Monday, July 27, 2009

Close scalpel work

I feel like I'm finally doing the fine line editing, and it feels good. Many other writers have discussed the pleasures of close editing like this, and I've long known what they meant based on my nonfiction writing experience. It's satisfying to get the language sharpened, though it's a little alarming to find how dull it still is after so many drafts.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. My character is reading a children's book that is briefly summarized with this phrase: "The boy is part of a rebel group that is fighting the machines." The revision takes out "that is." Thus: "The boy is part of a rebel group fighting the machines." I'm finding several of those kinds of things per page. Also, many of my exposition grafs tend to clarify themselves by repeating a point with a second unnecessary metaphor. Overkill. So I have a lot of lines like that struck out.

So many in fact that in the first 17 page chapter, I subtracted two pages just with these little changes. Amazing.

It's slow work though. So far, including some sessions over the weekend, I've marked up on paper the first four chapters (Part I) and input the changes on the first chapter. Based on how it's gone so far, I estimate about 10 pp. per hour in each mode. Thus about 4 hours total for each approx. 20 pg. chapter. That's a lot of time under the best of circumstances, and it's the kind of work that's hard to do for more than an hour or so at a time. I think it's going to take me about a month. I can only hope that the first four chapters are not typical since they had so many revisions in the last draft and so are somewhat clunkier than the rest. I'm getting really impatient to pick up the pace.

Also, I have some paying work on the line that may start to hog up a lot of time. We'll see.

It's getting hot. Longtime readers will remember that my office is too hot this time of year, so I'm thinking about how to set up my space on the screened porch. Probably tomorrow.


SM Blooding said...

It's always good to have a plan, though I can say that my revisions never go as planned. I always get stuck on one chapter that just...I don't know. Needs to be scrapped and completely re-written because all the tweaking is making it WORSE!

I'm that kind of reviser. *knowing nod*

Kerrie said...

I found any time I can get rid of the nasty word that, my writing improves immediately.

Happy editing.