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Final draft complete! - The Motive Center
July 16th, 2006
02:13 pm


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Final draft complete!
Just finished a spell-check on the fourth and hopefully final draft of The Last Damned Vampire on Earth, my novel I've been documenting work on. I did two chapters of editing a couple of nights ago, two more last night, and hit the end. Now I've sent a note to my agent to confirm that she still wants to see it (it's been a few months on this draft), and it's off!

For those who like these things, the manuscript worked out to 320 pages -- 20 more than the previous draft, but a significant chunk of that was just formatting, like spacing for chapter heads. Final word count was 73,116, a solid length, not too long.

Toni did something very nice for me, which was a line-by-line edit to the same standards she does for her own work. In practice, this generally meant 2-5 edits per page, ranging from word shifts and insertions to questions about plot. (She just turned in Without Mercy, the first book in her new series, about six weeks ago or so.) This process is very illuminating on one's own style, and reinforces a view I've always held, which is that editors are useful!
For one thing, it's hard to catch your own verbal tics. Interestingly, in most cases they were deliberately used words or phrases which were simply too frequent.

For example, I used the word "chuckled" a lot. Not inappropriately --as far as I can tell there is no synonym for chuckle that captured what I want accurately. Snicker? Sounds too nasty. Snigger? Worse. Chortle? A portmanteau word of Lewis Carroll's, it is a combination of snort and chuckle. Not the same as a dry little chuckle alone, by definition.

But about the twenty-fifth time you use it, it gets annoying! In fact, I still have eighteen "chuckles" left, after substituting laugh or smile, or just deleting it. I'm hoping 18 isn't too many out of 73,000 words...

I have observed that some people seem to feel that editors are, at best, annoying. ("Editors are vampires and ghouls." Dorothy L. Sayers, referring to newspaper editors, but still...) This seems to be particularly common amongst people who have been rejected by editors. But they serve a purpose, and good editors are like gold. They enable you to rethink your work, your way.

I disagreed with many of Toni's comments, sometimes because she didn't know my intentions (I was planting a clue for later use), and sometimes just because it was a style issue, and of course I win those -- I'm the author, dammit! But the vast majority of what she noted were useful or at least thought-provoking. Even when I disagreed with a comment, it sometimes forced me to reconsider what I had done, and make sure it was a choice instead of an accident.

Next up: my next nonfiction book and probably interspersing it with my sequel to LDVoE, which already has 20,000 words!

Current Music: It Just Won't Quit

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 16th, 2006 07:27 pm (UTC)
Have you made your list of agents yet? Gotten a new ink cartridge? Stocked up on paper?

[User Picture]
Date:July 17th, 2006 02:02 am (UTC)

Got one, not the other

I already have an agent who has expressed interest, so I'm just dropping her a line to confirm she still does. Unfortunately we are low on paper, so I'll pick some up tomorrow.
[User Picture]
Date:July 17th, 2006 01:42 am (UTC)
As an editor, thanks for the reaffirm!

In the places where she didn't know your intentions, are those just things she didn't go back and cross out? Otherwise, as I sometimes find myself explaining even to seasoned authors--your intention is perfectly clear to yourself because you wrote it. If, however, by the end of the book, the intention is not clear to your editor, who is a cold reader, then you didn't execute your intention correctly/clearly. The best piece of advice I ever got from my boss when I first started out as an editorial assistant, was to always read the manuscript at least three times, the first without any pen or pencil.

Ok, so maybe that was the second best piece of advice from her (the first being "let it go" when it comes to continuing an argument on principle with either an agent or a stubborn author.)

Unfortunately, now that I'm an editor, I find I rarely have time for two read-throughs, let alone three.

Having another published writer in the house is a bonus for any writer. I think your agent, and your future editor, will be very pleased with the quality of your first draft. (I can't tell you how many times I've heard "But my friends liked it!" ;-)

Good luck!
[User Picture]
Date:July 17th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)

The Joy of Editors

Most of what Toni caught (in terms of not knowing my intentions) is indeed stuff she just didn't cross out. She had to read it in chunks, and I saw no need for her to re-read to revise her edits. So I simply moved along past those comments. As a long-time management consultant, I'm accustomed to telling people "perception is reality," so I certainly agree with your comment that if the audience didn't understand it, it's usually my fault. Sections with those comments are always worth re-examining, and I pretty much always did.

Every once in a while, Toni was curious about something I deliberately didn't answer...in this book. That pleased me, actually, because I want people to feel that the world extends beyond the edges of the book. Another reader commented that she thought the science sounded good, even if she couldn't confirm if it was "real." Exactly what I was aiming for: verisimilitude.

"Let it go" is good advice, for an editor. Sometimes the author is right, sometimes the author is wrong, but in any case the author is the author, and s/he does have the right (as one NYC publisher told me) to write it the way s/he wants. The publisher and editor have the right to turn down the book -- the ultimate veto.

I can say not only that my friends liked it, but that my friends who liked it were published authors. Double bonus!

[User Picture]
Date:July 17th, 2006 05:11 am (UTC)
Good stuff, Steve and congrats all around! How exciting! I can only imagine your look of joy at being done with this step. Well, no, I've seen that face many times, but I wish I were there to celebrate with you all! Keep us posted as to its journey!
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