Serpent of Colchis – edit update

13Feb09

I finally knuckled down, after much skirting around the edges, and got to work on the big edit.

And, as with all such things, it’s not as painful as I thought it would be. Also, and this makes me feel much, much better, the novel itself is not as bad a mess as I remembered it being.

I’m using Holly Lisle’s one-pass method, it’s one that works really well for me (once you get over the tedium of printing off 350-odd pages on a teensy inkjet) as it clearly sets the story’s parameters & themes up front, before you start editing. Having firmly nailed colours to the mast, it makes for a powerful tool in terms of defining what stays and what goes, what needs strengthening and what needs dialling back.

I’m into the manuscript slog, and I’m working approx 4 chapters a session – doesn’t sound much, but we’re talking really 8 days to whack through and annotate and identify changes. I’m not sure I’ll hit target of completion by end of Feb as I still have to type up the changes once I’ve got it all noted, but I don’t think it’s totally unfeasible at this stage.

So.

13 chapters in, and I have a number of issues I need to address:

1) The intensity of Dema & Jace’s relationship is a major driver for the decisions and actions they take, so I MUST bring across the all-encompassing, intense, obsessional aspects of the relationship – emotional and physical – for this to be convincing. However, I do not want to end up confining myself to the adult, erotic markets with this novel, so I need to find a way to bring this across without being pornographically explicit in some of the scenes.  I shall be revisiting Jaci Burton’s ‘Left Behind and Loving It’ workshop sessions on “The anatomy of Sex Scenes” to pick up some pointers (well, you might as well get it from the writer that leaves you breathless and little bit hot under the collar, eh 😉 )

2) Even given point 1, I have created a main character (Dema) who is deliberately emotionally cold, guarded and morally ambiguous. I am significantly worried that this will disengage readers, because they won’t like her enough to want her to ‘win’ (even if ‘winning’ is a pretty destructive event, when it comes down to it). What can I do to create more connection with her? An overriding moral imperative that trumps all other considerations? Giving her the opportunity to crack a little and show some vulnerability? I guess both of those are options. I think I might need to spend a little time on some character interviews to really get to the bottom of her, to find her voice fully, and if I can do that, then maybe, just maybe, I can get the reader close enough to her that she will be as fascinating to them as she is to me. Sigh. That’s looking like hard work, right now.

3). There’s an element of heist involved in the action in this Act I. Because Dema is such a high-level insider on the job, I’m concerned that there is insufficient doubt about the success of the venture to pull enough tension into those chapters. I need to look for other sources of tension, or for areas where I can double-cross the insider angle, because I’m not sure (even with a 4-player game on) the uncertainty on the ‘who-can-I-trust’ factor is enough to carry it. I need to track down a good resource on the suspense genre, and how the cross & double-cross scenarios get played out. I’ve been considering whether my pov options are correct, and I think I’m making the right choices each time in picking the most ignorant player in any one scene to focus on, but it’s not enough. I need to rethink that strategy, or work out how I can get it tighter. I don’t think shifting either all or part of this into first person is an option. Likewise, I don’t think I could sustain 3rd person present tense over a whole novel, and I think it would be too demanding/exhausting to read. These techniques are not, I feel, the answer and will not disguise the fundamental flaws driving such ideas. I need to face it head on, and work out where the conflicts are – just manufacturing stuff to up the movement (as opposed to action) will not improve this story.

Hey well. It’s half-term as of tomorrow and we’re away for almost a week. I’ve promised t’o-m no writing & no laptop for the week . . . tho I suspect I’ll renege on the laptop front, and that my editing notebook might just “fall” into the packing . . . . asking me not to write is like asking me not to breathe.

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