Thursday, November 03, 2005

Editorial Letter for Violet Dawn--Part II

Thanks to those of you who commented yesterday. It was particularly fun seeing some new names. Chris Well (author of Forgiving Solomon Long), a special greeting to you.

I got a kick out of y’all’s comments on the transitive/intransitive verb thing. Was happy to see you were as confused as I. What the heck’s an intransitive verb, anyway? Thanks to Cara for answering that question so completely in her
comments yesterday. Somebody asked how my misuse of these verbs affects my writer’s voice. According to my long-time editor (who knows me all too well), I’ll write a sentence such as: Adrenaline trembled her nerves. That’s making an intransitive verb a transitive one—that is, giving it a direct object when it shouldn’t have one. The right way would be to say: Adrenaline shook her nerves, or: She trembled with adrenaline. Sheesh, see how boring those sentences are? Adrenaline trembled her nerves rocks. I’m stickin’ with it.

I also have this habit of turning nouns into verbs. Again, I think it gives a zing effect. Like the sentence: Fresh fear cleated up her spine. Well, I know what cleats are, and the thought of cleated shoes going up someone’s spine just trembles my nerves. So I verbed the noun. Good ol’ Word clouted my “cleated” with one of those rude wavy red underline thingies. Word has no imagination.

Anyhoo, back to dealing with the macro edit letter for Violet Dawn. How do you start rewriting a book when you gotta deal with 15 pages of edits?

First, for a day I simply thought about the major points. I agreed with all the issues the editors had raised. And I thought many of their suggestions for changes were good. But I don’t have to just 100% do what they suggest. Sometimes I can come up with an even better way to fix an issue. Sometimes I’ll take their idea, but add my own spin to it.

After thinking a day and listing what I thought I would do to handle the major changes, I had a phone conversation with the freelance editor. Told her my thoughts and my ideas for using her suggestions. We talked them all through and agreed on the issues. At that point, I was ready to roll.

What to tackle first?

Lemme tell ya, I’m a card carrying, off the charts “J” on the Myers Briggs. Which means I just luuuv to check off lists. So I started with the easy stuff. Best to get that out of the way, so when I begin the rewrite on page 1, I don’t have to remember that I need to fix some particular sentence on page 102. As I mentioned yesterday, I first went through the individual sentence issues (copy edit stuff) and changed those. This did not take long.

Zowie, five whole pages to check off!

Then I turned to the minor issues, seeing which ones I could change easily. Some were pretty self-contained fixes. As I got through them, I’d check off the paragraph. Just made my “J” heart sing, I’ll tell ya.

Finally I had it narrowed down to the big stuff. I had five major points. (1) Bring in other characters earlier (which meant writing some new scenes for the beginning, (2) change the bad guy’s persona somewhat, (3) change a few details at the crime scene (can’t go into more detail than that), (4) pump up the twists, and (5) work in a few more red herrings (no more detail on this either).

These five points were on a list before me, and branded into my brain, as I started at page 1 with the rewrite.

Well. Five points on a list is one thing. Making the changes is something else. Thing is, in my books everything means something. The way a sentence, or even a phrase, is worded can make a huge difference. So when I change something at the beginning of a novel, it’s like changing the color of that thread. The thread then has to be worked into the entire tapestry of the story. I can’t drop it. I can’t forget, half way through, that I’ve tweaked its color at the beginning. And sometimes it’s hard, because I’ll be thinking I wrote this or that, but oops—no, those sentences were taken out. I now gotta work in whatever was essential in that passage somewhere else. The rewrite becomes a huge puzzle, and everything has to fit just so. This is why it takes me a week or more, and the days are long. I’m really entrenched in the work at that point.

Now, the draft is all done. Which means check marks everywhere on my letter. Hey, the girl’s dancin’. Now I’m reading through the book one more time, catching minute points. I like to do this read-through with as few interruptions as possible, but life does get in the way. Sometimes, if I can manage it energy-wise, the read through is a great time to pull an all-nighter.

By Friday I’ll be e-mailing the thing off to the editors. From there, it’s easier sailing. We’ll later go into the track change edit (individual sentence stuff), then to the copy edit (detailed stuff—and this is done by a different editor), and finally to proofing the galleys. Then, voila! A book!

This Saturday, don’t think I’ll be out playing. Violet Dawn may be rewritten and e-mailed off, but I really gotta come up with the plot for the next one in the series. Anybody got any ideas? :)


Camy Tang said...

Wow! Thanks for this peek into your editorial letter. It's especially helpful because I'm doing some revisions to my manuscript and it's cool to see your own method.

Cara Putman said...

Thanks for the insight, Brandilyn. One thing I have definitely learned is that a book is never finished -- probably not even when it's on the shelf in bookstores, because if it gets reprinted you get another chance to "fix" things.

C.J. Darlington said...

Ideas ... I think you said each of the books in the Kanner Lake series would focus on a different protagonist, right? Would you be able to clue us in on some of the main players in Violet Dawn? I know there's Paige Williams, but who else can we look forward to meeting?

Seeing as the story takes place in Idaho, what about involving some sort of outdoor adventure into the next book? Like, some characters go to relax in a cabin by the lake, only unknown to them, a killer is stalking in the woods?

Or not. I tend to think too melodramatic when I first spill ideas and have to pare them down into more realistic scenarios.

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks for the insider's look. That was helpful. How about a novel about an 30 something RN who also is trying to get her novels published? No? :)

Stuart said...

new plot....

A terrible murder with evidence that Kannie, the Kanner Lake Monster, may have been involved. And the protaganist must seek out the elusive order of the Potatoe, who are rumored to have eyes everywhere, in order to get to the bottom of the secret, before Kannie gets to her!

ok so that's a bit too off the wall. But it's the first thing that came to mind.

I'm sure you'll come up with a real hum-dinger. maybe something to do with an ear found in a headset in the local music store...

And boy howdy, just hearing you describe your editing has left me tired. :)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Your teaching is invaluable...please don't ever stop! I know and understand 'twists', but what are 'red herrings'? this and your posts over at Charis are really helping me to develop the plotline for manuscript #3!

Becky said...

I'm glad you gave an example of the transitive/intransitive thing. For the life of me, I couldn't imagine how you'd use one as if it were the other.

And as to your verbing nouns. Heh heh. Very nice. I recently wrote some lines from a novel known for its beautiful language so I could study them a bit. One of the techniques was verbing the nouns.

My question. Do you think that ever becomes a distraction to the story? Or does it seem like the only "right" way of saying what you're thinking? (I love fear cleating up her spine, BTW. Great line!)