grammar, as those sentences lack such things as verbs. But I consider it to be a ‘special effect’, one which quickly gets the point across, concerning an impossibly fluctuating population: the town has a population of six hundred and sixteen souls, but, at the same time, it has no population at all. Having the words laid out like that is also, I hope, visually arresting.

I don’t over edit. I would rather leave things a little rough about the edges than work on it too much. I think that if you constantly edit, and edit, and edit, that you can suck the life out of a piece of work. You begin second-guessing yourself, doubting everything which you have done.

So, after the initial edit I edit as I go along, I tend not to do any more drafts than this second one. There would be little point. But, if I am not happy with the work, or I don’t complete it, then what I will do is to put it aside. Not shelve the work, but to put it away so that I can think about the novel; and so that I can improve as an author.

Sometimes I will put a work aside for around ten years or so (ten years is the record) while I work on something else. In those ten years I will have improved as a novelist – and I will hopefully have gained some new insight into the creative process. I will then go back to the work and do another draft of it, if I feel that it is necessary. Sometimes all that I need are a few cosmetic changes to the text, and to bring the work to its conclusion.

Very rarely a work has needed to be rewritten from the start, and where editing alone would not be enough. But those have always been among the first things which I have ever written.

There comes a time, though, when you must stop editing, and when you are only shuffling words around to no purpose at all. When editing would not improve your work, and it is as good as you can make it, then it is complete, and it is time to send it into the wide blue yonder.

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