July 11, 2006

The cut and chop of fiction

When I first began writing my novel, I thought editing consisted merely of going back through the manuscript afterwards and catching typos and tightening up the phrasing a bit here and there. Shows how much I knew :p I believe I did only that on my first pass over my novel. But then again, that was right after I’d finished writing the novel. I then laid it aside for a couple of months and went back to it and discovered that there was a lot more that needed doing. So I made another pass. I then thought, "This is it, I’m done".

But recently, about a year after the first novel and about 10,000 words into my second novel, I’ve been considering doing a third pass. As I write the second novel, I begin to see what was wrong in the way certain things were done on the first. I want to tighten up the plot, change viewpoints and eliminate some of the really convoluted sentences that I’m prone to. So, I began reading a book which would help me, "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Actually, Laurie discovered the book and got it. I simply began reading it after she got it :p I wasn’t sure how much the book would help me at first. I am only at the fifth or sixth chapter at the moment but I’m sold now 🙂 The biggest plus point I see to the book is that it doesn’t deal with abstracts. It doesn’t say this is how you should edit and leave it to you to find the specifics. Instead, it deals with concrete examples in almost every page. Not only that, at the end of each chapter, it has a checklist which might be useful to you when going through your own book. Adding to that are the exercises at the end of each chapter which tests what you’ve just learnt.

So far, I’ve learnt about show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view, proportion and dialogue mechanics. Sure, if you write, you’ve probably heard of all of this (or at least some of this) at one time or another. I had heard about these too. But the book actually made me aware of them as entities/concepts instead of abstracts 🙂 For instance, I’ve always been told "show, don’t tell" but when writing, I’d sometimes be a bit confused as to what was showing and what was telling. I realized about the confusion and how the confusion came to be when I read the chapter on "show and tell" as well as "dialogue mechanics". In fact, just a few chapters into the book, I’m already planning a lot more extensive edits to my first novel than I’d originally planned :p

I find the book so useful that I’m wondering if I should perhaps write a few blog entries outlining what I’ve learnt from the book. It will help me solidify the concepts better in my own mind and perhaps it might help somebody else too. I’ll have to think about it …

Posted by Fahim at 6:50 am  |  1 Comment