Monday, August 1, 2016

Extreme Editing: Part 1


  
I'm sitting here on the sofa with  my laptop and the rug at my feet is littered with a (virtual) rising tide of discarded adverbs -- softly, slowly, evenly, quickly, coldly, eagerly, quietly, enthusiastically, and all their sisters and their cousins and their aunts. 


Also among the fallen are any number of smiles, smiled, he said smiling, along with a lot of grinning and chuckling. And excess verbiage -- out it goes. He said that he was glad.; She parked the car.

Most of you know that I do some editing -- in the course of the classes I teach and sometimes I take on a novel (for pay, not for fun.) Sometimes it is fun though and sometimes I want to jab pencils in my eyes, the writing is so bad (very rare, thank goodness.)

The novel I'm editing now is a first novel by a middle-aged woman and boy, does it show -- a little Nancy Drew-ish, a little soap opera-ish, and all those adverbs.

But wait, you say, what are you thinking, to be so harsh in such a public way? What if that poor woman reads your blog? She'll be devastated! Probably never write again!


Well, no. Before you un-follow or un-friend me, keep reading. 

The novel I'm editing is my first novel. The one with Elizabeth Goodweather and Blackbeard's descendant. The one that got me an agent but never found a publisher. The one that I can't find an electronic copy of anywhere.

Until last week when I did. It's not complete but it has the first seventeen chapters (out of twenty-eight) and as I don't have a writing project or a class underway at the moment, I decided to get Whose Revenge? onto my computer so I can send a copy to the nice Park Ranger who spent a lot of time helping me with research at Cape Lookout about fifteen years ago. 

He contacted me maybe three years ago, wanting to know what had happened with the novel (there is a ranger in it, based on him) and I told him I would try to get a copy to him -- if ever I found it. I do have a hard copy (unedited) but didn't want to send it off.

And I absolutely wouldn't send it off as is, what with all those adverbs.

So now here I am, editing my work of fifteen years ago -- appalled at all the amateurish mistakes I made but realizing that there's something comforting in knowing that I did get better.


11 comments:

Ms. A said...

I could never grade, or critique myself! I'm way too harsh. That's why I rarely used words in my blog!

Merisi Vienna said...

You are one fine writer, and like wine, you are getting better with time.

daybreak said...

Merisi is absolutely right!

Frances said...

Vicki, I am sure that the Ranger is going to be delighted to receive your "re-mastered" version of that early novel. What an interesting project for you to revisit yourself. About twenty years ago, I took a four-year self-funded sabbatical during which I painted or drew for hours every day, but also took long walks, visited museums, and kept a diary. While rearranging a bookcase recently, I opened one of those spiral notebook diaries, and marveled at the unpolished prose. Even so, reading a few pages took me right back to a time I cherish.

I suspect you might be having a similar experience.

xo

Martin Hodges said...

I'm very keen to read this latest one. You've certainly been on a journey.

Brian Miller said...

It is rather like looking back at old journals and realizing where you have come from. There definitely is comfort in that. I fear I have gone quite backwards in my lack of writing of late. I am probably adverb heavy. lol.

katy gilmore said...

Oh those adverbs! They always seem so necessary at first, then so nice to discard them (ruthlessly).

Jim Egerton said...

Now I have two books to look forward to.

Anvilcloud said...

I find this delightful somehow. It's like everything else; you get better with practice.

Thérèse said...

It must be fun to be able to go back to this first book.

Vicki Lane said...

Down to the last three chapters -- still have to go back and fill in some plot holes that are just lying there. The heap of adverbs is growing . . .