Tomorrow I start (again) the editing of Kindred. Following the guidelines mentioned in an earlier post, from author/writing instructor Barbara Rogan (here’s her new Next Level Workshop website), I’ll print the whole manuscript off and read it. And I won’t let myself succumb to the temptation to do a line by line. Really. I won’t. Here’s a brief rundown of the self-editing steps:

~ Put the novel away for, preferably, a month or more.
~ Read it over lightly to get a feel for the story’s flow. Take notes. Do no actual editing.
~ Read first and last scenes to gauge the novel’s arc. Did I start and end in the right place?
~ Follow the subplots, reading only those scenes in which the subplot takes place. Strengthen or cut them out if necessary.
~ Overall structure–does the tension level keep rising?
~ Themes: identify, strengthen and clarify.
~ Characterization: isolate each character, read their scenes through. Is their motivation constant and evolving?
~ Dialogue: pay special attention to each character’s voice, word choice, rhythm of speech. Make them distinct.
~ Scene by scene reading: is it pleasing, is it shapely, does it draw the reader further on? Raise questions?
~ Language, the sentence by sentence fine-polish edit.

We’ll see how this plan of attack works for me, and whether I find it easier and/or more productive to combine some steps.

But about that working title, KINDRED. Book titles are not subject to copyright. A search at Amazon.com for Blood Ties, for example, will bring up books by different authors sharing that title. Still, I’d rather have my own unique title, insofar as that’s possible (with the making of books having no end, and it being a few hundred years since the printing of them began in earnest). The title KINDRED belongs to a published novel by Octavia Butler, and it is, in fact, where I snagged my working title sometime during 2004, the year I began writing Kindred (my Kindred).

Sharing the title (should a future publisher not go and change it anyway, which they are wont to do) would pose no problem really, had Ms. Butler’s book been about banana boat men of the West Indies, say. But it’s about slavery in the southern United States, and race relations, and blood ties extending across the color line. So is mine. Although that’s about where the similarities end, they’re strong enough, and Butler’s book (a time-travel/historical) is well known enough, that should my novel be published I don’t want to spend the rest of my career telling people, “Yes, Kindred is about slavery, but no, it’s not that Kindred.”

So for the past four years I’ve had my eyes peeled for a new working title–with the idea of leaving KINDRED as the overall series title, because it fits so darn well. I don’t have a replacement title for Kindred (Book One) yet, although I have a long… long list of possibilities, or “in-the-ball-parks.” Some have to do with the story situation, some with Ian Cameron, my main character. Others reflect various themes in the book–slavery (physical and spiritual), kinship and blood ties, being uppermost. A lot of them have to do with rivers, and crossing them (hence this blog’s title).

I realize few have read more than an excerpt or two of the story, if that much, but a book’s title is usually what makes me pull it off a shelf at Evangel or Barnes & Noble, to investigate further, when I know little or nothing else about it. A title is a first impression. So if one of these titles leaps out at you for whatever reason, post a comment and let me know which, and why.

My top picks from a very long list of possible titles, in no particular order:

Trouble the Water
Carolina Autumn
Carolina Road
Mountain Laurel
The Bones of Mountain Laurel
Canaan’s Shore
There Is A River
The Wayfaring Son
The Leaf That’s Blown
The Beautiful Shore
Wade In The Water
Rivers To Cross
Next of Kin
The Near Kinsman
The Wind-Drifted Branch
Coming Unto Jordan
Canaan’s River
An Issue of Blood

I haven’t tried an Amazon search for all of these titles to see if they’re in use, and if so attached to what sort of book (though some I have), but again, if one of the above piques your interest, do let me know

January has been a surreal month. For the past four years I’ve lived and breathed Ian and Seona’s story, never taking more than a week or two off at a time for travel/vacation, even then weighing down my suitcase with notes, printed scenes and research books, to be working on in my free time. I’ve missed Ian and Seona (and Lily and Thomas, John and Cecily, Malcolm and Naomi, and Judith), and find it a good sign how eager I am to get back to them, to immerse myself in their small corner of the late 18th century.

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