Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Avoiding the Infinite Edit

I am currently editing The Wizard’s Spells..., the first chapter of Gods Among Men, again. I have edited it many times before, but I think it is very close to being truly "finished". Of course, I thought it was "finished" a while back.

I thought The Wizard’s Spells... was really good when I first submitted it to the writers group. Their comments made it clear the chapter wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. Someone reading that version for the first time would likely get bored during certain sections and skim pages at a time. I took the group's comments to heart, focused on the weak or slow sections, and worked to make the chapter better.

I submitted The Wizard’s Spells... to the group again a couple of months ago. This time it was good, but not as good as it needs to be. Most of the problems were minor, mostly tightening sentences or reducing excessive descriptions. But the middle section was still mediocre at best. It was an info-dump. A long winded section that brought the momentum of the chapter to a slow crawl.

Again I took the group's suggestions to heart. I reworked the middle third of the chapter almost from the ground up. It was easier than I thought. Substantially easier than the nightmare that was rewrite of chapter three, ...Warns The Ruling Circle,....

The end result is a chapter that I believe is really, very, good. The Wizard’s Spells... has become a focused, well-paced, interesting introduction to a fantasy world and an epic story. Which is what I wanted all along.

Since the middle section required a major overhaul, I will likely submit the chapter one last time to the group. Just to make sure it is as improved as I think it is. I sure there will be more problems, and I will address them, but this should be the last time this chapter will be reviewed until I submit it to an agent or a publisher.

I say "last time" because I believe there are no more major problems with the chapter. It is possible to edit a chapter over and over and never "finish" it. I could reword sentences and rewrite the same scene over and over. Infinitely editing the same chapter, never moving on to the bigger story. At some point you have to draw a hard line and say, "Yes it could be better, but it is good enough as it is right now."

There is no perfect sentence, no perfect way to tell a scene. To try and achieve perfection is a fool's errand. A proper goal is to achieve a great moment. A turn of phrase that sticks in the reader's mind, an image that burns itself into their memory. An acceptable result is to not bore the reader, to keep them from deciding your story is not worth reading.

I may, just may, have a great moment or two in The Wizard’s Spells.... The major accomplishment, however, is that I have come very close to removing all the clutter that might drive readers away.

1 comment:

  1. I liked this one. It is hard to figure out when to stop editing, and I believe that after four major edits, the next one (if there is one) should be done by a professional. Good blog, Brant.