I’ve spent most of the day so far editing the next chapter of “Breaking Through the Ice” and I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned before how much I dislike editing. I shouldn’t so much but I can’t help it. I know it’s part of the writing process and it helps me be a better writer, blah, blah, blah. But I just get bored reading and rereading my own work so much. After going through the publication process for “Agent Alpha,” I started to dislike the whole story. It started to feel weak, insubstantial and so amateur. I probably shouldn’t say that since I do want you all to read it. Does that make that saying true, about being our own worst critics? Maybe.
I don’t mind reading and editing other people’s work. I love seeing new material from my friends – well, friend, really. 😉 – and sometimes I can focus on the technicalities long enough to offer words of advice. It’s just my own work. It got me thinking, what is it about my own work, or the mechanics of editing that I dislike so much?
I don’t suppose it’s any one thing. There are certain things I do while writing something brand new that are considered bad writing habits. There’s the dreaded adverbs – words that end in ‘-ly’ for those who don’t know. They have their place, occasionally ( 😉 ), but for the most part, they’re unnecessary. That’s an easy enough error to correct. A little find and replace – or as I like to call it, ‘search and destroy’ – and I’m all good.
Up until I published “Agent Alpha,” I never thought there was anything wrong with speech tags – he said, she whimpered, he cried, she replied – and again, they do have their place. But have you ever read something and counted how many of those words you see on a single page? The average reader is smart enough to follow a conversation without those thrown in after every single line of dialogue. There are also other ways around them, using actions and the like instead of he said, she said.
What else is there…ah, yes. This one troubles me lately and maybe I just need to employ my thesaurus a bit more, but how many different ways can you describe someone? I don’t just mean the hair, eyes, height, weight things that we all have to figure out creative new ways of introducing. That’s a problem in itself, let me tell you, but I mean how do you describe someone’s personality without sounding like a textbook or overly sappy poem?
The latest I’ve been guilty of with BTTI is using the word ‘amazing’ to describe a person or their talents. Under that heading in my thesaurus, I find the following:
Astonishing, astounding, surprising, stunning, staggering, shocking, startling, stupefying, breathtaking, awesome, awe-inspiring, sensational, remarkable, spectacular, stupendous, phenomenal, extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable, mind-blowing and flabbergasting.
All good words, to be sure, but how can I pick an alternative to ‘amazing’ that fits the era, mood and level of formality in my story? Most of these words are very strong sounding. I’ve used them in other stories to describe something more than just someone’s ability to cook a good meal.
“Oh, wow, those fireworks were awesome!”
But you can’t call someone awesome. Well, you might in casual conversation but would that sound right in a hockey-romance where the dude is telling the dudette how much he cares for her?
“Oh, wow, you’re so awesome, Mina.”
Do you see what I mean? It’s difficult finding a balance. Maybe to someone who doesn’t do this every day, it seems petty and simple but honestly, when all you do is work with words, the challenge becomes using the same words and making them sound different. Every. Single. Time.
Which brings me to my next point: how do you make a sex scene original? Again, not something every writer deals with, and often something they avoid altogether. Being that I write in a specific genre, it’s something I deal with and something I try to improve upon all the time. Writing it, I mean. Get your minds out of the gutters, people. 😀
As a reader, I try not to dissect a story too much. It’s hard, especially depending on my mood or what stage of writing I’m currently working on. If I’m editing my own crap, I find myself picking and finding little things in anything I read. Do you know how much enjoyment I lose from reading a Jane Austen novel when I’ve just raked my own work over the coals? Not that I’m comparing myself to Jane Austen, believe me, but she never had to worry about getting sexual chemistry and…positions just right.
When I read a story I sometimes find myself wondering first if a sex scene is even plausible. Can he really get her into that position? Can they really climax while dangling like that? Can she really…ahem. Well, you know what I mean. If I’m lucky, I get into a book enough that the sex scenes just become part of the story. I don’t pause to analyze, I just sigh and move on. Stop being pervy, all of you! LOL
As a writer, I wonder sometimes, do my sex scenes – or love-making scenes, for you romantics out there – make you analyze or do they sweep you along?
I don’t let my characters get too adventurous so it’s not like I have to worry about the mechanics of positions. I often skip the messy stuff, like condoms – I know, I know, it’s a complaint I hear from time to time but I use the excuse of “my characters live in an alternate reality where they are already on perfect birth control that doesn’t involve pausing for wrapper crinkles and rolling rubbers.” Maybe one day I’ll write a story that addresses the issue of STDs or unplanned pregnancies. For now, I prefer not to use either of those as a crutch.
I know in my earlier works, I was repetitive. Not in a single story necessarily, though I’m sure I was guilty of that too, but between different ones. I’d use the same ‘moves’ on a guy or woman, and some of the same phrases would pop up. Some readers were kind enough to point it out and honestly, until they had, I never realized. That’s my dislike for rereadng my own work in play there. I started to keep a list of ‘techniques’ I overused and started to come up with new ways of expressing the mood or situation. It’s not easy and I sometimes look over a story I’m working on and cringe because I’ve used ‘moaned’ or ‘slid’ far too many times. How do I not see it when I first write it? I get caught up in the story, just like reading sometimes. And just when I think I’ve got a handle on this writing thing, some new error makes itself known and I have to start all over again.
Now that I’ve pointed out all my shortcomings, I wonder if you’ll continue to read my work… I hope so. I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. New challenges just force me to be better. Or at least, to continually improve. Do I improve? Go back and read my first stories and work your way forward, then send me a detailed essay on my growth.
Hahaha, I’m so kidding. Please don’t do that.
All right. Time to get back to ripping – I mean, editing my work. Look for the newest chapter of “Breaking Through the Ice” on the usual day. In spite of my second job and the crazy days at my regular one, I’ve managed to keep up so far. Fingers crossed I get through the remaining chapters on time as well. 🙂
Take care and happy reading!