And even things without life which give sound, whether flute or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is played? For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle? 1 Corinthians 14:7-8
Today ends my two week post first draft break (okay, I cheated a little here and there, polishing the later chapters of my work in progress for my critique partner), and the start of the next phase of writing a novel. Editing. And the main question on my mind is this: have I made a certain sound, or just a jumble of discordant notes?
Will a reader tap her foot to the tune I tried to play, or cover her ears?
First step toward finding that out is to figure out what is on all those pages I spent the last seven months writing. The best way is to read the manuscript as fast as possible, straight through, preferably without making any edits. I’ve never been able to do this with my own work in the past, and so I’m not going to try it now. I will, however, read through the manuscript before making any major changes, but I’ll make small edits if they are obvious and certain, and I’ll pepper the pages with footnotes of editing ideas. And I’ll fill the few holes I left, those scenes from a third point of view character I decided midway through the first draft were needful (and still feel are so), but had a little trouble visualizing during the first draft. I’m excited now to write them, so I’m glad I waited.
Questions I’ll be asking myself:
Are my main characters, Jesse and Tamsen’s, motivations clear and strong? Do they provide conflict to carry their arc through the entire story?
Have I utilized my settings to their best advantage, and do they affect the mood of each scene, or else reflect or contrast the mood? Author Susan Meissner had a good post on this topic recently, at Novel Rocket. Making Your Setting a Character.
Are motivations for secondary characters believable? Have I fleshed out each character to a fully three-dimensional person, or have I settled for cliche?
How’s the pacing in each scene? Fast enough? Slow enough? Does it fit with its placement in the novel?
Did I give my antagonists (this book has quite a few) short shrift? I do have a tendency to do that in the first draft.
The list goes on, but these are the sorts of things I’m bearing in mind as I begin today my edits on The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn.
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