Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Conquering the beast

Finally! I’ve finished the first draft of the work in progress. I think I’ve been suffering from the dreaded “second-book syndrome”. Writing it has felt a bit like scaling a mountain with only my fingernails in the way of climbing tackle. It has come in way over the word limit – 61500!

(I definitely have a “roll” when I’m close to the end of the book. I wrote almost 14000 words in the last three days. Wish I could do that the rest of the time!)

Now I’ve just got the hack the beast into shape. I find one way to get rid of any extraneous waffle is to think about the focus of each scene. What am I trying to develop? Plot? Character? Theme? Probably a combination of all of these, but one element may stand out.

So, as I edit, I think about the scene and what my characters are thinking, feeling and doing. Are there any lines in there that don’t really add anything? Can I condense two paragraphs of internal monologue into a couple of pithy sentences? (Usually!)

I often give my scenes little headings or titles. I started doing this when I was counting up words to find out where the chapter breaks should be. I would completely forget what scene 23 was, but could remember it was “the party”. So now I use my little headings to help me keep focused on the purpose of the scene.

For example, the current wip has various types of headings:

“Everything’s Fine”
This is a scene where the heroine is pretending everything is peachy while the hero knows she’s putting on a brave face, and shutting him out at the same time. So this title reminds me of the heroine’s state of mind. So the focus of this scene is character.

“First Kiss”
Does what it says on the tin. A plot development more than anything else.

“Pointy shoes and diamond rings”
Sometimes I use an image from the scene. The images are usually there in the first place to emphasise character development or theme and these type of heading just seem to give me a feel for what I want to bring out.

“Sad lemonade” or “Toast and Y chromosomes”
Sometimes I just come up with something silly that sums up the scene to me. I’ll leave it to you to come up with a scenario for these two!


Liz Fielding said...

Congratulations on climbing the second book mountain, Fiona.

And reducing two paragraphs of internal waffle to a sentence is definitely the way to go!

Trish said...

I hate you for coming in OVER the word count. HOW do you do that???

And well done on climbing that mountain. Its tough that second book, ain't it??

Nell Dixon said...

I always write short and adit rather than edit!

Vicky said...


Well done on finishing - I am about to have to add 15k to an already 60k book. I have horrendous trouble writing long because I've been a copywriter. It feels like gorging on every biscout in the house. Sometimes my clients only want five words!

Sharon J said...

I do that, too! In fact, I don't understand how anybody can not do it. How on earth do they find the right part of the book when they had a good idea to add a bit of dialogue or whatever, when they have to wade through tens of thousands of words? I think I brought this with me from my article writing. I tend to split them into sub-headings so it doing the same thing with a novel was a natural progression. Anyway, all I really wanted to say (and you talk about waffle?) was that it's nice to know somebody else does the same thing :)

~Sharon J

Woman who can't edit properly! said...

Blimey... some editing needed in that above post! ~Sharon

Fiona Lowe said...

Great going, Fiona.

Book two is a tougher gig that book one. So go you!