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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lost in the land of Rewrite

Sorry, I know I promised to write more often. Mea Culpa. I've been working on my second Seraphy Pelligrini novel, CHICAGO STORIES: WEST OF WESTERN. Well, sort of. My editor sent me the annotated manuscript and over 40 pages of notes in April.  Shock! What? My wonderful novel has so many problems? How is that possible? Followed by devastation. Maybe it wasn't worth revising. I'd lick my paper cuts and tend to my other life (as a landlady in a university town, more about that another time).

I spent the last two weeks of April and the first week of May in denial, reading my way through some of the sixty or so mysteries I'd downloaded and never managed to get to on my Kindle and attempting to cope with the garden.  This part of Illlinois was once forest and apparently wants to be that again. I pull walnut, maple and red bud trees up like less fortunate folks pull pigweeds. In a moment of madness two years ago, I planted some of those orange lilies (I call them grandma's lilies) at the edge of the yard (cheaper than a fence). Nobody warned me. They're as tall as my head now (the blossoms) and spreading like crabgrass. The good side is that in a few years I won't need to cut the grass. There won't be any grass left. The bad side is that I'll need a machete to get to the house.

Three weeks ago I had had enough of farming and decided to look at the manuscript again. Yikes. Now Elizabeth's (Lyon) comments had had time to settle I realized she was dead on. Seraphy Pelligrini, Tommy MacKinnoin and company were fine. The plot was all right. But my scenes--well, to be honest, some of them weren't even scenes, just rather boring talking heads. Ouch. The good thing was that Elizabeth actually liked some bits here and there.  Even better, I'd known there was something wrong but couldn't figure out what. Eagle eye Lyon spotted the problems and pointed them out. At length.

So that's where I am--up at six and in front of the computer again. I'm trying to do, or redo, a chapter a day. It's a matter of working my way through the scene (or would-be scene), adding some structure, deepening the characters with flecks of backstory and analysis and generally trying to bring everything into alignment. That's all. By eleven or so, my mind has gone on break and I'm no longer capable of reading, much less writing, a sentence. 

So here it is: if you write novels and don't have a good editor, get one. Note the *good one* part. I live in a university town and academic editors aren't hard to find. I had one for CHICAGO STORIES: WEST OF WESTERN. She did a fine job of checking my grammar and finding typos, but wasn't experienced with fiction and had a superficial acquaintance with the genre. I discovered this kind of editing wasn't what I needed. When Kimberley Hitchens (formatter and all around genius of highly recommended her indy authors get good editors and suggested Elizabeth Lyon as one of the best, I took the hint. Elizabeth agreed to do a 'substantive' edit for my second Chicago Stories novel, Ravenswood. She doesn't like my title, so that may change. Or not.

Substantive. She wasn't kidding. This time, I had someone with a deep understanding of the genre and brilliant analytic skills. She saw things in my characters I hadn't seen, pointed out ways to make them more three-dimensional, poked at my flaccid scenes, shook me out and pointed the way to go. Substantive editing leaves the author no place to hide. If CHICAGO STORIES: RAVENSWOOD isn't the best book I can write, it won't be Elizabeth's fault.

I originally intended to have Ravenswood on Kindle by now, but I'm only on chapter eight this morning. I'm hoping I can get it up by July. My cover designer, Dustin Ashe, made the cover you see here a while ago, but now with all the changes, I'll have to commission him to do another version. As soon as I get to Chicago to take the photos he'll need--maybe Tuesday--I'll email him with the news.  Hope he has time!

So just know it's coming. Really.

1 comment:

  1. Keep on keeping on! Brutal honesty heals more than it wounds, inclusive of manuscripts. You inspire!