Friday, November 09, 2007

Selective Editing

In addition to working on my novels, I do freelance editing. I usually work on full novels, and my edits are generally comprehensive, meaning that in addition to editing dialogue and the writing itself, I evaluate characterization, motivation, pace, plot, and anything else I notice as I go along.

I'll always prefer working on my own novels, but I enjoy freelance editing and find it satisfying, especially when I submerse myself in the work. The author and I become a team. Of course the author is the team leader with the final say on everything, including which of my suggestions to embrace, modify, or ignore. I also welcome author input on the level of detail or depth of edit I provide. The novel is their creation. I never lose sight of that. My role on the team is to pick up on their goals and intent and work to make the novel as strong as it can be. It's a challenge, but a fun one, and I usually get completely wrapped up in the effort. Scenes continue to play out in my mind after I turn off my computer, sometimes even when I'm trying to sleep, occasionally when I am asleep. It's the same obsession that grips me when I work on my novels.

Now here comes the selective part. Because I get so involved, I'm picky about what I take on. In fact, recently declining jobs for full-novel edits is what prompted this blog entry. They looked like they'd be good novels, just not a genre or style that pulled me in. I need a strong connection to perform well over the long haul, and believe me, a comprehensive edit of a full novel is a long haul.

For me, there's really no choice but to be a selective editor. It's better for me and the authors.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


I've always had a dog, probably always will. We have two now. Here's a shot of them taken last week on a hike up on the Sandia Mountains.

These less traveled trails allow dogs to be off the leash, and they can burn up some energy. Here they are that evening, worn out.

Both are "adopted." The shepherd mix, Nicky, comes from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I got her when she was less than 6 weeks old and I could hold her in the palm of my hand. She's over 12 years old now, and she's still healthy, happy, and a joy every day.

Tripp, the Siberian Husky, is about 3. We've had him since he was 10 months old, another adoption from an animal shelter, this time one in Albuquerque. He was quite sick, had a questionable past, and had been at the shelter longer than they usually keep dogs. It took some doing, but he got well, and we're so glad we have him.

So how's this post about writing? It's not. Well, not really. They do stick with me while I write. First Nicky. She was always at my side in Vermont. Let me see if I have a picture of that.

Okay, so I'm not writing in this picture, but it is from a period when Nicky was young and I was a decade younger than I am now. She used to lie at my feet for hours on end while I wrote. I could get carried away with writing, but she always knew when it was time for a break. She'd insist on a romp in the woods, and it would refresh us both. Then she'd sit in my chair with me at night, obviously.

Now both dogs are usually near or under my feet when I write. Even when I blog. Dogs have always meant a lot to me, so here's one more picture. It was taken the day we brought Tripp home from the shelter. We already knew he was family. So did Nicky.

**************** Sad update, 2/16/08 ****************
Our sweet Nicky is gone. Bad days at the end of her happy life were few, and there was no pain.

Nicky had a huge role in making my life wonderful for 12 1/2 years. We miss her. We'll always miss her, but once the ache of loss eases, all our memories of her will be bright.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Enough is Enough. Or is it?

Doing is learning.

I've mentioned that I repeatedly go back to completed novels and always find things to change and improve and tighten. It's always been this way for me. The more I write, the better a writer I become. As a better writer, I want to bring previous novels up to my new standards.

I think most writers feel the same. That's why you often hear writers wondering when enough is enough. When can you say a novel is done? My answer: when it's published. In the meantime, yes it's tedious to keep revising a novel, but it's deeply satisfying to keep making it better.

In my last post, I mentioned wanting a stronger paranormal element in my next novel, and I promised to discuss how editing STRUCK made me realize that. The conclusion was based on several scenes I deleted in my last edit. The scenes were all actively paranormal. They were all vivid and visual and unique from one another, but their overall purpose was the same. They all foretold something that didn't need any more foretelling. They didn't move the story forward, so I deleted them. Focuses within the affected chapters shifted to accommodate the scene removals, the shifts in focus trickled through the rest of the story, and the novel is better.

Making the novel better is a good result, of course, but probably because it irked me to delete scenes I liked so much, I tried to understand why I'd written them in the first place. My initial conclusion was that there wasn't a big enough paranormal element in STRUCK to satisfy me as a writer, so I kept sticking in unneeded paranormal scenes. Made sense when I wrote the last post, but know what? I was wrong. I looked at the novel as a whole again, and I'm completely satisfied with the mix of scenes. There are plenty of dynamically paranormal ones.

So why did I write those unnecessary scenes and leave them in the novel through so many edits? I don't know. And I no longer feel a need to keep analyzing reasons. It's fixed, I'm delighted with the novel, and I'm moving on. STRUCK is done...for now.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

More "Less is More"

I wasn't shocked when a recent edit of MIND SHADOW cut the word count by 9,000 (see previous blog entry) and made the novel so much better. After that encouraging experience, I turned my editing attention back to my latest novel, STRUCK -- and cut 5,000 words. That word reduction was more surprising, at least it was at first. After all, STRUCK is newly completed, recently edited. But I'd never taken a good break from it until I spent time with MIND SHADOW, and you really need a break so you can see your own work more clearly.

There were big differences in how I pruned back the word counts. MIND SHADOW had a major tune-up, changes to each and every page, sometimes extensive ones, but I didn't change events or a single scene's focus. In STRUCK, the reduction came from cutting entire scenes and changing some of the things chapters emphasized.

I'm thrilled with the slightly leaner, slightly redirected STRUCK. I also learned something: my next novel needs more paranormal elements. More on that next time. Until then, check out the first chapter of STRUCK.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Less is More

People think of novelists typing away, linking lots and lots of words together until they have a novel, and yep, we do that. But sometimes we concentrate on deleting words instead. Tightening is a big part of writing.

I just completed an intensive edit on one of my novels, MIND SHADOW. I didn't change the story or the characters, but the novel is now 9,000 words shorter than before. And so much better.

Mind Shadow is one of my earlier novels, and my editing skills have sharpened since I worked on it last. I rewrote passages that were over-explained or repetitive. I eliminated unnecessary details, shortened and relaxed stilted dialogue, and adjusted scenes that needed to end before they did or began before they should. I replaced phrases, sentences, and paragraphs with more concise versions that said the same thing, only better.

It wasn't easy. Tightening a novel can be harder work than writing first draft, but it gives a great sense of accomplishment and really improves how the novel reads. What may have plodded along before now races, and I think readers notice when writing is crisp. I do.

I could go on and on about this subject, but since this post is about keeping words to a minimum, I'm done.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hiking La Luz

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy certain activities -- like hiking. I hiked often when I lived in Vermont, but even though we live in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains now, I don't take advantage of the nearby trails as much as I should. But I did go with a group this past weekend. We hiked up one of the more popular trails, La Luz. It's an 8 or 9 mile route that starts at an altitude of 7,000 feet and takes you to the crest at 10,378. It's rated strenuous, but our bunch all made it to the top. Here's a picture of us as we were starting out.

Here are a couple views from the trail. Spectacular, huh?

And one of me along the trail.

After the hike, we rode the tram back down and ate a well-deserved lunch.