I’ve just shifted from editing a book into drafting another. I’ve worked on this book throughout the pandemic and wanted to share some of the things I did, that led me into the spaces between. Originally intended for release early 2021, production delay and a decision to take a deeper look, became a learning curve. I repeatedly read and edit, though different mediums and genres require a different approach.
We all have words we reach for in conversation, to express our thoughts, feelings or explain something. It is the same when writing and while this is natural, in the edit stage I like to add dynamism. Working with fiction, the overall story arc feels like the Earth, to be honoured above all things. In poetry the meaning and sound are the lord and lady of the medium. With nonfiction I found a different rhythm revealing itself. How it is being said must be more subtle, must be the light percussion keeping time and not the lead vocal or guitar solo.
With this book, I’ve had particular words or phrases that I reached for, more than others. Using the Find tool on the computer, I searched the entire book for words that had been over-used. “Walk” was one such example. While there are some visualisations in the book that guide the reader on a journey, and reading the book hadn’t alerted me to it’s over-use, I realised that it was an opportunity for inclusion. We all move in the world differently. This led me to also check for other words, which were used as a point of focus or figure of speech.
In the example of “walk”, I switched it throughout the book for “go, head towards/away from, journey, move”. I made alterations when referencing the placement of hands too. We talk repeatedly in context from the place that we inhabit, and while I respect and enjoy the diversity of humanity, the book didn’t reflect that as much as it does now. We are all lenses on reality, bumping into one another. We experience the same things in vastly different ways. I hope that when writing, I’m respectful of anyone different to me, and though sometimes hesitant to make a mistake – better to try, fail, apologise and try again.
Editing is a learning process and a humbling one at times. After the excitement of completing a book begins to dissolve, there is the reality of still so much work to be done. There are phrases and words that don’t apply to the work, despite being common to the genre, that may be loaded with unpleasant connections. In writing a nonfiction book I was very clear what it was about and what it was not – it references nature and science – though is not empirical.
The book is within the boundaries of personal growth, though rather than talk around the subject, it is grounded in creative and practical roots. I cut phrases or words so that it better aligned with the original intention. There are alternatives, that are more specific, give a common practise or idea a fresh twist. It is fun to play within the framework of genres and mediums.
Fantasy and history novels are known for being longer. In one of several revisions, I printed the fantasy novel with minimal spacing, to save on paper. I read the book, putting a line through any word that could be removed, without losing meaning in the sentence. Dialogue (particularly a person’s response), can be overwritten; so I shortened responses and explanations. It cut several thousands words; after multiple drafts and a few editing revisions had already removed scenes that did not move the plot forward or include critical character development.
It helps to think of each chapter as a story in its own right, with its own plot arc. Even in nonfiction. Writing a sentence about what needs to happen (or be said) in each scene or chapter, enabled me to ensure each is purposeful and remains on track with the book’s intention. Editing later can link them together and repeating the format of each chapter, also ties together what could be lots of disparate pieces otherwise.
The spaces between are as important to the timing, rhythm and feel of a book, as much as the words and content are. How you play with all that, in the various stages of creating, is so much FUN. I love all the learning that is part of the creative process… the joy is found in the process.
Have a great week 🙂
All photos copyright © Louise Ann Knight