This editing pass through “The King’s Sons,” the final book in my first trilogy, has really opened my eyes to the kinds of things I’m changing. Unshockingly, they’re a lot of the same things I changed in the first two novels. I continue to write in this sloppy manner while drafting, and I never change enough instances of these buggers later on. Thought I’d share to see whether I’m alone:
- “He knew she would…” I use “to know” in that manner far, far too often. Basically, the reader knows who the point of view character is in a scene (at least, in this novel a reader will, because my POV strategy is purposefully more rigid here than in book two.) Since the POV character is clear, it’s clear that the narration is from his/her perspective, and that whatever is stated is something s/he knows (or believes s/he knows.) So that “knew” is redundant, and it drives me crazy, and yet I’m SURE I haven’t caught all instances of it. Seriously, I’m going to have to do a search for “knew” through the entire 130,000 word document.)
- “He seemed to…”/”She looked to…” Oh. My. Gosh. If I see this one more time in a novel I’ve already edited multiple times I just might have to scratch my eyes out. Why is it so hard for me to be precise/strong/direct in my writing? No more “seeming.” Just state what is or what isn’t. (Interestingly enough, I have the same trouble in life. I can’t make decisions or be forceful about things. It’s my personality. I need to train myself that FORCEFUL IS GOOD sometimes. Conviction isn’t a vice.)
- Direct addresses in dialogue. You know what I mean: when a character says the name of the person s/he’s talking to. On a rare occasion this is fine, but I do it WAY WAY WAY too much. I’m always cutting that out.
- Passive voice. I use the passive voice a lot, which isn’t unusual and not that difficult a fix (most of the time). It’s fine in moderation, or severe moderation, but it creeps up in my writing more often than I’d like.
- “blah blah blah blah blah, no?” Too many of my characters–and not all of them the nobles—use that question tag. I should really figure out which characters would speak that way and limit the use of that “no?”to them. This will be another document-wide search…. Ugh.
I don’t think it’s a problem that these things show up in my first draft. You could argue it’s better to get words down, get the skeleton of the novel down, as soon as possible without stopping to overthink or overwork things. (Editing and writing should be separate processes.) But I do feel that, after 3 or 4 edits, less of this stuff should be present in the draft I have in front of me. Oh well! Each catch improves the quality of writing. The little things that make a big difference, no?
My problem is that I get too into the draft as I’m reading it. I get sucked into the story and the characters and forget to pay enough attention to the layout of what’s there. Bah….
Thank God for that “search” function!