My last post was my 100th! I can’t believe it. Happy 100th post, WriteRight!
I want to talk to you today about what happens when you need to edit a book that you know way too well. This has happened with Hellbound, obviously, but with other books I’ve written as well. Still, Hellbound is the book du jour, so I will be using it as my example.
I recently received some good advice about how to improve Hellbound that made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it myself. After all, no one knows your book better than you, right? So why can other people bring something to the table that you feel you never would have thought of on your own? Has this ever happened to you? It has to me. A lot.
The reason, I recently discovered, has to do with how close you become to your book and your story. On the one hand, it is inevitable that an author will start to know his or her story like the back of his or her own hand. It is an important part of the writing process. You want to become involved in your own story. That’s how good writing happens.
On the other hand, what happens to me a lot of the time is that I read a section of a book I’m writing and think “Yes, this part is grammatically correct and follows the plot, therefore it does not need changing.” So I leave that part alone, and I concentrate more on the other points I’m working on changing/fixing. This has happened with Hellbound, as I said, where I have read a part of it so many times that it doesn’t even occur to me that it can be changed. For example, this conversation from the first chapter of Hellbound:
“You’re trying my patience, Re-di-Tor,” the Devil gritted out. “You have a job to do and I expect you to do it.”
“Yes, Tor,” Aiden sneered. “What will it be this time, Tor?”
“I like that tone. You remind me of your mother. Keep it up.”
He turned to one of his servants and signed yet another form, which disappeared a second later.
“Your new assignment,” he began, “is in a school. Some foolish teenager has actually invoked the Rit-di-Malos. I need you to find out which insolent child the escaped soul is inhabiting and bring it back. Promptly.”
Aiden could barely believe what he was hearing. It was almost too good to be true.
“You mean I actually get to go to school?” he asked. “I’m going to have to interact with other kids my age and socialize and live a normal life?”
“Your age? Kids your age?” Tor paused to bark out a laugh. “There are no kids your age. You’re three hundred and seventy-five years old!”
“Three seventy-six, dad. You missed my last birthday.”
That passage has been in the book almost since its start back in 2011 (I’m guessing about the year, but I think that’s right). So it never occurred to me to change it. Not until I received the suggestion to expand Aiden’s job. I’ve always had the idea that Aiden would be told where he had to go, but it makes more sense to have him figure out where he needs to be himself. This gives him more responsibility and works better for the overall plot. (You’ll just have to take my word for it on that last bit, until you can read the book yourself and see why).
This is why I have always stressed the importance of getting outside opinions about your book. Because sometimes you’re just too close to the situation to make that call, and other people can offer an unbiased perspective.
That’s all I have to say for the moment!
Word of the Day: Opine (v) – to hold or express an opinion.