What I Learned While Editing…

3 am, San Francisco Hotel bathroom

I’ve not been around for a while because, among other things, I have had my head down on draft 2 of novel #2. I had some fantastic notes from EditorLeah, AgentSimon and AsstAgentAriella, and have been working on them, weaving new plotlines back and forth, making sure the little boy doesn’t age rather too rapidly to serve the story (!) and cutting out one of the two prologues and one of the secret rooms.

Much of the stuff that has to go or be changed is a product of my struggle with telling the story. When I first started writing this novel, Lara (the central character) finds two secret rooms full of nasty things. Two is one too many – one was one too many, the length I dealt with it in the first draft.

I realise now, on the second edit, that the secret rooms were my subconscious at play, looking for the story. By writing expansively about both of them I was delaying the plot and putting in a great deal of domestic detail – which is, after twitter, my favourite procrastination device (too much housework in this one, too many cakes in CUCKOO).

Same goes for the two prologues. TWO? typical indecision. Decision is now made, tweaked, and, I hope, serves the story in a powerful way.

At a drilled down to sentence level, the qualifiers had to go. Particularly those in sentences like:

it settled on the ground and looked up at her, whimpering a little.
and:
Lara noticed Selina’s French manicure and glanced down at her own rather grubby nails.

or this, even worse (double qualified):
So, added to her sense of hangover, Lara also felt this morning as if she were somehow becoming a rather superfluous member of her family.

Words and phrases like rather, a little, a bit, somewhat and somehow are thick in my first draft, and I know why they are there – I am being too tentative with my story and characters, holding them back because I am not entirely sure they are doing what I need them to do. So I just make it all a little less by qualifying it. Once I have worked it all out, a lot of these words remain, weakening the prose,. They have to be dealt with.

Unfortunately, like most writers, I missed my self-imposed deadline for the second draft, so I had to finish the work after we went on holiday. The photograph here is where I ended up. All five of us were in one vast hotel room in San Francisco and, on the first night, I made use of my up-at-2am jetlag to get some hours in. The only place I could find to work without waking everyone else up, (it being too early to go down to the foyer without encountering barflies) was the bath. Propped up by pillows and lined with towels, it proved to be a surprisingly comfortable office. I also want you to know that I didn’t watch any movies on the flight over. I just worked. That’s a first. Please also admire the holiday pedicure.

Finally: Novel #2 has a title! Look out for Every Vow You Break in March 2012. You can even pre-order on Amazon.

A thick rash of missives over the next couple of days will go over all the other stuff I have been up to since I last posted here. It’s all quite interesting stuff (that’s quite in the LA sense, which is a qualifier that amplifies rather than reduces – as in the UK – the weight of the adjective; read very, rather than a bit). Quite appropriate, as I am sitting on a porch in Culver City as I write this.

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