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Monday, 20 April 2015

Birth Of A Book, Part Seven—Revising and Reducing

By Antonio Litterio
Taking a break from your writing work lets you see it with new eyes when you pick it up again to add polish. It's like meeting an old friend—only better. If you think your manuscripts looks tired, overweight, is less fun or more shallow than you remember, you don't have to be polite. When it comes to your book, you're the boss. Rip into it. Make all those changes, and keep going until it's perfect.

Once you have the basic story, structure and characters, you can play about with your draft as much as you like. There's no limit to how much you can alter it, this side of a publishing contract. You'll find this stage is much easier than when you were winding yourself up, ready to write back in Birth Of A Book, Part One. The work of fleshing out the skeleton of your book is much more fun. First drafts are driven through solid rock. The really creative writing builds on that. Sculpt your words into something unique, then sand them down until they shine.

This is your Pygmalion moment. Take your time. Enjoy it, but don't make the mistake of adding layers of complexity to your work for the sake of it. If your story is strong and your characters engaging, you won't need it. Each scene should either give meaningful insight into one or more of your major characters, or move the action along.

When you're happy with your work, run a spellcheck for all those descriptive words ending in —ly, such as excitedly, grimly, perfectly and the like. Take out as many as you can, and let your decriptions do the talking.

The next step is to rework any phrases where you tell your reader what your characters are doing, rather than show them.  Describing your character as deciding, thinking, or feeling something, rather than letting your reader experience it through that character's eyes twitches a curtain between them and the story world you've created.

See http://bit.ly/1C0CxOU for more details!
The first draft of my work always has plenty of room for improvement by way of "show, don't tell".

Here are the opening lines of my current work in progress, which is the third book in my Princes of Kharova series for the Wild Rose Press:

They were driving through Kharova at its wild and rugged best, but Maia wasn’t in the mood to enjoy it. She stared out of the car window, seeing nothing. 
These are my last hours of freedom. I shouldn’t be cooped up in here. I should be diving off the top board of life. 
She pursed her lips. Okay, so maybe diving wasn't her style, but given the chance she might tuck-roll in off the side.

Extract From Heart Of A Hostage, Copyright 2015, Christina Hollis

And here's my latest, revised version—

A silent movie of Kharova at its wild and rugged best spooled past the car window. Maia's eyes were open, but only the cold glass against her cheek kept her awake.
These are my last hours of freedom. I shouldn’t be cooped up in here. I should be diving off the top board of life. 
She pursed her lips. Okay, so maybe diving wasn't her style, but given the chance she might tuck-roll in off the side.

Extract From Heart Of A Hostage, Copyright 2015, Christina Hollis

What do you think of my improvements to the original?