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Saturday, 4 May 2013

When is the End not the End?

Book Launch after I won the Dundee International Book Prize

I need a pat on the back. Why? Well I wrote The End on my work in progress. It’s finished. Completed. I’ve written the final chapter, and even better, the final sentence. And I must say there was a wee tear in my eye as I wrote it.

Tears! From a dark crime writer! What next? Well, even though my books are not renowned for happy endings, I do have a soft side. I’m sure I’ll be deafened by the mutterings out there when this is read. But I do, honestly. And, although my crime books may not have very many happy endings, things do work out. Anyway, would you really want a happy ending to a dark crime book?

Once I stopped dancing because I had written The End, I had to knuckle down to some more work. You see, when a writer writes The End to their work in progress, it’s not really the end. Next comes the hard work of revision, editing and proofing, and I do all that before it goes out to my editors for fresh eyes to look at.

Revision comes first. The entire manuscript is read, and while reading I am looking out for clumsy writing, places where I’ve told the story rather than showed the action, although there are places where telling is okay. If I reach a tell section, I consider it. Would it be better if I turned it into show, or should I leave it the way it is? A lot depends on what is happening in the story at that point. If it’s a fast paced section then there is no argument – it has to be show. But tell is great if you want a quick way to sketch in background or move the story through time. However, given that the action in the new book takes place over a period of 6 days, time gallops.

Then, there is the hunt for weasel words. That is, words that are unnecessary, words where the sentence would make the same sense if they weren’t there. I’m thinking about words like – just, that, actually, basically, extremely, almost, simply – there are loads more, including the word ‘then’ which starts this paragraph, and the Find command in Word is excellent for rooting them out. However, each word has to be considered before removal, because in some cases they are needed.

Then a hunt for quotation marks. Word’s Find command is great here too, but this is laborious, and you only realize how many you use when you search them out. So what am I looking for? I’m checking that dialogue is both opened and closed, and that apostrophes are in the correct place. Speaking of apostrophes, I also do a find on words like ‘its’ just in case it’s the one that needs the apostrophe. Then there’s the hunt for ise, and ize endings to ensure the correct one is written. I use the Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors, and they stipulate the correct usage for words that can be written either way. Their preference is for ize endings, with some exceptions, for example, ‘realize’ is an ize ending but ‘surprise’ is an ise ending. However, as I have a tendency to use the ise endings in preference to ize, this means hunting out every ise ending and converting it if it’s needed. I’m getting better though, because when I’m writing my brain has become trained to write ize instead of ise.

After that, another read through is needed before it goes out to my editors. And that’s where the book is at the moment. And, of course, another read through once the corrections are in, then a speak aloud read through – it’s amazing the errors you can detect when you read the manuscript aloud, although after 92,000 words I reckon I’ll be hoarse!

Oh, nearly forgot to say, the cover has been commissioned, but I have no idea what it will look like yet. I’m waiting for my cover artist to surprise me.

I suppose you want to know what the book is about, but I’ll leave that until later. What I will tell you though, is that it is the third one in the Dundee Crime Series, and I should be ready to launch it in early July.

Watch this space!


Bill Kirton said...

A great summary of the processes involved, Chris, and excellent advice for authors from wannabes to those already established. Looking forward to reading Dundee III.

Melanie said...

Great advice in there, Chris. And it goes to show that being an author isn't all glam and fortune. There's a lot of hard graft goes into turning out a great finished product.

Looking forward to your next novel.

Chris Longmuir said...

Thanks for the comments, folks, and I'm still grafting. I'm on the read aloud bit now. I'm getting tired of the sound of my own voice!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I agree - that's an excellent summary, Chris - and I should take a few lessons on spending more time at those stages instead of being impatient to get work out there! Look forward to reading the finished book.

myraduffy said...

A great description of the sometimes painful process writers have to go through.
And what is it about the word 'just' that we all seem to love to use it so often!

Janice Horton said...

I'm in awe and admiration Chris - well done on getting to The End and good luck with the revisions and edits!

Janice xx

Gwen Kirkwood said...

I suspect you're like me and feel relief when you can write "the end", Chris, in spite of having to go through several more times to make it as perfect as you can. I take my hat off to you (would if I had one) for reading it all aloud, something I ought to do, but don't - not so far anyway.