Part Four: Editing––Demon Hunter
Writing is the easy part. Our minds are in the creative mode. Our fingers peck at the keyboard with unfailing speed. Smiles bloom on our faces, eyes dancing as creativity pours out. Our characters are dancing, fighting, loving, caring, and sometimes even in a fit of rage. They are talking, whispering, and yelling at the top of their lungs. From the first word on the first page to the final word that brings our readers the satisfaction they look for, magic takes place in the past, present, and future.
Then we put our writing away for a while. Weeks turn into months. Our creative mind slides into editing mode and the real work begins. We drop vague nouns and verbs, turning home into shack and walk into saunter. Character attitudes and values develop making our worlds come alive and snap off the page and into our reader’s thoughts, dreams, and hearts.
Nathan shrugs as he scans his chapter, Demon Hunter, which will be presented to judges in May. The panel will comb over his sample, searching for connections to characters, tension throughout creating a desire to turn page after page.
His manuscript is bleeding, as they say. Bleeding red as he prepares to turn a first draft into a tight second, deleting -ly adverbs and –ing phrases, adjusting commas, sharpening dialogue, planting easy beats, and making sure point of view sings its song, remaining true to character.
And all of this once a week for a couple hours.
I wish our time together was daily. There is so much work to be done. So little time. But we trudge on. Strengthening narrative voice, clarifying, making words pop on the page in times of struggle and softening tones when tears threaten.
Demon Hunter. That says it all. Sixteen-year-old Keiji Hajime, the main character, hunts, protects, yet loses loved ones. It’s part of the game. Part of survival when Satan is attacking and a sixteen year old desires to save his kind. His people. So page one. How do we start? With a dream, or a vision if you will, to do what it takes to save lives. His race. Humans.
What is that dream? What will it take to capture that dream or vision, hang on with the strength of a vise, and let loose the power to conquer? These are the questions that need answered as Nathan takes a second look at his story. Fleshing out the whys behind the hows.
We’ve been reviewing Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King. This book is not about grammar and spelling as much as it’s about the big-book picture. Topics include: show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view, proportion, dialogue mechanics, see how it sounds, interior monologue, easy beats, breaking up is hard to do, once in usually enough, sophistication, and voice.
Most of the time I spend with Nathan deals with show and tell, easy beats (the bits of action interspersed through a scene and usually tied with dialogue: a character walking to a window, running fingers through his hair, or thinking someone’s a jerk), interior monologue, and characterization.
I’ve learned if you don’t have strong characters, you have no story. And if you don’t have conflict and tension there is no reason to turn the next page.
We even tackle the little things that poke at us, cutting and adjusting: –ly adverbs, sentences beginning with as, and over use of –ing phrases, all which alert editors and agents as to amateur or professional status.
So for the next 8 weeks, we will edit Nathan’s ten page chapter, one word at a time.
We will celebrate his creativity and whittle what needs to be sharpened, creating a smooth reading, tension filled chapter.
Until next time.
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
– C. J. Cherryh