Do you find the process of editing your story easy? No? It exhausts you? You’re tired of reading the same thing over and over until your brain feels like mush? Excellent… You’re obviously doing it right. It is hard work, but an author friend, Catherine Brophy, got it in one when she said to me, that every edit would bring me nearer to what it was I wanted to say in the first place.
Catherine Brophy is giving a one day editing workshop on ‘Polishing The Jewel’ on Saturday the 9th of May at Carousel Writers’ Centre in the Dublin Mountains.
“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Truman Capote.
I realise that I was never a true writer until I had waded through the incredibly difficult and amazingly rewarding job of editing my novels. Now, I am a writer. There is nothing like that special moment towards the end of what feels like the 200th edit, when you begin to really believe in your story and therefore to believe in yourself as a writer.
My first draft of my first novel was 150,000 words! Gulp! It ended with 95,000 words… a fitting length for a novel.
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” Dr. Seuss
On this journey, I’ve learned that good writing is not all about writerly flourish, sizzling similes and magnificent metaphors. Keeping the language simple adds to the narrative.
“I never write ‘metropolis’ for seven cents when I can write ‘city’ and get paid the same.” Mark Twain
“The best style is the style you don’t notice.” Somerset Maugham
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Elmore Leonard
In the interest of research I had myself locked in a cell in a Garda station to get an authentic feel for how my character would react to such a situation and went away and wrote an amazingly brilliant piece of writing on the subject.
You can imagine my dismay when my editor came back and said that this chapter slowed down the pace of the novel and added nothing to the plot! I sat down and did what I tell everyone else to do, but hadn’t done myself, because I knew this chapter was fabulous! I re-read it out loud to myself. Always the best way to edit. You can feel the cringe rising as you speak… I ended up with a fast moving chapter where every word is important to the story.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings. Even if it breaks your heart, kill your darlings. Stephen King
And punctuation… I’ve come to realise that it is sometimes a matter of style but the knack is in being consistent throughout. ‘Let’s eat Grandma could be fatal though if you meant to say Let’s eat, Grandma.
Oh and clichés… reading them makes me shudder but it doesn’t stop me writing them…
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov
“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.Patricia Fuller
Looking forward to more of Catherine Brophy’s words of wisdom and hope to see you Polishing your Jewel on the 9th!