Finalizing your novel

A post at Writer Unboxed: Finalizing your novel

’m currently working on my fourth round of these revisions, after which I might* be happy enough with the book to send it out to beta readers. It’s been a long process, so time consuming and, at times, tedious that I began to wonder whether other writers also scrutinize each of their sentences multiple times when trying to finalize their work, or if I’m alone in my OCD-like obsession with synonyms, syntax, and eliminating modifiers.

Nope, definitely not. I mean, I make no particular effort to eliminate modifiers and think the effort to do so is largely wasted and sometimes harmful, but sure, I mean, if you happen to write dialogue tags such as he said gleefully all the time, maybe you do need to thin the herd. I am currently beta- reading a book written in the most ornate style with zillions of modifiers, and I must say, I was really in the mood for something like that, even though the main characters are both young, impulsive idiots and that is painfully annoying.

The one I’m beta reading is the sequel to this one, by the way. Link goes to BVC because this is the only ebook version available. You can read the first chapter at the link, but let me show you a bit:

In such a small capital royalty is not remote. Beryx had crossed my path a score of times, riding out with hawk or hound or border cavalry, banqueting in guildhalls, dispensing justice or inspecting half-built porticoes, overseeing the wine and oil weighed in market when the Confederate traders came. That night in the palace still seems my first real sight of him.

Red light from burning tarsal wood and golden light from pendant hethel lamps overflowed the hall, cascading through open arches into the sky where Valinhynga, the evening’s herald, loveliest of planets, was just pricking through. In Saphar, men dress their halls in air and dress to allow for it. All down the table the lords wore fur-lined jackets and trousers of creamy Quarred wool, with gold chains of office shining over everything. They answered the silver tableware, the ruby glow of wine, the glitter of gems on the ceremonial sword sheaths propped against each chair. But at the table’s head Beryx leant a little aside, chin in palm, elbow on the arm of the king’s seat, and all the light of the hall seemed to gather on his royal crimson cloak, his raven hair, and his long, lazy, twinkling green eyes, that saw so much and made such a joke of it all.

Sea-eyes, the name means, so it was of sea I sang: not Nerrys’yr, the wide blue ocean, but Berfing, the green southern sea where the whalers of Hazghend stain the ice-floes red with blood. Everyone knows that in boyhood he ran away to ship with them. As I sang I could see the royal brooch, a huge circlet of whale-tooth ivory, rich cream upon his crimson cloak.

Okay, got the feel of it?

Good, then let’s just take a look at this again, this time removing all the modifiers. This is going to impact the middle paragraph of the three. The other two paragraphs are provided largely for context.

In such a capital royalty is not remote. Beryx had crossed my path a score of times, riding out with hawk or hound or border cavalry, banqueting in guildhalls, dispensing justice or inspecting half-built porticoes, overseeing the wine and oil weighed in market when the Confederate traders came. That night in the palace still seems my first sight of him.

Light from burning wood and light from lamps overflowed the hall, cascading through arches into the sky where Valinhynga, the evening’s herald, was pricking through. In Saphar, men dress their halls in air and dress to allow for it. All down the table the lords wore jackets and trousers of wool, with chains of office shining over everything. They answered the tableware, the glow of wine, the glitter of gems on the sword sheaths propped against each chair. But at the table’s head Beryx leant a little aside, chin in palm, elbow on the arm of the king’s seat, and all the light of the hall seemed to gather on his cloak, his hair, and his eyes, that saw so much and made such a joke of it all.

Sea-eyes, the name means, so it was of sea I sang: not Nerrys’yr, the ocean, but Berfing, the southern sea where the whalers of Hazghend stain the ice-floes red with blood. Everyone knows that in boyhood he ran away to ship with them. As I sang I could see the royal brooch, a circlet of whale-tooth ivory, upon his cloak.

And is that an improvement? No, it is not. It removes practically all the flavor. That’s why this author’s modifier-heavy style leaped to mind when I saw this about going through a finished draft sentence by sentence and obsessing over synonyms, syntax, and eliminating modifiers. By all means, obsess over syntax, but I really don’t think it’s wise to make a religious commitment toward cutting modifiers.

Regardless, what does this post suggest about final revision? The post gathers comments about process from different authors. The first two both listen to the book aloud, either by reading it aloud themselves or doing a text-to-speech thing. I don’t. I wonder whether authors who find this more helpful actually subvocalize? I do, so I sort of “hear” the words without actually speaking them out loud. Craig once pointed out once that I can’t really be subvocalizing because I read too fast to be pronouncing the words in my head. This is an interesting observation because I very definitely perceive the words as though I am hearing them. In fact, for Tuyo-world novels with continuing characters, I hear the voices of the characters in the voices the narrator gave them. Whatever is happening seems to be faster than actually reading out loud, though.

What else?

I see one author says she sends the book to her Kindle to read it in that form. That, I find really helpful. I use the Kindle app on my phone. I definitely perceive the book differently on my phone and do a lot of final-final tweaking that way.

The post finishes this way:

I also asked these authors how they know when a manuscript is actually finished—a difficult determination for any writer. Liz Michalski says when her agents think a book is in good shape, she trusts their judgement. Roz Morris knows a manuscript is done when she can read through the whole thing without having anxiety. When it comes to my own work, I fall into the same camp as Annalisa Crawford and C.B. Bernard.

Crawford says a novel is finished when she “literally cannot bear to read it through one more time.” While Bernard says, “Somebody smarter than I once told me that you have to come to hate a book to finish it. That’s a pretty good mile-marker. When I’m sick of it, it must be done.”

That’s funny because I don’t always get to the point of being so sick of a book I declare it’s just got to be done, but I’ve come close. I don’t know, though. Mostly I feel books are done too early; then beta readers point out totally obvious things I missed and I’m like OH, NOT DONE. The hope there is that the things are easy to fix, which sometimes they are and sometimes not so much. With MARAG, things were easy to fix. With NO FOREIGN SKY and INVICTUS, not so much. With those, I really did get super sick of working with them, but I grimly continued until I thought they were truly finished. I don’t know what makes a book seem truly finished to me, though. I just decide it is and toss it out for final proofreading.

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2 thoughts on “Finalizing your novel”

  1. Everran’s Bane has a new sequel?!?! I really like Sylvia Kelso, and that was the first book of hers I read. I know I read another book by her that was somewhat of a sequel – in that as I was reading it I found myself wondering, “Is this the character from Everran’s Bane?” But both books worked as standalones. And it may have been two books for the possible sequels.. It’s been a while since I read it/them. But every time I hear the song The Queen and the Soldier by Suzanne Vega I am reminded of the book. I cannot remember the name of it. But I’m wondering if this book you are beta reading is new and different.

  2. Yes, let me see … Everran’s Bane, The Moving Water, and this one is called The Snows Behind the World. Yes, it is new and different. I think it is quite beautiful as far as description goes, but, as I say, I did not like either protagonist at all, so that was an issue. I guess I should go back and read the first book. It’s probable that, with different protagonists, I’d be much more keen on the story.s

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