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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

That Doesn't *Look* Like Editing

I spent the morning in the doctor's office waiting to get a prescription for antihistamines so I could breath again. They have a 30-minute arrival policy, meaning you get to spend at least thirty minutes in the waiting room if not longer. I decided not to waste my time.

I brought along pens and paper and worked on this:

Editing for Under a Dark Star.

I know, my friend bumped into me at the pharmacy and gave me the same look. "That's editing?"

It is, for me. I'm very tactile and very visual. I like to see everything in front of me in an organic form when I'm editing. It lets me freewheel through the problems and solve them rather than just staring at plot holes.

I started her, with goals and motivations. Since I have several completed drafts of UDS I was able to start with the ending - This is Where it Ends - and work back to where it all began. This page has: end results, personal results, big goal, little goal, big bad (overall antagonist), little bad (the MC's personal antagonist), mini bad, and the smallest threat.

Scribbled around all of that is motivations, thoughts, and themes.

A lot of this is just free association. Why does the antag want the MC dead? I scribbled down answers as they came to me. The ones that come first are the ones I need to make sure come through in the writing.

Once I knew the over-arching themes for UDS I moved on to my MC, Kit Marlowe. What is her big goal? What does Kit hate? love? want? fear? see? believe? What is she at the end of the day?

In blue I wrote something I could see my character saying, "I don't want to die as Bess." Bess is the name she's born with, and the name and image she's trying to escape. The character's driving motivation starts as not wanting to be who she is.

After I pinned down my character I listed the promises each character was made in the text. Their end goals, as it were. Kit wants safety, Beka needs to move out from Kit's shadow, Jace needs to learn acceptance, Khal needs to take charge.

In all of this mess I found the theme I've been hunting for in the past several drafts. I thought maybe it was about love or family, it isn't. The theme of Under a Dark Star is CONTROL.

Everyone in the book is scrabbling for control, of themselves, of the situation, of the government, of each other. Everyone is fighting to gain that upperhand. There's a dark layer of sadisim in that control. The antagonist is willing to go to great lengths to have control. To the point that the antagonist is controlled by his obsession to control Kit.

I was also able to pick out minor themes from the writing so I know where to set my opening chapter. The opening chapter needs to set the stage for the book and should have a majority of the minor themes represented in some way.

My minor themes are: chaos, noise, rumor, war, music, sex, control, power, hunger, darkness, life, fear, lyrics, confinement, and body. I need to try and get all of those into the opening so I don't waste time setting the stage later on. If I can open with those themes in evidence the momentum won't be slowed in later chapters when I have to introduce the themes so I can resolve them.

Want to try this yourself?
- Use color: Writing in a variety of colors activates both sides of the brain.

- Take your time: If you normally allot and hour for writing give yourself that hour one day for this kind of editing.

- Don't be afraid: Goals and characters may change while you free right. That's a good thing. Don't limit yourself by setting false limits.

- Don't overthink: Free association can be a wonderful thing at this stage of editing. Your imagination can give you all sorts of solutions that your concious might not provide. So just write while your brain yammers.

- Do what works: If this organic style doesn't work for you, try another form of editing. Just like you can't copy another author's voice you can't copy their editing style. You are unique. Maybe you need pictures or a computer or glitter and glue to let your brain wander. Go for it!


  1. This looks fabulous. I'm also very visual. I tend to highlight in my computer (I can't write longhand anymore), but not to that extent...I'll be giving it a shot. :)

  2. I like that you took your editing with you, I've often taken notebooks to doctor's offices, although when I go I'm generally too zoned out to focus, and they end up being scribble pads!

  3. I love the color variations, I can see incorporating that into a more structured edit process.

    My handwriting is too terrible for a free write.

    Thanks for the insight!

  4. CONTROL! Of COURSE! Makes perfect sense. Nice work, Lei.

    Totally trying this method. Though I tend to prefer concept mapping to writing on the lines O:) hehe. Colours is a good idea though. I've been using my purple pen a lot lately - creative mind seems to like it :D hehe.

  5. Actually that looks like a great idea. I'm a color girl!