When the Pendulum Swings…

Back in 2013, one of my mentors told me my writing was sometimes “thin.” (I had requested his assessment.)

What he meant was that I didn’t include enough character opinion when I described a scene’s setting or when I touched on what my character was seeing and hearing and smelling. He urged me to go all out in this respect, explaining that writers at my skill level—able to tell a compelling story, but lacking the expertise of bestsellers—could not include too much.

At the beginning of his career, my mentor had been at that stage himself. His mentor said that if he felt like he’d gone too far with setting and opinion, then he’d probably hit it just right. 😉

I took his point to heart, and worked hard to filter as much as possible of my settings through my protagonists’ opinions.

Given that the reviews for my books now usually mention that the story world is vivid, the characters lifelike and appealing, and the sequence of events compelling, I think I’ve succeeded in including lots of character opinion in my narrative.

But I suspect I may have gone too far!

in 2013, it may not have been possible to include too much setting. Now, in 2018, I’ve written another dozen titles, studying my craft the whole time. I’m a different writer than I was then.

And, for the first time ever, my revision has required significant deleting!

Yep, you heard that right. I’ve been taking things out, and taking out more than I added in. Up to now, the balance has been the other way: I’ve added in far more than I took out.

The total word count on my current WIP was 77,697 for the first draft.

Then I received some truly stellar feedback from my first reader. (Have I said that my first and second readers are marvelous? They are! I’d be sunk without them.) And my response to the feedback was to cut about 4,000 words.

Oh, I added in a few paragraphs here and there. I replaced some entirely—taking out what was there, and writing new for that spot instead. But mostly I pruned and then pruned some more.

I’ve now sent the manuscript off to my second reader, and it clocks in at a mere 73,633 words. I can’t wait to hear what she says about it!

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to start writing my next novel, a sequel to The Tally Master, and I’m hoping to swing the pendulum back from “too much” to “just right,” because I’ve discovered that cutting snippets here and paragraphs there is very challenging for me when there’s a lot to cut. Writing a new scene to insert at the critical moment is much more fun!

For those of you waiting on To Thread the Labyrinth (which might get a different title—I’m thinking about it), take note: Labyrinth is moving through its revision cycles fairly steadily! I hope to get feedback from my second reader in October, make those revisions swiftly, and then send the manuscript to my proofreader in November. I’ll keep you posted as the process moves forward. 😀



2 thoughts on “When the Pendulum Swings…

  1. Wow. Being in revisions on two fronts, and in research on a third novel. I’m so impressed!

    I get busy and don’t visit for a bit – and you’re writing up a storm.

    Interesting, having to change your writing style a bit, from needing to add, to removing and rewriting. Bet that feels odd. Somewhere in the middle will be right – for each book or series – depending on what you’re trying to do. It must be nice to get actual usable feedback from a mentor and first readers.

    I remember how much it helped when you mentored me.

    I don’t have that much flexibility, but my scenes do have the same ‘feel’ to them.

    I do all my descriptions from the pov of the viewpoint characters, and always have – it gives me another way to feed the reader information about the character than dialogue and direct thoughts. Orson Scott Card taught me that in Characters and Viewpoints (I think – can’t find any of my books right now) by telling me to vary the distance from the character to the background smoothly, like a camera rolling in and out on tracks, and that description and my brain hit it off.

    I’m having to remember ALL my craft, but at least it isn’t as hard to do that as learn it from scratch. For which I’m grateful. And I don’t want to change much of anything in voice or style or even writing length until the trilogy is finished, which will be interesting as it will be a decade or so from really digging into the first to finishing the third. With many changes in my own life.

    • Alicia! Fabulous to see you here on my blog. I know you’ve had so much on your plate lately that I suspect any comments here would have caused you to neglect your first duties and responsibilities, but it’s great to see you popping in again. 😀

      Writing Blood Silver was part of my mourning my mother’s death, so it felt really good to be engaged with its story and really good to get the book published. This is not to imply that Blood Silver has a sad ending—it doesn’t. But it does deal with themes of sorrow and loss.

      It also felt very good to resume writing To Thread the Labyrinth and then finish it. I was a bit over half done when my mom died, and then I was not able to write for 3 months. When I started writing again, Blood Silver was the only thing I could write, so I did. But leaving Labyrinth half finished felt uncomfortable. Finishing it felt like reclaiming a misplaced piece of myself. I’m really happy with how Labyrinth turned out, and I’m eager to release it so that readers can read it.

      Right now, as I dig into the sequel to The Tally Master, I’m getting very excited about all the twisty plot turns that I’m devising. Plus I love these characters, Gael and Keir, and the setting of this adventure is way cool.

      I’ve heard others mention Characters & Viewpoint by Card favorably. It’s on my list to read. I just read 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias and found it enlightening. Many of the problems my first reader found in Labyrinth (which I addressed in my first revision pass) were clearly and succinctly laid out as problems to avoid in the master plot labeled “Discovery.” I suspect 20 Plots may become part of my revision cycle. 😀

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