The Final Frontier

I climbed a mountain in the Alps (via cable car, naturally)
Whilst many writers will be focusing on NaNoWriMo next month, I will be editing and re-working my novel. Time to wipe away the dust particles and make it gleam.

The most difficult parts of editing for me (apart from trying not to avoid it) are the detachment needed and the necessity for switching off the creative head. As a teacher, I find it easy to edit and critique other people’s work but ‘red-penning’ my own writing is a totally different experience. In preparation, I have researched, sought advice from editing experts and attended an editing webinar with Anne Rainbow, whose ten point structure has provided me with a clear process to follow.

During my research I came across a surprising recommendation. Admittedly it made me cringe: eliminate metaphors and similes. Uh-oh! I love the use of these imagery enhances and I know I’ve used them in my novel. Should I take them out?

For example, in the opening chapter of my novel, a bomb has just exploded causing chaos and mayhem in a London restaurant. My journalist protagonist takes cover under a table.  I write:

Her trained, hazel eyes narrowed and scoured the scene. Her reporter instincts clicked into action. From her crouching position, she saw a boy knocked over by the scurrying pack of rats clambering over each other to escape from danger. The boy cried out for his mother; she had been caught up in the horde. Evelyn watched the desperate woman as she fought against the powerful tide. She was dragged away. Helpless.

A re-write? Should I eliminate the metaphorical language used?

Taking note of the tips given by various sources, I have decided to choose random chapters for each day of November rather than start at the beginning. I like this idea as it will prevent me from becoming creatively involved in the story. And once each chapter has undergone scrutiny, then I will read it from the beginning to ensure I’m happy with the overall flow and sequencing of events.

How do you tackle your own big editing projects? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo?

Comments

  1. How exciting to have reached this stage, Nicola. I enjoy the editing process because it feels like clearing snow from the path and being able to make real progress. Sometimes I long to hold onto my favourite parts, but those are often the ones that, if I am brutally honest with myself, tend to cast a cloud over the narrative, either by holding things up or digressing too far away from the action. Whenever I have simplified, I have never regretted it. And I try to remind myself of that when the red pen wavers.
    I haven't ever taken part in NaNoWriMo. I think that's because I don't tend to notice the word count when I'm writing, only the words themselves. I wouldn't like to feel under pressure from clocks and tallies and daily updates. It would be rather a strange distraction for me. But I wish all those brave enough to take part all the luck in the world.

    Wishing you lots of success with the editing, Nicola. Let us know how it all goes. xxxx.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Joanna. Unfortunately, it has taken some time to actually get down and pay more attention to my novel. I completed it early last year and tried (prematurely) to find an agent. But, I'm ready now to buckle down and get the work done.

      I was seriously considering doing NaNoWriMo this year because I have another novel waiting to be written. But that would just prove to be another major distraction from polishing the first one so it will have to wait a little longer.

      I hope your WIP is shaping up nicely. Have a lovely weekend.

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    2. Thank you, Nicola. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too. Also, I meant to say as well that your novel sounds intriguing and exciting, with a very strong opening chapter. xx

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  2. Working on chapters out of sequence sounds like a good tip when you want to focus on details rather than the whole story.

    With rules or such as, "eliminate metaphors and similes." I asume they're just suggestions. Warnings not to overdo things. I look at my 'offending' section and try to decide if my phrasing helps the reader visualise the scene, or advances the story or if it's just using flowery words. In your example, I think you're revealing the character's thoughts not just using a device for the sake of it.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Patsy. I value your opinion! I decided to work on random Chapters because I have started polishing and editing several times and all I managed was to spend far too long on the first 3 chapters. They have been done to death! And, I became quite demotivated and that will simply not do :)

      Wishing you every success with 'Firestarter'. Fab title and I adore the cover.

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  3. I'm not a joiner. I roll my eyes for the Thursday fences. I hate gimmicks and trends.

    When it comes to projects, I follow the one step at a time rule.

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    1. You may not be a joiner, Mac but your sharing and generosity is always appreciated!! Thank you for popping by. I'm still in need of a 'fry up' :) Now that it's colder over here, I have the perfect excuse for a high calorie intake :)

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  4. I thought the passage read well as is.

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  5. Good morning, Nic. I think that rule is ridiculous. Metaphors and similes make a novel richer. Of course you have to make sure they're not arbitrary. That they serve a purpose. In your example, they absolutely do. In my favorite writing book, "Voice of the Muse" the writer, who happens to be my editor, says the first rule is there are no rules. Best of luck with your editing journey. I'm intrigued with your story already.

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    1. Thank you, Karen. I will have to check out 'Voice of the Muse'. Especially now: I just received another rejection for a short story. At least they gave me feedback which is great. It means they read it and took the time to write a personal comment. That's better than former rejections :) Have a lovely weekend.

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  6. Oh Nic, rejections are so so hard. One of my guest posts for this blog tour was about turning negatives to positives. That's what we must do with rejections. I tell myself it wasn't right for that publication but there's a home for it somewhere. Good luck to you.

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    1. Thank you for your words of wisdom and support, Karen.

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  7. Your passage reads well, Nicola, so I think you should follow your own writer's instinct. I've never been a huge fan of metaphor and simile in fiction, especially when it's overdone but this was just about right. I've read some cringe-worthy 'literary' writing that just left me cold! I also quite often forget to use it in my own work, apart from when writing poetry. Enjoy your editing and go with your own preferences. I've only completed NaNo once and it certainly stopped my usual procrastination but I'm not doing it again, or not this year anyway!

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    1. Thank you so much, Rosemary. I don't overuse (I think) the metaphors and sometimes when I write similes I do cringed and immediately delete them :) They do sound particularly strange when I read them back in my Brummy accent..."like..." :) Thanks again for the encouragement. I'll let you know how it all goes. Have a lovely weekend.

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  8. Gorgeous photo! Editing is daunting for me too. I'm lucky to have very good critique partners to help out. I let a manuscript sit a while before I go to edit it and then I'm a little bit removed from it.

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    1. Thank you for popping by to comment, Christine. I'm hoping the 'daunting' eases as I get better at it :) Have a good weekend.

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  9. Good luck with editing your novel! And I can't see eliminating metaphors/similes from writing. I think the key is not to overdo such things. The hardest thing for me about editing is opening up the document and getting to work. I put it off until I absolutely have to do it. Heh.

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    1. Thank you for the words of encouragement Cherie. Much appreciated. Have a lovely weekend.

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  10. I do NaNo! I also commit the cardinal sin of editing while I write. :) I know where my flaws are. I forget setting, and my characters need more emotional reaction. I have to ask others if what I have is good enough, because I don't need setting when I read other books, and I'm rather emotionally detached in my everyday life. I also have a tendency to confuse people with my magic abilities. Unfortunately, all of this stuff is tough to self-edit without consulting someone else.

    Your tidbit here... you ask if you should remove the metaphorical language. I'm not quite sure what you're referencing. The tide reads fine, if that's what you meant. Or are you referring to the rats? I took that literally, but were those supposed to be people? If they were literally rats, then I see nothing wrong with your piece.

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    1. Wishing you lots of fun with this year's NaNo, Loni. The rats are people, scrambling over each other without any decency which is intended to indicate that in certain situations humans behave more like vermin than our ideal image of humanity. Evelyn is a journalist and has seen rats behaving in such a way when trying to escape danger.

      Wishing you a lovely 'magical' weekend.

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  11. I learned recently I use "she looked, he looked," etc. WAY too much, so now I'll be watching that in my edits!

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  12. I like to get lost in a story. Sometimes the use of a metaphor makes me 'aware' of the author, which annoys me. Carefully placed and if used in such a way that they don't scream, 'look at me using a clever literary technique' they are fine. I can't help thinking that if in doubt, take it out. As a former primary teacher, it still amuses me that we spend all this time teaching children to use adjectives, adverbs and figurative language... and then tell them not to use them when they become adults!

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  13. I find editing the hardest part. I find it draining reading to check for errors. I like your passage.

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    1. Thank you, Medeia. I'll share my editing experiences.

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  14. Congratulations on reaching the editing stage, Nicola. I love figurative language but know that it has to be used very sparingly and discreetly. Go with your instincts if you feel it adds to the passage. I like the idea of editing chapters out of sequence. A great post!

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    1. Thank you, Jan. I have been known to 'flourish' from time to time :) I will act wisely.

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  15. I think the idea of tackling random chapters in editing is fantastic! It will help you think about the story in a new way! :)

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