Working on the rewrite of Cold Welcome. On Monday, I sent Editor the latest draft of the new ending, and in light of Editor’s comments worked on it some more, then started in on front-to-back run (actually crawl!) through combining her original letter, the marked up manuscript line edits, and the changes that would be required by the new ending. This also involved having two versions of the first chapters on the monitor at once, the letter, a stack of reference printouts, and the marked ms beside me on the desk.
At the times when my head exploded or my vision blurred too badly, I’d break for knitting, which is how these got finished (y’all deserve a picture by now, so here it is:
They’re wearable only for the pictures, right now, since the loose ends of yarn from the stripes are still, well, loose inside. I should have the ends woven in by my birthday, so that’s when I plan to wear them all day for the first time. That variegated yarn runs (I’ve used it in stripes before) so I’m hoping the other yarns resist picking up the stray dye, but it’s worth doing anyway. If they end up looking tie-dyed, so be it.
Meanwhile, the rewrite. Going slowly, as I’m seeing double more (the artificial lens in the left eye, the cataract in the right eye, and the lenses in my glasses do not easily agree on where to focus. If I hold my head absolutely still, and look through the upper half of my glasses, I can see fairly well with my right eye; the left eye is blurry. If I close my left eye and lean over the desk and look through the bottom of half of my glasses, I can also read with my right eye, until the difficulty of seeing through the cataract and holding focus gives me a headache. The left eye is really only good for true distance vision (10 feet or more.) But–I still CAN see, and I can see colors, and even though I can’t see as well through binocs or the camera as I used to, I still have vision. The left eye is a help when I’ve misplaced my glasses–I can walk around the house OK without glasses because of the left eye’s distance vision.
So. Slowly she goes, step by step…and into the murk and mire, seeing some rough spots Editor missed, fixing those, deciding phrase by phrase if the change made the page before now asks for a change right here. Ideally, the writer reads it all aloud, but right now I have coughing fits if I talk to long, so I barely voice it. Try to hear, in the dialogue, the different characters’ different voices, and make sure I’m showing that. For instance, in this book–and this shouldn’t be a spoiler–the Commandant of Slotter Key’s Spaceforce Academy makes an appearance. He was Ky’s commander when she was a cadet (the first Vatta’s War volume, Trading in Danger) and he took her resignation. Now she’s an admiral, commanding a fleet larger than that of her home planet. He’s still more than twice her age and locally more powerful. How will this affect the way he speaks to her? What was his style of language before and what will it be now? Is he wary of her? Confident that he’s still got the upper hand? Comfortable with former student who succeed? He’s not onstage long; all this has to be conveyed economically, within the context of what’s happening, and through Ky’s perception of him.
Things that get fixed on rewrites: structural problems, getting all the parts in the right places and doing that a story foundation needs. Causes before consequences, motivations foreshadowed sufficiently but not boringly, confusing constructions reworked for ease of reading, etc. Continuity: in multi-volume works, or books written in a story-universe used before, details need to match what was already published. Characters have to be recognizable as the same (inside and out) unless reasons are given for the change. Characters that are just sketched in given more shading and depth if they’re important enough to the plot; major characters’ backstory and motivations highlighted a little (or a lot, in some cases); transitions made clear but smooth; story-logic rechecked at every point in the plot (does it make sense that this would happen, that X would do Y, that M could be a logical result of actions GHK, etc.) Because the writer has lived with a story a year or more, the writer knows more about it than shows in the book–and may not put something in because she already knows it. Editors catch things like that. My Editor has a list; I have another list; eventually the two lists will merge and we’ll agree it’s done. Not, however, yet.
Balancing what the reader needs to know with what the reader can (and will enjoy) grasping on his/her own is tricky, and requires understanding the most likely readers for the given work. Some readers are both skilled and intuitive; they will pick up the slightest hint. Some will come to the book with more background knowledge; others will need more direct information–but it must be trickled in just when they need it.
And this is why I’m crawling through the book, nose firmly on the grindstone except for necessary breaks from the computer, and flat forgot to post Tuesday and Wednesday and today until now. I may be absent for a day or two at a time until the spots have been removed and the wrinkled smoothed out and Editor agrees we’re done for now. Thanks for your patience.
(Mirrored to Paksworld blog)