25 March 2017

#Editing 3: Content Edit

Release date coming soon
Pilgrims of the Pool, Book 3 in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, is finished. Except it’s not. 

Last week was spent on a Structural Edit. Some chapters were re-positioned, others were queried and marked for a future decision, but overall I’m happy with the balance. My notes – just over a page of A4 – were reviewed, line-editing changes I’d marked along the way were keyed-in, and a clean copy of the typescript printed. Beyond this stage, working with a typescript festooned with different coloured annotations soon becomes a recipe for disaster.

This week I’ve been concentrating on the Content Edit. What am I looking for?
  • Facts – yes I’m writing a novel, but facts are the bedrock of any fiction, no matter the genre, and these facts need to be correct. I am working with contemporary conservation, wind turbine and oil-shale hydraulic fracturing; a lab environment using a mass spectrometer and a chromatograph; true places; and a historical thread set around 1150. Can the Benedictine monks of Durham’s priory actually walk in the Chapel of the Nine Altars or was it still under construction? What was the church actually called at the time? What did they eat, when and where? How did they travel? And on it goes... Obviously much of this was either researched prior to the start of the novel, or on the hoof as it was written, but the context still needs to be weighed.
  • Seed, Mature & Harvest – information and artefacts the characters use within the conveying of the story need to be in place (seeding), and mentioned (maturing), before they can be used to the effect necessary (harvesting). If one character is going to slug another with a baseball bat, that bat had better be talked about or dusted long before it’s needed. The same goes for information imparted. Most pertinent detail is slipped on the page as a throwaway line so readers don’t gleefully jump all over it believing they can read the writer’s mind. Once, they’ll forgive; three times and they’ll seek another novel to read. Also, it is very rare that an item is seeded, matured and harvested within the same chapter or couple of chapters, for exactly the same reason. Each needs to be woven into the fabric of the novel so they over-arc one another.
  • Hooks & Bombshells – just as the opening of a novel needs a hook so as to engage the reader, throughout a novel hooks are used to pique interest, and conversely bombshells are end-of- sections or chapters written so the reader desires to know what happens next. These can be as overt as portrayed in a TV soap opera, but not all the time or they become laughably wearying. In a novel the use of a series of subliminal bombshells, each ratcheting up the tension by degrees, often works better. It depends on the genre.
  • Conflict – a chapter should not tread water. It matters little whether the conflict is external or internal, pin-prick small or devastatingly large, it needs to be there.
  • Pacing graph – no novel of any length can ignite on opening and keep soaring like a rocket; readers would be emotionally exhausted before they were halfway through. There has to be slower, perhaps more introspective, segments where both the character and the reader take stock. A check of the graph, be it mentally or physically plotted on a wall chart, ensures that variations are sown throughout the length of the novel, with the final quarter increasing in pace to the climax.
  • Character – consistency. This is something I broadly looked at during the Structural Edit. Now is the time to look at it in detail. One set of subsidiary characters were subsidiaries in Book 1 so I need to ensure they speak with the same syntax and haven’t developed an odd accent or extra children or talk about a dog that was never mentioned in Book 1. Also, the main character was alcohol-free in Book 2, yet in this typescript there is mention of “a pint” in a pub situation. So is he or isn’t he on the wagon? He also wears a ring that is pertinent to the story, yet it’s not mentioned between pp54-120. That’s a hellova gap. Likewise, the Benedictine monk starts with “prayer beads” which become “rosary beads” which are forgotten halfway through the book. Somehow I don’t think a medieval monk would forget their use.
  • Time/Continuity – the three story-threads move forwards, but not at the same pace. Now is the stage to ensure the days of the week/s are in sequence, particularly as certain chapters have been repositioned.
  • Anything else – this catch-all was used during the Structural Edit, and in truth it acts as a coarse filter for whatever edit follows. Picking up phrases or overlong sentence structure at this stage helps to clear the decks.
See you next week for my take on a Line Edit.

If you're busy (and who isn't?) but would like to read the series as it unfolds, add your e-address to the 'Follow My Posts By Email' box in the righthand column and Blogger will send you notification as soon as the posts go live.

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

18 March 2017

#Editing 2: Structural Edit

When I was still messing with the novel's Structure
 Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

I’ve been busy this week staring at the door in my office. As you can see from the image, this is where I Blu-tack a précis of each finished chapter, colour-coded to show its point of view, and more or less split into the quarters of the novel which make up the elements of the principal’s Character Arc. And the reason for this? I had an extra chapter that needed fitting in. Why? Because I messed up. Sometimes authors just do. The trick is to realise it and correct the problem.

Each of the novels in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy have three story threads: the main which arcs across all the novels, a subsidiary contemporary, and a subsidiary historical. Because I’d messed up early in the writing (chapter 7 of a 41 chapter novel – doh!) the story threads were out of kilter. Does this matter? It does to mine as each chapter echoes and/or reflects elements of the story threads around it.

This highlights exactly what a Structural Edit is all about – the overview, the big picture – hence it is far easier to see set out on a door than it is on-screen or even in a paper document.

What am I looking for?
  • Balance – are the separate threads in groups or spread deftly through the whole, feeding from one another? Is the main story thread actually the main story thread or has a subsidiary usurped it? My main thread has 20 chapters; my subsidiaries 15 each, therefore this is a close-run thing so will be monitored during further edits. Another novel might have a single forward storyline but use flashbacks; the same need to balance applies.
  • Continuity – something can’t occur on a Thursday if it isn’t set up until Friday of the same week. Elements of a story are seeded, allowed to grow, and harvested – in that order, even if there’s a big time/chapter gap between.
  • Pacing – do the story threads reach their individual climaxes and the novel’s – and the trilogy’s – in the correct order, within a tight time-frame so as to elicit the planned reader reaction?

After re-arranging the chapter order to fit in the orphan, I then spent three days with the paper copy of the typescript, a coloured pen, and a pad. At this stage some authors like to push their typescript onto an e-reader so they simply read, make separate notes, and don’t fiddle.

But I like to fiddle. It’s part of my on-going line edit that starts as soon as I commit the first sentence to a Word document. There is no correct method; it’s whatever works for the author. My colour of choice this time round was green, simply because the typescript already holds blue, red, black and pencil. Sometimes the page can be that messy; sometimes I’m on the third printed version of a chapter, marked such in a corner.

So what am I looking for? The above, plus:
  • Theme – consistency. I want only one, not half a dozen. Sometimes novels are winged and the theme develops during the writing, sometimes the theme only becomes apparent at this stage, sometimes the theme only becomes apparent when a beta reader points it out. For this novel the theme was in place before I started writing. It is, however, the theme of the novel, not the theme of one character’s story thread, hence an eagle-eye for consistency.
  • Motifs – are they mentioned and then forgotten? Are there too many mentions? Are there too many motifs?
  • Characterisation – consistency and continuity. All main characters should change through the course of the novel because of their experiences, so if there’s a change there’d better have been a corresponding experience, or more likely a series of experiences, to prompt it. I don’t fiddle in-depth at this stage, but annotate the page and make notebook observations to study later.
  • Sense - Does the novel make sense? Are questions asked at the start answered by the end? Overall, is it too complicated or too shallow? The trilogy is deeply layered so this novel shouldn’t be at all shallow, but I can’t make it too complicated either. People are reading for entertainment. It’s a matter of balance, and adhering to the genre/sub-genre expectations.
  • Anything else – if it catches my eye, no matter what or why, the page is annotated and detailed observations are written in the notebook. Specifics are important here. Check character means absolutely nothing several days down the line. It also acts as a preliminary pass towards a Content Edit.
See you next week for my take on a Content Edit.

If you're busy (and who isn't?) but would like to read the series as it unfolds, add your e-address to the 'Follow My Posts By Email' box in the righthand column and Blogger will send you notification as soon as the posts go live.

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

10 March 2017

‘Pilgrims of the Pool’ Is Finished. Now what? #Editing

Final in the 'Torc of Moonlight' trilogy
Let’s be correct here: Pilgrims of the Pool is not finished; the first draft is finished. But let’s celebrate a bit on that score. After much angst it finally has The End pinned to its typescript. It – and me – now moves into the Editing phase. But what does this actually mean?

I don’t write what is often termed a ‘fast and dirty draft’ so the novel is edited, sometimes ferociously, alongside the writing of it. This says a lot about why I’m not a fast writer. It also means that my editing regime wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me, this is the schedule:
  • Structural edit
  • Content edit
  • Line edit
  • Continuity edit beyond books 1 & 2
  • Combined structural/content/line edit
  • Transfer to e-reader for eagle-eyed read-through
  • Beta readers
  • Draft the metadata (all the descriptions needed for publishing)
  • Edit (or hopefully just tweak) after studying comments from beta readers
  • Collapse (a rest period where I ensure the marketing is ready for the launch)
  • Format for ebook
  • Transfer to e-reader for final eagle-eyed read-through
  • Finalise metadata

Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing posts on what each entails. If you’re interested in receiving these as they are written, key your e-address into the 'Follow My Posts By Email' box in the column on the right. Otherwise, I'll be back next weekend with the whys & wherefores of a Structural Edit.

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit update

5 March 2017

Read An #Ebook Week Discounts

05-11th March is Read An Ebook Week.

One of my distributors, Smashwords, is again participating, offering a promotional catalogue of fiction and non-fiction at discounted prices in multiple formats: mobi for Kindle and ePub for Kobo, Nook, etc.

I have two novels on offer, both discounted by 50% from $2.99 down to $1.50:

 Hostage of the Heart is a sweet medieval romance set on the English-Welsh borders in 1066. 

Rhodri ap Hywel sweeps down the valley to reclaim stolen lands, taking the Saxon Lady Dena as his battle hostage. But who is more barbaric: a man who protects his people by the strength of his sword-arm, or Dena’s kin who swear fealty to a canon of lies and refuse to pay her ransom?
 ...a historical that really grips the reader. I always wanted know what what going to happen next...

Dead Men’s Fingers is a Western by my alter ego ‘Tyler Brentmore’ – ya didn’t know I’d written a Western, did ya?

Jed Longman signs to a company of wagons to take his three sons to a better life out West, but trouble keeps snapping at his heels. First there’s the persistent Mrs Harris with her school ma’am attitude so contrary to her fancy coach-guns, then the threat of fever, then the ruthless killer Baddell determined to haunt him and his into an unmarked grave.

...You taste the dust, feel the burning sun, drown in the swollen river, cower beneath the starless sky...

The discounts apply only to these two ebooks on Smashwords (not on Nook, Amazon or iTunes). Clicking the link will open the full promotional catalogue, which will automatically close on 11th March.

Enjoy your Reading!