Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making Breakthroughs

From For Blog

I haven't been very active on the Internet for the last couple weeks. Life stepped in. Wind was very ill and had to go to the vet, but he checked out and came home. Then yesterday he got ill again and he'll stay at the vet for a couple days this time. The vet is still convinced it is not anything too serious -- this time a bad cold and congestion, but his heart sounds fine, he's eating and all is well. Just needed to get it taken care of as soon as possible so it didn't get worse. He's about 13, so at that age where things can go wrong. His sister died a few months ago, so that makes me extra careful again.

Edmond and Zaphod are fine.

I have put my back out again. Not as bad as the last time, but still annoying. I'll survive it. The weather has been up and down, but not too hot lately, which I really appreciate.

But let's talk about writing. In the last couple months I've made one of those breakthroughs that makes you wonder how you could have missed something so obvious before this. The breakthrough has to do with both overused (weasel) words and taking the simple answers instead of pushing a bit harder for better descriptions and such.

This is an edit breakthrough. It may affect how I write first drafts in the future, though I suspect because of how I approach the first rush of a story, I'll always have to consider this as an editing change. That's okay. I don't want to ruin the way in which I initially approach a story because, for me, that's about getting the storyline down. What good is perfect prose if you never finish the story because you're so caught up in the 'perfect line' that you don't tell the rest of what happens?

Right now I'm working with a checklist of 20 commonly overused words. I go through a chapter and run a check for each word. Then I do a quick check for adverbs, making certain they don't overpower a page. Ellipses and dashes are next on the list. I overuse both.

After that, I run the chapter through Manuscript Analyzer ( ) to make certain no other odd words turned up too often. I follow that by a quick run through Word's grammar and spelling check, usually ignoring most of the suggestions, but often catching something odd that slipped through.

Then I read the story aloud and make changes for the flow.

As you might imagine, this is a very long process, and massive rewrites at several different levels. This is, in fact a 25 step rewrite for every chapter, and I try to get one chapter rewritten a night. Sometimes even that much work is difficult. However, the end result is worth the difficulty.

By having a checklist, I not only don't forget what words to look for, I can check them off and work on other things as they come in. I have the same sort of list for my DAZ work, which is actually about 50 steps for each newsletter. It may seem like a mechanical way to approach something which should be based on inspiration, but if, like me and most people in the world, your writing time is given to you between bouts of real world work, then having a list can help. Since I print it off and keep it on the desk, it also provides a good spot to jot down notes about things you think you might need to recheck in earlier chapters.

If this works the way things usually do for me and writing, eventually the material I most often need to change will stop appearing so often in later stories. This is how I learned to spell better, too. I have the Word spell check on and because I got so tired of constantly having to correct things, I learned to spell them instead. I suspect the same will happen with the overall writing, though this will be a slow and laborious move forward.

I don't mind. I am one of those odd people who enjoy finding ways to improve my work. I am glad to have come across this set of problems and not only recognize them, but know I can work to improve them. Seeing the problem is the first step, of course, but then a person has to be willing to find the answer. I think I am doing so.

So that means I am very, very busy right now. All the usual stuff is out there -- DAZ newsletter, Vision, FM, etc. Sick cats, bad back pain and house problems. But each time I get through one of those real world problems, I can go right back to work on the novel.

Which I hope to do now!

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