The Once Edits

I am on a fiction kick. Not only am I plowing through the Once edits, I also finished reading Martin’s A Dance With Dragons and now I am looking forward to another six long years of staring longingly out the window, dreaming of Westeros.

Dragons has some relevance to this post, actually. I downloaded the Nook version, and it’s…buggy. Plenty of typos and formatting errors. It sounds like the same thing happened with the Kindle version. Typos I can forgive; every book has mistakes, no matter how thoroughly it’s edited. That’s just the way the world works. But the formatting errors bug the hell out of me—that’s exactly what the publishing industry points out when it attacks indie authors: “But our books look better!”

Not this time, kids. I don’t mean little formatting errors, either. For example, an entire page is inexplicably cut off in the middle of one of Tyrion’s chapters, among other things. I’m guessing the novel had only a cursory edit to start with, and then they just jammed it through the formatting process and hoped for the best.

Now, regarding editing…Dragons is a book that desperately needs it. Not necessarily line editing; the copy was clean enough, but actual removal of content. This book and the one before it, A Feast For Crows, started out life as one book, probably way back in 2001. Eventually it got too big, so Martin and his editor decided to split it. Except they didn’t split it logically, via timeline (maybe the book wasn’t far enough along to warrant that). Instead, they focused on a specific group of characters…only two of whom (Sansa and Arya) had been in the previous book. Everyone else was new—and, in the case of the ironmen, really obnoxious. This newest installment, Dance, reintroduces us to many of the characters we haven’t seen since the third book. It also moved us ahead just a little bit, finally, at the end.

Far be it from me to want to shorten epic novels. I’m all about long, detailed stories, and I cringe when I hear authors talk about editors forcing them to cut this or that. But…I think there definitely should have been severe cuts made to this book. One POV in particular does absolutely nothing and takes up some 4 to 5 chapters. The descriptions of all the knights in a particular column and their heraldry and house histories are fine details, but they can be trimmed.

Taken as a whole—Feast and Dance—I can sort of envision them as one book and see what I’d yank. I don’t know. I think it’s definitely a case of what not to do with a hugely popular series.

Despite this, I enjoyed the book; Martin’s a brilliant writer, and I’m slowly moving through his backlist. Am not happy with how the e-formatting skeeved up the book, and am contemplating a letter to whoever handles that at his publisher.

I am deep into edit mode here at Casa Suz. I actually took yesterday off from paid work to grind through Once, and I think the worst is over. The first two chapters needed the most work, as I actually set out writing this thing for a romantic anthology, and it…well, it a) decided not to be a romance, and b) got too long and weird, anyway. The opening chapters in most of my work seem to be a little sparse; as I get a feel for characters, locations, and plots, things get richer as they go. Happened with Trojan Age, happened with Lusitania, and now with Once.

Funniest part? Realizing I didn’t actually describe my characters at all. I have images of them in my head, but never bothered mentioning it on paper. So I had to go back in and do that. After I finish chapter two, it’s just a matter of plugging in small notes I made to myself while doing the big edits (“Mention this earlier” or “Does she actually do that?”). Then it’s off to Staples to make printouts for the beta readers, because my dear printer is out of ink and won’t just print with only a black cartridge—oh no, I need to refill all four cartridges, to the tune of fifty bucks. Blow me, injket printers. Come September or October, I’m going to get a very cheap laserjet.

Before I head into revisions, I like to inspire myself by reading up on the process. Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel is a course I got a lot out of; there’s also Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyons. Last night I was reading Becky Levine’s The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, which helped me look at my writing as a reader might. I particularly like her list of things to critique (in my case, edit): Plot, character, point of view/voice, dialogue, and scene structure.

Scene structure turned out to be a big one here—my opening chapters were structured very differently from how the rest of the novella turned out. That took some fixing.

They are still doing some tree trimming outside, so I’ve been waking up sneezing. This inexplicably delights the bird, who starts dancing around when I get into my marathon sessions. The apartment is also pretty much in order; papers are filed, old writing notebooks stowed, things basically in their proper places. Just need to dust and vacuum and the place will be in great shape.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.