Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gut-wrenching stuff

A major goal of my current editing is increasing the tension in the book. Re-reading the first couple chapters, it's apparent that there isn't nearly enough fear and suffering in them. It sounds harsh, but without the threat of real pain and difficulty for the characters, there isn't much reason to continue reading.

It's funny how you can "know" something from reading about it, but promptly forget it when the page is in front of you!

  • Tension needs to start on the first page. In my case, the world itself presents a lot of dangers--the characters have abilities that they must keep secret from the rest of the "normal" world. A powerful group ruthlessly enforces this secrecy. Prior drafts left a lot of this tension until later, but now it shows up within the first few paragraphs.

  • Showing the desperate loneliness of the main character. He starts off the book rather miserable, and although that was present in earlier drafts, a lot of the reasons were (again!) postponed until later in the book. Now that I've started working in bits and pieces sooner, the desire to learn more should be stronger. It's weird, but sometimes giving more information builds mystery more effectively than withholding details.

  • How the past affects the present is a major aspect of the book. The characters in my novel are extremely long-lived, and that span of time almost guarantees that any present difficulty has echoes in their past. Knowing the details of what's happened to them and working that information in effectively is crucial to making the reader care about the characters.
I wrote the original drafts of these chapters years ago, and between they've been honed, but not substantially changed much. It's been fun to start really shuffling them around, ripping stuff out and adding in new bits to give it the punch that I want it to have.

Word Delta: ~500, scribbled at the bottom of hand-edited pages

Saturday, February 11, 2006

First chapter, revised

In the past week I've finally gotten down to doing some revisions on the first major chapter of my novel. It has been gratifying to spot places where I can immediately start making the type of world/character building changes that I'm after in this editing pass.

Specifically, the entire first page is getting a rewrite. I've used a couple of sentences from the original, but pretty much dropped and redone it. It's going to need some fine-tuning, but as I've alluded to before, it's important that the story draw the person into the alternate world that I'm creating. The original draft took the better part of a page to reach the point where a reader would realize that strange things are happening. On reviewing it, a lot of what took up that space was things like setting, character description, the main character walking... you know, riveting stuff. I mean, who isn't interested in people walking!

A lot of work remains ahead, but the more I dig into it, the more excited I get about what I'm going to end up with.

Word Delta: ~2000 words