Saturday, June 21, 2014

What's The Point?

Lately I have been trying to help a friend with a book. I hate to call what I do 'editing'. First and foremost, I am no editor. I am not trained to be one and I can't actually tell you where a comma goes, mostly because I think they are subjective, and bending the rules for creative purposes is acceptable, in my humblest opinion. Other people might call what I do 'editing', but there are those who would call it a massacre. I comment, delete, rewrite, move, clarify and set pages on fire. All in the name of love, obviously. 

While I am very liberal with the red pen (virtual, of course), I like to think I am encouraging too. At the end of a chapter, I will often write what I like, what I don't like, and how I think it can be better. It is up to the writer whether or not they consider what I have said. In the end, I am not a published writer and I don't have a degree in English. So, what the hell do I know? 

Nothing, really. Well, at least that's how I feel most of the time. In truth, I do know if a book reads well, if it makes sense, and whether the characters are clear, the motivations sound and the plot exciting. Because I myself cherish an honest opinion, I have been known to be quite frank with others. Tact can fall to the wayside. And, if I really don't like something, I will comment and say, "I really don't like this.' 

This can seem harsh, insensitive even, but I don't mean any harm. In truth, the things I say, the red I use, the comments I make, they are done out of a burning desire to make the story better. Sometimes when I read my own writing, I have blinders on. Other times, I am far more critical than necessary. This is why we need other people to read our work. Not just people who will pat us on the back and tell us it's brilliant either. We need honest to goodness critics in our lives. People we trust and won't be offended with when they tell us they dislike a scene, a twist in the plot, or the way a character is acting. 

One of my most common pet peeves, in your writing and my own, is what's the point chapters. When you have a chapter, or two, or three, that don't seem to have a point. Sometimes they are filler and need to be cut altogether, but other times, more often than not, they are simply chapters that miss the mark. You write them to serve a purpose but for some reason it is lost in the fray. When the point gets lost, the chapter becomes useless, and what I call a skimmer. 

You all know what I am talking about. Those chapters you skim through because nothing is really happening and you're kind of bored and just want to get onto the next great part. One of two things can be done to the 'what's the point chapters' and they are this: 

1. You can rewrite them to clarify the point. Say you put a chapter in to build up a character, or strengthen tension, or show the dynamics of a certain relationship, then you need to ensure that's what it does. If it doesn't execute what you intended for it too and the reader comes back and says, "What's the point of this?" or "This chapter seems pointless." Then it's back to writing, because you didn't execute the chapter well enough for the reader to understand.  

2. Cut it. Axe it. Erase. Delete. Get rid of it. There is no nice way of doing this. It always feels weird to remove two thousand words and not thinking about them ever again. As someone who has completely overhauled many a story, I can tell you sometimes cutting a chapter is better than rewriting it, especially if you are already pushing the boundaries on word count. 

In the end, erase or rewrite those 'what's the point' chapters. I promise your book will be stronger for it in the long run. 

No comments: