Re-Reading Your Work

My first book has been in my heart for the last eight years. Now the first book in this planned series is nearing its final stages. It is an exciting time to know that the project, at least in the way of writing, is almost completely finished. We have an editor, and around this time next month, the search for an agent will continue, and then comes the publisher, and hopefully a career.

My editor has been very good. I just received the note ridden document on the first chapter, and am absolutely thrilled with it. What I like about this editor is she really wants to help improve your story. You hand her silver, and she tells you how to make it gold. Poor analogy if you prefer silver to gold, but you get the point.

Sometimes getting editing tips can sting a bit, but you need to remember that an editor is coming at the story from an objective point of view, the same way your readers will. If something confuses them, it will likely confuse other readers as well. An editor’s tips can be most helpful to increase a manuscript’s readability and put your own worries to rest.

Though I trust her completely, there are a few things I myself still wish to correct before she gets to work, so I have been re-reading my manuscript and tweaking it in parts. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. Re-discovering your work after a break from it can be a real eye opener, allowing you to see the things that don’t quite work, and also see where the story got something right.

The edits were superficial for the most part, removing a few lines of dialogue and description here and there, changing things around, and giving her more to work with when she gets the chapters. Last night I blew through chapters 7 and 8, editing them as I went before they get their final evaluation. It had been many months since I read them, so I had actually forgotten a few of the things that happened in my own book.

This is one very important reason to re-read your work, but only after a break. If you go back over it moments after wrapping it up, your mind is still racing from what you just finished. Not a good state to look things over in. If you give yourself a break and then go through it, it helps you look at it with at least a little less bias. When you’re calmer, you can just relax and look through your work with much greater care. You may even get caught up in your own story.

Every once in a while, there would be something that made me cringe, wordy inner monologue, a strange exchange between two characters or any number of other small errors in a narrative. These things were not indestructible, and were vanquished after my fingers did a little waltz on the keyboard. It felt like cleaning a room or polishing a car. There was a nice sense of accomplishment knowing that the story became just a little bit better.

Occasionally, a few of my fears were calmed. My main character is a dragon, and one of my other characters had a bad experience with dragons in the past. We all know that archetype, from the angry police chief in every Dirty Harry film, to Val Kilmer in Top Gun. They’re that character that doesn’t trust the hero, calls them dangerous, reckless, and eventually they either come around, or get their teeth knocked in.

I like the angry police chief as much as the next guy, but if that’s all a character offers, you can’t help but roll your eyes. Fortunately, reading through the manuscript again has calmed my nerves. This character, named Blondie, is more than just paranoia. She cares about her companions, is passionate about her work in history and archeology, and her suspicions are purely based on worry for those closest to her. Her reasons are well founded, and you can actually understand and empathize with why she is not entirely trusting of the hero. I can’t begin to tell you the relief that brings when you fear something won’t work, only to discover it does.

In an earlier post, I compared reaching the ending to a book to climbing a mountain. You know where you’re headed, but the real question is getting there. Going back over a manuscript after a period of rest is similar. You know where to go, and how to get there. The only difference is you can avoid the rocks you tripped over last time.

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